Jumanji: The Next Level – Review

Written by Michael Cole

Two years ago when Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was about to come out, I was one of the only people I knew that was actually excited to see it. I even wrote an article about it here on World’s Best Media, what I wanted to see. One of the things that I talked about wanting, was world building. Welcome to the Jungle brought us into the world of Jumanji in a way that they weren’t able to do in 1995 when the Robin Williams version was made. It was awesome, and I genuinely loved the film.

The latest entry in the series, Jumanji: The Next Level delivers on the world building aspects. We’re no longer confined to just a traditional jungle environment, but get to see the desert, and a snow covered jungle, and with new levels, we get different animals than the previous film. This is now fully realized, and I suspect I know how the next film is going to go, but we’ll get to that in a little bit.

* SPOILER ALERT! For The Rest Of This Article*

One of the cool things of Welcome to the Jungle, was that our four main characters, are avatars of teenagers, and it allows for some strong character moments, as well as comedic fodder. Jack Black was a teenage girl, Dwayne Johnson was a skittish nerdy kid, Karen Gillan was a nerdy girl, and Kevin Hart was a black jock. In this film, in order to keep everything fresh, they scramble the characters and introduce some new ones. This time, Johnson is playing Danny Devito, Kevin Hart is Danny Glover, Jack Black is now the jock, and Spencer , who had the Dwayne Johnson avatar in the last game, is now Awkwafina who is a new playable character.

Eventually once they’ve done the necessary character work, they find a way to switch all the characters back into the previous avatars, with Danny Glover becoming a horse, and Danny Devito transferring into Awkwafina.

Since the avatar actors playing multiple characters (mostly) is such a big part of the film let’s talk about it. Personally, I think Welcome to the Jungle’s character assignments were perfect, but I understand that they wanted to do some work with it this time. Kevin Hart is great as both of his characters, handling Danny Glover’s character just as well as the jock character. Also Awkwafina is amazing as both characters; she handles being a nerdy teenage boy with perfection, and I think her Danny Devito is great. That brings us to Dwayne Johnson, I don’t love his Danny Devito; he has moments that are great, but there’s a lot of moments when the ‘Rock’ persona and Devito persona aren’t blended well; he doesn’t fully get the cadence and accent right, and it’s a bit cartoony. Jack Black as the athlete doesn’t work well for me, it’s not terrible, but Jack Black as the jock handles the character stuff well, but his ‘black voice’ borders on uncomfortable, it’s less about racial issues for me, and more about his voice falling into the uncanny valley, of being close enough to not be offensive, but far enough where it’s awkward.

I think that the character work, and set pieces really overcome all of the shortcomings in the performances. I won’t tell you much about the actual plot, I wouldn’t do it much justice, but the film is well paced, and really enjoyable. I’ll just say, as you should already know, is that our characters win, and escape Jumanji. So let’s talk about easter eggs, and where I think the next installment is going.

In the previous film, the characters find tree a house with a carving that says: “Alan Parrish was here”. Which is an homage to Robin Williams and the first Jumanji movie. And I amThe Next Level, talks about a restaurant called Nora’s several times throughout the film, and eventually once everything is back to normal we discover that Nora was the Bebe Neuwirth character from the original, and in the end we see her hiring Danny Devito. I suspect that she’ll have some part to play in the next film, and will not just be a cameo.

As our heroes, recently returned to their own bodies outside of the game go to Nora’s to grab a meal and celebrate their victory, we cut back to the video game console, in the teenage boy’s basement as a heating repairman goes to touch it, and we hear the drumbeats that signal the game is coming, and cut to the main street where Nora’s is, and a pack of Ostriches comes rampaging down the street, the characters see them, and we cut to the credits.

Now, when I say I think I know where this is going, it’s probably pretty obvious, and I’m not making any bold predictions, but I think we’re going to get to see a setting more similar to the original film, (although I suspect the effects and scale will be drastically expanded), and we’ll have to see the characters working with the avatars who have stepped out of the game into their world. This will allow for a third set of avatar characters, the ones that the game originally intends for them, and by bringing them into our world, they keep the ‘fish out of water’ theme. I also suspect we may see something of a “Last Action Hero”/Buzz Lightyear style identity crisis within the characters in which they realize their reality isn’t actual reality.

Personally, after the previous two films, I’m 100% down for whatever comes next.

Overall grade: B+

REVIEW: Pixar’s Onward!

I’m a huge fan of Pixar, and I think the argument can be made that they have the best record of any film company ever, based on average quality, and financial success rates. I do not however, have an issue seeing Pixar’s flaws, and from the moment I saw the trailer for Onward, I thought “Well, that’s gonna be a dud.”

Onward in someways seemed to diverge from what I was used to from Pixar, of the 21 previous films, 16 of them had main characters that were animals/objects/emotions, and while Onward isn’t about humans, they’re human-lite. Other than Brave (and perhaps you’d argue Coco, but that’s a religious and philosophical debate for another post) none had featured magic, and this was the first film to not have some connection with ‘Earth.’

