Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Sargeant Manfredi (Michael Moore) and Seargeant Johnson (Peter Baldwin) are planning to break out of Stalag 17, a German POW camp filled with U.S. and Allied sergeants.  Sergeant Sefton (William Holden) draws the ire of all the other POW’s, because he bets against Johnson and Manfredi making it out. Especially irate are barracks chief “Hoffy” Hoffman (Richard Erdman) and Security chief Price. (Peter Graves) Sefton is right, Manfredi and Johnson are killed, and that leads the other men in the barracks believe that Sefton is a spy.  Suspicions intensify when the men hear of all the trades that Sefton has made with the Nazi guards. 

When Manfredi is replaced by Lieutenant James Dunbar, (Don Taylor) Dunbar begins to brag about blowing up a supply train to the men in the barracks.  Soon, word gets back to Oberst Von Scharbach, (Otto Preminger) who interrogates Dunbar for three days without sleep, and plans to send Dunbar to Berlin where he will be charged with sabotage.  Who informed on Dunbar, and on Johnson and Manfredi?  was it Sefton?  Or someone else in the barracks? 

Stalag 17 is not The Great Escape.  Both were set in a POW camp during WW II, that’s where the similarities end. While The Great Escape is concerned with breaking out of a prison camp Stalag 17 is concerned about a spy in the prison camp.  Stalag 17 has a lot of comedy, The Great Escape has very little.  They are both great movies, just very different. 

The theme of Stalag 17 seems to be don’t jump to conclusions.  The film could have been a sweeping indictment of violence against German Americans, suspected of being collaborators, simply because of their ethnicity, or Japanese internment camps, but that might have been too radical a theme for 1953. Actually, it is about a serious theme, McCarthyism, which was ravaging Hollywood during the 50’s, but even that theme is somewhat undercut by the ending, which is satisfying, but could have been more daring. All the same. it is a riveting spy story and whodunnit, with plenty of jokes. 

Was there too much comedy?  Maybe Animal’s Betty Grable fixation was a bit over the top or Sgt. Shapiro in a blonde wig is over the top.  Maybe Billy Wilder should ask himself why he made two movies with men dressed up as women?  Never mind, the comedy serves to ease the tension of the spy drama, and it’s natural for people to joke when they’re in a high-pressure situation. 

The acting is superb.  William Holden is magnificent as Sargeant Sefron, who seems to specialize in getting under his fellow POW’s skin. He’s a smooth-talking, deal-making, jerk, who seems far too chummy with the Nazis, Sefton even gets on the wrong side of Lieutenant Dunbar, who’s a hero to the other POW’s. Holden wasn’t Director Wilder’s first choice or his second. Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas were offered the roles, but Holden was the perfect anti-hero, and took home an Oscar. Don Taylor and Richard Erdman play the more conventional hero types, and do a convincing job, but they have the easier roles to play.  Peter Graves also gives a standout performance in a very complex role.  This was well before his fame on Mission Impossible, or the Airplane movies. Harvey Lembeck and Robert Stauss, provide the very broad comic relief, and break the dramatic tension quite nicely.  Fellow Director Otto Preminger does a good job playing both a serious and tongue in cheek role, but never missing an opportunity to taunt the American in his camp. 

The direction by Billy Wilder is also very good.  He balances comedy and drama very well in this film, the pacing is quick, and the set piece or climax is perfect.  He gets great performances from everyone un the cast, both the serious roles and comic ones.  

Stalag 17: POW! A hard-hitting drama with lots of comedy. 

Owen (Jake Weber) is a forensic accountant with a pre-teen son named Connor. (Finn Little) The D.A that Owen works for has been killed, and now the assassins, Jack (Aiden Gillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) are after Owen.  They shoot Owen and his car careens off a cliff, but miraculously Connor survives, and runs for help.  Connor finds a smoke jumper named Hannah (Angelina Jolie) who is in a fire tower after a traumatic event involving a fire that she was fighting.  Does Hannah help Connor, can they both evade the assassins, and a growing fire coming closer to both of them? 

This movie is built on false advertising.  Those Who Want Me Dead is billed as an action movie starring Angelina Jolie.  The movie features a forensic accountant, ethical assassins, a hero sheriff, a pregnant sheriff’s wife, and a smoke jumper who does no smoke jumping.  The action seems to involve everyone BUT Hannah, and this is no exaggeration, the pregnant sheriff’s wife is more of an action hero than Hannah is.  Hannah spends most of her time being a mother figure to Connor.  See Brad, Angelina IS a good mom, this film proves it. Worse than all of this, the movie just ends without answering any of the questions it bothers to raise.  Salt is an action movie starring Angelina Jolie, watch that instead of this sentimental drivel. 

Angelina Jolie is to be pitied, even her surgically altered face is to be pitied, it is proof that Hollywood is not interested in actresses over 40.  The pity is, she is a good actress, and she can be an action hero, if given the right script, this is the WRONG script.  Jolie seems like a bystander in her big comeback movie. Finn Little is good as Connor, he shows the right amount of emotion, along with some toughness.  And he does a convincing American accent. Nicholas Hoult is pretty good as the younger assassin.  And it’s good to see him in something besides an X-Men movie.  What is Tyler Perry doing in this movie?  Don’t ask, no one explains his character or his function, he has one scene, and he is gone. 

The direction is poor, the pacing is exceptionally slow for an action film, there are so many disparate storylines that the viewer has to wait for the story to come together and once it comes together, the movie doesn’t get any more exciting.  The set piece or the climax, is almost anticlimactic, and the movie limps to an uninspired ending. 

Those Who Wish Me Dead: Doesn’t Catch Fire. 

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has just broken up with the Joker.  The two problems with that are that no one believes her, and she loses the protection that comes with being the Joker’s girlfriend.  So she does what any right-thinking woman would do, she publicly and explosively demonstrates that she and Mr. J. are no longer an item.  This move also announces to enemies that she is alone and unprotected.  Roman Slonis (Ewan McGregor) is a stone-cold killer who runs a club in Gotham City.  Roman wants to find the Bertinelli diamond, the diamond has a secret within it, and with that diamond in his possession, he can buy off every judge and policeman in Gotham, and rule that town. 

At first, Roman wants to kill Harley, but then he offers her protection in exchange for Harley finding the diamond.  He also asks hired muscle Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) and singer at his club, Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smolett) to keep an eye on Harley and get the diamond if Harley gets any funny ideas.  Soon, everyone has an interest in finding that diamond. Police officer Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and a woman who dubs herself the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and kills her victims with a crossbow, but only a 14-year-old girl named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) knows where the diamond is, and she’s not telling anyone.  Can Harley find the diamond?  And what will she do with it if she finds it? 

This is a surprisingly good script.  There is very good character development, an engaging plot, and even some atypical mentorship between Harley and teenaged Cassandra.  This film is a throwback to the 1960’s Batman television series lots of campy laughs, and more cartoonish violence than blood and gore.  Despite the broad comedic strokes, Birds of Prey really does try to be a woman’s empowerment film.   There are serious moments, where Harley and other women in the film are threatened with harassment and worse.   There is also scant mention of the Joker, and all the protagonists are women, and the antagonists are men, maybe that’s too simplistic, but sometimes the most effective ideas are expressed simply. Of course, the women’s empowerment theme is somewhat diminished by having a protagonist running around in shorts and a tee-shirt, but blame that on the guys who designed Harley Quinn as a comic book character, not the writer of this film. 

