Tag Archives: television

My Thoughts On: Attack on Titan (season 2)

*note: fairly major spoilers follow for season 2 of Attack on Titan

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Considering how good the first season of Attack on Titan was, it blew my mind when I discovered that the second season was even better. While season 2 is only half the length with 12 episodes, it certainly doesn’t lack for drama.

Season two picks up where season one left off and focuses almost exclusively on a mysterious Titan incursion inside Wall Rose (the second of three walls keeping humanity safe). In the process of putting down this incursion, some mind-boggling truths are uncovered about the nature of Titans. Even more shockingly, multiple humans are revealed to be hiding Titan forms. The biggest shock of all is that the attack on Shiganshina, which set the entire plot of the series into motion, was orchestrated by two Scouts who have been friends with Eren for several years! This revelation comes out of nowhere and completely cemented my love for this series (like many, I enjoy an excellent plot twist).

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Additionally, the massive Beast Titan is introduced to the story and quite honestly he looks terrifying. Unlike the other Titans we’ve seen up until this point, the Beast Titan (befitting his name), has the appearance of an ape. What’s more, he can talk like a regular person and can command regular Titans (with terrifying effect). Speaking of Titans, there’s a bit of focus on Eren learning to control his own Titan abilities, including several false starts when his attempts to summon his Titan form don’t work. But above all else in season 2, I have to praise the final battle against the Armored Titan, the Colossal Titan and a third Titan whose introduction was so well done I don’t want to spoil it (but it completely shocked me). This fight sequence builds on all the Titan battles we’ve seen up until now and raises the intensity by 100. The action, combined with the music, makes the entire sequence riveting. You can feel the raw emotion as Mikasa engages the Titans, swearing to kill them for what they’ve done. You can also feel the pain as some characters are forced to make extremely difficult decisions. There’s also an epic Titan moment that calls back to the very first episode of the series.

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As I said at the beginning, season two of Attack on Titan is even better than the first. I highly recommend this series for anyone who enjoys anime. The first half of season 3 is currently streaming on Hulu (sub only), with the second half expected to arrive later this month. Let me know what you think of season two of Attack on Titan in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts On: Attack on Titan (season 1)

Animated Film Reviews

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Soundtrack Review: Krypton (season 1)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

The soundtrack for season 1 of Krypton is now available, having been released on March 8th to coincide with the season 2 premiere. The LP will release on Red/Orange Galaxy vinyl on April 13th for Record Store Day. The album features one of the hottest developing talents within the composing world for TV, Film and Games, Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel, Justice League).

Toprak’s music for Syfy’s Superman prequel, Krypton, follows her score on the Fortnite video game; the most widely played new game in 2018. An average of 8.3 million people were playing Fortnite concurrently in November alone. After her incredible contributions of additional music to DC’s Justice League, Pinar Toprak was chosen to compose the highly anticipated Marvel movie, Captain Marvel. The first female composer to score a major comic book movie, Toprak continues to prove herself as majestic as the superheroes her music exalts.

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The score itself is beautiful and I highly recommend picking it up. Toprak balances a line between science-fiction edginess and orchestral heights. More and more often television series have scores that are equal to film scores and this shows here in the score for Krypton. I particularly liked the tracks “Seeing Kandor for the First Time” and “Welcome to the Fortress.”

Centuries before Truth, Justice and the American Way, the grandfather of Superman, Seg-El, must redeem his family’s honor in DC and SyFy hit television series KRYPTON. With a cosmic evil reaching through time to destroy the House of El before the rise of its heroic scion, can the forbearer of steel prevent the destruction of much more than just his family or is more than just the planet doomed. KRYPTON is executive produced by David S. Goyer (MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy).

