Tuesday, November 13, 2018

DCE-Hulu: Titans- 'Hawk and Dove'

After a short break, I'm back to cover the Show proper.  Being a few weeks behind is good, as I can be more loose with possible SPOILERS.

Can they lighten and tighten after the Pilot?  Let's see...
This is Hawk and Dove.  They...weren't in the last Episode at all.

On the plus side, this is less of a 'Stop the Story Cold' Episode that it sounded.  It all ties together- unless you want more Beast Boy or Starfire.
We see in Flashbacks (and the Episode's best Action Scene) that Robin worked with the duo 4 years earlier and that something happened about six months after this.

This also reinforces that Robin is more kill-crazy than normal in the Present, which is nice.
Besides helping establish a vague past, this Photo also hints at someone else.  Donna Troy?

I should also mention that the Actor that plays 'Hawk' was 'Aquaman' on Smallville.
While Robin tries to find a way to help Raven, she has to deal with her inner demons.  Nice shot.
The Drama builds and builds until the arrival of some Villains puts a stop to that.  Who is this Nuclear Family and what do they want with Raven?

To find out, watch the Show.
A better step in one direction, but maybe a little misstep or two in another.  First off, the narrative is way more coherent here!  We don't cut from Detroit to Austria for long stretches, which I like.  That said, we also lose Beast Boy (what little we got) and Starfire this time.  I do like Hawk and Dove, but have many questions about them.  Do they actually have powers?  Why are the wings bullet-proof, but the chest plate on Hawk isn't?  Can we let them at least look fully-competent in the Episode named after them?  They are mostly used for Drama and to make Robin look good.  You can excuse a hard, In Media Res intro for Hawk, but the second time they can't do things on their own is a bit much.  At least they are a bit 'protected' in the third fight.  Speaking of which, the Villains are interesting, but also kind of vague.  In addition, what an odd choice for the first Villains, no?  You take a group of Nuclear-powered Villains and make them into some kind of Cult of Killers- alright then.  Granted- I know that we're building up to Brother Blood and/or Trigon & that many Villains would be costly to do Live-Action.  Can you imagine a Live-Action Monsieur Mallah and The Brain with the Show's tone?  Speaking of tones, the color tone is odd here.  It's only when I went to move the Screen Caps to a Folder that I noticed just how blue everything was tinted!  Lastly, I do appreciate them pointing out how violent Robin seems and calling it out as 'out of character.'  I'll forgive the Show more if they follow through with this Arc, but we'll see.  Episode 2 is stronger as an Episode, but still a bit off in many ways.  That said, nicely-dramatic blood splatter.
Next time, will we see the return of, well, half of the Cast?  What will happen to Raven and the rest?  See you then...

Monday, November 12, 2018

Animondo: Jormungand: Perfect Order (Season 2)

Welcome back to Animondo...today, we're taking a look at what happens when a show about arms dealers decides to kind of stop being so much about arms dealing and realizes that it didn't tell you that much about its characters and oh my gosh pause the plot right now for a flashback!

You might have gathered from that introduction that I was not thrilled with the second season of Jormungand, known as Jormungand: Perfect Order. You would be right in that assessment.

It's not that Jormungand suddenly becomes garbage. It's still a decent enough show...it's just that a lot of the positives from the first season start to fall back, some of the negatives are enhanced, and some new negatives are introduced. It is not a bad show. It's just nowhere near as good as the first season was.

We've largely got the same cast as back in Season 1, and they're all still good. Koko remains interesting, Jonah remains the contrasting viewpoint mixed in with loyalty and protectiveness, and the rest of the gang still provide a good family dynamic that can be fun but also has a darker atmosphere beneath. The complexity that made Jormungand interesting in the first place is still there.

The show's action is still strong, too - though the inconsistency is still there to some degree as well, particularly if you judge against the first season episodes too. There's some great moments in this (in particular, an early highlight with snipers Lutz and Lehm making some very cool, very fast shots), but things just don't always line up quite right if you look between the episodes or between the seasons. In particular, Valmet is almost criminally underused in Perfect Order after providing some of the standout action sequences in the first season - I can't think of one awesome Valmet fight scene in Perfect Order, and I can think of several back in the first season. Perfect Order seems to largely give us "sit there shooting a rifle" Valmet rather than "John Woo hero" Valmet. There are some cool action sequences - the aforementioned sniper bits, some cool car chases, and some tense showdowns with explosives - but nothing quite as standout as the best of the first season.

