Jack Ryan (Season 1) Review by Case Wright


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There are two types of streaming television series: Get a sitter and watch in rapt silence with your SO and friends and Elliptical and/or Hangover Television.  Jack Ryan is in the latter category.  It’s a solid: NOT BAD.   Ok, it was a little weird seeing Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) put Osama Bin Laden’s AK-47 in a Jello Mold, but I thought it was a nice call back.  JK!

Jack Ryan has been a staple for nerds who like action for decades.  Jack Ryan is a data analyst badass who defeats terrorism and rogue commies, in other words, fictional.  He’s been in countless books, films, and video games.  The only other character that gets this much media has to use The Force.  In this iteration, Carlton Cuse of “Lost” fame takes a crack the characters.

Jack Ryan is a young Marine Vet turned CIA officer with PTSD.  He is teamed up with Greer who in the books and previous iterations was a tough talking Admiral with shitty dialogue; whereas, in this version, Greer’s a down and out muslim CIA officer whose career is in decline after killing a Pakistani asset.  They are on the hunt for the big bad: Sulieman.

Sulieman is the product of the American intervention in the Lebanese civil war in 1986, which…checks out.  He is hell bent on causing all kinds of mayhem in America and abroad.  They make a big show about how he was treated badly throughout his life-  Boo hoo.  I guess it was supposed to make him more human. I thought it made him really really whiny.  So what, you didn’t get your dream job that gives you the right to blow everybody up?!

The big question most of my readers have: Did John Krasinski – Jim- have a passable performance as a super spy?????  KINDA. He was pretty close at times, but was he held back by some purposely slowed down plot points.  I will get to the derpy derp moments later, but really the season should’ve been 6 episodes instead of 8 because there were too many contrivances, which inhibited John’s performance.  I have to write that he was in fact believable.   I did not know what to expect, but he delivered a good performance.

What they got right:

Sleepless nights with PTSD and drinking too much.  They portrayed that spot on.  I thought, I’ve had those late nights.  Ok, Pass!

The SEAL/Ranger team: I’ve known many Special Operators over the years and they are all real salt of the Earth types.  They played those matter of fact tough guys perfectly. Ok, Pass!

The inherent turpitude of civilian government officials: Very good, they’re all presumptive Dirtbaggus Americanus.  Ok, Pass!

The director building suspense? Yep, the direction was done quite well.  No complaints.

What was so very dumb?  NO F#@#!NG Way!!! NFW!!!! NFW!!!

1.  They portrayed Jack Ryan as dealing PTSD, giving him pause to shoot his weapon.  I get that, BUT he’s still a Marine.  There’s a scene where he makes the decision to shoot and misses by a mile just so they could have fight scene later.  This is just dumb.  Marines are ALL crackshots.  If you are in a Marine’s line of fire and he’s got a clear shot, you’re dust.  When you see it, you’ll roll your eyes.

2.  There’s a terrorist strike by Sulieman and he claims responsibility.  They show his face being plastered on all television networks. He’s on tv more than Anderson Cooper. Then, with no face disguise, he’s NEVER recognized.  We’re not talking just one time, but FIVE times at least.  His face would’ve been burned in everyone’s memory.  It was just dumb,  lazy, and contrived to keep the villain the in the action.

3.  A CIA Officer meets Sulieman’s wife and he just lets her walk away the same day as a major terror attack: NFW! Anyone who said that they knew an Osama equivalent would be sequestered and interrogated immediately, but it was obvious that they needed to pad the plot to squeeze three unnecessary episodes for story arc.

4.  There’s a duo who are drone pilots that are just sort of shoehorned into the story for no reason at all.  I couldn’t even figure out the message if drones were supposed to be good or bad.  I left thinking… Man, drones work really well.  Then, one of the drone pilots gets all guilty about a mistargeting incident and flies to Syria because ya know Active Duty Soldiers just get to go anywhere they like on leave…. NFW!!!!!!! Just think about it…we shouldn’t just get to go wherever we like.  It’s dangerous for us and could lead to a Soldier getting compromised.  NFW!

5.  There’s a plot point where a doctor becomes aware of a biological threat and just sends an email.  WHAAAA?!  She would be calling everyone and their brother to report that because she’s supposed to be smart.

Is it worth watching?

