What I Want to See: The Fifty Shades Franchise

I kind of doubt that there is much overlap, between World’s Best Media’s audience, and The Fifty Shades audience, but hear me out, ok?

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The final Fifty Shades movie is upon us, and it seems like we may largely be done with this franchise altogether.  I personally don’t care whether or not it gets rebooted, or continued, but if it does, I have an opinion as to what I want to see from it.

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Now, let me be honest, I didn’t read any of the books.  I read a randomly selected page that my wife thought might entice me to read the entire book, and she was very wrong.  I did however go and see the first film with for Valentine’s Day, however many years ago that came out (was it two?  It feels like it was 5, but it’s been a crazy couple of years).  You may be surprised to hear this, but I didn’t think the film was as bad as seemingly everyone else did.  Don’t get me wrong, it was really bad, but there was a shining light.

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Sam Taylor-Johnson, who directed the film, did as good of a job as possible with the combination of source material, and restrictions she was given.  For whatever reason, the studio dictated that she stick fairly rigidly to the dialogue from the novel, and the dialogue in the novel was apparently a complete dumpster fire.  “I’m Fifty Shades of fucked up!” is one of my top 5 least favorite movie lines of all time.

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According to my wife, there is very little description in regards to the visuals of the world, apparently E.L. James didn’t spend much time on setting or anything while typing away on her Blackberry. This allowed Taylor-Johnson to create a pretty interesting visual style.  One of the things that the film lets her play with is visual metaphors, and it enhanced the story immensely.  During the initial meeting with Christian Grey, the main character Anastasia Steele (God! I hate the names of so many fictional characters) is attracted and sexually aroused by him. While the dialogue and acting don’t do a great job of selling that point, there is a moment, immediately after the encounter, where Anastasia walks out of the building into the rain.  Now, this could easily be missed, but water signifies climax throughout the movie.  Later when they’re in the ‘red room,’ as Anastasia succumbs to Christian’s BDSM lifestyle, the camera pans up to a painting of water splashing hard against the rocks.

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I think this film, is similar to the problems that I have with the Star Wars prequels.  They stick to rigidly to dialogue that is not only awful, but also hurts the acting performances.  Had the studio not insisted on staying with the dialogue, then I think that Taylor-Johnson would have made the movie much more watchable.

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Now, that’s all in the past, and on this first go ’round, we got very little in the way of what I would have preferred (probably because I’m not the main audience for it.)  If there is a reboot, or further exploration of the concept, what I’d like to see is something different.  If you watch the movie Shame from 2011, you see an NC-17 film about a sex addict, which is gritty, and realistic, and harsh, but more importantly, it is sexual while not really being sexy.  It showcased Fassbender’s performance, as well as exposing many to a type of sexual behavior that they weren’t previously aware of.  That is what I’d like to see with any future Fifty Shades reboots, or reimaginings or whatever they come up with.  In this series you have a story that many actual BDSM practitioners have called abusive, because the author didn’t know what she was writing about, and very few people in the creative process knew enough to correct it.  Take these characters, adapt the story to conform into a more realistic BDSM relationship, scrap side plots, and dive into the psyche of the two characters, examine the roles within the relationship, show us why it works for these characters, water crashing against the rocks.  We’ve never seen that in mainstream film, and yes it would likely get an NC-17 rating, but if the subject matter, and acting, and pathos are all strong enough, with the “Fifty Shades” name on it, it could be really interesting.

What I Want to See: Chadwick Boseman

Black Panther is coming out next week, and I really wanted to write a What I Want to See in honor of it, but the truth is, that Black Panther as a character was the MVP of the one Marvel movie he’s been in, has had one of the coolest trailers in the MCU, looks like he’s could be the MVP of Infinity War.  As a movie, Black Panther boasts one of the more exciting casts, and crews of any MCU film to date.  Ryan Coogler coming off of Creed to the MCU is an inspired choice. So I didn’t want to do a What I Want to See about Black Panther.  I have faith in this, and What I Want to See, is what they’ve got, I think it’s going to be amazing.

I first saw Chadwick Boseman in 42, as Jackie Robinson, and he was great in that film.  Then a year later, he was James Brown, and I haven’t seen that, but again he looked awesome in it.  Then we got to see him as Black Panther in Civil War, and he stole the show.  This last year, he played Thurgood Marshall in Marshall.

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He’s played 3 men who have been hugely important in the conversation of race over the last 70 years, and one of the most important fictional characters in the same area.  I really only know about these 4 roles, and I already consider Boseman to be a legend.

