If you are a fan of anime and of creator Shinji Aramaki, don’t miss Harlock.
In the future, mankind has discovered a way to travel faster than light and has built colonies on thousands of planets. With humanity fading and the resources of the universe starting to dwindle, some five hundred billion humans began the long journey back home, Earth. However, humanity has outgrown its capacity to repatriate that many people and thus began the “Homecoming War,” where the many factions of humanity battled for a stake on Earth. The war was long and bloody, things wouldn’t subside until an authoritarian universal government by the name of the Gaia Sanction declares Earth a sacred planet, and thus forbidden for humanity to repopulate.
To prevent various factions of humanity from immigrating back to Earth, an elite wing of the Gaia Fleet was tasked to defend Earth: The Deathshadow Martyr Fleet, led by Harlock. With the assistance of his scientist friend, Tochiro ?yama, Harlock helped saved a dying advanced alien race called the Nibelung. In return for their help, the Nibelung gave Harlock their advanced technology and helped create the four Deathshadow-class ships with dark matter engines to defend Earth. Harlock’s ships were unstoppable and he successfully defended Earth from humanity’s influence, until the Gaia Sanction broke their own rules.
A peace treaty was created to prevent future bloodshed from various factions of humanity, however, it was under the condition that the diplomatic elite would be allowed to immigrate. Unfortunately, this didn’t sit well with Harlock as he felt it was a betrayal of what he believed in as well as the hypocrisy of the Gaia Sanction. Enraged, Harlock broke rank and killed all the immigrants and set his guns upon his own fleet. With only the Arcadia in his command, the ship was badly damaged and was being boarded. In a high-risk gamble for survival and protection of the Earth, Harlock asked Miime (Nibelung observer and engineer of his ship) to unleash dark matter upon the Earth to protect it from humanity. Sadly, the gamble was made at a terrible cost.
The dark matter was uncontrollable and it decimated the Earth and life was no longer sustainable. Engulfed in dark matter, the Arcadia managed to survive the incident, but returned out of the dark clouds forever changed. Harlock’s body has been immortalized, Tochiro is now one with the ship’s computer, Miime is a prisoner (for unexplained reasons) of the ship, and the ship itself emerged as a powerful supernatural pirate ship. Vowing to atone for his sin, Harlock is now a rogue pirate with a personal mission to turn back the hands of time.
100 years has passed and Captain Harlock remains at large. Gaia had covered up the real condition of Earth with a giant holographic optical camouflage to maintain their power. With his own crew of rogues, Harlock has taken 100 dimensional oscillators from the Gaia Sanction in attempts to “start over.” In between, Praefectus of the Fleet, Isola, manipulated his younger brother, Yama, to help him take down Harlock. Several years earlier, Yama’s desperation to maintain the beauty of their mother’s favorite flower in their greenhouse caused a structural collapse. The accident paralyzed Isola and reduced their mutual childhood love, Nami, severely broken and survives through a medical pod. However, through their advanced technology, she’s able to live and interact with the brothers as a living hologram. Desperate to atone for Isola, Yama agreed to infiltrate the Arcadia and its crew to stop Harlock’s schemes, but things became complicated.
Yama successfully infiltrated Harlock’s crew, but unknown to him, Harlock and Miime always knew he was a mole. During a mission to install the 99th dimensional oscillator, Yama learned from Kei (crew member) that Harlock’s plan to “start over” is by opening the time nodes to alter history and create a better time line. The mission turned awry when they realized they landed on a giant worm and Harlock came to rescue Yama. It was then Yama was about to execute Harlock, but in a life and death situation, Yama cooperated with Harlock so both could survive and escaped the planet. Back on board the Arcadia, Harlock gave his gun to Yama, telling him to use it against him if he still wants to kill him later. Yama’s undercover identity was never exposed and Harlock’s words convinced Yama to follow in Harlock’s plans, causing Yama to defect.
The Gaia Sanction learned of Harlock’s intentions of heading towards Earth and they permitted Isola to have command over a large fleet of ships to stop Harlock. Due to Harlock’s military brilliance, he single-handedly pulled advanced guile tactics to throw Isola’s counter-offensive fleet off and successfully defeated the fleet. To prevent further intervention, the Arcadia held Isola and his flag ship, the Oceanus, in tow as hostages to prevent the Gaia Sanction to act. Once at Earth and passed the great illusion, the crew was horrified at what has become of their Earth. It was during this time that both Isola and Miime divulged the origins of Harlock and true nature of “starting over”: Harlock intends to unlock the Nodes of Time to destroy the current universe and rebirth a new one, genesis
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.