The focus of the show has changed this season, though, with the arms trade aspects taking a bit of a backseat - still present, but not as much of a focus - to a few other factors of varying levels of interest. First up, we have a law enforcement plan to try to control Koko's actions in their favor. Second, we've got some sort of secret project that Koko is planning that even her crew doesn't know about. And third, we've got exploring the ever-loving heck out of the backstories of almost every member of Koko's crew.

Sadly...none of those bear particularly great fruit over the course of the season. The law enforcement plot kind of derails early on, and while it provides a few powerful early moments, it feels like something that would've been much better if it were stretched out across the season instead of being more focused in the early part. The secret project...I'll get to. The backstories, though...those are a huge problem.

It's not that I didn't want to know more about Koko's bodyguards. They're interesting, and I like knowing more about them. The problem is that it just takes up so much of the second season. There's a considerable amount of screentime devoted to flashbacks, enough that it seriously cuts down on the amount of time that the show has to work with for any interesting plots actually taking place in the present. While it's fun to hear about the lives of Koko's bodyguards before they were part of her crew, we spend so much time hearing about that - and in such a dull fashion - that it slows any momentum the show can actually build.

It's strange - the first season has flashbacks too, but it handles them much more artistically and blends them much better with the rest of the show...and takes less time, too. The first season will handle flashbacks with a quick look back, usually to a single moment in the character's past, with only Jonah (one of the two main characters) getting a full episode really totally devoted to where he came from - and it produces those flashbacks better, showing rather than telling.

Perfect Order is apparently from the "tell, don't show" school of thought. Most flashbacks are heavily narrated, and most flashbacks go into a frankly unnecessary level of detail about the past - they don't show you just the events that drive the present, as Valmet and Jonah's respective flashbacks did in Season 1. Instead, Perfect Order's flashbacks usually show quite a bit more, and spend much more time than they need to spend. There's entire episodes that are almost entirely flashback based, and there's narration going on over the top of them for most of their run.

It's weird how the show handles that narration, too - there's a couple cases where it makes sense, in that a character actually is telling the story to the others, but there are other cases where the narrating character clearly isn't telling the story to anyone...and cases where the narrating character isn't even one of the characters we generally follow. It's not necessarily wrong - I mean, Jonah is used as a brief narrator in the opening of Season 1 just to intro the show concept, and that works fine - but it's jarring how it happens here, particularly when I'm listening to a character that's not even a member of Koko's group explain, in detail, his involvement behind the scenes in a whole lot of stuff I'm not even sure I'm supposed to care about.

It just saps a lot of momentum from the show, and Perfect Order's plots suffer for it. Where season 1 has a number of very complicated episodes involving Koko and her crew having to work their way through with careful strategy, diplomacy, and perfectly applied force, Perfect Order spends more time in the past and just doesn't have that much time to develop good conflicts in the present. They don't quite fall flat, and there are some good moments, but everything feels much more simplistic than in the first season.

No extra points for pointing out how boring your own flashbacks are, show.
It doesn't help that the first character that the show uses for its flashbacks is the one character that Season 1 underutilized the most, R. He doesn't get all that much screentime in the first season, and that's the first season's fault...but Perfect Order decides to rectify things by immediately revealing a total shift in his relationship to the rest of the group, delving deep into his backstory for an extended period of time, and then more heavily involving him in events than he's ever been involved...all while I was honestly thinking, "Wait, who was this guy again? He was that guy in the background with Koko's group, right? I forgot his name."

Again, that's partially season 1's fault, but still - it's a really jarring and sudden shift.

There are some weird elements with some recurring characters, too - some odd choices to bring back characters to basically do exactly nothing...even one group of former rivals that shows up for a surprisingly long time in an episode to basically declare, in a manner which takes far too much time, that they're retiring. There's some amusing stuff in the bit, but really, it adds nothing.

