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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Review with Spoilers

Before I begin, this review DOES have SPOILERS from the film.

Ten years ago, I walked out of the theater convinced I had seen the last Star Wars movie. The Skywalker saga was complete and George Lucas had pledged no more movies. However, on this Thursday, I found myself in a theater for yet another Star Wars viewing. And so, after ten years, it would seem my Star Wars journey had come full circle in seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

Overview

Following Luke Skywalker’s disappearance, the First Order (or the new Empire) has made a bid to take over the galaxy and squash the Resistance. One thing stands in their path, the last of the Jedi. Both sides scramble to find the last piece of a map that will lead them to the infamous Jedi Master.The Force Awakens: Rey and BB-8

The Force Awakens: Good

1.I was honestly expecting the first scene of The Force Awakens to be reminiscent of the 2009 Star Trek movie. However, this was not the case. The pacing was actually slower than expected. Nevertheless, it was fitting for the movie. After all, A New
Hope 
started off a bit slow. Rest assured, The Force Awakens has its fair share of action sequences but it does not sacrifice story and character development in favor of said action.

2. The movie nostalgia did not flaunt itself in the viewer’s face. There were plenty of callbacks to the previous movies, but they made room for the new as well (albeit new characters and plot points).

3. The lightsaber battles were messy. This may seem like a bad thing, but all lightsaber wielders were actually quite inexperienced. It took a lot of work to make the battles engaging and realistic to the skill of said force users. It was actually refreshing to see a grounded, realistic battle instead of a choreographed, over-the-top battle.

4. Although we do not have confirmation that the new darkside users are Sith, they definitely follow some of the same rules. In particular, the sacrifice. All Sith must make a sacrifice before reaching their true potential in the darkside. This was a philosophy that was shared in The Force Awakens.

5. John Williams’ brilliant music shined throughout the film. He brought in plenty of new themes, as well as some well-timed older themes from the original movies. It was certainly a treat to hear John Williams Star Wars music again.

6. All of the new characters are well developed and relatable. Rey proves to be an ideal female protagonist. Finn is a character who is scared and uncertain. As for Kylo Ren, he is an enemy of unrefined and unfocused power. All characters have their flaws, and they are better for it.The Force Awakens: Kylo Ren

 

The Force Awakens: Bad

There is little to complain about in this film, but I was a bit wary of the many references to A New Hope. A droid with important information… A deadly weapon of destruction… I admit that these plot devices worked well for this movie, but the parallels are hard to ignore.Star Wars: The Force Awakens X-Wing and TIE Fighter

Conclusion

This was certainly the movie that Star Wars fans were expecting in 1999. It is sure to please both old and new fans alike. The Force Awakens could’ve easily trudged down the action-ridden path that has made Star Wars famous. However, it holds back the action, which makes it more meaningful. Character development, in the form of all of the leads, are excellent. And the ending of the movie was nothing short of perfect.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Review with Spoilers

The Good Dinosaur – Review

“Let’s sit down and review The Good Dinosaur by Disney/Pixar.”

The Good Dinosaur

In proper Pixar fashion, we should start with a review of the pre-movie short: Sanjay’s Super Team. Based on a ‘mostly’ true story.
At only 7 minutes, this short packs in a lot of story. A young boy is at odds with his religion and the modern world. Eventually, a midway point is found through a daydream of various Hindu gods as superheroes, battling a shadow demon. After the dream ends, the boy has a newfound appreciation for his father and religion in general.

Now, let’s step back about 65 million years, and see what the world would have been like if an asteroid didn’t exterminate all of the dinosaurs. An asteroid belt rotates slowly, one chunk of debris bumps into another, sending it on a direct course with a bright blue orb, Earth. The meteor misses the planet completely, disturbing nothing.

“A few million years later”, we meet a family of Apatosarus living on a farm. The runt of the litter is Arlo, the hero of our story. After a classic Disney tragedy sequence, Arlo sets out on an adventure to return home, meeting a wild child human on the way, named Spot. The first laugh I had while watching this movie was during a touching scene when Spot placed a large beetle in front of Arlo, and promptly pulled the bug’s head off.

The Good Dinosaur Arlo and Spot

Perhaps the most interesting part of this movie was a scene where Spot and Arlo eat fermented plums and go on a psychedelic drug trip. After this, we meet a variety of interesting characters, including scavenging Pterodactyls, T-Rex Ranchers, and a pack of wild, wolf-like humans. All of this culminates in Arlo returning home to a loving reunion.

