Voltron: Legendary Defender (tv)

– a remake of the mid-80’s cartoon “Voltron: Defender of the Universe”, which is itself an adaptation of the early-80’s “Beast King GoLion” cartoon from Japan (didja’ get all that?).
– There’s two seasons available on Netflix now.
– Speaking of the seasons: each one starts of weak, but get so much better towards the end.
– I was not a fan of the very first episodes of the series, because they took my favorite character (Lance) and made his sense of humor very sophomoric (he was funny in the original series but not is such a forced, trendy way). MAJOR KUDOS for making him Cuban, though. Yay People of Color! But also, a lot of the humor in the series tends to lean towards the sophomoric, which takes me out of the moment. Most of the humor feels very forced, but I’ll admit I laugh when things come off more natural.
– Speaking of People of Color, Princess Allura is now Black and British, while Hunk is Samoan. I LOVE this idea, because it represents what the world is actually like. DOUBLE MAJOR KUDOS for updating the characters.
– Yes, the characters do get some updates here, and more chances to shine from a personality level, and those personalities contribute to the overall “team” aspect of the show.
– This show isn’t so much a “Voltron fights a monster of the week” type deal. The story is long-form, and one episode’s mission could lead to consequences a few episodes later. There are definite “call-backs to previous moments”. Plus, there’s a lot more lore and mythology within this series, and it seems like future seasons could just bring more to get vested in.
– Speaking of Big Daddy Voltron, the original series would always showcase the actual combination of the five robot lions to their final connected giant robot form, and this series does the same. But it makes me wonder: how long does it actually take Voltron to mush together? Is it quick, or does the villain have to stand back while the lions connect, tapping his monster foot impatiently? I would think that that would be a perfect time to attack the lions and take ’em out. Just saying.
– The new theme song is good, but I would’ve loved to hear a redone version of the original.
– Sven (pilot of my favorite lion [the Blue Lion] in that original series) is in this series, but his name is Shiro (which is what he was called in Japan before America adapted it and changed it to Sven).
– I miss Witch Haggar’s old voice. TO ME, that’s as iconic of a voice as Optimus Prime’s or Cobra Commander’s.
– Final Grades: B+

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production. He’s on twitter (twitter.com/josezuazua) and instagram (instagram.com/josezuazua).

Gravity Falls (tv)

– A truly fantastic show / mini-series.
– Proof that long-form storytelling can be a great way for your characters and story to breath and grow, but there should ALWAYS be an ending. “All good things must come to an end”, as the cliche goes.
– Well-developed characters dealing with very human emotions.
– A dense storyline spanning 20 episodes full of strange folklore, supernatural intrigue and the mysteriously weird.
– Cameos! JK Simmons, Weird Al, Jon Stewart, Coolio and even Larry King stop by.
– Totally biased opinion on this next bit, but I LOVE that one of the principal characters is a Latino-American.
– Speaking of non-Caucasian characters, this show has a very nice, realistic blend of people from different cultures. Any maybe even sexual orientation.
– Animation gets a bum rap. First, it’s a NOT a genre. It’s merely another form of media in which a story can be told. Second, animation was not always associated as “kids fare”. Shows like the Flintstones and the Looney Tunes were mostly watched by adults while kids had “Howdy Doody” and “Thunderbirds”. It wasn’t until He-Man (which was created as a half-hour commercial for toys that you could watch everyday [it was AWESOME]) that the dynamics of animation changed to be more of a marketing tool to children (like me!) who just wanted to eat cereal and play with toys. Because of that stigma, animation is not given a fair chance by “grown-ups”, and that’s sad because they’re missing out on sincerely emotional, well-told stories like this one.
– Having said that, I did the same thing with this show at the beginning, but not because it’s animated. Those who TRULY know me know that I ADORE animation (having made stop-motion animated films myself as a child). I put some unfair expectations on this show and wasn’t giving it a fair chance. After some prodding by some friends, I let my guard down and realized that the show will never live up to my expectations, it’s not meant to be what I’ve concocted in my head. It’s meant to be itself, and it doesn’t need me to like it. And within the first three episodes I finally understood that. So I let that guard down, and I learned to love it.
– Final Grade: A+

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production. He’s on twitter (twitter.com/josezuazua) and instagram (instagram.com/josezuazua).

