2016: The Year in Villainy

So much quality villainy this year! Let’s get to it.

Ajax and Angel Dust in Deadpool

deadpool-movie-2016-deadpool-vs-ajax

Revenge is always a strong motivator, and few movie characters were as single-minded in their pursuit of it this year as Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool. Ajax (whose real name is Francis, what a dweeb) and Angel Dust both possess superhuman strength and Ajax feels no pain, which makes both villains quite the handful. They’re a potent villain/villainess duo who prove that being evil isn’t just for men anymore. Angel Dust deserves the Henchwoman of the Year award and I’m not just saying that because Gina Carano is a total badass and could easily kick my butt. Not saying that I wouldn’t be okay with that, mind you. Seriously Gina, call me.

deadpool-movie-2016-angel-dust-gina-carano

Akan in Hardcore Henry

hardcore-henry-2016-akan

You know how I said a second ago that few movie characters were as single-minded in their pursuit of revenge as Deadpool? Well, Henry the cyborg is right up there with him. Vengeance is literally the only thing that this mute tornado of death and destruction desires, and he will stop at nothing in his ultraviolent quest to reach the despicable Akan. Akan is a telepathic douchebag in charge of an army of henchmen, and in addition to his air of jackassery he has also captured Henry’s wife, and is awfully smug about it. Jeez, this guy is such a tool. Or should I say was such a tool, since he’s on the receiving end of one of the most hilariously brutal and over-the-top villain deaths of the year. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, though. Jerk.

Lex Luthor and Doomsday in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zemo in Captain America: Civil War

 jesse-eisenberg-lex-luthor-2016captain-america-civil-war-zemo-2016

The villain is usually the character the heroes spend the most time fighting, but in the case of the year’s two biggest superhero team-ups, that’s not quite the case. In both films, the heroes spend the majority of their time fighting each other because there’s a villainous figure secretly manipulating them. I wasn’t a huge fan of Jesse Eisenberg’s bizarre portrayal of Lex Luthor, but I did like Zemo, who was a more understandable character. Any time a villain can get the heroes to do the work for him, that counts as a win in the Big Book O’ Villainy, and for that, Zemo and Lex deserve some evil kudos.

batman-v-superman-doomsday

I was not overly fond of Doomsday, an ugly CGI beast who menaces Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. But I can give him credit for being strong enough to require three heroes to defeat him, and his resilience earns him (it?) a mention on this list. And when you’re tough enough to (spoiler alert) KILL THE MAN OF STEEL, then you kind of have to be a badass.

Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse

apocalypse-oscar-isaac-2016

Apocalypse is an ancient mutant, thousands of years old, who awakens in Cairo, Egypt in the 1980s and is not pleased with the way the world has developed during his several-thousand-years-long slumber. He promptly recruits some followers (because Apocalypse has to have his Horsemen, naturally), gaining their loyalty by enhancing their mutant powers and giving them a sense of belonging, while the rest of the world has cast them out. He then initiates a diabolical plot to destroy modern society and reshape the world the way he wants it to be. The previous X-film, Days of Future Past, was less black and white with its villains, but suffice to say the X-folks have their work cut out for them with Apocalypse.

The Alien Queen in Independence Day: Resurgence

independence-day-resurgence-2016-alien-queen

Resurgence was a mediocre film, but the Alien Queen was cool. Basically a roided-up version of the Independence Day aliens we’ve seen before, but massive and equipped with her own personal shield generator, which throws the film’s heroes for a loop. It takes a lot to bring her down, and she and her legions of alien henchmen (henchaliens?) cause untold mass destruction and millions of human casualties before she is defeated. The movie’s blatant sequel-bait ending strongly implies there are more of her kind in the universe, so we might be seeing more like her before too long, assuming the less-than-stellar reception Resurgence received didn’t put the kibosh on future installments.