All in all, this is a good movie for kids, although there are a few scenes involving small animals savagely eaten by predators, and tall tales about chewing through a tail to survive a tough situation. For adults, there really isn’t a lot to offer, which is a let down for a Pixar movie.

I give this movie 3 out of 5 fermented plums.

Disney-Pixar presents a film directed by Peter Sohn and written by Meg LeFauve. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated PG (for peril, action and thematic elements).

The Good Dinosaur hit theaters this past weekend, opening to $39.155 million domestically, beating the new Rocky universe film Creed but losing out to the two-time champion, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 which brought in $52 million in its second week at the box office. The Good Dinosaur, which was riddled with re-writers, re-castings, and delays, saw Pixar’s second worst wide opening ever, beating out only the original Toy Story, Pixar’s first feature film. Inside Out, the other Pixar film to release this year, saw a $90 million opening weekend back in June.

The Good Dinosaur is in theaters now.

Have you seen the new dinosaur flick yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Box office numbers provided by boxofficemojo.com.

The Good Dinosaur – Review

Disney’s Lion Guard

If you missed the 90’s, then you happened to miss one of Disney’s most glorious periods in animation.  Their movies were repeatedly nominated for Academy Awards; again, they were that good. You also missed Disney’s wave of rushed sequels which never met fans expectations, milking their glory for all it was worth.  No animated Disney film was exempt, Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan, even The Little Mermaid.  Before I continue with the actual point of this article, just look at these shenanigans (for the sake of time, I omitted Cinderella, 101 Dalmatians, Bambi, and Fox and the Hound sequels. Ain’t nobody got time for that):

Disney's Animated Films with Sequels

Isn’t that a little over the top?  Well, with the release of 2009’s Princess and the Frog, Disney has entered again into an era where they can do no wrong.  Which can only mean that they’re going to try sequels again.  Cue The Lion Guard.THE LION GUARD - The epic storytelling of Disney's "The Lion King" continues with "The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar," a primetime television movie event starring Rob Lowe, Gabrielle Union and James Earl Jones, reprising his iconic role as Mufasa. Premiering this November on Disney Channel, the movie follows Kion, the second-born cub of Simba and Nala, as he assumes the role of leader of the Lion Guard, a team of animals tasked with preserving the Pride Lands. "The Lion Guard" television series will premiere in early 2016 on Disney Channels and Disney Junior channels around the globe. (Disney Junior) FULI, KION, ONO , BESHTE, BUNGA

This animated series will follow Simba and Nala’s youngest child, Kion, and his band of friends who form the Lion Guard, a protection group for the Pridelands. Featuring both new and returning characters (Mufasa?!), the series will highlight the values of friendship and diversity.  The series will introduce itself on November 22 with an hour-long special: The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar followed by the series on January 3, 2016 with standard half-hour episodes.  There are five children’s books also planned for a 2016 release: Kion, Pride of the Pridelands, Can’t Wait to be Queen, Bunga’s Big Adventure, Meet the New Guard, and Kion’s Animal Alphabet.  From the current information, The Lion Guard seems to takes place before The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride.

What do you think? Will you be watching The Lion Guard?

Disney’s Lion Guard

Aladdin SNES (1993) – Retro Review

These days, most movie-based video games fall short of expectations and wind up leaving the player unhappy. Back in 1993, however, Capcom and Nintendo launched Aladdin for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Now, I’ll just start by saying, I love this game! It’s a childhood favorite (yes I was a child when this came out, almost 7 actually). Aladdin provides an enjoyable mix of movie-based levels, new content and fun items. Aladdin is a side scrolling platform game. Each level has multiple stages, aside from the “Whole New World” carpet ride bonus level and “The Final Battle” against Cobra Jafar. Throughout the game you will be shown, well.. 1993’s version of cut-scenes. You get an image or two set to 16-bit music and text explaining what is happening for those of us who haven’t seen the Disney classic staring Robin Williams or don’t know about the side stories our heroes under took that never made it to the big screen.

The game stats are handled fairly simply. There is no timer or running score. You have lives, hearts, emeralds and apples. You can gain additional hearts and lives as the game progresses and you collect emeralds and apples in the levels. Every 100 emeralds will get you an extra life. You can use the apples to stun certain enemies by throwing them. To regain health (hearts), collect bread and chicken found in vases and chests. If you can catch the golden, flying scarab then you’ve won a spin on Genie’s wheel-o-stuff. Usually you’ll end up earning continue credits… BORRRING… but sometimes you will get an extra life or an additional heart! The word around the street is that if you hit “B” at the wheel when Genie blinks, you’ll be guaranteed either a 1-up or 2-up.