Where this film goes awry is the acting.  Margot Robbie is a good actress.  But she lays on the New York accent really thick and sound like a dime store version of Cyndi Lauper.  She can do better than that.  She undercuts any credibility the character has with that awful accent.  Rosie Perez who has a real New York accent, is very good in this movie, she mixes comedy and drama expertly, where has she been all these years?  Ewan McGregor, usually a fine actor, goes way over the top with this role.  His scenery chewing goes above and beyond the spirit of this role.  And he mixes up his American and Scottish accents into a muddle. Jurnee Smolett is not up to the task of playing both a serious and funny role, and her dye job is reminiscent of Elizabeth Berkley, and that is never a good thing.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead is very good in an understated performance as the Huntress.  And Ella Jay Basco is a precocious teen playing a precocious teen, but she has good chemistry with Margot Robbie. 

The direction is not as good as it should be either.   the fight scenes seem very choreographed, like each villain takes a punch at Harley and backs off, and then another goon comes in and fights for a while.  The dream sequence with Harley as Marilyn Monroe really backfires.  If the director, Cathy Yan, wants little girls to emulate Harley in some positive way, does she want to use a song popularized by a 1960’s sex symbol with essential the same costume and setting?  That said, the director gives plenty of time for backstories and good plot development, without the usual barrage of special effects. 

Birds of Prey: Don’t call these birds chicks.

Episode 1 Sundown:
After returning home from the Korean War, to search for his missing father, Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) receives a letter saying that his father is in Ardham Massachusetts. Tic, as his friends know him, takes his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and friend Leti Lewis. (Jurnee Smolett) Leti is a down on her luck singer who needs a place to stay and as a rocky relationship with her half-sister, Ruby. (Wunmi Mosaku) Tic, Leti, and Uncle George encounter family drama and racism as they enter Ardham County, where the racism doesn’t end. Ardham is what’s known as a sundown county, meaning black people aren’t welcome after sundown. The sheriff and his deputies threaten to shoot Tic, Leti and Uncle George unless they leave Ardham County in minutes. What happens to Tic, Leti and George?

This is a very good opening episode of what looks to be a promising series. There is an undercurrent of paranormal or supernatural events going on, on top of the overt racism against three African American protagonists, and it’s an open debate as to which is more frightening to the main characters, the racism or the paranormal elements. The series comes in the wake of Watchman in featuring a story with black characters in the forefront at a time of overt racism. Each of the main characters, and even the ancillary characters are so well-written and acted that it makes the whole episode so much fun to watch. All the characters are multi-dimensional, well-rounded people. It’s a pleasure to see such intricate writing on television.

The acting is superb. Courtney is the steady, calm, reassuring figure of the three, Vance exudes all these qualities and adds some humor to the role. Johnathan Majors is the quiet, contemplative, bookish Tic, but he’s fresh from the Army, and has muscles, but prefers not to use them in case of trouble. Jurnee Smolett stands out as the take no prisoners Letti. She’s willing to fight anyone, friend or foe, who crosses her. Smolett brings a lot of passion to this character and carries this episode for as long as she;s on screen. Even smaller roles like Leti’s sister are well-acted. Wunmi Mosaku adds a lot of fire as Ruby, giving Leti an earful on responsibility. Mosaku also has a great singing voice.

The direction melds the fear of racism with the fear of paranormal activity into one cohesive narrative. The pacing is brisk, The special effects enhance the story, not overwhelm it. Great performances, all packed in a little over an hour.

Episode 2 Whitey’s On The Moon:

Tic, Leti, and George wake up in a lodge owned by the Braithwaite family in Ardham county. Leti and George have no memory of what happened the night before. Tic remembers the night before all too vividly, and remembers the blonde who saved his life on the road to Ardham. She is Christina Braithwaite (Abby Lee) daughter of the patriarch of the Braithwaite family, Samuel. (Tony Goldwyn) Samuel has a plan of his own, it involves Tic, but what is the plan, and how is Tic involved?

Unfortunately, both the story and the characters receded a bit since the first episode, one of the big mysteries from episode one is resolved, which makes this episode immediately less interesting, and the character of Leti, who was so string-minded in the first episode becomes a more conventional female architype. Whitey’s On The Moon was disappointing in as many ways as the opening episode was exciting. The story seemed to put forth mixed messages throughput, and was therefore not as compelling as the first episode. Hopefully, the next episode will be better

Episode 3 Holy Ghost:
Leti buys an old mansion on the North Side of Chicago, with the intention of fixing up the house and turning it into a boarding house, and also bonding with her half-sister, Ruby. But she faces resistance to moving in, from her neighbors, and from some spirits that are restless in the house. Tic feels guilty about not telling Hipppolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) about what happened to George in Ardham.

The problem with the last two episodes is definitely the writing. The haunted house is standard issue haunted house lore with some Tuskegee type experimentation thrown in for good measure. But it’s odd that Misha Green gives the perpetrator of these experiments a Jewish surname, given the Jews own horrific experience with similar experiments during the Holocaust. The character of Leti is inconsistently written, sometimes strong and daring, sometimes overwhelmingly needy. Finally, all the exposition tying the haunted house story to the central story is saved until the final few minutes and sounds rushed and forced.

Episode 4 A History of Violence:
Leti Tic, Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams) Hippolyta go to a museum. Tic Leti and Montrose want to find missing pages from a book. William (Jordan Patrick Smith) makes promises to Ruby after she loses a job opportunity, can he keep those promises?

This episode feels like one of the Night at The Museum movies or maybe one of the Mummy movies, and of course black people have free run of the museum in the 1950’s, nobody’s asking questions, right? The Ruby/William storyline makes even less sense. But the central question is why would Leti, Tic and Montrose want to help Christina Braithwaite? And why do Tic, Leti, and Montrose seem to succeed where so many others have failed?

Courtney B. Vance is a much better actor than Michael Kenneth Williams. Both his overacting and the character in general are grating. Jurnee Smolett is also chewing the scenery quite a bit in these past three episodes. Yelling is not acting.

Episode 5 Strange Case:
Ruby wakes up a whole new woman after spending the night with William, but there’s a price she has to pay for her newfound status, is she willing to pay it? Tic and Leti research the clues the found in the depths of the museum. Montrose continues to prevent Tic and Leti from finding more about the lodge and their members.
This episode tries to discuss race, gender and orientation issues using the guise of science fiction or horror as a genre. When done well, like the Watchmen series, science fiction can be the perfect vehicle to discuss thorny social issues. When done badly, like this episode, and sadly, most of this show, the writing begins to bludgeon the viewer over the head with its point of view and the episode and the show becomes unwatchable.
The producers cast an older actress to play Wummi Mosaku’s alter ego, why is that? Is it that any actress will do? That speaks more to Hollywood’s racism than racism in society. Ironic isn’t it?

Episode 6 Meet Me In Daegu:
In 1950, during the Korean War, Tic did a lot of unconscionable things, including shooting and killing a nurse, Young Ja (Prisca Kim) suspected of being a Communist spy. Tic is wounded and meets another nurse named Ji-Ah, (Jamie Chung) the two fall in love, despite Ji Ah knowing that Tic killed her friend. Ji-Ah has a secret of her own, will she tell Tic? What about her visions of Tic’s future? Do they come true?

This is perhaps the best episode since the first episode. Each of the characters are compromised and conflicted in very complex ways. Tic has killed without remorse, Young-Ja is unapologetically in love with a Communist from North Korea, and Ji Ah loves Judy Garland movies, but hides a dark secret, and knows about Tic’s horrific deeds. The story even adds some Asian horror elements, so even though its only tangentially related to the main story, this episode stands out for depicting the horrors of war simultaneously with a love story.
The acting is excellent Johnathan Majors turns in an emotionally gripping performance as a soldier trying to forget the horrors of war and let himself fall in love. Jamie Chung stands out as a tortured soul, needing to find love. She really pours all her emotion into this role and it’s a very complex performance. Prisca Kim is also very good as the nurse with Communist sympathies.