Jormungand: Perfect Order kind of specializes in wasting the viewer's time like that. It's not that it lacks entertainment value - most of the "useless" sequences are still actually fun to watch...it's just that when you look back afterwards, there's a lot in the show that really doesn't add anything to the overall tale, doesn't add to characterization of any of the characters we're following, doesn't build any tension, and doesn't serve to resolve anything we really cared about. The bits of added characterization we do get could have been done in a much shorter time and much more organically...overall, it just feels like there's a much clumsier hand overseeing the show this time around, enough that I wonder if the writing team or director changed. It feels like an entirely different style of telling its story.

It also earns its TV-MA rating, but not in the best ways. There's more sexual content than in the first season, and in far more direct and blatant a manner, including a considerable amount of pretty pointless nudity. It's still not like that's the show's focus by any means, but there are points where it gets somewhat uncomfortable, and not in a good way - not in any way that's helpful to the show at all. There's one scene late in the show, in particular, that involves Jonah. Nothing happens, and in no way does the show imply anything happens, but it's still a completely unnecessary scene that absolutely doesn't need to be part of the show. The point of the scene is pretty clear - it's supposed to make us feel a little off balance, and make us doubt the show's status quo a bit - but its purpose could've been fulfilled equally well in a different manner and in a different setting.

But my largest problem with Perfect Order has to be with its ending. I'm going to avoid spoilers here, and save a deeper analysis for a later post, but here's the gist of my problems: The show has a late twist that seems to mean a whole lot...but turns out to mean absolutely nothing. There's a major can of worms opened up that turns out to be empty. It's a deeply unsatisfying ending that squanders a dramatic moment that the entire show was actually building towards, hurts my perception of the rest of the show to that point, skips a surprising amount of time in the lead-up and probably wastes a full couple seasons worth of further events, and is...not really told all that well besides.

Jormungand: Perfect Order can still be fun to watch...but it isn't remotely up to par with the first season. It just can't get itself moving - it keeps getting in its own way, slowing itself down, and focusing on details that really aren't as important as the stuff that falls by the wayside. Part of the reason the first season was successful was that it nicely managed to combine separate elements into a cohesive whole, making a show that, while flawed, presented a united front - the characters, the diplomacy, the action, the philosophy, all of it joined together and furthered one story. Perfect Order, on the other hand, feels chopped into pieces. It feels like there are walls between the different parts of the show - obvious breaks where the show is now serving this purpose or that purpose - rather than the generally graceful blending of the first season.

If you watched, and liked, the first season, my advice to you is to pretend that's where the show ended. Pretend that the second part of "Hill of Doom," the ending episode of season 1, is the show's finale. Ignore any little bits in "Hill of Doom" or previous episodes that suggest otherwise, and make yourself satisfied with it.

Otherwise...well, I hope you can deal with this season better than I could. For me, this really damaged Jormungand, enough that it's going to be hard to go back and watch the parts of the show that I liked. I'm not going to go as far as to say it ruins things. I don't think a bad ending should invalidate anything good a show does. But...the ending, combined with the rest of season 2's performance, does change how I think about things, and not in a good way. For all that there were parts I enjoyed in Perfect Order, I think I'd prefer that I hadn't watched it - I think I'd enjoy looking back as season 1 more if I hadn't.

Perhaps you'll find it different...but if you enjoyed season 1, approach this one with caution.

Dubbed or Subbed?: One thing that didn't decline is the quality of the audio production. As with Season 1, the subtitle work and the dubbing are both of great quality, and you won't find me complaining about either. My preferred style is still dubbed with this show, for the same reason as before - hearing the various accents of the characters around the world helps emphasize the global nature of Koko's journey.

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Halloween 3- Season of the Witch (Part 1)

Samhain has come and gone, but I'm sure not going to wait until NEXT OCTOBER to use these.

In Halloween 3, we get a silly Plot involving Druids, Robots and killer masks.  They control a Town that makes the stuff, but one guy gets a bit drunk and says too much to our Lead.
Rather than attack Atkins, of course, two robot show up to threaten the man instead.
He shows surprising vigor.  Well, that or he's so wasted that common sense is out the window.
His punishment- having his head ripped off!  Ouch.
Clearly Druid-made Robots don't believe in 'a slap on the wrist.'  It's right to 'remove head from shoulders.'

