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Arrival – Review

At first glance, Arrival may seem like your typical alien invasion movie. It certainly has the setup for one, with twelve alien ships landing down on 12, seemingly random cities, and each country’s government sending out their military and a small team of scientists to figure out what the aliens are here to do. However, Arrival sidesteps a majority of alien invasion tropes, instead, offering an emotionally driven and thought provoking story with an final revelation that will fill you with wonder.

As previously noted, the setup is fairly simple. There are twelve alien spaceships that have all landed on Earth at the same time, over twelve random cities. Thankfully, this did not result in a full out attack by either side. Instead, the US government, as well as the rest of the world, decided to try to communicate with the alien species, referred to as Heptapods.

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Amy Adams as Louise Banks, standing in front of one of twelve alien spacecrafts

The only problem is their language is completely different from that of any human, so the government brings in Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who has previous experience working with the government to translate classified intelligence. From the beginning of the movie, Louise is haunted by the loss of her daughter, Hannah, to a rare disease. While probably not intentional, it is reminiscent of Up, so yes, it is an emotional beginning. We later see flashbacks to Hannah, and how Louise’s memories of her daughter help her remember little things that clear her mind and aid in her translation and communication with the Heptapods.

Louise is teamed up with Ian (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, who initially seems to be there to offer a scientific perspective, but for most of the film is there as a sidekick to Louise. I particularly enjoyed the role of Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), because he played an intelligent character. Whereas lesser movies would make the military presence exist to essentially fight the aliens, he is fully on Louise’s side, taking the time to listen to her and understand her point of view. I fully enjoyed how these characters were all mature and intelligent, making them all likable while still being well defined.

Don’t expect anything to move at too fast of a pace here. The movie is a slow burner, spending a lot of time between Louse and the Heptapods, as she deciphers their language. This leads to an actual theory in the field of linguistics known as Sapir-Whorf , which in the context of the movie, implies Louise may be perceiving the world around her differently by being so consumed by the Heptapods’ language. This is an intriguing concept and is effectively woven into the story of Arrival.

There are times when the movie decides to broaden its scope beyond Louise and Ian, but it doesn’t work as well as I would have liked. Television news broadcasts show turmoil in various cities, with riots and looting happening all over the world. A few countries get less and less happy with the alien presence, and some bad translations and lack of understanding how they perceive the world compared to humans leads to the third acts final conflict.

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One of the many words translated throughout the movie

Coincidentally, this is when the big revelation occurs, which I will not even hint at, but can confirm it was pleasantly unexpected. This is likely due to the fact that I have watched a lot of science fiction movies and was expecting something somewhat uninspired to occur. Thankfully, this is not the case, and I do not believe I have seen such a profound final act in a science fiction movie since I watched Contact (though, I hear Interstellar has quite the ending as well). I can’t deny the ending did have one rushed element that did not make a whole lot of sense, but it did work, it just felt a bit rushed.

Ignoring some issues, the ending brought together themes of unity and perception as well as the notion of free will. Surprisingly, nothing was left up to interpretation, and the conclusion was very fulfilling. I was left in chills, being both overcome with wonder, happiness, and sadness after seeing how every thread was neatly tied together. This is science fiction at its finest, presenting big concepts and following through in a well thought out and mature manner.

If you value science fiction that is more than explosions and action or if you appreciate a truly emotional drama, I cannot recommend a better movie this year than Arrival.

Suicide Squad Review

There was a lot of hype leading up to the release of this summer’s Suicide Squad movie, and a lot of it centered around Jared Leto’s interpretation of the Joker. But does the movie actually live up to the hype? Well, it’s not as clear cut as a simple yes or no, but suffice to say, it remains entertaining for the majority of the movie.

As the trailers have shown, the government creates a group of villains to go and fight against threats that require the use of meta humans (what DC refers to their super heroes as, even if they aren’t all genetically different, such as the case with Deadshot in this movie or Batman in the DC universe) and if anything goes wrong, they can be blamed. So, a group is assembled by Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis), who is a no nonsense woman and she is going to get what she wants by any means necessary. She is ruthless and always in control.

squad goals

Squad goals, as long as you don’t really want to know half of your squad

 

That control leads her to knowing how to control these super villains. But who are the super villains? First up is Deadshot (Will Smith), a hit man who never misses his target. I had reservations about Will Smith playing a villain, I simply never pictured him being a bad guy. Luckily, he’s not a ruthless killer, and has a backstory involving his daughter who he wants to get back to. He is also really funny, and they knew how to take advantage of his comedic side for this movie.