Episode 7 I Am:

Hippolyta finally finds out what happens to George in Ardham. She also has a crucial piece of the lodge’s hardware in her possession, and she’s learned how to use it. Christina tries to explain William’s fascination with Ruby to Ruby, but Ruby doesn’t seem convinced. Tic finds out something about his father, and it drives them further apart.

This is Hippolyta’s journey of self-discovery, but the writers get it wrong, they try to raise Hippolyta up by tearing others down. There seems to be a lot of repressed anger in Hippolyta’s character, and that plays into a pernicious stereotype about black women. So instead of being an uplifting journey, the narrative gets loaded down by the baggage of anger, and even self-loathing. The anger may even be justifiable, but her actions and the lessons she learns are the wrong ones. More racism is not the way to end racism, more racism only perpetuates racism. The writers also do the same with Christina storyline trying to justify the chip on her shoulder in different ways This is another tangentially related episode, but unlike Meet Me In Daegu, the writing is weak, and so is the character development.

Episode 8 Jig-a-Bobo:
Diana is upset by the death of her friend Bobo. If that isn’t bad enough, Captain Lancaster (Mac Brandt) puts a curse on Diana. Ji-Ah finds Tic and once again tells him about her vision. Tic asks for a favor from Christina, which she grants to Leti? Tic and Montrose bond after Tic tells Montrose something about his future.
The use of historical fiction in this episode is sloppily written, and doesn’t fit the story. If the writers used a historical figure as a plot device, that’s inappropriate. And where did Ji-Ah come from? The last time the viewer saw of Ji-Ah, she was a nurse in Korea, now she’s in Mississippi? Why is no adult helping Diana when she is clearly terrorized, and why did the writers steal a concept and a visual from Jordan Peele’s Us? Since he’s one of the executive producers of this show, the use of those scenes wasn’t a problem. Even with all these shortcomings, this episode is more like what the series should have been about fear of racism coupled with fear of the unknown. The interpersonal relations between the characters is the stuff of soap operas and seems like filler at times, finally the writers got to the heart of the theme of this show, they took a lot of detours to get here, let’s hope that the remaining episodes use the theme again.

It was nice to see Ji Ah again, but this time Jamie Chung sounds more like a Californian, which she is instead of a recent immigrant to the U.S. That detracted a little from the role, which she played very well in the Meet Me In Daegu episode. It’s nice to see that Michael K. Williams finally shows some subtlety in his acting. Montrose was becoming a one-note character. Speaking of Montrose, it was not necessary to make him dyslexic, he’s got enough on his plate.

The use of “Cruel Cruel Summer” by Bananarama seemed like an odd choice to lead this episode, it’s a pop song, it’s not about anything in particular, to give it the weight that this episode gives it is unnecessary.

Episode 9 Rewind 1921:

Tic makes a pledge to Christina that Leti doesn’t want him to keep to try to save Diana’s life. Hippolyta comes back from her journey of self-actualization just in time to send Leti, Tic, and Montrose on a mission to try to save Diana. Does it work?

This was stone cold plagiarism by the writers of Lovecraft Country, who took a script right out of Watchmen, and didn’t even blink. Well, Watchman did it first and did it better. Rewind 1921 seemed like leftovers compared to the Watchman episode, which was moving and powerful. This episode was another misuse of historical fact, and why decide on this time and place when it was already done so exquisitely before? The writers never mentioned where Montrose or George were born, so this episode has no real resonance.

Episode 10 Full Circle:

Christina has a spell, but she needs Tic’s blood to make it operational. Tic has a spell to cure Diana, but he needs Christina’s blood to make it work. Ruby’s stuck in the middle and has divided loyalties. Whose spell will work, and what does it mean for Christina and Tic?

This was the finale, so it was supposed to resolve a lot of issues, and it seemed to have resolved a lot of issues, but because magic is involved, nothing is really final. The resolution of Ji Ah’s issues with Tic was written badly, and still she’s expected to help Tic with his grand plan. The resolution of Chritina’s plot line was most disappointing, because she was made a one-dimensional character with no opportunity to evolve or grow. How she met her final fate is equally disappointing, because of who was involved. This show is marred by episode after episode of sloppy, undisciplined writing and the finale is no exception, anyone expecting an uplifting episode to cap matters will be left wanting.

My Impressions of Season One:

After getting off to a truly splendid start with the Sundown episode, the writing went slowly careening down a cliff. Sundown was a wonderful mix of mystery, elements of horror and the horrors of racism in Jim Cow America. But then, as soon as the second episode, the focus of the story changed, one of the main characters changed, and the sole focus became racism. The black characters had this seething underbelly of anger within them, which was unappealing, and the white characters were so one-dimensional that they don’t even deserve mentioning. That does a disservice to the way progress was made in America in the eras of slavery and civil rights. For every Fredrick Douglass, there is a John Brown, for every John Lewis, there is a Michael Schwerner. That’s what Lovecraft Country misses, for there to be real and lasting change in any era in America, there has to be buy-in from all races, the writers missed an opportunity to make at least one of their white characters learn and grow and evolve.

After the Sundown episode, Lovecraft Country almost seemed like an anthology series, there was no cental theme holding it together, so one episode would be centered on Leti, and her new house, or the museum or Hippolyta, or Ji-Ah, and there was there was the thinnest of threads tying them to the writers alleged theme, but often the narrative became obscured, and the Lovecraftian elements are almost nonexistent in some episodes. The characters vacillate between strong and brave and weak and weepy, and some episodes focus almost exclusively on who’s sleeping with whom. And by the way rape is never acceptable, whether it is a male or female being raped, and anti-Semitism is never acceptable, no matter how it’s dressed up.
There were a few standout episodes after, like Meet Me In Daegu, which is a love story with many conflicted characters, but again this story was barely tangentially related to the central character, Jig a Bobo, with its many flaws, finally gets around to what this show should have been a mixture of supernatural horror and the all-too-common horror of racism. The show that it will be compared to is Watchmen, but Watchmen was much better written, and once Watchmen came together, it was a marvel to watch. Lovecraft Country even ‘appropriated’ the Tulsa Massacre from Watchmen, which was first masterfully captured on screen in Watchmen’s first episode. It is the height of irony to use H.P. Lovecraft’s themes as a palate because Lovecraft was a virulent racist. Misha Green and her co-writers could have done a much better job of it, by not telegraphing her verbal punches, and toning down the anger of the black characters, and by not making the white characters so uniformly hive-minded.

The acting varies greatly. The good performances are very good, the not so good performances are pretty scenery-chewing bad. Johnathan Majors is excellent as Atticus Freeman, he really showed all of his emotions, but he knew how to modulate his emotions, when Tic got angry, it was through clenched teeth, when he felt sadness, the viewer felt his pain, it was a difficult role, but a wonderfully well-rounded performance. He should have a bright future in Hollywood, he’s already making a name for himself with a solid perfrmance in The Last Black Man In San Francisco. Courtney B. Vance was wonderful as the gentle, kind caring, uncle George. He was woefully underused, the writers brought him back, only to lay a guilt trip on him. Bad writing abounds with respect George’s character. The show needed more of the understated grace and charm of Vance’s performance. Michael K. Williams tried to pick up\ the slack for Courtney Vance’s absence, but he overdid his angst. It was a 10,000-decibel performance that required some subtlety.