What I want to see, is Boseman get to play the big two.  The two big names we think of when we think of race in the last 70 years, I want to see him play Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.  I think that he has the acting chops, and I would love to see what he can bring to these two characters, and while it may sound ridiculous, I’d be interested in seeing him do both in the same film.

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I think that it wouldn’t get taken seriously enough, but with two characters like that, two characters who we often think of as Yin and Yang, it would be really interesting to see what one actor can bring to both roles, to juxtapose them through one actor giving two performances.  I think the only man (at least right now) who could do that role, would be Chadwick Boseman.  I think he could give enough nuance to distinguish the two roles, and with make up they could make him look like two different people, and what we’d get would be something bizarre, but potentially really incredible.

We’re in a time where we’re seeing some very creative methods of telling historical stories.  Hamilton casts against historical race in order to show the spirit of America, we’ve seen time travel tell the story of JFK’s assassination and what his legacy may have been in 11.22.63.  We’re ready for something like this, and if you got someone with a really interesting direction style and Chadwick Boseman playing the leading roles, it could be amazing.  That’s what I want to see.

Time Travel in the Show Travelers on Netflix

I want to tell you all about a show that I’ve literally heard no one talking about, but I don’t want to spoil it.  So please bare with me.

The Netflix show Travelers, has some of the most compelling time-travel I’ve seen in a long time.  The premise, is that people are coming back from some far off, terrible future, in hopes of fixing it.  In that regard it’s pretty standard, but everything else really stands out for me.

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The travelers have their consciousness placed in the heads of ordinary people in 2016-2017 (there have been 2 seasons so far), at the moments before they were going to die.  The point of this being, that they’re not killing someone to make room, they’re just borrowing what would otherwise be an empty shell.  Without getting too into spoiler territory, this process doesn’t always workout for them, and that creates a lot of the interesting aspects of the show.  (I really want to tell you, but if I do I’ll be doing you a disservice).

The plot about saving the future, really takes a back seat, to the stories of the characters, who have to adapt not only to a world that they don’t recognize, but to roles and relationships they are thrust into by means of their “host’s” previous life.  One thing I will tell you, is that these characters come from a future in which famine has ravaged their food supply, and so any time a new ‘Traveler’ is brought into the show, they really explore their relationship with food.  It might not sound that interesting, but food, both the experience of tasting, as well as all of the addictive nature of modern food and sugar, show how they aren’t ready for, or able to adjust while eating in front of non-travelers.  It’s a small weakness in their ‘act’ that they all have to perform.

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The show focuses on one team of ‘travelers,’ who work toward individual missions as they are assigned.  One of the things that I find really cool about the team, is that you have a leader, an engineer, a weapons expert, a medic, but also a historian, who has one of the coolest functions.  Essentially, the historian is in charge of remembering all the deaths and events in the area, so that they can go help new traveler’s transition, or look for differences that they may make in the time-line.  Philip, the historian, also has to face the idea that as they change the time-line he becomes less essential, and less helpful to their missions, which creates something of an existential crisis for him.

Ultimately, the characters learning that they can’t just travel back and accomplish their missions without lives interfering becomes the meat of the show.  Each character ends up with a particular set of challenges that were unforeseen from the future, and they have to adjust and keep going.

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I’m only a few episodes into season 2, but the show remains really interesting in this perfect fusion of character and device. What I would suggest to you, is that you watch the first episode, which I consider to be one of the best first episodes I’ve ever seen.  It had me instantly hooked and wanting more.  That being said, I can’t really tell you anything about why I was hooked from the start without spoiling it for you.  I hope you enjoy.

Also, as a side note, and a shameless plug, if you’re looking for time-travel fiction, check out my new time-travel blog, which I’ve been working on since October.

What I Want to See: YA Dystopian Movies

 

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re aware of some of this recent trend in dystopian films, in which a kid is chosen to go against a huge government conspiracy.  Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, you know what I’m talking about.

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I was on board with Hunger Games, I read the books, and saw the movies.  I really liked the books, and thought the movies did a pretty good job translating them to the screen.  They’re not the deepest in movies or books in the world, but after Harry Potter finished up, they helped to fill the hole.

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Then I started reading the Divergent series, and the first couple of books were enjoyable, the third one was terrible, and then I saw the first movie, and realized that I just didn’t care about it.  I haven’t seen the second, and I think there was a third, but apparently the audience fizzled out like I did and so I guess they’re not even going to finish the series in cinematic releases, but instead a made-for-TV movie.