Track listing:

1. Seeing Kandor For The First Time (00:50)
2. The Death Of Val El (1:34)
3. Bar Fight (2:41)
4. Welcome To The Fortress (2:18)
5. Your Grandson’s Cape (3:41)
6. Brainiac’s Peeking Through Rhom (2:26)
7. Kem Sweet Talks Ona (1:35)
8. Street People (1:15)
9. Seg Escapes (1:23)
10. Ona Says A Prayer (2:48)
11. Seg In The Wastelands (00:39)
12. Lyta Meditates* (1:13)
13. A Test Of Sibling* (2:12)
14. Let The Trial Begin* (4:34)
15. Meant To Save Superman (00:44)
16. Jayna Shoots The Voice (1:43)
17. Dev Awakes (00:45)
18. Sigil Means Hope (1:45)
19. Bye Bye Brainiac* (7:43)

Let me know what you think of Krypton (and it’s soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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My Thoughts on: Slayers NEXT (Season 2) (1996)

While Slayers has a great start in season 1, it gets even better in season 2 with Slayers NEXT. All of our heroes return for more adventures and we’re introduced to even more interesting characters as Lina, Gourry and company go on more exciting (and dangerous) adventures! These new characters include:

Princess Martina of Zoana: Oh Martina, Martina…let me tell you something about Martina…she’s absolutely 100% crazy!! How so? Well, just as an example, Martina is a fervent devotee of the monster Zoamelgustar. There’s just one little problem with that…Martina made him up out of her own imagination, not that this impedes her devotion in the slightest. In fact, in one hilarious episode, Martina successfully invokes Zoamelgustar’s power to curse Lina through sheer willpower (not bad for a non-existent monster). She hates Lina with a passion for destroying her kingdom (even though it was Martina who started the trouble) and also has a habit in falling in love with every handsome man who crosses her path. Despite trying really hard to be a villain, Martina is more of a nuisance than anything else.

Xellos: This is one of the most frustrating characters you’ll meet in the series, because for most of the time he appears you’re never really sure what he’s up to or whose side he’s really on! He claims to be a traveling monk but hints are dropped repeatedly that this is far from the truth. Xellos also has an annoying habit of leading people in conversation up to a critical point and when they demand to know something important he’ll just smile and say “That…is a secret.” I’ll admit, the true identity of Xellos shocked me (though I won’t spoil it here).

Hellmaster Fibrizo: I’m pretty sure it goes without saying that if you have “Hellmaster” in your name than you are not a good person. Hellmaster Fibrizo might be one of the most sadistic characters I’ve ever seen. This is one of those characters who kills on a whim, all to get what he wants. Truthfully, you will not see this character coming, it’s one of the best villain introductions I’ve ever seen.

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A lot of the plot revolves around our heroes searching for the Claire Bible (a text containing powerful magical secrets) in the hopes that it contains some spell that can cure Zelgadis and make him human again. During this search, Lina and her friends stumble on a plot brewing among the monsters. It seems that the destruction of Ruby Eye Shabranigdu in season 1 had some far-reaching consequences and it’s up to Lina to deal with the fallout…if she can survive that is. Like season 1, Slayers NEXT gets pretty bloody in the last part of the season (not enough to be considered “gory” but there are still some fairly shocking moments).

If you enjoy season 1 of Slayers then you will absolutely love Slayers NEXT. I hope you get the chance to check it out someday. Unfortunately it’s not streaming on Hulu currently but you can get seasons of Slayers for a reasonable price on Amazon. Let me know what you think of Slayers NEXT in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Slayers (season 1) (1995)

My Thoughts on: Slayers TRY (season 3) (1997)

My Thoughts on: Slayers Return (1996)

My Thoughts on: Slayers Great (1997)

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Westworld Season 1 (2016)

As a lifelong fan of the science fiction genre (so much so that I made it my specialty in graduate school), I knew it would only be a matter of time before I watched this show. I was curious from the start to see what an adaptation of the 1973 Westworld film would look like and yet I hesitated a long time before finally starting the series. I think deep down I delayed because I was afraid I wouldn’t like the story, as it is very easy to do robot/A.I. run amuck badly. But it turns out I was worried over nothing: Westworld‘s first season is sheer brilliance.

