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Surprisingly not completely terrible
13 January 2020
This was quite bearable for a Hollywood sequel to yet another movie that never needed one. Maybe a bit too heavy on the cutesy CGI in the beginning and a tad too sappy and preachy at the end, but everything in between was perfectly entertaining. I didn't expect much going in and came out feeling that I hadn't totally wasted my time. What more can one expect from the sequel to what was essentially a nostalgia-driven remake?
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The Witcher (2019– )
Sometimes the critics are right...
21 December 2019
...and the audience rating is extremely misleading. At least if you're not a hardcore fan of the eponymous books and/or video games. The first episode follows up a brief action shot with 30 minutes of spoken exposition. There is an unironic scene where the main character recites his backstory to a horse. If all this "tell, don't show" were at least slightly interesting, but it all seems incredibly dry and far-fetched. Names of fictional places are dropped like confetti. Random people enter the stage and recount made-up historical events like D&D-playing high schoolers.

Finally, the main character gets to prove his martial skill again and it looks like a scene straight from a video game. Fast dolly shots and slow-mo sequences capture every gruesome death in gut-churning detail. I'm can stomach a fair amount of violence, even cheesy and overly gory violence à la 300 or Spartacus. But this is just too ridiculous. It feels like watching a Twitch stream without the webcam commentary. If you're as unfamiliar with the source material as I am, you might want to give this clunker a wide berth.
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Titans: Nightwing (I) (2019)
Season 2, Episode 13
What is happening?
30 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
During season 1, Titans quickly became my favorite superhero series. Season 2 had a few lengths but was still well above the Arrowverse shows and similar super-soaps. And then *this* happens. What was that even? Writer Richard Hatem previously treated us to "Conner", the single best Titans episode to date. Either he or his cowriter Greg Walker of Smallville fame must have suffered a stroke halfway through the script to deliver something like this. But how could director and TV veteran Carol Banker let this slip through? Surely someone must have noticed that this wasn't up to the usual standard, to put it mildly. This was almost comically bad. Here's to hoping the show will be back to form in the next season.
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The Boys (2019– )
Better than I hoped for. Almost perfect.
6 August 2019
I didn't expect a show like this from Amazon. The Tick was already pretty good, but nowhere near on this level. I read the source material a couple of years ago, and all changes that were made are completely understandable. The original had very homophobic undertones and seemed to revel in sexual violence against women. Yet I liked the idea behind the comics, and this show really manages to make it work. There is still plenty of gore and adult themes, but it doesn't leave the same bad aftertaste as some of the comic books. I was particularly impressed by the quality of the special effects and the finale left me excited and impatient for more. Highly recommended for adult viewers with a strong stomach.
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A manga come to life indeed
17 April 2019
If someone had told me back in 1984 that James Cameron would one day produce another Terminator movie in which the killer android sports the unnecessarily sexualized frame of an adolescent girl with creepily big manga eyes and is controlled by the brain of a female teenager, I would have slowly backed off, excused myself with the words "my, would you look at the time", and avoided further social contact with this person from there on in. But apparently, this kind of thing is perfectly acceptable when Japan's comic book industry does it first. Not only that, we must pretend that it is a work of art on par with Blade Runner instead of trashy, lurid pulp.

The good news is that Cameron, Rodriguez et al have succeeded in adapting a manga to the big screen. This movie is the sum of everything I love and hate about the manga and anime genres: Whimsical playfulness, beautiful backdrops, and sometimes amazing worldbuilding on the one hand, and stupefyingly simplistic characters and plot lines on the other. The lead character is devoid of personality aside from her childlike wonder that is jarringly contrasted with her outbreaks of ultraviolence. The villains are even more paper-thin, utterly stereotypical and evil for the sake of it. A brute, a mad scientist, and of course the queer-coded dandy who is very concerned with his looks (which leaves a bad taste of the homophobia that is so sadly common in the Japanese entertainment media).