I don’t exactly know how to to describe it, but there was a lack of interest on my part, and if I didn’t have a 3 year-old, I probably would have skipped the film. But, I do have a 3 year-old, and he wanted to see unicorns eating trash, and so my wife and I took him on Saturday, and the three of us loved this film.

Now, one of the things that has become something of a Pixar staple, In the last 15 years, you could argue that it’s been their defining trait, has been their ability to make you adults sad, and in that way, this film was totally Pixar. I’m a bit of a crier as it is, but my wife isn’t, and she was choking up a couple times during the film. But one of the other things that Pixar does well, is they make you sad and then make you happy again, and this didn’t fail to deliver.

I don’t really think I need to go into spoilers, so please note that all of what I’m about to tell you, is in the trailers.

The film is about two brothers who go on a quest two finish a spell that brings their father back to life for a day, and because they have half completed the spell at the beginning, it’s a race against the clock. It’s a story about family, something Pixar has done an pretty incredible job with on a few occasions. (See what I did there? Incredible job?)

This film has fun, and adventure, plenty of laughs, and as I mentioned before, tears. It’s a great time start to finish. I do want to mention something that it accomplishes, which no animated film has ever done before, and it’s a super mild spoiler. There is a scene in which they’re dealing with a great height, and there are some live action films in which I have gotten a sick to my stomach feeling due to my own fear of heights (The Walk did it in the trailer alone), and this film had me feeling that flip-floppy vertigo feeling for about a minute. That may sound like a complaint, but it should really be a testament to how invested I was in the story.

As far as ranking this with other Pixar films, I would say it’s in the top third, I don’t know if it’s as good as Toy Story 3, WALL-E, Up, or Inside Out, but it’s certainly better than all of the Cars films, Brave, and The Good Dinosaur.

Overall grade: A-
Written by Michael Cole

What I Want to See: The Next Star Wars Trilogy

Written by Michael Cole

We’re more than two months separated from Rise of Skywalker, and the finale of The Mandalorian season 1, and so it’s time to speculate and dream. I want to tell you all my personal pitch for the next Star Wars trilogy. If Lucasfilm happens upon this post, I am available to hire for either screenwriting or directing responsibilities.

Let’s go back to Revenge of the Sith, in that film Anakin kills the younglings who have been training to be Jedi. It’s a sad moment, and it does a pretty good job at showing just how far toward the Dark Side Anakin is heading. Now, the idea is kills all the youngling who are there on Coruscant, but certainly Jedi would always be picking up little force users throughout the galaxy, right?

The first film tells the story of Jedi Knight Sharhor Kii, who has had little to no interactions with Anakin by the time of the youngling slaughter.  Sharhor is traveling from an Outer Rim planet with a young boy, Kar Weil, whom he plans to present to the council. He hasn’t transmitted in about the his hopeful new apprentice, because why would he. But the Council sends out the news of Anakin’s betrayal, and Sharhor returns to the Out Rim planet, and begins training in secrecy, waiting for any word that it is safe to return. We see the youngling grow up in training to the point of a teenager (through montage), and eventually Sharhor, aware that Darth Vader is hunting down Jedi, decides to leave his apprentice in hiding, since there is not record of him in the Jedi temples or the remnants of the council, and he goes off to face Vader, never to return. We follow Kar as he continues his training, and goes off looking for Sharhor. Along the way, he falls in love with Cera, the pilot that he’s hired for transport, and marrying her.

The second film, Kar and his wife have three children, all of whom Kar is now training in the ways of the force. They do not consider themselves Jedi, but they all wield lightsabers, none the traditional Jedi colors. Kar has a yellow lightsaber, his two daughters Pik and Ana wield orange, and his son Lon wields a turquoise blade. The Weil family’s presence on their home planet becomes unsafe especially when the four force users are together, and they split up with the intention of rendezvousing when they can. For the majority of this film, we split between Kar and Cera traveling to different Jedi temples, trying to uncover ruins, Lon trying to hitchhike off to join the rebellion, and Pik and Ana going to planets where slavery and injustice are the norms, and helping to free those people. At the end of the film, we learn that the second Death Star has been destroyed, Lon sending the message to his parents and his sisters.

The third film, Kar and Cera are now fully into the Jedi historian process, trying to learn and preserve as much as possible, trying to rebuild. They’re still mostly remote from the population of the galaxy, and while they know that the Empire has fallen, they haven’t desired to return to it. Pik and Ana also still have their fight, because the slavery and injustice existed before the Empire, and the fall of the Empire meant little in their fight. Lon now with war-worn A-wing, goes off to find his parents and his sisters, hoping to reunite them all finally.  By the third act, the sisters have pissed off a mob-boss with his own hired gun army, and Lon who is with his parents go to help them escape. The four force users, and their pilot mother/wife manage to take down the majority of the army before Lon is killed, and his father loses his dominant arm. His father driven by grief and rage uses the force at a level he’s never done before and lays waste to the remnants of the small army.

