Little Fish, Large Emotions

Little Fish is a new romantic film relevant to our times with sci-fi elements has just come out in video on demand and a few select theaters which will please sci-fi fans and their dates while offering genuine emotions to all viewers.

Little Fish takes place during a pandemic where people from all walks of life are randomly infected with a debilitating disease that robs them of their memories. The disease, neuro-inflammatory affliction (NIA), can be easily compared to Alzheimer’s disease but young people contract the disease, as well. Little Fish devotes its screentime on how NIA affects a young newlywed couple, Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell), as the disease eats away at their treasured memories of their relationship.

Elevated by strong performances and haunting and scintillating cinematography, Little Fish hits the appropriate emotional beats as it explores the couple’s love for each other as they grapple with NIA. At the start of the film, the couple see firsthand how devastating the disease is when their mutual friend Ben (Raul Castillo), a musician, struggles to remember how to play his guitar and then his relationship with his partner, Samantha (Soko). It is not long before she becomes a complete stranger to him, who he sees as an actual threat to him.

Emma and Jude go about their lives; she is a veterinarian who is forced to euthanize dogs after their owners forget them, while Jude is a photographer who begins to forget certain little things like his wedding photography assignment or a recent conversation he had with Emma. Now that Jude has contracted NIA, the couple is desperate to find at least some kind of treatment. Throughout the film, we see other NIA sufferers and the impact on society. These include, roving and constant police patrols searching for missing persons who forgot their addresses or who they are; people who have their personal information tattooed onto themselves; throngs of desperate people rioting as they try to get treated for NIA. Then there are the quacks and conspiracy nutjobs flooding social media and the internet with supposed cures.

Director Chad Hartigan knows enough not to let the film’s focus drift away too much into the outside world. Instead, the attention is kept on Emma and Jude. Olivia Cooke and Jack O’Connell have a pleasant and easygoing chemistry with each other, which makes Jude’s descent into amnesia all the more disheartening. There are many insightful moments when we witness how his memories become faulty. In one scene, we are shown how people in the memory of his wedding become little more than fuzzy silhouettes. Many of their moments are poignant as Emma and Jude clutch onto the small moments in their past that drew them to each other. There are times, the film potentially becomes treacly, but Hartigan has enough restraint to reel in such emotional hazards and keeps the feelings in check.

Little Fish is an emotionally satsifying indie film that leaves you pondering and treasuring your own memories. It is the kind of film that will please romantics without being overly sentimental since it is quite honest with its story and the journey of its characters.

A Review Of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3

The third season of Star Trek: Discovery concluded the other week with the finale “The Hope That Is You, Part II”, which was a peculiar title since the premiere episode was part I. This helps illustrate the off-kilter nature of Star Trek: Discovery’s third season. It had a great premise which functioned as a soft reboot for the show, but the execution was lacking at times and has turned off fans.

In the final second season episode of the show, the U.S.S. Discovery was hurled over 900 years into the distant future and the latest season chronicles the crew of the Federation starship after they arrive in the year 3188. Or rather the series lead Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) arrives in that year ahead of her starship. After Burnham and her crewmates are reunited they set out to find out what happened to the United Federation of Planets. At this time in history, the Federation is a shadow of its former glorious self. Roughly a hundred years prior, the galaxy suffered an event called The Burn that destroyed most of the Federation’s Starfleet and Star Trek’s crystalline power source, dilithium crystals became a rare commodity. Meanwhile, the Federation was forced to contract its vast borders as core member worlds like Earth and Vulcan (now called Ni’Var) left it to become independent states.

Before long, the Discovery and its crew encounter the remnants of the Federation and soon offer their services to help rebuild the Federation with the aid of their ship’s unique spore drive that can travel instantly throughout the galaxy. By the way, the ship received a nifty upgrade.

To repeat, this is a terrific premise but the execution was woefully uneven and frustrating at times. 

First the good: The production was exceptional with film-quality special effects and production design that rivals the J.J. Abrams films (fans of those films will be pleased to know that that alternate universe was mentioned in one episode).

Many of the new characters were instantly engaging and memorable such as Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala), your typical space rogue with a heart of gold and Burnham’s love interest. Book was a fascinating rogue who had selfish motives in the beginning but quickly allowed his inner goodness come to light and he strove to become part of Starfleet. Speaking of Starfleet, the show introduced one of Star Trek’s best admirals with Admiral Charles Vance (Oded Fehr) who projected the gravitas of a seasoned and reasonable leader. He also helped make up for the loss of Captain Pike, one of the best highlights of the second season. The Discovery also recruited a young human Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio), who is co-joined with a Trill symbiont and possesses a keen scientific mind. Occassionally, they (as Adira asked to be referred to) interacts with their deceased lover and previous Trill host Grey Tal (Ian Alexander). It turned out that Grey was not a hallucination and in a later episode when other Discovery crew members were able to see and interact with Grey, these encounters were one of the best emotional highlights of the season. 