Alita did manage to draw me in a few times, but immediately lost me again with its video game CGI, mindless dialogue, and overlong, excessively violent combat scenes. Far too many times, there is not a single human actor in sight for ten minutes at a time, which makes this supposed live action film feel like a console game cutscene. It worked in Avatar thanks to the incredible realism of the CGI, but I'm afraid that this one won't age nearly as well. Tl;dr: Style over substance, and even the style is of questionable taste. Has its moments, but insults the viewer's intelligence. Add an unresolved plot that sets the stage for an even worse sequel, and you end up with a movie best watched at home on the TV screen (if at all).
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Sex, Gore and Robots
4 April 2019
Watching this anthology of shorts, some of which are very short indeed, feels a lot like reading an old Heavy Metal magazine. As a teenager, I used to devour these collections of science fiction, fantasy and horror stories that usually featured sex and nudity and frequently violence and gore, sometimes both on the same page.

Netflix essentially created an animated version of these pulpy, yet often beautifully illustrated comic books. L, D & R is just as hit-and-miss, just as violent and sexually titillating (for a straight male audience, that is), and, every once in a while, just as artistically beautiful. I just wish it had something to say, or at least a few compelling stories to tell. It all felt a bit shallow and very derivative underneath the flashy exterior. I'm afraid sci-fi fans looking for truly original ideas will be rather disappointed.
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This is now officially my favorite superhero movie
20 March 2019 well as my favorite comic book adaptation. And I'm saying this as a 47-year-old, mind you. Maybe that's precisely why I so thoroughly enjoyed this film (aside from the visually stunning animation style, the soundtrack, and the excellent voice acting). I've never felt more represented in a superhero flick than I did when I listened to the grievances of the middle-aged Peter B. Parker.

But all characters in this movie are extremely likable and easy to connect with, especially the lead character Miles Morales (aka Spider-Man), whom I already liked in Bendis's Ultimate Universe comics. When I watched the trailer, I was afraid that the inclusion of Spider-Ham might be a little over the top and too slapsticky for an overall serious coming-of-age story, but everything just works beautifully. Anyway, to cut a long review short: If you'd like to see a comic book come alive on the big screen in the best way imaginable, go watch this movie! You won't regret it.
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As a Marvel fan, it pains me to say that Wonder Woman did it ten times better
15 March 2019
A few minutes into Captain Marvel, it becomes painfully obvious that the main raison d'être of this movie is to redress the lack of adequate female representation in the early MCU films and draw level with the DCEU, whose biggest success to date was Wonder Woman.

It was bad enough that Marvel Studios waited until DC/Warner tested the waters and proved that it was possible for a woman-led superhero movie to become a worldwide box office hit. But this pandering, forced-progressive script only makes things worse. The plot constantly seems to nudge the viewer and blurt out "Look! Female empowerment! We did good here, right? Self-actualization! This is what you wanted, yes? Look, social commentary on current events! Are we progressive enough now?"

This isn't to say that Captain Marvel is a terrible movie. It does have its moments and even made me laugh a few times. Mainly thanks to Samuel L. Jackson, who, unlike Brie Larson, seems to thoroughly enjoy himself and isn't just phoning it in. It's just that the writers were so terribly eager to please and finally deliver the powerful superheroine who can trade blows with the likes of Thor and Iron Man, a heroine who is not just a sidekick or eye candy or a potential love interest for our boys in spandex and leather, that their efforts feel hamfisted and unbearably preachy even to members of the choir.
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Neither funny nor romantic
26 December 2018
As a fan of both Hollywood movies and the East Asian cinema, I expected a lot more from this movie. I'll admit that my expectations were rather high, but can you blame me considering the glowing critical reviews of this tacky, stereotype-riddled mess? The best thing I can say about it is that it's genre-defying. Both romance and humor are sorely lacking. It doesn't help that the acting, with a few exceptions, is sup-par. Or that it portrays Singapore as a cross between Disneyland and Trump Tower populated and run by Chinese tycoons. If you're looking for a romantic comedy with an Asian cast and fascinating insights into a different culture, I recommend skipping this one and watching a South Korean film instead.
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Don't waste your time
15 November 2018
A new form of criticism for the twitter age: Boring as hell, don't bother, #imdbrejectsdetailedreviewsnow
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Strange Angel (2018– )
What an underrated gem
25 August 2018
After the pilot episode, critics dubbed Strange Angel a "slow burn". I suppose that's a good thing considering the historical subject matter. Once the show culminates in a bang, it will inevitably be over. Seriously though, why is every story supposed to be a setup for a grand finale? Can't we sit back and enjoy a period drama for drama's sake? That's what I did, without knowing anything about Jack Parsons and precious little about the New Age religion of Thelema when I started watching, and I found myself immensely enjoying the experience.

