Star Trek: Discovery (Episode 11) – “The Wolf Inside”

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS for the most recent episode of the sci-fi series streaming on CBS All Access. 

We are still in the Mirror Universe, where the black/gold uniforms are FAB, killing your fellow Terran officers is commonplace, and Saru’s race are kept as nameless slaves. Capt. Lorca is able to withstand torture and STILL keep it together. Here the Klingons, Vulcans, and few other races (who get new looks) are the resistance, fighting against the Terran Empire. This ep starts out a BIT slow w/ a voiceover from Michael Burnham, who is complaining re: how she has to struggle to get through the days. We see her and Tyler cuddling and talking together; he refers to her as his “tether.” What did you think about this? Was Tyler being TOO needy? Or is this a sensitive and romantic thing to say? 

Sarek is called a “prophet” by the rebels, which includes Voq (called “the Fire Wolf”). As Sarek (who has a goatee a la Spock in the TOS Mirror Universe) does the mind meld w/ Burnham, we see him become fascinated w/ the alternate world he glimpses. He declares that Burnham means no harm. When Tyler sees Voq, he gets flashes back to his past, then attacks Voq w/ no provocation. Voq wonders how Tyler knows the “forgotten tongue” of his people (the Klingons). This fight isn’t that well done; it also comes off as awkward and no one intervenes to assist Voq.

As MANY of us knew, the albino Klingon warrior, Voq, and the human, Lt. Ash Tyler, are the SAME person! Actor Shazad Latif played BOTH parts, too, as others suspected. (Latif ‘s middle name is “Javid” and the actor recently explained that “Iqbal” is his  Pakistani father’s first name). I thought Latif did VERY well in this ep, incl. w/ the Klingon language (which a linguist on Facebook noted has sounds found in Arabic and Urdu, the main language of Pakistan). 

What did you think of Tyler’s big reveal to Burnham? I was really hoping for more! I was expecting her to kill, or at least shoot, Tyler/Voq right away. After all, he was acting ;ike he loved her. I liked how Latif was able to do the quick, yet subtle, shift from Tyler to Voq at various points in this ep. 

The final reveal- Michele Yeoh is back (YAY)- was rather unexpected! It turns out that the mysterious “Emperor” looks exactly like Capt. Georgiou. How will this affect Burnham (who saw her first captain as a a VERY close friend/mentor)? This show keeps on getting better and better! 

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Star Trek: Discovery (Episode 10) – Top 10 Moments

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS for Episode 10 (Despite Yourself) streaming on CBS All Access. 

10) Burnham (Sonequa-Martin Green- getting better w/ time) explains how the Terran Empire works, her description echoing what’s going on in modern-day U.S. (w/ the resurgence of white nationalists). 

9) In the Mirror Universe, Tilly (Mary Wiseman- nerdy/quirky/funny) has a few nicknames (incl. “Capt. Killy”)- LOL!

8) The Discovery (and its crew) go through a makeover to fit into their new surroundings. I liked the black and gold colors, esp. the bustier Tilly wears (hey, it’s great to see a woman w/ curves in the media these days).

7) Lorca (Jason Issacs) wears a leather jacket (V cool) and bloodies himself up (ouch!) to play the prisoner role.

6) Lorca speaking in a Scottish accent (a call-back to Chief Engineer Scotty from TOS) during the call w/ a Mirror Universe ship. 

5) Tyler (Shazad Latif) suffers (another) ep of PTSD while out on a mission, BUT it rescued by Burnham. 

4) L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) and Tyler face-off (and nearly kiss- ewww) during their argument in the brig. L’Rell says a Klingon prayer, which deeply upsets Tyler, BUT fails to activate his sleeper-agent personality. This (almost) confirms a  V popular fan theory- Tyler and Voq are the same! 

3) Culver explains to Tyler that his body was modified, incl. his his bones and internal organs. Ooooh, and his mind was changed, too! 

2) Tyler snaps Culver’s neck in sick bay, BUT is the doc really gone for good? (FYI: No, b/c actor Wilson Cruz has hinted that his story is NOT over yet.)

1) The fight between Connor (Sam Vartholomeos) and Burnham in the turbolift is really well-done (shout-out to this ep’s director, Jonathan Frakes, who MANY of us loved in TNG).