Enchantress and the Joker in Suicide Squad

enchantress-suicide-squad-2016

Ironically, the movie that was all about the villains is probably the hardest movie to write about when it comes to said villains. The primary antagonist of the film’s ragtag bunch of miscreants was the Enchantress, basically an evil spirit possessing the body of a young doctor. She caused all kinds of trouble, although she was still pretty forgettable. Slightly more memorable was Jared Leto’s punk-rock Joker, who suffered from a similar lack of characterization but benefits from the weight of 75 years of comic-book history. He was relegated to the sidelines for most of the movie, but every time he showed up you knew some shit was about to go down, which is as it should be with the Joker.

suicide-squad-joker

Kaecilius in Doctor Strange

doctor-strange-kaecilius-2016-mads-mikkelsen

Mads Mikkelsen is one of my favorite actors, especially when he’s evil. The Danish actor brings the evil to Marvel’s latest franchise-starter, providing a compelling dark sorcerer to battle the Sorcerer Supreme played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The final showdown between the two is a sight to behold, as the opposing masters of magic square off against the backdrop of time moving backwards, and a destroyed city repairs itself. The only problem with Mikkelsen playing so many villains is that he tends to get killed off a lot, which means he won’t appear in the sequels. Oh, well. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Shere Khan in The Jungle Book

shere-khan-idris-elba-2016

It was a good year for Idris Elba playing villains. He provided the voice for Shere Khan, the evil tiger in Disney’s smash-hit live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book. Although it was more of an animated film since the entire movie was shot in front of green screens with only one live-action actor, but that’s beside the point. Despite being a special effect, Elba’s Shere Khan was sleek and scary, and may even have been a bit too scary for very young members of the audience. But scariness is one of the hallmarks of a great villain, and Shere Khan fits that description nicely.

The Shark in The Shallows

shark-shallows

It was also a good year for evil animals in the movies. A bloodthirsty Great White shark spends 86 minutes relentlessly trying to dine on the nubile flesh of Blake Lively in The Shallows. The film is a remarkably effective thriller, and although I have no idea if the movie’s portrayal of shark behavior is scientifically accurate, I don’t much care when it makes for such a watchable movie. The Shallows is similar to Alfonso Cuaron’s 2013 masterpiece Gravity in structure. It’s short, technically masterful, and mostly concerned with the trials and tribulations of a single female character. It’s an intense piece of work, and the toothy shark will be enough to make you afraid to go in the water all over again.

Krall in Star Trek Beyond

star-trek-beyond-krall-idris-elba-2016

Hey, it’s Idris Elba again! This time he’s playing Krall, a menacing alien creature who manages to completely trash the beloved starship Enterprise. He causes all kinds of trouble for Captain Kirk and his intrepid crew. Elba is mostly unrecognizable buried under layers of makeup and prosthetics, and his voice is sometimes hard to understand. Krall is basically an intergalactic version of Batman’s enemy Bane, and although Krall’s motivations turn out to not be anything unique (his motivations are quite similar to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness), but he remains a fun and intriguing villain.

John Boy in The Nice Guys

the-nice-guys-movie-poster-matt-bomer-john-boy

You mean like John Boy from The Waltons? No, not like John Boy from The Waltons. Shane Black’s third directorial feature may have been a comedy, but John Boy was a brutal mob assassin who took no prisoners. He gunned people down with no remorse and even tossed a thirteen-year-old girl through a window, so you knew he meant business. The Nice Guys is a fantastic movie that is chock-full of memorable characters, even though not all of them are as likable as the hapless heroes played by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.

The Asset in Jason Bourne

jason-bourne-3

Every Bourne movie features at least one CIA asset sent to dispatch Jason Bourne, but the Asset in Bourne’s latest adventure, played by French actor Vincent Cassel, is particularly troublesome. It turns out that this asset has a personal grudge against Bourne, and his and Bourne’s histories are inextricably intertwined. This leads to an absolutely brutal showdown in Las Vegas, featuring quite possibly the most brutal hand-to-hand fight scene in a series known for brutal hand-to-hand fight scenes. Jason Bourne was a movie with a lot of flaws, but it delivered on the action sequences.

