“Joker 2” Drama Turns Nasty – What’s Going On?

Yikes. The movie that has been sparking universal controversy and uproar since its release in early October is still stirring up trouble, this time leading to a feud between two of the biggest entertainment news trades in Hollywood – quite appropriate for a movie about the Clown Prince of Crime.

"Joker 2" Drama Turns Nasty - What's Going On? 1
nytimes.com

This time, the inciting incident was an article by The Hollywood Reporter, which claimed that The Joker director Todd Phillips is looking to team up with star Joaquin Phoenix once again to film a sequel to the R-rated villain origin story which grossed over a billion dollars at the box office and is gaining slow traction in awards season races. Phillips and Phoenix had both previously discussed not wanting to do a sequel because it would ruin their artistic vision – that seems to have changed when the film crossed into the billion-dollar club, landing Phillips himself a paycheck somewhere in the range of $100 million. THR added that on October 7th, mere days after Joker opened in theaters, Phillips met with Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich and pitched an idea that Emmerich rejected: that Phillips should be given the ability to develop origin movies for an entire rogue’s gallery of classic DC Comics villains (THR specifically referenced the dictatorial Darkseid and power-hungry businessman Lex Luthor as possible examples). While Phillips’ idea appears to have been a bit too extreme for the studio, it is said he walked away from the meeting with the rights to “at least one other DC story”. All this seems pretty standard so far: it’s unsurprising that Phillips would want to direct a sequel to the smash hit, and it’s not even all that surprising that he thinks he’s entitled to take over the entire DC villain roster.

But soon after, Deadline fired back with a vicious piece that used the words “great click bait” to refer to the Hollywood Reporter’s earlier story. According to their sources, no Joker sequel is being discussed at this stage. And that’s not all. I quote: “the linchpin of today’s THR story – that a week after Joker’s opening, Phillips met with Warner Bros film chief Toby Emmerich to pitch a portfolio of DC character origin stories – is as flat false as earlier stories that Martin Scorsese contemplated directing the first Joker”.

Okay, this isn’t really relevant to the rest of the story, but this is what Martin Scorsese had to say about those “flat as false” rumors, in an interview with Variety earlier this month: “[I] thought about it a lot over the past four years…I decided that I didn’t have the time to do it”. Marty went on to complain about how he didn’t want to direct it because he didn’t feel comfortable making a movie about a comic book character, etc, etc, you’ve heard all that before, I’m sure.

Leaving aside that glaring error in Deadline’s reporting, the lack of professionalism from the respected trade is shocking and dismaying – is this the malevolent work of the Joker at play, turning Hollywood news agencies against each other? Is it an act of pettiness on Deadline’s part, because THR broke the story first? The bigger, more important question is: which one is actually right? Is Todd Phillips going to be placed in charge of the DC’s villains department or not? Will we have to endure several more years of Joker-induced chaos?

Not long after Deadline’s article came out, poor little Variety showed up with their own piece, which is basically being ignored by everybody: in it, they say that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: Phillips has met with Toby Emmerich to discuss a sequel to Joker, but no other DC villain origin films are being planned, and Phillips would be too busy directing Joker 2 (if true) to direct those other films, anyway.

As of right now, that’s all I have to say about this strangely chaotic story. But I’m posing the question to you, dear readers: what’s really going on at the DC right now, and who’s directing what? Would you be interested in a Joker sequel? Would you be interested in origin stories for other DC villains? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!

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Every Disney Princess Movie – Reviewed!

With Frozen 2 – Disney’s first theatrically released Disney Princess sequel (which is a lie, but we’ll get to that in a moment) – on the horizon, it seems fitting to me that somebody should take the time to go through each and every one of those Princess movies, to see which ones have withstood the test of time, and which belong somewhere in the depths of the impenetrable Disney vault. There are a few qualifiers that I think make a good Disney Princess movie – a spectacular soundtrack of great Songs; a dastardly Villain hell-bent on stirring up chaos; and, of course, a powerful Princess who takes matters into her own hands and establishes a place for herself in the world. Since quite a lot of the Disney Princesses have corresponding Princes, I’m also adding them to the categories, but the studio’s two most recent Princesses have all been single ladies, so we’ll take a moment to admire that when we get up to them. We’re going through each of the twelve movies in chronological order, so it’ll take us a while to get from Snow White’s magical Germanic forests to the sunny shores of Moana’s Polynesian island community.