I initially gave this show 7 stars, upped my rating to 9 stars as it went on, and only read up on this part of American history after finishing the first season. Now I'm even more looking forward to season two, and I hope the show burns as slow as possible from here on in because I love every minute of it. It is utterly fascinating to see how visionaries, freethinkers, creative spirits, and everyday people struggled to break free from the shackles of puritanism, patriarchy and heteronormativity in a time when the Great Depression and looming world war caused a resurgence of conservative attitudes on both sides of the Atlantic.
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A Quiet Place (2018)
Unnecessary long, otherwise great
18 August 2018
I liked everything about this mixture of dystopian science fiction and horror except for its runtime. It reminded me of the sci-fi short stories that I devoured as a teenager and finished reading in 10-15 minutes. At least half the movie could have been cut or condensed. In this golden age of television, it would have been better suited as an episode of a Twilight Zone remake.
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The Death of Superman (2018 Video)
Why can't the DCEU movies be like this?
18 August 2018
The Death of Superman almost surpasses JL: Crisis on Two Earths, which was my favorite animated DC movie up to this point. If only Warner Bros. could repeat the success of its animated DC movies with its cinematic live-action adaptations. Maybe it's time to let directors like Sam Liu and writers like Peter Tomasi and Dwayne McDuffie have a crack at the DCEU.
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Runaways (2017–2019)
Come on. Let's be honest.
2 July 2018
I initially gave this show six stars because even though it's abysmally bad, I loved so much about it. I loved the diversity. I loved the comic books that inspired it. I loved how well the TV characters matched the look of their comic book counterparts. I loved the... did I already mention the diversity? Oh. Ok then. Let's move on to the things that I hated, which was essentially everything else.

The acting ranged from sub-par to passable. The plot was a boring and utterly forgettable mess. I watched it a few months ago and have already forgotten most of it. What I do remember is that the writers seemed to check off a list of comic book plot points and filled the time in between these checkmarks with irrelevant tripe. Ironically, said tripe was likely supposed to make the show feel more relevant. I vaguely remember Alex playing a World of Warcraft-type MMO. But the comics were published in this century, not in the 1980s, and have lost nothing of their relevance. There was absolutely no reason to inflate the first five-ish comic book issues, which can easily be read within half an hour, into eight (!!!) boring hours of soapy fluff and blather.

The reason I'm writing this review months after sitting through this show is that I've noticed a pattern in my own behavior, as well as the behavior of TV and movie critics. We reward what we would like to see more of, which is diversity in this case. Black, Hispanic, and even an Asian lead character? Awesome! An LGBT character? Great! (An attractive lesbian character, the safest possible choice, but still). Diverse body types? This show has it all! Even now, I despise myself for having to tear down this awesome show for such petty reasons as the fact that I found it terrible and hated every minute of it. But we really need to start being more honest and demanding because Hulu and Netflix aren't free and eight or more wasted hours are a lot of lost time.

Let's talk about capitalism for a second. In a capitalistic market, producers create a new product, find out which ingredients appeal the most to the consumer majority, and maximize those ingredients while lowering the overall product quality in an attempt to minimize production costs. Over time, the quality drops rapidly, until the only thing that keeps selling this cheaply made crap are a few desirable ingredients that have us all hooked.

This is what's happening to Marvel's superhero TV shows right now. Daredevil was the perfect product. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage lowered the production value while adding ingredients that are loved by critics and audiences alike. Their second seasons were boring slogs with thinly stretched plots and sparsely used special effects. But they have female and black lead characters, respectively, touch important social issues, and give black and female writers and directors a chance, which of course affects the rating. And it absolutely should. Just not to the point where we start to hate sitting through these shows and don't dare being honest about it because it kind of feels like misogyny or racism. Alas, that's exactly what's happening. I caught myself doing this one too many times, and it stops now.

