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"I sense an Oscar win, guys."

Let me begin this review with my sentiments, which a lot of other people share: "This is the best animation style I have ever seen." Well, of course stop motion animation is still a glorious thing to behold, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse gives us a much-needed break from all the computer-generated animation flicks that are basically just Pixar clones. And Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), together with last year's T'Challa from Black Panther, gives us a much-needed break from all the Caucasian superheroes of the silver screen.

Into the Spider-Verse does beautifully what Ang Lee's Hulk tried to do back in 2003, and that is to blend the visual comic medium with the audio-visual medium of cinema (Lee received a lot of hate with Hulk, but I was one of the very few who genuinely thought it was groundbreaking). The result is a visual style that is totally new, a breath of fresh air in this age where every computer animated film looks the same. There are several nods to the source medium of print, such as using speech bubbles and sound effects text, using CMYK offsetting instead of blurs, and of course the iconic use of halftones. Nothing says print more than those halftone dots.

The plot's pacing was okay, although there were times when the almost two-hour running time felt longer than that. And the story is a good take on the alternate universe template. If this were a live-action flick, the filmmakers would probably put the same actor in different makeup and costumes to illustrate different alternate dimension versions of the character. But why should Spider-Man in another dimension always look exactly like Peter Parker (Jake Johnson)? Why can't there be a black Spider-Man, a female Spider-Man (Spider-Gwen, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), an anime Spider-Man (Peni Parker, voiced by Kimiko Glenn), an animated pig Spider-Man (Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney), or a black-and-white Spider-Man who sounds like Nicholas Cage? In the same vein, why shouldn't an alternate dimension version of me look like Brad Pitt?

Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman could also have chosen to go the cheesy route and have Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy kiss in the end. It's a good thing they didn't, and they replaced it with Miles hugging his dad in the end instead. This film is about friendship and family, and isn't about Spider-Man's romantic love interest, because Miles Morales just hit puberty, after all.

This review comes a bit late, as the film was released in December, but it does come off a recent Golden Globe win for Best Animated Film. And that is a good sign that Into the Spider-Verse just might take home the animated film Oscar. This is important because I've met children nowadays who would ignore a beautifully animated Hayao Miyazaki flick for a crappy Paw Patrol episode simply because Miyazaki is 2D. Sad, I know, but kids need to be reintroduced to great animation that isn't overtly computer-generated. I guess we need to wean them off gradually, so maybe give them a film that's CGI, but doesn't feel totally CGI, and that pays homage to the 2D medium – and coincidentally, that's what this film is.

Honestly, I think this would still rock even as a 2D-animated film. 



Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. USA. 2018.



Orinal rating: 8.0/10
Mahershala Ali looking like his character: +0.25
Brian Tyree Henry voicing Miles's dad: +0.25
Liev Schreiber's unrecognisable voice: +0.25
Stan Lee's cameo: +0.25
Final rating: 9.0/10
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Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 4, discussing Erik Matti's Buy Bust and Richard Somes's We Will Not Die Tonight, how the Bacolod filmmakers are pushing the envelope for action movies, and how female action heroines might be the next trend.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Giosi Mendoza

ScienceFiction.com

Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 3, discussing HBO's Westworld Season 2, how it is not the next Game of Thrones, and how it is the new Matrix.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Giosi Mendoza, with guest Rachel P.

IGN

Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 2, discussing Deadpool 2, a bit about how DC movies differ from Marvel, and how to approach viewing a film like Deadpool 2.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Giosi Mendoza

What's On Netflix

This is the first DCT podcast, so bear with us. We hope to produce more, because it's really fun to make, but quite time-consuming to edit.

You know this isn't porn because he still has his shirt on.

Ah, Ready Player One. I loved the book a lot, so when I found out it was going to be a movie, I almost pissed my pants in excitement. I was even a little miffed that 2017's The Last Jedi pushed back RPO's release date to March 2018. But it doesn't matter. It's playing now in theatres, which is a good thing. And that's just one of the many good things about this film, such as...

