Monday, 29 May 2017

Once Upon a Time (Season 6) Finale: "The Final Battle"

Just when it looks like Storybrooke can enjoy some peace, once more it is threatened by dark forces. Regina's dark half - the Evil Queen - continues to exist despite her heart being crushed; unburdened by a conscience, the Evil Queen has declared war on the heroes and separates Snow and David by placing a sleeping curse on their shared heart. Later on, the Black Fairy abducts Gideon, the son of Gold and Belle. Gideon arrives as a grown man, and is revealed to be the one fated to kill Emma. The events lead to the Black Fairy, the creator of the Dark Curse, who is also controlling Gideon with his heart, crossing over into Storybrooke, as the ongoing war between light and darkness ultimately leads to the Final Battle that was prophesied before the casting of the original Curse. After the events of the Final Battle close the last chapter, which finally bought "Happy Beginnings" for everyone involved, a new one has begun for a grown-up Henry, when his daughter Lucy arrives in Seattle from the Enchanted Forest, for a new adventure.

Well guys, this is it: six seasons of magic all leading up to one gigantic "Final Battle"/ And if you've been following the news at all, it is a lot to handle. We say goodbye to Emma. Well, Emma and Henry. Oh, and Charming and Snow. Well, Emma, Henry, Charming, Snow and Belle. Also Zelena. Essentially, this last episode is a goodbye to the show as we know it. So maybe time had come to close the chapter on a lot of the stories that have been told during six seasons. 

The Final Battle is not one epic war in the way you'd first expect it to be. It is a fight for Emma's belief, her hope. At the end of the episode, the final battle is over, but there is no "The End". Endings don't lead to happiness. Being together leads to happiness. Everyone is okay in their respective world and through our lens, it would seem that everyone is going to live happily ever after... Forever. What I really hoped happened for Regina. As by the end of the season finale Regina is no longer walking around and wondering whether or not she should be evil; that's been settled. When the dwarfs bow to her, they bow to her as the Queen. She is no longer the Evil Queen.

What is left for us now is the opportunity to spend the summer living with the happiness that we've seen these characters get: because these characters really earned this place of happiness they've found. 

From what we saw at the very end of the finale, a new hero will be leading us into a new world, which is an adult Henry Mills. This makes sense as Henry was the author writing everyone else's story, so it looks like he left home to find his own story, then something must have happened and he's got to be the hero. It is a little continuity between the two world of the show and how Henry fits in them. Henry has always been the heart of the show from the very beginning. Finally, my only hope for the new season coming in fall is that writers won't throw away what came before, but build on and expand the universe we know; so that what happened, what character lived with and what they've invested in all these years still matter. Not just clear a playing field and start over. Just tell the audience new stories, expand the canvas they've been given and honour what has come before.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2' continues the team's adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage. 

James Gunn's sequel to the 2014 Marvel hit brings the gang back together for more. This time around, it feels less like a sequel than another yarn from the annals, as if you had pulled a forgotten comic book anthology from the shelf, blown the dust off and dove in. This new instalment proves that family dynamics are more interesting than romantic subplots and that could be the key to the MCU's longevity. 

There is, of course, one new prominent member of the Guardians supergroup this time - and he is the one that causes all the drama and makes it all worth it. Ad Ego, Kurt Russell plays the role of Living Planet/Father of Star-Lord perfectly. Russell, being the most Kurt Russell he can be, walks the line between charmer and Do We Trust Him? with ease. He holds you with the laid-back vibe of a Hollywood veteran whose tan and crinkly smile tell you that sunsets and Goldie Hawn are waiting for him back in Cali. Nonetheless, he brings an unforced looseness to the movie that is very much needed. In fact, the scenes between Russell and Pratt are the best in the film, the one occasion Gunn calms down a bit to stage meaningful exchanges. 

Every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and bubbles. This sense of euphoria runs through everything that is good in Vol.2. Like the first movie, this one is jammed with action-driven sequences, some wildly bloated and most of them almost cartoonish but in a good, very good way. This might be why James Gunn is so ideal for this franchise. As a protégé of Lloyd Kaufman, the notorious founder of Troma Entertainment, he understands the imagination-sparking power of the lurid and freakish, even in a $200 million franchise-tied blockbuster. 

It's tough being a hitmaker who is not weighed down by corporate expectations and Mr Gunn does a pretty good job of keeping the whole thing reasonably fizzy. Like some of the music, the movie's visual design gestures toward the past but mostly come across as a generational yearning for such memories. Perhaps like some other directors, James Gunn fondly looks back on a time when Studio filmmakers could more or less do their own thing cinematically. 

These introductions are fairly chaotic, which is the usual blockbuster way. The point is to telegraph the movie you are about to watch as well as to reintroduce the crew members, their skills and personal traits. Among the most appealing visuals is the animated framework that Ego uses to narrate his life, each one being a clue to his character. Though one problem I have with this film looking back is that James Gunn is still holding off on developing the romance between Gamora and Peter, that was teased in the first movie; probably because he is saving it for the next instalment, or...

I'm also convinced, after seeing Civil War and Vol.2, that the MCU had tapped into something that could keep it going strong indefinitely: an ability to convincingly create a sense of familiar bonds and use these bonds as the emotional core of its films. The thing, of course, is that an MCU movie isn't really self-contained; it is part of a vast network of sequels and tie-ins. 