Aladdin Helpful Hints

Okay, so by now, you’ve had 20 years to play this game. You might not want to play the whole thing straight through and you wish you could select specific levels or stages. You can! Seriously. Okay, here is what you have to do:

  1. Make sure you have two controllers plugged in and use the primary controller to enter the Settings screen
  2. Pick up the second controller and press, in this order: L, R, Start, Select, X, Y, A, B (the speed isn’t too important)
  3. If done correctly, you’ll hear a little chime
  4. Return to the main menu
  5. With the primary controller, hold L + R and then use the control pad to pick different stages and levels
  6. The stages and levels are noted as Stage-Level in blue above the list of menu options; it can be hard to see

But, if you would rather use the passwords provided as you complete stages, here is the full list:

  • Stage 2: GenieAduAladdinSultan
  • Stage 3: JafarAbuJasmineGenie
  • Stage 4: GenieJafarAladdinAbu
  • Stage 5: AbuAladdinGenieJasmine
  • Bonus: JasmineJafarSultanJasmine
  • Stage 6: JafarJasmineAladdinJafar
  • Stage 7: AladdinJasmineAbuSultan

Aladdin Gameplay

Aladdin SNES Cover

As expected, you play as Aladdin while Abu follows you around. Aladdin begins in the market. As you run along the market place you discover your first enemies. At this point in the game, there are three primary enemies. You’ll have to battle some Guards, Claw in Pots and Archers. These are the official names for these enemies. At the end of the level you have to battle the Marketplace Peddler! This is the man who wants to cut Jasmine’s hand off for stealing food. We must save her! Seems simple enough. Being a game from 1993, all you have to do it jump on the Peddler’s head a few times but watch out! He has a sword and he will use it! You have to get close enough to him so he will swing at you and then as he is swinging, jump on his head. If you are successful, you get to meet Jasmine and talk to her a bit.

Aladdin Marketplace

After your romantic talk with Jasmine, it’s off to the Cave of Wonders! From here you will fight through the cave, evading bats and scorpions along the way. Just watch out for the spikes and sink holes to nothingness. After a while, Abu discovers the treasure we’ve been hunting for. As you walk through the sea of gold, demented swords will fly at you and then an evil, sword wielding skeleton takes a swipe at you. This is when you find Carpet! Remember our lovable, silent friend? He will help lead you to the Lamp. Well, until the next level when he abruptly leaves you for some unexplained reason. In the final stage of the Cave of Wonders level you’ll have to jump around on some logs. Don’t fall into the water because Aladdin cannot swim. He is from the desert, after all. Finally, to keep with the film, you walk past the incredible ruby rock Abu wants, up the stairs to the Lamp and as you take the Lamp, Abu takes the ruby and everything is about to get a lot worse.

With the Cave of Wonders melting around you, it’s a race to the surface. The levels speed up, pushing you along rather than allowing you to progress at your own pace. These are a couple of my favorite levels because they are fast and more challenging than the others. The second of the two “lava levels”, as I call them, puts you in the driver’s seat of Carpet as waves of lava slam behind you and boulders fall from above.

 

Now things get weird. Safe from the lava, you end up going inside Genie’s Lamp… a scene I must have slept through every time I’ve watched the movie. These levels are a lot of fun and in some ways, very psychedelic. You’ve got Genie’s face on blocks that fall, balloons that rise and you even have to jump on his tongue a few times. Somehow the Claw in Pots got inside the lamp, so be careful of those. The first level also has an area where you rely on Genie to provide items to walk on, bounce off of or swing from to get across a giant gap. Of course, I don’t know why Genie is okay with you falling to your death but it is a game. Some of Genie’s combinations of “helpful” items are more convenient than others. For example, sometimes he provides nothing but clouds, nice and simple. Other times he might provide balloons to swing from and cards to bounce off in the same run.

Aladdin Genie Lamp Level

If you make it out of the Lamp alive, you find yourself in a pyramid looking for Abu. The game takes things up a notch by increasing the difficulty a bit. Archers now shoot two arrows in a row, for example. The first level is fairly challenging as far as finding solid footing is concerned. Once you make your way through the pyramid, you come face to face with a horrible enemy, the Pharaoh! No… wait… it’s just Abu acting weird. This level feels very out of place because it seems like there should be another boss but nope, just Abu in a mask. Awkward.