1. It's Steven Spielberg at the helm.
I've mentioned it before. Spielberg is one of the best visual storytellers alive today. He has such a very deep understanding of cinema: from composition, to cinematography, to narrative pacing, to adaptation. He is a great director because he is effective. His camera movements are not for show; they have a purpose, which is to reveal information or to advance the story forward. He's been doing this a long time, so he's become quite good at it.

2. Ernest Cline co-wrote the screenplay.
This is one of the very few instances where an adapted screenplay is also penned by the same author of the source material. Cline's book was a perfect nerdgasm of 80s pop culture references, plus the world-building he did was so fantastic that apparently, the virtual reality (VR) company Oculus gave all its employees a copy of the Ready Player One book. However, some scenes in the book are either not cinematic enough or just downright unfilmable that another writer was needed to crack the adaptation problem. And that's where co-writer Zak Penn comes in. With Penn in the equation, the final screenplay is, well...

3. It's not like the book.
Around a quarter of the way into the film, I just gave up on any expectations that the movie would be faithful to the book. Well, the spirit and essence of the book was preserved, thanks to the close collaboration between Penn, Cline, and Spielberg. There's still the quest, the three challenges, and the David vs. Goliath theme (Parzival against the big corporation IOI). But the details have changed drastically, and the narrative took a different direction. The challenges have been altered: the first challenge, the race, was not in the book, while the second challenge was changed to The Shining instead of War Games. But it doesn't matter, actually, as this is a great story on the page and on the screen.

4. The actors aren't that well-known.
Spielberg made a good call with this film's casting, opting to go for mostly newcomers. With the exception of Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, and Oscar winner and new Spielberg favourite Mark Rylance, the rest of the cast are relative unknowns. I think it's probably because the filmmakers want us to concentrate on the wonderful story, and having too many Hollywood A-listers might take the attention away from the narrative. That or the special effects took up a bulk of the budget.

5. References galore.
The book was a veritable nerdgasm of 1980s pop culture references. There's references to 1980s movies, music, and most of all, video games. In the book, though, it was explicitly stated that James Halliday was a huge fan of everything 80s, so all references came from that decade only. The movie didn't make that distinction, though, and opened up its references to other decades. There's Speed Racer from the 60s, Star Trek from the 70s, Jurassic Park's T-Rex from the 90s, Firefly's Serenity from the 00s, and Minecraft from the 10s. I guess including references from the more recent decades would please the younger fans instead of alienating them.

I've seen Jerry Seinfeld drive a DeLorean. Not that impressive.



Ready Player One. USA. 2018.



Rating: 8.7/10
Seriously, there's no need to name this "Gipsy" if it's not related to Gipsy Danger, anyway.

2013's Pacific Rim was a great movie. It was the Western visualisation of the great Eastern traditions of kaijus and mechas. It was (and still is) a great example of world-building. So you can just imagine how excited I was for its sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising, and how disappointed I was after watching. Mainly because...

1. It's not by Guillermo del Toro.
This alone should have restrained me from shelling out cash to watch it on IMAX. But I gave it the benefit of the doubt, that maybe del Toro's world-building was so solid that any sequel would be just as good. Sadly, that wasn't the case. Uprising was helmed by Steven S. DeKnight, and if he was as big a kaiju and mecha geek as del Toro, it doesn't show. With del Toro, his love of Japanese monsters and machines oozes out of him that you could almost tell he was bullied in school as a kid because he was clearly a geek.

2.  There are more jaegers, but they are less endearing.
The first film showed only four (4) jaegers in action: Cherno Alpha, Gipsy Danger, Crimson Typhoon, and Striker Eureka. Uprising has twice as many: Bracer Phoenix, Gipsy Avenger, Guardian Bravo, Saber Athena, Titan Redeemer, Obsidian Fury, November Ajax, and Valor Omega. Now let me state my qualms about the film's jaegers.

First, less is more. We grew to love the jaegers from the first film because there's only four of them, and we'd be drawn to one of them as a favourite, kind of like how we have our favourite Beatle, because they were all distinct and different from each other. Now, however, there's just too many. They all look the same. Sometimes I can't tell them apart.

