Series Review “Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan” (2021) #200WordReview #AgeofSamurai #NetflixReview

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Game of Thrones… set in Japan

1551. A brutal and bloody civil war has ravaged Japan for a hundred years, ferocious warlords have been locked in a death struggle for supremacy in the fractured land. Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan tells the tale of that era and how, through a painful birth, the modern Japan would be born.

Age of Samurai is a limited docuseries featuring the usual shtick: talking heads, narration, recreations with actors, and maps. So many juicy, juicy maps. However, it’s the way you tell ’em, and Age of Samurai has some wonderful acting, artfully but not distractingly shot talking heads, lush graphics, phenomenal editing, and a narrative structure that sucks us in. Forget anime and manga: this series is a gateway drug to Japanese culture. My only criticism is later important characters sometimes just pop up instead of being mentioned or having their importance artfully foreshadowed.

A kind of real life Game of Thrones… set in Japan, the twists and turns were riveting. I’ve never much been interested in Japanese history, but this has started a fever in my brain; let’s see where that fever leads.

Beautiful. Thrilling. Immersive. Inspiring.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Upcoming Movie and TV Reboots: 5 #spoof

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Back to the Future (20??)

Nooooooo. I can’t even bring myself to joke about this. But I just know it’s going to happen! Despite what Robery Zemeckis says, money talks; just ask Judas. How dare they will have going to have rebooted this classic! Sad face. Possibly justified as someone having gone back to the past from the future and changing the timelines in some kind of Star Trek reboot stylee.

No. Seriously. This will happen.

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Upcoming Movie and TV Reboot: 4 #spoof

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The X-Files: the Amazon Prime Series (2025)

Once the new X-Files series (starting 2016) got cancelled after two seasons, it was only a matter of time before a reimaginized reboot would happen. Relive the story anew of the odd couple that was African American logical smart-thinking LGBT activist, Divinity Scully, and white middle-class zany new-age Jew, Davina Duchovny, as they investigate the paranormal — all at the tax-payers’ expense.

Note: this article was originally written in 2016, and the prediction about only two seasons of the new X-Files has actually come true!

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Upcoming Movie and TV Reboots: 3

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The Lord of the Rings: the HBO series (2022)

After scrabbling around for something, anything to replicate the success of Game of Thrones (finished 2018), HBO finally hits upon the idea of a Lord of the Rings series(!) It’s time to go back down the Hobbit hole, but this time using all the appendices and flabby bits that Walsh, Boyens, and Jackson wisely left out of the film, in an all new, ten-episodes-a-series, eight-series epic. Starring Sean Bean — who dies again.

Note: this article was originally written in 2016, and this prediction has actually come true!

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Star Trek: Picard Season One Review @SirPatStew @StarTrek @StarTrekCBS #StarTrek #StarTrekPicard

S1E10 Review
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S1E7 Review
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S1E1 Review
S1 Preview

Star Trek: Picard promised much, returning as it would to some of the franchise’s most beloved characters, notably Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself. The eponymous series starts with Picard in semi-comatose retirement, whiling his time away on his vineyard, when, suddenly, his retirement-cum-autoeuthanasia is rudely disrupted by a gatecrashing stranger with an extraordinary story.

The excitement of spending time with Picard and co again was mildly tainted by the stench that this was just an easy paycheque for Patrick Stewart. Plus, his rants on Brexit and Trump, even if you agree, boded badly for this series executive produced by the man himself; would this merely be Stewart in soapbox mode? However, these fears were unfounded. Picard got off to a slow but steady start, before launching into warp nine in the season’s second act, before stumbling and tripping in act three. Did it come off the rails? Not at all. But the ending was unworthy of the journey. The old characters were of course nice, but it’s the new characters that were refreshing: all the hallmarks of classic Trek characters, without feeling derivative. A great new batch of characters for the Trek canon.

