Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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In hindsight, maybe I was too generous with the second season review. It wasn't bad but it did suffer from a slow pace and rehashing plot points from the first season (namely, having to rescue Will again) with the villain being too vague to feel threatening. The third season is much better than the second season thanks to great visuals and effects, amazing performances, cool villains, a poignant ending before the mid-credits scene Marvel-style sequel hook drops in and more suspense with an increase in action sequences as well as giving everyone equal focus rather than having the story revolve entirely around Will. We finally get to see him talk to Eleven after remaining unconscious anytime they were onscreen together in the last two seasons. Plus, having the season take place in the summer makes it less monotonous than if the show still took place during schooltime. Equally nostalgic, funny and spooky, Stranger Things 3 ranks as the second-best season of Stranger Things and I hope the Duffer Brothers make the fourth, and possibly final, season an epic one.
It's way too crazy in the first few episodes and if you went in expecting this show to be a spinoff of BoJack Horseman, you're definitely going to be disappointed but Tuca & Bertie still stands on its own with its sense of humour, fun animation, great voice acting and script that addresses serious topics but with a larger sense of optimism - and more self-contained episodes - than BoJack.
Heroes Reborn tries to win back the crowd that it lost 5-6 years ago with a darker tone, changing of characterizations and having even the characters both from the original series and this "event miniseries" either die or be doomed to uncertain fates. Some of them don't even show up in the series proper! But whilst the performances are still good and there's a slightly increased amount of action sequences, Heroes Reborn suffers from excessive melodrama, uninteresting villains, bad special effects and poor timing. I know Tim Kring remains optimistic about this show but maybe NBC should've striked while the iron was hot and wrapped everything up with a one-hour TV movie when it was announced it wouldn't get picked up for a fifth season. Being released in 2015 where more mature adult-oriented superhero shows such as those set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe means that its flaws stick out more. And its not like the effects can be strictly blamed on a TV budget seeing how by the time this sequel series premiered we already had TV shows with high production values such as Game of Thrones and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Good effort overall but sadly, Heroes Reborn just isn't good. Writers' Strike or no Writers' Strike back in 2007, they probably should've stuck with the original plan of "American Horror Story: Superhero Edition"
A surprising improvement after the trainwreck that was season 3, the fourth season of Heroes scores points for its back-to-basics approach, getting characterizations back on track after they basically became hopeless, introducing new characters who mostly aren't obnoxious, poorly written characters wasting actors' potentials and a lighter tone. For once, they don't have to worry about any bad futures. Season 4 still has problems, though. The villain is the worst one, ratings stunts abound (Claire is bisexual even though there were no hints that she was ever attracted to the fairer sex), the ending despite being a surprisingly good spot to end the series even though it wasn't meant to be as it got cancelled three months later has the show's trademark idiocy returning full force (the premise of Reborn doesn't help) and being too late. To specify, this was the closest we were going to get to a return to form as the damage Season 3 inflicted had already been done and as a result, although there are more good episodes than bad episodes, its just barely. Still don't regret seeing Season 4, however.
The worst season of the show so far, the third season of Heroes raises the question: did the Writers' Strike kill Heroes or did it sign its death warrant the minute they decided to keep the old characters around and not make it an anthology series as was originally planned. The first thing Sylar does in this season is, minor spoilers, take Claire's healing factor. This was the point where I was tired and just wanted Sylar to die and now I can never get that catharsis factor knowing that the writers don't want to write a new permanent villain. The characters are idiots with the villain of the first half being overpowered and there's nothing Peter or Hiro can do about it yet all he does is draw pictures and sends his incompetent henchmen to do his dirty work. There's nothing stopping him from just going to Primatech and kicking everybody's ass. After all, the Haitian is always conveniently absent because "oh no, he isn't an idiot". Mini-story arcs are dropped as soon as they are picked up with the two good characters introduced in season 2 having their talents wasted, to put it vaguely, the pilot for the superhero cop drama "Noah & Sylar" not getting picked up and the whole Villains thing being abandoned, if not banished to the online graphic novels, in favour of having two of them becoming asskissers for the generic doomsday villain who does nothing. Really, HRG is the only character I still liked that survived the season but that's mainly because his characterization remained the most consistent. Otherwise, characters find themselves changing morality just because the plot demands it. For instance, Sylar suddenly grew a conscience or something? Gee, I wonder if it'll stick. And minimal explanation as to why Future Claire hates her good uncle. Leave him alone, you already killed your Future uncle. Big shock, Claire goes through the same "ooh, I hate my daddy so much. No, I love my daddy-not-daddy". But there is some good to be found surprisingly. The special effects look great finally having a big enough budget from more flashy superpowers like cryokinesis and creating black holes, the actors are trying their best with the scripts they're given and the second half is an improvement, if only because Season 1 writer Bryan Fuller returns but its more an improvement as in "lesser of two evils". While no action sequence because the special effects artists crapped themselves when they noticed in the script that there was going to be an epic, if brief, final fight, the ending is rather interesting and I'm sure it will in no way whatsoever come back to haunt those who were in on it. While I made it this far, I guess there's no point in skipping out the fourth season and Reborn but the third season is a plot-hole laden mess that's painful to sit through. Although I will say this: I do love the lore located in the online graphic novels, shorts and the websites for the in-universe locations such as the Corinthian Hotel thanks to my good friend the Wayback Machine.