Yes, yes it is.  It’s got real problems in terms of story holes, but my hope is that Carlton Cuse learns from this.  He can DM me if he likes.  I’ll consult or script doctor for a very reasonable rate.  Jack Ryan is great for watching on the Elliptical at the gym or if you’re hungover or something.  It is NOT at this time get a babysitter and everyone be quiet television, but it is …. fun.

 

“How It Ends” A Netflix Film Reviewed By Case Wright – Some Spoilers


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How It Ends is a horror/thriller from Netflix and if you don’t watch, Netflix will probably make you.  The story begins with Will, an up and coming lawyer who is seeing the ultrasound of his soon to be son with beloved Samantha. Will is sweet, but the least manly man to ever unmanly.  He’s wound tight, nervous, and hyper-insecure.  Will needs to get Sam’s father Tom (Forest Whitaker) to give his blessing so Will and Sam can wed.  Will flies from the greatest city on Earth- Seattle to a totally ok City of Chicago to see Tom.

We meet Tom and his wife.  Tom is everything Sam is not.  Tom was a career Marine, manly, confident, and determined.  During the dinner, Tom does everything, but say to Will- You are a wimpy worthless un-man. Tom’s response is both whiny and defensive.  It’s just all kinds of awful.  Then, the power goes out nationwide with F-22s buzzing around Chicago AND all communications are down as well nationwide.  Tom asks if Will rise to the occasion and road trip to Seattle to find/rescue Sam.

I know, I know… this sounds like Taken et al, but it’s not.  It becomes a Father (in-Law) and Son survival story and we watch Will become a Man.  They leave in Tom’s Cadillac and hit the road to Seattle.  Immediately, they find that they cannot stay on the main roads to get there because rednecks try to steal their car at the first rest stop and then an escaped convict tries to murder them.  This is within the first half hour of this very action packed show and we still don’t know what caused the catastrophe.  We get hints, but it’s not Aliens …. I don’t think.  Frankly, I’m still not totally sure of all of the details of the disaster even now.

They decide to stay off the main roads and team up with a teen who has mechanical skills.  Along the way, people are trying to murder them for gas and supplies.  The teen that goes with them becomes part of Will and Tom tribe for a short time and has to kill to protect her new tribe.  Unfortunately, this is too much for the teenager to accept and she abandons Will and Tom to find her way forward alone.  It’s a very accurate depiction of societal breakdown.  During Katrina, towns setup armed checkpoints to prevent looting and mayhem.  I had friends in Mississippi during Katrina and they did exactly that.  They needed to shut ingress and egress from their communities to survive and they did so.  The communities acted like a tribe would.

Will has to learn how to shoot, drive and shoot, do a chest-tube, read people, give up trust, and murder.  We watch him change from a spineless nerd to a confident leader who will readily kill to protect his tribe.  During Will’s transformation, the tribal bond between Will and Tom becomes as strong as steel.   It’s a story that gets to the very foundation of what family does and what it means to be part of a tribe.  The moment the lights go out, we will go from Facebook likes to being real tribal humans again.

When Will gets to Seattle, it’s heartbreaking.  Seattle is totally destroyed….sniff.  It just gets you. Even the Clink…The Home of my Beloved Seahawks is gone.  THE PAIN, THE PAIN!  It’s like 2015 all over again! Will’s beloved is gone, but she left a note for her coordinates.  Therefore, Will has to go back on the road to find her and save her from whomever.

Will finds Sam with a neighbor Randy who is at his mountain lodge getaway.  Randy is the epitome of our current society. He is a wealthy-techie-know-it-all-socially-awkward-creep who thinks that all of his thoughts are facts.  He believes that in this new society he will continue to be on top and he tries to take Sam as his own.  Not so fast, the world has changed- sorry the power was down forever so no more facebook updates for you.  Life has reverted back to a tribe-based system and Randy is left behind literally into dust.

I would recommend this film because it has tremendous suspense and dares to show us what we’ve lost trading our friendships for likes and retweets.  You never really know what caused the disaster because that is not the story.  The story is about the immediate reemergence of tribal life and how it enables people to determine rapidly who is a friend and who is a foe.  In essence, the film challenges us to see a possible positive to this new reality.  People are closer and snakes like Randy are easily identified and remedied for the good of the tribe.  We still survive, but we have to do it as human beings.