If Game of Thrones is the yardstick (bar season eight) for streaming series, then ST:P isn’t quite the full 36 inches. But it’s not bad, either. Far from it. There was no single episode that you could call “poor”, although some were distinctly weaker than others. The worst episode was solid and serviceable; the best: first rate exciting television. This show could go far. But the writers need to stop introducing deep story threads and backstories and then resolving them within the very same episode, worst of all, in one scene or through exposition. This show seems more accessible to non-Trekkies than any other Star Trek series, including Discovery, but still seems Trek enough for Trekkies; maybe it’s found that Goldilocks zone that much of the franchise has failed to find.

All’s well that ends well? Yes. And if the finale had been stronger, season one would have gained a four star rating. But the box-ticking logic-chucking way the first season ended somewhat soured the thing. All in all, I am cautiously optimistic for season two. A good show for Trekkies and a good show for newbs.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Film Review: Honeymoon (2014) #NetflixReview #Honeymoon @HarryTreadaway_ @RLeslieSource

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read the 150 word review here

I am a huge and borderline obsessive Game of Thrones fan. I mean, I don’t dress up and go to the conventions. And my bookshelf doesn’t boast a crumbling copy of David J. Peterson’s book Living Language Dothraki. But it certainly can’t be healthy for a 35 year old man to be repeatedly kept awake at night by an almost endless stream of fantasies where he inhabits the Game of Thrones universe as a key protagonist. How would I react if my dragons—-Wake up, Bryan, you pathetic manchild, and smell the early onset midlife crisis!

Given that context, it is very surprising to me that I somehow missed 2014’s Honeymoon starring as it does GOT‘s very own Ygritte, a.k.a., the ridiculously lovely Rose Leslie.

Leslie and co-star Harry Treadaway play head-over-heels-in-love newlyweds, Bea and Paul, who just can’t keep their hands off each other. We join them as they start their honeymoon in Paul’s family cabin in the woods. Our leads give believable albeit slightly off-centre performances, but their quirkiness brilliantly foreshadows the disturbing story to come. Paul wakes up to find Bea sleepwalking alone in the woods. Things start to fall apart quickly for the young couple as it becomes clear that something very bad happened that night.

But what happened in the woods that night? And what is happening to them now? The film never fully spells the answers out. There are many possible interpretations. Mine is extraterrestrial rape. And I think when read as an alien abduction film, Honeymoon surely ranks as the most terrifying examples of the genre that I have ever seen. Indeed, if alien abductions really do happen, this film paints a deeply convincing picture of the literally alien / otherly horror of that experience. Although I repeat: the interpretation of what happened is very open.

However, don’t get bogged down in the specifics of what actually happened to Bea. The events, alien rape or otherwise, are merely an incidental device to explore what can happen to a healthy and seemingly rock solid relationship when one partner is violated in some way. The actual violation could be viewed as unwanted pregnancy or perhaps the loss of one’s self to an illness such as Alzheimer’s. But I think this film pretty clearly had rape in mind. None-the-less, I don’t wish to suggest that this film was meant as an allegory of rape or some other specific traumatic violation. But merely that it examines a relationship after having undergone a (any) traumatic violation.

A brilliant and deeply unsettling film that gave me repeated goosebumps and made me shiver endlessly.

© 2017-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Star Trek: Picard S1E10 “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2” Review

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Star Trek: Picard‘s season one finale, “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2”, sees our heroes hatch a daring plot to prevent the destruction of all biological life at the hands of an advanced god-like artificial lifeform whilst also preventing the destruction of the android planet whose denizens are the ones summoning the aforesaid god-like synths. Classic Trek quandry!

“Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2” had a lot of action, fight scenes, starship battles, enemies temporarily allying, faces from the past, moral dilemmas, betrayal, a defence of the Federation’s sacred principles, and a whole lot more beside. Unlike some other episodes, such as episode one, this installment was packed with action and certainly had me engaged from beginning to end. On paper, it was an amazing season-ender. Unfortunately, the entire season’s main storyline was neatly resolved. A little too neatly. Boxes were ticked, and the whole season’s payoff felt flat and without effort. Everything was too easy in the end. For example, despite being a huge, long-time Trek fan, I just did not feel any emotion at the death of a key character which the show’s producers clearly felt was the “emotional” showpiece of this episode. It lacked weight because we already knew that this person wasn’t going to really be dead after all. Everything was too easy.

