“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 2 Review!

The Clone Wars‘ final season has the unfortunate burden of having to start its thirteen-episode run with a story arc that was revealed to the public some years ago, before it was known that a seventh season would be developed to close out the hit TV series’ long and impressive tenure on the screen. The “Bad Batch” saga, which got off to an okay start in last week’s episode, doesn’t have the element of surprise going for it, and thus there’s very little for fans to talk about yet – though before long, we should get into uncharted territory with events like the Siege of Mandalore, and a retelling of the Jedi Purge through the eyes of characters like Ahsoka Tano.

But for now, we have to get through the “Bad Batch” arc. Thankfully, this second episode ups the ante and gives us a bit more action, as well as a welcome dose of drama, with small, quiet moments between characters allowing us more time and reason to sympathize with them and their individual plights – whether that’s Captain Rex (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, as are all the Clone Troopers) covering up for his friend Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) while the Jedi tries unsuccessfully to hide his relationship with his secret wife Padme Amidala (Catherine Taber), in what has to be the episode’s most touching and humorous moment; or something as small as the Bad Batch’s strongman Wrecker revealing, and then working past, his fear of heights. This episode has time to breathe, something that is hard to achieve in just twenty-four minutes, but which The Clone Wars used to excel at, in its heyday. I’m tentatively beginning to hope that may be the case with the rest of the season’s episodes, too, even once we get past this recycled material.

The Clone Wars
usatoday.com

There’s still a surprising lack of action, even with two Separatist antagonists – Admiral Trench (Dee Bradley Baker) and Wat Tambor (Matthew Wood) standing in the Clones’ way as they break into the prison facilities on Skako Minor to try and rescue their long-lost Clone companion, Echo. As in last week’s episode, the sniper Crosshair is still the Bad Batch’s most visually-interesting character, and he gets a couple more opportunities to shine here, even single-handedly taking on a very random squad of dinosaur-flying aliens.

Aliens are a bit of a mixed bag in The Clone Wars: you get some really good ones, and then you get the ones who are usually described as “primitive” and whose exposition-heavy monologues have to be manually translated by other characters – a job that is best left to C-3PO, who at least gives his line-readings some sassy attitude. On the other hand, the use of translators does help to make the series more realistic, and adds a valuable lesson about linguistic diversity, so I’m not going to complain about this too much. I will, however, note that the aliens in this episode fall into the latter category, and, considering how little they do to advance the plot, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the minutes we spend watching their conversations get translated could have been used in other areas of the episode, particularly the end.

Spoiler Warning, but Captain Rex and his band of Clones find their missing friend Echo at the very end of the episode, as we knew they would. He’s frostbitten and hooked into a device that’s been using his mind to power the Separatist war effort, but he’s still alive. His extremely brief reunion with Rex is the only part of the episode that feels rushed, or at least could have been fleshed out a little more. However, there will be plenty of time for the two to catch each other up on everything that’s happened in the next episode, which will likely see the squadron trying to escape from Skako Minor.

What did you think of the episode? Are you enjoying the Bad Batch arc, or are you ready to move on? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 7/10

James Mangold To Direct “Indiana Jones 5”!

Expect more delays for the fifth (and presumably final?) installment in the Indiana Jones franchise, as a big shakeup has just happened behind the scenes that is almost certain to result in much more tumult and turmoil. Steven Spielberg, who has directed all of the past four Indiana Jones movies, has stepped back from the project and passed the responsibility on to James Mangold. Spielberg will continue to serve as a “hands-on producer”, but his decision to exit the director’s chair was inspired by his desire to have a fresh, new perspective on the long-running franchise.

Indiana Jones 5
cinemablend.com

Mangold himself is an inspired choice to take over – leaving aside the fact that he’s earned multiple Oscar nominations, he has had previous experience on a project very similar to Indiana Jones 5: in 2017’s Logan, Mangold successfully closed out the storied characters arc of fan-favorite X-Men heroes Wolverine and Professor X in a final chapter that managed to be appropriately nostalgic while still working as a stand-alone film. In Logan, Mangold also tried to set up the foundations for future stories in the X-Universe – a universe which ceased to be after the Disney acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Considering that the Indiana Jones franchise is safely in Disney’s hands already and thus unlikely to go anywhere for a while, Mangold might have an opportunity to actually plant the seeds for new Jones stories, whether focused on Jones’ canonical son Mutt, or another character better suited to wear the trademark fedora and carry on the family tradition of globe-trotting and illegal looting.

Spielberg’s decision to leave marks the latest in a long string of setbacks and unfortunate events that have plagued this film’s development. Indiana Jones 5‘s release date has been pushed back twice already (and now, with a new director coming onboard with his own unique vision, could be in for a third delay), and the film has breezed through writers. Besides Harrison Ford, no one has yet joined the cast – though a number of Ford’s original cast-mates have expressed interest in returning for a last hurrah.

Until we learn more, let’s take comfort in the fact that Ford himself recently promised an epic, action-packed finale to the rogue archaeologist’s adventures. Fingers crossed that we ever get to see it.