(Also, I’m only ranking the Princesses officially honored as such by Disney: which means that neither Meg from Hercules nor Esmeralda from The Hunchback Of Notre Dame will be be showing up on this list. Oh yeah, and there are two other women who are notably absent, despite the fact that this post is inspired by the imminent release of their sequel movie – that’s right, Anna and Elsa aren’t official Disney Princesses, apparently: I didn’t know that when I started writing this post, but by the time I found out it was too late to scrap the idea, so that’s how I ended up in this situation).

(Oh, and by the way: SPOILERS AHEAD, for any and all Disney movies referenced below).

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937):

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denofgeek.com

The Princess: I have no qualms about saying this – if any Princess deserves to be bumped from the list, it’s Snow White. A quaint, outdated character without any agency in her own story, the fairest maiden in the land is constantly running from danger or welcoming it into her house – even though, with an army of magical birds and beasts, and a fiercely devoted bodyguard of seven heavily-armed men, Snow White could technically have stormed the Wicked Queen’s castle without any problems. I mean, let’s face it – the Wicked Queen’s own forces consisted of, what, a single crow and a huntsman who couldn’t even follow orders? When you think about it, Snow White had a lot working in her favor, but squandered her chance. Instead, she spends most of the movie fretting about the dwarfs’ hygiene or washing clothes. Ranking: 2/10

The Prince: with some of the early Disney Princes, the best you can say about them is that “they’re there”. With Snow White’s Prince Charming, even that would be a lie – the dude only shows up in the first and last ten minutes of the movie, and all he does is sing. Where exactly was he when his dearly beloved Snow White was hiding in the forest with seven little old men? Where was he when the Wicked Queen needed killing? This guy is the absolute worst, and Snow White could have done much better. Ranking: 1/10

The Villain: Snow White isn’t a total disaster. The Wicked Queen (fun fact: her real name is Grimhilde) is a very compelling villain with an appetite for evil and a great sense of style. Intent on being the most beautiful woman in all the land, the Queen is horrified to learn that poor little Snow White, her stepdaughter, is in fact more lovely than she. But instead of just stabbing her in her sleep or tossing her down that wishing well in the courtyard, the Queen instead relies on a third party to do her dirty work – she’s the first Disney villain to learn the hard way that evil henchmen are almost inevitably never as evil as advertised. Then again, the Queen herself does eventually get killed by an unlucky bolt of lightning, so maybe she just wasn’t that competent to begin with. Either way, her death scene provides for one of the film’s most haunting visuals, when a pair of vultures which had shadowed her footsteps hoping to feast on Snow White’s dead body instead end up eating the Queen herself. Lovely. Ranking: 4/10

The Songs: If I could give the songs in this movie a 0 rating, I would. There are only a handful of tunes in Snow White that actually have lyrics, and they are all interminably alike in their chipper, tra-la-la-lally sweetness. They are also incredibly hard to listen to, as Snow White tends to sing or whistle (or, god forbid, hum) in a high-pitched register only audible to dogs. The dwarfs sing “Hi Ho” at every available opportunity. The Prince sings one song twice – no, literally, he sings “One Song”, but he does so twice, to bookend the movie. Both times it’s an ear-splitting nightmare. Rating: 1/10

Happy Ever After? in the end, Snow White is poisoned by the Wicked Queen and sent into an everlasting slumber that lasts all of five minutes before she is woken by the Prince’s “singing” – to be polite, she had to pretend it was true love’s kiss that woke her, but I think we all know better. The Prince barely even gives her a chance to say goodbye to her friends in the forest before riding off with her into the sunset. It’s an abrupt and undeserved ending. Snow White is a landmark in animation history, and, frankly, in cinematic history. That’s something I respect and admire – but from a safe distance. Up close, from its casual misogyny to its tediously long house-cleaning sequences, this movie is a Sleeping Death all in itself.