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Then there was the Maze Runner.  Now, I didn’t read the novel, I listened to the audiobook, and if I’m being honest, it wasn’t good.  I thought the story was good, but the dialogue wasn’t good, and I wasn’t sure if it was writing or delivery.  I tried to listen to the second one but gave up half way through.  When the movie came out, I didn’t bother to see it in theaters, just waited until it was on HBO.  I still haven’t seen the sequel which has been available on HBO for a while.

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Ultimately, these series all told the same basic story, big bad government uses kids for entertainment/soldiering/whatever, and one kid decides to defy them.  They’re too formulaic now, and really there isn’t much that’s unique or interesting about them.  They found something that worked, and milked it, and I think now we’re seeing it dry up.

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What I want to see, is good science fiction in this category.  Good stuff targeted to the PG-13 crowd, with new and interesting ideas.  I’m currently reading Ready Player One, which is coming out as a movie in a few months (directed by Steven Spielberg), and it might be what I’m waiting for.  So far, it appears as if the goal is different, and I just hope it isn’t too formulaic.  So far, it seems that corporations and not the government are the bad guys; while it seems to be a competition against a large force, they don’t seem to have a significant nearly insurmountable advantage, and as far as I can tell there are no big hidden secret conspiracies lurking to end the first section (all three of the other franchises are trilogies, and Ready Player One is a stand-alone).  Now, I’m not very far into the book, but I am really hoping this is the one to buck the trend.

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You look at something like The Matrix, and not only did it visually revolutionize film, but the ideas and concepts it portrayed were interesting and new.  You might be able to say Hunger Games (on a much smaller scale did that) but then we saw so many copycats.  What I want to see is another movie that makes us go “oh I never would have thought to do that,” and I want that on a story telling level, visually if possible, and basically in anyways filmmakers can come up with, but I don’t want to know the beats and structure of a film because I saw what it’s knocking off anymore.  This is a problem that is not unique to this genre, but does seem to have gone from height of popularity to almost completely waning in the public eye in record time, and so we need something new!

 

What I Want to See: Doctor Who

As you’re probably aware, Christmas is coming, but what you might not be aware of is that every year on Christmas, Doctor Who releases a Christmas special.  These specials aren’t just goofy Christmas specials like many other franchises might create, but are part of the continuity of the series.  In this particular special, we will see the 12th Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, regenerate into the 13th Doctor who will be played by Jodie Whitaker.

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Whitaker will play the first female Doctor in this show’s 54 year run.  There is some controversy over it, but there is also precedent with other Time Lords (the Doctor’s race) becoming Time Ladies upon regeneration.  It’s really not a big deal.  I promise.  Or at least it shouldn’t be.

The fact that it shouldn’t be a big deal, is actually what I want to see with this show.  If Whitaker follows the trend she’ll be on for about 3 seasons (other than the 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston, all modern Doctors have had 3).  I’m hoping that while the writers are making the character female, and can introduce elements of the female experience, I hope they don’t change fundamentals of the show’s structure in order to pander.

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Doctor Who has romance in many of its storylines, but ultimately the Doctor him/herself is not inherently romantic or driven by these stories.  David Tennant’s tenth Doctor was in love with Rose, and with it came heartbreak and all of those things that romance comes with, but the Doctor stayed focused on saving the world.  Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor had something of a romance with River Song, (spoiler alert she’s his wife) but again, it was secondary to his main story of saving the world.

I will not mind them having flirtations, or even a genuine love story in the 13th Doctor’s story, but the character cannot be defined by any relationship.  There seems to be a tendency in fiction, and perhaps in non-fiction to define people by their relationships, and the Doctor whether he’s a he, or she’s a she, should not be defined by an individual relationship, but rather his or her love for life, and the living.  We get to see the Doctor over the last 10 seasons breaking down as severely over loss of friendship as loss of romantic love, and just as deeply at the loss off a species as that of the loss of a single life.  This is the Doctor’s strength as a character, and there isn’t anything inherently male or female about that (although if written well a female Doctor may shine brighter in this way).

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Lastly, sexuality.  The doctor has mostly been portrayed as heterosexual, but I would argue that this doesn’t seem like a very strict rule at all.  I don’t care, in the inevitable romances that will occur (hopefully in small doses) whether or not the character is engaged in straight or lesbian relationships, as long as it’s about character, and not sticking with continuity, or sending a message.  The companions are where sexual orientation seems to be best displayed, having had some of each, and the Doctor seems to be beyond that.  So I hope that will remain the case when it comes to the 13th Doctor.