“Self Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C.J. Walker” Trailer Review!

The so-called “great men of history” are all well and good, but have you ever heard of one Madam C.J. Walker? No? Well then, Netflix has got you covered, because the first trailer for their upcoming biopic-miniseries based on the African-American entrepreneur’s epic life-story just dropped today.

Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer plays the Louisiana-born businesswoman who rose to fame and a considerable amount of fortune in the early 20th Century, becoming America’s first self-made female millionaire and the wealthiest African-American woman in the United States. This retelling of C.J. Walker’s life appears to focus on her relationship with her family, including her daughter A’Lelia and her second husband, Charles. But the trailer also puts plenty of attention on the lavish luxuries of the Gilded Age that C.J. Walker, after a hard-fought struggle to become one of the country’s leading developers of women’s cosmetics and beauty products, was able to enjoy. There’s even a couple of elaborately choreographed dance sequences which look like a lot of fun – and trust me, it was hard to resist dancing when I heard Ruby Amanfu’s “I’m A Ruler” playing over the trailer.

Madam C.J. Walker
afrotech.com

Spencer is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, including Tiffany Haddish (who has been slowly transitioning from comedy to drama with mixed results), Blair Underwood, and Carmen Ejogo, who plays Spencer’s business rival. Self Made is directed by Kasi Lemmons, who recently directed a more high-profile biopic of another African-American pioneer: abolitionist and Civil War heroine Harriet Tubman, whose story Lemmons adapted in Harriet. Hopefully, Self-Made will help to get people talking (and most importantly, learning) about Walker and other African-American historical figures who may not be instantly recognizable to the general audience.

So how does Self-Made look to you? What other African-American icons deserve to be immortalized in film and on TV? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

A New “Star Wars” Movie Has Been Announced!

Spoilers For Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Ahead!

Palpatine, Rey, the Sith and Star Wars
elitedaily.com

One of the biggest criticisms of The Rise Of Skywalker was the nature of Emperor Palpatine’s return, and the fact that he just sort of…showed up again, literally hanging out on a life-support crane suspended from the ceiling of an ancient Sith amphitheater hidden beneath a floating pyramid on the previously unknown planet of Exegol, which was described as a homeworld of the Sith – which, in and of itself, was confusing: wasn’t Moraband the homeworld of the Sith, according to The Clone Wars, season 6? As if that wasn’t enough, it was revealed soon afterwards that Palpatine had not been idle, and had built a massive army of mini Death Stars on Exegol (because the Death Star is an idea that will never not be reused in the Star Wars franchise), each manned by thousands of ex-Imperial warriors, including a new brand of bright red stormtroopers who were hyped up in the pre-release marketing and barely had a millisecond of screentime in the actual film.

Needless to say, Star Wars fans had a lot of questions about the mysterious planet after leaving the theater – and very few of them were answered at all satisfactorily. But because The Rise Of Skywalker developed something of a reputation for leaving questions unanswered, most fans have already moved on from the subject and stopped theorizing about things like “what even is an Exegol?”, taking it for granted that this, like many other unresolved subplots in the film, would probably be explained someday in a throwaway line from a producer or a semi-canonical graphic novel.

But I’m guessing that very few people, even those of us who actually enjoyed Rise Of Skywalker for what it was, suspected that we would ever get an entire movie set on Exegol. It’s not that a bleak, barren icy wasteland riddled with blinding lightning and haunted by Sith ghosts doesn’t sound like an interesting location for a movie, it’s just that…well, spending two hours there, maybe more, watching Palpatine’s limp dishrag of a body being wheeled around on a crane, overseeing the construction of a fleet of redundant planet-destroying weapons that we, the audience, know will be defeated in a few minutes by a nifty lightsaber trick? I don’t know, I think I’ll pass (I say that now).

We don’t yet know for certain whether the Exegol movie will be released theatrically, or on Disney+ – what we do know is that it is being developed by Sleight director J.D. Dillard and MCU writer Matt Owens, who crafted the two best seasons of the fantastic, underrated series Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. We also don’t know anything about the plot, time period, or cast of characters. It could follow a young Sith acolyte during Palpatine’s Final Order, but it’s just as likely that it documents the story of some of the first Sith in the galaxy far, far away – such as the rise of Darth Bane, or one of the characters from the Knights Of The Old Republic video games. Villain origin stories are all the rage nowadays: though typically not from Disney, the studio which not too long ago canceled a planned streaming series, which would have focused on iconic animated villains like Ursula and Maleficent, for being “too dark”. If a business-savvy octopus is too dark for Disney, then I have to imagine that an ancient, bloodthirsty evil that demands human sacrifice and a form of government best described as “murder see-saw” would be too.

Sith Knights from Star Wars
slashfilm.com

Who knows? Maybe it’ll be an ensemble movie about the Knights of Ren: you know, the ones who were rumored to be the greatest Sith warriors in the galaxy and were built up for two movies before becoming quick and easy lightsaber-fodder? You remember their names, right? Trudgen (Trenchen? Trunchen?), and something beginning with an A, and something with too many consonants (or was that the same one whose name began with A?), and the other one, the one whose job was to rebuild Kylo’s helmet? Remember them? Classic additions to Star Wars canon.

