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The Passage (2019)
I should've read the book instead
The pilot was pretty bad. A group of scientists capture a vampire, swear up and down that vampires don't exist, and then the scientists go on to create more vampires in hopes of producing a wonder drug. Throughout the pilot we learn these scientists are evil weasels and they're written to be the dumbest scientists ever. A little girl does the narration from a point in the future for some unknown reason, which means we're in a long flashback. Did I mention how dumb the scientists are? Yeah, pretty dumb in that they ignore all the weird stuff going on during their little experiment and plow forward with making more vampires. What could go wrong?
Roswell, New Mexico (2019)
Crash and burn
Pretty standard CW plot formula here for forbidden romance between hip aliens and regular people. There's tension from the romantic entanglement and the aliens' purported fear of the government. The writing is way down on the quality scale. Dialog is stilted and info-dumpy. I could barely make it through the first episode.
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (2019)
What did I just watch?
Do you have stuff? Do you wish you had less stuff? Now there's a TV show where a tiny Asian woman tells people how to get rid of old stuff and how to organize things by category. I'm at a loss how this got pitched and then sent to production. Unless you're a big fan of reading subtitles that explain how joyful sorting t-shirts into boxes can be, skip this one.
Hosting needs work
A mix of science and pseudo-science, LEGENDS OF THE LOST fits in neatly with other shows in the vein such as ANCIENT ALIENS and Josh Gates's DESTINATION TRUTH. The main problem with this program is the host, Megan Fox.
Ms. Fox spends her screen time flashing vacant expressions and fidgeting as if bored. The narration is flat and unsure, sounding as if it's coming from a high school student narrating her first film project. But the narration is delivered by an experienced actor, so what's going on? Only the producers know, because they evidently didn't ask Ms. Fox to act as if she doesn't belong in the cardboard personality club with Jessica Biel and Emily Ratajkowski. In any case, an episode or two of LEGENDS OF THE LOST will only remind viewers how important an engaging narrator is for telling the story. Looking at you, Josh Gates.
In space, no one can hear you be an idiot
Chock full of dumb characters making dumb decisions, NIGHTFLYERS aims to go where no one has gone before...in making us want to pull our hair out.
The mission: an intrepid group of explorers has set out from Europa to rendezvous with an alien craft in space. You'd think a mission of this importance would require a crew of top-notch scientists and seasoned spacefarers. Not here. We get a crew of ding-dongs who wouldn't pass a psych eval. Add in a belligerent tool of a telepath whose sole job--wait for it--is to communicate in a friendly manner with the aliens, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Not long after launch, the mission goes sideways with weirdness. The captain knows all along why this is happening. Does he do anything about it? Say anything? Perform any corrective action? Nope. He pretends like he's ignorant instead of heading back to port because reasons. Oh, and the series opens with a murdery death scene far into the story that wipes out any worry for the characters shown because we know how they end up. Yay.
Doctor Who: Demons of the Punjab (2018)
Serious writing problems in this one
This episode is a showcase on writing errors every writer should avoid. The whole premise of the show is the trip back to see Yaz's grandmother, and that's where we find the Demons of the Punjab. Normally, finding demons around the old family homestead would provide a solid foundation for a Doctor Who episode. But we soon see that there's nothing to see here. There's no threat. There's no plot. The Doctor and company are merely along for the ride. They can take no action and that won't change the story one bit. Taken together, this is a story most editors would reject.
Dark, weird, and scattershot on message
I'm not sure if the writers on this series stopped to think which message they wanted to convey about Sabrina. Is she kind? Seems to be. Yet she shows no shock at all when the topic of murdering someone is raised. Sabrina is all gung-ho about girl power and standing up for other people, but she is part of a Satanist cult of witches. How can we take her character seriously when she seems to ignore all the dark business going on within her own family? And hello, Satan? Football players are the scum of the Earth, but Satan is nothing to worry about in this show. Bizarre.
PS: the oily blur camera effects are really annoying.
Ding-dong dino dumbness
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM exists in a universe where very dumb people keep making the same mistakes over and over--namely, making dinosaurs and then being eaten by said dinosaurs. How many dino movies can the studio possibly make before audiences get tired of seeing characters who act like total idiots? I supposed they'll keep making films like this until the money dries up at the box office.