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story, A review with the spoilers that you deserve! By Case Wright


 

GO SEE THIS MOVIE! I don’t remember when Star Wars came out, but I do remember when Empire did and I loved it.  Yes, there were some deeper themes to these movies, but at their heart they were fun like a beach read.  We, the fans, have made these films into something they never were serious think pieces.  I just saw a youtube video where a guy was trying to describe the “correct” routes Han would have to take through the Kessel Run. Give it a rest!

This movie did what the last 6 have failed to do: Entertain.  Rogue One was a melancholy piece of trash about sending an email on a vhs tape.  BORING.  The rest are mind-numbingly painful experiences that are determined to take themselves so seriously that I have had more fun reviewing license agreements for my latest Turbo Tax software.  I really don’t care about Rey or the Ugly Gloomy Kid Kylo Ren who failed to get any of Han’s good looks.  If I were Han, I would have called up Maury Povich about that kid.

This movie did what it was supposed to do first: entertain.  It’s like the other movies never bothered to put that basic principle into the writers’ room.  Ron Howard really did a great job with the film and Alden Ehrenreich really succeeded in capturing a pre-cynical, but still cocky Han.  It could be that I also liked this story because Han reminds me the most of myself: edgy, cocky, wise-cracking, iconoclast, with devastating good looks.

The story even opens uniquely without any moody sad bullshit. Instead, it opens with some text, the title card, and Han driving away fast and furious, and a bit bloodied.  There’s no everyone’s perfect and noble blah blah blah.  Within 30 minutes, you are transported to a high-stakes futuristic train robbery that if it had a couple tumbleweeds and player piano, it would have been a great Western.

Han begins his quest because he loses his love Emilia Clarke.  Han between you and me: you gotta lock that down.  Other than Emilia, everyone else in the universe is gross and scaly even pretty people make ugly kids (see above) there must be radiation in this galaxy far far away or some such shit.  Han figures that if he does enough smuggling and heists he’ll get enough cash, to buy a ship and get Emilia Clarke out of the hellhole from whence she came. It doesn’t quite work out the way he plans, but you see a great character arc as Han become more cynical and savvy as the rogue we will eventually love.

As he is going on his big heist, we watch his friendship develop with Chewy, Lando, and most of all the Millenium Falcon which comes across as a character herself.  Most of the critics who have done middling reviews seem to focus on the box office, but unless you’re a shareholder of Newscorp or an accountant at 20th Century fox, why do you care?!  Another bizarre critique is that it’s too fun or not melancholy enough as Rogue One.  Okay, I have solution for the people who don’t think this amazingly well-done feature isn’t sad enough for them:  Go see this film, then shortly thereafter do a search for political twitter and then click show threads or just look up one of your hollywood heroes and count the indictments.

 

 

Altered Carbon, Book Review by Case Wright


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I grew up loving pulpy detective stories of the 40s.  Sam Spade and The Thin Man were my heroes from another time.  They dealt in visceral reality and tarnished ideals, but still meted justice to the deserving.  However, because of the mores of the time period, the more explicit side could only be implied.

“Altered Carbon” takes the Gumshoe genre mixes in the concept of a Ronin (A Japanese samurai who no longer has a liege lord and becomes a sword for hire), has the mystery take place hundreds of years in the future, but still keeps the setting of the Rainy City (Seattle, My Home) and Bay City (Future San Francisco).  What results is greatest pulp detective story that I have ever read.  The story touches upon issues of morality and our technology stripping us naked of our humanity.

In the future, we are able to download our memories onto flash drives and re-upload them into “Sleeves” (bodies grown or bought).  Crime is punished by you losing your body and putting your consciousness on a server where it will remain for as long as 200+ years, making you return to a body not your own and family scattered in time.  We have colonized worlds throughout the galaxy and corporations and the super rich rule us all.  The wealthy are able to have unlimited bodies to download into, giving them immortality and total perversion.

Takeshi Kovac is taken out of storage by an extremely wealthy man – Lorenz Bancroft- who is over 300 years old because he wants to find out who murdered him.  I’m going to be cautious about spoiling anything in this excellent book, but I will tease some more as to why it should be read.

Kovac was chosen because he a former “Envoy” (hyper-trained marine of the future).  He searches through brothels both high and low end to solve the murder.  He battles pimps, robots, enhanced humans, and virtual torture.  Be warned, it has the steamiest sex scenes I have ever read in my entire life.  If sex, violence, and mystery doesn’t interest, keep browsing, but you’re making a mistake.