Jurnee Smolett was terrific in the first episode, and then her character changed from stong and confident to weak and weepy, and she was not able to modulate her performance as Leti, as well as Majors did as Atticus, so she was either screaming in anger, or screaming in terror, and generally overacting. Wunmi Mosaku is a multitalented singer, actress and force to be reckoned with as Ruby, she’s not afraid to step on some toes and give half-sister Leti advice about Leti’s place in the family It’s the bold performance that this show needed. The remainder of her storyline was written badly, but she made the most of it. Abby Lee had a very difficult role, making someone like Christina Braithwaite a likeable character, and she almost succeeded, until the writers torpedoed her best efforts. Every series needs an antagonist, and Christina is this series main antagonist, but Lee does her best to make her somewhat sympathetic. Jamie Chung gave the performance of her life in three or four episodes, she ran the emotional gamut from kind innocence to anger and hatred. It was an illuminating performance and should show Hollywood that they shouldn’t typecast actors, especially female actors. The depth of emotion in her performance in Meet Me in Daegu was incredible. Again, the character’s role in the last episode was poorly written, but that’s not Chung’s fault.

There were 10 episodes mostly directed by different directors, so it’s easier to select two episodes and talk about each director’s work. Episode One was the best episode of the bunch so Yann Damange gets some of the credit for that. He perfectly blended traditional horror themes with elements of mystery and the real-life horrors of racism. He manages to balance the three elements and not let one overpower the other two. The pacing was good, and the special effects were perfectly used especially in the opening dream sequence. He gets great performances from everyone, and even stages a musical duet between Smolett and Moskau.
Episode 6 was the second-best episode, and that was directed by ex-actress Helen Shaver, who had a lot of roles in horror movies like the Amityville Horror, Poltergeist The Legacy and the Craft. Shaver uses those roles in horror well, as she blends elements of Asian horror with war movie and believe it or not Hollywood musical, and comes up with a great narrative, the special effects aren’t overpowering, the interspersing of clips from Judy Garland movies and horrible acts of war create a roller coaster of visuals that leaves the viewer as conflicted as the characters in the episode.

Lovecraft Country: Not crafted as well as it should have been.

Diana Prince (Lilly Aspell, Gal Gadot) is working as an archeologist in Washington DC in 1984. At work, she meets Barbara Anne Minerva (Kristen Wiig) insecure fellow anthropologist, who is asked by the FBI to look into the significance of some stolen artifacts. It is here where Barbara discovers a dreamstone that grants wishes to whomever possesses it. Barbara makes a wish, but tells no one about it, and Diana makes a secret wish too. Soon conman, infomercial specialist Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) find out about the dreamstone, and seduces Barbara to get it. He wishes for his phony oilwells to gush with oil, and they do, making him an instant millionaire. Does he stop there? No, he flies to Egypt, and attempts to wish for all the oilwells that Emir Said Bin Abydos (Amr Waked) owns. Is he satisfied with that? No, he wants more. Can Diana and Barbara team up to stop Maxwell Lord before he accrues too much power? What about Diana and Barbara’s wishes, do they come true?

Wonder Woman 1984 aspires to be a repudiation of the greed and excesses of the 1980’s, but it’s such a shallow and superficial look at the decade, including a cartoonish look at Ronald Reagan and his goals, that when the critique comes, it packs no punch. It’s factually wrong about at least two major inventions, and it sends very mixed messages about women and power, that women with too much power need to be feared and not respected. It’s also troublesome that the only African American characters are a homeless man who Barbara takes pity on, and a little girl in a mall. Wonder Woman 1984 should have been about a woman using her extraordinary powers to make the world a more just and equitable place, but Diana Prince is once again a bystander in her own film. Her wish with the dreamstone says more about sexism in 2020, than the whole movie has to say about the 80’s. Diana doesn’t even get to fly her own invisible plane. Hollywood screws the pooch again.

The acting is only average. Gal Gadot puts in another serious, earnest performance as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, but the script traps her in a forced romantic entanglement, and asking Gadot to emote about love is a bridge too far. Chris Pine gives another flat, emotionless performance as Steve Trevor, yes he’s in the movie, don’t ask how, better yet don’t watch the movie. Pine has been given all these iconic roles, Steve Trevor, Captain Kirk, and he’s basically frittered them away. Pedro Pascal goes way over the top as huckster Maxwell Lord, unlike his fine understated performance in Season 1 of the Mandalorian, this was his chance to shine, in a major motion picture, and he blew it. Similarly, Kristin Wiig who was hilarious in Bridesmads, tries to add a comic touch to a comic book character, and it doesn’t really work, she goes from nerdy wallflower to power hungry woman, (i.e. Poison Ivy) and the transition isn’t very convincing.

The direction is awful. The 2 ½ hour length is unmanageable. The 10-minute opening sequence is the best that this movie has to offer and that is not a compliment. The action sequences after the opening sequence are downright boring and look like every other comic book movie ever made. One of the climactic action sequences is filmed at night, and the viewer can hardly see anything that’s going on. In between all those badly filmed action sequences is a movie about nothing important, slowly paced, which reduces its star to a supporting actress. A terrible directing effort by Patty Jenkins, who actually moves gender equality backwards by going through the motions on this film.
Wonder Woman 1984: Wonder why it was made.

Episode 1: The Big Ride
Butcher is missing, the Boys are scrambling for help, Hughie has a few ideas on how to help the Boys, how do those ideas work out. Starlight is the breakout star of the Seven, but is she happy singing tributes to dead superheroes, are she and Hughie truly broken-up? Homlander thinks he’s in charge after berating a new employee, Ashley Barrett. (Colby Minifie) Homelander has everything under control until he meets Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) who gives Homelander a whole new perspective.

This is probably sacrilege to many people who loved season one of the Boys, but this episode is better than season one, it didn’t matter that Butcher was largely absent, the episode was still very interesting. Anthony Starr is truly evil as Homelander, and he seems to revel in his evil, but he may have met his match in Stan Edgar, Giancarlo Esposito does another incredible job, (he was in the last episode of the Mandalorian) the interplay between Esposito and Starr is exceptional, and makes the episode worth watching. Jack Quaid is average, but he was average last year, none of the other cast really stands out. The direction is unremarkable, a few special effects, good pacing, overall a very good episode.

Episode 2: Proper Preparation and Planning
Starlight is trying to help Hughie, but the returned A-Train has different ideas. Homelander visits his son, Ryan, (Cameron Crovetti) but Ryan’s mother Becca (Shantel Van Stanten) wants nothing to do with Homelander or his superpowers. The newest of the Seven, Stormfront (Aya Cash) doesn’t suck up to the corporate bigwigs at Vought. The Deep is still in rehab, with strange side effects. Butcher wants to track down a ‘super terrorist’ to get his name off the wanted list, but Kimiiko has a surprise about the super terrorist’s identity, what is it?

This is not a good episode. The writers take about 5 different storylines and mash them into an unappetizing pulp. The one storyline that was interesting, was not the focus of this episode, instead, this episode was about superheroes running amok, or blackmailing one another. The unfocused plot was compounded by bad acting specifically by Karl Urban, and Jack Quaid, but not limited to them.

Episode 3: Over The Hill With The Swords of 1000 Men
Butcher purloins a boat and has the Boys Kimiko and Kenji in tow. Homelander returns from his sojourn with his son to join the hunt for the supervillain, the Deep is back from Erehab or reprogramming to join the 7, and send sea creatures after the Boys. Starlight relea+ses something that causes a media frenzy, A-Train is having some devastating side effects, what’s causing them? And Stormfront shows her true colors, what are they? Hughie has some Jonah size problems, what are they?

This episode is not interesting. There’s lots of action, with little exposition the second half is downright silly. Yes, a series called the Boys is not a series of quiet contemplation, but this episode was overrun by special effects. The series raises some interesting issues, and runs like hell away from them, they shouldn’t.

Episode 4: Nothing Like It In The World
Stormfront gets her man, and Homelander is jealous. Butcher goes on a mission to find Becca, with Black Noir tracking him, does he find her? Mother’s Milk, Hughie, and Starlight go on a road trip to find a superhero named Liberty, but find a secret about a current member of the Seven, what is it? Frenchie tries to comfort Kimiko, but she’s not receptive. The Deep gets a wife, with a hitch.