Second, the jaeger names. I think the rule for naming jaegers is to have two random words, and both words must have a 99% chance of never being seen together in the vernacular. Like how likely will the word "eureka" follow the word "striker" in real life conversation? (Also, Gipsy seems to be a spelling typo, but it looks nice, so what the hell.) But in the sequel, it seems they were too lazy to name the jaegers that they just chose two words at random by flipping through a dictionary. Sometimes you get a hit, like Obsidian Fury, and sometimes you get a miss. Like November Ajax. What a lousy name.

3. John Boyega is definitely not Idris Elba
Yes, Jake Pentecost admits in the beginning of the film that it's hard to live under his father's shadow. He'll never be as badass as his father was. First, he has a lame name. "Jake". Ugh. Compare that to the awesome name "Stacker". Right? Second, he isn't as tall and heavily built, and he lacks that low, raspy voice. And third, his speech wasn't awesome enough to cancel the apocalypse. And fourth, he didn't die a martyr. I could go on, but you get the point.

4. It wasn't scored by Ramin Djawadi.
Admit it, the original Pacific Rim score by Ramin Djawadi was perfect. It was a fusion of classical and modern. It made you feel like a jaeger leaving the Shatterdome for battle. However, in this film, the score seems to have mellowed down that you'll be battling kaijus with little to no adrenaline in your blood stream. And when you hear the (reprised) Pacific Rim theme a little later in the film, you'll actually wonder where that music was all this time. I mean, I get it, first it was John Paesano composing the score, then they changed it to Lorne Balfe. Well, they could have changed the composers for all I care, but they could have at least retained the original theme. Because: Tom Morello.

5. The kaiju designs are meh.
Guillermo del Toro stuck to a strict philosophy in creating the kaijus for the first film. First, they should not look like any pre-existing monster. Second, they should look as if it could just be a rubber suit with a man inside it. And with those two simple rules, the legendary Wayne Barlow went on to design the kaijus of Pacific Rim, while Uprising's kaijus were designed by Stefan Dechant and Doug Lefter, who are undeniably talented, but are also in a different league from Barlow. The kaijus in this film are ugly. Big, ugly, and dangerous. But Barlow's kaijus looked way more menacing–the stuff that nightmares are made of.

6. Bigger is always better. 
Jaeger means huge. Gigantic. Humongous. Well, literally it means "hunter", but in this context, when we say jaeger, we mean very, very big fighting robots, so big that they can dwarf a major city's central business district. Which is why I really don't like Scrapper. Okay, he can turn into a ball. That's cute. But he's small, so no. Making him instrumental in stopping the super kaiju is just a consolation prize to justify Scrapper's existence.

Also, the world of Pacific Rim isn't a post-apocalyptic world with a dwindling population. There are many, much more qualified jaeger pilots on the planet, even just in the Pacific Rim nations. So why recruit a teenage girl (Cailee Spaeny)? Just because she built a mini-jaeger? Come on.

On a scale of 1 to Idris Elba, John Boyega is a 5.
On a scale of 1 to Clint Eastwood, Scott's a 9.



Pacific Rim: Uprising. USA/China/UK. 2018.



Original rating: 7/10
Mako Mori dying: -0.5
Jaeger cadets being too young: -0.1
Final rating: 6.4/10
No room in this shot for the famous Tom Cruise sprint.

•I just loved this film's production design and cinematography. It nailed the '80s feel quite perfectly, even better than Netflix's Narcos did. Sorry, but since this is a film about the Medellin Cartel, comparisons to Narcos will crop up every now and then.

•Tom Cruise runs again. It's a relatively short distance, though. But he still runs. Got to admire this man. He will always throw in a running scene in his films.

•Doug Liman is a versatile director. He's great with action movies, sure. He's done quite a number of those already. Didn't think he could pull off a biopic. Also, this film has a Tony Scott vibe. Like music video-style, freeze frames and such.

