Shows

Loki’s Back For His Own Series

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Loki Season 1

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I heard about this series, I was concerned about whether it would be any good because I was worried it would take away from the character development we saw in other movies. Instead, it provided the means for more character development and showed a different side of Loki.

Warning: This review does not contain any significant spoilers for Season 1 of Loki, but it does include some plot details from Episode 1.

Background

Loki Season 1 was created by Michael Waldron and released in 2021. It can be streamed on Disney+.

Summary

Loki escapes the Avengers only to be captured by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and labeled a variant to the sacred timeline. To survive, he will have to use his wits and his own self-knowledge to capture an enemy of the TVA.

Pros

  • Enjoyable characters
  • Strong character development
  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting
  • The show is unpredictable and strange, which is fitting for a series centering around the god of mischief
  • Well-chosen music

Cons

  • There are no specific cons I would like to point out. This series does stretch believability, but considering the god of mischief is the main character, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Observations

  • Inspired in a lot of ways by the comics

Review

Characters

Loki wins the prize for most character development out of everyone from this series. Watching his character unfold was like watching a narcissistic caterpillar turn into an equally narcissistic butterfly. Yeah, he does remain a narcissist, but he’s forced to re-evaluate his entire worldview and come to terms with who he truly is.

Mobius is kind of patronizing at first, but once you figure out what makes him tick, he’s easier to understand and appreciate. He kind of fulfills a mentor role to Loki in that Loki does learn some things from him, but he’s not the stereotypical old dude fulfilling his duty to pass on unwanted wisdom.

Miss Minutes is the holographic mascot for the TVA, explaining its mission to maintain the sacred timeline to Loki when he first is captured. She handles looking up information in the TVA’s databases, but is more than just a tool. Often, she acts like a sentient being with her own feelings and concerns.

Acting

The acting was impeccable, especially by Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, and Sophia Di Martino. Hiddleston using a range of complex expressions to get across Loki’s reactions to pivotal events was especially effective.

Setting

The TVA as a setting was perfect. It combined a bunch of old-fashioned propaganda posters, dated cartoons, and futuristic devices to make a unique atmosphere. It was a perfect blend of old and new to make the setting seem timeless and immersive.

Plot

The plot throws you for a lot of loops. (And not just time loops.) Every time everything seems chill and like things are going to go one way, things escalate and the stakes become even higher.

Music

The quirky and thematic music of this season added to the atmosphere. There is currently a soundtrack out for Episodes 1-3 called “Loki Volume 1” and it can be found on Spotify.

Inspiration

The whole concept of the TVA and the Timekeepers, as wells as many of the characters were inspired by the comics. I love that Disney is taking into account previous works in the Marvel Universe rather than taking an entirely new path.

Conclusion

If you like Marvel, then you will appreciate this show focused on one of Marvel’s most enduring characters.

Rating System

If you’re interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Movies

Knives Out Will Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Knives Out (2019)

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

I don’t watch mystery movies too often, but I really enjoyed this one. I watched it once with my uncle and once with my roommate.

Background

Knives Out was directed by Rian Johnson. Many people are not happy with what he did to Star Wars, but I can honestly say that he was in his element when he directed this movie.

The movie stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.

Knives Out is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Summary

Detective Benoit Blanc investigates an apparent suicide, believing it to be a murder. Investigation into family matters reveals most family members had sufficient motives for murder, but this wacky mystery is much more complex than it seems.

Pros

  • Creative title
  • Phenomenal acting and cast
  • Complex and entertaining characters
  • Interesting setting
  • Subtle aspects of the film rewarding those paying attention
  • Plausible yet unexpected ending

Cons

  • Marta’s vomiting is overused

Review

Title

The title was well-chosen, part of one of the most impactful quotes in the whole movie by Benoit Blanc – “You’re a pack a vultures, knives out and beaks bloody.” In context it is blunt, but cuts to the heart of the problem with the whole Thrombey family.

The title could also be a reference to the stunning display of Harlan Thrombey’s knives, which was certainly the most iconic object in the movie.

Acting

The acting was phenomenal, especially by Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc and Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera. Some people found Craig’s southern drawl annoying, but it didn’t bother me.

Characters

Again, Benoit Blanc and Marta Cabrera were the best characters, though I appreciated Harlan Thrombey as well.

Benoit is an eccentric detective, not just another cookie-cutter Sherlock. He has elaborate metaphors involving donuts, and even seems incompetent at times. Yet he is super sharp too.