Carol (2015) starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, & Kyle Chandler

This film was an awards show darling a few years back, BUT I didn’t get around to seeing it until last week (on Netflix). The film (made for less than $12 million) received a 10 min. standing ovation at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival -WOW! The woman who wrote The Price of Salt– Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Two Faces of January, Strangers on a Train, etc.)- was a friend (later in life) to the screenwriter of Carol, Phyllis Nagy. The Price of Salt was inspired by a blonde woman in a mink coat who ordered a doll from Highsmith when she was working as a temporary salesgirl in the toy section of Bloomingdale’s in New York City during the 1948 Christmas season.

Director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven; HBO’s miniseries Mildred Pierce) has a deep interest in stories w/ strong women and unlikely love. His style was inspired by Douglas Sirk, who was known for “women’s pictures” (Imitation of Life, Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, etc.) Carol is quite an effective film w/ regard to its look: period costumes and hairdos (wigs), musical score (by Carter Burwell, frequent collaborator of the Coen brothers), beautiful cinematography (by Edward Lachman), and thoughtful directing style. Carol was shot on Super 16 mm film to resemble the look and feel of photographic film from the late ’40s/early ’50s. There is shooting through windows and using reflection.

What I found lacking was the dialogue; I found out that some other viewers felt the same. I expected more deep conversations between the two leading characters, 21 y.o. clerk, Terese Belivet (Rooney Mara- wide-eyed yet wise beyond her years), and 30-something housewife, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett). However, it wasn’t hard to relate to Terese, who feels uneasy and unsophisticated when hanging out w/ Carol (w/ her fur coat, jewels, and manicured red nails). Terese wants to work as a photographer; she is more of an observer, letting life happen to her.

Carol is a BIT of a mystery to the viewer, as well as to Terese. It’s obvious to viewers that Carol deeply loves her young daughter, Rindy. The character of Carol was inspired by Virginia Kent Catherwood (1915-1966), a Philadelphia socialite 6 years older than Highsmith with whom she had a love affair in the ’40s. Catherwood lost custody of her daughter after a taped recording of a liaison she had in a hotel was used against her. Carol is risking much by falling in love with Terese, BUT she can’t help it, as she tells Abby (Sarah Paulson). The woman who seems to know Carol best, Abby had a much bigger role before the film was edited, Paulson said in interviews after the film was released. Abby is someone that I wanted to know more about; she isn’t afraid to assert herself in a male-dominated world.

The men in the story are NOT evil, BUT they are clueless. Terese’s long-time boyfriend, Richard (Jake Lacy), seems like a decent guy, though there isn’t much interest on her side. Richard is planning/saving for a big trip to Europe after they get married. I thought it spoke volumes when Terese gently refused to go to over to his family’s home on Christmas day. Danny (John Magaro), the young newspaper reporter who hits on Terese, turns out to be a supportive friend in time. Even Carol’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Harg (Kyle Chandler), is NOT painted as an all-out villain. I thought the actor did a fine job w/ the role, esp. in the more quiet moments (notice the pained expressions on his face). I think that Harg loved Carol, BUT he didn’t realize just how far she had gone from him (emotionally). When they were married, her life was all about him (as was expected of a housewife of Carol’s status).

The Magnificent Seven (2016) starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, & Ethan Hawke

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his modern vision to a classic story in MGM and Columbia Pictures’ re-imagining of The Magnificent Seven (based on Seven Samurai). With the town of Rose Creek under the control of evil robber baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), the desperate townspeople (“simple farmers”), led by young widow Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns: warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), card playing Joshua Farraday (Chris Pratt), former Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Bible-quoting bounty hunter Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), East Asian knife fighter Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee- a star in his native South Korea), wanted outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo- a Mexican actor), and young Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). As this motley crew prepare the town for the violent showdown w/ Bogue and his (many) hired men, these mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.

Right off the bat, we realize that Bogue is a cartoonish villain, unlike Eli Wallach’s bandit leader in the original. Bogue shoots a farmer, Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer), who stands up to him outside the town church. That’s NOT even a smart bad guy move, as the reviewers on What the Flick!? said. Don’t look for much characterization in this movie, though it’s nice to see Denzel and Hawke’s chemistry onscreen many years after Training Day. I wanted to know more re: how they were connected, aside from one scene. I thought Haley Bennett did well; her character ends up fighting (w/ the Seven; in the original, it was a young Mexican man from the town.

