Monday, December 6, 2021

Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas

Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas has all the trappings and trimmings and tropes of a good, cheesy Hallmark Christmas special: There's frantic holiday baking! Everybody home for the holidays! A loved one has passed and now the holidays will never be the same!

It's that last one that really forms the heart of ZEC. Zoey wants desperately to relive her childhood memories of Christmas, mostly as a natural and deep-seated psychological response to her father's death. Her childhood memories are symbolized by a snow globe, an interesting choice for her memories. Snow globes are always changing. They get shaken up and never look exactly the same twice. They are fragile, made of glass, easily broken. And how interesting that that's exactly what happens in Zoey's life – when the snow globe is broken, so are her hopes for recreating the Christmas memories of her father. And that's the way it should be: we can honor the past and carry on traditions, but trying to recreate the past is an exercise in futility. Instead, Zoey learns (in a dream where the entire room turns into a snow globe!) that she can – and should – create new memories, building on the traditions her father helped create. 

This was so poignant to me. I'm recently divorced and navigating the world of being a single father to four children. I've learned the hard way that I can't carry on all the traditions that we had when I was married. Loss stings. But like a controlled forest fire, loss sometimes can make way for new life. I decided that I was going to start some new Christmas traditions in the wake of my divorce. Our family looks different, so our family traditions should too!

Zoey and Max also go through some great relationship building stuff, built on the backbone of Max gaining Zoey's power to read minds through Broadway-quality song and dance routines. They decide that the universe has granted Max this power, as a way to help him feel empathy for Zoey's heavy burden, and not as a way to save the show and boost ratings. This type of healthy relationship building compassion is much needed. Max and Zoey even joke about having to communicate like regular adults, but not before performing some really clever numbers together with both their powers on display. Like a Broadway diva and divo battling it out for the title of Best Duo – but instead of crowing a single victor, everybody wins. Including the audience.

Enjoy this Christmas special (released on the Roku Channel, and vying for the regular show to be picked back up!) It's got all the fluff and tinsel and cheese of any holiday special you've seen before. But like Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist itself, it has a bit more substance and depth than your average show. 

Just bring tissues for when Peter Gallagher shows up. 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Lost in Songlation Vol. 1: Let it Go vs. Ari no Mama De

Elsa singing “Let it Go”


Having served a mission in Japan, I enjoy consuming media in Japanese to help with my listening skills. So when I found the Japanese version of the Frozen soundtrack I had to give it a try. Side note: this might be an unpopular opinion, but I thought Tangled was a MUCH more compelling film than Frozen, especially when it came to the big musical numbers. Anyway don’t get me wrong, Idina Menzel is one of my favorite musicians and Broadway stars, but when she belted on about letting it go I struggled to connect with the lyrics. In the context of the story, it makes sense: Elsa has been told to suppress her gifts her whole life, and she is no longer able to hold her powers back.


The Japanese message on the other hand has a separate focus: it is more about Elsa embracing herself just as she is, aligning more truly with herself. The subtle nuances between the translations actually lead to entirely different songs. I resonate a lot with this, as I have had to come face to face with my own attributes and parts of myself that I haven’t liked or have had to struggle with. Learning how to accept and love myself right where I am at has been one of the keys to finding peace and growth.


After looking up the Japanese lyrics (I’m not always able to hear or understand what I’m listening to), I went through and translated the meaning (see below). I may be slightly off with some of the words, but it should be mostly accurate. 


For your reference, here is the English version of the song.

Here is the Japanese version.


—————————————


The snow begins to fall and erases my footprints.

In this stark whole world, I’m alone.

The wind whispers to my heart:

“You can’t go on like this…”


Confusion… wounds…

I was suffering without confiding in anyone,

But I’ve had enough!


Just as I am, I will show my form.

Just as I am, I will become myself.

I’m not afraid of anything.

Let the wind blow.

It’s not even the least bit cold.


The things I was suffering from were like a lie

But now I’m free,

I am capable of anything!


How far can I go?

I want to test myself.

That’s it, I can change


Just as I am, I will ride on the winds

Just as I am, I will fly.

I won’t shed another tear.


I will wrap up the cold ground,

And paint my dancing thoughts up high,

Just like a crystal made of flower-blooming ice.

I want to shine brightly, I’ve decided!


Is this enough,

Making myself as I like?

Is this enough,

Believing in myself?


While bathing myself in light,

I will walk forward.

It’s not even the least bit cold.