Then there’s Harley Quinn, former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum turned lover of the Joker. Margot Robbie does a respectable job as the popular character, though, she can’t ever seem to maintain her accent, which goes from mild to heavy New York City without warning. We never really are told how/why she falls for the Joker, and there was some confusion with parts of their back story, but as a whole, they worked well together. She’s quirky and fun, and together, her and the Joker are a good pair for future movie appearances.

Which leads me to the Joker. The much anticipated, controversial, and hyped portrayal of the classic villain. How did he live up to expectations? With just a mere 15 minutes of screen time (if that), he nearly stole the show for me. Yes, he has all the tattoos, but they weren’t distracting or even that noticeable (at least the face ones weren’t) during the movie. It’s his personality and charisma that has led me to believe he will be nothing short of fantastic in a Batman movie (I’m hoping for the Batman movie to be a prequel of sorts, so we can see what the Joker did to Robin, which was briefly alluded to in Batman vs. Superman). However, with all of the promotional material highlighting the Joker, it really is a shame he had just 15 minutes on screen. Surely, there must have been a way to have given him a lot more time and woven him into the plot more.

joker harley car

Joker and Harley all like, where’d your scenes go Mr. J?

 

There were also some other characters, including Killer Croc (a guy who looks like a crocodile and can breathe underwater), El Diablo (can create fire and had a really exciting reveal at the end of the movie), Katana (she has a sword that traps the souls of those killed by it, but she sort of just showed up right before the mission), Captain Boomerang (he throws a boomerang, exciting), and Slipknot (he climbs things, really, that’s it). And they’re all led by Rick Flag, who was handpicked by Waller to lead the mission (Waller also got him to fall in love with June Moone, who is possessed by an evil witch by the name of Enchantress, also part of the Squad). So yes, there are a lot of excess characters, mainly Boomerang, Slipknot, and Katana.

While the characters were pretty entertaining, the actual plot wasn’t. Yes, there’s a lot of action, but it doesn’t feel that exciting most of the time. The most tense scenes were Joker flashback scenes (notably one in a club with him and Harley). The actual mission led them to having to fight an evil being, whose motivation wasn’t very interesting, and her backstory was paper thin. Adding to that, the villain (purposely not saying who it is, but you can probably guess) decided her weapon to destroy the world would be a big blue, glowing energy storm, which could have shown up in pretty much any sci-fi movie in the past decade. This made the whole journey a bit disappointing. Luckily, the characters interacted well together, and for the most part, the comedy worked well. I just can’t help but feel there were multiple opinions on what direction the movie should go in, resulting in some awkward pacing and tonal changes.

joker and harley at club

Never knowing what the Joker will do next

At some points it would be very stylistic, taking advantage of the movie’s soundtrack nearly anywhere it could  (I don’t think I have ever heard so many songs played in a movie) and using fun camera work. Then other parts it would become oddly plain. Out of all the DC movies so far, this one suffered the most from its grey color palette. There is also one line of dialogue the main villain says at the very end that felt really out of place and awkward, especially considering the little backstory we are given for the character.

Ultimately, as an introduction to the DC cinematic universe, the main characters – Deadshot, Harley, and Joker – had a strong introduction. Each with interesting personalities, a lot of charisma, and the studio should be happy they are also big names. It was nice to see some more comedic elements, especially since they worked well. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t able to live up to the characters, but fortunately, the characters made up for that. Now the wait for a solo Batman movie begins, and hopefully it will have the Joker in it.

The only thing I knew about Me Before You prior to seeing it was it had a pretty solid cast (Emilia Clarke, Jenna Coleman, Brendan Coyle, and Charles Dance were my standout stars). I knew the main character, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) was paralyzed, in what turned out to be a rather convenient turn of movie events to get the story rolling. However, I was optimistic, given the cast. Thankfully, that optimism paid off.

As previously mentioned, some pretty quick and simple events happened with the first five minutes to get the story started. I won’t give anything away, but if you have seen the trailer, you will know Will Traynor is paralyzed, with limited movement in two of his fingers. This allows him to still be able to move in his electric wheelchair using the control stick on the armrest. He’s not the most

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Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) and Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) 

inviting person, which isn’t wholly a surprise, given his current situation.

Across town is Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke), a small town girl, trying to help out her family (she lives at home with her parents), and as Will likes to say, she has a lot of potential. She needs a job, finds Will’s parents are looking for a Carer for him, and then gets the job. She’s fun, energetic, talkative, friendly, and has an eccentric choice of clothing. Fairly basic setup, and I think you all know what will happen next.

