Disney

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

Inside Out – Review

Inside Out gets it.

What does it get, you ask?

Well, it gets everything, actually.  Let me explain.

I originally went into this thinking that I was going to write a review about how important it is that female characters are presented to our child audience as complete, multi-faceted, fully capable of growing and changing.  Well, of course Inside Out provided me with that. But! Pixar rarely produces films where the main characters DON’T come equipped with such traits (I’m looking at you Cars).

What I left the movie with instead was an overwhelming sense of comfort that somewhere out there someone understood just how each one of us and all of our intricate emotional cogs work. Here’s where the spoilers come in, so I’ll just skip to the best part:  Inside Out was a fantastic film worth every penny. Take the family, whoever is your family, and see this movie this summer.

We start with Joy.  She’s the first emotion for Riley to have, which gave her the keys to the console, and the console is incredibly important to each and every person because it drives our whole air which we present ourselves.  So from the beginning of Riley, she’s driven by Joy.  Very soon after, Sadness appears, and obviously Sadness is important too, just no one can tell why. As Riley grows, they’re joined by Fear, Disgust, and Anger, helping to round out her individual emotional spectrum.

Joy & Rainbow Unicorn

Joy & Rainbow Unicorn

Riley is now 11 and she’s happy.  All of her core memories are fueled by happiness, her Personality Islands of Family, Friendship, Honesty, Hockey, and Goofball stand strong.  A proper story doesn’t move along without conflict, which is why everything and everyone is shaken by the big move from Minnesota to San Francisco.  The Emotions do their best to keep Joy at the helm, but the panic gets the best of Sadness and her well-intentioned attempts at helping end up skewing the core memories.

With the memories altered, Joy takes it upon herself to fix Riley.  She’s so focused to do so that she completely forgets the other emotions are just as invested in Riley as she is.  Sadness especially feels the need to help and with a very well done scuffle, her and Joy find themselves whisked away from headquarters to the long-term memory bank, core memories in hand.  That leaves Anger, Disgust, and Fear to run the console, making a very sensitive and irritable Riley.  She loses interest in hockey, she skips school, and eventually, those three emotions convince her run away, back to Minnesota.

Joy & Sadness

Joy & Sadness

All this time Riley is going through the most troubling period of her life (remember she’s only 11), Joy and Sadness are on their own odyssey back to headquarters.  The emotional turmoil is causing literal damage to Riley’s psyche, making navigation of the brain an even more daunting task.  Bing Bong, an imaginary friend that’s mostly cotton candy, teams up with them so that he can be remembered and the two can continue on their adventures together.

They make it through Abstract Thought where they almost get broken down into the most basic of concepts that almost destroyed them. They traverse Imagination Land and meet Riley’s new boyfriend, who’s from Canada.  Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong end up coming across Dream Productions, the Subconscious (it’s a prison for all the troublemakers), and the Memory Dump (the place where we forget).  Those emotions would have done anything to protect their Riley, and that was sure put to the test.

Bing Bong

Bing Bong

Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best, which is more than evident while watching the film.  Every casting choice was spot on.  Every scene was beautifully animated. Every moment was entertaining. But the moral focus found at the center of the film may just be the most important concept Pixar has conveyed yet: Sadness is special.  That’s a huge realization that we often don’t want to admit to ourselves, especially when we’re children.  Yet the truth remains that Sadness is necessary. Sadness makes us feel something at times when we would much rather feel nothing.   We are able to pull ourselves out of the darkest hours of our lives because of Sadness.  The other emotions inside us will do everything they can to fight it; they don’t want us sad either.  The fact that Pixar managed to grasp one of the most intense and complicated lies we as humans tell ourselves as well as unravel it before our eyes in only 102 minutes shows just how high the standard is for not only children’s films, but films altogether.

I’ve seen a lot of movies this summer, this year.  I’m going to see a ton more.  It’s what I do. This movie is by far the most important one out there now.  It’s these emotional affectations that keep Pixar at the top.  They refuse to ever dumb down a movie for children, knowing well enough that everyone, young and old, can relate to the tales they tell.  If their beautiful interpretation of the human mind doesn’t leave you cinematically fulfilled by the ending, I’m not entirely convinced that anything ever could.