I don’t have all of the set-pieces or specific act structures for these three films, just a very brief outline, as you can see. But I want this to be a family story, something that shows just how life somewhat carried on during the time of the Rebellion and the Empire. The idea that a force user could slip under the radar due to clerical error, and kick off this whole separate legacy. I would call this trilogy, The Force Kin Trilogy.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of the idea!

Sonic The Hedgehog: Review

Review by Michael Cole

As a father of a nearly four year old boy, I often have to do things that I don’t want to do, or watch things that I don’t want to watch. At Christmas, I had to take him to see Cats, because he was obsessed (to be fair, he saw me showing the trailer to my wife and saying ‘they look so creepy’ and thought we were going to see a horror film). Occasionally, I go see something that doesn’t look good to me, and then ends up being good. Sonic is such an occasion.

When the first trailer came out, I like everyone else, thought that the design for the character looked absolutely awful. Here’s a side by side comparison between the original, horrifying, design for Sonic and the much better and more character accurate redesign, present in the final film…

Good Lord, that’s unsettling…
MUUUUUUCH better!

When they redesigned Sonic, I wasn’t as relieved as everyone else, because while the design looked awful, nothing about the story being shown in any of the trailers looked good to me. I used to play the games, and watch the cartoons, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why you would bring Sonic to Earth. Sonic is a freedom fighter, fighting the tyrannical scientist Dr. Robotnik, and freeing enslaved animals, the trailers didn’t seem to resemble that at all.


I’m going to go pretty light on SPOILERS , but obviously there may be some, so head’s up.


Sonic comes from the world that is essentially what we’re used to seeing in the video games, he came to Earth to hide from the Echidna who want to take his power. He’s given golden rings which help him transport. *(Editors Note: Sonic’s world is called Mobius! BOOM! OUT NERDED! -Paul) Then he hides out on Earth for a decade, until he accidentally reveals himself to James Marsden’s Tom . The government hire’s Robotnik to find him, and the movie really begins. It’s a buddy comedy between Sonic and Tom, as they try to get Sonic to safety.

Ultimately, two things managed to overcome my skepticism towards this film. The first is that it’s very fun, the humor is good, the action is pretty good, and it’s just enjoyable. The second is, while Sonic is stuck on Earth the entire time, it is clear that the world of Sonic does exist, and if the series moves forward, I think we’ll see more of it. This almost could play off as a prequel to the games, especially since Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik doesn’t fully resemble the game’s Robotnik until the end of the movie. If this is a step into the Sonic-verse, and we get more into it, I’m all for it.

What are you doing with your life, Jim Carrey?

They definitely managed to capture the feel of Sonic, and that was more important than the setting, at least at this stage in the franchise (it definitely sets up a sequel, and as the number 1 video game movie opening in history, we’re likely to get one). If you go in with an open mind, and ready to have some fun, you’ll enjoy Sonic.

Sonic The Hedgehog: A Solid B

Where Star Wars Failed

Two small disclosures going into this, I have liked all of the new Star Wars films, this isn’t an attack on them for being bad movies, but rather a critique of what they haven’t done well with.  Second, spoiler alert for Rise of Skywalker, in case you couldn’t tell.

Now, if you listen to Paul’s review of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, you’ll know how he feels about the film, and while my overall attitude towards it differs, I think all of his points are right on the money, and I’ll be referring to a bunch of those.

I thought that Rise of Skywalker struck a better tonal balance than either of the previous trilogy films, in the balancing homage (like in The Force Awakens) with new lore (like in The Last Jedi). I also thought it was fun, and if you thought of it on it’s own, and not a part of a bigger whole, that it was a good time.

Ultimately, I think it kind of cemented the problems Disney’s handling of the films in the last few years. Paul in the podcast talks about how it’s cowardly, and he uses the example of Rose, and I think that he’s right. Paul makes the statement that people hated Rose in The Last Jedi, so they put her in here minimally, and didn’t really think about what that does to Finn’s story arch, and how as much as he didn’t really care one way or the other about the character, it did matter to the story. He was right.

The problem with Star Wars now, is they try to get rid of the problems, and dive head on in to the success, without really understanding it.  Instead of taking Rose away, make her story arch one that redeems her to audiences.  There have been countless shows and films where I thought “ugh, I hate that character” (as in hating the portrayal, or the characterization, not good hate like we did with the Emperor in the original trilogy), and then as the show or film series progresses I think “oh that’s awesome he/she went from being one of my least favorite characters to one of my most favorite.”  And if Rose had been a background character, like a Wedge Antilles or someone in the original trilogy, and we happened to hate them, you can get rid of them, but not when they’re integral to the story.