Yes, it is true, there’s not much in the way of originality here. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. Not every movie has to break new ground. Instead, this movie allows the actors to take center stage. Unlike in Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke is allowed to show emotion in Me Before You. Yes, there are the heartfelt moments, which she does well with, but more impressively, her eyebrows steal the show. It really is like they have a mind of their own. I now apologize if you see this movie and can’t stop being distracted by that.

Without going into major plot points, the main question for a movie like this is: does the viewer care about the characters? For the most part, yes. Of course you will feel bad for Will. We learn he is usually in pain, either physically or mentally. He doesn’t easily open himself up to others. We see him start to open up to Lou, which is nice, and she becomes attached to him as well. Again, all very typical, but still enjoyable to watch. Luckily, the movie leaves room for some comedy, often in the form of sarcasm from Will or socially awkward situations created by Lou (and her unique outfits). Truth be told, they both have good chemistry. And then there are the funny moments when Lou’s boyfriend, Patrick (Matthew Lewis) is jealous of Will or going on about running some sort of triathlon in Norway.

635899219648350647-MBY-07030r.jpgMidway through, you do basically know the ending. At that point, it becomes more about the journey. Luckily, there are plenty of entertaining scenes to keep the viewer interested. However, the actually ending doesn’t fully take advantage of the weight of the situation. The film discusses an important topic, but it is rarely explored, instead focusing on the relationship between Will and Lou. Sometimes Will’s parents, played by Janet McTeer and Charles Dance, start to explore moral and ethical issues, but that quickly gets pushed to the side. The better moral issues are brought up by Lou’s sister, Katrina (Jenna Coleman) and her dad, Bernard (Brendan Coyle), but they are more to do with whether or not Lou should continue seeing Will (both professionally and emotionally).

I know I said not all movies have to be groundbreaking, and I still stand by that. I enjoyed the characters, their development, and their relationships with each other. It would be a lie to say I did not feel for these characters, especially in the second half of the movie. I actually enjoyed the majority of the movie. While I am not familiar with the book the movie is based on, I cannot help but feel their was a missed opportunity to address a topic that isn’t often addressed in movies. My only other issue with the movie was the use of so many pop songs. They felt awkwardly placed and at times too loud, making it hard to hear some of the dialogue.

If you want to see a well made and heartfelt movie with some genuinely funny moments, this will not disappoint. Every actor is very well cast and they become their characters (I still found it amusing to see past Emilia Clarke and Charles Dance not being mortal enemies like in Game of Thrones).

Me Before You succeeds because of its characters and their chemistry. If Lou wasn’t eccentric her character could have fallen into the territory of forgettable. Instead, she’s fun and the audience can root for her. We want her to succeed in bringing Will back to the world. At the same time, it is easy to understand Will’s point of view. Again, I have not read the book, but as a movie, I was entertained throughout, which ultimately is the reason I go to the movies.

Following “The Girl Who Died,” Ashildr is back in England and in 1651. She can’t age but luckily seems to be pretty good at learning and adapting to new accents and ways of speaking. And she’s also not doing very well coping with her ability not to die. So how is “The Woman Who Lived” as a sort of sequel to “The Girl Who Died?” Let’s find out.

SPOILER WARNING

I’m not sure if this story needed to be told directly after Ashildr found out she can’t die. The only real connection is her and I’m assuming they may do something with her character later in series 9, which is why they wanted to get this one out of the way so early on. But in England, Ashildr, who decides she doesn’t want that name and simply calls herself Me or as

the-woman-who-lived

She’s a thief and he, well, he’s trying to look cool

people know her, The Knightmare, a thief. But no ordinary thief. Instead, she’s a thief looking for an alien artifact, called The Eyes of Hades. More on all this in a moment.

If you’re wondering why Ashildr is going by Me, it’s because she doesn’t see herself as that person anymore, or any of the other people she has been, instead, she’s just her, or rather, Me. The main story basically deals with her dealing with not being able to die, which ends up feeling a little drawn out since we’ve had the Doctor go on about it a lot during the David Tennant era, so hearing it again isn’t as interesting. However, Maisie Williams is still solid in her role, so at the very least, when these specific scenes come up, they’re still well done.

It is fun to realize she became rich somewhere along the way, perhaps through thievery, but probably just had the time to get to that point. She has also become cold to the world. By not being able to die she has stopped getting close to people (she previously had children, but they all died during the Black Death, so, understandably, she’s not in the best of places right now).

Back to the alien artifact. Both Ashildr and the Doctor are looking for the same artifact, but for different reasons, and here comes the antagonist of the story: Leandro, a lion guy, like literally, it’s a lion that’s a person (Doctor Who does enjoy a future universe full of cat people).