I feel a noose tightening. The family is truly desperate. Desperate motives, with the mystery of who hired me, the impossibility of the crime, and yet a donut. One central piece, and if it reveals itself, the fog would lift, the arc would resolve, the Slinky become unkinked.

Benoit Blanc

Marta Cabrera is a kind-hearted nurse who cared for the deceased Harlan Thrombey during his old age. She has complicated relationships with all the members of the Thrombey family. She is basically the protagonist of the movie.

Setting

The house most of the action is set in, becomes, as a character pointed out, just like a Clue board. It has all these quirky aspects that made it stand out. These details are what made the family home the family home. And as a former English major and a (hopefully!) future librarian, I appreciated the sheer number of books in the house. At the same time, I don’t think I could handle the clutter. That being said, this house just had so much character.

Details

There are some details that added to this masterpiece of a story. When each family member told the story, the flashbacks had slight differences even in places where they intersected, which is especially notable in the scene with the birthday cake.

Different members of the family say that Marta’s family is from different countries. Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil…none of them cared enough to know for sure her story.

According to Fandom, the accuracy of the clocks was carefully considered when setting the scenes. Each one was carefully at the time it should have been for the scene.

The timing of Benoit hitting a piano key during the investigation was the way one of the investigators was prompted to ask a certain question. I thought that was pretty creative.

Ending

The ending was well-executed and I would say most people would not see it coming. Obviously I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that I certainly was not disappointed.

Conclusion

I would recommend this movie even for people who don’t usually watch mysteries. It’s not your typical whodunit. The rating of PG-13 is entirely reasonable.

Also, I heard a sequel is coming out, so it’s the perfect time to watch Knives Out!

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Links

Board Games

A Board Game Battle of the Baristas

Board Game Review:

Latte Throwdown

Rating: 6.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

What I hope to accomplish with my board game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

Description

Latte Throwdown was published in 2020 and is a dice rolling board game for 1-4 players. In this game, players are baristas using die rolls to perform latte art. The game is best for ages 8 and up, and the game is low in complexity.

Gameplay (6 out of 10 stars)

On each players turn, they take several actions. They roll their dice, including whatever surplus dice they have earned. Then they use the dice to try to match the numbers at the bottom of a latte card. If they can’t finish the set of numbers, they just place what they can and hope to roll the other numbers later. If they complete a latte card, they can take it and score the number indicated on the card. Or, instead of finishing a latte card, they can do any of several special actions using Barista cards. Then they return the dice used to complete a Barista or Latte card to their pool and the next player takes their turn.

Special actions include converting a die to a different number, turning in two matching die for a point, etc.

The first player to 20 points wins.

Design (9 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The artwork in this game is attractive and makes me want to drink coffee. There’s not much more one could ask for!

The components are attractive and fit the game style. It was interesting to have the latte cards be circular, and since there are not too many, the weird shape does not make it too hard to shuffle easily. Most of the dice, excluding the surplus dice, are the colors of coffee.

Strategy (5 out of 10 stars)

There is a lot of luck involved in this game due to the amount of dice-rolling and the randomness of the shuffled Barista cards and circular Latte cards. Strategy is low, but still present if you analyze the probability of being able to finish the Latte cards before your opponents and use the Barista cards wisely.

Originality (8 out of 10 stars)

The concept of a game where the theme is baristas competing with latte art was extremely creative. This is not your average coffee-themed game. It stems from real consideration of the art of creating and serving lattes. The name of the board game comes from public gatherings where baristas show up their latte art skills.

Replayability (6 out of 10 stars)

Replayability is reasonable. This is the sort of game you can pull out from time to time, but not one that anyone would be likely to play more than once every couple of days. I personally do not play it often.

Conclusion

This game would be best for a group of amateur board games, those new to the hobby. Or it would be a good option to play as a warmup to a heavier game. It’s relatively simple and easy to learn, which is a plus.

Links

Shows

LoK Season 2’s Horrible Spirit Wonderland

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

The Legend of Korra Season 2

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Intro

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Avatar universe and The Legend of Korra (LoK). But Season 2 takes all the worst parts of Avatar lore, runs like a bad fanfiction, and introduces lasting consequences that should never have been a problem in the first place. This is my second time watching it, and I hated it even more the second time.

If you decide to skip Season 2, I recommend reading my spoiler review of it instead of this one, because it will sum up the main takeaways from Season 2 and prepare you to understand the beginning of Season 3.