I once heard the saying “the customer doesn’t know what they want until you show them,” and I cannot think of anything more true than that in today’s film landscape.  Think about Guardians of the Galaxy when you were hearing about Marvel’s next film, and finding out it starred a ‘talking raccoon, and his best friend a talking tree,’ and you probably thought “well, it’s Marvel, so I’ll check it out, but c’mon.” The audience didn’t know what they wanted, then we heard Vin Diesel say “I Am Groot” a hundred times (his best acting performance to date) and we were all down for it.

The Force Awakens is a really fun movie, and there is a lot of good work in it, but ultimately Disney wanted to say “hey you guys hate the prequels, so here is the old style effects, and the old plot line” and it worked really well, and from then on out, they were taking studio notes from one of the most divided and fickle audiences in entertainment. The Force Awakens becomes the highest grossing domestic film in history, but people complain that its too comfortable, and the pendulum swings with The Last Jedi (for the record I like both, but they’re not a cohesive whole, and I think while TLJ is an amazing cinematic work, it’s not that fun of a movie).

About a year and a half ago, after the release and flop of Solo, that Disney would likely do what film studios have most often done and learn the wrong lesson, and unfortunately, I think they’ve done that after each iteration over the last few years.

My hope, is that now that the Skywalker Saga is done, we can step away from this issue. The Mandalorian is a treasure, and I don’t think it had the expectations of the last trilogy, or even of the two Anthology films, which were inherently connected. We have a new trilogy coming out in a few years, and whether it’s something like Knights of the Old Republic, or the Mandalorian with a larger scale, I hope that they go into the writer’s room, and break the story, hit the points that will happen regardless of audience reaction, and start to build, and then if the audiences don’t react well, make smaller course adjustments, and right the ship, don’t take a U-Turn.

Written by Mike Cole

Recasting the Fictional Beauties of My Childhood

Written by Michael Cole

I want to start off, by saying, this post has been written, and rewritten more than a half dozen times in my brain.  I talked to Paul about it at the beginning of the summer, and for several weeks, it seemed as though every time I was ready to write it, something new would happen in the news that would make me take pause, and wait to see how things were going to settle in the end.  As of this past week, I think they’re all settled—at least for long enough that I can comfortably write this post and publish it before it’s out-of-date.  That being said, let’s dive in.

I have maintained, for a long time now, that Mary Jane Watson and Ariel from The Little Mermaid, are the reason why myself, and many men of my generation have a special place in our hearts (I’m going with hearts, since I had crushes on both characters pre-puberty) for redheaded women.  As I grew up, most of the time I saw redheaded women, I found them more attractive on average, than a similar looking woman with any other hair color.  As I grew up, the characters that caught my attention on shows, became the women with red hair, i.e. Joan on Mad Men, and Ygritte on Game of Thrones.

Ok, one of two possible scenarios are at play here: 1. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man suit has some kind of built in plastic cup or shield around his crotch to keep his erections from bulging out of the skin tight spandex. 2. He DOES have an erection bulging out, but Zendaya’s leg is obstructing the view in this photo. Either way, you gotta respect the confidence to be filming in THAT position, in that suit, on an open set, and be willing to roll the dice.

When I learned that Zendaya’s character in the MCU/Sony Spider-Man films, was supposed to be MJ (although not Mary Jane) it didn’t bother me, but it did make me think. At first I started thinking about the impact that comic book MJ had on me, and I wondered if this may have the same effect on a younger generation toward black women.  Of course, at some point in the past few months, Disney announced that they were casting Halle Bailey as Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, and the question repeated itself in my mind.

Now, at first I thought, “that would be great if these characters helped another generation to find the beauty in a group of people that they may other-wise have not thought about in that way,” but I don’t think I was right on that.  First off, I think that so far with Zendaya’s MJ as opposed to comic book MJ, there is a significant amount less sexualization, and that’s probably a good thing.  I don’t remember much about MJ as a character, other than her calling Peter ‘Tiger,’ and I remember pictures of her more than anything.  Ariel is the same thing, I remember her character, and while it was problematic I always liked it, but at least half of my fascination was with the seashell bra.  This year’s Aladdin, live-action remake, did a lot of work desexualizing Princess Jasmine, and I think Disney is likely to do the same with Ariel.

Peter would have asked if he could take MJ’s coat for her, but all the blood in his brain had just plunged into his dick.

The second reason, that I think my initial thought that perhaps this idea was a good one, is that while there was something innocent about it, I do think there ultimately ends up being a fetishization of these characters, and their physical characteristics within the original material.  There are demographics, based on race and gender combinations that are more or less statistically attractive, and unfortunately, black women (along with asian men) tend to be statistically disadvantaged in this way.  I had heard and read that enough times that it supported my original idea that maybe lifting black women up in this was a good thing, and I will say this, if Ariel is bad-ass, and inspires black girls to be bad-ass, or if MJ challenges the stereotypes of women, that’s great, and so far I do think Disney is doing a great job with that.  They’re doing better than I would have, based on my own warped logic going into this.  I had to realize that there is a huge difference between fetishizing, and raising up.  Disney is raising up, and I was thinking indirectly, “hey wouldn’t it be cool if a bunch of kids ended up with a black woman fetish.”  It wasn’t my intention, but it was essentially what I was thinking.  Hell, it was initially what I was pitching to Paul.

