REVIEW: STAR TREK: PICARD – SEASON 1

Patrick Stewart and Dinero the Dog in Star Trek: Picard (2020)

Starring

Patrick Stewart (American Dad)
Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
Isa Briones (Takers)
Evan Evagora (Fantasy Island)
Michelle Hurd (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Santiago Cabrera (Heroes)
Harry Treadaway (Honemoon)

Patrick Stewart in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 (2020)
Recurring / Notable Guest Stars

Brent Spiner (Independence Day)
Jonathan Frakes (Camp Nowhere)
Jeri Ryan (Mortal Kombat: Legacy)
Marina Sirtis (Crash)
Jamie McShane (Gone Girl)
Orla Brady (Into The Badlands)
Peyton List (Gotham)
Tamlyn Tomita (Heroes)
Jonathan Del Arco (Major Crimes)
Merrin Dungey (Alias)
Sumalee Montano (10 Cloverfield Lane)
David Carzell (Sophomores)
Ann Magnuson (Panic Room)
Rebecca Wisocky (For All Mankind)
Amirah Vann (Tracers)
Evan Parke (King Kong)
John Ales (Burn notice)
Necar Zadegan (NCIS: New Orleans)
Dominic Burgess (Santa Clarita Diet)
Barbara Eve Harris (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Lulu Wilson (Annabelle: Creation)
Derek Webster (Stargate)