 

What I Want to See: Jumanji

When Jumanji came out in 1995, I was eleven years old, and my Aunt Amy and Uncle Mike brought me and my little sister to see it, and it was awesome.  This was possibly the most intense action movie we had seen at that time, and we hadn’t even broken any rules watching it, it was for us!

At the end of the movie, there was a very clear lead in to a sequel, with the board game being found on a beach, and so as it fades to black the whole audience thinks “oh here we go again!”

But this was before it was obligatory that all blockbusters became franchises, and perhaps it wasn’t the box office behemoth I assumed it was, so we never got a sequel.  …Until now!

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Now, you’ve probably seen the trailer for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, starring Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and Dwayne Johnson.  From what I have gathered, I am the only one excited for this film, but that’s because I’m the only one who is right.

Here’s the deal, the original Jumanji, was about a board game which pulled one character into it, and eventually spit all of the world of the game out of it into the real world.  It was pretty cool, but ultimately it was grounded in the real world, and personally I always wanted to see the world of Jumanji.  Then we got the cartoon, and in that we saw the characters of the film go into the game, and it didn’t quite make sense with the continuity but it was still cool.

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, is a video game that sucks four teenagers in, putting them into the bodies of the game’s avatars.  The fact that it’s a video game and not the original board game seems to be a major point of contention for people, but honestly we have Monopoly video games, and Lego video games, and all kinds of video games that might seem redundant or unnecessary, so why not magically possessed adventure games in both formats?

There have been reports that Robin Williams’ character will have left an imprint on the game, which means it falls into the same continuity, and I have to be honest, I’m psyched.  Jumanji is a great concept, and I don’t think they fully actualized it in the first film, in fact I even liked Zathura, which was just space Jumanji.

One of the cool things about this concept, is that it opens up what they can do with Jumanji.  We could see all manners of jungle beasts imagined and real, in a human killing rampage of nature.  There are many different terrains the world of Jumanji can inhabit, and so maybe in this movie it’s just Amazonian style jungle, but there are going to be sequels (if it makes enough money, and it has The Rock, so lets face it, it will).  That’s the great part about the video game avatars, is that we could have the cast for a full trilogy, but not necessarily have the characters be the same throughout.

In addition to wanting a lot of world building, and exploration of that world, I want cameos.  I want Bonnie Hunt, or Kirsten Dunst, or that other kid.  I want this film to be the clear baton passing, and then after that, we get to the new Jumanji franchise.  Kill off Han Solo in the first film, and move on.  That’s what I want to see!

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Doctor Who: An Introduction to the Whoniverse

Doctor Who, is one of my favorite sci-fi shows, and I wanted to write a little about it now, in case there are any non-Who fan’s that might be interested in getting into it.  I think I may be the only one here at World’s Best Media who is a fan of the Doctor, and so I’ll be your guide to the Whoniverse.

First, I want to let you know a few things about Doctor Who.  The name of the show is a joke, the main character is only known by the name “the Doctor” which often prompts new characters to ask “Doctor Who.”  This will be important because if I refer to “Doctor Who,” I mean the show, and if I refer to “the Doctor” I mean the character.

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Doctor Who first aired November 23rd 1963, and continued until 1989 before being canceled.  There was then a 1996 reboot/continuation movie which failed, and finally a series reboot/continuation in 2005, which is currently still going on.

The Doctor is a time-traveling alien from the planet Gallifrey, and a race known as the Time-Lords.  When the show started, episodes in which they traveled to the past were largely educational teaching history, and when they would travel to the future they would teach about science and technology.  Eventually, the show became more or less, just entertainment.

When the first actor to play the Doctor (William Hartnell) became too ill to continue on the show, the producers had to come up with a way of replacing him, which wouldn’t cause too much disruption to the show itself.  Their idea, was that Time-Lords (not referred to as such until later) were able to ‘regenerate’ into a new body.  This over the last 54 years has allowed for multiple actors playing the Doctor to cross paths, and for the show to go through mini soft reboots of the character every time.  The Doctor isn’t entirely the same man, with the same quirks across multiple bodies, which has allowed for actors to play the character differently, and allows it to remain fresh.