Background

The Legend of Korra Season 2, called Spirits, was released in 2013. It was animated partially by Studio Mir and partially by Pierrot. The creators are Michael Dante DiMartino and Brian Konietzko

Season 2 might have been better if it weren’t for strained relations with Nickelodeon and if the series had been planned out better in the first place. Initially, the creators of The Legend of Korra were only contracted for Season 1, so getting a Season 2 had been up in the air.

Summary

Season 2 begins six months after the first season. Korra has to find a way to deal with increasing unrest between the spirit world and the natural world and stop the embodiment of evil and chaos from being released on the world.

Pros

  • Introduction of numerous new characters
  • Get to see a beloved old character
  • The story of the first avatar was creative
  • Pretty animation at times
  • Good music

Cons

  • Abusive relationship between Bolin and a Water Tribe girl played for laughs
  • Relationship between Varrick and Zhu Li uncomfortable as well
  • Korra acting obnoxious in her relationship with Mako
  • More drama with the love triangle that is just too much
  • Bolin kisses a woman without consent
  • Bolin being a little too dumb
  • Has the worst villain of all the seasons
  • Too much spirit mumbo-jumbo
  • Serious permanent consequences that I really hate because why, oh why…
  • Really awful ending

Review

Characters

Eska and Desna are Korra’s twin cousins They are typically emotionless, passive, and disinterested in life around them. However, they can be stirred to anger under the right circumstances.

They come from the Northern Water Tribe and are visiting the Southern Water Tribe for the Glacier Spirits Festival. They are skilled waterbenders.

Bumi and Kya are Tenzin’s siblings.

Bumi, the one on the left in the picture, is a nonbender who is brash, stubborn, and fond of telling long and often pointless stories about his military career.

Kya, shown on the right in the picture, is a waterbender whose skill rivals her mother Katara’s.

Varrick is eccentric businessman and inventor that Asami seeks to make a deal with. He is a flamboyant, intelligent, bossy genius. He’s definitely a fan-favorite, but in my opinion he is at his worst in this season.

He has an assistant named Zhu Li who is willing to do almost anything for him.

Origin Story

Avatar Wan

Season 2 introduces the story of Avatar Wan, the first Avatar, and his relationship with the spirits Raava and Vaatu. This is the best part of Season 2, by far. It adds so much lore to the Avatar universe.

Raava and Vaatu

Relationships

There is one clearly abusive relationship in this season between Bolin and a Water Tribe girl. She treats him like a slave and exerts greater and greater control over him. When Bolin asks his friends for help, they shrug it off and give him less than helpful advice.

The love triangle of Asami, Mako, and Korra needs to stop. At this point it becomes painful and dramatic and it is easy to grow sick of the whole thing.

Varrick treats Zhu Li like some sort of slave and it becomes increasingly apparent that he is unable to appreciate her worth. Their interactions are uncomfortable at best, and cause one to wonder why a woman would degrade herself in this way for such a self-centered man.

The Bolin Problem

Bolin is not at his best in this season. When he is not a submissive, uncomfortable part of a toxic relationship, he is doing stupid and inappropriate things such as kissing a woman without her consent.

The Spirit World Problem

The Spirit World is like Wonderland, and I hate Wonderland. Nothing makes sense. Things change without warning. And with dark forces involved, spirits quickly turn from good to evil and back again. This whole season is about Korra finding herself spiritually, and in the spirit world she is figuratively and literally lost.

The spirit world in Avatar: The Last Airbender was so much better, because it stayed mysterious and kind of creepy. In Season 2 of The Legend of Korra it lost its cryptic quality.

Ending

The ending sucks. It’s like you are watching a completely different show than Season 1. It introduces lasting consequences that Avatar fans will be disappointed with for seasons to come.

Animation

The animation is a little bit nicer in this season than in the previous season. When telling Avatar Wan’s story, the animators changed the style. I like that choice as it feels liked it amped up the feeling of storytelling. The style was elsewhere surprisingly consistent considering two different studios were working on it.

Music

The music had a somber quality appropriate for the more spiritual themes of this season.

Conclusion

If you read this and then decided Season 2 wasn’t worth your time, check out my spoiler version of this review. I don’t recommend watching it, but if you can’t bring yourself to skip it, there are some redeemable qualities mentioned above, so it’s not a complete waste of time.

Honestly, I think this season was appropriate for most people ages 10 and up.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate show, check out my rating system.

Links

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