—————————————


What do you think? Which version of the lyrics do you resonate with more?

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Boba Fett Binge List


We're into December, which means we're less than a month until The Book of Boba Fett premieres. I'm working my way through Rebels right now, but I took a moment to rewatch the Mando episodes that included the return of our fan favorite bounty hunter. If you need a refresher on Boba Fett before the new series, check this out.


Episode II - Attack of the Clones

Obviously this is where Boba Fett’s story begins (chronologically at least). We get his backstory: who his father Jango was and  how the clones and Boba came to be. After a fight with Obi Wan, we also saw Boba Fett on Geonosis witnessing the death of his father at the hand of Mace Windu. Talk about an origin story.

Clone Wars Season 2, Episodes 20-22

Here we get Boba Fett infiltrating a group of young clones as they’re being trained on a Jedi cruiser. All of it just an elaborate trick on his part to get close enough to Mace Windu to get revenge for killing Jango Fett. But as the trilogy of episodes continues, we see Boba isn’t as ruthless as he thought he’d be. It’s interesting to see a villain so classic to Star Wars question himself like that. 


Clone Wars Season 4, Episode 15

If any Boba Fett story is optional, it’s this one. The episode revolves around Obi Wan. Boba’s appearance amounts to not much more than a cameo. It shows us Boba is still in Republic custody and still angry. 

Clone Wars Season 4, Episode 20

Somehow Boba is out of prison (Maybe he escaped in the same riot as Obi Wan? Maybe he completed his sentence?) and is teaming up with Ventress. The episode focuses more on Ventress and her story arc, with Boba as a supporting character. However, it does establish Boba as a budding bounty hunter in his own right, as we see later on. 

Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

By the time Luke, Leia, and Han were flying around the galaxy, Boba was a feared bounty hunter. As far as release order, this is the first time we got introduced to Boba Fett. He might be a man of few words in the Original Trilogy, but he left an impression on fans. I mean, he was the only one of Vader’s bounty hunters to successfully track Han and Leia to Cloud City.


Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

So after Boba Fett returns Han Solo to Jabba, he sticks around. Maybe a little too long. If he’d moved onto a new job, he probably wouldn’t have been on Jabba’s party ship. During the ensuing battle aboard said party ship, Han accidentally knocks Boba Fett into the Sarlacc Pit where he was to die. Or so we thought...

The Mandalorian Season 1, Episode 5

You might only see Boba’s legs in this episode, but it’s the connecting piece between his supposed demise in the Original Trilogy and his full return in The Mandalorian Season 2. This episode also introduced Fennec Shand, who’ll appear in The Book of Boba Fett. If you want more Fennec, you can also check out The Bad Batch “Cornered” and “Bounty Lost”.

The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 1

We only see Boba Fett in the end of the episode for another slightly less brief cameo. But even though we barely even see his face, this is where we see the final fate of the Sarlacc Pit where Boba “died” and it features the return of Boba Fett’s armor (found by Jawas in the previously mentioned Sarlacc Pit). 


The Mandalorian Season 2, Episodes 6-8

After getting directions from Ahsoka Tano to find a Jedi for Grogu’s training, Din Djarin (aka Mando) ends up teaming up with Boba and Fennec to protect and subsequently save the child from the Empire. With the help of Cara Dune, Bo Katan, and the other Mandalorians, Mando is able to save Baby Yoda from capture. Boba Fett and Fennec leave moments before Jedi Master Luke Skywalker arrives to claim Grogu as his student. By that point, Boba was probably already halfway to Tatooine where he usurped Jabba’s throne from Bib Fortuna. 

And that is where the Book of Boba Fett begins. So we’ll see where things go. Can’t wait to see more Ming Na Wen… maybe more in the next season of Bad Batch too. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

What do I do when I'm wrong? - An Eternals Review


It's been said for years now that movies in the MCU definitely have a formula that they stick to. It's made them a lot of money. Some like that, some don't. Either way, it's definitely proven successful for Disney and Marvel as they've raked in crazy amounts of money and have 26 movies all set in the same universe and with at least 8 more on the way. Maybe it was time to change up the recipe. 

Eternals did just that, for better or for worse. Some haven't liked it, others have. It was definitely an adventure, though. Either way, it'll be on Disney+ January 12th, 2022 if you haven't seen it yet.