John Wick: Chapter 2

– Whoa. And I mean “WHOA”. While the first one lacked an actual quality screenplay, it was still stupidly entertaining. This one ditches the stupid and really brings it, by upping the action, the sets and THANKFULLY giving a legitimate good script.
– Keanu’s work always gets my attention. If he’s in something (even if it’s a small role), I’m down to watch.
Some recommendations: “The Gift” (the year 2000 one), in which he plays a Bible-thumping Racist and “Thumbsucker” where he plays a new-age spacey dentist.
– The cinematography on this movie is AWESOME. The director and director of photography really knew how to setup/compose shots to artistically and visually tell their story. You can watch the whole movie with the sound muted and completely understand all that’s going on. That quality is sadly disappearing from movies.
– The score was really enjoyable, with some striking music cues.
– I LOVE muscle cars and it’s sad to see what happens to one of them. Poor baby. Sad face.
– I enjoyed THE HELL out of this movie, even though it does slow down in one particular part.
– Final Grade: A.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production. He’s on twitter (twitter.com/josezuazua) and instagram (instagram.com/josezuazua).

One Day at a Time

– a very faithful remake* of the 70’s/80’s sitcom , but now set in Echo Park and about a Cuban-American family.
– just because they sometimes speak Spanish doesn’t mean their struggles aren’t HUMAN: inequality, acceptance, economy, single-motherhood, dating, immigration, PTSD, puberty, etc., etc., etc.
– In my almost 39 years of life, my family has had many ups, but many more downs and the only thing that has ever gotten us through it all, is each other: a hug, wise words, a laugh. We’ve always had each other’s backs through the thickest and the thinnest. This show reminded me of all those times we voluntarily shared in the emotions and looked for happiness in already unhappy endings.
– Which brings me to my next point: growing up I watched a lot of sitcoms, and the ones I always related to the most were the ones about Black families. Yes, I loved Three’s Company and Night Court, but those shows made me laugh whereas Good Times, What’s Happening, a Different World, Family Matters and even the Bernie Mac show (when I became a new dad myself) dealt with a lot of the same struggles and class issues that my working class, light-skinned Mexican-American dealt with as well. Those shows made me FEEL. And you think it’s easy being a light-skinned Mexican-American? You get two types of discrimination: You’re too Mexican for your White friends and too White for your Mexican friends. Anyway, we didn’t really have Mexican-American (or even just play Mexican, Hispanic, Latino) sitcoms when I was growing up. There have been some (the George Lopez show being the most popular one), but we didn’t have a life like the one depicted in his show. We lived a life similar to the one’s the Black families were experiencing: struggle, but power through it, and hug each other at the end of the day. And now we FINALLY have a show depicting a realistic Hispanic family…and I absolutely LOVE IT.
– If you pay attention, the Apartment set for this new show is exactly the same as the Apartment set of the old show, only “Cuban-ized.”
– Speaking of “Cubanos”, my Godfather was a great Cuban immigrant who was also my Dad’s best friend. I basically grew up with a second family that was Cuban. So yes, my parents were Mexican immigrants, my Sister and I were both born here in the U.S., but I’m also Cuban because of them. And I think Carlos Leis and my Dad would’ve enjoyed this show A LOT.
– Let’s hear it for a layered Schneider! Yes, he’s still a side-character but there are subtle nuances to his portrayal that you might find surprisingly deeper than just a pack of cigarettes rolled into a t-shirt sleeve.
– *CHECK OUT THE NEW THEME SONG (it’s one of the best covers of any song I’ve heard in years [and I LOVE covers, I used to play a cover song at the beginning of each of my radio shows]): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1tekbfDSjg

– Final Grade: A+

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production. He’s on twitter (twitter.com/josezuazua) and instagram (instagram.com/josezuazua).

Paddington

– a SMART “family movie” with social commentary! It’s got some good subtext and doesn’t talk down to it’s audience.
– As charming as the 70’s stop-motion Padding Bear show I used to rent as a child.
– There are some pretty imaginative and clever story-telling techniques that might remind you of Wes Anderson (look him up if you don’t know who he is, you might’ve liked one or two of his movies).
– Final Letter Grade: A

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production. He’s on twitter (twitter.com/josezuazua) and instagram (instagram.com/josezuazua).