Slow-paced, put to an abrupt anticlimactic end thanks to the 2007-2008 Writers' Strike, lacking proper focus with 90% of the storylines having no effect on the main plot, the virus story not being as potent as the explosion storyline from last season and featuring a cast of new characters who are not welcome here except for David Anders and Kristen Bell - plus one of the more interesting storylines occurring mostly offscreen and letting some Last Airbender narration do all the hard work -, Heroes' second season still isn't as bad as I was expecting it to be. The actors, even of the hated characters, are trying their best, there are some genuinely awesome moments and even a powerful speech or two with decent enough sequel hooks. Unfortunately, the Writers' Strike led to this season being narratively inferior to Season 1. They should've stuck with the original plan and introduced new characters whilst any returning characters from last season are supporting.
Offering a new and refreshing (at the time) take on the "superheroes in the real world" formula, full of great performances and effects and doing a good job of tying the mini story arcs into the main plot about a couple of strangers trying to stop an explosion finding creative ways to have the characters cross each other's paths, Heroes is one hell of a first season. Wonder how much it all went downhill after this season?
The Punisher's second season is, in my opinion, the weakest of the second seasons of the Netflix/Marvel shows. It's not bad but it was the season 2 I was the least invested in. I thought Pilgrim was a weak villain. Not only did he barely show up in the trailer but every time he showed up, I thought "Oh yeah, there's another bad guy". The actor does a good job in the last four episodes (not that that means he was dull in earlier episodes) but I would've preferred the focus to just be on Billy Russo and the more subtle villainness, Dr. Dumont, his psychotherapist. Speaking of which, laziest makeup department ever. After months of speculation as to what MCU Jigsaw looks like...he just looks like Ben Barnes shaved his head and just has a few lines on his face. Unintentional hilarity ensues when a random guy calls him "Edward Scisssorhands" even though he barely looks any different from season 1. Did fangirls really start complaining if they dared mess up the sexy face of Ben Barnes? I know Dominic West was always going to be a tough act to follow but at least try to misplace some bits of his face. Oh, there's a character called Beth. I liked her. Unfortunately, she only shows up in one episode whilst in the next one we see her in the hospital. After that scene, she is never seen or mentioned again. Though I'll admit it was nice they didn't abruptly kill her off. The good stuff still outweighs the bad stuff, however. The action sequences are enjoyable, Jon Bernthal does a hell of a job playing Frank Castle, he has a good dynamic with the character of Amy and it has a few compelling themes mainly regarding Frank's brand of justice. Season 2 may be the weakest and it's even a bit unnecessary but I didn't hate it.
Growing increasingly ambitious with solid character development, one 100th episode that truly becomes special near the end, great performances and surprisingly cinematic production values when you consider that this season had a highly publicized budget cut with 2/3 of the story taking place in the base of the season, the Lighthouse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fifth season shows that even if we don't get cameos from the supporting MCU characters - gone are the days when Maria Hill or Sif could show up as special guest stars -, there's still enough story and mature writing + risk-taking in here to make this a worthy fauxnale to the series. Wonder what'll happen during the sixth season? The trailer definitely leaves a lot of speculation. And one moment in the season finale didn't leave me all that shocked. It was sad, yes, but the confirmation that this actor is returning as a series regular in season 6 has me speculating what could happen. Regardless, the fifth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still another great season from a constantly improving show.
While not as good as Trollhunters and the animation feels like a step down compared to the trolls' wonderful designs, 3Below still benefits from good voice acting (Nick Offerman seems to be enjoy hamming it up as Varvatos Vex though his constant referring to himself in the third person can be a bit too much), fluid action sequences and decent fish-out-of-water humour with two characters having surprisingly good romantic chemistry. At least DreamWorks keeps Steven Yeun employed despite Voltron ending. I still think the best episodes are when the heroes of this show and the events of Trollhunters overlap whilst remembering to stay true to continuity as a Groundhog Day-style episode will show.