I actually did like The Rise Of Skywalker, I swear.

So what do you think of this news? Does the idea of watching a Star Wars movie focused on the Sith interest you, or does it seem too radically different from what we’ve seen before? Should the film follow Palpatine or a past Sith, or no Sith at all? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“The Clone Wars”: Season 7, Episode 1 Review!

The Clone Wars returns

The long-running (and long-canceled) hit TV series The Clone Wars returns for its final season on Disney+ with a solid, if a bit wooden, pilot episode that gets the focus back on the Clones themselves. While the entire “Bad Batch” story arc that will kick off this season was written several years ago, this is the first time we’ve seen it played out onscreen: we’ll need to wait to see how it plays out before passing judgement, but for the moment we can assume that the clues and hints being dropped will lead to some pretty interesting interactions between our core cast of characters in the very near future.

The Clone Wars returns
nerdist.com

In the pilot, the Grand Army of the Republic, led by Jedi commanders Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) find themselves fighting Separatist droids using their own strategies against them. Captain Rex (who, like all Clones, is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), enlists the help of Clone Unit 99, known simply as the Bad Batch, after whom the pilot is titled, to sneak behind the enemy’s front lines and get to the truth. The Bad Batch’s tactics are unconventional, to say the least, as one would expect from a team comprised of “defective clones with desirable mutations”.

The few action sequences with the Bad Batch are simply okay, however. Since the Batch’s strength comes from their individuality, I would have liked to have seen each of the characters’ skills exploited in clever ways: but only Crosshair, the team’s ultra-precise sniper, gets anything resembling a cool hero moment. Wrecker, the strongman, should have had one when he carries a wounded soldier out of the wreckage of an explosion he caused (one which he prefaces with the word “Boom”, delivered appropriately deadpan), but the shot is strangely framed as a close-up of Wrecker’s face, preventing you from getting the full effect.

Most of my complaints about the episode stem from the editing, which I felt was lacking. Despite ostensibly being the most violent Clones to date, the episode is cautious when it comes to actually depicting that violence: in one scene that I feel I’m probably nitpicking way too much, a transport ship is shot down by enemy fire and crashes – but where was the customary reaction shot of the pilot letting loose one final Wilhelm scream? Such a shot would surely have been shown in earlier seasons, and the whole scene feels oddly incomplete without it. Considering that The Clone Wars has never shied away from showing characters get shot, eaten by alien monsters, cut down by lightsabers, or sucked into the vacuum of space, and had built a reputation (before its cancellation for exactly this reason) of telling mature stories with a kid-friendly twist, this feels like a very different approach to storytelling, and one with which I’m not comfortable yet. Then again, we’re only a single episode in and we haven’t reached what are sure to be some of the entire series’ darkest moments.

Overall, the episode is less focused on the action than it is on the mystery, which it sets up very effectively. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, and are concerned about the SPOILERS AHEAD, then read no further.

Rex’s suspicions about the Separatists are confirmed when he and the Bad Batch break into a cyber station and decode secret communications with a human on the planet Skako Minor, who has been feeding the Separatists top-secret battle strategies. Rex is quickly able to determine that this human is none other than his long-lost teammate Echo, who was believed to have died in the battle of Lola Sayu. The operation to rescue him from the clutches of the Separatists, and specifically the repulsive Admiral Trench (also voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), will be the focus of the next few episodes – after that, we’re all in the dark as to what comes next, and how The Clone Wars, after six incredible seasons, will wrap up this final chapter of the story.

What did you think of the episode, and what are you excited to see next? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 5.9/10

“The Falcon And The Winter Soldier” Can – And Should – Rewrite MCU History!

Since the day it was first announced, we’ve known (or at least strongly suspected) that the upcoming Disney+ miniseries The Falcon And The Winter Soldier will tackle some very controversial topics, that are likely to rile up certain viewers: the series will follow Sam Wilson, a black man, as he goes up against a white southern conservative “hometown hero” in a battle for the metaphorical mantle of Captain America. That alone is going to be enough to send social media into a frenzy when the show premieres this August. But a new rumor hints that Wilson might not want the mantle anyway (at least not initially) – and the reason why will rock the MCU to its foundations.

This rumor, tied into the recent casting of Supergirl actor Carl Lumbly in a key role, indicates that a dark and troubling secret about Captain America’s origins will be unearthed in the six-part series, and that this secret could deeply affect Sam Wilson. Imagine, for a moment, that the super soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers, a scrawny white kid from Brooklyn, into the massive, muscular guardian of American values, had been used on other men during the same time period, but with very different results. Imagine if these men had been injured, both physically and mentally, by the strenuous tests and experiments they went through, some to the point of death or suicide, and had received no compensation – much less recognition – for their sacrifices. Imagine if these men, who would of course be covered up by the government and kept secret for decades, were black.

