Sunday, June 18, 2017

Orange Is the New Black Season Six

Orange Is the New Black just kicked off its sixth season after leaving a heart dropping cliffhanger that would change the environment of the show. Season five took a dark twist when Litchfield Prison became a privately-owned facility instead of a public. The guards tormented the inmates by abusing their power, living conditions became less than moderate with poor working conditions, and the inmates began to rebel for it. They protested and did what they could to make themselves heard to a deaf corporation. In the end, Poussey Washington was accidentally killed during a protest which lead to the uprising and season finale.
The inmates are still mourning the loss of beloved character Poussey, the guards are now the prisoners, and the prison has become an asylum. The season starts after revealing the fate of the guard who caused the cliffhanger last season and that’s when things start spiraling out of control. Upset by the response in regard to Poussey’s death, the inmates hold the warden and several others hostage until certain demands are met with the help of the media. Instead, the inmates see how society views people in prison, their worth as human beings and how that needs to change. This season is unique among its previous ones for several reasons.
In the first season, Piper Chapman was the focus of the show, but her exposure this season is minimal compared to the others. The focus of this season is on Poussey’s best friend, Tasha Jefferson or Taystee. Another reason is this season only happens during the time frame of a couple days instead of different times. The final reason is this season introduces the audience to the response of a riot inside the prison and it’s a bloody response. Warden Joe Caputo tries desperately to keep it from happening, even making a point by saying both inmates and hostages get killed in the process of retaking the prison.
This season is par compared to the others story wise, but Danielle Brooks (Taystee) did a fantastic job standing in the main spot. The show starts closing a lot of doors throughout the episodes and giving great backstories on several characters just like it always has. The downside to this season is it seem to go nowhere for a few episodes and some people may not like the outcome for certain characters this season. It only gets darker in Litchfield and there’s no sign of light at the end of the season. There will be more questions left at the end of this season and the main one is, “What now?”

Orange Is the New Black is the show that put Netflix on the map and it’s trying hard to meet that bar that was set back in the first season. The show exposes a lot to the audience who may not know what happens when the inmates take over the prison and what happens in response. The show was filled with powerful messages created by painful heartbreaks that will connect with the viewers who’ve been paying attention to current events. The bad news is they’ll be wanting answers they won’t get for another season; my advice is take your time watching this season. If you watch it all at once, then you’ll be just like me waiting for football season, you’ll feel like you’ve been waiting forever.     

Friday, June 9, 2017

Are You The Mummy?

I just couldn’t resist the pun and give a quick shout out to all my fellow whovians out there who read my blog. The latest remake of a classic horror movie was released last night with mixed reactions from skeptics reeling from the previous failed trilogy. The last Mummy trilogy started off strong, but slowly died a painful death in 2008 which lead to Universal taking a hiatus from continuing its monster movie ambitions. Now Universal is following the same trend with Marvel Studios and DC Comics expanding their characters into this “Universe Era.” Universal plans on remaking all their monsters and throwing them into their recently announced Dark Universe.

The Mummy, it’s one of the most iconic monster movies since its first release back in 1932 with the legendary Boris Karloff. Universal has released several sequels and reboots since; the latest started in 1999. It was a trilogy with Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and was directed by Stephen Sommers that tried to follow the original story but with a twist here and there. The first one peeked interest with a decent story and good action but delivered little horror or terror. The same goes for the reboot which is a great action film, but it’s a bust as a horror film.

The film starts off strong with introducing the audience to Ahmanet, the new mummy, played by Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Universal decided to take a different direction with the mummy by introducing a femme fatale type character and it works to a degree. Tom Cruise does a decent job doing his action hero routine with great CGI and intense sequences of events. It was a surprise seeing Russell Crowe in his role as another iconic character but you only see his better half for a few minutes. There’s also great Easter eggs teasing the future releases of more monster flicks, if this film is successful financially.

It’s a much darker film than the previous films and the story is creative; but that’s where the praising ends. The film begins its downward spiral with unrealistic transitions, meaningless dialogue and the absence of horror. The comic relief was barely there with Jake Johnson (Jurassic World) and the chemistry is lacking realism between Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis. The new look of the mummy is attractive, but one of the key signatures is the four pupils in her eyes. Those pupils are obscure most of the time and virtually irrelevant; if this was a way of separating Ahmanet from Imhotep, then it wasn’t necessary.

