Thursday, April 11, 2024

Civil War

Beautifully shot while exploring complicated ideas that may make some audiences uncomfortable, Alex Garland's Civil War works on multiple levels. First, the film gives us an up-close look at war correspondent journalism following a foursome through a ravaged war-torn land. Allowing that land to be America in a recognizable not-too-distant future is the second major point of the film which offers a cautionary tale to the current polarized environment which includes many far-right nutbags actively praying and cheering across social media for such events to occur. The message of the movie is clear, be careful what you wish for.

Our protagonists are photographer Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst) known for getting the difficult shots on the most dangerous assignments and her more carefree reporting partner on the road Joel (Wagner Moura). Joining them on this latest road trip are Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), an elderly mentor to them both, and aspiring young photographer Jessie (Cailee Spaeny).

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Deadpool #1

A new volume of Deadpool begins here with murder, mayhem, and fun. I think Deadpool always works best when he has someone to play off of (other than just his banter to the reader). The new comic finds that character in Deadpool's symbiote "daughter" Princess who has her father's taste for bloodshed and murder. The first issue follows the pair around trying to kill their latest target, whose portal ability makes it a bit harder than normal, before teasing us with the introduction of the comic's first new big bad who is apparently quite interested in the hero's healing ability.

Delicious in Dungeon - Red Dragon

Everything has been leading to this point. Laios (Damien C. Haas), Marcille (Emily Rudd), Senshi (SungWon Cho), and Chilchuck (Casey Mongillo) spring their trap on the Red Dragon only to discover they have drastically underestimated their opponent and need to quickly regroup to survive. The fight with the dragon is impressive, but more important to the overall story comes after the defeat as the party carves their way through the dragon's chest only to find that Falin (Lisa Reimold) has already been completely digested.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #4

Following the same format of the other issues in this series, Vengeance of Moon Knight #4 continues the rotating members of the Midnight Mission taking a seat on Dr. Andrea Sterman's couch. This time it's discussing the loss of Marc Spector and his anger to seeing someone parade themselves as a Fist of Khonshu. While working through his issues, we also get sequences of Tigra and Hunter's Moon tracking down the new Moon Knight leading to his unmasking.

Alex Rider - Enemy

Following the events of the last episode, Alex (Otto Farrant)  is now a guest of SCORPIA, left alone in the bowels of one of their headquarters (a decommissioned cold war listening post) where he wanders and meets Syl (Eline Powell), the first of the other recruits training at the facility. Eventually talks with the Widow Julia Rothman (Sofia Helin) who gives Alex the pitch to join them by revealing that Alex's father worked for SCORPIA following a fall from grace and a couple years spent in prison for manslaughter. He was recruited when all others turned their backs on him. Confirming her versions of events is a video of a prisoner exchange between The Department and SCORPIA. SCORPIA returns hostage for Alex's father who is shot down by a sniper, left dead on a bridge, by The Department.

SHAZAM! #10

I'll admit to being a bit confused by turn of events here. During the Captain's battle with Black Adam the family's home was destroyed. The gods have rebuilt the home. Great! However, the family was planning to relocate and move out of this house so did those plans fall apart as the story only makes sense if the family is moving into the house the gods have messed with (but if so why do they have to move in?). 

Monday, April 8, 2024

3 Body Problem - Our Lord / Judgment Day

After lots of set up and dragging its feet a little bit over the first three episodes, events finally turn at the halfway point of the series with "Our Lord" by revealing the connection between Ye Wenjie (Rosalind Chao) and Mike Evans (Jonathan Pryce) and the secret society preparing for their alien saviors from outer space. It's here we we also see the continuing attempts of Evans to explain human society to San-Ti whose question about the the fairy tale he reads to them leads to a fundamental misunderstanding between the aliens and their prophet on Earth, changing everything. 

The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries #4

When people around Gotham City start turning into gargoyles (or, more accurately grotesques as Velma points out), Mystery, Inc. helps Batman and Robin investigate. Batman is able to surmise people are turning into copies of nearby gargoyles. However, since Gotham City is full of the things that discovery alone doesn't solve the problem. However, when Oracle can't find a single reference to any of the victims online, Batman begins to suspect the truth of what is going on.

Shōgun - Ladies of the Willow World

While much of "Ladies of the Willow World" takes place in Lord Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), including the title which derives from Mariko (Anna Sawai) setting up John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) with another prostitute, in terms of events moving the larger story forward we must look to Osaka. Here we see the impact of Ochiba No Kata's (Fumi Nikaidô) return in pushing Ishido (Takehiro Hira) to act bolder with the Regents beginning with replacing Toranaga's open seat with a flunky and then murdering Lord Sugiyama (Toshi Toda) after the Regent refuses to go along with his plans.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Star Wars: The Bad Batch - Point of No Return

As the show inches ever closer to the series finale, the Imperials find on Pabu leading our heroes attempting to hide and keep Omega (Michelle Ang) safe. The episode is mainly focused on the Bad Batch being overwhelmed and Omega choosing to let herself be captured rather than let any further harm come to her friends. The makeshift plan includes Crosshair (Dee Bradley Baker) getting a tracker on the ship before it leaves the planet, but in failing to do so the Bad Batch now have no ship and no way to track Omega who is heading right back to the hidden base on Tantiss where her only help may come from the potentially more sympathetic Emerie Karr (Keisha Castle-Hughes).