Anyway, this film continues a few years after where we left off during the last one. Star-Lord and the spunky red head played by Bryce Dallas Howard get involved in a dino-rescue attempt that instead turns into a secretive and illegal dino-auction. In a side plot, the bad guys have whipped up a new and improved dinosaur called an Indo Raptor to sell as a weapon during the auction.
As for logic, this movie doesn't have any, so don't expect much of anything to make sense. My favorite scene that illustrates this is when the Indo Raptor is being demoed for the warlords who make up the auction audience. A generic henchman points a gun with a laser sight at a guy and presses an attack button that sends the raptor into a frenzy. Great, right? Why use cheapo bullets from the gun when you can have a $40 million raptor do all the work? Ugh. I suppose the $40 million could also be spent on five Abrams battle tanks instead of a dinosaur, but that would be boring and make too much sense.
Beyond the logic issues, the film is filmsy and it's over-long and sometimes drags, but it does have some decent jump scares.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Very light on plot but watchable
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, for good or bad, steers clear of heavy plot elements. Unfortunately, the film also suffers from its lack of a strong villain.
The main plot for this outing with Scott Lang and the Pyms is a quest to rescue Hank Pym's long-lost wife from the quantum world where she's been trapped for the past 30 years. Two main groups are standing in the way of this goal, and they are a jilted ex-SHIELD operative named Ghost and a shady group of gangster-types who've been supplying Hank Pym with black market tech. The story takes place over the last three days of Scott's house arrest for his activities during the events of CIVIL WAR and the battle at the airfield.
This movie is somewhat unusual in its design regarding which hero is the focus of the plot. Since this is the sequel to ANT-MAN, I expected Scott Lang to be the main character, but as the film is written, Hope fills the role of the main character better. She has the most to lose if they fail to rescue her mother, and she also ends up kicking the most bad-guy tail. I'm not sure if the writing was done this way on purpose or by accident. Scott ends up functioning more as a sidekick in most of the film.
The other unusual writing choice is the film's lack of a real villain. The greasy gangster types cause trouble but act more as generic bad guys. Ghost was the logical choice for lead villain, but she never makes it into true villain territory and remains a misguided character trying to find a cure for her affliction. This villain problem weakened the film immensely. The movie ends up with a fairly "meh" plot and some of the dialog is clunky and far too on-the-nose, but it's watchable.
Westworld: Kiksuya (2018)
If this episode doesn't get an award, I'll eat my socks
Normally, I'm not a fan of backstories and flashbacks because they're usually boring and don't put characters in immediate danger. This episode is the exception.
We spend most of our time seeing through the eyes of Akecheta, the Ghost Nation warrior. He's not just a bit character anymore. He's been through the wringer during his life, as it were, in Westworld. The writing on this episode is so emotionally gripping that it's hard to remember he's a robot while we journey beyond his awakening and through the maze of consciousness. Key scenes are revealed as Akecheta comes to grips with personal loss brought on by Westworld's behind-the-scenes machinery. His story has been tightly intertwined with the other main characters the entire time, and we finally see how.
Cloak & Dagger (2018)
So far, pretty good
After watching the first couple episodes, the writing on this series looks promising. The script is much better quality than similar Marvel TV titles like AGENTS OF SHIELD, and it's practically a masterpiece compared to INHUMANS. Then again, INHUMANS looked like bad cosplay with a $20 budget.
I'm surprised to find this on Freeform instead of regular ABC television, but whatever, the series looks like it has a bright future if the story quality stays at the same level.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Needed a serious rewrite
Han Solo finally gets his backstory, and it's sadly boring. I'm not sure if this is related to the change of directors midstream, or if the script was always in need of a rewrite. Since this film is basically one large flashback, it requires something to keep us interested since there's no danger to Han, Chewie, or any of the main characters we already know about. SOLO is lacking in this aspect. Note that WONDERWOMAN was in the same boat, and the writers there wisely chose to use that simple photograph from WW I to open the story and raise a question about what was going on.
Things start off in this movie well enough. We see Han in his formative years on Corellia, and then he's off on a quest to rack up some serious dough. Things spiral out of control plot-wise after that. Han's main goal is soon solved by random coincidence. Then he's off on more tasks to dig himself out of trouble. All the while, a major plotline with an important character is running in the background, but it's completely undeveloped. Toward the end of the movie, we finally learn what's going on, but it leaves the film feeling hollow because all this important information was withheld from the audience. The movie drags on for quite a bit until everything wraps up, but it's hard to stay interested.