Bartholomew Bogue in The Magnificent Seven

batrholomew-bogue-magnificent-7-2016

With a name like Bartholomew Bogue, you’re pretty much destined to be evil. Peter Sarsgaard plays the thoroughly ruthless and despicable industrialist who holds the town of Rose Creek hostage. This guy is one Grade-A son of a bitch, a character the viewer despises from the moment he sets foot onscreen. It’s an effective performance from Sarsgaard as an absolute bastard, and as is the case with many absolute bastards, he turns out to be a coward once his power is taken away from him. One of the most detestable villains of the year.

Orson Krennic in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) Ph: Jonathan Olley �Lucasfilm LFL 2016.

Rogue One was an action-packed thrill ride that I enjoyed the heck out of, but the main villain, played by Ben Mendelsohn, was a bit boring. There’s nothing really wrong with Mendelsohn’s performance, but his character is basically a bureaucrat and isn’t terribly interesting. Fortunately, another evil presence is waiting in the wings, and its name is…

rogue-one-darth-vader-2016

DARTH FREAKING VADER!! Holy crap, it was good to see Darth Vader on screen again. He doesn’t get a lot of screen time but he makes the most of his limited appearance in Rogue One, and gets the chance to kick some rebel ass in the process. It just makes me so happy that one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history is once again on movie screens, even if it is just briefly. The fact that he’s voiced by James Earl Jones is icing on the cake.

So there you have it, the best of the best of cinematic villainy. There’s another good slate of movies scheduled for release in 2017, so I’ll see you all again for another roundup before you know it.

Advertisements

To Infinity and Beyond

Everyone is all doom and gloom these days. Every time you turn on the TV or open a newspaper, it’s all, “WE’RE DOOMED” and “THEY’RE COMING FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN”. In the midst of all this fearmongering, it’s a genuine pleasure to find something that conveys a sense of hope for the future.

Thank God for Star Trek.

One of the reasons for the franchise’s enduring popularity has always been its sense of hopefulness, its embracing of all the good things mankind is capable of. Star Trek Beyond, the latest film in the storied series, is no exception.

StarTrekBeyondPlakat1

Early in the new movie, the crew of the starship Enterprise visits Yorktown, one of the Federation’s newest space stations. Yorktown is a beautiful creation, a snowglobe-like installation with its own atmosphere. As the camera explores the structure and the music swells, there’s a real sense of hopefulness, a positivity that says, hey, look what we can accomplish together.

That may sound cheesy, but I appreciated the movie’s upbeat tone. It’s especially significant considering the recent loss of two of the cast members. The legendary Leonard Nimoy passed away last year, and of course Anton Yelchin died in a tragic accident a few short weeks ago. The film is dedicated to both of them, and the passing of Nimoy is worked into the plot in an organic way.

The filmmakers announced that they will be retiring the role of Chekov for future sequels, which is a classy gesture. It ensures that the role of Chekov in the rebooted movie series will be remembered as Yelchin’s. It would be very difficult to recast the role, and any actor who did play it would have had big shoes to fill. I will miss Chekov in future Trek adventures, as I’m sure many other fans will, but Beyond gives the character a good sendoff and reminds us once again of the talent we lost with Yelchin’s passing. The way he pronounces “Captain” as “Keptin” is something I will always treasure.

As the movie begins, the Enterprise is about three years into its five-year mission, and lethargy is starting to set in. “Things are starting to feel…episodic,” Captain Kirk says in one of his captain’s logs, in a funny nod to the television roots of the series. I find it kind of hilarious that a space mission could become boring, but it works in the context of the story. Think about it: when space travel has become commonplace, a really long space voyage could feel akin to an endless road trip or plane flight. Being in space on a high-tech starship wouldn’t necessarily alleviate the boredom after a while.

But this is James T. Freakin’ Kirk we’re talking about here, and it doesn’t take long before the intrepid crew of the Enterprise find themselves in a heap of trouble, shot down and marooned on an alien planet. They’re scattered and disorganized, and have to regroup and figure out what the hell is going on.

Star-Trek-Beyond

The movie was co-written by Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty. The dialogue crackles and the chemistry between the cast members is very strong. All of the actors wear their characters like gloves, and their familiarity and camaraderie with each other is palpable.