Runaways shows just how low the quality can drop without being reflected by an equal drop in audience and critical ratings. This needs to stop. Our money and time are too valuable to buy into another mess like this, suffer through it out of loss aversion, and even give it a favorable rating because it feels like our civic duty to reward certain traits of these shows. We're neither doing ourselves nor the social issues and minority groups we care about any favors. We need to demand better than this. Netflix has shown us just how high TV consumers and superhero fans can set the bar. Let's not be content with a lesser product.
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Legion: Chapter 19 (2018)
Season 2, Episode 11
Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
15 June 2018
I don't know where to begin. Maybe with a quote that I came across recently in an unrelated movie review Richard Brody wrote for the New Yorker:

"No genre comes to the world accursed, and the superhero movie is no less a fertile ground for cinematic imagination than the political thriller, the romantic comedy, the Western, [...] or the war movie."

If you substitute "TV show" for "movie", the first two seasons of Legion have certainly proved Mr. Brody right. I mean, talk about cinematic imagination! While I have to admit that some episodes of the rather slow-burning second season put my patience to the test, I've never seen such a boundary-breaking TV drama that draws its visual inspiration from so many sources, playfully explores vastly different artistic styles, and challenges our perception of reality in a way that almost puts Rashomon to shame.

Not only did the season two finale surpass my wildest expectations in terms of plot, visual effects, and the fantastic musical score. It also brought to show back to what originally drew me into it, namely the unique and eerily accurate depiction of delusional mental disorders. During the early episodes, David exhibited countless symptoms of schizophrenia spectrum disorders (unlike his comic book counterpart, who suffers from DID). When Melanie Bird assured him that his alleged mental illness symptoms stemmed from his suppressed mutant abilities, she did it so convincingly that both David and the audience, or at least I, wanted to believe her. Now I realize that the writers had her crack an egg that hatched a delusion.

There was also David's dark passenger, to borrow an analogy from Dexter, who made a perfect scapegoat for his ongoing mental issues. After Farouk had finally departed from David's mind, one might have thought that David was completely cured. I know that I did, and I was almost disappointed since the show had so brilliantly captured what it's like to be unable to trust one's own mind. The new, seemingly sane David Haller was a little too perfect, a little too much of a regular mutant superhero, to be real. Now it turns out that he wasn't. And in hindsight, there were so many signs and symptoms during this season that this information hardly constitutes a spoiler.

Think of David's trouble focusing, which was most obvious in his conversations with others. He often paused and searched for words, had difficulties pursuing a train of thought and stringing coherent sentences together, and sometimes left a sentence unfinished. His vocabulary became increasingly simplistic and limited. At the time, these maddeningly dragging, unfocused conversations seemed like a play for time by the writers, an attempt to stretch out an overly thin plot. What we were really witnessing though was a schizophrenic David off his meds exhibiting so-called negative symptoms.

In case you're unfamiliar with schizophrenia-type disorders, periods of negative symptoms occur in between manic, psychotic or delusional episodes. The suffering individual may appear relatively normal, but his thoughts are disorganized, he has trouble concentrating, his speech appears impoverished, he is often irritable and moody; in short, he acts like David did during most of this plodding, confusing, and seemingly disorganized season. But as the individual approaches a manic state, he becomes increasingly energized. His thoughts begin to race and he is full of purpose. He may hear voices and have lively conversations with himself.

He might have delusions of grandeur and develop an urgent sense of mission. He may become convinced that someone is his enemy, the source of all his problems, and experience sudden outbursts of exhilarating RAGE and aggression when he confronts this person. As the psychotic episode progresses, the individual may become increasingly suspicious of everyone in his life, if not to say paranoid. All his friends, relatives and neighbors might conspire against him, especially those who seem concerned for his health and suggest medical treatment. Nobody can be trusted except for the voices in his own head. Does this sound like anyone we know?