Here's my main question, and the ultimate moral conundrum in this film: What do I do when I'm wrong? What do I do when I believe something and I discover it's hurting people in a way I had never considered? Do I pretend that it doesn't matter? Do I keep going on my path and decide that it's worth some greater good? Do I change who I am and what I do? It seems like there's a right answer to these questions, but it wouldn't be a conundrum if it weren't difficult.

(or does it?)

With so many things in debate right now,  are we open to actually trying to understand the other side, and just maybe, see if that changes anything within us?

I mean, real world stories exist with this topic, right? Think about the class action lawsuits of Erin Brockovich finding out that the companies knew for a fact that they were poisoning the water supply, and people just chose to ignore it and let them get sick. They buried it from their minds. Whistleblowers seem to have a bad rap, but they are trying to talk about something they believe is dangerous and prevent people from getting hurt. That's their intent, at least.  

One wonderful example of this is Zuko from Avatar the Last Airbender. When speaking to the Fatherlord (Uh, I mean, Firelord) about his realization, he speaks more candidly than his father is used to hearing:

Zuko: Growing up we were taught that the fire nation was the greatest civilization in history, and somehow the war was our way of sharing our greatness with the rest of the world. What an amazing lie that was! The people of the world are terrified by the Fire Nation. They don't see our greatness. They hate us, and we deserve it! We created an era of fear in the world, and if we don't want the world to destroy itself, we need to replace it with an era of peace and kindness.

Ozai: Your uncle has gotten to you hasn't he?

Zuko: Yes, he has. 

Zuko changed, even though it was difficult to do so. He had to literally take swords just to speak his mind to his father, later defending his life and choosing to spare his father's life after the conversation. He didn't hate his father, but he had also grown to see more than he could before. He had seen the world, gained perspective, and grown to care for others in new ways.

One of my favorite quotes sums this up similarly, "There isn't a person you wouldn't love if you could read their whole story." - Marjorie Hinckley - This is what happened with Sersi. She saw and she grew in love. Ikarus somehow forgot the love for others. 

*Now for the Spoilers*

Apparently the Eternals, people that are supposedly immortal, die just as easily as everyone else. That was new, especially for a Marvel movie. The Eternals in the comics also had all the same powers, with some specializing in different areas. The movie changed that and gave each different powers, which actually weakened them quite a bit. Weakness in heroes makes for more interesting stories. 

One of the biggest disappointments was that while the movie was set in the same universe and we see them on Earth for 7,000 years, there's literally no connection to other films beyond some name dropping. At the end of the film, there are no Eternals on the Earth left to interact with any Avengers at all. Their adventure takes them to new places, but the lack of connection to the MCU was a bit disappointing. That's one of the primary reasons it's so fun!

Let's take a look at some of the characters, mostly at their reactions to the big movie revelation, plus their DnD alignment just because it's interesting:

Ikarus - Lawful neutral/evil/good - He follows the law, no matter what. He follows the rules, not for the good of people, but because they're the rules. When he discovers that his time on Earth (again SEVEN THOUSAND YEARS) has all been a lie, he immediately decides to still follow the Celestial that he hasn't interacted with that entire time. Only Ajak could commune with him, remember? Why? Because that's the rule. His decision to turn and kill Ajak was super sudden in the flashbacks. Also, his decision to *fly into the sun* at the end was pretty anticlimactic, albeit apparently on point for a man named Ikarus. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised by that one now that I think of it. I could honestly go off on a whole soapbox about suicide and how it should never be the answer, and I stand by that. 

Sersi - Neutral good - She grows to love the people, from day one, and that's enough for her. Her decision to protect the people, even when she knows that is likely at the expense of her own life, attests to this. At the end she even told the others that she wasn't sure if what she had does was right, still questioning the decision to hurt one to save billions. 

Makkari - Neutral good - This girl. I loved her from start to finish. I loved that a deaf actress had a good role in a blockbuster film. I loved her powers and how fiercely she fought and used them to protect people, only really using them on the offensive in the big final battle. I loved how she and Druig, who we were all supposed to hate or fear, had this adorable love thing happening. 

Kingo - Chaotic good - Kingo seemed to accept himself on a deeper level than the others, owning up to being an Eternal to those around him, with an assistant that staked him because he thought he was a vampire! He also just so happened to be very wealthy because he had been generations of movie stars. 

There, now you have a discussion that brings in Marvel, Avatar, and D&D alignments. The only thing nerdier would be arguing over Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Whew, we dodged that blaster. 