The villain is an ugly son of a gun named Krall, who is played by the great Idris Elba. Decked out in makeup and facial prosthetics, and speaking with a growly Bane-like voice, Elba is unrecognizable for most of the film. His character isn’t quite as memorable as Benedict Cumberbatch was in the previous entry, Star Trek Into Darkness, but Elba is a strong presence nonetheless.

Star-Trek-Beyond-poster-Krall

Also new is Jaylah, an alien scavenger the crew encounters on the planet on which they become stranded. Jaylah has her own reasons for helping them fight Krall, and she kicks plenty of ass along the way. She’s played by Sofia Boutella, best known for playing Samuel L. Jackson’s razor-legged henchwoman Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service. She’s a great addition and I would like to see more of her in future installments.

As you would expect from a sci-fi epic with a nine-figure budget, the movie looks great. Krall has a drone army which swarms like a massive cloud of pissed-off bees, and they make mincemeat of the poor old Enterprise pretty easily. It’s sad to watch the old girl get ripped to shreds, but the effects make it look great.

Chris Pine delivers another solid performance as Captain Kirk, effortlessly projecting the magnetic charisma the character is known for. The rest of the cast is also terrific. When they get marooned, the crew is broken up in pairs, with Kirk meeting up with Chekov, Sulu and Uhura getting captured by Krall, Scotty meeting Jaylah (whom he adorably calls “Lassie”), and Bones being paired with Spock. Bones and Spock are particularly great, since their personalities are so wildly different, and Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto have fun bouncing off each other in a combative but still friendly way.

Star Trek Beyond is the first film in the new series to not be directed by JJ Abrams, since he was busy with another sci-fi franchise with the word “Star” in the title. Instead, Beyond was directed by Justin Lin, best known for bringing us four of the seven films in the Fast and Furious series. Lin is a talented action director who also shows a deft hand with character development.  The crew of the Enterprise is similar in structure to the ensemble cast of Lin’s Fast and Furious films, and he juggles the various characters and storylines with ease.

Star Trek Beyond is probably my least favorite of the new Trek flicks, but I don’t mean that as an insult. If anything, it’s a testament to how good Abrams’ two Treks were. Beyond is still a rollicking good time, a fun, action-packed sci-fi blockbuster which delivers on the action and the characterization in equal measure, and lovingly pays homage to departed cast members and to the legacy of the films before it.

2013: The Year in Villainy

2014 is almost here, and with it, the yearly “Best-of” lists from all corners of the Interwebs. Best movies, best books, best TV shows, best Tuesdays, you name it. But we don’t really go for that sort of thing here at thezombieroom. Instead, we prefer to reflect on the year in all of its evil cinematic glory. Here then, in no particular order aside from the first two, are my favorite movie villains from 2013.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of ALL movie villains from 2013, just my favorites. Not included are any villains from movies I haven’t seen yet. Also, there may be SPOILERS.

Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness

 2013 villains khan

My favorite villain of the year was Khan, played so wonderfully by Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness. He was everything a classic movie villain should be: a smooth, suave, super-smart, creepy badass. It was a very good year for the Batch of Cumbers. He gave a great performance as Khan, and made him into a character you could feel sympathy for instead of just a two-dimensional bad guy. Even though it’s a character who’s appeared in other versions of Star Trek, Cumberbatch put his own spin on Khan, turning him into a guy you kind of felt sorry for (sort of), even as he was committing horrible acts of evil. It just didn’t get any better for cinematic villainy in 2013.

Kruger in Elysium

 2013 villains kruger

Coming in at a very close second is Kruger, played by the wonderful Sharlto Copley. In addition to having an awesome name, Copley is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. I’ve only seen him in three films (District 9, The A-Team, and Elysium), but in those three films he’s shown he has a lot of range as an actor. The characters he plays in all three of those movies are completely different, but he makes all of them work. The character of Kruger in Elysium isn’t as multilayered as Khan in Star Trek, which is a little unfortunate. Not much explanation is given for his psychotic evil badness, so he is admittedly a bit two-dimensional in that respect. You could also argue that the lack of backstory for him makes him even creepier, but what is never in doubt is that holy crap is he scary. Copley turns him into the kind of character who scares the crap out of you, but at the same time his performance is so magnetic he steals every scene he’s in.