This is a good episode, even though the road trip is a hackneyed plot device, it allowed for some character development, especially between Mother’s Milk, and Starlight, they had a really effective bonding scene. It was also fun to see what was going on with Homelander in this episode. Good acting made this episode better, Laz Alonso is good as Mother’s Milk, it was the first chance he really had to express some deeply held feelings. Erin Moriarity is good too, the interaction between the two was enjoyable. Even Karl Urban turned in a good low-key performance. Frenchie is a bland character, Tomer Capon, the actor playing Frenchie doesn’t bring much to the character, except a thick French accent.

Episode 5: We Gotta Go Now

Butcher wants to go underground, but that backfires spectacularly. He is followed to his hiding place by Hughie, Mother’s Milk, while Black Noir lays siege to the hiding place. But Butcher has a plan to get himself and the others out. Does it work? Homelander kills a terrorist, but there are other casualties, and that leads to blowback from the public, but he gets an unexpected ally. Queen Maeve’s secret is out, how does she respond? A-Train is derailed, is this the end of the line for him?

This episode had a million storylines going on at once, and they all seemed like they had one resolution, and that shows a spectacular lack of imagination. The way the characters align are entirely predictable, the writing is disappointing on many levels. The acting is back to being not so good, especially by Karl Urban. He needs to stop gritting his teeth, and acting through his gnashed teeth. Jack Quaid does his usual sub-par job playing Hughie, the other actors go through the motions, no one really stands out. The Boys need to get better, or people will stop watching, even when it’s the only thing to watch.

Episode 6: The Bloody Doors Off
Mother’s Milk, Frenchie and Kimiko break into an insane asylum and find a bunch of supes under supervision for mental health issues, while Butcher Starlight and Hughie wait outside. Frenchie runs into an old nemesis, Lamplighter. (Shawn Ashmore) A troubled patient with electromagnetic pulse powers flips the van that Hughie is in and severely hurts Hughie. In the rush to get Hughie to the hospital, Starlight makes a questionable decision, what is it? Stormfront and Homelander continue to team up, what could possibly go wrong? The Deep invites A-Train to his religious retreat, does A-Train stay? A supe named Cindy (Ess Hodlmoser) escapers the facility, and hitches a ride to parts unknown.

This is an excellent episode, there is a backstory involving Frenchie, the mental hospital is an intriguing setting to see different supes in different states of despair. The Deep’s religious retreat is a nice parody of Scientology. There is a scene where Stormfront reveals her origins. It is by far, the best episode of this season, and should keep the viewers entertained and wanting more. This is a much better than expected episode after the previous episode.

Episode 7: Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker
Grace Mallory (Laila Robbins) has Lamplighter (Shawn Ashmore) ready to testify in Congress about Vought’s unethical and possibly illegal behavior. Grace also wants Jonah Vogelbaum (John Doman) ex-CFO of Vought to testify, she fails to convince him, but Butcher has a more direct approach. Does it work? Homelander and Stormfront drop in on Homelander’s son, Ryan, and try to convince him to spend more time with them, Becca Butcher objects, but Homelander couldn’t care less. Hughie has to babysit Lamplighter until the hearing, but when he hears that Starlight has been kidnapped by Voght, he tries to rescue her, with Lamplighter’s help. Does Hughie succeed?

This episode is a wasted opportunity, after building up to a pretty good climax, the ending of this episode is frustratingly bad. Why bother with all that buildup, if the writers end on such a spectacularly illogical ending? The writers wasted a really strong montage about political indoctrination, and some speeches from Homelander and Stormfront that borrow heavily from recent political debates. These were really exciting jumping off points to what could have been a great episode, but was hamstrung by an awful ending.
prepares to take on Homelander and Stormfront, Becca asks Butcher to help him find Ryan, but he’s already made a deal with Stan Edgar that might complicate things for Becca and Ryan. Kimiko fears what will happen when she finally sees Stormfront again. Hughie and Starlight get some unexpected help.

Episode 8: What I Know
As Butcher prepares to take on Homelander and Stormfront, Becca asks Butcher to help him find Ryan, but he’s already made a deal with Stan Edgar that might complicate things for Becca and Ryan. Kimiko fears what will happen when she finally sees Stormfront again. Hughie and Starlight get some unexpected help.

It was disappointing how little things changed after this finale, the writers want to keep things going of course, but they could have done it in different ways. Give the writers some credit, the finale wasn’t all laser beams and explosions, but several of the characters could have been stronger. Stan Edgar for example, started as a strong counterweight to Homelander, and just fizzled. Fans will probably love the two seasons, but this season was too uneven, some good episodes, some really bad ones, and the finale was similarly promising, but didn’t deliver.

My impressions of Season 2:
There are many problems with season two. Most problematic is that they abandoned the basic premise of the show. The premise of the show was that rebellious outcast humans called the Boys were striking back against evil superheroes, who only the Boys know are corrupt. Well, the Boys started getting help from Supes pretty quickly in season 2, and this continued right through to the finale, so a key part of the appeal of the show. There were other avenues to control the superheroes, but the writers took none of those opportunities, so they were left to their own devices, or subject to blackmail by other superheroes, so why do The Boys even exist, if they have to rely on other superheroes to keep the really evil superheroes at bay, and they are ineffectual in neutralizing them, then what’s the point?

None of the storylines were all that compelling either. If the writers got a compelling storyline for an episode, they inexplicably dropped it and moved on, while continuing with other less intriguing storylines. The writers had to go to other storylines because the main storyline form year one was made inoperable by last year’s finale ending, but they really need to do a better job in picking which storylines to put forward. The characters are too one-dimensional, either all good or all bad, and the viewer immediately knows who the bad guys are and who the good guys are, there are no gray areas on the show.

The acting is not that great. Karl Urban tries to hard to be action hero guy and spends a lot of tine yelling his lines. Jack Quaid’s acting ability has not improved at all since season one. Erin Moriarty is ok, there are a few moments where she shines, but not too many, that may be the writing or the acting, Anthony Starr and Aya Cash are ok, but they are really one-dimensional characters, does anyone expect a character named Stormfront to be as wholesome as mom’s apple pie. Giancarlo Esposito left a stong impression after the first episode, but the writers gave up on his character after that. Laz Alonzo was really good in some episodes, but again the writers relegated him to sidekick duty, not a good decision.

The direction was unremarkable, there was little done with special effects, the pacing was ok in some episodes, not so good in others. There were a few good vignettes about radicalization in episode 7, and effective scenes inside the insane asylum in episode 6, but mostly it’s standard action hero fare, things blowing up, heads literally exploding.

The Boys: Boys II Men? Nope. Still too childish.

Strange things suddenly abound around the world, in Senora Mexico, World War II planes are showing up pilotless in the desert. In India, people are chanting the same five note tune again and again. Claude Lacombe, (Francois Truffaut) a French scientist is studying the worldwide phenomenon. Meanwhile, in Indiana, electrical lineman Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) thinks he sees an unidentified flying object while attempting to repair a blackout. Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) also sees the UFO’s and thinks they are taking an unnatural interest in her son, Barry. (Cary Guffey)

Roy takes his wife, Ronnie (Terri Garr) to show her where he saw the UFO’s, but no UFO’s show up. And as time goes by, Roy has a vision in his mind of a mountain, and he’s seeing that mountain in everything in shaving cream, in mashed potatoes, in his garden. Ronnie is fed up, she takes the kids and leaves Roy for good. Thing take a turn for the tragic when Jillian’s son is taken by the aliens. Jillian and other witnesses try to meet with the military about what they’ve seen,, but they’re not admitting anything. Roy is about to give up on his vision when he sees a news report about Devil’s Tower in Wyoming on television. This is the mountain in his vision, Roy wastes no time and heads for the mountain in Wyoming? Does he find answers or is this another dead end?