Obi-Wan Kenobi #6

Obi-Wan Kenobi #6 concludes the comic adaptation of the Disney+ television show giving us Obi-Wan Kenobi sacrificing himself to ensure Leia's escape, the Jedi's encounter with Darth Vader on Jabiim's moon, and the epilogue on Tatooine. The sixth issue of the six-issue mini-series doesn't add anything new to events from the series but does offer a nice moment between Kenobi and Leia (a reimagined relationship that throws all kinds of chaos into the events of the original Star Wars) and of course the lightsaber duel between master and pupil (which stole a bit too much for my tastes from the superior episode of Star Wars Rebels).

Star Wars: The Bad Batch - Identity Crisis

"Identity Crisis" takes the focus off the clones and returns it to the Empire's secret laboratory on Tantiss where Emerie Karr (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is read into the truth of Project Necromancer (confirming events which you likely surmised quite a long time ago). Other than confirming the evil manipulations of the Empire in kidnapping children and turning them into lab rats, which is hardly new ground, there's not much of note in the episode other than another fan friendly cameo from another Star Wars: The Clone Wars recurring character. Emerie gets a close look at the "subjects" in these experiments, and a better understanding of who she his working for, although that doesn't stop her from continuing to perform her duties.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Alex Rider - Lab

After his remarkable escape, the Widow (Sofia Helin) leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for Alex (Otto Farrant) to follow back to the scientist and a tanker docked at the nearby harbor. After sneaking onboard, Alex witnesses a standoff between the scientist and the henchman Nile (Jason Wong) which doesn't turn out all that well for the scientist. However, he does offer Alex the opportunity to have all his questions answered leading to an explosive cliffhanger ending.

Will Trent - Capt. Duke Wagner's Daughter

My only real complaint about "Capt. Duke Wagner's Daughter" is this feels like a longer arc that was condensed into a single episode and, as a result, feels a bit constrained. A little more time to breathe could have led to one of the show's best arcs. After seeing a couple of extremely fleeting suggestive hints that someone is coming after Wagner (Sonja Sohn) we get an episode that brings that story to the forefront, delves into troubled secrets in her past, reveals a nasty piece of work in Chuck Murray (Michael Papajohn), explains his motives, tease the end of Wagner's career, ends the threat, and wraps up everything in time for the closing credits without much fallout other than a bit of a tiff between Wanger and Faith (Iantha Richardson).

Final Heist

Final Heist is an incredibly stupid movie about a female group of thieves who come together years after their disastrous last score that left the only male member of the team bleeding out in the street. Six years later, in order to save the life of her daughter, Willa (Camila Banus) contacts her old pals Kenzie (Shonte Akognon), Flynn (Virginia Ma), and Hailey (Jasmine Shanise) to bust into prison and get to her baby daddy (Justin Chu Cary) whose genetic material might save her daughter's life.

Complicating the matter is a corrupt warden (Tim Abell) that had the man beaten nearly to death leaving him comatose on the exact day Willa comes calling. Despite the fact that fact that agreeing to the procedure would likely kill the convict, satisfy the desperate mother, and hide all evidence of his wrongdoing, the warden chooses to deny any request forcing Willa and her friends to break into the prison and get what they need themselves through a series of increasingly less and less believable situations.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Zorro - The Three Funeral Mask Dance

The final episode of the season resolves the long-running subplot of Guadalupe Montoro (Cecilia Suárez) without much fanfare. Given the number of episodes this thread was teased, Diego (Miguel Bernardeau) simply turning over land to his fake half-brother  (Joel Bosqued) feels underwhelming as there is no real payoff, at least not this season. More impactful is Diego's public duel with Monasterio (Emiliano Zurita), fulfilling his task from the Bear Clan to kill their enemy (albeit with a bit of trickery that actually allows for the still living Monasterio and Diego to flush out all of the traitors and end their would-be coup d'etat).

Delicious in Dungeon - Giant Frogs/Aboveground

The final episode before the party reaches the Red Dragon, "Giant Frogs/Aboveground" features the party making it to the Orc Village after using the skins of Giant Frogs to bypass some tricky Tentacles. Marcille (Emily Rudd) is notably not fond of the plan despite the time it saves the group.  Senshi (SungWon Cho) also manages some pasta and cutlets out of the tentacles and frog meat. Now so close to the goal, the party discusses how to survive their next run-in with the dragon planning to lay a trap as the episode concludes on a cliffhanger heading into a multiple-episode arc of the group's attempts to best the dragon and free their friend from its stomach.