I should probably add the caveat that physically violent behavior during the angry outbursts mentioned above is exceedingly rare. Nevertheless, David's face as he tortured Oliver captured the true face of psychotic mania. No wonder he seemed like a frighteningly different person to Syd, who first met David when he was still medicated, stayed by his side throughout his withdrawal psychosis (or his internal battle against Farouk, depending on which competing truth one chooses to believe), and began to suspect that something was still wrong with him during his following negative symptom stage.

Her feelings of estrangement from David increased during the onset of his manic episode. When she finally saw the full picture, she knew that the unmedicated David was not the person with whom she fell in love. Her effort to break away from him, followed by an attempt to get him the help that he so obviously needs, seemingly confirmed his worst suspicions and completely pushed him over the edge into a state of paranoid delusion. I believe this may be the truth of the mind. What the finale showed us instead was the truth of the heart. Pick whichever truth you like best. To me, it seems clear that a lot of this show is allegorical rather than literally true. But like all great works of art, Legion allows for different interpretations.
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RoboCop (2014)
4 years later, and I've literally forgotten everything about it
3 June 2018
I just came across a collection of past and present pop culture characters on a social media site and thought to myself "Wow, there was a Robocob reboot? In 2014? How could I have missed this?" The thing is, I didn't miss it. When I watched the trailer just now on imdb, I vaguely recalled some of the scenes about two thirds in. And isn't that really all you need to know about this remake?
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Hollywood mediocrity strikes back...
24 December 2017
...and crushes the new hope that J.J. Abrams gave us with his fresh yet nostalgic take on the franchise. I liked virtually everything about The Force Awakens, as well as everything else that Disney has done with Star Wars up to this point (SW Rebels, Rogue One). But The Last Jedi left me speechless for all the wrong reasons.

All the right ingredients are there: The new generation of Star Wars heroes that we've come to know and love in TFA, the old guard of beloved characters, the beautiful moments of nostalgia, the practical effects aided by sparingly used and excellent CGI, never-before-seen worlds, creatures and aliens... and yet, something crucial is missing.

One big culprit is the lackluster plot. It mostly comes down to a series of mildly entertaining, but ultimately pointless McGuffin chases. Only very few of the questions that were brought up by TFA receive rather disappointing and unspectacular answers. Two presumed-important characters die, but their deaths don't change anything of consequence. By the time the credits roll, we're essentially left with the same situation as by the end of episode 7.

It certainly doesn't help that too many plot points stretch the viewer's credulity to the breaking point and laugh in the face of the established internal logic of this fictional universe. Characters exhibit plot-convenient new force powers that no previous Jedi or Sith possessed, and the laws of physics are mere suggestions (more than ever before in this far-away galaxy). I'm no EU-versed hardcore fan, and I'm prepared to suspend a great amount of disbelief for a movie about telekinetic space knights with laser beam swords, but this was just too much. It's almost as if Rian Johnson said to George Lucas, "Loud explosions in space? That's nothing! Hold my beer and watch this."

Worst of all though is how out of character the cast feels compared to TFA. I can write off Luke's uncharacteristic behavior as a result of old age and personal tragedy, but everyone felt strangely off-kilter and less alive in this movie. Rey isn't as level-headed as we know her, Kylo is nowhere near as menacing and driven, and the few attempts to rekindle the light-hearted buddy cop dynamic between Finn and Poe fall flat. Bottom line: While I understand why many moviegoers found TLJ entertaining enough or even refreshingly different, only few things about this middling effort felt truly like Star Wars to me. Unlike TFA and Rogue One, which successfully rekindled the magic of the original trilogy within a meaningful plot, TLJ is just another formulaic Hollywood movie.
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The Gifted (2017–2019)
After many failed attempts and partial successes...
5 October 2017
...Bryan Singer has finally found the right tone for an X-Men based live-action adaptation. Judging from the negative reviews, the main criticism of this show is that we've seen it all before. While that is true for the overall theme, I don't think we've ever seen it in a form that truly captured the spirit of the X-Men that I grew up with in the 1980s, in the same way that Netflix's Daredevil and Jessica Jones managed to capture the essence of their respective comic book templates.