Luke Cage

– My favorite Marvel tv show so far: dripping with social commentary and it has a great soundtrack.
– Inequality? Gentrification? Politics? Civil rights? Entrepreneurship? Violence? Economics? Racism? Activism? Fatherhood? Dehumanization? Culture, leadership, responsibility, segregation, etc etc etc! Those topics (and so many more) are all on display here, and show that Blacks DO NOT have it as easy as you think they do.
– The soundtrack is a hybrid of older rap music, 70’s soul, modern soul and a little bit of funk thrown in; Like a Blaxploitation flick from the 70’s (Shaft, Foxy Brown, the Mack, etc
– the title of every episode is also the title of a song by Gang Starr, one of the best rap groups ever.
– Getting coffee is used as a metaphor and you might happily never see a regular cup of it in the same light ever again.
– No matter what color you are, don’t you say the N-Word around Luke.Cage. I REALLY loved this aspect of his character. People of all colors seem to be ok with using that word flippantly and it’s not right. And just because “they use it”, doesn’t mean you can. You can’t. EVER.
– Simone Missick is one of my new celebrity crushes. Simone Missick FOREVER.
– There’s an appearance by Method Man that eventually leads to a song and I loved that scene so much I went back and watched it about 3-4 times.
– My only gripe is how many times they say “Luke.Cage.” They say it SO MUCH throughout the entire series it’s laughable. I bet if I (or someone else) made a Youtube compilation of all the times and ways it was said, it’d be over 5 minutes (that’s not good screenwriting [seriously, watch one of your favorite movies or shows and count the number of times the main character’s name is utttered]).
– Final Letter Grade: A

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production. He’s on twitter (twitter.com/josezuazua) and instagram (instagram.com/josezuazua).

The Edge of Seventeen

– The return of the teen movie (although, this one is a little more on the “adult” end of the spectrum, whereas other movies like “the Duff” keep the comedy fun and light [I really enjoyed the Duff]).
– Speaking of…I MISS those fun, light teen movies. I wished they made more of them. I don’t watch Ferris Bueller only for nostalgia, I watch it because it’s great, it’s light (Cameron aside) and it’s fun without there being a ton of sex and drugs in it.
– Back to this flick: very well-shot and well written. I find it hard to believe that someone won’t find something to relate to within it, whether you’re a seventeen year old female outsider who doesn’t think before she speaks or were one in the past.
– Let’s give it up for the awkward guys who like a girl but are too awkward to be smooth about it!
– We get to see the main character go through a very well developed journey.
– The best Woody Harrelson performance since Kingpin! You can quote me on that one.
– Let’s touch on my “well-shot” comment from before: “cinema” is defined as “the production of movies as an art or industry”. Let’s focus on the ART part. As an audience, we’re supposed to be transported to another place, another time, another person when we go watch these movies. That cannot TRULY happen if the people behind the camera are half-assing it. There have been so many that have been trained in the art of visual storytelling but unfortunately…there’s A LOT of half-assing up on the big screens nowadays. But this movie is an exception, and it’s actually what stood out the most. I love when small, independent “coming of age” tales like this (and “500 Days of Summer”) just take their time to get their art right instead of just cranking out a job.
– Remember: demand more from your movie studios.
– Final letter grade: B+

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production. He’s on twitter (twitter.com/josezuazua) and instagram (instagram.com/josezuazua).

Kubo and the Two Strings

– It’s Indiana Jones blended with the Legend of Zelda series told as a stop-motion Kurosawa* film.
– At some point, you’ll think that this movie was entirely computer generated because the stop-motion** in it is that damn great***.
– A real breeze of a movie, as the story never truly slows down. Once you’re immersed in their world, it just keeps going.
– Fun characters that you can actually get behind.
– Some creepy character designs as well, lending to some somewhat scary sequences for kids. BUT, that doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t watch the movie. This isn’t “SAW”.
– Embraces Japanese culture, especially Origami.
* Akira Kurosawa was one of the most famous and GREATEST filmmakers EVER. He made contemporary films dripping with social commentary BUT he’s most famous for his films that took place during the Samurai (or “Edo”) period in Japan. Some notables are “the Seven Samurai” (which was remade TWICE as “the Magnificent Seven” [including this year’s version]) and “the Hidden Fortress” which influenced a little movie called “Star Wars”.
** If you don’t know what stop-motion is, “Stop motion is an animation technique that physically manipulates an object so that it appears to move on its own”, per Wikipedia. Y’all’s favorite movie “the Nightmare Before Christmas” was made in stop-motion. I taught myself stop-motion as a child after watching A LOT of Gumby but never any behind the scenes featurettes (there was no youtube in the 80’s). After some exploration of the video camera my parents had bought, I was on the ground running, making little movies with my action figures.
*** So seeing a movie like this and what they did with the medium, I’m re-inspired after not having done it myself since the late 90’s.
– The end credits have a fantastic Beatle’s cover by Regina Spektor.
– Final Letter Grade: A-

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production. He’s on twitter (twitter.com/josezuazua) and instagram (instagram.com/josezuazua).