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Now, my own knowledge of Doctor Who, mainly focuses on the series starting in 2005, although I have made a point of watching some episodes from each of the previous incarnations.  As of today, we’re on the 12th version of the Doctor (except for one that was retconned in known as The War Doctor), but on this year’s Christmas special we will get the 13th Doctor, and the first female to play the Doctor.  I’ll talk more about her in a “What I Want to See: Doctor Who” which I’m planning to be out sometime later this month.

Last think you should know about the plot and structure, is the TARDIS, which is the Doctor’s time-machine, space-ship, friend, and occasional lover.  It’s the blue police box that you see at Newbury Comics, or on Facebook.  It is essentially an all-powerful vehicle for the Doctor’s personal use.  Also, it’s bigger on the inside.

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Alright, so know you know the idea of the Doctor, and the tenure of the show, but what I want to talk about is the tone of the show.  The show is very much a serialized show, which follows story archs across episodes and seasons, but the tone is not necessarily.  The tone can vary from episode to episode, in a way that is similar to something more like an anthology.  Some episodes are whimsical and silly, like the works of Douglas Adams (Adams wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but also wrote for Doctor Who in the 80’s) or more serious and dramatic, showing off the Doctor’s emotional range, and then there are some very scary horror episodes.

I thought it might be helpful, if I recommended some episodes based on these different breakdowns, so you can get a sense not only of the character, but of the different tonal shifts.  It’s kind of a long list, but I’m covering about 10 years (you’re welcome for not trying to cover 54) worth of TV spanning 4 actors.

So here’s the list:

  • Rose- Season 1, episode 1. This episode serves to introduce a new generation to Doctor Who.  It is a little bit goofy, a little bit dramatic, fast paced, and kind of manages to fit so much of what Doctor Who is into an hour. It also starts us off with Christopher Eccleston who is the Ninth version of the Doctor, as well as introducing us to Rose, whom is his companion.  (The Doctor always has a companion, typically a young woman.)
  • Dalek- Season 1, episode 6. This introduces us to the Dalek, which is a race of armored aliens, which are arguably the quintessential Doctor Who villains.  In this episode we also get to see a combination of the Doctor’s wrath as well as the Doctor’s compassion.
  • Father’s Day- Season 1, episode 8. The reason I’m suggesting this one, is that it goes into 2 things that the show really has a great opportunity to do.  They get to tell intricate time-travel stories which are both using the time travel as a plot device, as well as using it as a genuine part of the story.  Also it’s a really touching story of the redemption of a character who wouldn’t have had one without time travel.
  • The Empty Child, The Doctor Dances- Season 1, Episodes 9 and 10. This is a two part story, and it is simultaneously in the top 5 scariest Doctor Who episodes, and a genuinely heart-warming story.  I can’t tell you too much about it without giving away too much, but if you want an idea of how creepy it is, imagine a young child in 1940’s England with a gasmask stuck on his face asking everyone “Are you my mummy?”  I cannot even do an impression of that voice without my wife getting mad at how creeped out she is!

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  • The Christmas Invasion- Season 2, Episode 0. This is the first episode with David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, and while the plot is somewhat dumb in this episode, it’s a big tonal shift from the previous episodes, and it shows all of the range that David Tennant is going to have as the Doctor. Also it has one of my all-time favorite jokes in the show’s run.
  • Army of Ghosts, Doomsday- Season 2, Episode 12 and 13. Another two part story (Doctor Who loves 2 part stories), is perhaps best watched after having had seasons 1 and 2 fully ingested to appreciate, but there are a lot of memes that you’ll understand better after these episodes.
  • Human Nature and The Family of Blood- Season 3, Episode 8 and 9. This two parter is WWI era, and the Doctor thinks he is a human and not a time-lord.  It shows a huge moral conflict, and some of the more sinister human villains in the show’s run.  This leans on the dramatic/scary side of things.
  • Blink- Season 3, Episode 10. This is a very Doctor-lite episode, and is very much a stand-alone episode, with the only real piece that ever has relevance again being the villains it introduces.  If you’re looking for something scary with an interesting time-travel structure, this is the best episode to start with.  Many people have done lists of Doctor Who episodes, and this is routinely placed as the best single episode, or the best episode to show a non-Who fan to try to show them.  It’s undeniably great.