Maybe my judgment and rating are tinged by the nostalgia of a long-time Marvel fan. I have to admit that the writing and directing of this show are not as excellent, original and cinematically bold as that of Legion, another recent Marvel-inspired TV series (in which Singer was involved too, but only as executive producer). But I was pleasantly surprised by the pilot episode, for which I had very low hopes after watching the trailers. I don't think I'm the only aging X-Men reader who felt this way.

I don't need to see big Hollywood stars or high-profile characters like Wolverine or Jean Grey to get into the X-Men spirit. After all, this franchise is not just about Charles Xavier's original team of superheroes; it also deals with the larger picture of a fictional world where a much-stereotyped minority elicits the very same public panic, conservative law and order rhetoric, and human rights-violating policies that we increasingly see in the U.S. and other Western nations. I think the pilot did a wonderful job of capturing this once-futuristic vision that is sadly not so futuristic anymore.

In fact, this episode made me realize that the X-Men franchise with its message of tolerance and inclusion has not only lost none of its topicality, it might be more important today than ever before. The inclusion of worrisome modern realities like the patriot act, high-tech surveillance equipment like drones, and a militarized police force that brutally beats minority individuals to a chorus of "Stop resisting!" were grim reminders of just how much of the comic book writers' dystopia has already come to pass. Here's to hoping that this message isn't lost on those who feel that the superhero genre has nothing new to offer. It doesn't have to when Stan Lee's and Jack Kirby's social message has yet to sink in.
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Fargo: Who Rules the Land of Denial? (2017)
Season 3, Episode 8
A glimpse of what could have been...
8 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
...if Noah Hawley had not decided to use this season as political commentary. I'm afraid his effort is wasted on those who agree with his views, which happens to include myself, and too subtle for those who do not.

Let's recap: An unevenly distributed inheritance enables a lucky half-wit to build a business empire that soon ails from mismanagement. As the banks refuse to help keep the sinking ship afloat and the public image of a successful real estate king alive, he and his adviser / enabler turn to dubious lenders with Russian mob connections, who force him into the role of a hapless pawn in their schemes for global economic power. As we watch E*mmit (IMDb's autorrect insists it should be "emit") reluctantly carry out orders by his Russian masters, without any real understanding of their consequences, the parallels to the real world are readily apparent.

As much as I appreciate what Noah Hawley set out to do here, I'd much rather have Fargo serve as a much-needed distraction from a depressing global political, economic and environmental crisis brought on by the ineptitude and hubris of a single failed business magnate, who sadly seems to lack E*mmit Stussy's nagging conscience. And for almost half an episode, the show managed to be just that. Maybe that's as good as it gets for this season.
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Iron Fist (2017–2018)
Entertaining and worth watching, but weaker than other Marvel shows
19 March 2017
As a long-time Marvel fan, I really wanted to like this show, and I did indeed get some enjoyment out of it. But not enough to overlook its flaws, which are so severe that I can't in good conscience give more than five stars. I'm also not sure if I would recommend it to anyone who isn't a comic book fan and familiar with the source material. I don't think that I would have come to like the uneven protagonist based on this Netflix series alone. The comic book Danny Rand is a cocky goofball, the funny eccentric guy to Luke Cage's straight man. I found this trait to be sorely missing from his unstable Netflix counterpart, whose personality fluctuates between Zen mastery and severe anger issues, between warrior monk and moody teenager.

During the first five episodes, Iron Fist reminded me a lot of Luke Cage. That is to say, it moved extremely slow at times, but it still managed to draw me in and keep me binge-watching. Like all other Marvel Netflix shows with the exception of Daredevil, the writers apparently found themselves faced with way too little plot to fill 13 episodes. But in no other series has it been this painfully obvious. Many conversations feel as repetitive as Danny's flashbacks. After a while, I had trouble focusing whenever certain supporting characters took center stage. The worst offender was Tom Pelphrey, whose lazy, drawn-out way of speaking almost put me to sleep a couple of times.