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In ten episodes, we are introduced to the unbelievably lavish park that is Westworld, a place where the obscenely wealthy can come live out whatever fantasy they desire, from the innocent pleasures of living on a homestead to more depraved activities up to and including murder and rape. The human guests can act as they please since the robotic ‘hosts’ are incapable of harming them. In such an environment, many guests let loose with repressed fantasies of murder and sexual freedom (the series comments several times that most guests come to either “shoot or f*ck” whatever they want) in a way that can be very disturbing to watch (this show does not hold back on showing blood).

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The plot is divided between several arcs that follow different characters. The primary hosts we follow are Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), her programmed lover Teddy (James Marsden), Maeve, a saloon madam (Thandie Newton) and recurring visits from Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and his group of bandits. On the human side, in the park, we follow the mysterious Man in Black (Ed Harris) and a newcomer to the park named William (Jimmi Simpson), whose coming to the park with Logan (Ben Barnes), his future brother in law. Outside of the park, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is the director of the park and is assisted by Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). The show clearly takes place sometime in the future as the technology is far beyond anything that currently exists, but it’s not known how far in the future we are, as so far as I know, no year is ever given.

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It is clear from the first episode that there is something odd going on in the park, with the hosts in particular, but it takes almost the entire season before enough pieces come together to provide answers. That’s not a bad thing: half of the reason I love Westworld is because the fragmented plot arcs keep you guessing at the truth and eager to see the next piece of the puzzle (so to speak). And when the answers do begin to come, you start to question everything you’ve seen in the series. Not only that, there are some twists that lead you to wonder if anyone in this series is actually human. Like many films and tv series that explore the concept of A.I., the border between robots and humans becomes so thin that it is practically non-existent (unless one of the hosts has a glitch).

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Anthony Hopkins turns in a magnificent performance, a particularly favorite moment coming at the end of episode 7 “Trompe L’Oeil.” In that episode, Hopkins switches from affable to pure menace so effortlessly that I was glued to the screen for the entirety of the scene. The episode also features one of my favorite plot twists in the season, simply because there’s almost no hint that it’s coming.

If you like robots and science fiction, then I think you will enjoy Westworld season one. The plot is very well crafted and as I said before will keep you guessing almost until the end. I’m looking forward to watching season two.

Final thoughts:

-I ended up feeling sorry for the Man in Black by the end of the season. Even though he was warned multiple times that what he was searching for wasn’t meant for him, he persists anyway and is eventually disappointed.

-Teddy (James Marsden) has so many death scenes it’s almost ridiculous. To be fair though, he pulls it off beautifully each time.

-I can’t stand Logan (Ben Barnes) and I feel like he deserves everything he gets.

What do you think of the first season of Westworld? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

TV Reviews

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Film 101: Unreliable Narrator

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Yesterday in talking about the Rashomon effect I mentioned the term ‘unreliable narrator’ and I thought I would go into more detail about it today. This concept is one that has grown incredibly popular in recent years and is responsible for one of the biggest television hits of the 21st century.

The concept is simple enough at first glance: an unreliable narrator is any character who relays information about the story (either to the audience or another character (often serving as the audience surrogate)) that is untrue or a series of half-truths mixed together. In short, you cannot trust what this character says to be the truth. And as this character often serves as THE narrator (more or less) of the film/series/book, it makes the story that much more interesting because (assuming you are aware they are unreliable) the entire time you are wondering if you can believe anything being told to you.

 

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To really understand this concept though, you have to keep in mind that the unreliable narrator is, in my opinion, a relatively recent development. For most of film history, the narrator (if there is one) is a figure above reproach, one that will consistently let us (the audience) know what is really going on and who is doing what. It seems that the studios discovered that having an unreliable narrator made for a good story. Of course they weren’t the first: the big television hit I referred to at the beginning was none other than HBO’s Game of Thrones, which of course is based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (that may or may not ever see completion, I finished reading A Dance with Dragons almost FIVE years ago). The books are notorious for having no overarching narrator that you might find in other book series. Instead, each chapter is told from one character’s point of view, meaning everything we see is biased by the perceptions of that character. Since none of the characters know the full picture (except for maybe Varys and I’m not sure even he knows about what’s going on north of the Wall), you can’t fully trust (and in the case of some like Littlefinger, not at all) what these characters see/know/think they know. And this mostly carries over to the TV show.