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  • The Doctor’s Daughter- Season 4, Episode 6. Some of the episodes on this list are cool in a way that can’t fully be explained, and the only thing that I can specifically point to in this episode is the Doctor’s monologue at the end, but it’s an episode on a future planet with a society of people being cloned rapidly, and killed rapidly in a war they don’t even understand.  Honestly, just a cool episode.
  • Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead- Season 4, Episodes 8 and 9. This episode tells the story of 2 time-travelers, the Doctor, and River Song, who meet while heading in opposite directions via time travel.  I don’t want to tell too much about the structure, but at the time that I watched these episodes, this was the most innovative time-travel concept I had seen, and I think still may be.
  • Midnight- Season 4, episode 10. This is another stand-alone horror episode.  I have only watched it once, because whenever my wife and I rewatch the series, she makes me skip over this one, because it creeps her out too much (I think worse than the gasmasks).  It’s about an alien virus which takes over a human host on a resort planet’s ‘excursion’ to a diamond waterfall.  The whole episode basically takes place in a space version of a tour-bus, and if you’re not genuinely creeped out by it, you should get checked out.
  • The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End- Season 4, episode 12 and 13. It wraps up some story-lines, and it gives characters their moment to shine, and is a bigger deal than when Eccleston left (because he didn’t like doing the show).
  • The Eleventh Hour- Season 5, episode 1. This is your introduction to Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor, the newest companion (Karen Gillan), and it’s a pretty cool episode.  It tends to land on the goofier end of things, with the new Doctor making lots of goofy jokes, and with a little more sexual humor (nothing too risqué) than most other episodes.  You may not fall in love with the 11th Doctor in this episode, but maybe you’ll fall in love with Amelia Pond.
  • Vincent and the Doctor- Season 5, Episode 10. Honestly, the ‘bad guy/monster’ in this episode isn’t the highlight, in fact 7 times out of 10 on Doctor Who the monster isn’t the highlight, but in this episode the Doctor and Amelia, meet Vincent Van Gogh, and their interactions with him are amazing examples of character work.

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  • The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang- Season 5, episodes 12 and 13. These two episodes include appearances by nearly every alien race that the Doctor has faced, a really cool time travel structure (this might be the one that trumps the Silence in the Library and The Forest of the Dead), it has huge stakes and the Doctor delivers a kick-ass monologue.  These 2 episodes might be the highlight of Matt Smith as the Doctor.
  • All of Season 6. Matt Smith isn’t a bad doctor, but he comes immediately after arguably the best doctor, and so it takes a little while to fully get on the Matt Smith train.  The 2 part finale of season 5 gets us there, and then season 6 has an over-arching story that is the best season in the shows run.  I can’t really emphasize enough that this whole season is a gem.  You have the doctor thinking he’s a cowboy, you start off the season and end the season in roughly the same place, with something catastrophic happening, and the whole season fills in the blanks of how you get there.  There are guest appearances by Richard Nixon, and one of the creepiest new alien races that the Doctor has to face off against.  Sorry, can’t give you any specific episodes.  I will however, tell you to skip all of season 7 to make up for the abundance of episodes I’m throwing at you.
  • Time Heist- Season 8, episode 5. Does the title not sell you on it?  It’s a time-travel heist film in just an hour! It’s the first on my list featuring the twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi.  That’s all you’re getting.
  • Flatline- Season 8, episode 9. Honestly, just a really cool Twilight Zone style scifi episode, where the concept is the selling point.  Basically, due to dimensional breakdown (like 3D turning into 2D) the Doctor is trapped in his TARDIS, and his newest companion Clara, has to help him get out.
  • The Husbands of River Song- Season 9, episode 13. This ends up being a companion piece to The Silence in the Library and The Forest of the Dead, but I can’t tell you anymore, because of “Spoilers!”
  • Pilot- Season 10, episode 1. This is an episode which introduces us to another new companion, Bill (Pearl Mackie) and it might be the saddest episode, but character-wise it’s incredible.  Bill, a young lesbian woman living in a foster home as a young adult, is just about the saddest and loneliest character the show has.
  • Extremis- Season 10, episode 6. This has some amazing work by both Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie, as well as Matt Lucas who plays Nardole.  Matt Lucas as Nardole plays off as almost a perfect impression of the Doctor, but he’s almost always relegated to manning the TARDIS.  I suspect he was cast because he would make an excellent Doctor if it weren’t for all of the physical toll that the role entails (both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi had to have knee surgery from all of the running.)

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With that, you’ll have an idea of what the show is.  I do recommend watching in its entirety, but if you’re just looking to get an idea and start off before Jodie Whitaker takes over the role, these are my suggestions.