We learn the artifact is Leandro’s way of creating a portal between his world and Earth and for his people to come and attack Earth. It’s not very exciting. However, the artifact requires a sacrifice, and Ashildr decided to sacrifice Sam Swift, a rival, or rather just another notorious thief in the area. And then after she realizes what’s going on she knows Leandro never intended to help her explore the galaxy like he promised/tricked her

Woman-Who-Lived-3

See, more cat people

into thinking, and as such she turns against him. Through a series of events he is defeated and everyone is happy. Except Swift, who was sacrificed, but if you recall, another one of those devices that brought Ashildr back is still around.

So what happens? Well, AShildr decides to stop being quite so cold to the world and she saves Swift and now he too can live forever, which really isn’t so exciting, but hey, it works to get her back on track emotionally.

Noteworthy, Clara is absent from this episode. It’s actually a bit of a relief to do without Clara for a little bit. For some reason her writing has made her somewhat overbearing. I still like her, but a break was nice.

Overall, I’m not completely into this episode. The problem is the interesting parts (relationship with the Doctor and Ashildr) end up being pushed aside some for the less than exciting story with Leandro. I do enjoy that Ashildr is set up to come back for future episodes, and I suppose this story was needed to show what she’s been up to since being a viking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still entertaining to watch and you will want to know what happens, but looking back on series 9 so far, it does not hold up to the previous two two-part stories (possibly due to this being a setup episode for Ashildr for a future story, in which case, I do want to know what has become of her).

However, I am interested to see what happens in the upcoming two-part Zygon story, which I will be reviewing as a whole, so below are both trailers:

I didn’t have much of an idea what to expect from Mummy on the Orient Express. All I knew was it involved an Orient Express in space and there was a mummy, so basically, not a lot. With that to go off of, I was glad to see it wasn’t an Egyptian mummy is somehow resurrected and is now going to go around and kill a bunch of people for no apparent reason story (as I feared after series 5 ended with a phone call about an Egyptian Goddess causing issues on the Orient Express, which perhaps was the original idea for this story).

SPOILERS AHEAD

I’m not going to go ahead and summarize the episode as I’ve been doing, since you’ve seen the spoiler warning you have probably watched the episode and need little in terms of recap. I will however, tell you how I continue to enjoy the complexity of Capaldi’s Doctor. As the story progresses, the Doctor realizes only the person about to die can see the

Has he ever worn the same outfit twice so far?

Has he ever worn the same outfit twice so far?

mummy and they have 66 seconds to live before they either die or say the correct phrase to stop the mummy from attacking. Sure, this basically tells us the Doctor will figure out the phrase by the end but how he gets there is a little surprising, at least compared to the last two Doctor’s we’ve had.

Here, the Doctor doesn’t waste time apologizing to people how they have to die. Instead, he tries to focus them and have them tell him and the rest of the scientists on the space train what they are seeing in order to learn more about their foe. It’s a bit cold but at the same time there is no other option, so the Doctor does it in order to save as many as he ultimately can.

What is a little strange is they’re all put on a space train to solve this mystery. A train full of scientists, carefully put together, and I believe at one point it was mentioned this has been tried before but without success (i.e. all the scientists died before they could figure out what to do). Unless I missed something, I believe this may have been set up specifically for the Doctor. Let me explain my case.

First, I recall the Doctor saying he has been summoned to the train before. Someone clearly wants him there to solve this, which leads to what he ultimately solved.

The mummy, as we have established, isn’t a typical Egyptian evil mummy who is evil for the sake of being evil, or perhaps being woken up from a good dream. Instead, this mummy is a soldier who in the end had to be relieved of his duty. The Doctor figured this out after a series of Sherlock type observations and before the mummy could kill him the Doctor told the mummy he was relieved of duty. As a result the mummy collapsed.

Now, this whole series has, among other things, focused on the Doctor’s increasingly aggravating and somewhat insulting dislike towards soldiers. I assume this will be another underwhelming story arc, because right now all it really amounts to is the Doctor insulting anyone who has ever served for pretty much anything. For a man who prefers to talk and reason instead of waving a gun around, he sure does an awful job at explaining things (or perhaps Moffat has no idea where he was originally going with this idea). Regardless, this was another story heavily focusing on soldiers. Coincidence? I think not.

Just because I like this picture

Just because I like this picture

I’m ignoring the blatant elephant in the room, and no, it’s not Clara’s wig, it’s the fact she’s back so soon. She was all ready to leave the episode before and Danny kind of pushed her along to eventually go back with the Doctor. In the meantime I would have liked a solo Doctor story. Yeah, Moffat will scream and shout how the show is all about the companion and the Doctor, but last I checked the show is Doctor Who, not I’m a Super Important Companion Who Will Save the World and Here’s This Doctor Guy I Keep Around. Give Capaldi a solo story. He can carry it. Or at least do something like Matt Smith had with Craig, they were fun and more Doctor focused.