Carl Lumbly a.k.a. Isaiah Bradley
jamaicans.com

In the comics, this is exactly what happens to men like Isaiah Bradley,  who gave up their lives and livelihoods to become unknowing test subjects for the dangerous super soldier serum.  1940’s America being 1940’s America, these tests were carried out on people of color. Bradley’s character is based off the men who barely survived the unethical Tuskegee syphilis experiment, after being exposed to a then-untreatable virus and withheld medical aid for years. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bradley can become the representative of these men, and their families and loved ones – at least metaphorically. He will also expose the horrific truth behind the creation of America’s most glorified hero.

In the comics, the experiments on Bradley and other African-American men were initiated after Steve Rogers’ creation, meaning that despite having nearly identical powers, Bradley is still considered the “Black Captain America” on the page. In the MCU, it’s unclear whether Marvel will go with that version of the story, or instead rewrite history still further and reveal that Bradley’s transformation happened before Rogers’, making Bradley Captain America, period. Either way, unless Bradley’s story occurs in flashbacks, it’s likely that the side effects of the serum will explain how he survives into the present day. We have no idea yet whether Bradley, as in the comics, will be left paralyzed and brain-damaged by the serum.

Additionally, the introduction of Isaiah Bradley will open the door to another important Marvel character: Bradley’s grandson, Elijah, who possesses powers very similar to the two Captain Americas, and is the only member of the Young Avengers team still unaccounted for in the MCU.

The uncovering of all these secrets is certain to cause ripples – not only does it force us, the audience, to retrospectively re-evaluate all of Steve’s accomplishments, but it forces Sam Wilson to rethink what he wants to do with the Captain America legacy: in particular, the star-spangled shield that will likely pass through several different hands over the duration of the show. Either he can give it up willingly, in light of the new revelations, or he can fight to reinvent the symbol and what it stands for.

Captain America Shield
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What would you do, in Sam’s place, and what do you think he will do, assuming this rumor turns out to be true? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has (in)famously had a hard time establishing romantic relationships between its characters: even the few love stories that have helped to define the overarching story have sometimes gone through ups and downs, or simply collided headfirst with a brick wall and died (looking at you, Thor & Jane). And yet they keep trying to master the same old boy-meets-girl (or Norse-god-meets-girl, or boy-meets-alien, or computer-program-meets-girl) formula. That’s why, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’ve set myself a challenge: trying to find the ten most romantic, endearing, adorable couples in the MCU and ranking them.

Disclaimer: “ships” or non-canon pairings aren’t being considered on this list because that would be cheating – most MCU “ships” are at least ten times better than the majority of actual onscreen pairings. It’s simply not fair to compare.

10: Thor & Jane Foster.

The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked! 1
hollywoodreporter.com

These two had something that looked like potential – I mean, if you squinted really hard. From the moment that Thor, the Norse God of Thunder and rightful heir to the throne of Asgard, crash-landed in the American Southwest, upsetting one of Jane Foster’s pseudo-scientific experiments, Marvel tried to convince audiences that a grand and glorious epic love-story for the ages was brewing – but all the magic (or “what your ancestors call magic”) words in the Marvel mythos couldn’t force Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman to look more than remotely disinterested in each other. And after Thor: The Dark World failed to turn up the heat, or really do anything at all, Portman had finally had enough: she quit the MCU, and Jane Foster was subsequently written out of the story. In Thor: Ragnarok, it was briefly mentioned that she broke up with the Thunder God offscreen – an uncomfortably awkward conclusion to what was supposed to be a cornerstone of Thor’s entire arc.

9: Stephen Strange & Christine Palmer.

The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked! 2
marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com

I’m actually tempted to move this couple ever so slightly further up the list, because while they’re not exactly memorable, they’re also probably not as bad and/or boring as you remembered. Dr. Stephen Strange, a snobbish, arrogant surgeon, wasn’t just the on-and-off boyfriend of Dr. Christine Palmer – he was also her work-partner, and it was mentioned (though never really elaborated on) that the two had even pioneered an important new surgical technique, making the couple basically equal. And after Strange’s run-in with karma, it was Palmer who tried to help him recover his strength and rebuild his life: their heated argument about Strange’s future is the most powerful scene in the Doctor Strange movie, and carries a lot of emotional weight. Unfortunately, Rachel McAdams’ character basically fades into the background after that, and apart from being privy to a battle on the astral plane and trying (unsuccessfully) to save the Ancient One’s life, she really has nothing more to do in the story. And she’s not returning for the sequel, so I guess that’s the end of that.

8: Peter Quill & Gamora.

The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked! 3
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I don’t really like either Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord, an interstellar pirate armed with braggadocio, semi-Celestial powers that have proved to be entirely inconsequential outside of his own movies, and an impressive playlist of golden oldies), or Gamora (a.k.a. The Most Dangerous Woman In The Galaxy, who never actually lived up to that title before her untimely death at the hands of male screenwriters who didn’t know what else to do with her her own father, Thanos): nonetheless, I have to admit they had a spark of chemistry in both Guardians Of The Galaxy movies – and their interactions in Avengers: Infinity War, during which Gamora nearly convinced Quill to kill her (long story), are pretty emotional. There was something there! It wasn’t much, maybe, but it also wasn’t not there – much to the dismay of Thor & Peter Quill shippers everywhere. But in the end, Quill failed (because doesn’t he always?), Gamora got tossed off a cliff, and here we are with nothing left of their relationship but a sad trail of bubbles.