The new baddies in the Star Trek universe are the Emerald Chain, a criminal organization led by Orions and Andorians who now occupy significant portions of former Federation space. Their leader is Osyrra (Janet Kidder), a vicious and manipulative thug who will stop at nothing to capture the Discovery and steal its technology. Basically the Emerald Chain are the Ferengi on super steroids and gave us a hint of how the Ferengi were supposed to be portrayed in early episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG).

Some episodes were quite good like the premier episode and season finale; “There is a Tide…”, which basically was Die Hard on the Discovery with Michael Burnham doing a bang up job as as 32nd century John McClane; “Far From Home” reunited Burnham with the Discovery; and “Unification III” had the Disocvery travleing to the former Vulcan. This episode functioned as a distant sequel to the TNG episodes “Unification I and II” and gave us a brief cameo of Leonard Nimoy as Spock. 

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The Mandalorian Expands The Star Wars Mythos In Its Second Season

mandaolorian s2 poster

The second season of the Disney+ TV show, The Mandalorian, streamed its finale recently and not only has the second season of The Mandalorian pleased Star Wars fans but expanded its universe.

The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal as the mysterious bounty hunter known to many only as the Mandalorian, though his real name is Din Djarin. The other star of the show is Grogu, the infant member of Jedi Master Yoda’s equally mysterious race known for their connection to the Force. Originally in the first season of show the Mandalorian was hired to deliver Grogu to the remnants of the Galactic Empire (the show takes place several years after Return of the Jedi and the Empire has been defeated) for nefarious purposes. However, the mysterious bounty hunter developed a bond with the Child (as he was called then) and refused. Now hunted by the Empire, the Mandalorian spends most of the second season trying to learn more about the Child and find a proper home for the aforable, little impish being.

mandalorian and grogu

As it turns out the bond became quite powerful and over the course of the second season, Djinn became a father figure to Grogu and when the small Force-wielder was threatened the bounty hunter went all out to protect his adopted son.

In its second season, The Mandalorian expanded its mythos and embellished the Star Wars Universe as we were shown how the universe evolved after the events of Return of the Jedi. What was left of the Empire had been driven to the outer edges, perhaps this was the genesis of the First Order from teh Sequel Trilogy. Naturally, the Imperials are in dire straits as the New Republic attempt to restore order to the galaxy. There are signs the New Republic is having a hard time doing this, and again this provides clues to the backdrop of the Sequel Trilogy. In some ways, The Mandalorian is fullfilling the same role that Star Wars: The Clone Wars did in that that show fleshed out the worlds of the Prequel Trilogy, which led many to better appreciate those films.

Speaking of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, characters and details from that revered animated show, as well as Star Wars: Rebels, made live-action appearances in the second season of The Mandalorian, including the exiled Mandalorian princess Bo-Katan (played by Katee Sackhoff, who voiced her in Star Wars: Rebels), and Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), the popular Jedi featured in both animated shows. Seeing these characters, especially Ahsoka, was a thrill to watch and gave validity to the Star Wars spinoffs as they are rightfully part of the Star Wars Universe. Even though it was a bit odd not to hear Ashley Eckstein’s voice coming out of Ahsoka, Dawson did a fine job interpreting a more mature Jedi warrior, who provided important details about the Child to the Mandalorian, starting with his name.

djinn and fett

Another popular Star Wars character finally returned alive and well. That being the most famous bounty hunter in the galacy, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), who is more of an anti-hero in his appearances in the show. However, we do not learn how he escaped his grisly fate as a meal for the sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. But the final episode gave us the biggest surprise appearances, which elevated the show to a whole other level. More on this later.

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Supernatural Carries On In The End

Supernatural aired its very last episode “Carry On” a couple of nights ago, which brought an end to the long-running horror/fantasy series about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), and their adventures in hunting supernatural forces. As a series finale it left me feeling unsure about how I felt about it. But the more I think about it the more I feel that its penultimate episode “Inherit the Earth” would have been a better finale.

*Major Spoilers will follow*

“Carry On” was a fine episode and basically served as a coda to the lives of the Winchester Brothers. Some may think the very last episode should have been some kind of epic throw down against the forces of evil but Supernatural ended the way it began with a monster-of-the-week episode. In this case, a nest of vampires. Honestly this was the least interesting element of the episode. What followed after the vampires were killed was more important. OK, final warning on spoilers ahead.

Dean died after the vampires were killed after being impaled on a metal rod sticking out of post. It was a bit of a surprise and kind of underwhelming as far as deaths go. That is because the two brothers (and their allies and enemies) have been killed before multiple times in the show and then resurrected. It was hard to believe this was it. Or that the show creators felt this was best to finally kill Dean off in a sort of mundane manner. Yet others may feel it was appropriate that the great Dean Winchester not die in some epic battle but during a humdrum mission. I disagree, and find it surprising that Sam would not try to find a way to resurrect his brother.

winchester heaven

The scenes that followed with Sam Winchester mourning his brother with only Dean’s recently adopted dog for company was heartbreaking. However, by this point I was wondering if the show ran out of money because of the lack of guest stars. Sure, we got to see Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) in heaven with Dean, but none of the other mainstays like Castiel (Misha Collins) or Jack (Alexander Culvert) showed up. I read that this episode was filmed after the show’s shutdown ended (thanks again COVID-19) and the showrunners did not want to risk bringing in many people unless necessary. Still, the lack of mourners/guest appearances robbed the impact of Dean’s sudden passing.

