Michael, is a highly motivated, filmmaker and video professional. Coming from a marketing background, Michael knows not only the ins and outs of a quality video, but also how to make the most impact across various media platforms.
In addition to his work with Chocolate Diamond Media, Mike enjoys family time with his wife and son, traveling, and reading.
A few years ago, I read a book called “The Knife of Never Letting Go,” by Patrick Ness. It’s not the greatest title, but immediately it was one of my favorite books. It was written in a way that was bizarre and interesting, and I was captivated from the beginning. The book is the first in a trilogy called “The Chaos Walking” trilogy. I read the entire trilogy as quickly as I could, and while the first book is by far my favorite, the entire trilogy is good.
The film adaptation of these books is coming out on January 22, 2021 (that is of course assuming things don’t get changed in the wake of the pandemic). As far as I can tell from the trailer, which was released today, the film will be adapting the trilogy as a whole and not the first book, and I’m not hating that. Here’s what I think about the upcoming adaptation, and the books, along with the trailer.
Before You Watch the Trailer
I don’t want to say much about these books, because I do think this is a situation in which going in with as little info as possible is going to enhance the experience. The trailer does somewhat spoil some of the secrets of the first book. I think that because of the way they are—necessarily—changing the telling of the story, the reveal of the first book would make absolutely no sense, but if you’re planning on reading the books before seeing the film, I strongly recommend reading at least the first book before watching the trailer.
The trailer shows you glimpses of events past the big reveal of the first book, but I don’t think there is much that is going to be ruined if you’ve read only the first book.
What Can I Tell You Without Spoiling?
Here is one of the things that I think if you pick up the book at a book store, and literally flip through it you would learn, so I don’t feel bad spoiling for you. This book doesn’t follow a layout the way pretty much every novel I’ve ever read has. This book, along with House of Leaves, are the only two books I’ve read, where margins and orientation are inconsistent, and messed with as a part of the story telling.
In this book, (minor spoiler here) we meet Todd, a boy who lives on a planet where everyone’s thoughts are projected aloud into the air for all to see and hear. The constant bombardment of these thoughts to the characters is reflected in scrawling text, sometimes looking like a notebook which has been writing has been written over.
This factor of the world is not a minor aspect, but affects seemingly everything that happens in all three books, and so when I read that the book was going to be adapted, I was genuinely curious as to how it was going to work. Based on what I’ve seen in the trailer it looks like they’ve come up with a pretty cool way of selling it.
Three Books—One Movie?
I could be wrong on this, but based on the trailer, I think they’re telling the whole story in one film, I think it’s a smart decision. In a world in which most novels are better translated into shows than films, I think this book series doing the opposite makes a lot of sense.
The three books while running high on page counts, don’t tell long stories. In fact, it’s very much three acts of the same story. A lot of the page count is dedicated to style and world building, and I suspect that on film both will be done much more efficiently than the novels. I’d rather see the whole story told well over the course of one film, than poorly over the course of three or four.
Ready for the Trailer?
If you’ve read the books already, or you’re thinking that you’re not going to, go ahead and watch the trailer. But this is your last warning. Watching this trailer will spoil what was personally one of my favorite aspects of the book. So I won’t tell you what to do, but like any good parent, I will guilt trip you and just say “I think you know the right thing, I just hope you choose to do it.”
I haven’t read any of the Artemis Fowl books, so I’ll only be talking about the film, and I don’t know how it compares.
Artemis Fowl is a children’s film, in the vein of a Harry Potter, with a very special child protagonist. In this case, Artemis doesn’t have magic, or special powers, but he is a genius, according to him he’s a genius on the level of Albert Einstein. Which brings us to Artemis’s second character trait that we learn, Artemis is a little shit.
In the first minute or two of this film we learn those two things about him, and the rest of the film serves to really add depth to those two characteristics. His genius is bolstered and reiterated, but lack of experience, and fear really show us is humanity, which begins to undercut the ‘little shit’ aspect of his personality. The truth is, just like most cockiness (as opposed to confidence) Artemis is masking his true feelings with an act of superiority.