Other good examples of an unreliable narrator in film include:

  • Fight Club (1999): It turns out that only one of the two main protagonists actually exists, the other is in the main character’s head.
  • A Beautiful Mind (2001): The main character is eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and it turns out several characters we’ve come to know are not real.
  • Atomic Blonde (2017): It could be said this film has several examples as the “true” story does not come out towards the end. Lorraine, being the main character, is probably the chief example as her search for “Satchel” is revealed to be based on a lie

And that’s pretty much what an unreliable narrator is 🙂 What are some examples of an unreliable narrator that you can think of? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

See also:

Film 101

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Soundtrack Review: The Alienist (2018)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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The Alienist is an American television period drama mystery series based on the novel of the same name by Caleb Carr. The ten episode series currently running on TNT stars Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning as a team assembled in late 1890s New York City to investigate a ritualistic serial killer who is murdering street children. The title comes from a late-19th century belief about mental illness. At that time, the mentally ill were considered to be “alienated” from their true nature. Those who studied mental illness were therefore known as “alienists.”

The titular alienist is Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), a criminal psychologist hired to secretly conduct an investigation into the case by police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (the future President of the United States). Kreizler is aided in his task by newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) and Sarah Howard (Dakota Fanning), the police commissioner’s secretary.

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The music for The Alienist was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. A truly versatile composer, Gregson-Williams has written a wide range of scores for many feature films, including the Oscar-winning Hotel Rwanda for which he was awarded the European Film Award for Best Composer, the blockbuster DreamWorks animated films Over The Hedge and Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie, for which Rupert was nominated for an Annie Award for his original score and the independent BBC Films’ Love + Hate, for which he was awarded the Reims International Composer Award.

Most recently, Gregson-Williams scored the blockbuster and critically acclaimed Wonder Woman directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine; the award-winning war drama Hacksaw Ridge, starring Andrew Garfield and directed by Mel Gibson, and the international hit The Legend of Tarzan. His upcoming film projects include “Terminal,” starring Margot Robbie and written and directed by Vaughn Stein.

Having cut the cable cord several years ago, I haven’t been able to watch the show yet, but based on the soundtrack, I think I need to. From the very start with “The Streets of New York” and “Brooklyn Bridge,” there is an old-time sound that is meant to recall the late-19th century. In fact, I was strongly put in mind of the soundtrack to Sherlock Holmes (2009) which is set in a similar time period (albeit in London and not New York City).

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The cue titled “Dr. Laszlo Kreizler,” which I assume is his theme, intrigued me. Given that he’s the titular character, it struck me how sinister his theme sounds with a descending three note motif that recurs in strings and piano. This could be because he studies the mentally ill and crimes committed by people who suffer from mental illness and as a result he’s “tainted” for lack of a better word by what he’s seen. Of course it could also be a musical hint that Kreizler is a villain in disguise, but I can’t say for certain (though now I want to read the book and watch the show to find out if I’m right or not).

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Another cue that caught my attention is “Madness of the City” which literally starts with a growl that briefly settles back before exploding into a mad cacophony that literally sounds like someone trying to break through a locked door (which may have been what they were going for) with repeated “banging” sounds. The entire track is underlaid with raging strings (primarily the cello) that continually make their presence known. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks. “Alienated Mind” is also an interesting piece because it consists of long musical drones that remind me of a Buddhist monk chanting “Ommm…”

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Finally, I’ll talk about the main title theme for the show, which is very short (only 35 seconds) but contains a wealth of detail. Instead of possessing a distinct theme as most shows do (for example Penny Dreadful, Game of Thrones, Star Trek and NCIS just to name a few), the main theme for The Alienist more closely resembles what music theorists call a “sound cloud,” that is to say a mashup of music that is loosely organized (otherwise it would just be noise) but has no distinct melody. It contains elements from several of the tracks I’ve looked at already, and it carries an air of mystery about it.