The cast is diverse, which has a contemporary edge, as Mark Kermode noted. Vasquez repeatedly calls Faraday “huero;” Faraday asks what it means, but receives no reply. It’s a Mexican racial slur meaning “whitey.” Considering the ethnic make up of the Seven in 1879, the fact that this is the only racial slur directed at any one of the Seven during the entire film is somewhat of an anachronism. The two former Confederates (Faraday and Robicheaux) and African American Chisholm would likely have at least some animosity. Horne who has taken “300 Comanche scalps” would certainly make Red Harvest feel wary. D’Onfrio (who also worked earlier w/ Hawke) is playing an eccentric, over-the-top character, yet pulls it off so well that you want to know more. The way he speaks is so unusual, too. As for the Asian, every race looked down on them at this time in US history! However, the men’s mutual respect for each other as fighters may go some way to explain lack of racial tension.

I’m NOT a fan of Chris Pratt; the jokes he is given (mostly) fall flat and NOT that funny. In moments, his way of talking and attitude comes off as TOO modern (as Jeremy Jahns observed). As for Pratt’s screen presence and charisma factor, sorry, BUT I fail to see it. Fuqua cast him in the Steve McQueen role, BUT he just doesn’t measure up. I don’t see how this actor keeps getting big roles! I applaud him for losing weight/getting healthier after age 30. I heard that he and Denzel became quite friendly on the set; maybe Pratt picked up some tips from the veteran actor. We can hope, right?

This film embraces cliches and the typical things you expect from the Western genre. The action here is bigger, louder, and longer (in part to the incorporation of the Gatling gun in the third act). OK, I was NOT expecting that, which made the stakes higher and created even more danger for the heroes and the townspeople. Aside from the action, one of the reasons to see this movie is its music. Fuqua explained that James Horner’s team visited him on set in Baton Rouge, one month after the composer’s accidental death, to deliver the completed score. Horner liked the script so much that he composed the entire score during pre-production (WOW)! Almost each time there is a shot of Vasquez, we hear a reused cue from Horner’s score for The Mask of Zorro (1998). I knew this sounded familiar, then saw this bit of info on IMDB. From the moment when Faraday gets his horse and rides away, there are some beats from the original movie’s theme song, but with different instruments. In the closing credits the entire original theme song is heard.

There are some great wide shots in this film (which you can see on Amazon Prime). It aims for entertainment, NOT critical acclaim. It’s got some nice moments, BUT I expected more. There are a few lines (of Denzel’s) that I thought were quite fitting for the genre and his character. He does a fine job (as usual); he has an all-black costume, yet plays it cool (restrained), as Yul Brynner did. We eventually learn that Chisholm wants revenge against Bogue b/c of what happened years ago to his family. Finally, Emma gets to kill the man who took her husband from her. Only three of the Seven survive the fighting: Chisholm, Vasquez, and Red Harvest- this may be subversive (as Kristy Lemire said).

Re-watching Top Rated Episodes of Black Mirror (Seasons 1 & 2)

Season 1: Episode 3

The Entire History of You 

“O beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on,” the diabolical Iago warns insecure new husband, Othello, in Shakespeare’s tragedy. In this ep of the British sci-fi drama series, Liam (Toby Kebbell), suspects that something more than just a fling before they met went on between his wife, Fi (Jodie Whitaker, the next Doctor Who) and her old friend, Jonas (Tom Cullen from Downton Abbey). Not unlike Othello (a military man), Liam (a lawyer) seeks justice. Liam almost violently demands that Fi rewind her memory chip (“grain”), so that he can see exactly when and what happened w/ Jonas. Liam doubts the paternity of his baby daughter, though a few astute viewers noticed that her eyes are blue (like Jonas’); both Liam and Fi have brown eyes.

Though this ep (like almost every ep of this show) has some element on futuristic tech, at the crux is the (deteriorating) marriage between Liam and Fi. Since he keeps replaying moments of his life, Liam is socially awkward and insecure (perhaps more so than Fi’s friends at the dinner party). We all know folks like this, right? Jonas (perhaps named after the main character in The Giver) is a catalyst; he holds the memories that could unlock the truth. Liam’s obsession and jealousy drives him to attack Jonas in his own home, then force him to erase all memory of Fi. What did you think of the ending? Did Liam pull out the grain b/c his (positive) memories were too painful? Or did he want to simply erase Fi b/c of her betrayal?

The proposed film version, which is being put together at studio Warner Bros via Robert Downey Jr’s Team Downey production company… is set in the near future, and it will centre on a widower who uses similar technology to reconstruct his relationship with his dead wife until he unwittingly uncovers a vast conspiracy.