On the character side of things, Alden Ehrenreich does a decent enough job channeling young Harrison Ford, and Donald Glover has Billy Dee Williams's speech pattern down pat. Emilia Clarke's character, Qi'ra, was a little off, though, because she seemed like a giggly schoolgirl who was strangely agreeable. For a girl coming up in the sewers of Corellia, her character traits seemed like a mismatch for her environment.
Altogether, this was a hard movie to stay interested in, even in the fantastic Star Wars universe. Ticket sales will likely be fine due to the franchise strength, even with the damage Rian Johnson did in the previous movie.
Westworld: Akane no Mai (2018)
What happened to the writing on this one?
See title. This episode was off. The creepy, puzzling atmosphere of the previous episodes vanished when we entered Shogun World. This slice of WESTWORLD, dare I say, got boring in parts. The action was fine, but pacing was off for the other parts of the episode like Dolores and Teddy. I'm also worried about Maeve and her abilities that she doesn't quite understand. Her (and the writers') solution to getting out of trouble in this episode was questionable for the story. It didn't require much build-up or practice, and it seemed like a cheap way out. And without some serious limitations, Maeve's ability might inject logical problems later on.
Barry Allen's greatest nemesis? Iris West making dumb decisions for him
The overall plot of this episode is covered well enough in other reviews. The side plot of Iris's follies--well--that's another story.
Iris West has been hanging with Team Flash for some time. She's written as a sidekick and Barry's love interest, but she's moved firmly into the annoying character category tonight. Iris's brainless decision to write a news story detailing how the whole planet will be reduced to simpletons was irritating to say the least. A competent person would realize the panic this would cause. Iris? Not even a blip on her radar. Making her incompetent on top of bossy isn't going in the right direction. Something needs to change with her story placement to make her both more interesting and less of a pain to watch onscreen.
G'day mate, Krypton is sounding very down under
I just watched the pilot. What were the production people thinking? The have a show with an alien planet, and nobody gave a thought to the little but important details like how the actors will speak? Apparently not because the lead sounds like he must have been plucked out of Sydney and deposited in Kandor City.
Beyond the accent problems, plot holes and weak acting abound on Krypton. Adam Strange shows up from the future, blabs about Superman being in danger to Seg-El (really, that's his name?) and sets in motion a plot to somehow stop Brainiac from doing bad stuff to the timeline.
Time travel has to be written well to be an effect story driver. Here it only shot holes in the story logic. Why did Adam Strange come back to this particular point in time? "Because he wanted to have a TV series" isn't an acceptable answer. If the guy's a time traveler, why not travel to another strategic point in time to stop Brainiac as a baby, etc? If that was explained in the story, I've missed it.
The MENTALIST returns...sort of
This series starts with a premise that feels contrived: a magician (who has a secret twin brother) is framed for murder by way of an accidental car wreck. The magician is exonerated, but when the public learns of the secret twin brother, the magician's career crashes and burns. He then goes on a year-long bender but ends up wanting to find out who's behind the frame job by working with the FBI to solve a similar disappearing airplane case involving a renegade drug lord.
All right. With that out of the way, I was missing the early MENTALIST episodes while watching the pilot of this show. The lead is okay, but compared to Simon Baker, the charm isn't there. The rest of the episode was just okay. Things moved too quickly in some scenes, particularly toward the end about "the girl with magic eyes."
Side note: from a writing standpoint, shows like this that combine a police procedural with elements of stage magic look extremely difficult to put together into one coherent package. I wouldn't want to be the writer having to do it.
Too long, too...ugh
Rian Johnson really did a number on Star Wars, and it's not in a good way. First, the nonsensical premise of this film: the rebel fleet gets in over its head against the First Order, turns tail and jumps to hyperspace. The First Order fleet follows, and then it's a chase until the rebel ships run out of fuel because the First Order can track them through hyperspace. That's the main plot of the film: get away from the bad guys, and it's not super interesting.
The rebel fleet runs at sub-light speed and instead of splitting up and going in different directions, the fleet stays together to make them one giant target for the First Order guns. Yeah, brilliant tactician work it isn't, but Mr. Johnson thought that would be great for a plot. It's not. The First Order behaves stupidly as well by trailing the rebels instead of having a few ships jump ahead to blockade them. So that mess of idiocy is the backdrop.