7: Natasha Romanoff & Bruce Banner.

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I like Avengers: Age Of Ultron. I know it’s unpopular to say this, but it’s honestly the best Avengers movie – not only because it references the events of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but also because it successfully balances almost all of the main characters while still being able to add a couple new ones to the mix. There’s a cohesive plot, the stakes are raised, and the Avengers get to interact with each other on a more personal, intimate level than ever before. And then there’s Natasha Romanoff’s random relationship with Bruce Banner – while it’s not a bad idea, and they make a cute couple, the basis for their coupling up is based on the problematic idea that they’re both “monsters”: Bruce, because he transforms into a giant green killing machine; Natasha, because she’s…infertile? The messaging is weird and kind of sexist, especially since it would have been way easier to make Natasha’s murderous past with the KGB the reason for her guilt and self-loathing. It’s a shame, because Natasha actually did have better interactions with Bruce than she ever had with her former love interest, Clint Barton, but for better or worse their story arc was completely abandoned in Avengers: Infinity War.

6: T’Challa & Nakia.

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While there’s certainly an argument to be made that T’Challa, the catsuit-wearing guardian of the African nation of Wakanda, is slightly more low-key and subdued than many of his co-stars in Black Panther (let’s face it, he doesn’t have Okoye’s fiery energy, Killmonger’s smoldering charisma, or M’Baku’s macabre humor), there can be no denying that his relationship with Wakandan secret agent/humanitarian Nakia is super cute. The two are a power couple, with both characters having genuine hero moments – Nakia even briefly diverts the main focus of the film away from T’Challa, and considers becoming the Black Panther herself. By the end of the film, she’s also working around the world to help extend Wakandan aid to those in need. And when they’re onscreen together, they’re presented as a healthy, sturdy relationship that doesn’t have to rely on drama, troubling gender dynamics, or sarcastic banter to be interesting. They’re basically #CoupleGoals, and I love them.

5: Wanda Maximoff & The Vision.

The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked! 6
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Ah, the tragic story of the computer program who became a man…once, for no apparent reason, and never did so again. The Vision, a sentient computer program outfitted with a cool new body (that, unfortunately for him, came along with the Mind Stone, one of the most coveted objects in the galaxy), didn’t really show any signs of attraction to the troubled witch, Wanda Maximoff, until Captain America: Civil War, but when their romance finally kicked into gear, and the two began to bond over spicy food, things got good – and then immediately got weird again, when Wanda blasted Vision through a floor, before suddenly…ending up on the run with him in Scotland? Where Vision was suddenly able to turn into a human man, but only did so once, for reasons that were never explained? Yeah, so there’s some serious gaps in what we actually know about their relationship, but at least it ended on a strong note, with Wanda having to brutally murder her lover in an attempt to destroy the Mind Stone before Thanos could get to it, only to watch Thanos use the Time Stone to reverse all her hard work, murder Vision again, and use the Stones to wipe out half the galaxy, including Wanda herself. If it’s any consolation, the upcoming WandaVision series on Disney+ will feature Wanda resurrecting her dead partner, only to have him presumably die once again when her entire reality inevitably comes crashing down around her. Cheerful, am I right?

4: Scott Lang & Hope Van Dyne.

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Technically, there have been two canon MCU power couples that call themselves Ant-Man and The Wasp: Hope Van Dyne’s parents, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, and then Hope herself and her partner, reformed burglar/single father/world’s best grandma, Scott Lang. But the latter couple has the edge on its predecessor, mostly because Janet doesn’t actually show up until the end of the second Ant-Man film, and most of her flashbacks with Hank were cut out of the movie anyway. Scott and Hope share the spotlight (and the title-card) in Ant-Man And The Wasp, which focuses almost entirely on their relationship – and their exchanges of playful, witty banter, coupled with their fidelity and focus on family, make them one of the most endearing couples in the MCU.

3: Steve Rogers & Peggy Carter.

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themarysue.com

Specifically, their relationship in the first three Captain America films, before Avengers: Endgame happened. In the beginning, scrawny new recruit Steve Rogers and fast-talking, no-nonsense commanding officer Peggy Carter were actually quite a sweet pairing: they both had character arcs, and agency in their own stories. There was a quaint little 1940’s love story between them, but Peggy, by virtue of being in the military, wasn’t forced to play the damsel-in-distress or grieving-girlfriend-on-the-home-front roles: and in the post-war era, after Steve went down in the frigid Antarctic Ocean and was lost, she picked up her life and moved on, founding S.H.I.E.L.D. and starting a family. Her relationship with Steve after his resurrection from the ice was deeply emotional and interesting, and it was tragic when she passed away. But then to essentially reverse all the complexities of their post-The First Avenger relationship by having Steve go back in time and start all over with her, making her essentially a consolation prize for Steve after he failed to move on with his life, thus preventing her from moving on with hers? No, just no.