Forget logic, let’s just resolve away! Huge and absurd plotholes, such as the magical deus ex machina energy-to-matter device. Made no sense whatsoever and was used merely to set us up for an episode which just concluded everything — because it just had to!

The complexity of this season deserved a more complex and subtle set of resolutions. Furthermore, everything was wrapped up. Not even the hint of a cliff-hanger. I cannot imagine how Season Two will carry on the storyline, as there isn’t much of anything left to resolve or carry on. This gives the effect that season one was merely an extended single episode and that the universe is going to effectively reboot with season two. Instead of having an ongoing show arc, are we going to have merely one season arcs? Have the producers figured out a way to stretch the classic Trek double episode into a season-long fare? Will we end up with ten seasons, each compromised wholly of one over-extended and massively fleshed out single episode?

The weirdest thing about the episode is something whose full significance only hit me later when mentally sifting through this episode: the characters in the show have basically discovered a way for people to become immortal. The greatest discovery ever. Yet the significance of this seems to be not recognised by anyone. Truly baffling stuff.

All in all, “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2” was one of the more action-packed episodes, but it was also one of the weakest. Indeed, I think was bested in the weakness states only by Episode One which was an incomplete episode by necessity (as it sets everything up). All’s well that ends well. Sadly, although this season finale wasn’t bad, it was weaker than the show merited.

A frustrating and disappointing, albeit not bad, end to what has been a frustrating, if promising and exciting, first season. Not the final episode the season deserved.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Star Trek: Picard S1E9 “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 1” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

I hate plot spoilers. I try my best to avoid them. Unfortunately, when reviewing episodes of a series, it’s almost inevitable that you give certain things away. Even the very act of no longer mentioning a character in itself tells you something. This is unavoidable and acceptable plot spoilage. But what is not acceptable is to smack a massive plot spoiler in the credits sequence. Episode 9, “Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 1”, plants a massive spoiler flag in the opening credits by declaring “special guest star: so-and-so”. So now we know that that actor is in it and, of course, we know what character they play in the Star Trek universe, so… surprise ruined! Can you not have the cast list at the end of the episode, please?

Leaving meta-considerations aside, this was a disturbing episode which thoroughly upsets our moral compass. We finally arrive on Sojo’s homeworld, our crew making landfall in a less than conventional manner. We arrive as aliens ourselves on a brightly-coloured world with an almost Star Trek: The Original Series vibe about it. It’s full of life yet slightly off-kilter, a realistic and disturbing portrayal of some kind of reverse Eden: I was left unnerved and frightened by what appears to be coming up. Many new important characters are introduced, and it really feels as though the final episode will totally shatter the world we’ve come to know. The stakes have never felt higher.

Picard says in this ep that “it seems these days that all we do is say goodbye” and this episode indeed features two goodbyes. Sadly, they were robbed of some of their emotional value due to, once again, trying to cram everything into one episode. For the umpteenth time, the Game of Thrones Season 8 model doesn’t work; someone let the writers know.

“Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” was stronger and felt more complete than last week’s showing, and we are being propelled towards what promises to be a truly terrific finale. We are made to face the sickening possibility that we, and our heroes, might be on the wrong side of this battle. Consequently, the sadism and fanaticism on the part of the show’s supposed baddies, the Romulans, is beginning to feel less and less consequential next to the threat that the androids are convincingly portrayed as having the potential to pose. However, the rush to the end robbed many moments of a sufficient sense of gravity. None-the-less, this episode did just enough to nudge a four star review.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Star Trek: Picard S1E8 “Broken Pieces” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

Episode 8, “Broken Pieces”, thrillingly sets up the season finale two-parter. We are told a lot about a secret Romulan sect and why they are so hell-bent on destroying the androids. And the previously alluded to plot within the Federation dramatically shows up again. We are also tantalised by the prospect of visiting Soji’s homeworld, a prospect set-up in episode 7.