The biggest complaint of The Mummy is the fact that there is nothing scary about it. The reason monster movies became so popular is because they were terrifying and gave us nightmares. There’s nothing terrifying about this film; all this film is about is action and that makes for a good film but not a monster movie. I give this film a 6 out of 10 because of its creativity in trying to take a new direction with a classic, but it forgot the key element needed for The Mummy. If Universal is going to continue with their Dark Universe, then they need to take a step back and realize why Dracula, The Mummy and Frankenstein were hits to begin with.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Answer to a Friend's Blog.

"A rose is supposed to be the representation of love. If that's true then why does a rose have thorns that cut you and why does it have to die." Amber, a friend of mine once asked me that a long time ago and it took me a long time to finally answer this question. It takes a long time because love is a very powerful marvel. I believe a simply "I love you" answers a lot of complicated questions. When there is a great truth to be discovered, then you must first experience this before you can see the truth. Here is why a rose represents love, but also has thorns and must die.
A rose represents love, but has thorns because like being in love, it must be handled carefully. You need to treat it with respect and be careful not to mishandle it. You can't be careless handling the one you hold just because there may be roses with less thorns. If you do then eventually, you will be cut and when that happens, you’re scarred for life. You will have a scar that will take a lifetime to heal and never go away, that cut will always remind you of your loss. That is why the rose has its thorns.

Now why does a rose die? That's the hardest part of the question, but I remembered everyone I ever loved and it came to me. A rose must die because love must be cherished. If love was eternal and always around then the inevitable outcome is that it would be taken for granted. Love should never be taken for granted. Like with people, roses must be loved while we have them because everything that is born must die, so we must appreciate the time we have with them. A rose is the perfect representation of love and these are my reasons why I believe so.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Wonder Woman Unleashed!

DC Comics and Warner Bros didn’t have a good year with critics in 2016 with terrible reviews plaguing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. While both films made money and fan reactions were moderate at best, the future of the DC Cinematic Universe was in question. But last night was a revival for fans of the superhero genre and DC Comics with the release of Wonder Woman. The house was packed, the anticipation was high, and the only thing heard after the end of the film was thunderous applause. It’s a victory not only for DC comics, but for fans who want to see more film adaptions based on female comic book characters.  

The last time a film adaption based on a female comic book character was Elektra, played by Jennifer Garner in 2005. It was a film that received little praise and profit; much like another adaption, Catwoman, starring Halle Berry in 2004. With these failures looming over DC Comics and Marvel Studios, it was believed that there was no market for female characters. That all changed after the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice when fans were introduced to Gal Gadot who was cast as the famous amazon. While the film itself was a critical disaster, interest in Gadot as Wonder Woman pushed plans forward for her own solo film.

The film takes place sometime after Suicide Squad and introduces the audience to Diana’s private life in the modern world until she receives a gift. Upon opening this gift, she’s has her flashback which is where her origin begins. Growing up on an island where the Amazons don’t age and constantly train to fight for a war they believe will never come. Then plans come crashing down with the arrival of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who fans know from his appearance in the comics and cartoons. He warns the Amazons of what’s been going on outside of their home and that’s what sends Diana down her path to become the hero she’s destined to be.

This film was two and a half hours but it really didn’t feel like that because of all the action. It starts off slow with the introductions for a few minutes but that’s it. There was plenty of comedy and the fighting choreography was excellent, as was the chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. This Wonder Woman is far more violent than the one featuring the iconic Lynda Carter who unfortunately doesn’t make a cameo. The soundtrack was amazing, the cinematography was top notch, and Gal Gadot did justice to the character and her views about “Man’s World.”

The main antagonist in the film was adequate and it was good to see a small twist near the end. The film didn’t hold back when it came to showing the horrors of World War I and Chris Pine did a fantastic job as the famous spy and love interest. The only negative thing I could say about this film was the main antagonist, who near the end became overloaded with CGI. The main fight nearly crossed the line between acceptable boundaries and flat out ridiculousness. The way the fight ended was also sort of a letdown, it didn’t end in the best way possible in my opinion.

Overall, Wonder Woman has saved DC Comics and Warner Bros from a possible grim future. It was a gamble for DC after the harsh backlash from critics and mixed fan reactions last year, but if you’re a fan of Wonder Woman or superheroes in general, this film is for you. My only hope is that DC takes notes and continues to push forward in this direction if they hope to catch up with Marvel Studios and their success. This film gets a nine out of ten and that’s only because of the overload of CGI in the main fight, but overall this is the best film DC has released since The Dark Knight. It’s well worth the price of admission and if you go, there’s nothing after the film, enjoy.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Injustice Has Risen Again!

Injustice 2 has finally arrived after being highly anticipated by gamers and fans of DC comics. Injustice follows the saga of Superman when he turns to the dark side after being tricked into killing his pregnant wife, Lois Lane. The once great champion of Earth would go on to kill everyone who didn’t see things his way along with several other members of the Justice League under a new faction called The Regime. Batman from that Earth would later bring in the Justice League from another Earth to ultimately defeat them and the man of steel is last seen rotten inside a cell. The game was revolutionary with introducing fans a much darker side of the superheroes and giving fans the chance to put their favorite superheroes against each other.
This game takes off several years after the events of the first game and starts off with one of the new characters, Supergirl. Her origin story gives you a brief glimpse of the same evil that’s coming to Earth to destroy it. Once that evil arrives, Batman is left with a terrible choice to either accept the help of his former best friend, or try to face the evil on his own. Through a series of events, things begin to unravel and heroes who were once villains get the chance to redeem themselves for their past deeds. It’s a well written story that gives players an option to decide how the story will end.
Injustice 2 has major upgrades as far as character selection and customization goes. Each character has tons of gear to choose from, but that depends on how quickly you earn it. You can achieve gear by winning matches, playing through the storyline, and even buying motherboxes. Motherboxes in DC comics are these boxes of advanced technology and great power that gave Victor Stone his cyborg body. In the game, they’re designed to contain different level gear that you buy or earn depending on the kind of box you get.
There are different kinds of boxes and there is a different kind of currency, coins and source crystals. Coins are used to buy the motherboxes and crystals are used in case you get a high-level gear, but you don’t like the look of it and you can use the crystals to change it. There are also different shaders to change the color of your hero or villain as you choose. Quick note for those that have the ultimate pass and downloaded the extra characters John Stewart, Reverse Flash, and Powergirl. You can access them by going into customizations and click the shaders with their names under the characters Green Lantern, Flash, and Supergirl.
The best improvement of this game has to be its multiverse mode which gives players an overwhelming amount of options. For those who are familiar with Mortal Kombat, this is how you’re going to go to tournaments and find out the special ending for each character. First you play three tutorials, then you have access to different Earths and one battle simulation, that’s your tournament to get the endings. The rest of the planets recycle various stories for you to decide to take. The bigger the planet, the better rewards will follow, and that offers hours of play time for fans of this franchise.  
While this game has surpassed the previous one, there are some let downs in the game that may disappoint some fans. One is the control system which is virtually the same for all the characters who were in the previous game. If you were looking for new powers to use, then you’re only going to get them in the new characters. There’s plenty of environmental damage, but the transitions aren’t anything spectacular. The Super Moves are about par compared to the ones seen in the first game.

Other than that, this game is virtually perfect and I give Injustice 2 a 9 out of 10. There are countless hours of playtime in this game with endless possibilities of the multiverse, the roster and storyline. The graphics are good, the gameplay is simple and easy, and there will no doubt be a sequel on the way. The flaws are minor at best and fans of Injustice will not be disappointed when they put out that sixty bucks, but personally, I go ahead and pay the hundred and get the ultimate edition. Injustice 2 has been well worth the wait and I’m already waiting for the next installment. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

The Guardians returned last week to marvelous number when it became Marvel Studio’s 15th film to become the number one opening movie of the week. This was the film to kick off the summer with the return of the galaxy’s favorite band of knuckle heads who went off on another beautiful adventure. The scenes involving planets were beautiful and vibrant, while the story was filled with repetitive comedy throughout a moderate storyline. I wouldn’t say that this film was better than its predecessor, but it was just as good. Worth the price for primetime, but not the price for an Imax ticket.