Peyton List and Harry Treadaway in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2 (2020)Star Trek: Picard’s best aspect is also its biggest issue: It has one foot firmly in the past of the long-running sci-fi franchise, and another in a more modern, darker present. The show is a big, fan-servicey return to the story of legendary Starfleet captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), complete with visits from a few beloved characters along the way, and no end of Easter eggs and references that often feel like high-fives to the dedicated viewers who’ve been enjoying the sci-fi franchise for decades, especially in the mid-1990s. Throughout its first season, it often works to update those series, reimagining some of their best ideas through the frame of the modern world. Though it can get bogged down in its attention to Treks of the past, Picard is a darker look at a future that challenges the franchise, not by just telling the stories of great people doing great things–but by amplifying their flaws and forcing them to choose to be better.Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 (2020)Picard picks up the story of Jean-Luc 15 years after he’s suffered a major failure: He attempted to lead Starfleet in an enormous rescue to save the endangered Romulans, the Federation’s oldest enemies. An immense tragedy, the destruction of the Starfleet’s rescue fleet, led to the Federation abandoning the plans to save the Romulans and Picard’s resignation in protest. More than a decade later, the series finds him languishing in his French vineyard, while Earth’s branch of the Federation has become isolationist and bigoted. Hardship and injustice have festered, especially against synthetic lifeforms, the apparent perpetrators of the tragedy–and Jean-Luc has done little in the intervening years to stop it. That’s a stark contrast to the unwaveringly principled captain seen in The Next Generation, which makes it a perfect starting point for Star Trek: Picard.Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Evan Evagora, and Isa Briones in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 (2020)Picard is shaken out of his complacency with the arrival of Dahj (Isa Briones), a young woman being hunted by Romulan assassins, on Picard’s doorstep. Dahj turns out to be a synthetic created in violation of the ban from the remnants of Data (Brent Spiner), Picard’s former android crewmember and old friend, who died to save Picard’s life. Stirred by his loyalty and friendship for Data, Picard takes it upon himself to protect Dahj and her sister, Soji, gathering a ragtag crew and taking to the captain’s chair one last time.Patrick Stewart and Isa Briones in Star Trek: Picard (2020)The season is slow to start, especially as it gets bogged down in setting up a world that’s something like 30 years ahead of where The Next Generation left off. After the first three episodes, though, Picard hits its stride as it fuses two Star Trek identities: the more action-packed, adventure-focused takes of more recent Trek movies, and the moralistic, cerebral approach of The Next Generation. It’s a hybrid that mostly works, too, with Picard occasionally interspersing fun, well-produced action and fight scenes with the moral quandaries and diplomatic conundrums of the Enterprise’s voyages. In a lot of ways, slick CGI space battles and choreographed hand-to-hand fights between Romulan agents and super-fast androids make Picard a more modern take on the franchise. With the budget and the effects technology, some of The Next Generation might have looked a little more like Picard.Marina Sirtis and Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Picard (2020)The darker, more modern take on Star Trek also makes Picard feel more relevant to the world in which we’re watching it. The show focuses on the plights of refugees, including the Romulan survivors who were scattered across the galaxy after the failed rescue, and the XBs, victims assimilated by the deadly cybernetic Borg who have been freed from enslavement to its Collective, but who are still mistrusted and exploited. The Starfleet of the future is more insular, abandoning much of its focus on exploration of the galaxy and understanding other life and cultures. It’s a Star Trek that uses the lens of science fiction to explore the plights and issues of a more reactionary world than the one in which The Next Generation was made.Patrick Stewart and Isa Briones in Star Trek: Picard (2020)But much of Picard’s power comes from its dedication to the past. Few opportunities slip past for references to The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, or the Star Trek movies. It’s not all just about appeasing Trekkers, though–Picard has a deep, encyclopedic knowledge of everything that’s happened to its characters over the years, and does a brilliant job of rejoining their stories, exploring their traumas, and advancing their characters in ways that feel true to them.Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Picard (2020)The new additions to Picard, however, function less well. Where returning characters like Jean-Luc and Voyager’s Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) get the benefit of the show building on their lengthy histories, the new ragtag crew often don’t really have enough to do, even as the show spends a little time rounding out their backstories. Jean-Luc’s often-drunk former first officer, Raffi (Michelle Hurd), exists to tap away on holographic computers; what interesting conflict she has with Jean-Luc, based on him abandoning her after the Romulan rescue along with everything else, evaporates not long into the season. The same is true for cyberneticist Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill), who struggles with her role in the creation of Dahj, Soji, and the other synthetics, but who gets back to normal for plot reasons.Patrick Stewart, Michelle Hurd, Alison Pill, and Santiago Cabrera in Star Trek: Picard (2020)Rios (Santiago Cabrera), the hardnosed captain of the ship Picard hires, is mostly just angry and stoic, and the childishly idealistic, sword-wielding warrior Elnor (Evan Evagora) seems to primarily exist for fight scenes and innocently misunderstanding situations for laughs. There’s also Narek (Harry Treadaway), a Romulan spy tasked with getting close to Soji, who struggles a bit with his task but never really evolves as a character because of it. All of the characters are interesting, with well-built backstories and strong performances, but none can really take the room needed to grow with the show so often putting a hard focus on Picard and Soji, who spends most of the season unaware of her nature as an android and slowly catching up to a point the audience reached much earlier.It all makes Picard’s 10-episode run feel just a touch too short to really expand on any of the new characters, especially with the show making lots of detours down the memory lane of The Next Generation. As mentioned, those looks to the past are strong if you’re an established Trek fan, but they often hobble the show’s present. Much of what goes on Season 1 of Picard feels like it’s setup for a more fleshed-out Season 2. Still, there’s a lot Picard does right. Its update on the Star Trek formula is a sorely needed catch-up to the modern world that makes it feel like Trek has something important to say, and its signature optimism is a perfect fit for the times. It’s also keenly aware of everything that made Jean-Luc Picard such a resonant character, and it revisits those aspects without retreading old ground. On the whole, Star Trek: Picard does well to bring Treks of the past forward, and for fans of Jean-Luc and The Next Generation, it’s a powerful and emotional revisit to beloved characters.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL

CAST

Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight)
Annalise Basso (Oculus)
Lin Shaye (Critters 2)
Lulu Wilson (Annabelle 2)
Henry Thomas (ET)
Parker Mack (Faking It)
Halle Charlton (W.I.L.D.)
Alexis G. Zall (Laid In America)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Kate Siegel (Hush)
Sam Anderson (Angel)
Chelsea Gonzalez (Criminal Minds)
John Prosky (True Blood)