So somehow we are left to imagine what the Doctor and Clara did in between episodes, as this is supposed to be their last trip together after a series of ones after the previous episode when she left. Yeah, I guess this story did something to get her back, but really, it felt like any other episode, there wasn’t much weight or worry of Clara actually being gone at th end. Which is fine, I just don’t get why they set it up to be that kind of episode if they never followed through with it.

In the end, what are we left with? I’d say a really fun, frantic episode which calmed down in the second half once the Doctor started to understand what was really going on. We got to see more of the new Doctor’s personality, which I have been enjoying so far, minus his soldier thing. The pacing of the story was well done, it never felt rushed or too slow, it was always just right. Overall, I would not advise missing this one. For two weeks now we’ve gotten less than exciting episode titles and seemingly boring creatures/plots turned around into two rather good stories.

Now to see what next week brings with Flatline:

Well, I said last week Kill the Moon was a rather bad title, but after watching the episode I would like to retract that.  Sure, it’s now a less than subtle title but it’s definitely a fitting one for a rather good episode.

As I have mentioned in previous reviews for series 8, Clara is actually written consistently this time around.  As a result, we get an episode that relies on Clara to do some very important things, and while it is valid to argue the companions have been given too much of a role and taken the focus away from the Doctor, this time it’s the Doctor taking his own leave.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The story starts off simple enough. The Doctor is forced by Clara to take the girl (her name’s Courtney Woods) from the previous episode to space, because the Doctor was being rude and telling the girl how she isn’t significant. Oh, did I not mention in the last review there was a girl from Clara’s school? No big deal, there’s a girl from Clara’s school.

So, the Doctor goes to make her the first woman on the moon, and in the process, as is often the case with Doctor Who and wondrous cliches, gets more than he bargained for.

It seems there’s issues with the moon splitting apart and it’s going to be catastrophic for the tides down on Earth. A team of scientists are sent up to literally blow up the moon. Let’s just examine a few things for a moment. First, they’re scientists because I believe they say how NASA shut down space exploration, fine, no big deal. But the best they could

Orange never goes out of style in space

Orange never goes out of style in space

come up with was blowing up the moon with nuclear weapons? Let’s just ignore how that will affect the tides. Anyway, I digress.

Together, they all make their way to an abandoned station on the moon, in which the inhabitants have all been killed. Killed by what? Spiders, kind of. The first twenty minutes or so we’re left to believe spiders have infested the moon, are tearing it apart, and killing people who step foot on the moon. Because well, spiders are evil and will do anything to be more evil.

But luckily we’re spared a boring old spider story and instead are left to find they’re parasites, which leads into the bigger issue of what is going on with the moon?

We lose the Doctor for a bit at this point, as he literally dives into the moon to find out what is going on. Clara, the girl, and the final surviving scientist (why must the rest of the crew always insist on splitting up?) return to the station, left with the decision: blow up the moon or don’t. Soon enough the Doctor gets back and sheds some light on the situation. He discovers the moon is an egg, and inside is a new species, all on its own. Whereupon he departs again, not interfering in Earth’s history, or future, or timey-wimey. This doesn’t sit well with Clara, who along with the girl from school, does not want to blow up the moon since it is a living creature. The scientist on the other hand has to play the role of wanting to blow up the moon. And it’s for a decent enough reason, saving Earth and all.

So in a frantic mess, Clara sends a message to Earth, asking the people to cast their own vote on what should be done. In the end it comes down to the final seconds before the moon will explode. Clara lunges towards the cancel button and spares the moon. Conveniently, the Doctor shows up just in time to get them all off the moon and to the safety of Earth. They witness the moon crack open and a new creature emerge from inside. Unlike the blow up the moon method, the creature lays another moon, or egg rather, so nothing is ruined by the moon potentially no longer being there.

Right, all neat and tidy, except not really. See, Clara was not at all happy with the Doctor just leaving her. She wasn’t ready or wanting to take on such an important task on her own. Essentially paving the way for the future of humanity. She sees it as the Doctor making light of the situation, just popping off to do something else and come back to see how things are going. Of course the Doctor did it because he trusted her to make the right choice.

Logical? Nope. Really cool? Yup.

Logical? Nope. Really cool? Yup.