So, now that I have that out of the way, now that I’ve talked about the two characters who really shaped much of my physical attraction, I want to shift gears slightly, and talk about a bit of news that came out the day that I was first ‘ready’ to write this.  In the next James Bond film, 007 will be played by a black woman.  There has been speculation for years about who would be Daniel Craig’s replacement in the James Bond cufflinks, with a lot of speculation going to Idris Elba (who I think would be awesome if he’s still young enough when the mantel gets passed).  Trying, I think to do two thing, test the waters, but also stir up some hype in the form of controversy, it was announced that there would be a new 007, and that it would be Lashana Lynch.

I think they were testing the waters, because they announced that she would be the new 007, and waited until speculation and feedback came in, before announcing, that in the plot of the new film, Bond has retired, and is replaced in his title of 007, and then he is pulled back in while in retirement.  It was a soft way of testing things out, to see if perhaps we’re more into 007 or James Bond.  It’s similar to what Mission Impossible did with Jeremy Renner a few years ago.  It’s not a bad plan, and we will see how it plays out in that way, but it also kind of plays into my general topic.

James Bond is perhaps one of the most sexualized male characters in cinematic history, and the way in which going about that has been drastically different from how they’ve sexualized women.  Is it possible, that we’re going to get a female version of that?  Will this change how female sexuality plays out on screen?  Also, we have a character who is very much the coolest person in the room, and definitely has shaped young men’s idea of what a man is, will a black female 007 do the same for young women?

I think he’d make an awesome Batman

In the past few years in cinema, there has been a lot of talk about representation, and for the most part I think that it has been a good thing, and honestly I’m not one of these people who get’s bent out of shape when they change a character I like, or even love.  I understand that most of these things are constantly evolving, and I don’t personally want to see the same old thing over and over.  But I really think that these three examples are interesting, because they’re a bit different than other roles.  Nick Fury, changing from a white man to a black man, had little impact as far as I can see, because the character was always one of authority, and I never associated with him, and I never felt an attraction to him, or to be like him.  I also have to consider what it means for other people, and I don’t know.  On the one hand, I think of all the black women I think are cool, or bad-ass, or beautiful, and it’s not a short list, and I wonder if that’s blinding me to a problem that’s real? Perhaps these casting decisions will help to solve that. I don’t know, but I think it’s important to ask some of these questions of ourselves.

Article by Michael Cole

Mike Cole is a published author, freelance writer, & filmmaker. He is a happily married father of one.

Editors Note: Photos and their subsequent captions were added by Paul Wright… So, you know, don’t blame Mike.

My Problem with The Daenerys Twist in GoT (And a couple other details this season)

If you’re not caught up on Game of Thrones, I’m going to be spoiling some stuff for you, so please leave now if you don’t want that.

This season has had some received some major flack from audiences for all sorts of issues, and obviously I don’t agree with everyone, but I wanted to talk about a couple that I don’t like. I guess, I’ll start with the big one, the title of this article kind of hints at.  Daenerys turning crazy/bad/however else we want to categorize her.  I didn’t dislike this until the moment in this week’s episode when the bells are ringing, and she looks over at the Red Keep, and decides to lay waste on the people of King’s Landing.

You see, while Daenerys has never shied away from being violent to achieve her goals, there was always some sense of morality to it, and she was never casual with innocents.  Up until this point, the fact that she’s burned the Iron Fleet, and the guard towers, and as much as she has destroyed, makes sense, and largely is the right thing to do, to avoid unnecessary death of innocents.

Then she stops, sitting atop the final remaining dragon, and looks down, the bells are ringing, and it is clear that she has won, and she snaps and proceeds to go further.  Now, if she’d done everything and  never stopped, never paused, and was just caught up in it, and therefore didn’t notice the bells, or the peace, or anything else and got carried away, this would be a more satisfying example of her going too far, and perhaps being the threat Varys died to stop (which I thought was played excellently).  Also if she had that moment of pause, and then flew over and destroyed the Red Keep, I could get that too.  But she pauses, looks around, sees she has won and unleashes fury on the innocent, which is out of character.  It’s not getting carried away, or going too far as many of her past behavior has shown, it was her snapping, and it is out of character for her.

I also think that if it had been more along the lines of her getting carried away and going too far, even way too far, this would allow the necessary characters to say “oh we need Jon Snow to sit on the Iron Throne” without the writers betraying the character of Daenerys to justify that final play that it seems is coming.