And those are my thoughts on the soundtrack for The Alienist. The soundtrack is currently available via Lakeshore Records. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making this soundtrack available for review. Let me know what you think of The Alienist and its soundtrack in the comments below!

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See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

 

Soundtrack Review: The Walking Dead (2010-present)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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Unbelievably, in over seven years, there has never been a soundtrack release from The Walking Dead…until now. Composer Bear McCreary chose his personal favorites from the innumerable themes he has written for the series, along with tracks the fans begged to have included. Selections from the soundtrack include:

  • The Walking Dead “Main Theme”
  • “Sophia”
  • “Carl”
  • “Farm Invasion”
  • “Welcome to the Tombs”
  • “Negan”

This is just a sampling of what’s available, as there are 23 tracks in total. The “Main Theme” is probably one of the most iconic pieces from the series. The quickly moving strings that turn dark as the credits show how civilization has completely broken down (time winding to a stop, buildings decomposing, etc.), it just sucks you in to this (thankfully) fictional world where the dead walk and life as we know it will never be “normal” again (I haven’t watched in years but I AM curious as to what the endgame of this series will be, because nothing lasts forever).

And then there’s “Sophia.” Oh Sophia Sophia…the fate of that little girl came in one of the last episodes I remember watching and this theme fits her so perfectly. This young girl who had to live through the worst kind of apocalypse and (spoiler alert) ultimately didn’t make it deserves a theme that highlights her nature and this theme delivers. It is unexpectedly rich, warm at times, but there is always a hint of sadness, almost like McCreary was foreshadowing her fate (and he likely was). The detail I like the best is, in the middle of the theme, there is a hint of what sounds like a music box, something that is often associated with young girls. I liked that little touch to “Sophia.”

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“Carl” is very different from some of the others because, until the last 30 seconds, it is entirely piano. It reminds me very much of this scene where Carl “rescues” a can of chocolate pudding from a ruined house and eats it while sitting on the roof contemplating his surroundings. Now in the last 30 seconds some relatively ominous strings come in, but the piano simply repeats its theme. It’s simple, but beautiful in its simplicity.

“Farm Invasion” actually reminded me very strongly of his theme for Constantine (the short-lived TV show) and that’s because it’s a perfect blend of classical and rock elements. There are strings, yes, but there is also drums, modern percussion, I do believe there is an electric guitar mixed in as well. The snapped strings (a technique where you hold up the violin/viola/cello/bass string and let it snap back against the fingerboard) create the effect of gunshots and given the title of the theme, that seems very appropriate.

 

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You can almost follow the action that this scene accompanied: any time the group directly confronts walkers, the music is in your face, up-tempo, heavy string snaps. When they’re running or there’s some emotional drama, it pulls back a bit (but not by much). There’s an awesome guitar moment around 4:28 as well. What makes McCreary’s music so good is that it pulls you in by constantly keeping the pace moving, there’s no way to lose interest. I also hear fragments of the main theme mixed in, or at least something reminiscent of it. But when I say fragments I mean that literally; it sounds “broken”, like he took the theme and smashed it apart. This is a much longer track (almost 9 full minutes) but it is definitely worth listening to.

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The last track I will highlight is “Negan” and boy oh boy, based on everything I’ve heard, this theme describes him perfectly. The opening note is this long synthetic “whine” that immediately puts you on edge. And what’s interesting is, you’re not confronted with the “idea” of Negan right away in the music. It’s not until the electric guitar comes in that you realize HERE is the essence of Negan, and it’s nothing good. It’s dark, ominous and I’m kind of glad I left the series before he was introduced because some of the things he’s done would’ve completely broken me.

And that’s my look into the soundtrack of The Walking Dead. I highly recommend this soundtrack, not just for fans of the show, but also if you’re a fan of really good television music. Bear McCreary is one of the best in the business and it definitely shows here. Enjoy!

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