-Garrett

Friday, November 26, 2021

6 Doctor Who Stories No Longer Set in the Future


Time travel stories can get kind of messy. Especially if they last long enough that the supposed future becomes history. Back to the Future showed us that we expected too much out of the future, as 2015 arrived with no flying cars, hoverboards, or TV sunglasses. Doctor Who, on the other hand, has been able to avoid seeming outdated (other than the special effects), as the future became the past. 



The Tenth Planet - First Doctor - 1986

As the First Doctor’s tenure drew to a close and the team at BBC figured out how to prolong Doctor Who past Hartnell, the TARDIS team ended up in Antarctica. This secret science base in the frozen South Pole encountered the Cybermen and fought them off. In doing so, the Doctor’s aged body died from exhaustion and he regenerated. 


Battlefield - Seventh Doctor - 1997

The Doctor and Ace traveled to the far future of the 1990s as they uncovered the truth (at least partially) of an Arthurian legend. In the process they learned that Merlin was potentially a future incarnation of the Doctor. Though the Brigadier was involved, the little skirmish in rural Britain was not enough to garner any great attention, leaving the event relatively unknown.


TV Movie - Eighth Doctor - 1999

A Y2K story like many movies of the time I’m sure. This movie came out in 1996, three years before its setting. Taking place in the near future, there wasn’t a lot of crazy tech for us to expect. So while the Eighth Doctor, Grace, and Lee were facing off against the Master and his stolen body, the rest of the world celebrated the new millennium. But we didn’t stick around in 2000 long enough for the Doctor to make an imprint (except on Grace’s lips).


Dalek - Ninth Doctor - 2012

On one of his early adventures with Rose, they went to the near future where they met a Dalek in an underground bunker in Utah. Like the TV movie, we didn’t go far enough into the future for any outrageous guesses at future technology, but we did see a large collection of alien tech. While this episode aired while I was still in high school, the episode took place while I was at BYU. To think, I was mere hours away from the Ninth Doctor and the TARDIS. If I'd known he was closeby… Well, I guess what’s done is done. No TARDIS for me.


Fear Her - Tenth Doctor - 2012

Rose and the Doctor got caught in another scuffle in the near future. An innocent lonely little girl empowered by a child-like lonely alien nearly defeated them. But a mother’s love saved what could have been a disaster, including the end of the Olympic Torch. The Doctor ended up delivering the Torch in the end… though it seems some butterfly effect happened somewhere before real-world 2012, as David Tennant never got to deliver the Torch in real life. Wibbly wobbly. Side note: The 2012 Torch also appeared in mini-episode “Good as Gold” featuring Eleven and Amy against a Weeping Angel.


The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood - Eleventh Doctor - 2020

As if we didn’t have enough going on with COVID and killer hornets last year (whatever happened to the hornets anyway?), we didn’t even get news coverage of the unruly ground in Wales. Thanks to the Doctor, Amy, and Rory (but also note Rory?) we didn’t have a Silurian incursion. Instead, the Doctor was able to manage to delay the conflict until mankind was ready to share. Good, because 2020 didn’t need anything crazier.

As always, I can’t wait to see what Doctor Who comes up with next. My goal is to catch up on the Thirteenth Doctor so I can bid her goodbye around the same time as the rest of you. And then next up: Russell T Davies and the Fourteenth Doctor.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Jonathan Larson's Struggle Against Time

In 1996, I was 19 and I had just put my papers in to serve a mission. On my way home from a meeting with my bishop, I heard an interview on the radio with some of the cast members of a new Broadway musical called RENT. They played “One Song Glory”, and I was so overcome with emotion that I had to pull over on the side of the road to listen to this beautiful song. I bought the soundtrack the next day and listened to it over and over again in my bright blue 1993 Mazda 323. I heard that they were selling tickets to RENT for $20, fitting for a show about artists struggling to pay their bills. The catch was that you had to wait in line all day to get the $20 tickets. No problem for me, I had all the time in the world! So I got to New York City at 3 am, and I waited on the trash-strewn street next to other young people waiting to get the cheap tickets. That night I sat in the second row of the Nederlander Theatre and basked in the one song glory of the original cast. I knew what I was seeing was special, but I didn’t really appreciate how incredible it was to witness live performances from Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Taye Diggs, and yes even Daphne Rubin-Vega.