Meanwhile, Luke and Rey are learning Jedi smackdown techniques on Luke's private island, and Finn and new girl Rose hatch some ridiculous plan to find a slicer to hack the First Order tracking system. Did I mention Finn and Rose just fly away from the rebel fleet on a ship to carry out their plan? Yet another ding-dong writing choice.
While Rey is training for a few hours with Luke (apparently he's developed a patented Learn-to-be-a-Jedi system that works instantly), the fleet is running away and Finn and Rose are working on recruiting their slicer. Then everyone goes back to put themselves in harms way and let the movie drag on some more until a climatic battle on Crait. And Luke pulls a remote-control Houdini to delay the battle and allow everyone to escape. That's right, Luke doesn't actually show up to battle, but he's there in spirit. Wonky.
To wrap up, we've got a waaaaay too long script, screwed up main plot, and a few interesting side scenes. Not good. The best part might be the Star Wars universe and the flavor of lightsabers and stormtroopers, but other than that, the writing is a mess.
The Punisher (2017)
Suffers the same fate of THE DEFENDERS
Fight scenes are a given when the Punisher is involved. The fights in this series are well done and much more violent than other Marvel properties.
Beyond that, the story is a drag. THE DEFENDERS ran into the same problem by stringing together scenes with no purpose other than to be filler. THE PUNISHER carries on that tradition by cutting away from things that matter to pointless yacking.
I could have done without Madani's storyline. It needed to be stronger and more tightly bound to Frank from the go to be interesting. Flashbacks were also used far too much--they have to be meaningful and reveal something important, rather than be repetitive and easily cut without loss of plot. Here's to hoping the next Marvel-Netflix team up will be better.
Lucifer: Off The Record (2017)
The first episode that's gotten it really wrong
The arc within this episode was the first real miss I've seen with LUCIFER.
The plot jammed too much into one hour. The insertion of the reporter who just happens to be the doctor's estranged husband came off as contrived. The plot also had fits and starts as a result of too much going on, and the shoehorning to scrunch everything into the timeline(which jumps a year at one point) added to that. The final ending was a nice touch, however. The other parts needed a rework.
The Orville (2017)
Not so good
Imagine Star Trek, but with weak humor and weaker writing. That's THE ORVILLE in a nutshell.
The pilot episode introduces us to Seth MacFarlane as the Orville's captain, Ed Mercer. He's a year divorced from his estranged and cheating wife, played by Adrianne Palicki. Caught in a downward spiral, Ed is trying to get over his wife's infidelity, and then he's randomly assigned to lead the Orville, or so he believes.
The pilot plot takes us through a bunch of exposition, which includes a line-up of the Orville's senior staff and more exposition explaining who they are, blah blah blah. It's pretty dull. The characters are slightly quirky, but not enough to make them interesting.
The Orville then heads off on a supply delivery, picking up Ed's estranged wife as the 1st Officer on the way. She promptly tries to smooth things out with everyone on the ship, which is an odd writing choice since it makes the story even duller.
We then learn the supply delivery request was made under false pretenses. The research station requesting the supplies has secretly produced a dangerous temporal weapon and wanted a ship sent out to help them. The researchers fear the alien Krill will learn of the weapon and try to steal it, but the researchers are apparently too dumb to send out an encrypted message to tell anyone what's going on there at the research station.
But as it turns out, the Krill have had a lackey in the lab the entire time. And in a completely illogical move, the Krill wait until the Orville arrives to attack and steal the weapon. Yeah, you read that right, the Krill spy lab-guy was there the entire time, and apparently was fobbing off until the Orville shows up.
To wrap up about this show: plot is illogical and fairly dull, characters not great, humor is actually okay in some scenes but not great in others. The writing needed more work before being sent to production. The show isn't sharp enough or funny enough to qualify as a send-up of Star Trek, either, which is a disappointment.
The Defenders (2017)
C-List Superheroes get a D-List script
Boring. Dull. Slow. Take your pick of awful ways to describe the plot of THE DEFENDERS. I'd estimate that 75% of the scenes are pointless, transitional chit-chat. The overall story is that the Hand are up to something terrible in New York, but we remain in the dark about the scope and danger of this horrible plan for so long that it makes the weak story even weaker.
Dialog ranges from passable to atrocious. The heroes range from moderately interesting to flat as a pancake. Finn Jones turns in a notably bad performance, but some of his lines are written so poorly that they are cringe-inducing. His character was also written as a total moron, which becomes apparent in episodes 7-8.