The Guardians of the Galaxy is a sci-fi franchise of Marvel Comics that’s based around certain characters such as Peter Quill or Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Batista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel). Once misfits, assassins, thieves and warriors; now heroes for hire that go around to protect the galaxy after word spreads of their heroic deeds. This sequel takes off after the events of the first film which is some time after when Groot is now a baby, Drax has more words in his vocabulary, and Star-Lord has become the solid leader he’s meant to be. After coming to the aid of a certain planet, the gang is thrown into the void after the arrival of a celestial being (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter’s father.

It was revealed in the last film that Peter was only have human and the other half is a powerful mystery since he was able to withstand the power of an infinity stone. For those that don’t follow, it’s a stone that could kill you with a touch because it’s overwhelming with power. You need a special glove to contain the power and manipulate it to your benefit. Peter and others decide to humor this claim and leave with this being to investigate while others stay behind due to rising tensions within the group. The subplot in this film is centered around Peter’s former mentor Yondu (Michael Rooker). His performance was spot on with providing a mixture of depression, anger and search for redemption after receiving devastating news.

Michael Rooker, in my opinion, is the unsung hero in this film that provides a surprising twist in the film that will leave the audience crying. Kurt Russell plays an excellent villain, even though I thought some of his dialogue could’ve been altered. The story was virtually obvious because you can tell most of the time what’s going to happen. While the action was solid and the comedy keeps people laughing, it started to almost disrupt the seriousness of certain situations. In the main fight, something happens that makes you laugh, but makes you ask in the back of your mind, “Why?”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is filled with action and comedy that makes this a family friendly film that’s expected from Marvel Studios. The retro soundtrack is filled with new oldies from the golden age of music and baby Groot steals the show in many scenes. There are five surprises throughout the credits, but only one of them seems relevant and the others were put in for comedic purposes. I have to give this film an 8 out of 10 because of the minor tweaks involving the overuse of comedy and obvious storyline. This film has set the standard for this year’s summer movie line-up, so let’s hope Wonder Woman meets that bar or surpasses.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bates Motel is Closed

After five seasons, Bates Motel has come to a close with mixed reviews from fans of the original Psycho, and fans of the show itself. Bates Motel kicked off on a very slippery slope because this was a prequel leading up to the events made famous by the iconic director, Alfred Hitchcock. It immediately grabbed the attention of would be fans and fans of the original story by staying true to the eerie world of Norman Bates and Mother. The show introduced the audience to a human side of the famous serial killer while throwing a curveball here and there. Now the series is over and it’s been a hell of a ride for Freddie Highmore (Norman) and Vera Farmiga (Norma/Mother).

Allow me to digress for a minute so those who may not know what I’m talking about can catch up. In the film, Psycho, Norman Bates is a lonely man who lives with his mother in a creepy house that oversees their motel. Then a famous scene happens involving a woman in a shower with a knife and Hersey’s chocolate being poured down the shower drain. The film would go on to become a phenomenon and would spawn several sequels with Anthony Perkins, then a remake starring Vince Vaughn in 1998. In 2013, A&E would bring a different version of Norman Bates to life with the help of Vera Farmiga.

The first season was focused firmly on Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates and how her dark past was somehow passed onto Norman. Slowly but surely, things become clear as Norman begins to go down his dark path that would eventually lead him to his iconic fate. Now there were some surprises thrown into the mix with the arrival of Norman’s brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot). The other addition to this crazy pot is the local sheriff, Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). The world of Norma and Norman Bates only gets darker with each season that passes and the show did a superb job showing Norman’s “blackouts” from his point of view.

More light is brought into the dark mind of Norman that makes the audience connect with him as a person just when you start to think he’s just a savage killer. Norman is always trying to do the right thing to an extent until something happens that triggers his alternate personality and the rest is history. It’s been a long ride filled with homage to the classic and surprises that makes this series its own story that separates it from the original. The finale ends with an epic showdown between brothers when Dylan must realize the monster Norman has become due to his mental instability.

The series ended in the best way it could in my opinion. It didn’t end the way most fans of the original thought it should have ended, but everyone else seems to have accepted it. Instead of seeing a dark ending that leaves the possibility for a revival, fans see closure with a heartwarming ending that brings people together in different ways. I hope this won’t be the last time that I see Freddie Highmore because he did a fantastic job as Norman. Bates Motel was a short but sweet series that’s well worth the watch and so all I can say to close this is, “Goodbye mother.”