Set in 1967 Los Angeles, a widow named Alice Zander works out of her suburban home as a spiritual medium, accompanied by her daughters, 15-year-old Paulina “Lina” and 9-year old Doris; although they stage their seances, Alice’s real intent is to help people move on. The family is still reeling over the recent death of Roger, Alice’s husband and the kids’ father. After Lina suggests that Alice incorporate a Ouija board into her readings, Alice does so, and unknowingly contacts a spirit named Marcus that begins to possess Doris. This is breaking one of the three rules: never play alone, never play in a graveyard, and always say goodbye.
Alice receives a foreclosure note, meaning they may lose their house. Doris contacts the board for help, believing she is communicating with her dead father, and the spirit leads her to a secret compartment behind the basement wall containing a pouch of cash. Doris, breaking another of the three rules, forgets to say goodbye to the spirits. When she gives the money to her mother, the family has a Ouija session, believing they can contact Roger. When the board answers a question only Roger would know the answer to, a thrilled Alice begins believing that they are in contact with her dead husband.
Soon, Doris becomes possessed by a shadowy spirit. Lina, who is becoming disturbed by the changes in her sister, finds papers written by Doris in fluent Polish, a language she does not know, and brings them to Father Tom to translate. Troubled, Father Tom visits them for a Ouija session under the pretense of contacting his dead wife Gloria. Although the session appears to be successful, Father Tom later explains to Alice and Lina that Doris did not contact Gloria. Instead, for every question he asked, she read his thoughts and repeated the answers he was thinking in his mind. He reveals that the pages are entries written by a Polish immigrant named Marcus, who was taken captive during World War II by a sadistic doctor who conducted experiments on him and other captives inside the house’s basement. These spirits knew answers that only Roger would know because they have been watching the family since the day they moved in.
Meanwhile, Doris kills Lina’s boyfriend Mikey and she hangs his body. Upon seeing this, Father Tom, Alice, and Lina burn the Ouija board downstairs. When Father Tom discovers skeletal remains in the basement wall, they realize that they have been using the Ouija board in a graveyard all this time. Father Tom finds the secret room where the experiments were conducted, and is possessed by the spirits. He attacks Alice and Lina, but momentarily seizes clarity, only to be killed by Doris. Alice is captured, while Roger’s spirit carries an unconscious Lina to her bed. Lina wakes up and recalls an earlier moment where her doll’s mouth was stitched by her father’s spirit “to shut out the voices”, realizing that she must sew Doris’ mouth shut to quiet the spirits’ voices and stop the evil. During the struggle, she successfully sews Doris’ mouth shut and Doris dies, reuniting with her father. After this, Lina is temporarily possessed and stabs Alice. While dying, Alice sees Roger and Doris together, and happily joins them, leaving behind a sobbing Lina.
Two months later, Lina remains committed in a mental hospital for the suspected murder of her mother. She is interviewed by a doctor and is unable to say what happened to Doris’ body, but states that she, Lina, will never be alone again. She tries summoning her sister inside her cell and the doctor watches, unbeknownst that the possessed Doris skitters across the ceiling towards him. In a post-credits scene set in the present, a now elderly Lina remains in the asylum and receives a visit from someone claiming to be her niece.Altogether I really enjoyed Ouija: Origin of Evil. In a world where good horror films are becoming rarer and rarer we have to stop and truly appreciate the great ones that do come along. This was certainly one of them. Keep churning out films please Mr Flanagan.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: DELIVER US FROM EVIL

CAST

Eric Bana (Hulk)
Edgar Ramirez (Joy)
Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Sean Harris (Serena)
Joel McHale (Ted)
Chris Coy (The Walking Dead)
Lulu Wilson (The MIllers)
Dorian Missick (The Cape)