•I definitely need a new genre to watch. Too many money laundering films for this year. I've seen Ozark and Narcos, which are both from Netflix. Then this. Now I'm curious about the process of laundering money, and just how lucrative a career it really is.

•That's Jesse Plemons as Sheriff Downing. He's the guy who played Todd in Breaking Bad. But he's grown a bit bigger here.

•That's Lola Kirke as Sheriff Downing's wife. She's the girl from Mozart in the Jungle. Wish she had more scenes.

•Caleb Landry Jones really looks like white trash, doesn't he? He's too... white. And all those freckles. Also, he's too white. I said that already. Because he is. He's like an albino.

•Domhnall Gleeson looks a bit too young to play a CIA agent, doesn't he? Well, he's younger than I am. But I like him. I'm happy for his Hollywood career.

•Sorry, Mauricio Mejia. Wagner Moura has become the standard for any Pablo Escobar performance from this point forward. Blame it all on Netflix.

•Overall, this film is quite as interesting, but is actually not as factual as I would've hoped. I love biopics, it's one of my favourite film genres. But what I love about biopics is the truthfulness of it. For me, it kind of kills the magic when you realise, "Eh, that's not how it happened."

"There's really not that many roles for gingers in Hollywood, man."



American Made. USA. 2017.



Original rating: 7.2/10
Production design: +0.1
Not enough Lola Kirke: -0.1
Caleb Landry Jones's freckles: -0.1
Factual inconsistencies: -0.1
Final rating: 7.0/10
HBO
"I'm tougher than you, Jaime. I still have both my hands."

•The show opens with a marching Lannister army, fresh from the sacking of Highgarden, and a visual testament to how expensive this show's budget is for extras. As the scene unfolds, some of you may start to wonder, "What the hell is Bronn still doing here? How in the name of the old gods is he still alive?" The answer to that is plain and simple, but some might find it difficult to accept: Bronn is the best player of the game of thrones. No, really. A lowborn, with no great House to protect him, yet always on the front lines of the action – how the hell is he still alive?

•I thought Bran Stark's powers include the ability to read the memories of an object. Like those people who can touch a coin and see where it has been, or those who can touch a key and see which lock it opens. But apparently not, because as soon as his fingers touched the Valyrian steel dagger, he should have known that Littlefinger lied about who he lost the dagger to (it wasn't Tyrion).

•Hooray for Arya's homecoming! Now the Stark siblings – at least those still alive – are back in Winterfell, and that's all that matters. After all, there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, and now there are three. Arya has become a formidable warrior, Sansa has become a cunning politician, and Bran has become the most powerful character in this series so far. If only the writers knew how to maximise his potential.

•I just love the sexual tension between the Mother of Dragons and the King in the North. Jon Snow should have made his move in the cave. The Dothraki guards have already been told to stay back, so I'm sure they could have done a quickie in there. Oh, but Jon Snow's fully armoured. Yeah, I forgot. Undressing would eat up precious time.

•Hello, Podrick. You've gotten fat. Maybe that's why you can't seem to win any sparring matches with Brienne? It's okay, though. You're a nice guy and a loyal squire, and I hope you don't die in this series.

•Hello, Arya. You show-off. Why don't you just take your Valyrian steel dagger and point it at Littlefinger's throat, the way he pointed a blade at Ned Stark's throat? In fact, while Littlefinger's in Winterfell, why don't you disguise yourself as Sansa and seduce him? Then when he has his guard down, rip your mask off and catch him off guard, then slash his throat? Either way, Littlefinger must die.

HBO
"Obi-Wan has taught you well."

•I really think Ser Davos has a thing for Missandei. Who wouldn't? Davos isn't married, as far as I know. Although Missandei has a boyfriend, but he's stuck in Casterly Rock. So there. Go, Ser Davos! Use the father figure thing you got going to your advantage!

•Come on, Ser Jaime. Cut Dickon Tarly some slack. His family switched allegiance just for you. Don't be a dick about it. If you're gonna piss on Dickon Tarly, it should be for stealing screen time from his brother Sam. That's because when Sam is onscreen, so will Archmaester Ebrose. But now I have to wait until next episode to find out if Jim Broadbent will make an appearance.