The moral: don't drink and talk.  You either get killed by robots or call a Cop 'Sugar Tits.'

Next time, another random victim killed for at least a minor reason.  Even so, she's worthy of an induction.  See you then... 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Buy the DVD!: Nightbreed- The Cabal Cut

After talking about the Book and the Theatrical Cut, I might as well talk about the 2013/14 Director's Cut.

Want to know why you should think about buying the Film again?  Here's why...
- More of the Nightbreed.  You see more of their home and their way of life.

- While still missing the better motivation for Ashbury (blackmailed by Decker), we get more of him being 'priestly' in this Cut.  He begs for them to spare the Nightbreed earlier, which then enforces his stance you see later (and in the original Cut).
- We see Lori singing at a Bar.  That's neat.

- Decker is seen stalking Lori during the start of the attack and chasing her, as opposed to just kind appearing down in Midian later.  He's still not the truly-clever stalker from the Book, but he's closer.
- Doug Bradley's voice is restored (save for one bit they missed) here.  He was dubbed in the Theatrical Cut, due to an accent matching better (or something).

- Instead of just stopping as they leave, the ending for Lori and Boone from the Book is here!

She refuses to let Boone leave as an Immortal and *maybe* find her later.  She forces his hand (and teeth) by stabbing herself, getting her to turn him.

Now you see where a certain Mormon Author stole that idea.
- Ashbury is still transformed by the magic liquid, although not to the extreme degree from the Book.

Instead of resurrecting Decker (an homage to Videodrome, apparently), he meets the Sergeant, swearing his personal revenge on Baphomet.  When the man tries to join the Priest, he kills him...for some reason.
It's better, even if I still don't get it.

- More Nightbreed are shown during the Climax and in the Barn where they plan their future.

- In the Book, Narcisse is killed to add drama to Boone's fight with Decker.  He's not truly immortal, you see.

This was preserved originally, but Test Audiences were pissed at his death and he was restore in Editing.

In the Cabal Cut, he's dead again.
What do Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson and Narcisse have in common?  All saved by Test Audiences- go figure!

They also killed Will Smith, so trade-off.

The total difference in the Films is around 45 minutes.  I didn't cover all of it, but you get the gist.

I also like the Credits updated to thank people for the Restoration.
If you have Nightbreed, should you buy The Cabal Cut?  Yes.

Like The Donner Cut or other such Director's Cuts, you get enough new content to please you AND an arguably-better product.


Friday, November 9, 2018

3,800th Post Celebration!!!: Fiction vs. Fiction- Clive Barker's 'Cabal' (aka Nightbreed)

After around a Year and not actually finishing the work for the way I planned this AND skipping the 3,700th Post Celebration, we can still enjoy Plan B on *this* numbered Celebration.

After a long time, I finally finished another Book to cover and it's a bit of a cult sensation.  Let's see what happens in this battle...
What's the Same?
The Core of the Story is the same.  It plays out in the same order and with the same basic beats.

All of the really interesting stuff- the creatures, the Doctor and the mysticism- is still there.

So yeah, this is the least interesting part to talk about.
What's Different?
So here we go...

- Decker (Cronenberg) has all of his motivation removed.  He doesn't talk to his Mask and see it as his 'true self.'  He's just a killer.
- The Film is less gory in parts, cutting stuff like a Nightbreed being disemboweled, but also more Action-packed in other parts.
- A whole subplot about 'Berserkers' was added to the Story to 'spice up' the 3rd Act.
- One major Character dies, but is saved by the choppy Editing and simply reappears.
- Father Ashbury is a sad, complex Character in the Book.  His blackmailing and change of heart is excised from the Film and he's just a drunken Priest.
- Speaking of Ashbury, he's burned to a crisp as a limbless body in the Book.  In the Film, he loses his scalp (kind of).
- One last thing with Ashbury, he is last seen guiding the Sheriff to hunt the Nightbreed in the Book.  In the Film, he uses Baphomet's magic water to revive Decker...for some reason.
- The Character of the Detective is made way more important...before abruptly-being killed.
- Many other random things are changed.  For instance. Lori's friend is killed in a burnt-out Diner by Decker and she's chased to Midian in the Book.  In the Film, she is killed outside Midian and Lori runs far less.  So much for Decker's ploy then!
- On the plus side, the Monsters are vaguely-described in the Book and made complete here.
Which is Better?
Do you want spectacle or quality?