-The Guardian

[1] While I enjoyed seeing the worst of humanity being magnified by the satire of the previous episodes, here it was done with sense of humanity – a heart rather than a sneer. The relationship drama is quite engaging and he use of the technology seamlessly becomes part of that.

[2] What makes this episode so painful, is that we witness the end of a once loving relationship, in all its sad, pathetic and all too human frailty and weakness. The technology that seemed so useful and essential now becomes a curse and enhances our cruel nature. 

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Season 2: Episode 4 

White Christmas 

This is the Christmas special (yet NOT cozy and comfy like a typical one) of Season 2 in 3 acts, all of which feature American TV icon, Jon Hamm.  On IMDB, it’s noted that this episode uses a similar concept as Inception (which I haven’t seen yet), layering realities making the viewer question if what the character is experiencing is actually real or not. We see a kitchen in a cabin where Matt (Hamm) is preparing dinner for himself and Potter (Rafe Spall), the nearly-silent man w/ whom he’s been living for 5 yrs. Matt tries to draw his companion out w/ his warm tone and friendly manner. Potter is very reluctant to talk, so Matt tells him about his past.    

You’ve heard of the PUA (pick-up artist) culture, right? In the first act, Matt was part of a futuristic version of this, helping socially awkward young men get a date or simply hookup. These types of coaches rely on cheap pop psychology and think they can read people’s minds. One of Matt’s clients, Harry, meets a dark-haired “outsider” woman, Jennifer (Natalie Tena from Game of Thrones) at a holiday party. At first, he’s comforted by the fact that Matt (and a group of other men) are virtually there (“inside my head”) to help him out. Later, as the night goes on, Jennifer misinterprets Harry’s words and moves much faster than he expected. At her apt, Harry learns (too late) that she does have voices in her head, and wants to commit suicide with him! Horrified, Matt and the other men watch as Harry is poisoned by a drink that Jennifer pours down his throat. When Matt’s wife finds out about this event, she blocks him, then leaves w/ their baby girl.

The first guess Potter makes about Matt’s occupation is “a marketing person.” This is a reference to his character in Mad Men, who works at an ad agency. In the second act, a young woman named Ash (Oona Chaplin- also from Game of Thrones), has her consciousness (“cookie”) extracted and put into a small egg-shaped machine which will run her home. However, this cookie is very disturbed by her new situation, thinking that she’s alive and real (though considered “only code”). Matt’s job is to break down this cookie’s resistance (torture is a word some critics/viewers used), so that she will perform the duties that she was removed for in the first place. Is this “slavery,” as Potter declares w/ disgust?

In the final act,  Joe Potter’s life story is finally revealed! He was a regular guy (though maybe w/ a drinking problem) who loved his gf, Beth, who became pregnant suddenly. She was distraught about this fact, which confused and saddened Joe. (It’s rare to see a modern drama tackle such controversial issues such as abortion and paternity rights.) Beth blocked Joe, w/o much discussion, yet decided to keep the baby. Joe became obsessed w/ knowing anything re: his child, even driving each Christmas day for 5 yrs to the remote cabin the the woods where Beth spent time w/ her father. This little girl was also blocked, since she was the offspring of Beth, until Beth died suddenly in a train crash. Joe went back to the cabin, saw the girl, who looked East Asian (so NOT his child)! He realizes that it was Beth’s married co-worker, Tim, who was the real father. Tim was in the background, or side of the screen, in several scenes (BUT you won’t notice until you see this ep twice). Joe went in the cabin, very distraught, and ended up hitting Beth’s elderly father on the head- killing him. May, the girl, was hiding upstairs; she later walked out into a blizzard and died (awww). Joe was captured, BUT refused to talk until he met Matt (who was helping the police get a full confession). Well, Joe’s cookie talked, as the real him was in a jail cell. Matt is released from his sentence, though he is blocked (from everyone)- whoa! He won’t be able to have basic human interactions. 

[1] The idea of cookie is appalling. I always believe that physical existence is not the way to describe a person-human beings are their memories and minds. …It is just utterly cruel, while this episode apparently succeeded in demonstrating how technology can dehumanize people. 

[2] The episode really makes you think, its such a chilling experience. Charlie Brooker really does create some crazy worlds.

[3] The most disturbing thing, in my opinion, is how easy the technicians are able to accelerate the time for the clones, which are not really human, but react like ones: suffering, getting crazy, locked for the eternity in an egg…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews