The Wheel of Time (S1) | Streamlined to Near Perfection

The Wheel of Time is a high fantasy series inspired by the bestselling book series by Robert Jordan, with three of the 15 novels written by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death. Writer producer Rafe Judkins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hemlock Grove) is at the helm of the show and in the cast we have familiar names and faces like Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Jack Reacher), Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones, The Rook), Daniel Henney (Big Hero 6, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and relative unknowns like Barney Harris (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), Madeleine Madden (Picnic at Hanging Rock), Marcus Rutherfod (Bulletproof), Josha Stradowski (Just Friends), Zoë Robins (The Shannara Chronicles), Alexandre Willaume (Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy).

Premise: Unlike the books, the focus of the series is on Moiraine, a member of the Aes Sedai, a powerful organization of women who can use magic. She takes a group of five young men and women on a journey around the world, believing one of them might be the reincarnation of the Dragon, a powerful individual prophesied to either save the world or destroy it.

Review: The three episode premiere was impressive, fast paced and engrossing. The rest of the season followed in that vein delivering surprises after surprises and great character moments for all involved. The story telling is expedient and very streamlined, there are little to no dull moments ; it might be frustrating for some book readers and longtime fans, all the melded of places and modified action pieces, but for me who’s read book one – so far – it was an enjoyable journey that kept the heart and spine of “The Eye of the World.

In an adaptation perspective, I’m impressed with how well the show covers hundreds of pages in a few minutes of screen time without the material getting lost in translation. Given the many surprises I got in the series, I suspect that they’ve also pulled relevant elements from later books and put them in season one.

I went into the series waiting to see how Perrin would turn out in live action but quickly become a Nynaeve fan. Perrin’s still my boy but Nynaeve storyline and love interest was sweet and made much more sense here than in the novel where it seemed to come out of nowhere. The same goes for Egwene and Perrin’s run-in with the white cloaks – who seem far more dangerous on the show – and how it was handled, allowing for subtle character development while giving them more agency. That’s kind of the way most characters are threated, with incremental and sometimes subtle character development, except maybe for Mat – who annoyed me to no end in book one – but they’ve done him dirty. Although interesting, the way they changed him, they’ve made him more of deadweight than he’s supposed to be. Isn’t he the one skilled with the bow and arrow? Here he’s almost useless.

They’ve also cleverly depicted the white cloak as the aggressors, the bad guys by depicting their disregard from people’s – women – personal space, their attack on the Tinkers. The way the main characters are handled is more interesting, it’s less obvious here who the Dragon Reborn is, and a better job is done to highlight the importance of the others. I appreciate the show for limiting the amount of cat fighting, because at one point it felt like most of the women had some sort of beef with each other.

The show falters in a few way but the most striking ones for me is how the Dragon Reborn reveal was handled, that was not it, and the Dragon’s battle against the Dark One, was a bit Wonder Woman 1984 – a bit anti-climatic.

The cinematography is great, the set and costume designs are amazing, and the VFX is good – I’m hopping for even better later on. As for the cast, they are excellent, from the main cast to the recurring one, they’ve picked them well. I still have my favorites though.

Season one of The Wheel of Time is captivating, visually arresting, and well worth the watch and re-watch. Season two can’t come fast enough.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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Station Eleven (Premiere) | A Fascinating Start

Review: Following a group of seemingly unrelated people during the outbreak and years into a deadly pandemic, Station Eleven tells the story of those who crossed paths with actor Arthur Leander. The three episode premiere sets the stage for the saga of these individuals in a very enigmatic and suspenseful way.

Right off the bat I loved the glimpses to the future we had in the pilot. Some strong choices were made in adapting this story and I love how Jeevan and young Kirsten’s stories were intertwined because for one it gave the situation a sense of urgency and limited option, and two showed Jeevan’s character. He went the extra mile to help a total stranger during a crisis, maybe it was due to the fact he didn’t think the flu was that bad but I think he’s just a decent man who did what he could to help. Yet at the same time he also seemed a bit unhinged, which why the plane scene was so important because it validated Jeevan’s fear to the others.

It was interesting to me when and where they decided to go, when jumping to adult Kirsten’s life, I thought it set up the traveling symphony and the people living in this post Georgia flu world well. It gave us a sense of how things have settled after the mayhem of the first years of the pandemic.

For some reason, I began to think that we’d be spared the Hollywood part of the story, even though I knew that the dinner scene was important, so I’m glad it’s here because it was awesome, I loved every bit of it.

The show seems to be doing justice to the novel so far, with its somewhat confusing time jumps in depicting this beautiful and tragic story.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

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Hawkeye (Season) | References and Emotional Arcs

Since his shadowy appearance in Thor (2011) Jeremy Renner‘s (The Hurt Locker) Clint Barton aka Hawkeye, has become a sometimes mocked but key member of the first six avengers. For some reason that didn’t warrant a solo movie but a series introducing his replacement Kate Bishop, portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Dickinson). I’m not salty about, I like the character and the actrice but I feel the disrespect, am I alone in this? It was even more blatant after seeing the two episode premiere that were focused on Kate. That said the show has a solid cast; Alaqua Cox as Echo is phenomenal, Fra Fee (Les Misérables) as Kazi is striking, Tony Dalton (Better Call Saul) as fun and quirky Jack Duquesnes, and Mia Farmiga (Up In The Air) as Kate’s mother Eleanor. She is great casting but she reads shady to me so that doesn’t help the story, and there’s two more other phenomenal cast members but I won’t spoil it just in case.

Premise: The story is essentially how Clint Barton crossed paths with Kate Bishop while in New York City, and how they must work together to confront enemies from Clint’s past time as Ronin in order for him to get back to his family in time for Christmas.

Review: As I mentioned the show’s main focus is Kate and her introduction, although smart, is a bit slow going because quite a chunk of it is predictable. At the beginning I felt I was reading chapter two while the show was lagging behind. They’ve telegraphed so many plot points early on that waiting for them to come to fruition was a slight annoyance, more so if you became aware of rumors and leaks before hand. Thankfully by the half way mark everything starting rolling

The strength of the show is its casts, their characters and the relationships they have. The Christmas theming and the many references the show has from comics, previous MCU movies, and popular holiday movies is a nice touch – if you like Christmas movies – but the characters’ emotional arc is the meat in all that dressing. From a grief stricken Clint who’s trying to reconnect with his family while dealing with what he did during the blip ; Echo’s relentless fight for vengeance and how she opened her eyes to the bigger truth of her situation; the assassin who refused to believe the truth and how that was resolved, also their relationship with Kate is a delight. As for Kate, her eagerness to be a hero was great, it felt like she wasn’t just hoping to be one someday but worked hard to become one. And as skilled she’s shown to be, there’s still that rookie naiveté and a blind side that could have been annoying but it wasn’t.

In the first few episodes there were elements – LARPers *cough among others – I thought made the show feel a like downgrade and cheap, even for Clint who can kind of only be a street level hero when on his own. But I’ve come to like these elements because they add some levity to the show and sort of work with the theming.

Hawkeye works hard to be a holiday romp and succeeds but the cast elevated what could have been a meh overall story with a lot of action in the finale.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Morbius | Clip

  • Writer: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane
  • Director: Daniel Espinosa
  • Stars:Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Jared Harris, Adria Arjona, Tyrese Gibson, Corey Johnson, Archie Renaux, Michael Keaton

The VFX is good, I love how he moves, and the fact that there’s not doubt that he’s killing them but it’s weird that he doesn’t seem interested in their blood.

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Stay Close | Trailer

  • Writer: Harlan Coben (Novel), Daniel Brocklehurst
  • Director: Lindy Heymann, Daniel O’Hara
  • Stars: Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage, Eddie Izzard, Jo Joyner, Youssef Kerkour, Sarah Parish, Daniel Francis, Bethany Antonia 

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West Side Story | Well Crafted & Acted But What a Sh!tty Story

Steven Spielberg making – well remaking – a musical? Why not. This is the second feature-length adaptation of the 1957 West Side Story stage musical by Arthur Laurents with music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by the dearly departed Stephen Sondheim – I’m no musical theatre fan but even I know who he is. This newest adaptation stars Ansel Elgort (Divergent Saga, Men Women & Children) and newcomer Rachel Zegler, with Arianna DeBose (Prom, Hamilton), David Alvarez (American Rust), Mike Faist (Panic), and Rita Moreno – who starred in the previous movie based on this musical.

Premise: Teenagers Tony and María, despite having affiliations with rival street gangs, the Jets and Sharks, fall in love in 1950s New York City.

Review: Going in I vaguely knew about this muscial, and thought it was Romeo and Juliet with song and dance, so I was not ready for the racist undertones laced throughout. I mean not at all, and the whole time I was thinking people sing these songs – in particular the jets’ songs – knowing the jets hate the sharks because they’re “foreign” and not white? Knowing they did the same with the Egyptian Kings? – who I’m guessing were people of color.
To make matters worse, I checked the 1960s version, because I suspected the racism to be more blatant in that version – since some of the Jets in Spielberg’s movie seemed a bit swirly, like their were mixed or something; – and oh boy was I wrong. I first stopped at a picture of the 1961 Jets and it screamed aryan brotherhood to me. But the worse thing about it is that Spielberg’s movie seems to be the one not shying away from the racism with a few shashays and harmonies, the old version is.

I figured this movie would have some kind of message, which is I’m guessing along the lines of “an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind?”, but even with that kind of message I don’t think that this movie is worth it. To me it only serves as a reminder that some people are trash, time passed and things remained somewhat the same or got worse. The movie itself didn’t make me sad, my eyes were dry throughout, but it was sad to see that not much has changed in particular when it comes to how people treat each other.

All of that said, I realized that I’ve heard some of those songs unaware that they were from this musical. There is also a lot more to like in this movie when it comes to how it was put together. The cast is amazing, delivering jaw dropping performances. A lot of them, are actors to watch. I never suspected that Elgort could sing like that and his fellow cast members showed him up a bit despite some of them being relative unknowns. The directing is on point, the sets, the dance numbers and the costumes are great, but I just couldn’t get into the story. It starts well enough I guess but it goes off the rails and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There’s no amount of pretty singing and dancing that would have blinded me to the problems I have with the story. Some of the characters’ actions doesn’t make a lot of sense to me maybe the actors didn’t sell it too well but to be honest I don’t think anyone could have. I have yet to watch the 1961 version in full but the two scenes I saw – The introduction scene and the I feel pretty song – and they were cringey for a whole sets of reasons.

West Side Story looks cool, the dances and music are catchy enough, but I just couldn’t get into the story. However I suspect Spielberg to have made meaningful but subtle changes to highten the social commentary

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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ADOW S3 | Trailer

  • Writer: Deborah Harkness (Novels), Lachlan Mackinnon
  • Director: Jamie Donoughue
  • Stars: Teresa Palmer, Matthew Goode, Alex Kingston, Edward Bluemel, Lindsay Duncan; Owen Teale, and Aiysha Hart

If you look at this frame by frame, you’ll see quite a few eaters eggs and great moments from the books so I’m very eager to see these episodes and to finally share The Book of Life review that I’ve been sitting on for years at this point. I might even dip back into the book.

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