I'd hoped that THE DEFENDERS would turn out to be a great show, but it didn't even clear the bar.
Midnight, Texas (2017)
Clumsy writing in the pilot
I've never read the books this series is based upon. That said, I hope the books were better than the pilot I just watched.
The writing was bad. The acting wasn't great, either, but writing might have a lot to do with that. The show plays out like a more fantasy-centered version of THE SIXTH SENSE, or a take on CONSTANTINE.
The plot moved along, but it skipped important things like how our hero deals with meeting a vampire. I can see how the writers might have wanted to move quickly into other parts of the story, but skipping reactions to big moments makes the story super weak. The pilot contained enough material for far more than one episode, if pacing and intensity were done properly. I wish it had been done that way, not to mention tightened up on dialog and character design.
I'm not sure I'll be watching any more episodes after this one.
The Mist (2017)
Holy pointless scenes, Batman!
The Mist spends way, way too much time spinning its wheels but going nowhere. And then, someone randomly dies. It could be bugs, or a shadow-wisp-fog monster, or something we don't even see. But then we're right back into meaningless scene after meaningless scene.
Short version: this show is boring, and I mean super-dee-duper boring. The script is so dull that it makes me wonder if there's any quality control at all in the writer's room.
Wonder Woman (2017)
DC finally gets going
What's going on: We see Diana Prince at her current job, working at the Louvre, and then launch into the backstory that sees her leaving the island of the Amazons and heading off to turn the tide of World War I. The journey starts with a fairly large dollop of exposition on Zeus and the Greek gods, then on Ares--the main troublemaker--then heads to the crash of Steve Trevor's plane, which catalyzes Diana to head off to war in an attempt to find Ares and end his corrupting influence in the world. So, this movie is one large flashback. The problem with flashbacks is that they remove all worry over our hero, since he/she is clearly fine in the present.
The plot does have its logical issues, but the story is easily the strongest of any recent DC efforts. Notably, Zack Snyder didn't write this screenplay, and that's a positive thing. Gal Gadot does a fine job portraying Diana and showing her character's child-like delight in discovering the world she's never seen. Ice cream especially. Action scenes are really good. No problems there.
Back to plot logic issues. Ares is a big question mark as to what's going on with his character. We find out he despises humanity and resents Zeus, which led to the original spat with the other gods that ended them. Ares likes to prove humans are destructive prats, so he goes around prodding them toward warfare. Since the other gods are now gone, that eliminates his motivation to thumb his nose at Zeus.
Ares then states he wants to rid the world of humanity and return everything to a much nicer state--a pitch he makes to Diana at one point. Ares is a powerful Greek god. Why not just wipe out humanity and skip the behind-the-scenes prodding to give humans ideas on how to make weapons? Ares also seems to work against his own interests in various parts of the film by helping our heroes along. Other than providing a plot twist, why does he do that? Then there's the casting of our main villain, which didn't quite fit, but I suppose that's a matter of taste.
Anyway, Wonder Woman is worth seeing. It's much better than Batman v. Superman by miles, and the recent DC films before it. Toss the logic for a few hours and watch Gal Gadot beat the tar out of the bad guys.
A whole lotta backstories
In short, Peter Quill's father finds him in this movie. They spend time together on a far-flung planet, getting to know each other, and then we learn the family has a secret. And it's not good. All the while, the Sovereign and their drone fleet have it in for the Guardians, but that doesn't matter a whole lot. More on that below.
Plotting on the second outing with the Guardians is a lot weaker than the first movie. This one spends quite a bit of time filling in character histories. The beginning also slips into wooden exposition of what's going on and what the Guardians are doing. The dialog has moments of snappy interchange, though.
As for the overall plot, it needed work. Peter's father, played by Kurt Russell, is a character with immense power, and that causes a problem. He's so powerful, in fact, that he completely removes any threat to Peter and his friends for most of the movie. That makes for a dullsville plot. With a character like that in the mix, writing a strong plot is a huge task to pull off successfully. In Guardians Vol. II, it didn't work out well.
What we ended up with was a dragging section from 1/3 of the movie on, at least until we learn what Peter's father is really up to. Then, we're back in business. The problem is that it takes waaaay too long for that to happen. The Sovereign and their drone fleet, as well as Yondu's bunch, cause some problems for Rocket, but they're a non- factor to the rest of the Guardians until the very end of the film.