I mentioned Varys, and I think Varys is a prime example of how the characters should be thinking about Daenerys, his last words are “I hope I’m wrong about her,” (or something similar) but he honestly believes he is not.  That’s because she’s riding the edge of righteous and power-hungry, and he is forced to make a decision unsure if he’s correct, it makes his decisions more bold.  Now if Jon realizes she’s a mad-Queen, and rebels against her, it will not be a bold act, but rather the obvious one for someone who will always risk his life for what’s right.  It takes away the ‘risk of being wrong.’

Now, there were plenty of moments in addition to Varys’s death which I thought were well executed, I liked the final battle with the Hound and the Mountain, and I thought that Arya leaving because Cersai is dead regardless of what happens, worked really well.

But there were also moments in which it seemed like they tried to eat their cake and have it too.  Jaime could have gone with Brienne (I didn’t really want to see that, but once it happened I liked it) or he could go back to Cersai, but I think having him do both really cut through both.  That’s ultimately what I think the problem with this season is (it’s the worst of GoT, but it’s still pretty damn good otherwise): they want to both shit and get off the pot at the same time, and they spent years elaborately creating characters and beats, and now they’re trying to tie them all up far to quickly.

Written by Michael Cole

What I want to see: The Rise of Skywalker and the Possible Redemption of Hayden Christensen

A few weeks ago, when the first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  Personally, I’m excited for the film, but what I want to talk about is some speculation into the film, but first let me give you a little background of my own star wars preferences, to help illustrate the point that I’m eventually hoping to make.

I guess the most important thing you need to know, is that I think Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith is the worst part of any Star Wars film (not counting the Holiday Special).I have been told most people think Jake Lloyd was worse, but at least he has the excuse of being a little kid, and many little kid actors aren’t good.  Others have argued that Christensen’s not that bad, and I don’t even know what films they’re watching.

I will say this, I am not sure that I blame Hayden Christensen for the performances in his two Star Wars films.  We’ve all seen that most of the performances in the prequel trilogy (and a decent amount of A New Hope) is cold, and the dialogue is not well written.  Lucas couldn’t get a good performance out of nearly any of the better actors in the prequels (I know people will argue Ewan McGregor, but that was more a matter of an extremely good actor in a role that is intentionally cold and aloof, it’s the opposite of the Keanu Reeves in the Matrix effect, where he’s good despite his talent because of the role.

Alright, so now that I’ve explained that I think his performance is the worst, let me explain one other thing.  He’s back in the new film.  Now, I don’t know what capacity he’s going to be in the film, but the day after the trailer dropped, he had up on his Instagram page a picture of the new title card.  Upon googling, it turns out he’s participating in the new film although all the specifics seem to be speculation.  I assume he’s going to be appearing as a force ghost, that’s the most logical option, but whether it’s for a moment or scenes and dialogue, is anyone’s guess.

I think, his appearance in this film, could be the thing that redeems him, and the character of Anakin (I love Vader, but I don’t love Anakin) for me.  You see, while I know that George Lucas has been involved in this film as a consultant (again to what extent is unknown) he isn’t writing the dialogue, and he isn’t directing the actors, and so now we have the opportunity to see what a director who is significantly better with both dialogue and actors can do.  I think J.J. Abrams might be a little over hyped, but c’mon he’s better at those two things than George Lucas any day of the week.

Now, there is a chance Christensen’s appearance will be small enough that it doesn’t really affect his legacy in the role whatsoever, but I hope this isn’t the case.  My hope is that we see one of two things, either one of which I think could make the film cool, and enhance Anakin as a character.  We could see him as a force ghost trying to influence either Rey or Kylo, and this is the safer more likely bet, but it could definitely have some really cool scenes, further the story line, and help the dynamics between force using characters.  This would be good.

Something that is much less likely, but would be awesome, and would kind of be crazy, and risky (after the Last Jedi, I think Disney proved they don’t do risk well, or maybe that they don’t commit to risk well).  Paul kind of suggested this, and I think it’s an amazing idea.  What if Anakin rises from the dead?

Like I said, this idea is a little out there, but I don’t think it’s totally out of the realm of possibility.  So here’s a couple thing, one is that we know Anakin is the most powerful force user, essentially he’s the Jesus of Star Wars.  Anakin is the Force’s immaculate conception.  Then we see in Empire Strikes Back, Vader in his black egg thing.  Well, I know it’s no longer canon, but the egg thing in the books was some kind of Force chamber, in the chamber, he’s trying to heal and rebuild his body with the force.

What if in dying and becoming a Force ghost, Anakin becomes “more powerful that you can possibly imagine,” and therefore finally powerful enough to use the force to rebuild his body.He is the chosen one, to bring balance to the force, and the Last Jedi, for all of it’s faults had one thing clear, there is something essentially broken with the black and whiteness of the Jedi/Sith mentalities.  Both Luke and Kylo seem to have realized this, (even if Rey decides by the end she can be a hero or a villain, and not something else).