As Dean explored heaven (basically shown as the empty backwoods and roads of middle America), scenes were intercut showing Sam moving on with his life as the song by Kansas, “Carry On Wayward Son”, the show’s unofficial theme song, played. He fathered a son he named after his brother; we don’t see who the child’s mother was, presumably it was his girlfriend Eileen (Shoshannah Stern), but we never got a good look; and Sam grew old and died with his adult son at his side. Cue to tears as Sam and Dean Winchester were finally reunited in heaven. The end.

As I mentioned earlier “Carry On” was fine by itself but the nitpicks kept nibbling me. It was great to see at least Sam being able to live out a normal life past hunting monsters, but it was sad that Dean was not allowed this destiny and God knows he deserved it since he was the more spiriturally troubled of the two. His death while being a Hunter was appropriate, but it should not have felt so mundane.

The previous episode “Inherit the Earth” could have and probably should have served as the series finale for Supernatural. The Winchesters had their final confrontation with Chuck/God (Rob Benedict), after he wiped out all forms of higher life on Earth. In their confrontation, the brothers were outmatched by Chuck, but he was defeated by Jack the Nephilim, who absorbed his powers. Afterwards, Jack became the new God and restored the universe in a cosmic reset before he vanished to become one with reality.

“Inherit the Earth” concluded with a great montage showing all the characters the Winchesters met during Supernatural’s run as the two drove off in Dean’s car while Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” played. To me this was how Supernatural should have ended. A bit open ended as Sam and Dean Winchester ride off into the open road looking for their next adventure now that they and the world were finally free of Chuck’s control.

If it matters that much to any fan, it’s best to stop watching Supernatural with its penultimate episode and just imagine Sam and Dean Winchester lived happily ever after hunting ghouls, evil ghosts, demons and whatever supernatural force came their way. If not then consider “Carry On” to be an acceptable, if sad, coda or epilogue to their lives and the show itself.

José Soto

Of Love And Monsters

Love and Monsters was released last month through video on demand and had a limited theatrical release. Like practically every film since this spring, it too could not get a widespread theatrical release because of the coronavirus. It’s a shame since this extraordinary film deserves much more attention, though positive word of mouth might elevate it to cult status sometime down the road.

love and monsters dog

In a nutshell, Love and Monsters stars Dylan O’Brien as Joel Dawson, an insecure twentysomething doing his best to survive during a giant monster apocalypse, all in the name of love.

As told in the film’s opening segments, years ago, a giant asteroid threatening Earth was destroyed with missiles, but the fallout mutated Earth’s cold-blooded creatures into gigantic monstrosities that essentially destroyed civilization. Now what is left of humanity ekes out meager existences in underground shelters and bunkers, and do their best to avoid the bloodthirsty critters that have claimed the surface world.

Joel pines for his lost love, Aimee (Jessica Henwick), who was forced to separate from him years ago. Recently, he tracked her down at a colony over 80 miles away from his own and he decides to risk it all to reunite with her. The only problem is that Joel lacks basic survival skills and somehow has to find a way to make it through the deadly surface landscape without being eaten.

Along his voyage, he comes across a handful of memorable characters. These include a loveable dog called Boy, which quickly bonds with Joel, a broken robot Mav1s (Melanie Zanetti), and a scruffy but friendly survivor Clyde (Michael Rooker) and his spunky companion, a young girl named Minnow (Arianna Greenblatt). They help Joel out and teach him how to survive in the rugged landscape by using his wits and valuable survival skills.

Naturally, Joel and Boy face many dangers, some of which are genuinely creepy and tense, but he discovers his own potential as he grows during his journey. Sure, it seems implausible that Joel could have survived for years in the giant monster apocalypse without having basic survival skills, but his emotional journey was quite satisfying to watch.

Love and Monsters is such a pleasant surprise. It is not a dire, dark film, but it is still boasts its fair share of thrills. By the way, the creature designs are very imaginative and unique. The best way to describe the many monsters Joel and the others encounter is to think of those creepy pit creatures from Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong.

Yes, thanks to its lighter tone, Love and Monsters can be compared to Zombieland, though it is not as funny. Still, it does have a lot of heart, has charming characters and it is easy to tell everyone involved from the actors to the production crew to the writers (Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson) and director (Michael Matthews) gave it their all. The result is a satisfying giant monster film with a ton of heart.

In fact, the film strikes and inspirational tone with its message that although a situation may be dire, it is possible to overcome it and thrive. In some strange way, Love and Monster is somewhat relevant to our current situation by demonstrating the pluck nature of humanity will overcome obstacles, which in the film’s case are giant monsters.

José Soto