General Zod in Man of Steel

 2013 villains zod

Zod is a classic example of a bad guy who is 100% convinced that what he’s doing is right. He’s motivated, and he’s committed, and that makes him scary. Man of Steel was a controversial movie among superhero fans, I still stand behind it as a good movie, although some of its flaws have become more apparent to me. Michael Shannon’s performance as Zod, however, is not one of those flaws. Shannon gives an intense, crazy-eyed performance that makes Zod a formidable enemy for the Man of Steel. One of the problems I’ve had with Superman as a character is that it’s hard to be concerned about him when his survival is never in doubt because he’s so much more powerful than everyone else, but Zod turns that into a moot point. When the hero is as powerful as Superman, you need a villain who is just as powerful, and Zod fits that description nicely.

Viper and Silver Samurai in The Wolverine

 2013 villains viper

I really like The Wolverine. It got a mixed reception, but the more I watch it the more I like it. When I first saw the movie, I didn’t really like the character of Viper, I guess I didn’t get what her purpose was in the story. But on subsequent viewings, something clicked for me. She’s extremely creepy, especially in the face-peeling scene above. I also understood more how she fit into the story, so that helped.

 2013 villains silver samurai

I am also a big fan of the Silver Samurai. He’s so fricking cool. There’s a plot twist involving him that I know turned some people off, which I can understand. But for me it worked. Two memorable villains in a movie that was, for me, the best X-Men related movie since X2, all the way back in 2003.

The Kaiju in Pacific Rim

 2013 villains kaiju

Guillermo Del Toro loves monsters. The monsters in Pacific Rim are of both the mechanical and biological kind, and they are all badass. They’re big, scary, and extremely powerful. The kaiju are the towering Godzilla-esque monstrosities that emerge from the sea to destroy us. Just look at that big dude up there. You don’t need me to tell you why he’s awesome. Del Toro’s monsters speak for themselves.

The Mandarin (sort of) in Iron Man 3

 2013 villains mandarin

Ok, so, everyone knows by now that Ben Kingsley’s character wasn’t actually the Mandarin, right? He was just a decoy and Guy Pearce was the real villain. It’s a weird plot twist, and (as with much of the plot of Iron Man 3) I’m not entirely sure where it came from. The reveal that Kingsley’s character was just a drunk, washed-up stage actor was kind of funny, even if it didn’t make much sense. Guy Pearce is a great actor who plays a great bad guy, even if his character’s motivation in Iron Man 3 also didn’t make much sense.

You know what? Let’s just move on.

The Zombies in World War Z

 2013 villains zombies

This movie caused a bit of a furor among fans of the book when the first trailer was released, showing the movie’s unconventional take on the undead. This is another movie I like more with repeat viewings, and I think the filmmakers deserve credit for putting a new twist on the zombie-apocalypse subgenre, even though the movie’s zombies are pretty much the polar opposite of the book’s zombies. The movie and the book may share the same title, but I think they should each be taken on their own terms.

Space in Gravity

 2013 villains space

This one is a bit existential, since the villain of this film wasn’t an actual physical entity. But was any other villain as relentlessly committed to killing its film’s protagonist as outer space was? Seriously, space really, REALLY wanted Sandra Bullock dead. Gravity is a harrowing 90 minutes, and makes you grateful to be standing on solid ground.

Owen Shaw in Fast and Furious 6

 2013 villains shaw

Fast Five was a fun movie, but its villains were a bit boring. Drug cartel bosses and corrupt cops are boring. With Fast Six, they fixed that problem with Owen Shaw, a thoroughly dastardly fellow played by an actor I like named Luke Evans who always kinda reminds me of Orlando Bloom only, you know, manlier. He kidnaps the wife of one of the protagonists and runs over a bunch of civilians in a tank, so you know he’s not messing around. When you can hold your own in a fight with Vin Diesel and Dwayne “Samoan Thor” Johnson, your bad guy cred is pretty high in my opinion.

The Blanks in The World’s End

2013 villains network

The World’s End was my favorite movie of 2013, and its glowy-eyed robots were both funny and creepy, much like the villains in the previous two films of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright’s epic Cornetto Trilogy.