Clara actually does leave at the end of the episode, and for these forty odd minutes, it’s pretty significant. Obviously I don’t have to mention the stellar performances by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, because, well, when aren’t they fantastic. I mentioned earlier how it’s not bad for this to be Clara focused, because she’s finally being defined as a character instead of a plot device as she existed to be in series 7.  Plus, it’s not like the Doctor hasn’t been the focus of this series the majority of the time.

I actually really enjoyed this story. I was glad they took a risk and made it kind of out there instead of just having a spider invasion story for the millionth time in sci-fi history. I always seem to enjoy the episodes when they have to decide whether or not to save a creature (even if they usually end up saving it), there’s always a solid amount of tension and emotion, making for some good drama.

Clara walking out on the Doctor was pretty cool and even cooler was seeing Danny (anyone who read my previous reviews knows I’m a fan of Danny) disagree with Clara and show her she’s not done with the Doctor just yet.

There are so many dynamics at play with the characters this series that I’m glad we didn’t have to deal with more Missy stuff.

I’m looking forward to next week’s episode and seeing how the Doctor and Clara act together after the climactic ending of this week’s story. Here’s the trailer for Mummy on the Orient Express (I hate to judge an episode by its title, but can we get a bit of creativity one of these weeks with the title?):

I’m going to be honest, I don’t really know what to think of The Caretaker.  On one hand the dialogue and characters were good but the actual villain/threat supposedly being the most ruthlessly designed killing machine misses nearly every shot and may arguably be more inept at going up and down stairs than a Classic-Who Dalek.

Really, at this point, why can’t there just be a Doctor Who episode that is pretty much just drama talking?  With the way the show has gone under Moffat, that may be the best bet.  Let the characters talk about drama things and ignore some evil villain plot that ultimately goes nowhere and takes time away from the well written parts.

SPOILER ALERT – YES, IF YOU READ AHEAD YOU WILL KNOW SIGNIFICANT PLOT DETAILS

Let’s start with the good.  Peter Capaldi is funny without being annoying.  It’s more a sarcastic type of humor, and as we’ve all been finding out, he does it very well.  It also helps that Clara continues to be written well and Jenna Coleman has great chemistry with Capaldi (he really is the Doctor she’s written for, she was just kind of there for Matt Smith).

Nothing says disguise like a new coat

Nothing says disguise like a new coat

We get to see more of her relationship with Danny, and I’m mostly all for Danny (I will get to that later).  The Doctor goes undercover as the caretaker of the school Clara and Danny work at, so naturally the Doctor is bound to meet Danny.  Here’s where an issue arises.

Yes, I get it, the Doctor doesn’t like soldiers.  This has been pounded into our heads for the past few episodes, and without any proper explanation it is wearing thin.  I’d like just a hint of an explanation for his anger towards them.  There was some explanation a few weeks ago when the Doctor found himself in a Dalek, but other than that not much, just a lot of ranting and shouting.  Danny goes on to eventually act out an over-the-top soldier performance to the Doctor, because he’s fed up with it and I don’t blame him.  I don’t understand why the Doctor doesn’t think soldiers can be smart, but perhaps in time something will be explained, or not, it’s impossible to tell or trust Moffat’s sense of direction.

While I’m talking about Danny, I’d like to note he is not a super hero.  I say this because they kind of made him a Matrix-esque type super hero at the end of the episode by having him do this crazy slow motion, forward flip over the evil robot (which was also a soldier carrying out its orders, so maybe the Doctor doesn’t like soldiers because they carry out orders and don’t think about what they’re doing, I don’t know, just a thought).  It was completely out of place and felt like last minute writing to solve the issue of how to eliminate a highly forgettable villain.

Now, I did like how there was a bunch of confusion between Danny, Clara, and the Doctor during the first half of the episode when the Doctor didn’t know who Danny was and when Clara was trying to keep everything under control while the Doctor was at the school.  It was reminiscent of an episode of Coupling, which is always a good thing.  While the Doctor thinking Clara was going out with the teacher who wore a bow tie wasn’t overly original, it made for some funny lines and worked well.

doctor-who-clara-dannySo all seems to be going well.  The characters are well written (except that slow motion flip, still don’t know where that came from, it was way too over-the-top) and are a joy to watch together.  Except the actual evil/bad guy plot really had no point.  Unfortunately, they can’t seem to avoid the monster-of-the-week formula, even if means throwing in some boring plot.  As previously mentioned, we’re left with a soldier robot that misses every shot and is just there to conveniently shuffle characters around to where they need to go for the good parts to occur.  Of course, in the end the robot is defeated and all can move on.

I would have preferred a story along the lines of Listen, which had a villain that was a part of the Doctor and his own curiosity.  This allowed the script an opportunity to focus on the Doctor and have everything flow and connect properly.  In The Caretaker, there was a noticeable disconnect between what the characters were doing and what the villain’s lack of a plot was doing.  This resulted in some annoyance when the villain came back on the screen.