As the film begins, and we learn about the character of Artemis, we also learn about the world of magic and fairies, and the fact that Irish folk lore is mostly true, or at least rooted in truth. Fairies, dwarves, trolls, and centaurs all live deep under the Earth’s surface hidden from humanity to keep the peace. As we see the fairy society, we get to see that they have magic, but that they’re also deeply technological, advanced beyond the humans on the surface.
We’re introduced to Mulch Diggums, played by Josh Gad, who is telling the story of the film to a faceless MI6 agent (I think it’s director Kenneth Branagh’s voice) through a camera in a black ops site. Mulch is a giant dwarf, and the source of most of the humor in the film. If you’re not a Josh Gad fan, this part might be a bit too much like Olaf for you, where he doesn’t 100% fit the rest of the tone of the film, but I really liked the lightness he brought.
The thing that I think really stands out about this film, is that it’s fairly different than anything I’ve seen before. The combination of magic and technology mixes in a way that I’m not sure has been done before, and the visual style is very cool. There were some effects and concepts that I would say were Wachowskian in their originality and style, like a sequence in which a ‘time freeze barrier’ stops working, and we see many of the fairies (the L.E.P. Recon squad) getting tossed and turned through the barrier.
I think overall, this is a really fun film, and would strongly recommend it. I have deliberately not gone into too many spoilers, because I really think this film deserves to just kind of take you in one minute at a time. It’s wonderfully paced, not too scary for kids, but enough adventure for adults.
Overall rating: A- (Would have been a solid A if it weren’t for one really cheesy line by Judy Dench, and I think you’ll know what I mean when it happens.)
*Editor’s Note: Paul is on vacation this week, and fairly disconnected from the world, so hopefully this quench your thirst for World’s Best Articles.
I’m about a month late on this, but largely because I don’t know how many people who weren’t looking for this news would have found it, so my hope is that it’s still fresh or brand new to many of you.
I’m a big Percy Jackson fan, I read the entire “Percy Jackson and The Olympians” series after seeing the first movie. Then I saw the second movie, and I was fuming. Imagine if Voldemort had returned and had his big showdown with Harry in the third book instead of the seventh, basically that was how the second movie was. Fans of the movies, between the undercutting that the second film did and no rumors of a third movie, thought the series was done on film. It sucked, because some of the best stuff was yet to come, and it never came.
Well, as I’ve said on here a few times before, I have a four-year-old, and so I’m always looking for new entertainment, and when the first movie, “Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief” was added to Disney +, I decided to show it to him. It was a little more intense than I remembered, but my son can handle it. After watching it he was obsessed, and asked me all about it, I could remember some of the details on my own, and some I had to look up, and when I looked it up, I found out that Rick Riordan (the author of the books) had announced that they were going to be making a Disney + show, and expressed his own disappointment with the films. He basically said that he hadn’t seen the films but had read the scripts and described the process as seeing his life’s work “put through a meat grinder.”
It sounds like Rick Riordan will have a considerable amount of control in the show, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Rick being the creator of the books implies that there will be a certain level of faithfulness to the books that the films lacked, and I think they do need to follow the structure closer in order to allow the full story to play out properly. My worry, is over faithfulness. Let’s use the Star Wars Prequel trilogy as an example. George Lucas had full control, and that meant that clunky dialogue and bad acting went unchecked, a trilogy that I would argue with better dialogue and acting may have been the best in the series, was somewhat squandered. In addition to the prequels, in between Episodes I and II, we started into the Harry Potter film adaptations, and while I really like the Harry Potter films, they did one thing for the film industry that I’m not sure was a good thing; they made fans want as faithful and literal of a film translation as possible to source material. There was no more ‘spirit’ of the concept in adaptations, and if you got the wrong color cat for a scene, fans would go nuts (looking at you Hunger Games fans).