What I Want to See: Trollhunters

 

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You might not have heard of Dreamworks’ animated show Trollhunters on Netflix.  Until I talked to Paul about potentially writing about it on here, I wasn’t aware of anyone I knew who had watched it, other than myself.  But it’s a great show, and I cannot recommend it enough.  I started watching it, because I wanted to watch something that would keep my son’s attention (he was 9 months old when we began season 1) but wasn’t so inane that I would go blank behind the eyes.  So, when I saw the poster on Netflix, and it boasted that it was created by Guillermo del Toro (director of Hellboy 1 & 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim) I thought it might be a good fit for us.

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Trollhunters, is an action adventure cartoon that I think pretty much all ages can enjoy.  It tells the story of Jim Lake Jr. who becomes the first human ever to become a trollhunter, when the previous trollhunter is killed in action.  (These aren’t really spoilers as it’s kind of all revealed in the first 5 minutes of episode one.)  Jim is in high school, and much like other YA fiction, he is thrust into a world that mixes his normal growing up troubles with life and death stakes.  In this way, it’s not too original, but it is fun!

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Trollhunters, thrives in it’s characters.  Jim is less steadfast than a typical Harry Potter kind of protagonist, but is a more believable teen for it, and it makes the call to responsibility even more impressive.  Toby, his best friend, plays on the typical scared side-kick trope, while at the same time being a total bad-ass, which shines through in his ability to help out with Jim’s training, and his own desire to do the right thing.  Blinky and AAARRRGGHH!!! (that’s how IMDb spells it) are my two favorite characters, because they are the trolls who are tasked with helping Jim to become the trollhunter that the good troll community needs him to be.  Blinky is voiced by Kelsey Grammer, and it is endlessly amusing to hear him read lines that seem so silly, with such gravitas.

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So, what do I want to see with Trollhunters?  Well, in order to answer that, I need to explain something.  Jim, is voiced by Anton Yelchin, who died in an accident more than a year ago.  Yelchin had finished recording season one by the time he died, but until recently, I hadn’t realized that he had also recorded (not sure if it’s complete or there is some patchwork with another actor) season two.

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Yelchin does a great job voicing Jim, but I don’t think he has to be the voice.  That is where I come to my point.  I’m glad we get two seasons of Anton Yelchin, but I really hope, that Trollhunters is going where it naturally would have, had Yelchin lived.  His death was tragic, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, but as far as the story is concerned, I don’t want it to shift to reflect his death.

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It’s something that many TV shows, and movies have to deal with, this idea that if someone dies, they have to figure out how to move on with their story, and unfortunately it seems to rarely work out well.  When Heath Ledger died for example, he was working on the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and in order to finish the movie, they recast with Jude Law, Johnny Depp, and Colin Farrell.  Because of the nature of the story, it didn’t seem to have too significant of an effect on the movie (which seemed like it may have been a mess regardless) but look at the other posthumous Ledger movie, The Dark Knight.  Sure, Ledger had finished The Dark Knight, and so that movie remains untarnished by the flaws of a mid production death, but as a franchise, what would the third film have been had Ledger lived?  It’s something I’ve wondered since before The Dark Knight Rises was released.

The point is this, Anton Yelchin is great in this role, but ultimately, we don’t have a Ledger situation, where recasting seems sacrilegious, we have a voice over of a teenage character, and there are a lot of ways of adjusting to a new actor, without being disrespectful to Yelchin, and without having to shift the storyline, or the tone of the story.

Check out Trollhunters on Netflix if you watch the first episode, you’ll get the feel for the show, and I think you’ll fall in love with it!  Season two comes out on December 15.

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What I Want to Happen: Pixar

 

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I’m a big fan of Pixar’s films.  When Toy Story came out, I was 11 years-old, and I’ve kind of grown up with them.  What’s been nice, about growing up with Pixar, is that they had such an amazing record (still have a good record).  After Toy Story came A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2, neither of which was as deep as Toy Story, but certainly weren’t vapid either.  After Monster’s Inc., and Finding Nemo was The Incredibles, and it lived up to the name.  I was twenty years old, and watching Pixar do the unofficial version of Fantastic Four that we have still yet to get, but totally deserve.

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After The Incredibles, we got Cars.  Now, Cars is an article all in itself, but to try to quickly summarize what I have to say about Cars is: I personally think it’s the weakest Pixar original (it’s a total knock off of Doc Hollywood) which pains me, because George Carlin is one of my favorite comedians/celebrities of all time and he voiced Fillmore; it is the pivot point film between a Disney/Pixar partnership, and Disney owning Pixar, and was used as part of the negotiations; and so while I think it’s the weakest, in a lot of ways I still think it’s better than a lot of other films, and it’s important.