RENT would go on to be the 11th longest running musical in history, win the Tony for Best Musical, and would be one of only ten musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize (a feat shared with Sondheim’s A Sunday in the Park with George and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton). It had a profound impact on my life, and shaped the way that I view people, art, humanity, love, and life. It’s a sad irony that Jonathan Larson, the creator of RENT died the night before his masterpiece debuted Off-Broadway. Like many of his songs, his life ended too abruptly. Truly, Jonathan Larson was a man who was haunted by time.


Larson’s obsession with time is evident in all his shows. RENT takes place over exactly one year. Tick, Tick… Boom! takes place in the week leading up to Larson’s 30th birthday. Superbia (which was never formally produced) is based on George Orwell’s 1984. Miranda, in his directorial debut, recognizes this central theme of time, and adds numerous symbols and references to time in Tick, Tick… Boom! (new to Netflix this week), including a constant tick tick ticking sound in the background whenever Jonathan feels stress and anxiety about his creative process.


There are some real treats in Tick, Tick… Boom!, chief of which include the song “Sunday”, a perfect homage and parody of “Sunday” from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. The song, besides being sharp and witty, features Broadway Royalty like Bernadette Peters, Bebe Neuwirth, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Chita Rivera, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and Phylicia Rashad. Tick, Tick… Boom! also includes the song “Swimming” which cleverly shows how an artist’s inspiration might come in the most unusual of ways. And in particular, only happened for Jonathan Larson when he was relaxed and performing self care. 


Overall, Tick, Tick… Boom! is an incredible film that at its base tells a compelling story of a creative artist. But it also is a lament on man’s struggle with time, which stops for no person. Tick, Tick… Boom! also beautifully and painstakingly chronicles the creative process, especially in the modern world where money, politics, and networking play such an important role in the creative process. This is a film written by a pained musical theater genius, directed by a modern musical theater virtuoso, and will be enjoyed by anybody who has any love for Broadway musicals. 



Monday, November 22, 2021

Happy 30th Anniversary, Belle!

https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/disney/images/a/a0/Beauty-and-the-beast-disneyscreencaps.com-6288.jpg/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/1000?cb=20140624210825

(Guest Post by David)

I LOVE the Disney Princesses! They are my gal pals! This is not a secret among those who know me really well. I admire and am inspired by Snow White’s resilience, the self-respect of Jasmine, Tiana’s values, and the courage of Anna, among others. Of course there is a beginning with every love, and mine with the Princesses began with the “girl [who’s village thought she was] strange, no question. Dazed and distracted, can’t you tell? Never part of any crowd. Cause her head’s up on some cloud. No denying she’s a funny girl that Belle.” 

On November 22, 1991, Walt Disney Pictures 30th animated feature film, Beauty and the Beast premiered in theaters in the United States. When I saw this breathtaking masterpiece, I immediately fell in love with the story, music, and Disney movie animation. While some of my family members’ favorite characters were the short tempered but lovable Beast or the endearing enchanted objects, I on the other hand was drawn to the young woman who didn’t feel she belonged in her community. 

I was a painfully shy, socially awkward 12 year old with crooked teeth in 1991. I was short, not athletically gifted, and uninterested in sports, scouting, or most other things that my same age male peers liked. I preferred solitary imaginative play, toys, singing, watching cartoons (Disney Afternoon was a daily staple), and only interacting with those with whom I trusted. Because of my personality, interests, and hobbies, I didn’t feel like I fit in with other preteens. Due to childhood bullying, I believed I was weird, different, and unacceptable. 

It was at this time in my life that I was introduced to Belle on the big screen. I saw a woman who LOVES to read, yearns for more than the daily monotony of village life, and cares more about people’s character than their appearance. In addition, she wished that “for once it might be grand to have someone understand […] [she wants] so much more…” In contrast, the townspeople seemed uninterested in knowing more than what their daily routines required, seemed content with society’s hierarchy that favored the popular and punished those that don’t “quite fit in,” and quickly didn’t “like what […] [they didn’t] understand.” Watching how she was treated by the villagers, I related to Belle. While not fully aware of it at the time, Belle was the first character from any movie studio and film medium that I ever identified with. I felt like someone (albeit a fictional animated person) went through the same thing I was. And from that time forward, a bond was formed and a love of Disney heroines (long before the Princesses became a franchise) was born. 

In the ensuing years and the introduction of successive beloved Disney Princesses, Belle continues to be one of my top-tier favorites. I am continually inspired by her self-confidence, sacrifices, and determination to be who she knows she is. Her inner goodness and compassion radiate outward, truly making Belle beautiful. And these are qualities I try to live by in my life. 