Then, a complete break from the action. We must romance Jasmine, quick! This “bonus” level is nothing but the magic carpet ride. There are no enemies or obstacles to overcome, just emeralds. The only challenge is seeing if you can get all of the red ones in one go. The level is slow and fairly boring, definitely the low point of the game.

Aladdin Magic Carpet Ride

After your date, it’s off to Jafar’s Palace! Here we have the best of the best enemies, including Iago and Swordsman… er men? You’ll have to stay away from fire that inexplicably raises and lowers without leaving any real heat or burns behind. Eventually, if you’re good enough, you’ll find your way to Jafar’s throne room where he will fly, shoot lighting and create flying Claw in Pots from thin air! How do you beat this sorcerer? Well, you can bounce off the Claw in Pots to hit Jafar on the head or you can wait for him to throw his scepter. The scepter shoots lightning across the floor but Aladdin can jump on it and use it to get high enough to hit Jafar on the head. Defeating sorcerer Jafar takes you to the final stage!

The final stage is one level. You are provided a health power-up in the form of a chicken, then it’s off to fight the giant snake Jafar. Here, Jafar will shoot rocks at you by spiting them, which is weird. He will also lunge at you in an attempt to bite. Bounce off the rocks to get high enough or wait for him to lunge to jump onto his  head. As you injure him, he will get angry. When angry, he will oscillate his body, forcing you to either jump or burn in the fires below the cobra. If you defeat him, you can still die in the fire as his body flops about in pain. Just as you think you’ve won it all, he shoots back out and bites down! The game then moves to more “cut-scenes” explaining the entire ending to the movie.

Aladdin Snake Jafar

Congrats! You’ve beat Jafar and got the girl! Depending on how many emeralds you were able to grab, you’ll be shown slightly different endings as the credits scroll. For example, you’ll be shown the carpet ride or AI game play.

Unfortunately, if you’ve mastered the Nintendo classic, Aladdin, there are no difficulty levels to choose from to make it more difficult.

Have you played Aladdin on another console? How does it differ from the SNES version aside from Sega having a much nice title screen? What is your favorite Aladdin level?

Aladdin SNES (1993) – Retro Review

Marvel Studios Reshuffled

According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel Studios, the film branch of the company headed by Kevin Feige, has been restructured so as to report directly to the Disney studio chief Alan Horn instead of the Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter.

On one hand this seems like a good idea.  Kevin Feige has been heavily involved in every Marvel-created movie since the first Iron Man, and it’s easy to see that those decision have paid off.  The Marvel movies are, generally speaking, runaway successes.  Some, like Ant-Man, haven’t performed as well as might have been hoped.  While others, Guardians of the Galaxy for example, far exceeded expectations.  I think a lot of credit has to go to Kevin for the direction he’s taken the company.

With that said there is one piece of the article that gave me a moment of worry.  Marvel’s TV division, headed by Jeph Loeb, is not included in this restructuring.  Up until now one of my favorite things about Marvel, though admittedly less important in the grand scheme of things, is that their film and television endeavors were explicitly connected.  The world on display every week on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the same world that is being saved in Captain America: Civil War.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

It’s one of my biggest gripes about the DC/Warner Bros. film efforts: despite the success of Arrow and Flash on television, they are determined to build their films that are completely separate from the television properties, to the point that they’ll have a TV Flash and a movie Flash played by completely different actors, and supposedly the film branch began interfering in the TV plans for certain characters because they had been earmarked for use in films already.

So that’s my biggest fear at this point.  I have loved that the Marvel films and television shows were tightly coupled together.  Now I worry about what might happen since, from a corporate standpoint, the two endeavors report to completely different people.  Hopefully nothing changes in regards to how they work together, but the potential is there so I can’t help but worry about it a little.

What do you think of this restructuring? Does it cause any concern for future MCU films? Comment below!

Marvel Studios Reshuffled

D23 News: Disney and Pixar

This last weekend was the annual D23 convention, which, if you are not familiar with, is a magical time filled with everything Disney. It’s truly the best time of the year.