NCIS: Hawai'i - Operation Red Rabbit

Our case of the week involves a con artist (Noah Bean) pretending to be a Naval Intelligence officer while conning a slew of female entrepreneurs. After abandoning his latest mark (Brianna Brown), making her believe he is in danger allowing him to move on to another scam, his most gullible victim yet shows up in NCIS and it doesn't take much time to realize nothing about his story is true. While it never really sells the idea that our con man could actually be a spy, "Operation Red Rabbit" is nevertheless a fun episode with an equally goofy B-story involving the growing bromance between Kai (Alex Tarrant) and Hanna (LL Cool J).

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Red Sonja #9

Erlik has left the underworld now walking among mortals, Kulan Garth sits atop a throne at the glee of chaos he has helped bring to a shattered world and using dark magic to kill those who would stand against him by turning them against each other, and the Wild Hunt of the dead races into the world bringing death and destruction in its wake. It's a chaotic but well told story foreshadowing more disappointment and loss for Sonja before any chance at victory.

Alex Rider - Widow

Adapting events from the fifth novel, Alex Rider returns for its Third Season. We open with Alex (Otto Farrant) in Malta, along with Tom (Brenock O'Connor) and Kyra (Marli Siu), seeking the SCORPIA operative known as the Widow (Sofia Helin) and answers about his father. We get some new faces in this episode, some like Tom's big brother Jay (Emmet Byrne), an extreme sports athlete, won't play prominent roles in the season. However, our Widow will eventually provide Alex with more answers than he's ready for.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Beautiful Game

Based loosely on real stories, The Beautiful Game follows the British football team to Rome for the Homeless World Cup (a real tournament that uses a football championship which features homeless players of various skills from countries around the world to bring awareness to homelessness). The tournament, which many likely know very little about, is certainly a heartwarming topic to build a movie around. The stories we get told with it as it's backdrop, however, are a bit more hit-and-miss.

3 Body Problem - Red Coast / Destroyer of Worlds

The second and third episodes of the series begin fitting the pieces together. We learn that in China Ye Wenjie (Zine Tseng) is the one responsible for contact with alien life and an invitation that the world now must contend with. In the present, we see much more of the video game with Jack (John Bradley) and Jin (Jess Hong) both playing, first separately and then together, to solve the problem that gives the show its name. That problem ties directly to an impending alien arrival and it's in the solving of the game, and an invitation given to the pair of them, that the show also incorporates the mysterious woman (Marlo Kelly) who doesn't take kindly to one of the pair turning her down.

Katsucon 2024 Cosplay Fun

Star Wars: The Bad Batch - The Harbinger

In what feels like an awkward bit of fan service, Star Wars: The Bad Batch brings in the character of Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman) from the The Clone Wars series as the character to deliver the (rather obvious) news about what the "M count" stands for. While also bringing back one of the most divisive terms in Star Wars canon, the episode suggests that Omega's (Michelle Ang) high count allows for the possibility of the Force. While Omega has never shown any Force ability, and Ventress' "tests" don't show anything either, the need of a clone to have access to the Force is of course central to the events of The Rise of Skywalker.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Zorro: Man of the Dead #3

Aa El Rojo learns the connection between Zorro and Rosa, and takes step to draw out the hero by burning down the local church and kidnapping Rosa's friend, the reluctant Rosa must give in to the delusion to help her brother survive. Her plan to take the opportunity to steal from Rojo while his attention is elsewhere is a good one, but the villain's sudden return puts the lives of all of them in jeopardy.

X-Men '97 - Fire Made Flesh

Picking up from the tease at the end of the previous episode with the sudden appearance of another Jean Grey (), "Fire Made Flesh" Cyclops' (Ray Chase) wife and the mother of his child to be a clone created by Mister Sinister (Chris Britton). With the baby now born, the clone is activated by Sinister becoming Dominatrix Jean Grey, calling herself the Goblin Queen, and abducts the baby leading to a rescue operation, triggering events of Nathan Summers' fate, and leaving Cyclops without a wife or son.

G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero #305

The two big reveals to come out of G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero #305 is that Serpentor Khan has already double-crossed Revanche and that the Zartan who  Destro and the Baroness have been talking with is not the real Zartan. The combination of the mutated Cobra faction and Revanche makes for a formidable force. The question of how the Joes would take them down seems to have answered itself with the new Serpentor's actions taking an important step for them which will no doubt lead to the two factions turning on each other and likely their defeat.

Shōgun - The Eightfold Fence / Broken to the Fist

"The Eightfold Fence" and "Broken to the Fist" focus on John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) teaching Lord Toranaga's (Hiroyuki Sanada) soldiers while continuing to struggle with cultural nuance of the foreign land. Blackthorne and Mariko (Anna Sawai) are drawn closer together only to be pushed apart by the miraculous appearance of her douchebag of a husband Buntaro (Shinnosuke Abe) who continues to struggle with his wife earning greater favor with their lord. In a forceful display of power, the samurai forces Mariko to explain to Blackthorne her past and unfortunate familial ties. That, along with Buntaro beating his wife that night, nearly forces a deadly confrontation between Buntaro and Blackthorne (who does witness an example of the samurai's skill with a bow).