The film opens in a 2010 firefight in a palm grove in the Diyala Province of Iraq. Three Marines discover an underground cavern and start to scream as their helmet video feed goes black. In The Bronx in 2013, veteran NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) stands over the corpse of an infant in a darkened alley. He and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) resume their nocturnal patrol for the 46th Precinct. A domestic disturbance call comes in over the radio. Sarchie probes the dispatcher for more information and finds out that the male at the address is a former Marine. He tells Butler that his “radar” is going off because maybe the former Marine still thinks he is fighting in the war.At the site of the complaint, Sarchie and Butler encounter the shirtless and heavily tattooed former Marine Jimmy Tratner (Chris Coy), who insists his wife is okay. When his wife lifts her head, the officers see that she has been badly beaten. They notice deep scratch marks on the floor and are wary of a dog as they make the arrest. Jimmy resists them ferociously, eventually drawing a knife on Butler and fleeing the house on foot. Sarchie catches up to Jimmy and makes the arrest; although, not without suffering a sizable wound to his forearm that will require stitches. The officers notice that Jimmy’s fingernails are cracked and bleeding, and they assume that he is mentally ill or high on drugs.Sarchie and Butler are called to the Bronx Zoo after a woman has thrown her toddler into the moat surrounding the lion enclosure. They find the woman in a lemur pen. She is furiously scraping at the ground, and after they apprehend her, she rapidly recites the lyrics to “Break On Through (To the Other Side)”. Sarchie notices a painter inside the lion enclosure. He enters the pen to interrogate the mysterious man, but he is attacked by the lions and barely escapes. When the deranged woman, Jane Crenna, is transferred from the precinct to a mental health facility, a Jesuit priest named Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) arrives at the family’s request. He asks the officers several pointed questions about Jane’s behavior at the zoo. When another domestic disturbance call comes in, Sarchie notices the complaint makes reference to doors and decides that he and Butler will respond. At the house, the family of three have been staying in the living room after a series of strange disturbances. There is one area of the house where light bulbs instantly burn out and candles will not remain lit.The family explain that there were two painters working the basement, where most of the disturbances occurred. In the basement, Sarchie discovers the badly decomposing body of one of the painters, David Griggs. At Griggs’ apartment, which is overrun by cockroaches and refuse, they find business cards for Alphonsus Painting company as well as a picture of Griggs with Jane Crenna and the child that she threw at the zoo. In another picture, Griggs is pictured in his Marine uniform with Jimmy Tratner and a third Marine named Santino (Sean Harris). They realize Santino must have been the painter at the zoo. Mendoza visits Sarchie at the precinct and asks to view the surveillance tapes of Jane at the zoo. He believes that Jane is possessed by demons, and he explains that there is secondary evil created by humans and primary evil which comes from demons. Sarchie is skeptical, but when he reviews the surveillance footage with Butler, he hears strange noises and sees things that Butler does not. Sarchie returns to Jimmy Tratner’s house and finds a wall that was being painted in Jimmy’s home office. He scrapes away the paint to find a pictograph of an owl. At Sarchie’s home, his daughter lies in bed as a stuffed owl stares ominously at her from a shelf in her bedroom. She is awakened by strange noises and frightened.Back at Tratner’s home, Sarchie has scraped off the paint from the rest of the wall to find a bizarre mix of Latin and ancient pictographs. Sarchie finds some hard drives with footage from Tratner’s deployments and watches the full footage from the palm grove in Diyala. In the cave, the soldiers found a carving of the same message that is on the wall in Tratner’s home. Sarchie revisits the basement where he found Griggs’ body, scrapes off the paint from a wall, and finds the message again. He reviews the zoo surveillance footage and sees the same message was being painted over by Santino in the lion enclosure. With Mendoza, he visits Jane Crenna in the mental hospital and shows her the message from the cave. She savagely bites Sarchie’s already wounded forearm. Mendoza decodes the message as a kind of bridge between Christian and pagan theology which would theoretically allow demons a door to the human world. He explains that certain people are more susceptible to such messages than others. He suggests that the voices and images Sarchie is seeing could be a result of his intuitive “radar”, which means that he is also susceptible to the archaic message. Mendoza and Sarchie gradually share more of their personal histories with each other. Mendoza goes with Sarchie and Butler to an apartment building where they are attacked by Santino and Jimmy Tratner. Tratner is subdued by Mendoza’s cross. Santino overwhelms and eventually kills Butler.At Sarchie’s home, his daughter is once again awoken during the night. Her stuffed owl rolls off the shelf and advances towards her bed. As she runs screaming from the room, she sees Santino in the hallway. Sarchie arrives home to find Santino in his living room. Santino warns that he has abducted Sarchie’s wife and daughter. Santino is brought to the precinct where Mendoza and Sarchie perform an exorcism on him. Sarchie’s wife and daughter are located in an Alphonsus Painting van at a storage facility. The film ends with the baptism of the Sarchies’ second child.If you enjoy horror flicks like I do, and the supernatural and demon stuff, defiantly check this out. Not much gore, just very dark and creepy with it’s share of make you jump moments.