With something that as specific of a story as the Percy Jackson series has, I want faithfulness in structure, and spirit, but I don’t want them to try to recreate dialogue from the book verbatim, unless it works, or is important (i.e. prophecies and things like that). I hope Riordan realizes that a show isn’t a book, and is able to adapt for that audience. I don’t know if he can or cannot, because his only IMDb credits are Percy Jackson related, and he had minimal control on the films. He could be great, and he could be awful.
Personally, I’m excited that there will be a new Percy Jackson series, and if it’s good, I hope they go through the sequel series “Heroes of Olympus,” which follows some of the characters in the Percy Jackson series, along with some Roman demigods. That’s kind of the cool thing about this series, if it’s adapted well, there are a ton of possibilities to keep going, or for spin-offs.
In the mean time, if you’re not familiar with the series, you have at least a year to read the first book before the show starts in 2021, and I would highly recommend the book series.
When I originally saw the trailer for “Upload,” I thought it looked like a “Good Place” knock off, and I wasn’t terribly interested. Eventually, between having exhausted so many shows in lock-down and my wife saying that she heard it was good, we decided to watch it. “Upload,” is a show about a 2033 world in which several companies have their own VR ‘heavens’ in which people can upload their consciousness into immediately before their death. Unlike what many expect Heaven to be like, these virtual ‘heavens’ are very capitalist, and therefore just like on Earth, those with means live better than those without.
One of the things that the show does really well, is balance tones. The show is part sit-com, part murder mystery, there are silly and whimsical moments, deep emotional moments, and a few gross-out moments, and they’re all weaved pretty together pretty well.
An aspect which I think makes the show unique is how the technology in this series operates. So, we follow the main character, Nathan Brown, as he is introduced to a swankier ‘heaven.’ Nathan has left behind his mother, niece, and girlfriend, all of whom can put on virtual reality suits and visit him. This alone is a cool concept, but one of the big events in the show is Nathan’s funeral, which he is able to attend with the help of a large wall wide screen, and the mourners can come up and talk to him as if they are in the same room together, minus the physical ability to hug or anything. Through out the show, he able to Skype or FaceTime call people in the real world just as he would have pre-death.
As the show progresses, the technology is used as a way to reemphasize the idea of wealth inequality. At one point, trying to think about what he can actually afford, Nathan goes with his mother (in a portable hard drive) to a ‘travel agent’ to tour more affordable ‘heavens.’ At the ‘travel agent’s’ office, we see the difference in connectivity with the real world, when Nathan’s head appears in an oversized lightbulb to discuss the possibilities.
‘Upload’ also shows us how this technology affects newer relationships. Nathan and his girlfriend, Ingrid, have not been dating very long when he is uploaded, and their relationship had very much been based in sex prior to his death, and while sex is still an option, it does force their relationship to deal with more emotional and intellectual compatibility. Nathan also develops a friendship/crush on his customer service representative (they’re called ‘angels’ within the company), Nora. This relationship, while they’re both physically attracted to each other, is based significantly more on intellectual and emotional compatibility.
There is a lot going on in the show, and I want to leave you without any significant spoilers, and I think much of this what I’ve gone over you could get from the trailer. The show very quickly introduces a mystery to propel you forward through the season, as well as figuring out all of the logistics of the character drama. I think it was really well done, and would recommend the show.
*Note: This article was written before the announcement that Ruby Rose, the actress who plays Batwoman, has left the series and will be replaced in Season 2.
Batwoman Season 1 ended almost two weeks ago, and I had intended to write a review on here when that happened, but I hadn’t realized the season had ended because it was an abrupt, COVID interrupted season. I won’t hold that against Batwoman obviously, and please don’t hold my tardiness on this subject against me.
I’m going to be frank with you, and tell you that while I might be in the minority, I really enjoyed Batwoman. I think there was a ton of things that were done really well. I also recognize that it had several faults, and I’m not blind to those. I think, for the sake of redemption, I will start us off with the parts that I don’t like, and work towards the things that made this show work for me.