What if Anakin comes back, to show the way the force should be used, creating an order that isn’t as ’emotionless’ as Jedi, nor as ruled by emotion as Sith.  Anakin, who wanted to be a Jedi, but also wanted to love, and was shunned by the Jedi for the latter, and manipulated by Palpatine for it, is the perfect person to show you can be a husband, a father, a son, and a powerful force user.  Perhaps that is the balance?

Honestly, that’s what I’m hoping happens.

3Below Season 1: Reviewed

 

0ed6676e-36e2-49b3-a839-56178a05dbb2

Earlier this year, Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia ended after their third season.  As far as I know, they completed the story and ended according to the schedule that creator Guillermo Del Toro had envisioned.  I loved the series, and I was sad to see it go.  Then about a month ago or so, I saw on one of those “Everything new coming to Netflix in December” articles, something called “3Below: Tales of Arcadia,” and the article had an image, and it was clear that the animation was similar style to Trollhunters, but the article itself didn’t mention whether or not the two were related, so a quick IMDb check confirmed that his was a spinoff series, and a brief conversation with Paul, he informed me that this was the second in a planned 3 part series.

612f81da-160b-489e-b90e-7ad697c0e182

Anyway, the show has been out for about three weeks, and I just finished watching the first season, and I’ve got to say it’s pretty good.  It’s not as good as Trollhunters, (my 2 year-old would give up about thirty seconds into every episode and say “we watch real Trollhunters now?”) but it’s good.

ef0a677b-2906-410a-b476-2d1d2042edfc

b589c0b0-ce47-4720-9ca4-e336aaceadaf
Above: Krel, guardian Varvatos Vex, & Aja in their natural form.  Below: In their human disguises.

First off, even though the two main characters Aja and Krel, extra-terrestrial (they don’t like the term aliens!) siblings living in Arcadia were featured briefly in Trollhunters, the show had a little more work to setting it up than Trollhunters did.  Trollhunters starts out on Earth, on a pretty standard version we would all recognize, and then reveals that there is a secret underworld of trolls, and other magical creatures; they start with the default and add.  3Below however starts on a planet known as Acaridian 5 and tells the story of Princess Aja and Prince Krel on the day they are to become the King and Queen in waiting, and are attacked by enemies and have to go on the run.  We don’t see Earth until the end of the episode.  This doesn’t make it a worse show that Trollhunters, but certainly it gives it a different set of challenges to overcome.  They do so pretty well, but it takes just a little longer to really get invested.

ad6df1f1-b4b0-4ed0-952f-c450d7a012b7b1410bec-8c8d-4726-bfa6-00fea9e66b3b

I’m not going to get too into spoilers, but I will say that one of the things I really like about this show, is that they create a lot of new mythology within this universe, and they aren’t just applying the same formula as Trollhunters to this, meaning it’s not an Madlibs style situation where they’re like alright we need this role because Trollhunters had it.  Trollhunters is largely about Jim and his friends going after something, and this is definitely more of Aja and Krell running from something, and not necessarily in a cowardly way, but in order to protect their kingdom.

b67c9081-f116-44ba-8886-f2413e19b797

Another thing that I really like about this show, is that they manage to pull in characters we’ve gotten to know through Trollhunters, and build upon them.  We get to see Jim, Toby, and Claire, but we also get to see Steve, who’ a bully on Trollhuntersgiven some fleshing out, fully realized on this show, as he quickly has a crush on Aja after she kicks his ass.  We get to see Senor Uhl, less as the authority figure to be thwarted or avoided, but more as the protector when other humans seem to target the twins in their human forms.

 

                                           (Steve & Aja. Steve’s come a long way…)

All in all, I really liked this show, and I hope that we get to see another season or two (whatever Guillermo Del Toro has envisioned) and now that I’ve seen how aliens and magic have played with each other in this setting, I’m really interested in seeing what he has in mind for the 3rd series he’s planning.

DreamWorks Animation's 3Below

Written by Michael Cole

Doctor Who Series 11: Review

ef721eb4-a3af-4000-a297-7879a8da254f

A little over a year ago, I wrote about What I Wanted to See from Doctor Who, going forward, specifically because Jodie Whitaker was about to become the first female Doctor in the show’s history.  The big thing that I didn’t want to see was the over sexualization of the Doctor, just because she would now be female, and they did that.  Arguably of all the Doctors of the modern run, she was the least sexual, or sexualized, and I’m happy with that, because after all this is an near immortal alien being with untold thousands of years of accumulated knowledge, whose consciousness never really dies. The Doctor  is nearly a goddess (formerly a god), hanging out with people who are merely decades old, and extremely mortal.  The sexual/romantic nature of that is always a bit questionable, so steering away from it, at least in her first season as a woman, was probably a good idea.