•Here come the Dothraki! Those horse-lords must really love Daenerys to have followed her across their continent of Essos, to fight in a war that doesn't concern them. But thanks to the Targaryen megalomania, we get to see the Dothraki fight on horseback, which is literally a sight to behold. I'm guessing this was how the Mongols rode into battle during the time of Genghis Khan.

•Yay Drogon! Fry those Lannister soldiers! Go and burn as much as you can! Set as many wagons on fire! Wreak as much havoc as possible! We only have a few more episodes left in this series, and honestly, we haven't had a lot of dragon action! It's time Messrs. Benioff and Weiss made up for all the previous seasons without dragons. Also, are we going to have a battle with all three dragons? Drogon is just one dragon. Where are the other two? Get to work on it, showrunners.

•Let us all applaud Ser Bronn of the Blackwater. Not only is he a pretty good shot with the scorpion, but he also saved Ser Jaime from ending up as some burned body. Although I'm not sure if this is a case of "out of the frying pan and into the fire", since the last shot we see is Jaime sinking into the depths in full battle armour. Who's gonna save him from that?

HBO
How many people does Jaime Lannister owe his life to?

HBO
"Just our weapons, right? Why are they taking our boat?"

•At last, the King in the North lands on Dragonstone. Here he is greeted by Queen Daenerys's welcoming party, consisting of the Hand of the Queen Tyrion Lannister and her most trusted adviser Missandei. (In modern terms, I wonder who among them would be Daenerys's chief of staff?) The reunion between the bastard and the dwarf is a bit touching, as you can literally feel that they go way back, all the way back to Season 1, in fact.

•Ser Davos, are you hitting on Missandei? She's taken. Although her man has no manhood, so I guess you can pleasure her with your fingers. See what I did there? No? Okay, never mind.

•Why don't Varys and Melisandre seem to get along? I think it's probably because Varys feels threatened that Melisandre might join the Queen's entourage. Since she's a powerful red priestess while Varys is only as useful as the reliability of his spies, if the Queen had to take someone off her entourage, it would probably be Varys.

•Daenerys currently has seven (7) titles. She is Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, 1) rightful heir to the Iron Throne, 2) rightful queen of the Andals and the First Men, 3) protector of the Seven Kingdoms, 4) the mother of dragons, 5) the Khaleesi of the great grass sea, 6) the Unburnt, 7) the Breaker of Chains. Stormborn is probably her middle name, like in her birth certificate, it says "Targaryen, Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen" (as she was a child of incest).

•One has to commend Jon Snow for how he handled Daenerys Targaryen. He acted like a king, yet he did not exalt himself the way Daenerys did. Compared to Daenerys, his only title is "King in the North". He has no claim to his position except his leadership skills, his fighting abilities, and his sense of honour and justice. He's a bastard, and he knows it, yet his social status never stopped him from acting like a king. He was born to rule, and he hates it; the mantle of leadership is a burden for him to carry. But despite the pressure exerted from the side with the huge army and three dragons, Jon Snow refused to bend a knee. The northerners would've been proud.

•I'm probably not the only one who wishes Daenerys and Jon Snow should totally bone. If Snow is indeed a Targaryen, then Dany would be his aunt. On the incest scale, that would be a bit more tolerable than sibling sex (Honestly, all guys have that one aunt they'd like to bang, although I don't know if the converse is true for girls and their uncles.) That sexual encounter would indeed be a meeting of ice and fire. Coincidentally, "Ice" and "Fire" are also varieties of sex lubricants from Bliss. You're welcome.

•Poor Theon Greyjoy. He was rescued from the sea by some ironborn sailors loyal to Yara, but as they hauled his sorry ass from the water, all they could see was a coward. A craven. A pathetic excuse for a man. But like I said in my review for the previous episode, Theon had his reasons for jumping. No one is in any position to judge him, unless they've been through the same things he has. Sadly, no one will ever understand this.