Our fellowship is crumbling before our eyes because our mole aboard La Sirena has been found out. But the most compelling aspect of this episode is that we are reminded that the baddies of the show, those fighting against our heroes, themselves do have very legitimate reasons for what they believe in — they don’t want to see the destruction of all life by synthetics, which is portrayed as a frighteningly realistic possibility. The viewer is suddenly, horribly aware that the heroes and synths we have been rooting for might well be on the wrong side. If only our baddies didn’t seem quite so sadistic, we would want to side with them. To facilitate this end, we see a weak, vulnerable side to Hot Sexy Space Elf, A.K.A., Narissa (Peyton List).

To save us from all this crushing bleakness, comedy relief was much appreciated. This week’s turn at playing the joker was Rios (Santiago Cabrera): all the different holograms who “man” ship look like Rios but all have different personalities, and accents. Honestly, goofy but funny.

Demons of the past rear their heads. Rios struggles with the traumatic moment that led to his leaving Starfleet, and Seven of Nine resists the seductive power of the one true ring, that is, the chance to be a Borg queen. Sadly, whilst Rios’ story convinced, enhanced by a powerful pep talk from Picard, Seven’s was played out with insufficient real peril and thus was robbed of any weight it should have had. Picard has returned to form: rushing the conclusion to plot threads and leaving us with no real emotional pay-off.

After the previous three excellent episodes, this felt like a return to inconsequentialism and exposition. However, it zips along so fast, and we’re so involved in the characters and central storyline, that we almost don’t care. This was tightly written, which is meant both as a compliment and as a criticism; “Broken Pieces” felt like a means to an end rather than also being an end in itself, like the second film in a trilogy. And thus, despite its strengths, it was notably weaker than our more recent outings.

Much intrigue and some fascinating plot developments, but in the rush to the season finale, “Broken Pieces” incompletely tells a story of its own, this episode serving more to structurally set up the series ender. Only juicy action is left to paper over the cracks in the incomplete and fragmented plotting.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Star Trek: Picard S1E7 “Nepenthe” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

No sooner than our two storylines had converged at the end of the last episode, the fellowship has now fragmented into what looks like three separate story threads. This episode, “Nepenthe”, sees Picard and Soji escape to a secluded Eden-like planet with rich, almost magically regenerative soil. Here they have a genuinely affecting reunion with two of Picard’s old colleagues from the Enterprise [names withheld to prevent spoilers!]. Their mission: to recover from a trauma of their own in this paradise. The performances from our two guest starts here was powerful and believable; surely the genuine affection and love between these two and Patrick Stewart, going back years, bled through into their performance. The tranquility allows all of our characters to reflect deeply on their lives, and gives Soji space to begin to grapple with her true nature, the nature of reality itself, and who she can trust (if anyone).

Meanwhile, Picard’s protégé/personal body guard, Elnor (or “Legolas in Space”, as I like to think of him), is struggling to stay alive and fight off the Romulans on the Borg Cube. We see a real deepening of his character to counteract the goofiness and moodiness we have seen so far. He’s becoming a great addition to the series.

Our mole onboard the fellowship’s spacecraft La Sirena is beginning to struggle with what they have done and, indeed, were commanded to do almost against their will. Surely not long become their demons consume them.

This was a very exciting episode with no serious flaws, lots happened, and there was no sign of the old problems: development and conclusion of entire backstories within one scene and heavy exposition. Additionally, it turns out that one of the characters creates invented languages, which is something of an area of interest for me (believe it or not: see Tolkien’s A Secret Vice). “Nepenthe” is characterised by deep reflections by our characters as they struggle to come to terms with the stories of their lives. A heart-wrenching, gut-churning episode; possibly the strongest so far, but it has stiff competition from the previous two instalments.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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