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After the pivot of Cars, a reinvigorated Pixar went into what I think was their renaissance creating Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 (the latter 2 were nominated for Best Picture Oscars, the former each getting Best Screenplay nominations).  These 4 films, should definitely be mentioned when discussing the best animated films of all time.

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Then after the renaissance came the other shoe.  Part of Pixar’s agreement with Disney, was that they would create sequels to their most successful box-office films.  After Toy Story 3, we got Cars 2.  Now personally, I think Cars 2 is better than most will give it credit for, but it is certainly a departure from the depth of the four preceding films.  We’ve since got Brave (an attempt at a deep dive which falls a little flat), Monster’s University (a serviceable prequel), Inside Out (the only foray into greatness since TS3), The Good Dinosaur (akin to the A Bug’s Life, in it’s fine but doesn’t match the glory of the prior film), then Finding Dory (again, it’s a serviceable sequel, but nothing special) and Cars 3 (I haven’t seen it yet).

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The reason that I wanted to do this article, is that in couple of weeks Pixar is going to release their next film, which will be an original, entitled Coco.  I really hope Coco is good, but I’m worried, because it looks like Pixar’s amalgamation of two recent animated films Kubo and the Two Strings mixed with The Book of Life.  Now, I’m sure it is not a knock-off of those two films, but I hope it’s dissimilar enough.  I want to see them really be creative and deep again, and this may have the potential, but I’m nervous.  The film’s done though, so I want to talk about the future past Coco.

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Pixar has five films they’re currently working on, but only 2 have been officially announced; The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4.  Personally, I don’t want too many sequels from Pixar, since their strength has really been in originals, the exception of course being the Toy Story films, so while I thought TS3 wrapped things up nicely, I’m keeping a very open mind on this.  As for the Incredibles 2, the original warranted a sequel more than any other Pixar original, and the first came at the beginning of the superhero era in film, so to check in with the family now with how the genre has changed is exciting.

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But ultimately, I want more originals.  One of the things that really has been great about the Pixar films that have been amazing were 2 things, originality, and character connection.  I think people have misread the formula, I think they see Toy Story and think “kids like toys, lets make a movie about toys” or “kids like animals and adventure, let’s make a movie about animals and adventure (Up),” but the reason why we really fell in love with those movies is that Woody learns that he has to share Andy’s love, or that Ellie got to live the adventure she always wanted, and Carl finally did too.  (BTW, I’m tearing up just thinking about Carl and Ellie, can you say that about any other 5 minute relationship in film history?)

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If Coco for all of it’s “Dia de Muerta” makeup, which totally does look cool, doesn’t have some strong clinching emotional connection, it’s going to fall flat.  That’s what I want to see, I want them to be the master manipulators that we all know they can be, and tug on our heartstrings.  This is less likely to happen in sequels, because it seems to be something forged in the examination of new characters, although each Toy Story movie so far has managed it, that’s because each time the relationship with Andy, the Buzz and Woody relationship, and the relationship with their purpose in life altered to examine it.  I hope the 4th manages to continue this, I hope that The Incredibles turns from Bob’s insecurity about domestic life, and how he loves his wife and kids, to him now knowing who he is again, being able to guide them more. I guess don’t have a clue what direction I want the Incredibles to head in, but I don’t want rehashing of the same basic emotional connections the way that I think some of their lesser sequels have.

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Ultimately, I suppose the sequels aren’t going to stop, but let’s take ratio which seems to be a little more than half of the recent movies have been sequels, and flip it.  Do sequels that are organic, but not necessarily just because they sell well.  Pixar currently has an amazing legacy in the making, and I think there is a lot of promise assuming they make some adjustments.  Look at their parent company Disney’s legacy.  Disney, love them or hate them, has had an incredible run for 80+ years, and although there have been some lulls, ultimately they’re doing great.  But one thing they do, they have places to put their lesser sequels.  Sure, they’ll make the Cinderella 10: Back In The Saddle, but it’s straight to video.  This is the way to make cash-grab movies, and not tarnish your legacy.

Lastly, I want to say, I’m going to continue to see every Pixar film until they have thoroughly defeated my spirit, and I don’t think they’re even close yet.  Their worst film is still better than most, I just want to see them return to being better than EVERYONE.

Written by Michael Cole