Close Encounters starts out strongly. It has three compelling storylines, full of suspense. First Roy Neary, plagued by visions who may be losing his mind, Second, the strain of the visions on Roy’s marriage, and third Jillian’s son, Barry going missing. Unfortunately, Spielberg doesn’t capitalize on the suspense he’s built up, and as soon as Roy gets in his station wagon, and heads to Devil’s Tower, the film loses any suspense it had and become a conventional revel against secretive government conspiracy theory movie, similar to E.T. The ending kills any suspense about the nature of the aliens, even in 1977, the ending was weak, now it seems even weaker, because as much as it tries to tie up loose ends, it opens up as many questions as it answers.

The acting varies greatly. Richard Dreyfuss plays a character who is a mass of contradictions. His confusion is palpable, and he is believable as an everyman whose sense of reality is slowly slipping away. He also displays a strong sense of determination to find answers, it’s a good performance, fresh off his solid performance in Jaws. Terri Garr plays a rare unlikeable character in her career. She is a nag, her voice grates on her husband, and she has a short temper. Garr plays Ronnie well, so well that her role was thankfully short. Melinda Dillon is also excellent as a grieving mother if a missing son, and willing partner in solving the extraterrestrial mystery. She is also somewhat of a love interest, but that aspect of the film seems forced. The casting of Francois Truffaut seems more like a homage from Spielberg for Truffaut’s directing abilities, rather than his acting skills. Truffaut was a famous French director. Because Truffaut spoke mostly French, Spielberg cast Bob Balaban as an interpreter. Balaban was basically repeating Truffaut’s lines in English. Balaban is a good actor who looks a lot like Richard Dreyfuss, which led to some confusion for me in 1977. The point is Balaban deserved better than to parrot lines in English.

Director Spielberg does many things in this movie well, but there are things he could have done better. There are enthralling visuals in many scenes in this movie, the Senora Desert in Mexico, the chanting scene in India, the many views of the starry night sky in Indiana, the Gobi Desert scene, and the scene of Barry drenched in the yellowish light of the UFO is downright scary, much like the television scene in Poltergeist. His use of a real place, the foreboding Hell’s Tower in Wyoming for the climax also helps the movie to be grounded in reality. But Close Encounters could have been a much more psychologically harrowing movie if Stephen Spielberg had not been so enamored with special effects and revealed the special effect so early in the film. The relience of Spielberg on special effects takes a wrecking ball to one of the elements of suspense. In Jaws, the shark didn’t work, so the big reveal didn’t come until the end of the film, but oddly, that helped the narrative. In Close Encounters the special effects worked all too well, and Spielberg couldn’t resist going to the well too soon, if he had kept the big reveal hidden until the end, it would have made the movie much better, and even more suspenseful. Also, if he had cut about 10 minutes from the ending, it would have maintained the mystery. But he went for the Hollywood, crowd pleaser ending, and not the dark suspenseful ending.

Close Encounters of The Third Kind: Little green men made big green for Spielberg.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has a pretty good life. Sure, his mother Loraine (Lea Thompson) is a strait-laced alcoholic, who doesn’t care for Marty’s openly affectionate girlfriend, Jennifer (Claudia Wells) and Marty’s dad is a wimp, all too eager to please his high school nemesis, Biff. (Thomas F Wilson) Despite his less-than perfect home life, Marty has a beautiful girlfriend, plays the guitar, and a gnarly skateboard.

For fun, Marty pals around with eccentric scientist Emmitt Brown (Christopher Lloyd) Doc Brown has built a time machine out of a DeLorean, with his new invention the flux capacitor. To make the flux capacitor work, Doc needs a nuclear reaction, which needs plutonium to make it work. Doc Brown steals the plutonium from Libyan terrorists, who find out they’ve been tricked and come after Doc. In his rush to get away from the terrorists, Marty fires up the DeLorean to 88 miles per hour and goes back to November 5, 1955, the date when Doc Brown invented the flux capacitor.

In 1955, Marty meets his besieged father, George, being bullied by Biff. He follows George who is peeping at Loraine, and falls out of a tree. Marty saves George from being hit by Loraine’s father’s car, but Marty gets hit instead, and Loraine takes care of Marty, and flirts with him incessantly. Marty has to find Doc Brown, convince him that he invented the flux capacitor, and get his parents together at The Enchantment Under The Sea Dance, which is made harder by Loraine’s amorous attraction to Marty. Does Marty find Doc Brown? Does he get his parents together at the dance? Most importantly does he get back to 1985?

Back To The Future works in many ways and many genres, it works as a comedy, it works as an ironic comedy, the ending even an inadvertent critique of the “Greed is Good” 80’s, It works as a romantic comedy, the love story between George and Loraine, which is quite touching, even as Loraine’s flirtation with her son is cringe inducing, Back to the Future works best as science fiction, it makes its own ground rules, that things Marty does in the past may affect his future, and sticks to those rules. Terms like flux capacitor, and 1.21 gigawatts become common in the American lexicon.

In retrospect, Back To The Future fails in many ways as well. It continues the long-standing Hollywood stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists, Libyans were the terrorists du jure in the 80’s, and the terrorists were not even played by Arabs. As if the stereotypes aren’t bad enough, they are compounded by whitewashing. Even more harmful than the stereotyping is the conscious attempt by the writers at revisionist history. When Marty is playing the guitar at the dance, he plays Johnny B. Goode, the Chuck Berry classic, and the movie insinuates that Chuck Berry stole the song from Marty McFly, a white guitar player. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the history of rock and roll, knows that the inventors of rock and roll were people like Muddy Waters, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and many other black musicians. Rock and Roll was not invented by a white time-travelling teenager. Such blatant revisionism should not be ignored, especially in a movie as popular as Back to The Future. Less important, but very aggravating was the constant product placement in the movie everything from Mountain Dew to Zales, to the California raisins, and it detracts from the film

The acting is superb. Michael J. Fox, already a successful sit-com actor from Family Ties, was the perfect choice to play an all-American teen, even though he is Canadian, and 25 years old at the time. Fox had that sense of wonderment about the sci-fi, the right amount of awkwardness when his mother was flirting with him, the comedy chops to handle the comedy, and enough good looks and charm to play the hero. Crispin Glover played both the older and younger George McFly perfectly, as a victim of bullying, who never fights back, a man who keeps his desires and creativity tucked very deeply inside. Lea Thompson also gives a complex performance, as drunken, uptight older Lorraine, and fun-loving, risk-taking, flirtatious, young Loraine. She flirts in the 50’s in a shy coquettish way, which fits the character, and the era. In a way this is the most complex role in the film, she is in essence playing two different women, and plays them both very well. Christopher Lloyd is a natural as eccentric Emmitt Brown, if anyone remembers him as Jim Ignatowski knows he’s good at playing a loveable, out of the mainstream character, and so he made Doc Bown lovable in an industrious inventor way. even Thomas F. Wilson is perfectly cast as bully Biff Tannen, with lines like, “Why don’t you make like a tree, and get the hell outta here?” Perfectly timed, perfectly delivered.

The direction is good, Robert Zemeckis paces it well, moves effortlessly between eras, without many special effects to get in the way of the narrative. He made two other gimmicky movies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where he mixed live action and animation, and Forrest Gump, where Forrest got to interact with presidents and other famous people. If he hadn’t used terrorism as a plot device, and had Marty emulate Elvis it would have been a much more enjoyable film, but as a director, he did well, getting iconic performances from the whole cast, including notoriously difficult Crispin Gover, so he deserves plaudits for his direction, moreso than his writing.

Back To The Future: Rock Around The Clock.

Episode 1:
A Mandalorian bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) is given his next assignment by a somewhat shady Client. (Werner Herzog) The Mandalorean easily picks up his first fugitive, Mythriol (Horatio Sanz) and disposes of him just as easily. The bounty hunter then goes after the client’s target, in a heavily guarded sector, he meets a moisture famer named Kulli (Nick Nolte) who just wants the warring to end. The Mandalorean also meets a droid, IGII, (Taka Waititi) to help him fight the people guarding the bounty. Does the Mandalorean defeat the people guarding the bounty? Does he take the bounty dead or alive?

This is a good introductory episode to a Star Wars series. It’s set five years after Return of The Jedi. Yes, there are a lot of redundancies. There’s a barroom scene, the Mandalorian is a bounty hunter, of course, because Jango and Boba Fett aren’t enough to quell the Star Wars fan appetite for stories about bounty hunters. But what writer Jon Favreau does well is make this more like a serialized Western from the beginning of movies. This episode has a reveal, and what a reveal. For a Star Wars fan, any Star Wars fan, this leaves fans wanting more. This episode is reminiscent of The Magnificent Seven, with one fighter protecting the townspeople instead of seven. The acting is good Pedro Pascal plays an understated anti-hero very well, and Nick Nolte also underplays his role as a member of the output who just wants to return to a quiet life.

Episode 2: The Child
The Mandalorian is stuck on the same sector with Kulli and many Jawa. The Mandalorian’s ship has been stripped by the Jawa, and they want a trade in order to give the Mandalorian the components of the ship. What do the Jawa want in return for the Mandalorian’s ship components? What about the bounty? What does the Mandalorean do with the Bounty?

This episode is not a filler, more like a bridge between one segment of the story. The viewer learns more about the bounty, there is more to him than just being a price on a head or a reward, and delving into the bounty’s character makes it interesting. The writing by Jon Favreau is better than most movies, it’s better that most Star Wars movies. The Mandalorian character is essentially a blank slate, as is the bounty, and the viewer gets to fill in the blanks with each episode. It’s sci-fi but it really has the feel of a Western. The Mandelorian character is part sheriff part gun for hire.

Episode 3: The Sin
The Mandalorian returns the Bounty to the Client and repairs his armor with the payment for the Bounty. But then, he does something to draw the ire of Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) head of a bounty hunters guild. What does he do?

This is where the conflict begins. The Mandalorian is expected to do something, and does something completely different. So now he’s going against the grain, and he becomes a wanted man in a sense, so it will be interesting to see where it goes from here. Carl Weathers brings less to his role than he did as Apollo Creed in Rocky.

Episode 4: Sanctuary
Looking for a place to rest, the Mandalorian finds an isolated, densely forested planet named Sorgan, and decides to rest for a while with his bounty in tow. His restful retreat doesn’t last long as the Mandalorian lands in the middle of a skirmish, between village farmers and raiders. The raiders have a small armored walker, which the plan to unleash on the villagers, but the Mandalorian may have the help of a shady mercenary, named Cara Dune. (Gina Carano) The Mandalorean has also attracted the interest of a widowed mother, named Omera (Julia Jones) who seems ready to train to fight under the Mandalorian’s tutelage. What are the Mandelorian’s plans? Does he plan to stay with Omera after the battle? Will he leave? Does Cara Dune help the villagers? What does he do with his bounty?

The similarities between this episode and the American invasion of Vietnam is unmistakable, a technologically superior species attacks a village of Asian-looking villagers, but this time the good guys are on the side of the villagers and not fighting them. Gina Carano handled the action scenes well, as she should, being a former MMA star, but she also handled the dialogue relatively well, and that was a nice surprise. Julia Jones does a nice job as a potential love interest and eager warrior; she was good enough for a recurring role.

The episode was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, and there is nothing notable about it, the pacing is rather slow, nothing visually arresting about it, just further proof that nepotism is alive and well in Hollywood. Hopefully she can make the most of her opportunity.

Episode 5: The Gunslinger
After a dogfight with an unidentified fighter, the Mandalorian stops off on Tatooine to get some urgent repairs for the ship. The female mechanic Pelli Motto, (Amy Sedaris) takes quite an interest in the Mandalorian’s bounty, and looks after it, while the Mandalorian looks for another bounty to pay for his ship’s repairs. Luckily for him, there js another bounty out there for him to hunt down, a woman named Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) a fugitive, who has a price on her head. But this time there is competition for this fugitive, a man by the name of Toro Calican (Jake Cannivale) who wants to be part of the Bounty Hunters Guild, and sees capturing Fennec as his ticket to the guild. He actually teams up with the Mandalorian, but with Mando is away, Fennec tries to entice Toro with some information. Does Pelli Motto get her credits? Who gets the fugitive? Does anyone?

This is a fantastic episode, the story is simple, but also tense and exciting, there are twists and turns, a little comedy thrown in and the resolution to the story is not revealed until the very end. There’s even some nostalgia in this episode, because he lands on Tatooine, the home planet of Luke Skywalker.

The acting is very good as usual, Amy Sederis provides the comic relief as the ship’s mechanic. Jake Cannavale displays a laid-back quality on the outside, but he has a burning intensity to be part of the Guild, and he shows that intensity later on. Ming Na-Wen is also very good as the duplicitous fugitive Fennec Shand, she plays mind games with Cannavalle’s character, and that gives her character a devious edge. Ming-Na started out in the soap-opera As The World Turns. And finally, there’s an uncredited surprise as the voice of one of the droids, he does a lot of voice work, so it’s not really a surprise, it just adds to the nostalgic feeling of this episode.
The direction, by Dave Filoni, who also wrote the episode is excellent, the dogfight scene is action packed the pacing is good, the acting is great, and Filoni is steeped in Star Wars lore.

Episode Six:: The Prisoner
The Mandalorian transports mercenaries, Mayfield (Bill Burr) Xian (Natalia Tena) and Berg (Clancy Bown) to break out a prisoner named Qin (Ismael Cruz Cordova) from a maximum-security prison guarded by driods.
This is probably the worst episode of The Mandalorian to date, the mercenaries are derivative, one look will give away who they’re based on.

The action is forced, the writers and directors shouldn’t try to make The Mandalorian an action series, at its best, it’s a character driven and plot-driven drama. There is alsso a deliberate attempt to make the Mandalorian less squeaky clean, and more edgy and dangerous. All of these non-so subtle shifts seemed very transparent and painfully obvious.

Episode 7: The Reckoning
Greef Karga has a proposal for the Mandalorian. Mando agrees, but brings backup, on the form of Cara Dune, and Kuill, along with the bounty Greef has his own team to back him up, what happens when the Mandalorian meets Karga? Does Karga double-cross the Mandalorian or does he keep his word?

The series went from one of the worst episodes to one of the best, this was a character and plot driven episode with some action elements thrown in. The characters behave largely as expected, but there are lots of surprises and the last few seconds of the episode are the most exciting. Gina Carano is not the best actress, but performs her role well, and Nick Nolte returning is a welcome reprisal of his role.

The direction, by Debrorah Chow is excellent, not especially flashy, but the pacing is good, and she saves the best scenes for last, and the way she presents the last few seconds of the episode is very well-done. The finale should be great!

Episode 8: Redemption
The bounty has disappeared, one of the Mandalorian’s allies is dead, Greef Carga, Cara Dune and the reprogrammed IG-11 are trapped in a cave. A new enemy, Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) has emerged and he means to kill The Mandalorian, does he succeed?