I think it was back before the mid-season break, I had a conversation with Paul about the show, and one of the things that he pointed out that made no sense what-so-ever was the idea of The Crows. As I watched the second half of the season with this in mind, I realized he was completely right. The Crows, are Gotham’s premium and private ‘police’ service. They don’t exist in place of The GCPD, but in addition to it. They’re essentially independent contractors acting like Police, but with less restriction, and seemingly less self-restraint. A local law enforcement version of Blackwater.
At best, their existence doesn’t make any sense. With the appearance of Batwoman, a vigilante acting outside of the law, of course The Crows declare her to be a dangerous criminal who must be brought to justice. Complicating matters, The Crows are lead by Commander Jacob Kane (Batwoman’s father, who has no idea that his daughter is the vigilante). In similar situations like Arrow, Batman, or even Spider-Man, if a hero or vigilante is seen as a criminal, they’re usually being accused as such by the police. While there is room for argument on the morality of vigilante justice on either side, the legality of the situation is clear because The Police Dept., The D.A., are all part of law enforcement that governments put in place to protect the public. It all makes some sense. This isn’t the case in Batwoman with The Crows because they’re a private company, not operating with any kind of government oversight. The potentially interesting morality/logic of that dynamic isn’t really touched upon until the last episode or two, and even then only in passing.
Along with The Crows and their non-sensical existence, is Commander Kane. I think he fails on pretty much every front. I think the performance, with him trying to sound grizzly and hardened comes off as two dimensional and uninteresting. As for the characterization, he’s written to have the same black and white moral code that someone like Quentin Lance on Arrow had, but again Lance existed within a real Police Dept which made much more sense. Also, while Lance may have been tough on his children and perhaps a bit too rigid, he never really wrote them off. Whereas Kane’s love is barely existent at best, and far from unconditional. Do I think we need to portray every parent as having unconditional love for their children? No, but in these types of characters and stories it leads to some interesting inner conflict. Trying to justify your unconditional love for your children, when your children test your own moral code, makes for fascinating character drama. Commander Kane doesn’t do that. There are very few, if any, moments when it appears that indicate if he finds out his daughter Kate is Batwoman, that he’ll hesitate to treat her like any other criminal.
My last complaint about the show will probably be more controversial and this is way more a matter of opinion, but Kate sporadically write’s letters to the missing Bruce Wayne. It’s not the idea that she’s writing them that doesn’t work for me, it’s more a matter of delivery. There is something about it that comes across as awkward and unnatural, it interrupts the flow of the show. I think it is possible that it’s Ruby Rose, who is Australian, trying to do an American accent in these long slow, uber-articulated monologues, that doesn’t work.
Three characters work perfectly for me on this show, there will be some mild-spoilers.
I think The Big-Bad, Alice, head of the Wonderland Gang, works perfectly. I would make the argument that she may be the best villain in The Arrowverse this season. Alice, as we learn very early on, is Kate’s twin sister, Beth. Beth was believed to be killed in a car accident when they were both 12 or 13. As the season plays out, we get to see how Alice isn’t just a menacing thug, but a deeply troubled (and for good reason) woman, who is trying to get reconcile a sense of normalcy with her sister and revenge with her father, step-mother and sister. Every emotional twist and turn is believable within the circumstances, and the performance by Rachel Skarsten rides those emotions completely and makes you feel genuine empathy for her, while also understanding that she must be stopped. I would argue that her character’s complexity exacerbates how poorly Commander Kane’s character is developed.
Alice’s right-hand man, is Mouse, who we learn is the son of the man who took Beth from the accident, and through neglect and abuse, turned her into Alice. Mouse is himself a very damaged man from his father, in addition to some physical scarring. Mouse has the ability to mimic any voice, and with Beth’s help, to make skin masks. He can turn into nearly any one within the show. It’s not Mouse’s abilities that make him interesting though. It’s his relationship with Alice/Beth. He starts off as her best friend, trying to help her exact her revenge. But as soon as Alices plan shifts from revenge to reconciliation, he begins to fear she’ll abandon him for not being enough. As well as expressing his own desire to eventually get away from Gotham and the chaos and pain he sees as being a symptom of the place.