If you don't know the Book at all, Nightbreed is a good Film that is just oddly-edited at times.
If you do know the Book, however, you'll see all of the stuff changed for unclear reasons and all of the subtext/motivation removed for the Film.

Nightbreed is still good, but it could have been better...like the Book.
Now that I've somewhat-spoiled a Cult Classic, here's to the next 100 Posts.  Oh and I should probably talk about 'The Cabal Cut' too, huh?

Lost in Translation?: Predator 2

A good, but inferior Sequel still deserves a good Poster.

In this case, it is Predator 2.

Does it have Ahnuld?  No.
Does it still deserve a crazy Asian Poster?  Hell yeah.

Here it is...
Bright, loud and random!

This Poster has it all!

Where else can you find a giant Predator, explosions and Gary Busey?

Here's the original Version...
I didn't change much, but did I really need to?  Sometimes perfection just needs a quick touch-up.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

King Me: Castle Rock- 'Harvest'

After a quick break, I'm back to break down the halfway point of the Series (so far).  What happens?
The Kid/Prisoner is free (for the time being) and our Hero is trying to get him tested.
While he takes care of stuff in town, he tells the nearly-mute man to stay put.  Naturally, he doesn't.
He has some personal issues of his own to deal with while that is happening, from dealing with his Mother's loss of sanity to the fact that his foster Dad's body is apparently melting!

Rough day, no?
As weird stuff happens in the Area (including a Wildfire), the Prisoner continues to draw the attention of some people.
Will a night-time confrontation lead to some truths or just more teasing of a Plot?

To find out, watch the Episode.
It all sounds good on paper.  I know that you don't hear paper, but just accept the expression.   Something big happened last Episode (no SPOILERS) and now the Series is coasting again.  So close!  They keep acting like something is about to happen- look at all of the tension!- and then...nothing.  What you get to see is nice and well-made.  Given that, it's an extra shame that the payoff keeps being delayed and delayed!  It's all for naught if I can't enjoy any big moments without reservation, no?  Everyone does their best with the material.  I don't fault the Actors.  Everyone here is good, ranging from big performances to far more subtle ones.  I just want more when the people are so good and the source material is so rife for good storytelling.  As if my complaining isn't enough proof, here's the Director doing a downward Crane Shot for no reason (other than boredom- presumably)...
Next time, I'm taking a sabbatical from this Show (for many reasons).  When and if I return, we'll see what happens in this Town.  See you then?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Netflix and Thrill: Castlevania (Season 1)

I neglected to talk about this when I first saw it.  I neglected to get around to it when I saw that Season 2 was coming.

I will neglect it no more.

Can Netflix make a good Video Game Show (that isn't Captain N: The Game Master)?  Let's see...
Dracula is a world-famous Monster (even in the 15th Century), so why is he courting this woman?
What could drive Dracula to declare War on all of mankind?
Can we rely on this semi-drunk Hero to save us from the creatures of the night?
Will his battle with a mysterious Warrior end up helping humanity or escalating its doom?

To find out, watch the Show('s 1st Season).
A good tease of what is to come, although still just a tease.  So I watched the 4 Episodes they put out as 'Season 1' quite a while ago.  Why didn't I review it sooner?  Well, for me, this is not really a complete Season.  It is around 2 Hours, but it is still just setup.  We see Dracula.  We see him start his war on Humanity.  We see Trevor Belmont start to become the Hero that his Family wanted him to be.  We see Alucard.  We get all sorts of nice things, but...that's it.  This is all setup.  We don't get anything conclusive, other than the ending of one Battle.  I get it- it's Season 1.  I just wish that they actually could make this feel more complete.  With Season 2 now Streaming, this is better...but still pretty incomplete.  I'll save my thoughts on Season 2 for later.  For now, I'll say that you can enjoy the style, production values and set pieces of the 4 Episodes just fine.  I just wanted more from a 'Season,' but, as always, I'm more nitpicky with stuff that is good.  I mean, it could be way worse...
More of a tease of what the Story is going to be than a complete thought.  Even so, well-made stuff.