2: Tony Stark & Virginia “Pepper” Potts.

The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked! 9
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They’re the MCU’s original duo: how could they not come in near the top of the list? Tony was a sarcastic, cynical mess of a human being; a war-profiteer who didn’t care one iota about the countless people killed daily by his weapons of mass destruction; Pepper was the very opposite, a cool, collected woman with savvy business skills and a friendly disposition. It’s a trope, and a tired one at that. But their relationship evolved into so much more than that – Tony became Iron Man, and Pepper took over as CEO of Stark Industries. They constructed the Avengers Tower in New York City. In the five years after Avengers: Infinity War, they got married and had a daughter. In Avengers: Endgame, where they even got to fight in battle alongside each other, their decade-long relationship came to an end with Tony Stark’s tragic death. In that final moment, as the former “Merchant of Death” gave up his life to save the world, Pepper stayed beside him and her face was the last thing he ever saw. I’m not crying: you’re crying.

1: Leopold Fitz & Jemma Simmons.

The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked! 10
cinemablend.com

Yes, I cheated! Fitz and Simmons, or “Fitzsimmons” as they’re more commonly known among the fandom, are not technically members of the MCU: they come from the Marvel TV division, where they made their debut on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and have endured through six grueling, torturous seasons of hardship, personal loss, tragedy and pure, wholesome romance. While they started out as the team’s two bumbling, socially-awkward scientists, it didn’t take long before the universe’s vendetta against them resulted in them standing up for S.H.I.E.L.D., and for each other, in incredible ways. Their tense, frantic struggle to figure their way out of an airtight box at the bottom of the ocean (long story) was one of the highlights of Season 1, as it showed just how powerful the two are as a team – so of course they were then split up. Jemma became an undercover spy, got eaten by a space monolith, was transported to another planet and had to survive on her own, fell in love with an astronaut who turned into an evil alien god, was possessed by the Kree, was possibly hinted to be bisexual (come on, we all know she had a thing for Daisy), and even met and defeated the demonic personification of her self-doubt: Leo lost his ability to communicate for a long period of time and became delusional, was possibly hinted to be bisexual (come on, we all know he had a thing for Mac), became a dashing secret agent, met his evil HYDRA doppelganger, fell in love with HYDRA’s cyborg overlord, and then got stuck in two different time-periods at once, which resulted in him dying but still being alive and yet somehow a space pirate in both timelines…it’s a wacky and confusing series, but their love for each other, which persists even against all odds, has always been at the heart of the story, and I would be lying if I didn’t say they’re the most romantic couple in what used to technically be part of (or at least adjacent to) the MCU.

So what do you think of my top ten, and would you have chosen differently? Did I leave your favorite couple off my list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“The Green Knight” Trailer Review!

The epic tale of Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, one of the most legendary stories of chivalry, honor and valor to come out of King Arthur’s court, is absolutely not the sort of thing one would expect to be turned into a surreal horror/dark fantasy thriller, but you know what? It just might work.

Dev Patel stars in the first trailer for this spooky retelling of the Medieval legend, which tells the story of a young knight in Camelot who is challenged to a duel by the terrifying Green Knight, and has to prove his worthiness through a series of tests. The best version of the epic, naturally, is the translation by English author J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m not sure which version director David Lowery is drawing from, or whether he’s taking bits and pieces of all the best translations and then adding mostly new content, but he appears to be leaning into the story’s pagan origins (pagan horror is a genre that has just recently begun to flourish, with the success of Midsommar, and pagan Medieval horror is a genre I don’t know if anybody has touched upon yet), and using this story to highlight just how many Christian traditions and legends are rooted in paganism. At least, I’m guessing that’s why we see kings wearing burning halos in this trailer, and Christian Medieval life threatened by apparitions, spectral visitors and horrors in the dark.

The Green Knight himself, Sir Gawain’s sworn enemy, is a sight to behold: he wields a huge battle-axe, and has a face carved from wood, with a bristly, twiggy beard. Retellings of the tale have always struggled to define what he is: Tolkien called him the “most difficult character” in the entire poem, and other scholars have alternately described him as a version of the Green Man of Celtic mythology, the Devil, an amalgamation of the Greek god Hades and Jesus, or a character rife with homosexual symbolism. So, um…take your pick, I guess?

So will you be going to see this creepy take on a Camelot classic? And what do you think of Dev Patel as Sir Gawain? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Review: 7.5/10

“The French Dispatch” Trailer Review!

Director Wes Anderson is back in the game with his boldest, brightest, most bizarre project yet: The French Dispatch, a film anthology of stories from a fictional newspaper (loosely based on The New Yorker) operating out of a fictional French city (obviously based on Paris) in the middle of the 20th Century, playing witness to some of the most explosive moments in the nation’s history. The abstract and absurdist comedy stars a massive cast of A-list talent, and employs a number of curious camera-tricks, as well as being partly shot in black-and-white.