Finally, Vol.2 has tapped into a reservoir of potential excitement and emotional depth. In that, this film is very similar to Civil War. They can be practically seen as proofs of the concept that families are not harmonious units, but rather anarchic states and that is what makes them so exciting to follow. This new Guardians instalment drives this point home. While fatherly betrayal and fatherly sacrifice are two of the oldest tropes in the book, managing to feature both of them in the climax of the same film involving one character and two father figures is admittedly inspired. 

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 follows a rather common pattern as far as sequels go. It has the same basic components as the first instalment, only it seeks to go bigger and bolder and it generally succeeds. Family bonds actually do greater emotional impact potential than romantic ones (Logan, anybody?). Plus, there is no reason to think that fans of the last movie and Marvel fans, in general, won't love it. The humour, the camaraderie, stunning visuals and the super-fun soundtrack are all there.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

50 Thoughts Watching Riverdale (Season 1) Finale

A subversive take on Archie and his friends, exploring small town life, the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale's wholesome facade. 

As therapeutical as this episode might have been and all things considered, it was also quite tiring. A distressing experience that I wanted to share with you.
Here are the 50 thoughts I had watching this final episode from season 1:  

1. That tight grey T-Shirt is everything *HOT*
2. Archie being in the mayor's office is a joke #Useless 
3. Mama Blossom might be the evilest of them all... 
4. Is Archie really trying to say something to Betty? WTF!?
5. That tight grey T-Shirt again! 
6. #SomethingWickedThisWayComes 
7. Some girls might want to be a burger. 
8. Multiverse plot on a Romantic walk in the snow is my kind of romantic walk. 
10. How many secrets though? 
11. Mama Blossom is pure EVIL! Cheryl is definitely looking sick, right? A headache maybe? 
12. A BROTHER? #SecretBrother 
13. Slide to the left 
14. HONEY? Don't honey her, please! 
15. Cold as ice 

16. OMG! Blood. #Useful 
17. How Prince Charming of him
18. Lodge Home for the poor 
19. McBeth! Finally a good cultural reference! 
20. LIAR! #UsefulLiar 
21. Here comes the singing! #UsefulLiar #LocalHero 
22. Looks good. Play guitar and football. Knows how to sing - and probably dance as well. #Annoying 

23. Jughead Jones as the soul of Riverdale. Let me tell you, Cole Sprouse is a lot more than just the soul of this town... 
24. Betty is my fav 
25. No good story ever began with milkshakes.      
26. #Purify 
27. HOLLY MOLLY. The hat is off. I REPEAT THE HAT IS OFF! 
28. OMG. 
29. "I love you, Betty Cooper"
30. OMG 
31. I'm dying
32. "Jughead Jones WE love you!" 
33. I can't breathe
34. *KISS*
35. I might be dead
36. Good editing there. 
37. This room is too dark. Way too dark. 

38. SHIT. Who the heck is it? 
39. Damn boy, you look good in leather!  

41. "Hey, Casanova" COOLEST DAD EVER! 
42. Wash his hands? How can he wash his hands with a cast? 
43. THAT FACE #SureImDead 
44. Oh no.
45. Don't. Don't. Don't
46. Stay RIGHT where you are! 
47. NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! 
50. FUCK. 

Overall, the last shot - no pun intended - of the episode will set in motion another outlandish mystery for Season 2. Betty is still and more than ever my favourite character, who now has a secret brother. As Betty tells it, he's in his mid-20s; as Veronica tells it, he's a blond Adonis. As I tell it, he's my new favourite Season 2 cast member.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Fate of the Furious

When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

The Fate of the Furious is directed by F. Gary Gray, who also directed The Italian Job which also starred Charlize Theron and Jason Statham, and he directed A Man Apart which had Vin Diesel in it. So it's pretty much fate that he would make this film at some point. Since the fifth instalment in the Fast & Furious franchise have been the best bad movies Hollywood has ever produced. Fast 5 is the best of them all. I love this franchise, I know these films are supposed to be completely over the top and that is exactly what I want to see when I walk in a cinema to watch a Fast & Furious movie. Don't go into these films expecting serious entertainment or wonderment of screenwriting, you're in for a huge disappointment.

Firstly, let's talk about Dwayne-The-Rock-Johnson beating the shit out of a bunch of people. There's something really gratifying about a solid hit that breaks bones delivered by Dwayne Johnson. Years ago, he proved us that he is a solid action star that is going to be around for a very long time and he might have already built an Empire for himself at this point. This man is getting better and better at his craft. My favourite part of this movie, by far, is the chemistry between Jason Statham and The Rock. They are mortal enemy that get put in jail together and every single scene with both of them is a blessing. This film made Jason Statham's character likeable and introduce him to the team. Let's not forget the enormously entertaining cameo from Helen Mirren, channelling her inner Godfather as the mother of Statham's Shaw. 

With due respect to the late actor Paul Walker, who is clearly missed by all of his colleagues in real life, it isn't as if his superstar charisma loss is hurting the franchise. But when Dwayne Johnson came on board in the fifth film, things started to feel crowded. Then came Luke Evans, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell and now we have a villain played by Charlize Theron. Somebody get Bruce Willis on and we will have more than a badass movie for Episode 9. Finally, pushing Dom to the bad-guy side for a while briefly solves the Furious saga's biggest storytelling difficulty: convincing the audience that there is actually a universe in which Vin Diesel is more fun to watch than The Rock. Plus, the cyber thriller is an incongruous addition, one that could have lean towards techno-jargon incomprehensibility; but let's be honest, it is a F8 movie, so you don't really have time to question the moments of incongruity.

Overall, The Fate of the Furious is one of the rare cases in which the eighth instalment of a franchise is still entertaining. the action is here, car chases, submarines, long monologue about how important family is. You need it all to make sense.