Now, we’ve already brought to you all the amazing Star Wars news (which you can find here). Today, we’re on all of the remaining Disney animation and Pixar news.

zootopia

First off, Disney gave us updates on Zootopia, a film featuring cute anthropomorphic animals in a modern civilization slated for 2016.  Ginnifer Goodwin, known as Snow White on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, helped introduce us to her character, an adorable little bunny named Judy who is trying really hard to be a cop (a position normally reserved for larger animals like rhinos). While fighting her way to the top, she comes across Nick, a con artist fox, voiced by Jason Bateman.  The combination between con and cop, fox and rabbit will undoubtedly bring some light-hearted fun to the Disney cannon.  Look for this film out March 2016.

moana-movie-image-slice-600x200

Also slated for a 2016 release is Moana, the epic story of a strong young girl from the South Pacific.  Already on board as voice cast is Dwayne Johnson as a demi-god Moana meets on her travels, and Alan Tudyk, a Disney favorite, in a unnamed role.  D23 released multiple concept pictures as well as one beautiful image of Johnson’s character in full (pictured above).  Expect to see Moana join the popular Disney Princess franchise in 2017.

giganticheader

Lastly, D23 was the place to announce new projects this year, including the latest addition to the Disney cannon, Gigantic, what is promised to be a Disney reworking of the classic tale Jack and the Beanstalk.  The 2018 release plans to be set in Spain during the “Age of Exploration” where the titular Jack meets a young girl giant and promises to help get her home.  With Nathan Greno helming and the Lopez couple responsible for the popular Frozen soundtrack behind the score, the film is already set for massive success.

tumblr_nt30y9RkXa1rf73xqo1_500

On the Pixar side of things, we got loads of announcements!  The teaser posters for four new sequels were revealed.  While movies like Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2 had been previously announced, they also confirmed Toy Story 4 and Cars 3.  Toy Story 4, written by Will McCormack and Rashida Jones, was said to be focused on a romance between Woody and Bo Peep.  Hopefully they’ll explain her absence during Toy Story 3. Joining comedian Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Dory is a wide variety of stars including Always Sunny in Philadelphia actress Kaitlin Olson, and Modern Family alum Ed O’Neill and Ty Burrell.  This sequel has long been championed by DeGeneres through her daytime talk show.

coco-teaser-poster

Pixar also released information regarding an original story in the works entitled Coco, a film inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday. The brief synopsis for the film follows a 12 year old boy named Miguel in Mexico who sets off a chain of events that will change him forever on Day of the Dead.  The artists claim to be inspired by the gorgeous visualizations of the holiday.  While the film has not been slotted for a release date, Pixar has dates in November 2017 and 2018 reserved.

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Lastly, D23 celebrate the anticipated return of Kingdom Hearts with related announcements for Kingdom Hearts 3 and Disney Infinity, 3.0.  Kingdom Hearts 3 will feature the transformable keyblade, available for every keyblade in the game. Each will have its own unique transformation(s) that should enhance both the weapon and the gameplay.  Some featured transformations included keyblades to projectiles, larger attacks, or more power.  The big news for KH3, however, were the reveals of two new worlds to visit: Tangled and San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6.  The keyblade will also be available as the newest weapon in Disney Infinity, 3.0 along with a special edition King Mickey figure.

disney-infinity-3-0

Disney Infinity, 3.0 focused on many of their newest additions, including upcoming figures from The Good Dinosaur and Zootopia. They’re introducing a completely new Marvel Playset entitled “Marvel Battlegrounds” featuring the brand new playable characters of Ultron and Hulkbuster Iron Man.  While most news regarding the Star Wars figures had already been announced, they did get all the fanboys in a twist by revealing that there would be limited special edition figures with light-up light saber capability once placed on the game pad.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens actors John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were presented with their own playable figures of their characters’ likenesses, the first from the new anthology of films.

Obviously there are tons of reasons to be pumped for the next few years at Disney.  Between Star Wars parks, and 5 Pixar films, and Kingdom Hearts 3, and so many new figures for Disney Infinity…I’m going to be so broke.

How about you? What are you most looking forward to from Disney? Comment below!

 

D23 News: Disney and Pixar

D23 News: Star Wars

We’ve been hearing a lot of Disney news over the past couple of days due to D23, an expo put on by the official Disney fan club. But with Disney news, we now get Star Wars news! There are three major things happening with the Star Wars universe…

Concept art for the Star Wars parks.

Concept art for the Star Wars parks.