After episode 5, the entire plot becomes as protracted and yawn-inducing as Pelphrey's manner of speaking, despite several mildly surprising plot twists. In a way, the twists only make things worse. There are only so many allies who can turn into enemies and vice versa before this narrative device loses believability. The occasional outbursts of martial arts action (better choreographed than those in Jessica Jones, but nowhere near Daredevil quality) do relatively little to make the molasses-slow march towards an underwhelming finale more interesting. The only bright spots during the final episodes are Jessica Henwick's scenes as Colleen Wing. While her character feels as inconsistent as the rest of the cast at times, she manages to make the best of the uneven writing and steals every scene that features her. Another actor who deserves praise is David Wenham, who acts his heart out in a terribly written role.

Bottom line: Iron Fist is the most slow-moving and half-baked show in the Daredevil TV universe, and yet it is nowhere near as bad as many critics made it out to be. I can only assume that the contrived controversy over Danny Rand's ethnicity created a strong bias. But that was also the case for Doctor Strange, a movie that nonetheless managed to blow the critics away with a refreshingly original and well construed plot. Iron Fist, on the other hand, lacks such originality and must seem painfully derivative to non-fans. A billionaire child loses both parents like Bruce Wayne, is trained by an ancient order like Stephen Strange, returns from the supposed dead like Oliver Queen, fights the same evil clan as Matt Murdock with very Daredevil-esque martial arts skills... this was always going to be a tough sell in a superhero-saturated media culture, and Scott Buck sadly failed to pull it off. Still, the show is watchable enough to stick it out to the end, and of course it's a must-watch for hardcore Marvel fans who can't get enough of the MCU.
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Legion (2017–2019)
Superb! Redefines the genre even more than Netflix's Daredevil did
24 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I've now watched the first three episodes of Legion. I couldn't have written a review after the first episode because it left me at a loss for words. As someone who struggles with mental illness, I was gripped by the plot and protagonist from the opening and felt completely blown away by the end. And yet, I wasn't quite sure if I'd come to love or hate this show as it went on. There was such a stark contrast between the surreal, retro-1970s Sci-Fi journey through David's jumbled and disjointed memories, with occasional glimpses of an Orwellian-slash-Kubrickian here-and-now, and the sudden hectic outburst of familiar X- Men superhero action towards the end that it was impossible to tell which direction this show might take in future episodes.

Ironically, I started watching this show expecting precisely the kind of superhero action that the end of episode 1 delivered. But after the wild, trippy ride that had come before, which just so happened to be the best cinematic depiction of mental illness I've seen to date, watching superpowered mutants fight government agents suddenly seemed so trivial and ordinary. It made me fear that episode 2 might transform this incredibly artful show into something more resembling Heroes, Alphas, or, Stan Lee forbid, Mutant X. I half expected David to find out that he isn't neuroatypical at all aside from being an incredibly powerful mutant, quickly master his abilities, and venture out to fight an oppressive anti-mutant regime. The show does indeed become less what some might call "artsy" and adopts a more conventional narrative style, but I'm pleased to report that the plot remains equally novel and interesting and the production value just as high.

Most importantly to me though, David remains David, the broken product of a drug-addicted (read: self-medicated), on-and-off institutionalized past, who can never be sure if his perceptions are real or his memories unrevised. His life remains a painfully familiar struggle for normality, completeness, acceptance, and perhaps a semblance of happiness. If anything, the now-guided excursions into his memories become increasingly disturbing and threatening. Episode 3 almost had the makings of a very unsettling horror movie, and it left me wanting more like no other other TV show has done in years. This is a show where just about anything could happen, which is something that I've never encountered before in this usually rather predictable genre.