 

Inside Out – Review

The Strangest E3 Conference This Week

At their core, E3 conferences are meant to be press conferences. They are meant to tell video game magazines, sites, etc. about what is coming. However, the bar has been set higher in the past few years. Now, in addition to being press conferences, they also tend to be quite entertaining shows. There is a reason why Ubisoft brings in comedian and actress Aisha Tyler to host their conference. There is also a reason why Nintendo borrows Robot Chicken clips or actually uses puppets to supplement their conference. Both Nintendo, Ubisoft, and others know that they are not just broadcasting to the press anymore. They are also broadcasting to the general public. With all of this in mind, I would like to briefly discuss the strangest E3 conference this week, Square Enix.

What Was Strange?

I admit to being surprised at seeing Square Enix in the lineup. They are a large company that also encompasses the properties of Eidos. However, Square Enix does not usually have a conference. They tend to rely on EA, Microsoft, or another publisher to show off their games. With this in mind, I started to watch…

1. The very first title they showed did not have a title.

Square Enix showed off a number of upcoming games. However, the first one they showed did not even have a title. We were given a very brief clip that told us next to nothing about it. The clip gave no semblance of what sort of gameplay would be featured or even what the story was going to be about. After the clip, some of the development team popped up on stage but didn’t even bother to give us a name. A working title would have sufficed.

2. The head of development for the aforementioned game was wearing an odd maskThe guy in the mask

Ordinarily, in a conference like Ubisoft, this would not be an issue. It would just be part of the show. However, the fellow in the mask only introduced himself, said they were working on the game, and did nothing else. This lead me to believe that perhaps this guy did not want to be seen. If that is correct, though, then why did he come in the first place? Did Square Enix make him come? The mask distracted me from a presentation that was already weak with no title.

3. Everything was so formal…

hitman-io-interactiveFormality in a typical press conference is not a problem. But this is E3! Microsoft, EA, Sony, Ubisoft, and Nintendo all know that they need to do more than just talk about their products. They need to give us a show. With the exception of very brief previews (I’ll get to that in a minute) and the mask, there was no entertainment or very much to hold the audience’s attention. The developers got up before the crowds and spoke very seriously about their games. Some of them did not even seem very excited about the games that they were making.

4. What we saw was brief and not enough to garner attention.

With any sort of preview or presentation, especially with something that has not even been released, it is important to not tell too much. The Force Unleashed II had a good ten-minute making-of video that was released just before the game released. However, most of that video revealed too much of the plot, spoiling the surprise for the players. This is not the case for the Square Enix conference. They actually had the opposite problem. They showed and talked about too little.

Rise of the Tomb RaiderI have already mentioned the game with no name. However, this idea of showing very little was prevalent throughout the conference. The Rise of the Tomb Raider was also presented. Granted, other conferences had already showed the gameplay demo and the preview, but I expected perhaps a behind-the-scenes video. True to my expectations, they did show a video about how much detail was put into the creation of Lara Croft… But that was all they showed off before moving on to their next project. Although finding about all of the detail was interesting, I expected a video about why they chose the myth and setting for Lara’s new adventure or perhaps what they have changed in gameplay. This clip was too brief and did not talk about the components of the game that I wanted to hear about, albeit story and gameplay.

On A Positive Note…deusex

Although Square Enix’s presentation was strange and oftentimes very brief, they had plenty of things to be excited about. Kingdom Hearts III looked to be fairly far along in production, the new Hitman game looked very ambitious and exciting, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided seems to greatly improve on Human Revolution, and then there is that Final Fantasy game, the most renowned in Square Enix’s franchises. Their presentation was not terrible, but it was odd. One would be curious to see if they present again next year.

 

The Strangest E3 Conference This Week

New Season of Star Wars Rebels Premieres Tomorrow!

That’s right. Star Wars Rebels is back and premieres Saturday, June 20 at 9 PM (ET/PT) on Disney XD. As shown in several clips and the Star Wars Celebration trailer, season 2 will now feature Darth Vader. It will be interesting to see how the Rebels survive since the show takes place in the time period prior to A New Hope where the Empire, and especially Vader, are fairly invincible. One thing to note is that James Earl Jones, the actor who voiced Vader in the movies, is reprising the role for season 2. The one-hour premiere is titled “The Siege of Lothal.” If you need something to tie you over until tomorrow, here’s a clip of the immortal Darth Vader…

New Season of Star Wars Rebels Premieres Tomorrow!