1. Disney Star Wars Theme Parks

The theme parks are finally coming! In both Anaheim, CA and Orlando, FL, Disney will be opening up lands and rides that will finally feature Star Wars. We don’t know too many details right now, but we have concept art and can rest assured that they will properly make the world of Star Wars come to life. Find out more here.

2. Colin Trevorrow to Direct Episode IX

Although not coming out until 2019, Episode IX now has a director. Colin Trevorrow, best known for his work with Jurassic World, will be directing the final movie of the new Star Wars trilogy. We already knew Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) would be helming Episode VIII. More information on Trevorrow’s new gig here.

Colin Trevorrow will direct Star Wars Episode IX.

Colin Trevorrow will direct Star Wars Episode IX.

3. Rogue One Cast Announced

Lastly, Rogue One is well into production and now has a cast. This cast includes Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Mads Mikkelson (Casino Royale), Alan Tudyk (Firefly; I, Robot), and Riz Ahmed. We’ll be seeing this one hit theaters in 2016.

 

The cast of Star Wars: Rogue One.

The cast of Star Wars: Rogue One.

D23 News: Star Wars

So Many Theme Parks!

Last week, Universal Studios announced its new deal with Nintendo to bring new theme parks to life dedicated to Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, and the rest of our favorite characters!  While Universal has created haunted houses based on franchises like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, the world of video games has been largely untapped by way of theme parks as of now.  There have been no official reports of exactly what the park could feature but fans have already begun to speculate actual Mario Kart Go Carts and something dedicated to Splatoon.

Universal Studios Theme Parks Nintendo Logo

This deal is also very unique because Universal plans to build a Nintendo theme park at each of their four locations (Orlando, Hollywood, Singapore, Japan) as well as break ground on a fifth location in Beijing.  This is, of course, a massive undertaking considering Orlando’s Harry Potter’s Wizarding World still remains the only Harry Potter theme park Universal has planned.  The park plans to open in 2021.  I better start planning my vacation now.

Walt Disney World Theme Parks Star Wars Logo

Universal’s largest rival, Disney, has also made enormous theme park plans for some of its newly acquired franchises.  Earlier this year, Disney announced the intention of building a theme park set in the Star Wars universe, in addition to the themed rides already found in Disney World.  Disney chief Bob Iger has reported the intention of the theme park being based on the new films made under the Disney name, including Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens  and Star WarsRogue One.  Since then, the presence of Star Wars has increased tremendously at all of the company’s global locations.

Which of these theme parks are you most looking forward to? Comment below!

So Many Theme Parks!

Guardians of the Galaxy Cartoon Gets a Release Date

With the smash hit taken by Guardians of the Galaxy last summer at the box office, it comes as no surprise that an animated series was to follow. The show will premiere on Disney XD on September 26, 2015. Also, as expected, none of the original actors from the movie will reprise their roles. Nevertheless, a plethora of talented voice actors will lend their voices for the now iconic Guardians. Among them are Jeff Bennett (Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast), Will Friedle (Batman Beyond), Kevin Michael Richardson (Planet Hulk, Legend of Korra), Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars: Rebels), and James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: Clone Wars), among others.

Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon poster

Disney released some test footage of the Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon, which looks fairly impressive and can be viewed below. With any luck, this show could be as good as Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Guardians of the Galaxy Test Footage:

Are you excited for the new Guardians of the Galaxy series? What are you looking forward to on it? Let us know in the comments.

Guardians of the Galaxy Cartoon Gets a Release Date

A Cybernetic Cinderella

These days it feels like we are inundated with re-tellings and re-imaginings of Fairy Tales. Despite very favorable reviews from people I respect, I was hesitant to begin reading Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, because it was (yet another) Cinderella story. Ultimately I decided to take the plunge, and I’m glad that I did.

The Good

The initial setup for Cinder’s story is very easy to map to the elements of the classic story: the step-mother and step-sisters, the prince, the upcoming ball. But as this story is set in a futuristic world of robots and cybernetics, we get some interesting twists on the original story as well.  Instead of talking animals, we get a quirky household servant android.

The primary antagonist for the book, and the series, is the Lunar Queen Levana. A colony, established on the moon hundreds of years ago, has developed into a powerful nation, and the Levana is apparently intent on conquering Earth, one way or another. Part of the reason the Lunars are so powerful is because of their ability to manipulate bioelectric energy, sometimes helpfully referred to as ‘magic’ when discussed by Earth-based characters. This power allows a Lunar to manipulate what another character sees, feels, and does when under the direct influence of the Lunar. The character easily maps to the “evil queen/witch” character found in many fairy tales, and in particular to the queen in Snow White, given the cover text from later books in the series.