Butch Cavendish in The Lone Ranger

2013 villains cavendish

The Lone Ranger was the weirdest movie I saw in 2013. The WTF factor of this movie was higher than both Iron Man 3 AND G.I. Joe Retaliation, which for me is really saying something. I still don’t know what to make of this movie, but one thing I do know is that William Fichtner gave a great performance as Butch Cavendish, the cannibalistic outlaw whose gruesome visage is way too scary for a kid’s movie.

Loki and Malekith in Thor: The Dark World

 2013 villains loki

Loki is a great character, he’s got to be one of the most charming villains around. He’s so popular that fans want him to get his own movie. Who knows if it’ll ever happen, but it would be fun to see. You can tell that Tom Hiddleston has a blast playing this character, and it’s not hard to see why. He has so much personality and is always fun to watch. You’re never quite sure what’s going on in that scheming head of his, and an unpredictable character is an interesting character.

 2013 villains malekith

Malekith doesn’t have as much personality as Loki, but he’s still a badass villain with plenty of equally-badass henchmen, and he proves to be a formidable opponent for The Mighty Thor. You probably wouldn’t guess that he’s played by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, which is also pretty cool.

So there you have it, thezombieroom’s annual roundup of the cream of the crop in cinematic villainy. Who knows what dastardly evil awaits us in 2014?

Happy New Year, everyone!

The Best Villain of the Year So Far

It still makes me happy that Benedict Cumberbatch is the actual name of an actual human being. I’m always happy whenever he’s in a movie because it gives me a chance to savor saying that wonderful name.

But, as Star Trek Into Darkness reminds us, the dude is a damn good actor. Most of the roles he’s played (at least all the ones I can think of off the top of my head) have been in more good-guy roles. He was appealing and likable in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and I’ve heard he’s great in the BBC Sherlock series, though I’ve never seen it.

But in Star Trek Into Darkness, JJ Abrams’ spectacular sequel to his excellent and well-received 2009 Star Trek film, Cumberbatch is pure menacing evil. He seethes with silent fury in every scene he’s in. His character is shrouded in mystery for most of the first half of the film, and the aura of menace built up around him pays off marvelously once we actually get to meet him. Let’s just say that the dude knows how to make an entrance.

star_trek_into_darkness_poster3-610x904

It’s satisfying too that the payoff delivers. It’s always a bummer when there’s a lot of buildup and not enough payoff, so credit is due to Abrams and his screenwriters for knowing to reward the audience for their patience. There is a twist regarding the true identity of Cumberbatch’s villain, but I won’t spoil it. There was also a villainous twist in Iron Man 3, but in my opinion the one in Star Trek makes a bit more sense.

The rest of the movie is great, too. The special effects are top-notch and the rest of the supporting cast is solid. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto still have great chemistry, and Simon Pegg is hilarious as Scotty. Not all of the supporting cast gets much to do (Sulu and Chekhov feel particularly underused) but they’re still fun characters and it’s good to see that a movie with a cast this large still holds up pretty well plotwise. The plot seemed a bit convoluted to me, but I’m not exactly up on my Star Trek lore.

 star-trek-into-darkness-teaser-poster1-610x903

Abrams and Co. have taken some flack for these movies, pretty much all of which I feel is unwarranted. I’ve heard complaints that he uses the Star Trek universe as nothing more than a vehicle for yet another sci-fi franchise, or that he pumps up the action and skips out on the story character elements. I think all of this is crap, Abrams is one of the finest action directors working today. To date he’s directed four films: Mission: Impossible 3, Star Trek (the first one), Super 8, and Star Trek Into Darkness. In my book he’s four for four. All four of those flicks are awesome. Give me the work of JJ Abrams over the work (and I use that term loosely) of Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich any day of the week.

Trek 2 is not a perfect film, the ending to me felt a bit abrupt (one moment the movie is in full-throttle mode, the next it’s over) and some of the supporting cast feels underused. But these are minor complaints in the scheme of things when the overall product is this good. Go see Star Trek Into Darkness for the perfect example of blockbuster summer entertainment done right.

 Matt_ferguson_INTO_DARKNESS_web

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.