Lastly, is Mary, Kate’s step-sister. Mary starts the show off appearing to be a vapid socialite, but its quickly revealed that she’s actually running an underground clinic for those who cannot afford emergency medical attention. She helps Batwoman early on, making something of a connection with her. Even as she struggles throughout the season with her relationship with Kate, which is strained by Kate’s distance, and Kate’s inability to let go of Beth. Mary’s feelings of inadequacy and longing to bond with Kate are well developed and expressed, and it comes to a head when she finds out Kate is Batwoman and Kate still refuses to tell Mary her secret.
How to Move Forward
The other three main characters in the show are a bit of a mixed bag for me. I think Ruby Rose as Kate is very good at the aloof part of the character, but in the genuine moments of connection, I think she’s still seems to struggle. It’s likely that they are trying to draw a parallel between her and Bruce Wayne, (but as someone who knows very little of the comic version of Bruce Wayne, take that with a grain of salt). However when you have so many characters who do have an emotional connection with Kate, like her sisters, her father, Luke Fox , or Sophie (her ex-girlfriend who works for her father on The Crows) the performance doesn’t work as well for me.
I think Luke had a pretty good second half of the season, but he didn’t start off great. There was a flatness in the character or the performance and it just didn’t work. What eventually won me over, is two-fold, Luke is very clearly the voice for the absent Bruce. As his relationship to Kate developed, he even shares things that perhaps he never would, about his loneliness, his responsibility. We also see Luke’s own dedication and search for justice by finding his father Lucius’s killer, and how he will risk his own life in order to protect his father’s secrets. As a small side note, Luke is the guy back at HQ role, so I like that he is very different from similar characters in The Arrowverse like Cisco, Felicity, and even Winn.
Sophie probably would have made the first section, except that I’m not sure she’s made enough of an impact on the show yet to say she’s failing. Sophie is kind of a bland character, who’s at her most interesting as we see her and Kate struggle throughout the beginning of the series. With Sophie being closeted and Kate being out, how this tore them apart in military academy, and is married to a man. On top of all that she also works for Kate’s father, it’s impossibly complicated between the two of them. The writers seem to have trouble picking a lane with Sophie, she’s not bold and empowered, nor is she timid and weak. She kind of flip-flops back and forth.
Going forward, into season 2, I think that these three characters can all be improved and really work for the show. I think with Kate, they were starting to work on the aloofness problem in the last couple of episodes, (maybe if they’d been given the whole season run I wouldn’t have this complaint at all). The same can be said with Luke, I think he was a slow start, but they’re getting there, and I hope that they go even further with him. With Sophie, I think she kind of has to embrace herself more in season 2, even if she goes a bit overboard at first, it would make sense, and propel her forward.
I think they should find someway in season 2 (and I kind of think they may have been working toward this at the end of season 1) of getting rid of The Crows. They just don’t work. Getting rid of them wouldn’t be difficult from a writing stand-point, and I would argue that if you just put one character in (a Mayor or something) who realizes how ridiculous they are, dismantling them could take a couple of episodes tops.
As for Commander Kane, there are three options that I see, they could kill him off, try to turn him into a human with emotions (I don’t really think this works without ignoring some of what we already have seen of him), or lastly make him outright a villain. The series could dismantle The Crows and Kane could become a vigilante hell bent on avenging them, it’s the only way I think you can keep him on the show and have him work. I just really think the dude is broken beyond repair.
The letters to Bruce Wayne are maybe the toughest fix. I think the series has been fairly inconsistent in doing them to be completely honest, I think maybe they should just get rid of them altogether. At the end of the finale, Alice has transformed the villain Hush, into a doppelgänger of Bruce Wayne. I think having a few episodes of ‘Bruce Wayne’ around will make the letters redundant. Unless Kate knows right off the bat (I swear that wasn’t intended) that he’s not the real Bruce.
The show has a lot of potential, and needs a lot of growth, but I think it’s a worthy inclusion to The Arrowverse. If they work out the kinks in Season 2, there could be some really cool opportunities for interesting character work. Don’t go in expecting a finely tuned machine, but a diamond in the rough.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.