One of the interesting twists that I really appreciated is the cultural perception of cyborgs, and how it influences the characters in the story. Cyborgs are literally viewed as being less than human. And as Cinder is a cyborg, that little detail gives the step-mother character an additional motivation for her unkindness, as well as significantly changing Cinder’s motivations. This Cinderella doesn’t want to go to the ball. Cinder has completely different plans for her life. As you might expect, she does eventually attend the ball, but largely for reasons other than what you generally expect from a Cinderella story.

The Bad

There’s an additional ‘special’ ability that Cinder is revealed to have late in the book, and one of the other characters mentions that it is very distinctive and reminiscent of another character, but we get no additional information on what that means. The connection between Cinder and that other character have already been established by that point in the story, so telling us “your power looks a lot like hers”, but not telling us what that means or what it looks like, is frustrating as it feels like the author is deliberately withholding information that you would expect to be revealed at this point.

(I do see the irony in expressing frustration with how vague the book was regarding this point, while myself remaining vague about what that power is and the ‘connection to another character’, but I’m chalking that one up to trying to be as spoiler-free as possible.)

The most frustrating part of the book is how it ends, because it feels very much like the story had just gotten really moving.  In essence, the story ends shortly after Cinder has fled the ball, and nothing has really been resolved. It feels very much like this story was written with the expectation that you are going to have to pick up the next book in the series to see how this plays out, even though the next book in the series appears to center, at least initially, on a completely different character.

The Verdict

Cinder is a very fun book to read, and, in all likelihood, I’ll be picking up the sequel in the near future to see how the story proceeds. Cinder is very much not the traditional helpless girl, waiting for a prince to save her. She’s competent, motivated, and tries to do what is best for herself and the people she cares about. It’s the best kind of princess story these days. The prince is there, and he’s part of the story. But it really is Cinder’s story, and does not revolve around him as the center of her universe. And that’s wonderfully refreshing take on this story.

A Cybernetic Cinderella

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Movie Review

Things were looking pretty good for our heroes at the end of Star Wars Rebels Season 1; however, the Empire is not one to turn the other cheek and makes sure that the rebels pay for their actions by sending along an expert in dealing with such matters, Darth Vader.

WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!

Overview

Following a huge victory at the end of season 1, Rebels picks up where it left off with the crew of the Ghost helping out the new rebel fleet. Some of the crew, in particular Kanan, feel a bit overwhelmed by their new circumstances. The idea of serving as a sort of intergalactic Robin Hood against the Empire was fulfilling. Fighting a full on fight against said Empire, on the other hand, is almost out of their league. So when the crew receive a message from Lothal concerning the smuggling of a high ranking official off world, it seems like the perfect opportunity to get more Imperial information as well as return to their roots in small-time rebellion; however, little do they know that this is a trap laid by none other than the Sith Lord, Darth Vader.

The Good

Kanan expresses his uneasiness with joining the larger rebel cause.

Kanan expresses his uneasiness with joining the larger rebel cause.

1. “The Siege of Lothal” changes the dynamic even more than the season finale. We honestly were not sure where the series was heading after finding out that the small band of rebels aboard the Ghost were actually one sect in a larger group. The option of them still operating in Lothal is completely thrown out by the end of this episode as Vader makes that an impossibility. Getting off of Lothal was a good and bold move on the show’s part, as it throws our characters out of their comfort zone.

2. Darth Vader is used properly and it looks like he will not return for quite awhile. At first, it seems that our heroes will outwit and escape Vader. This would have been a concern since Vader cannot lose like the villains in the previous season; however, “The Siege of Lothal” uses Vader perfectly. Even when it looks like the rebels had escaped Vader’s clutches, we find out that it was all apart of his plan. Also, as expected, Kanan and Ezra are no match for Vader in lightsaber combat. That scene, in and of itself, was an awesome treat to watch as Vader toyed with the duo.

Ezra and Kanan observe the destruction of Tarkintown.

Ezra and Kanan observe the destruction of Tarkintown.

3. The inhabitants of Lothal have had it rough. Many of them have had to move to Tarkintown, a refugee camp that the rebels often helped out. The name of Tarkintown is a clear call-out to the Hoovervilles of the 1930s when the poor would move to these places and mockingly name them after President Hoover, but Tarkintown also serves as an important plot point as it is burned to the ground by Darth Vader. Why did Vader do this? To take advantage of our heroes’ “weakness” for compassion. Watching Tarkintown burn into ashes really brought the idea home that there was little else our heroes could do in Lothal.