While an improvement over the last season with enjoyable episodes such as a series of vacation-themed episodes and a stop-motion Christmas episode that's a nice throwback to the Rankin/Bass specials of the '60s but there's no denying how some of the mean-spiritedness still remains making one wonder why we shouldn't just root for Plankton instead whilst there's also a bit of nostalgia pandering (hey, remember Bubble Buddy?). At least by this point, it would only be a matter of time before Stephen Hillenburg stepped in to save the day before he eventually died last November at the time I'm writing this review.
A few good episodes and, big shock, colourful animation, can't save SpongeBob's seventh season from an ever increasing decline in quality, bad writing and an increasingly mean-spirited tone making it easy to question where our allegiances truly lie. How dare SpongeBob get mad at Patrick for getting him Stuck in the Wringer? Why are you cringing at Mr. Krabs laughing off Plankton's suicide attempt? Plankton's the bad guy!!! Right? Damn it! Laugh at Squidward's misfortune. Stop giving him the Woobie treatment for being given tickets for littering when he was just standing next to it. Boy, these episodes sure are special! Sure am glad they're special episodes and not half-hour episodes with decidedly UNspecial plots just so that we can land more ratings. Have I made my point yet? At least, they weren't entirely oblivious based off the outcome of some of the episodes.
It has its moments and I can't say anything stands out to me as remarkably awful but, even with colourful animation, this season seemed to exist solely to screw fans over in favour of more ratings. The 10th Anniversary Special? Turns out to be a bland plot about SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward and Mr. Krabs getting stuck in the freezer and having to travel through air vents whilst they have flashbacks about random things solely for advertisement fodder and the live-action stuff is mostly pointless cameos. So yeah, you have every right to feel cheated this season.
The animation is vibrant and colourful, the voice acting is great and there are lots of laughs. However, that can't excuse the fact that the show misses the presence of the old writers and a few "special" episodes that really aren't and are just called that to get more ratings. And good Lord, was that WhoBob WhatPants episode disgustingly mean-spirited (Admit it, you cringed too when everyone called SpongeBob "idiot boy" even when you were little). It doesn't help that the "SpongeBob with amnesia" plot device was rushed.
Not as good as the first two seasons, SpongeBob SquarePants nevertheless rises on the strength of Tom Kenny's easily recognizable voice acting, beautiful animation and all-ages appeal with its sense of humour. It helps that it was originally going to be adult animation. Shame this was the last season in which Hillenburg was involved. Damn.
Better animation, great voice acting and even more clever radar-dodging jokes make SpongeBob's second season more hilarious than the first season.
R.I.P. Stephen Hillenburg (August 21, 1961 - November 26, 2018) :'(
You will be sorely missed
Sweet, optimistic, and cleverly written, SpongeBob SquarePants' animation may come off as outdated due to not using digital ink and paint but it still has something to offer for children, teenagers and adults.
While an improvement over the last season and having similiar good qualities as the last season, that doesn't excuse Family Guy's eleventh season's appallingly mean-spirited tone, sadistic sense of humour going a tad too far without bordering back on being hilarious and generally not being as well-written as seasons 1-6. Seth MacFarlane had a point about wanting Family Guy to end but the big F won't let them.
NOTE: I do not feel the need to watch the seasons 7-9 for the sake of reviewing them since, as a comedy show with negative continuity, I have nothing to lose from skipping a few seasons except a few references to past controversies and the Griffin family's misadventures.
The tenth season of Family Guy has a few good episodes (mostly limited to the ones where Brian and Stewie are the main focus), the animation is much better (Back to the Pilot uses ye olde and modern animation styles quite impressively), the voice acting can be quite well-done when it wants to be and there are a couple of thrilling action sequences but that doesn't excuse this season for the individual sins most of the episodes have. Hypocrisy with regards to domestic violence (it doesn't help that this is the last we see of Brenda and that the domestic violence is still depicted in a humorous light in later episodes), an appalling "Brian & Stewie" subplot in which you are allowed to cringe at the line "there's a special place in hell for people like you" when you understand the context, a terrible autism joke that only crosses the line once with a plot that will offend anyone who's studied politics (*ahem* not me) and, worst of all, a played painfully straight example of Status Quo is God for a crossover event that wasn't really except at the end of the American Dad episode that involves the same hurricane. Other bad episodes are just flat out forgettable. I can't say this is the worst season of Family Guy but yeah, it's not good.
The return of Status Quo is God comes off as a cheap cop-out for one episode that's also a major tearjerker and a special two-parter but there's no denying that not only does this season still succeed in cracking me up but the special two-parter is actually quite engaging leading to a well-animated action sequence that is epic. Shame this was the last season to be mostly liked before the show's seasonal rot as a result of Seth MacFarlane's apathy.