A finale episode has two purposes, resolve a cliffhanger, and set the stage for the next season. this episode achieves both goals and then some. There is also an engrossing backstory about the Mandalorian that clarifies his mindset in caring for the Bounty. Add great character acting by Giancarlo Esposito and Taika Waititi to the compelling storyline, and the end result is a very satisfying finale. This episode was written by Jon Favreau who wrote many of the episodes in season one, and wrote the captivating movie Chef.
The direction, by Waititi is a good blend of action and storytelling, the pacing is good and the final seconds of the episode leaves the audience thirsting for a second season. This series shows how good Star Wars can be when executed almost flawlessly.

My Impressions of Season One:
The writing is very good, for the most part, instead of making it a big epic story, like the movies, they concentrated on small stories, which work better on the small screen and work better in the episodic genre. The stories remind me of early serialized American Western radio and tv shows and movies like The Magnificent Seven, and the Seven Samurai, where an outsider comes in and solves the problems of the townspeople. Many of the episodes follow this format, but the better ones incorporate the Mandalorian’s bounty, and the best episode, Redemption, does an exceptional job of blending in a backstory, and blending it in with the narrative, and incorporating elements like the Bounty. Jon Favreau writes many of the episode and keeps the themes constant and the main characters intriguing

The Mandalorian is basically a good guy, trying to settle wrongs on different planets between the local populace and outside forces. He sometimes does morally questionable things, but in the end, he fights for decency. The supporting characters were less nuanced, they’re either good guys and with Mando or they’re bad guys and they fight Mando. It would have been preferrable to have supporting characters with more gray area, and less black and white. The recurring characters were not the most interesting characters, either.

The acting on the Mandalorian, depending who’s doing the acting. Pedro Pascal is a good actor, apparently from the Clint Eastwood minimalist school of acting, he uses an economy of words to convey a lot. His understated delivery fits the Western motif perfectly.
There are actors in recurring roles, and some of those performances are good. Nick Nolte is surprisingly good as Kuill, a character sympathetic to the Mandalorian, Nolte shows his empathetic, sensitive, side. All the recurring roles were not as good Carl Weathers is average as Greef Karga, and his casting seems to be a case of nostalgia casting, not a case where Weathers deserving the role. His delivery is wooden, even missing the life he had as Apollo Creed. Gina Carano is slightly better as Cara Dune, she handles the action sequences well, and has a more natural delivery than Weathers. But if these were recurring roles the writers and producers should have put more thought into the casting.

There were good guest performances too. Ming Na Wen was good as a shady fugitive, Amy Sedaris was also good in a small comedic role in the same episode, as was Jake Cannavale as a wannabe bounty hunter. That whole episode was made better by the acting. Giancarlo Esposito is very good as Moff Gideon, and will be returning for season 2.

The direction also varied greatly, because there were many directors for these eight episodes. The best episodes were directed by Dave Filoni (The Gunslinger) and Deborah Chow (The Reckoning). There were no really fancy visuals in either episode, other than an early dogfight sequence in the Gunslinger episode. The emphasis was on the story and the characters, as it should be.

Director Rick Famuyiwa’s episode (The Prisoner) is somewhere on the other end of the spectrum. It tries to force action where it doesn’t belong, and really uses stock characters that bear no resemblance to Star Wars characters.
Hopefully, season two of The Mandalorian will continue to be a story-driven character-driven series, and doesn’t get carried away with the Mandalorian vs Moff Gideon storyline.

Clyde Williams (Sidney Poitier) and Billy Foster (Bill Cosby) are ordinary blue-collar working-class men, living in Atlanta Goergia. Clyde is a milkman, and Billy is a forklift operator. They both belong to a lodge, and the city is threatening to evict them and their lodge brothers and sisters, unless they come up with at least 50,000 dollars to buy the building. Billy has a plan to raise the money, but Clyde is hesitant to use his ‘gift.’ With no other way to raise the money, the men go to New Orleans, with their wives, Beth (Denise Nicholas) and Dee Dee (Lee Chamberlain) and tell their wives it’s a trip to celebrate Billy and Beth’s anniversary, but they’re really there to place large bets on an upcoming fight between 40 pound weakling Bootney Farnsworth (Jimmie Walker) and muscular, mean 40th Street Black. (Rudolphus Lee Hayden) Clyde and Billy bet 10,000 dollars each with local thugs, Kansas City Mack (John Amos) and Biggie Smalls (Calvin Lockheart) and after Clyde spends a few minutes alone with Bootney, he feels like he is a world-beater, but do the power of Clyde’s words stay with Bootney when the fight begins or have Billy and Clyde made two large sucker bets?

Why is Let’s Do It Again a classic? Because it’s funny as hell. It’s also a throwback to a simpler time, the 1970’s when life was not complicated by the things that complicate our lives today, sure there are underworld types doing sleazy things, but they’re cartoonish buffoons to be lampooned, and this movie does that, repeatedly and well. The whole movie is reminiscent of a Honeymooners episode with Cosby as Ralph, with his get-rich-quick scheme, and Poitier playing straight man. They’ve even got wives, who know something’s going on, but can’t figure out what it is, just like Alice and Trixie, and to top it all off, they’ve got a lodge to save, just like Ralph and Ed had. It’s a classic. Critics are down on it because they want to shoehorn it as a 70’s blackspoitation film, but it isn’t it’s just good clean fun. If the movie’s relevance is lost on you, just look at one of the character’s names, Biggie Smalls, that name is legendary but the rapper wouldn’t have the name if he didn’t see this movie. If the plot seems implausible, just take a few minutes to remember Leon Spinks. The writing is so good, that the viewer is held in suspense until the last few minutes of the film.

The cast is impeccable. It’s ironic that the first scene has Bill Cosby gawking lecherously at a pretty young woman (Jayne Kennedy) at the construction site. Caustic irony aside, Bill Cosby is unapologetically funny, his trademark mugging for the camera is on full display, and a lot of his dialogue seemed ad-libbed, and the ad libs were funny too. He did not make a funnier movie than this, even after his huge success on the small screen, he made the utterly forgettable Leonord Part 6. Sidney Poitier was Cosby’s straight man, a role he performed well, he let Cosby have all the laughs, while his character was low-key. Was it In The Heat on the Night or The Defiant Ones? No, but not every film has to have a message, good film is also escapism, and Let’s Do It Again is the best type of escapism. Ossie Davis was in this film as the Grand Poohbah of the lodge, again it isn’t Do The Right Thing, but he has some stemwinding speeches, and again it’s nice to see him using that powerful voice in a comedy, having fun with his role. Jimmie Walker was in this movie as Bootney Farnworth, it was Walker at the height of his popularity on Good Times, and even though it’s a small role, he does get to strut around like Mick Jagger at least once. John Amos, Walker’s tv dad is in this too, as a typical old-school gangster, complete with gold teeth. But there’s something sweet about every character he plays, so even though he plays a guy from the hood, he never hurts anyone. Denise Nicholas has one very important scene in the film, and she pulls it off convincingly. Jayne Kennedy makes a cameo, as does George Foreman (before the grill) to accentuate the boxing motif.

The direction by Sidney Poitier is pretty good, the boxing scenes are well-shot, and well-choregraphed, he gets some pretty good shots of New Orleans on a riverboat, the soundtrack songs, sung by the Staples Singers, and written by Curtis Mayfield are intersperse well in the film, and enhances the movie greatly. The pacing is good, especially during the last ten minutes of the film, when it turns into an action movie. Poiter gets great performances from everyone in the cast, and gets a lot of laughs into a little under 2 hours.

The only drawback to the film is the redundancy. There are several scenes of Cosby and Poitier on the ledge, which is an old laugh getter, going back to I Love Lucy, and in fact, the second half of the film, is far too similar to the first half of the film. The second half is just different enough to make the movie worth watching, and both halves are incredibly funny.

Let’s Do It Again: A Knockout.