 

REVIEW: ANNABELLE: CREATION

CAST

Stephanie Sigman (Spectre)
Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave)
Lulu Wilson (Ouija: Origin of Evil)
Anthony LaPaglia (Without A Trace)
Miranda Otto (Lord of The Rings)
Brad Greenquist (Pet Sematary)
Grace Fulton (Shazam)
Philippa Coulthard (Howards End)
Adam Bartley (Longmire)
Lotta Losten (Lights Out)
Mark Bramhall (Star Trek)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Bonnie Aarons (The Fighter
Alicia Vela-Bailey (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

In 1943, dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) grieve for the loss of their seven-year-old daughter Annabelle, “Bee” (Samara Lee), who was killed in a car accident. Twelve years later, in 1955, the Mullins open their home to provide shelter for Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and six girls left homeless by the closing of their orphanage. Despite having been told not to enter Bee’s locked bedroom, Janice (Talitha Bateman), a young orphan crippled by polio, is awakened by a noise, discovers a note saying “find me”, and sneaks into the room, which has mysteriously become unlocked. She finds a key for Bee’s closet and unlocks it, where she sees an eerie porcelain doll. This unwittingly releases a powerful demon, who begins to terrorize the girls, displaying a special interest in Janice.On the second night, the demon continues to torment Janice, revealing its true form and declaring that it wants “her soul”. Although she attempts to get away using a stairlift, she is left severely injured when caught by the demon and thrown from the second floor landing to the first floor. The next day, Janice—now confined to a wheelchair—is dragged into a shed. The demon, taking Bee’s form, successfully possesses her. One of the other orphans, Janice’s best friend Linda (Lulu Wilson), notices changes in her behavior and admits to Samuel that Janice had snuck into Bee’s room and found the doll two nights earlier. Shortly after Linda’s revelation, the possessed Janice, who can now walk, transforms into the demon and brutally kills Samuel.Sister Charlotte speaks with the disfigured Esther, who is confined to her bedroom. Esther explains that after Bee’s death, they prayed to whatever entity would grant their wish to see their daughter again. An unknown entity answered their prayer and though they briefly see Bee’s spirit again, the entity convinces them to transfer its essence into one of Samuel’s crafted porcelain dolls. They happily agree but soon realise that they have attracted a demon looking for a human host. One night, Esther sees Bee’s spirit, along with the porcelain doll, transforming into the demon, who gouges out her left eye. They take the doll to Bee’s room and lock it in a closet wallpapered with pages from the Bible before enlisting the help of priests to bless both the room and the house. Esther then reveals that she and Samuel opened their house as a shelter for the orphans to repent of their dealings but now regrets it, since she realises that this has provided an opportunity for the demon to look for a human host.The demon crucifies Esther and bisects her body and slams Sister Charlotte on the wall, prompting the other orphans to leave the house. Linda is trapped in the house and hides in Bee’s room as the possessed Janice tries to stab her. Sister Charlotte recovers and locks the possessed Janice and the doll inside the closet. The next day, police arrive to search the house and its surroundings and find only the doll inside the bedroom closet, which they remove as evidence. Janice has escaped through a hole in the closet wall and relocates to an orphanage in Santa Monica. Still possessed, she becomes reclusive and calls herself Annabelle. The Higgins family soon adopt Annabelle. Twelve years later, in 1967, a teenage Annabelle (Tree O’Toole) joins a Satanic cult and, along with her boyfriend, murders her adoptive parents in their bedroom, which catches the attention of their next door neighbors, the Forms.In a post-credits scene, set in Romania in 1952, Valak, the Demon Nun (Bonnie Aarons), walks towards the camera in the candle-lit halls of the Cârța Monastery, as each candle slowly goes out, teasing the events of The Nun.Annabelle Creation is one of the better horror movies of the summer and perhaps this year. It is dark, creepy, and moves at that pace needed to keep you invested in the movie for the two-hour run time. In addition, the filling in gaps and hints start to connect the world, which will have you die hard horror fans screaming in delight at both scares and plot.