RAMPAGE – Review by Case Wright, ALT Title – The Video Game Movie Curse Is Broken by Dwayne’s Awesome Arms!


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I thoroughly enjoyed this film!! Why? Because it’s a Dwayne Johnson movie.  He’s an actor, a brand, and you know what you’re going to get.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  Did it have a couple of slow moments?  Yep.  Were the characters, especially the villains, one dimensional or 8-Bit?  Sure.  But, so what? Rampage is fun and sometimes it’s great to take a bath in nostalgia and see some shit blow up.

A Dwayne Johnson movie is really a sub-genre all its very own.  I won’t compare it to other movies.  His movies are also fun because we just like Dwayne Johnson so much as a Man that we feel like he’s a friend.  It becomes reflexive that we hear Dwayne Johnson has a movie out, it’s as if one of our friends just made one.  I told a guy at work that I was going to see a Dwayne Johnson movie, he knew exactly what I meant, and he referred to Dwayne Johnson as a National Treasure.  Yes, we’re now getting married in the fall and are registered at Pottery Barn.

I played Rampage when I was a wee bairn.  In fact, with the help of my friend Robbie, we stayed up all night and destroyed the whole country. Congratulations! I, like every boy in the Y-Generation, was excited for this film.  Sidenote: sorry everyone, Millenials are no more, you’ve been folded into Y, but take heart – “Even children get older, I’m gettin older …too.”

An Evil Corporation, run ostensibly by Ivanka Trump and her Generic Trump brother, create a virus that mutate ordinary animals into genetically spliced super-creatures that run amok.  That’s it- that’s the plot- and like the video game upon which it was based, Rampage the Film is beautifully Wabi Sabi.

The film begins with The Rock who is closed off from people because after seeing their terrible acts in war and poaching, he just can’t let them in. *sniff*  The Rock’s best friend is George- an albino gorilla- who can sign.  Soon, the Trump family look alikes’ experiment accidentally infects George, a wolf, a crocodile, and a partridge in a pear tree. The Partridge Monster doesn’t actually destroy anything, but he blatantly re-gifts Christmas presents; therefore, he’s the worst monster of all because he destroys your self-esteem.

George, the wolf, and crocodile get BIGGER, the government – embodied by Jeffrey Dean Morgan- try to stop the monsters, but can’t.  Jeffrey becomes an ally of The Rock, helping him along the way with helicopter keys, air strikes, and lending him his edger so The Rock can really make his lawn POP for barbecue season.  The Trumps put out a signal to draw the monsters to Chicago, hoping they’ll kill each other off.  The Trumps hope that they’ll be able to take a sample of the monster flesh, replicate it, and sell it to whomever.  It doesn’t go well.  The monsters go nuts.  I’m not going to spoil anything.  Needless to say, the last 40 minutes of the film are amazingly satisfying.

Congratulations! Dwayne you’ve done it! The Video Game Curse is Broken.

 

Love, Simon – A Review. This Film is a MUST SEE!!!! Rating – A+!


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“Love, Simon” sometimes films make you exhilarated, cry, and hope because the hero is in physical peril; “Love, Simon” makes you feel those emotions through the agonizingly painful awkwardness of being a teenager and on top of that being gay.   The film has importance as having the first gay lead protagonist in a rom-com.  It’s directed by Greg Berlanti who created the best show I love to watch with dudes getting killed with arrows.

However, without a great story, you’ve got nothing. Simon, luckily, is all of us.  He’s handsome, but is painfully awkward.  This is evident in the first five-minutes when he approaches a handsome landscaper and fumbles all over himself.  These cringeworthy teenage moments happen over and over- just like high school terrible moments.

He’s young, but with a very adult secret and he doesn’t know if his friends today would be his friends tomorrow, if they knew he were gay.  That just sucks.  I don’t normally do this, but I want any readers out there to know that it’s okay to be gay.  You have a right to safety, love, and all of the wonderful things that the world has to offer.  If anyone says differently or uses their religion as a shield or sword for their bigotry against you, you can tell them fuck you right from me!

Back to Simon, he’s struggling with coming out and sees on a blog that someone else is too.  They begin an online correspondence and I prayed that it wasn’t a forty-five year old creepo writing him.  It wasn’t.  Unfortunately, his correspondence is found out by Martin, a fellow student, who threatens to out him, unless he helps set him up with one of his friends.  Martin is a horrible garbage person and is horribly awkward  as well and blunders through his terrible terrible life in the film.