73f33d0a-4972-4b8e-b297-f288c6d78bef

Now, by that single metric the show was a success, but as you can imagine, whether or not a show’s main character is or is not over-sexualized isn’t the true determination of its quality.  This season was incredibly divisive, from what I saw on some Facebook pages, and the Doctor Who subreddit, this was a love it or hate it season.

dd83fc88-0131-4f40-a702-b5e0451923ac

Many were claiming the show wasn’t Doctor Who anymore, citing that the new format of “Team TARDIS” with the Doctor and three season long companions, changed the dynamic too much from the Doctor and single companion model, which had been the case in most of the previous season, the only change being when a companion would bring on a boyfriend (Mickey, or Rory), or when they’d meet other aliens/time-travelers (Captain Jack, River Song).  Personally, I liked the dynamic, it was definitely different, but I don’t want to watch the same old thing over and over.

761ab377-a693-4b0b-a755-85b247497cec

The dynamic, and the characterization of the four TARDIS inhabitants was for me the strength of the season. The writers and actors had clearly worked to flesh out the characters.  Graham and Ryan had unresolved issues that became very naturally resolved, as step-grandfather and step-grandson, and really played out well.  Yas learned that her family were not all the tradition following people she had thought, and that her wanting something different and adventure weren’t that far off from her grandmother.  Finally, the Doctor, who is always a bit different after regenerations was just that a bit different, but really not too different, enough to reinvigorate, but not so much as to alienate… at least for most.

fb9d4e95-ca49-4fda-8fff-774185a767f6

One of the major complaints that I saw on Reddit, was that the Doctor is too much of a feminist, and more specifically a dreaded SJW.  Honestly, I don’t really see it.  The Doctor of the 1960’s may have been much less feminist than Jodie Whitaker’s Doctor, but I don’t think the last couple of iterations have been.  The truth is, like much of serialized sci-fi, Doctor Who is a show about striving for the fullest of human potential, and much of that is in a social aspect.  Star Trek boldly went with the first interracial kiss on American broadcast television, and as early as season one of this reboot, we had a character of Captain Jack Harkness, who for lack of a better term seemed omni-sexual, but was certainly as attracted to Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, as he was to Rose.  This isn’t really new for the show, nor for the character.

8ba175d1-d17a-4065-bccc-0d6ab35f2431

What was new about this dynamic for the character is that suddenly the Doctor is being taken less seriously because of her gender, and this is frustrating when she is for all intents and purposes the most authority on nearly every subject in the universe.  So, there was a little time dedicated to it, but it was a surprisingly little amount of time, usually no more than a line per episode (sometimes nothing at all).  So, personally I assume that this criticism of the ‘overwhelming feminism’ is little more than Trolling.

Doctor Who Series 11

But there are certainly some genuine criticisms, and I think it’s really important to take those seriously, because I personally want the show to be its best, and it cannot do that if the writers and show-runner bury their heads in the sand.  The big piece of genuine criticism, I think, was overuse and clunky exposition.  Lots of people online have mentioned it, but it bears repeating.  This show, like a lot of heavy sci-fi uses exposition more than some other genres, and that’s ok, but I would say this season seemed to do it the most, and that’s not a good thing.  I don’t any of the episodes were ruined by exposition, but in a show like this, they need to show and not tell as much as possible.

Doctor Who Series 11

I would say that this season gets either a C+ or maybe (if I’m being generous) a B- from me.  There was plenty of fun, and the characters were really done, but other than that I think there wasn’t enough there for me.   Some seasons have multiple episodes I would point people to, to get a feel for what the show should be, and this season really only had one (two if you count the New Years special, which is really Season 12 Episode 0).

2ffd107a-cb7d-49f1-a9e8-f6c24e25f040

“Rosa,” which was episode 3, tells the story of our travels getting thrown into 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, and meeting Rosa Parks just days before her famous arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus.  This was a great episode in pretty much every way, and I don’t want to say too much as to ruin it, but I will say this, even though the show does a lot of historical episodes, and places the doctor into a lot of historical scenarios, I’m not sure any have had the possibility of alienating the audience like this before, and it doesn’t (at least not for the real reasons).  You see in these historical episodes, a lot of times we find out that the Doctor was actually responsible for setting in motion some major historical event, and this hasn’t really ever been a problem, because it’s either played as a bit of a gag, or maybe it’s a historical event without an individual historically receiving credit, and so the Doctor isn’t stealing anyone’s credit.  That’s a fine line for the show to thread, and watching it I was a bit worried “oh please don’t make it that the Doctor sets this up, or take anything away from Rosa Parks,” and it doesn’t.  It’s brilliant in letting the plot of the show revolve around the show without setting really touching the moving parts of the actual history.  Think about when Marty McFly tries really hard in Back to the Future 2 to not interact with or change anything Marty McFly from Back to the Future 1 does in 1955, it’s kind of like thbat.  It’s by far the episode of this season that shows what Doctor Who can and should be.

46032f5e-8015-4247-8731-26d562eb2512

Written by Micheal Cole