M:\Office Admin\David Thornley\David's Documents\BatB\IMG_5448.JPG

In the autumn of 2018 at Salt Lake City FanX, I had the exciting opportunity to meet Paige O’Hara, the actress whose vocal performance brought Belle to life. In our brief interaction, I shared that Belle is one of my favorite Disney Princesses, and that the character has helped me over the years. In response, Miss O’Hara expressed that she was glad, and that many people over the years have told her similar things, of how much Belle has meant to them. 

Today is November 22, 2021: 30 years since the original release of Beauty and the Beast. In celebration of this milestone, I want to say “Happy 30th Anniversary, Belle! May you continue to inspire (as you have me) generations to come!”

Friday, November 19, 2021

Olaf Presents...


Frozen II was a really great film. But can we all agree that the best part of that movie is Olaf? ("I don't even know a Samantha!") And Olaf's best segment was when he retells the events of Frozen to the Northuldra people. Josh Gad, as Olaf, was so popular that he was asked to recap so many things, including Star Wars, Endgame, and even 2020! Disney got the bright idea to have Olaf retell five other movies in pure Olafian style! Here are the best parts of each short.

"The Little Mermaid"

Parental summary: "You'll be half a fish and you'll like it, young lady!"

Best character synopsis: "Hey, I'm Octalady. Gimme your voice for some legs!"

Grossest funny gag: Ariel sings, and spits out her larynx, hairball style. And then Octalady eats it. 

Dramatic Olaf: "Papa's an emaciated shrimp."

Summed up: "Now I'm married an have feet."

"Moana"

Exposition: "I stole a rock, which unbeknownst to me was actually the heart organ of a giant, raging lava lady who knocked my hook into the ocean, which takes place before the events of this story."

Potty humor: "Peeing in the ocean. Hehe!"

Breaking the 4th wall: "I know everyone here probably knows this already, but in case you don't, 🎶I am Moana!🎶"

"The Lion King"

Relatable caption: [OLAF SINGING IN FAKE ZULU]

Dose of reality: "I, Mufasa, rule in equity and justice over all my subjects. And also eat some of them!"

Questionable summary: "I must run away now. And eat bugs!"

Details, please!:
Mufasa: "Simba!"
Simba: "That explains everything!"

"Aladdin"

So THAT'S why it's special!: "This is no ordinary lamp because it's filled with a magical, blue, smoky man!"

HISHE line: "If only your dad had full authority to literally change any of the rules he came up with in the first place."

Winking nod to Robin Williams: "Now you have to live in a pot forever and learn a few modern impressions."

"Tangled"

Easter Egg nod: "A story about a close personal friend of mine." 

Running gag: Olaf's toothy smolder

Setting summary: "A mysterious tower to hide from vindictive horses in."

It's true, though: "Look! New parents who aren't soul-crushing monsters!"

Long live Olaf. And let's hope he comes back for a second season of Olaf Presents where he retells Beauty and the BeastHunchback, Zootopia, and Wreck-It Ralph. What a warm hug that would be!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Spider-Man Binge List


One month until the long-awaited ending to the Spider-Man: Homecoming trilogy. Depending on how closely you watch casting rumors and especially depending on how much you buy into them, this movie could be a crazy epic Spider-Verse crossover. Casting rumors aside, there’s a lot to look forward to in this movie. But first let’s take a moment to look back.

Iron Man 2 (2 hours 5 min)

If we’re going to review Peter’s story, let’s start with young Peter. There is a scene at the Stark Expo when a little boy dressed in an Iron Man mask tries to help Tony fight the drones. This was “confirmed” to be Peter Parker, after the success of Tom Holland as the web-slinger. Really, it probably wasn’t Peter and they were just trying to be sensational by saying that. All the same, if you want to check out this scene with young “Peter”, pull it up on Disney Plus.


Captain America: Civil War (2 hours 28 min)

The next time we see Peter, he’s being raised by his Aunt May in Queens and he’s already gained his spectacular spider powers. His outfit is kind of ghetto, but he’s gotten enough attention to end up on Tony Stark’s radar. So Mr. Stark makes a house call and (to oversimplify matters) blackmails a high school kid into joining the Avengers Civil War. At least Peter got a cool suit out of it.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2 hours 13 min)

Literally weeks after the Sokovia Accords, Peter Parker is back in school (black eye healed and all) and he’s anxious to get his next assignment from Iron Man. I guess this just goes back to not putting all your eggs in one basket. Peter got so wrapped up in being Spider-Man that he almost forgot to be Peter Parker. That being said, if Peter hadn’t been so gung ho about being an Avenger, the Vulture would have made off with countless more hauls.