4. When Vader reported to the Emperor of his mission’s completion, we did not see the Emperor. Rather, we simply heard his voice (as performed by the very talented Sam Witwer). I am sort of hoping we do not see the Emperor’s face at all in the show, as his disembodied voice would make him more mysterious and foreboding. Of course, now that Vader knows Ahsoka lives and has already told the Emperor of this, we can only imagine what their plans might be. Vader clearly is not going to turn Ahsoka to the Darkside since he already informed the Emperor of her presence. Sith lords do not inform each other when they want to usurp the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith.

The Bad

Darth Vader reports the status of his mission to the Emperor.

Darth Vader reports the status of his mission to the Emperor.

1. Within the first few minutes of the episode, John Williams’ music was already being used. I am not talking about a small theme. Rather, the show used quite a bit of the asteroid field music from The Empire Strikes Back for much of the scene. This was a problem throughout the first season, and, unfortunately, it would seem that it will be a problem in this season. George Lucas himself pushed the production team of the Clone Wars to use Williams’ music sparingly. That show would throw in a theme here and there, but we would never get a full track pulled from one of the films. Overusing John Williams’ themes and even copying and pasting them into the show, instead of creating new themes, not only devalues their worth but is also lazy.

2. Darth Vader’s voice sounded a little bit off. This is not a stab at the work of the awesome James Earl Jones; however, somebody in the sound department did not do the best job at making the voice sound mechanical. It actually sounded too mechanical. Maybe minimization is the goal of the show, but, for those of us who grew up on the original trilogy, this sounded wrong.

Meet Lando's droid (left), W1-E1, the droid with a Southern accent.

Meet Lando’s droid (left), W1-E1, the droid with a Southern accent.

3. Lando shows up again to help out the crew of the Ghost; however, this could easily have been handled by an unknown smuggler since Lando had a total of maybe thirty seconds of screen time. Minimizing nods to the original trilogy is key since they could steal the show from our core heroes… of course, I might be able to forgive this one since we were introduced to Lando’s awesome southern-accented droid.

Conclusion

“The Siege of Lothal” was a huge opening episode that set the course for the entire season. Our heroes no longer have a planet for their headquarters (poor Ezra’s old home was even destroyed), Vader and the Emperor are plotting, the rebel fleet is on the run, and, on top of that, it looks like we are getting a new Sith Inquisitor! There was very little not to like in this episode. All in all, season 2 is off to a great start.

 

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Movie Review

Box Office Numbers: June 19-21 2015

Another big weekend at the box office thanks to Pixar’s new film, Inside Out, and an incredible second weekend by Universal Studios sequel, Jurassic World, which is on pace to being the fastest movie to gross $1 billion world wide. Inside Out, while Pixar’s first film not to debut #1 at the domestic box office had the highest opening weekend ever for an original film (meaning non-sequels, prequels, reboots, or based on existing material like books). The film also had Pixar’s second best opening weekend ever with Toy Story 3 still holding the top spot.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Jurassic World $102 million (down 51% in second week, total domestic gross at $398.2 million)
  2. Inside Out $91.06 million across 3,946 theaters domestically opening weekend
  3. Spy $10.5 million (down 32.8% from last week, in its third week, total domestic gross at $74.8 million)
  4. San Andreas $8.24 million (down 23.8% from last week, in its fourth week, total domestic gross at $132.23 million)
  5. Dope $6.018 million across 2,002 theaters domestically opening weekend
  6. Insidious Chapter 3 $4.11 million (total domestic $45.37 million)
  7. Pitch Perfect 2 $3.3 million (total domestic $177.5 million)
  8. Mad Max: Fury Road $2.815 million (total domestic $143.602 million)
  9. Avengers: Age of Ultron $2.723 million (total domestic $451.04 million)
  10. Tomorrowland $2.009 million (total domestic $87.7 million)

Coming out Soon

  • Ted 2 – June 26th
  • Magic Mike XXL – July 1st
  • Terminator: Genisys – July 1st

Updated 06-22-15 3:51PM CST: Jurassic World will pass $1 billion globally today, four days faster than the previous record holder, Furious 7.

Box Office Numbers: June 19-21 2015