Simon, fearing being outed, complies to Martin’s demand as he tries to discover the identity of his online paramour.  I don’t want to give to much away, BUT in the trailer we learn that Simon either comes out or gets outed.   Yes, he eventually gets outed, but that is as unimportant to the protagonist’s journey as being gay is in real life. It’s just you.  Simon- deals with it and if you’re a small-minded dipshit, you’ll deal with it too! The film proceeds to have many cringeworthy -oh my god,  I’m having teen flashbacks- moments and I’m so glad I’m no longer a teen.

Furthermore, the film could seem hokey or corny to a lot of cynical people that are terrible, homophobic or both.  Honestly, I have to write if you don’t like this film you are per se terrible. I’m not saying that if you gave the movie a C+ you would refuse to make a gay couple a wedding cake, but I bet you would tell there are “Two Sides” bullshit.

The film really goes beyond gay identity just as Simon does.  It is coming of age story where we grow up with simon and realize this is just who he is, but he’s still a kid.  I can tell you that 17 and 18 is still a kid.  My first assignment in the Army I was a lieutenant and had many 18 year olds in my platoon and they had childish interests, were desperate for guidance, and tried many awkward times to get acceptance.  In short, Love, Simon portrays youth accurately and we, like Simon, have to deal.

The film was making a point that these were kids struggling with being grownups and they just weren’t ready.  Adulthood is forced upon us, we don’t get to choose it on our own terms. For me, that’s what Berlanti was trying to say: we have to become adults and deal with our identity because life will force us to do so no matter what.  We don’t choose to be smart, dumb, gay, or straight- it’s just who we are and we have to face it every day because we have to do so.  The film forces us to live through Simon’s awkwardness as he becomes a Man.  Being a grown up sucks, but it doesn’t suck as much as being a teenager.

The film leaves us with uncertainty because that’s what being an adult is.  We have to be ourselves or we can never be free, or as Jennifer Gardner put it heart wrenchingly- you’ll always be holding your breath.

I would recommend that you see this film and then see it again!

Annihilation, Movie Review with some spoilers


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Annihilation, a movie adaptation from the novel of the same name, is a confusing story.  The book is part of a trilogy and has no relation to the film except that both are fairly convoluted.

The movie has two storylines: a dying marriage that was based more on lust and youth than common interest and a comet that hits a lighthouse and forces mutations on everything around it.  The comet creates a “shimmer”, which may or may not be made of bubble mixture goop because that’s what it looks like and inside the shimmer a whole lot of mutations are goin’ on and scientists want to know why.

Lena (Natalie Portman) is having an affair so her husband decides to go into the shimmer because he’s self-destructive and Jimmy Fallon’s been kind of dull lately.  He’s gone for 12 months and returns ….. different.  The government, an organization run by a tranquilized Jennifer Jason Leigh, kinda wants Lena to go into the shimmer with her to investigate the entity further.  I write kinda because everyone in the film just meanders and moseys through their own story.

Lena and Jennifer don’t go in alone; they go into the bubble mixture goop with Jane the Virgin whose only special skill appears to be staring and whining, but to be fair she might be picking up on her malaise from being on a shitty CW show.  There’s also Explainer Woman who explains everything all….the….time and I mean Morgan Freeman voiceover levels of explaining.  There’s a lady who cuts herself (off camera) and whose special skill is to Explain Science with a voice that can only be described as sedated, interesting choice to prepare for every scene by eating a turkey sandwich and gravy.

They proceed to run into some weird predators and creepy deer; yep, creepy deer.  As they get closer to the origin of the comet impact, the mutations are more and more pronounced.  We are also treated to her husband via found video footage that the shimmer area is mutating him and his comrades that were all lost in the previous mission.  There does not appear to be a motive to the mutations or any form of a goal on the part of the invasive comet.  In many ways, the movie is a lot like the flora and fauna in the film; it is, it exists, and it will cost about 14.00 bucks to see it.

The movie did succeed in creating a mysterious vibe and playing up the unreliable narrator component.  It failed in pacing.  This movie is s l o w.  I mean it’s possible that I went back in time and re-watched it again.  I thought it was actually an hour longer than it was.  I have to really think as to whether I would recommend the film to a fellow human being.  If you go to see a Western because you like to watch people mosey, this is the film for you.