•Euron Greyjoy is my least favourite character in this series. And by that I mean I hate him the most, not that I find him the most uninteresting. I hate him now more than Cersei Lannister, and I think the effectiveness of his portrayal is a testament to Pilou Asbæk's acting skills. Plus, his capture of Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand seems to have turned the tide of this war.

•I think one of the yardsticks for measuring true evil is how one carries out a plan for revenge. Take Cersei Lannister, for example. At first I thought, "What's with the lipstick, Cersei?" And then it turns out it's actually poisoned lipstick, and she kisses Ellaria's daughter on the lips with it. If you recall, that was also how Cersei's daughter Myrcella was killed by Ellaria in Season 5, so there's a kind of poetic justice at play here. This suggests premeditation of the highest degree, and Cersei even goes one-up on Ellaria by dooming her to watch her daughter die and slowly decompose in front of her very eyes. True evil? You bet it is.

HBO
The only one in this episode who bent a knee was Cersei.

•Twincest is back. Hooray. Or not. Wait, who's the maid in the pixie cut? Well, she's not a new character, according to Vanity Fair. She's been serving Cersei Lannister since Season 2.

•Hooray, Mark Gatiss! Another awesome cameo for this season. Gatiss is a good actor, because despite looking like Myrcroft Holmes from Sherlock, his acting here isn't like Myrcroft at all. His character here is very serious, very corporate, and very effective. You can practically feel your loan application getting approved or denied just by listening to the tone of his voice.

•Is it just me, or does it seem like the director forced in a lot of shots overlooking the cliffs of Dragonstone just to maximise the location? It's like, "Hey, get a load of this view! You don't get this everyday! Okay, we'll shoot Varys and Melisandre here, then one brooding scene between Tyrion and Jon Snow trying to out-brood each other, then another one with Daenerys and Jon Snow when she allows him to mine the dragonglass!" They most likely dubbed the dialogue in those scenes, as I imagine the wind from those cliffs was probably howling.

•Sansa seems to have the North all taken care of. She'd make a pretty good Lord of Winterfell, or whatever the female version of a lord is. (Lady of Winterfell? Doesn't have the same ring to it, though.) Oh, and Bran's back. And he has a lot of explaining to do, because apparently his sister still thinks he can be Lord of Winterfell. I wish the Stark siblings would just team up and get Littlefinger out of the picture. It'll be best for everyone.

•Look at Bran Stark. You think that's wooden acting by Isaac Hempstead Wright? On the contrary, he's portraying a character whose brain is fried from too much weirwood use. No, I don't mean as a drug. I mean he's tapped into weirwoods too much as part of his Three-Eyed Raven training that his brain has overloaded. What would you expect from someone who can see the past, the present, and the future all at once? Not even Sansa could handle the awkward weirdness.

•Ser Jorah's greyscale may be no more, but his scars are still a horrible sight to behold. Well, at least he's cured. And I mean totally cured, because Sam even has the courage to shake his hand after that. But enough about Jorah Mormont. Let's talk about Jim Broadbent. Ah, Jim Broadbent... my new favourite character in this series. I love him so much, I even signed up on Reddit just so I could rave about how good he is.

•The Unsullied take Casterly Rock, which is a good thing. But it seems a bit fishy, isn't it, how easily they took it? I would've wanted to see some Unsullied action. Sadly, we won't get that treat this episode, because Jaime Lannister has taken his army to march on Highgarden. Also, damn you, Randyll Tarly. I thought you were honourable.

•Goodbye, Lady Olenna. You're one of the good bitches in Westeros. I don't mean that in a bad way; all the powerful women on this show are bitches. But you're a good bitch. So basically, you'll be gone by next episode, and House Tyrell's coffers will be used to pay the Iron Bank. That doesn't seem like a nice way to go. But of course, you dropped the bomb regarding Joffrey's death, which is a great dick move. The only regret you'll have is you won't see Cersei's face when she finds out it was you who poisoned that cunt.

HBO
Yeah, he's a cunt... but he's my cunt!

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