Doctor Strange (1 hour 55 min)

While not the title character, trailers have made it clear that Doctor Strange plays a pivotal role in No Way Home. We don’t exactly know how much he’ll actually appear (after all they made it seem like Tony was going to appear a lot more in Homecoming) but he’s important to the plot. So if you’re going to rewatch any movies outside of Spidey’s movies, watch this one. Plus we’ve got Doctor Strange 2 next year as well.

Avengers: Infinity War (2 hours 29 min)

All Peter had planned for the day was a field trip. In the end, his trip took him a lot farther than expected. All the way to Titan. While heroes fought Thanos’s forces on Earth, Spidey went across space with Doctor Strange and Iron Man. However, they along with the Guardians of the Galaxy are unable to defeat Thanos (though Doctor Strange foresaw this anyway, so let's stop arguing about Quill messing things up), resulting in their eventual dusting at the Snap. 


Avengers: Endgame (3 hours 2 min)

The bulk of the movie takes place without Spider-Man, but Peter ends up being one of the big motivating factors for Tony to help get everyone unsnapped. After he’s back, Spidey fights with legions of Avengers to defeat Thanos 2.0. Tony’s sacrifice is especially heartbreaking for Peter, losing another father figure. I hope he and Morgan got to bond over missing Tony before he went back to school.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2 hours 10 min)

Less than a year after the Blip, Peter is headed off to Europe, still grieving Tony’s death. Instead of a break, he gets roped in by “Fury” and Beck to take on some beasties. Only after Peter hands over Tony’s fancy tech glasses does Beck reveal himself as the villain. Peter faces his demons and defeats Beck (getting himself a girlfriend along the way) but not before Beck sets events in motion to expose Spider-Man’s identity. And that’s where we begin No Way Home,


Sifting through the rumors and the fake news of this movie, if you’re convinced Tobey and Andrew will be in this movie, watch their Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man movies. If you think Charlie Cox is showing up as Matt Murdock, I’d recommend watching Daredevil and The Defenders. But as for me, I’ll be lucky if I get through the above movies in time. I suppose you could also check out Tom Hardy's Venom movies too.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Dune: Painting the Story Through Cinema

Some of my favorite authors are masters at painting their worlds with words. They seem to know exactly how to phrase things to make a story move forward while at the same time communicating a depth and breadth to the world their characters live in. Every time I read these stories, I am able to connect intimately with the characters and visualize the world they live in. Cinema's world painting is done through visuals and music, though it is rarely done well.

Dune is an exception. This year's incarnation of Dune dazzles with the beauty and immensity of the images and music, but more importantly, there is a clear depth to the world that is communicated through the thoughtfulness of the costume and set design, along with the pacing, music, and cinematography.

Before I saw Dune, I had heard from various people that it was slow and boring, that the director had failed to make us fall in love with the protagonist. I almost didn't go see the film, but allowed some friends of mine to talk me into it. I was riveted to the edge of my seat throughout. By the end of the film, I left hungry for more.

The director places us firmly into the world, and, at times, into Paul's shoes, communicating to us through broad vistas, interspersed with action, flashes and visions. A methodical, deliberate pace permeates the film, allowing us to process the events and think about them, giving time to put ourselves in Paul's shoes and think about the relationships between him, his parents, and other characters. The pacing communicates a depth and realness to the world, pulling us into the story and refusing us a spectator experience. Just as Paul seems to only be beginning to understand his purpose, we are somewhat confused by the end of the film. There is just enough clarity that we understand a direction Paul is headed, but how it will play out is unclear to Paul and us.

I've never read the book, but the movie left me wanting more. It's too bad the next installment is so far in the future. I almost don't want to spoil the next movie by reading the book now.

While there is plenty of fighting in Dune, I would not call it an action film. The trailer completely misrepresents the movie, pulling in most of the intense fighting scenes and leaving out the grandeur and sheer mass of this masterpiece film.

If you're looking for an immersive, massive world to be thrust into and are OK with ambiguity and loose ends at the end of a film, you will not be disappointed. If, however, you want to understand everything happening, you'll probably want to read the book before you watch the film.

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