Bill Murray stars as the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, who went on a holiday and never came back to his home-state of Kansas: instead, he turned his travelogue column into The French Dispatch, which appears to be a semi-satirical weekly newspaper chronicling “world politics, the arts (high and low), and diverse stories of human interest”. He is surrounded by a star-studded cast playing his small army of editors, journalists, columnists, sources and the local characters they interact with on the streets of Paris, including Tilda Swinton (wearing a very bright orange wig), Benicio Del Toro as an artist imprisoned in a padded cell, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet already working on his Bob Dylan impersonation, Léa Seydoux as a stone-cold police officer, Owen Wilson, Mathieu Amalric, Liev Schrieber, Elisabeth Moss, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Christoph Waltz, Henry Winkler and Saoirse Ronan, among many others. Not all of this cast are comedians, but all of them look like they’re about to be.

"The French Dispatch" Trailer Review! 11
slashfilm.com

This trailer certainly makes it look like The French Dispatch will be a memorable cinematic experience – not only because of its extraordinarily weird cinematography and quirky visuals, but because I can’t wait to see the interactions between this amazing cast: Tilda Swinton and Henry Winkler in the same movie? Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan reunited onscreen for the umpteenth time? Count me in.

So what do you think? Does The French Dispatch look too weird for your taste, or do you think this looks stupendously strange? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Marvel Developing An “Agents Of Atlas” Adaptation!

Some day, Marvel will have to run out of new content to adapt to the big (or small) screen: some day, but today is not that day. Today, we have learned that the studio is planning to take yet another obscure group of characters from their seemingly endless roster and transform them overnight into pop culture phenomenons. This means that not only do we have Black Widow, Eternals, Falcon And The Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange 2, What If, Thor: Love And Thunder, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, Spider-Man 3, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Ant-Man 3, Black Panther 2, Blade, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians Of The Galaxy 3, Deadpool 3, a possible Secret Invasion Disney+ series, and future Fantastic Four and X-Men properties to look forward to (and if I forgot any others, please let me know in the comments), but we can now possibly add Agents Of Atlas to the list.

Marvel Developing An "Agents Of Atlas" Adaptation! 12
newsarama.com

You may not know the Agents of Atlas, which is why I’m here to inform you that they are, in fact, quite an interesting and diverse group of characters who certainly seem like a good fit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Founded, in the comics, by S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Jimmy Woo (played in the MCU by Randall Parks), the team of Asian superheroes includes a wide variety of unique characters. The line-up changes from time to time, but a prominent member has always been Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, who will make his debut next year in Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings – which, intriguingly, was just today confirmed to be filming scenes in San Francisco, where the Agents of Atlas have their roots, and where Jimmy Woo is already known to operate, as seen in the Ant-Man films. It’s thus safe to assume that an Agents of Atlas property would directly tie-in to events in the Shang-Chi origin story, as the initial report indicates.

It’s unclear whether Agents Of Atlas would end up in theaters or on Disney+, but I’m betting the team will show up first on the small screen before graduating to the big, probably in a Shang-Chi sequel. The group will probably include all its most popular members from the comics, including Shang-Chi; Jimmy Woo; Amadeus Cho, the Korean-American Hulk; Aero, a wind-manipulating Chinese woman; Crescent and Io, a South Korean girl and a giant glowing blue magic bear; Wave, a Filipina heroine with control over water; and Luna Snow, a South Korean K-Pop singer with ice powers (Silk, another important member of the team, is a little less likely since she’s a Spider-Man supporting character and thus jointly-owned by Sony). All of these characters have the potential to be really awesome in the MCU.

So what do you think? Are the Agents of Atlas something you want to see in the MCU or not? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Loki” Series Adds Gugu Mbatha-Raw!

“Finally”, is all I can say to this fantastic bit of news that dropped tonight. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who for years has been playing roles far too small to truly capture how awesome and talented she is, has just been cast in a leading role in Marvel’s upcoming Loki series on Disney+, which will follow the Norse trickster god on a villainous romp through time and space as he evades the forces of the Time Variance Authority, and possibly even explores his own gender-identity.

"Loki" Series Adds Gugu Mbatha-Raw! 13
apnews.com

Mbatha-Raw has shown up in a number of films and TV series, from utter disasters (A Wrinkle In Time, Jupiter Ascending) to underrated gems (such as the female-led indie supernatural drama Fast Color), to global blockbusters (Beauty & The Beast). Most recently, she had a role on Apple TV’s The Morning Show. But her role in Loki could introduce her to a much wider audience than she’s ever had before, and honestly I couldn’t be happier for her. Her character, while unnamed, is being described as the show’s “female lead”, according to sources, meaning she should stick around for all six episodes.

That doesn’t really help identify who she’s playing, as this series will likely draw from a number of Marvel comics, and could include multiple obscure characters: so while fans might want to jump to the conclusion that she’s playing Amora the Enchantress, a popular villain and Loki ally, that’s just a guess (though Mbatha-Raw would absolutely be a fantastic Enchantress, and would look incredible in the character’s iconic green and yellow costume). Other possibilities include a prominent member of the Time Variance Authority, the sorceress queen Karnilla, or Loki’s best friend Verity Willis, a fun and quirky character from the comics whose always had an interesting relationship with the Trickster God, since she possesses the power to see through lies. If it’s not too much to ask, I’m politely requesting that Marvel consider casting Mbatha-Raw in all of the above roles, if not more.