Still, I’d say the episode is definitely worth a watch for the Doctor, Clara, and Danny.  At least they seem to have a better handle on the main characters this series, and I appreciate the consistency with Clara, which was completely absent in series 7.  So, strangely enough, unlike last series where Clara was always being changed to fit whatever the writers needed her for, this episode the villain seems to have been written after all the good dialogue was written and they just kind of threw a robot in there.

Right, so, it’s a decent enough episode and isn’t a drag like Time Heist.  The upcoming episode, Kill the Moon has an admittedly sort-of-awful title, but the trailer seems pretty good and so does this preview clip:

 

 

Somehow I managed to miss Silver Linings Playbook when it was in theatres and have managed to miss it since then even though I have owned it since August.  I feel really bad for that because this movie is really great.  It’s like a dramatic romantic comedy or something like that.

Essentially, Pat Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and starts the film by being signed out of a mental hospital.  When he gets home his father, Pat Sr.  (Robert De Niro) is

And so it begins

And so it begins

surprised to see him since his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) signed him out without telling his father.  Still, they’re glad to have him back and simply want to keep him safe.  After a few days he meets up with his friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) who invites him to dinner.  While there he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), Ronnie’s wife’s sister.  She too is in therapy and prescribed medication, and while she never really says what it is all for she does let us know it is at least partly for her depression.

Alright, enough synopsis, I don’t want to give too much away.  After a while they become friends, mainly so Pat can get Tiffany to send a letter to Nikki, his wife, who has a restraining order on him.  This makes the movie somewhat depressing, because he can’t see there’s no hope for their marriage and in the meantime it is clear he should really just move on and be with Tiffany.  She makes it obvious it’s what she wants and she also understands Pat, despite his lack of a filter for when he constantly brings up her dead husband.  It’s not like she isn’t equally awkward and it’s rather funny when they both bicker about how out of place and crazy each other are.  They both want to be with someone and it takes them a while to figure out how to do so.  Tiffany relies on other people for temporary happiness but really she’s just pleasing them (keeping it PG here) and not herself.  There’s a wonderful scene when one such man comes to Tiffany’s parent’s house (she lives in the converted garage in the back) and Pat delivers a rather chivalrous speech (for lack of a better word) to him about how it is wrong to take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable state.  The best part is it’s in front of Tiffany’s parents, who are sick of these men coming around and at first believe Pat is one of these men, but they eventually come round and all is well.

It’s difficult to dislike either of them since they really are good people, just troubled.  They’re booth a bit out of control and they know it and they want to control it and they learn they can’t do it without each other.  Sure, they first bond over the various prescriptions they’re on or at least should be on but they eventually find they just make each other happy, and not the kind Pat thought he had with Nikki, which wasn’t really that good, but the kind they both always wanted.

He gets it

He gets it

But wait, I forgot the most important thing, the movie takes place in Philadelphia!  I absolutely love how the first time we see Pat’s father he is complaining about DeSean Jackson throwing the ball away at the one yard line.  As a lifelong Eagles fan it is something I’ll never forget and it was great to have that moment come up in a movie.  I will admit they went a bit overboard with the Eagles fan stereotype.  I have been going to the games for twelve years now and have never seen any sort of racial fight break out like in the movie.  As the years have gone on there have been substantially less fights and to be honest, last year was incredibly flat and this year didn’t pick up with fan morale until Foles got in there.  I guess maybe they wanted to try to bring back something from back when but it felt out of place and just kind of a lame way to start a conflict scene.  But it was cool to see people with Kolb jerseys on and having everyone make fun of the Cowboys fan throughout the movie.

Anyway, back to the actual movie.  The ending is really fun and energetic and there’s a cute little scene rewarding us for rooting for Pat and Tiffany.  It’s not a profound movie or anything and I have no idea how accurate the portrayals of bipolar and depression are in the movie, but then I’m not looking at this to be that sort of movie, it’s more or less just there to allow the characters to be appropriately awkward and vulnerable.  They’re good people that are rough around the edges and we can like them for that because doesn’t that describe most people?  Tiffany says how they’re true people that don’t hide who they are and it’s that honesty which makes them and the movie so likable.

Christmas With the In-Laws

Wow, less than a week until Christmas, where has the time gone?  No matter, it’s here and that means crazy preparation leading up to Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners and obligatory encounters with the in-laws.  The second part stuck with me, so instead of helping out, I decided, with my friend Devon, to write a Christmas song.