PS: It appears that the audience opinions on this show are quite divided. But when you look at the negative reviews, you might notice a pattern. Many had trouble following the plot of the pilot episode, which, despite being a bit challenging and far from spoon-fed, isn't all that difficult to put in the right order once you've figured out which scenes take place in the present. Some found the visual style too artistic or archaic. And if slurs like nutcase and lunatic are any indication, some viewers had a strong averse reaction to the protagonist's mental health situation. If you have a similar or better attention span than this ADHD-addled reviewer and don't object to the idea of a sympathetic mentally ill character who is more than a horror movie monster, I highly suggest that you give this unconventional show a chance.
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The Nice Guys (2016)
Just when I was about to give up on Hollywood...
9 December 2016
...I stumbled across this little gem, which has to be the most entertaining and darkly hilarious movie that I've seen in the past three years. Although the film is a buddy crime comedy at its core, to describe it as such doesn't really do it justice. I occasionally felt reminded of classics like Fargo and The Big Lebowski. To say anything more would potentially spoil the movie, which I think is best seen with little to no plot-related expectations.

I do have to add one final note concerning the low IMDb rating though. I found the amount of one-star reviews rather puzzling, so I read about two dozen of them. With the exception of one lady who downrated this gem because Russell Crowe has gained a little weight (and they say men are shallow!), the only bone of contention appears to be the graphic language, especially that of a precocious teenager. I already knew that Americans can be a surprisingly puritan audience, but this is a little ridiculous imho. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that if you happen to be an overly language-sensitive person, or someone who harbors the delusion that the '70s were a more innocent time, maybe this film isn't for you.
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Forsaken (I) (2015)
Like a flawlessly executed paint-by-numbers drawing
11 September 2016
When the critics complained about this movie's lack of originality, I thought to myself "so what. It's a Western. Everything in this genre has been done before". Now, having watched Forsaken, I completely understand where they were coming from. Not only have I seen numerous variations of this story in TV showings of classic Western movies, I've also read the tale of the retired gunslinger who must strap on his guns one more time over and over again in the cheap Western magazines that I used to devour as a kid.

Aside from the utterly clichéd, formulaic and predictable story, everything in this movie is just about perfect. The cinematography, directing and acting are top notch. I especially enjoyed the performances of Brian Cox and Michael Wincott, even though their characters were as two-dimensional and stereotypical as everybody else's. The soundtrack is a touch obtrusive and overly emotional, but that, too, fits the classic Western tradition. Bottom line: If you happen to be a huge fan of the genre who feels nostalgic about the golden age of Western movies, and/or about a time when men were still heroes or villains and women were window dressing, you should get some enjoyment out of this film. With emphasis on the word "some", mind you.
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Better than expected
23 April 2016
After reading the critiques, I had rather low expectations for this movie. I only gave it a chance because I'm a huge fan of South Korean cinema in general and movies set in the Joseon dynasty in particular. I'm also a bit of an admirer of Kpop diva Son Ga-In, so I had to watch this film for her appearance alone. As it turned out, Ga-In's acting performance, albeit far from being Oscar-worthy, was surprisingly passable, and the same can be said about the movie as a whole.

The somewhat flimsy plot has some lengths in the middle part, but picks up towards the end and delivers a satisfying, action-packed resolution. The alternation of slapstick comedy, drama and romance that some critics lamented isn't all that jarring, and it's not exactly unusual for Korean movies either. Think of "The Good, the Bad, the Weird", or take the psycho-sci-fi-dramedy "Save the Green Planet" if you want an extreme example.

Granted, the dramatic parts were a little soap opera-esque, and I could have done with less repetition of the tragic childhood flashbacks. But other than that, the movie delivered perfectly watchable popcorn cinema with surprisingly good sets and effects, passable acting and acceptable fight choreographies. Ga-In's and Ye-Won's bickering even made me smile a couple of times, and the romance between the resolute Ga-Bi (Ga-In) and a hapless comic relief character was both goofy and sweet.

PS: Another reviewer described the female lead roles as sexist and stereotypical. I happen to feel the exact opposite way, since I've come to detest the ubiquitous "strong female character" trope. Hollywood's emotionally stunted, male-coded action heroines glorify traditionally male character traits and only deepen the stereotype that equates femininity with passivity and emotion with weakness. The three leads in Huntresses are anything but weak and submissive, and yet they're still young women who don't hide their feminine side (or their dorky side, for that matter). This is a refreshing change in my opinion, as is the lack of flimsy and revealing combat outfits.
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