So what do you think? Is Gugu Mbatha-Raw a good fit for the series (yes, of course she is)? Who do you think she’s playing? Leave your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

The 92nd Academy Awards: Review!

Last night’s Oscars ceremony was on the brink of teetering off the edge and into the dustbin of history when suddenly, after a long string of tired and predictable winners took the stage to repeat virtually the same speeches they had been using all throughout awards season, the event righted itself and took a wild turn: with the shocking upset victory of Parasite in both the Best Director and Best Picture categories, the 92nd Academy Awards were able to make a groundbreaking advancement in movie history.

As we knew going into the ceremony (which got off to a bad start, with the frigid temperature and heavy rain-showers forcing the celebrities into the building at breakneck speed), the field of candidates was dominated by white men – though the long list of snubbed women directors still managed to attend the ceremony, as names embroidered on Natalie Portman’s dress. But in some categories, the few diverse nominees were able to sneak in some surprising wins: Matthew Cherry took home a long-awaited Oscar for the adorable animated short Hair Love, which celebrates natural black hair; and Taika Waititi became the first indigenous filmmaker to win an Oscar, claiming the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his anti-fascist satire, JoJo Rabbit. Bong Joon-ho and the crew of Parasite also won Best Original Screenplay and Best International Film, giving the South Korean drama a total of four wins: the most of any film last night.

Joker, the dark and dour supervillain story that danced into the ceremony with a whopping eleven nominations, only walked out with two wins, both in categories where it was expected to win: Best Lead Actor went to Joaquin Phoenix, thus making him the second actor to win an Academy Award for his portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime; and Best Original Score was presented to Hildur Guðnadòttir.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s joint work on “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from the Elton John biopic Rocketman made them clear winners in the Best Original Song category, but the other contenders put on a good show: Idina Menzel, AURORA, and several Frozen II voice actresses from around the world sang “Into The Unknown”, while Cynthia Erivo and a chorus of back-up singers delivered a rousing rendition of “Stand Up” from Harriet. Then there was Randy Newman, with whatever the song was from Toy Story 4 (which somehow won Best Animated Feature in a year when Netflix’s Klaus was showing off the simple beauty of 2D animation). Three other musical numbers, unaffiliated with any film, were sprinkled throughout the ceremony: Janelle Monae and Billy Porter opened the night’s proceedings with a rousing, sparkly cover of “It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood”, which also featured dancers dressed as characters from some of the past year’s snubbed films, including Us and Midsommar; Eminem made a surprise appearance to perform “Lose Yourself” to an audience who clearly had no idea how to react – and those that did, namely Idina Menzel and Martin Scorsese, soon found themselves trending for their shocked and disturbed expressions; and finally, young Grammy-winner Billie Eilish performed a moving cover of “Yesterday” while the In Memoriam tribute video played – a video which, as expected, left out a couple of notable deceased celebrities.

Politics were briefly addressed, with Brad Pitt throwing jabs at the U.S. Senate in his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (one of only two awards the critical darling picked up, the other being Best Production Design), and Joaquin Phoenix making time for a warning about the dangers of climate change, and the importance of environmentalism. But many of the winners and presenters were more concerned with poking fun at their own business – there was no more scathing example of this than when James Corden and Rebel Wilson, two prominent members of the cast of the box-office flop and movie monstrosity Cats, ironically had to present the award for Best Visual Effects to 1917 while wearing cat-suits and making sarcastic puns.

The major categories were looking like a straight-up copy-and-paste of the Golden Globes winners (to nobody’s surprise, Renée Zellweger won Best Leading Actress for her transformative role as Judy Garland in Judy, while Laura Dern closed out her award-season romp with a Best Supporting Actress award for her fan-favorite role as a divorce lawyer in Marriage Story: Netflix’s only consolation prize for being snubbed and soundly defeated in every other category), right up until Best Director. The award had been expected to basically throw itself into the arms of Sam Mendes, whose continuous-take gimmick for 1917 has been a subject of much debate this awards season (and had, just moments before, won Roger Deakins a Best Cinematography Oscar), but there was also room for Quentin Tarantino to eke out a surprise victory: but it was Bong Joon-ho who claimed this award, and then led South Korea to its first ever Best Picture win – Parasite, a drama about class divides and economic crisis, also made history as the first non-English feature film to win the highest honor at the ceremony. Bong Joon-ho’s fanbase, who call themselves the “BongHive” on social media, celebrated the film’s success around the world, while Joon-ho himself finally got to have the drink that he kept asking for throughout the night.

Was it a perfect ceremony? No. The event was downright predictable for most of its extremely long runtime, and there was a tired aura in the air: perhaps brought on by the bad weather, or an unmemorable red carpet walk. But did it also break new ground and pave the way for a greater acceptance of international filmmaking in Hollywood? Let’s hope so.

Ceremony Rating: 7.9/10