What’s there to write about these days with so many years of Christmas songs already established?  Well, something real: “Christmas With the In-Laws.”

Everyone has those crazy in-laws and we all know what they’re going to do when they show up.  This song basically takes that concept and depending on the line of the song, either exaggerates or simply notes what various family members do.

Of course, everyone has their own stories to tell, so feel free to leave them in the comment section below or on the YouTube page for the lyric video.  That’s right, there’s a lyric video, be sure to check it out:

Merry Christmas everyone!

If you would like to check out more music from myself or Devon, be sure to check out the following links:

For more music from Devon: http://www.reverbnation.com/trafficandtransit

And more from Art: http://www.reverbnation.com/artsarnese

Again I was going to write about John Hurt and Doctor Who, but it seems far more important matters just keep popping up.  This time it’s the issue of Orphan Black and just how fraking great it is.  Now, for anyone who has already watched the show, well you likely know this already and reading on isn’t essential, but for newcomers to the show or more likely anyone who hasn’t heard of or watched an episode, well it’s time to become part of

Without being a clone, here's Tatiana

Without being a clone, here’s Tatiana

Clone Club.

Basically, the show is about a group of clones – Beth, Sarah (the main character), Alison, Cosimo, Helena, and a few impersonations for good measure – played by Tatiana Maslany.  I’ll admit, watching the first episode it took me a while to realize Maslany was playing multiple characters.  This is due to two things: writing and acting.

Writing:

Surprisingly, I’m not used to good writing.  At least I don’t think I am, as watching Orphan Black really showed me what good writing is.  Each episode has consistent pacing, allowing nothing to feel rushed.  Of course, I would have liked more than ten episodes, but a lot happened in these ten episodes, allowing little room (actually I can’t remember any room) for dragging out a point or becoming boring.  But yet it isn’t all heavy plot points, a lot of the show focuses on the relations between the clones and of course, Felix, Sarah’s foster brother.  I will argue Felix is the best support character on television right now by simultaneously being an endless source of appropriately hilarious comments and a person for Sarah to come back to for help and the like.  The best way to enjoy the writing is to avoid any spoilers, so don’t go reading anything online about episodes, this is a roller coaster ride you won’t want to spoil (or River Song will have a word or two for you).

I don’t blame you if you are still a bit skeptical, I know I was when they showed preview clips and interviews with the writers.  I’m all for a good sci-fi story, but too often have I been let down.  Luckily, the writing has yet to disappoint, especially in the way each clone feels completely different, thanks to…

Acting:

… Tatiana Maslany.  I have watched shows with actors playing multiple versions of their character (i.e. Battlestar Galactica) but I don’t think I have ever watched a show with one actress playing seven characters throughout the course of ten episodes.  Additionally, when in the role of a clone don’t be surprised to see her impersonate another clone.  If this sounds confusing it surprisingly isn’t.  I can’t begin to imagine how she is able to get into the role of each character.  It seems I always hear about actors saying how hard it is to become a character, but here Maslany basically plays every character in the show as the season progresses.  Brilliant, is the only word that comes to mind when trying to describe her acting.  With such a diverse group of characters there is no doubt you will have your favorite(s) picked out in no time (my favorite clone is Alison).

So now I’ve told you how she can play each character, fine, but there still can be the chance each character becomes nothing more than an over-the-top version of themselves.  This doesn’t happen here.  I was glad to see the characters actually feel like real people and not just there with specific character traits in order to progress the plot (well, okay to be fair their talents do come into play at times).  Watching the clones struggle with their personal lives could easily be its own show and could potentially put the sci-fi stuff to the side for a season, that’s how rich in detail these characters are written and brought to life.

Just a little bit of Alison's sass

Just a little bit of Alison’s sass

Is there nothing wrong with it?:

Yes, the show is not without its faults.  I’m not a fan of Paul (played by Dylan Bruce) and it at one point you may find it to become a little cliche (at least I did, but the following episode added a nice twist to get me right back into the action).  Again, the biggest crime, only ten episodes ending on a killer cliffhanger forcing us to wait until next year to see where the show is going.

Basically:

With the current summer drought of shows there’s really no reason to not give the show a go.  Well, that’s making it sound like the show is just kind of there for when you feel like watching, and you know what, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not having watched the show yet.  Don’t worry though, I don’t mean to sound rude, as a matter of fact, the fine folks at BBC America have compiled a list of ways to view Orphan Black.  Just be warned, once you watch Maslany it may be difficult to take other actors seriously.

Oh, if you want a rating for the season, well I’ll give it a 9.5/10, as everything out there has room for improvement but this is pretty close to being a perfect show.