Cinderella (1950):

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syfy.com

The Princess: she may not seem like much on the surface, but Cinderella is a huge improvement from Snow White. She makes decisions on her own, she takes action when she needs to, and she doesn’t simply fall in love with the Prince because he’s a Prince. In fact, something that is often overlooked about this movie is that Cinderella never even considered the Prince – she just wanted to get out of the stuffy old chateau and attend the royal ball, and she was justifiably angry at Lady Tremaine for keeping her housebound. Considering that the villain Maleficent’s entire motivation in Sleeping Beauty was getting revenge on the royalty for not inviting her to a party, I don’t think that Cinderella was wrong for feeling slighted. Granted, it would have been nice to see her embrace her inner dark side, don a pair of horns, and wreak havoc on the land, but hey, to each their own? Rating: 4/10

The Prince: nameless and mostly voiceless, Cinderella’s prince doesn’t even get to sing one song, or any song at all, before he’s out of the picture entirely. For whatever reason, he’s not even the guy who has to go around the kingdom trying shoes on feet to see which woman is his one true love. But at the same time, he still breaks Disney tradition: until Cinderella dances into his life, the Prince is bored out of his mind by the very idea of romance, and has no intention of getting married. Rating: 2/10

The Villain: Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s abusive, cold, calculating stepmother, is a Disney icon – though most people simply know her as the Wicked Stepmother. And wicked she is, for every action she takes in the film is either intentionally devised to suppress Cinderella’s own freedom, or does so accidentally anyway. Residing in a spacious bed beneath the inky shadows of a vast purple canopy with only her demon cat Lucifer to keep her company, Lady Tremaine is definitely #VillainGoals. And she’s cunning, almost immediately realizing that Cinderella was the Prince’s mystery date at the ball, and taking action at once to ensure that Cinderella never escapes. Rating: 4/10

The Songs: meh. Okay, so there’s “Sing, Sweet Nightingale” and what else exactly? The music in Cinderella is utterly forgettable. Regardless, it’s still a step up from Snow White. Rating: 3/10

Happy Ever After? while it’s still a low-stakes love story, Cinderella does represent a progression, no matter how small. The female protagonist actually has some agency in her story; she has personality and characteristics; and she defies the villain instead of running and hiding. It’s the first Disney Princess movie to pass the Bechdel test (and it also fails the reverse Bechdel test – i.e. no two male named characters talk about anything other than a woman), and all of its female characters, even down to the Wicked Stepsisters, have their own arcs. Cinderella is often painted as another of Disney’s antiquated damsels in distress, but she is, in fact, their first heroine, though on a very small scale (it’s worth mentioning that she does, in fact, become a damsel in distress at the very end of the movie, but is saved, not by a man, but by her animal friends). For more on the feminism of Cinderella, see here. And let’s not forget that everything Snow White and Sleeping Beauty did, Cinderella did in glass high heels. Beat that, Aurora.

Sleeping Beauty (1959):

Every Disney Princess Movie - Reviewed! 4
imdb.com

The Princess: after the high point that was Cinderella, one would expect Disney to keep making progress, to keep forging ahead, to deliver up great Princess content for years to come. But instead, Aurora was the only Princess to come out of the studio between Cinderella‘s release in 1950 and The Little Mermaid in 1989. And Aurora isn’t what one would call a feminist icon of any kind: yes, she marries for love, and the film makes a point of establishing that she has no idea she’s falling for the man who just so happens to have been betrothed to her at birth (funny how that worked out, right?), but she also has no agency. If she were the only female character in the film, it would be a huge problem: as it is, she’s still technically the protagonist so it is still a huge problem, but thankfully there are three other female leads who basically take over the entire movie while Aurora is asleep. But the Princess herself: well, she’s not exactly role model material. Rating: 3/10

The Prince: even while Aurora is falling in love with Phillip (who just so happens to be a prince, even though he never mentions it to her), Phillip himself is falling in love with Aurora (who he thinks is a peasant girl, but of course is secretly a princess). And so Disney attempts to have their cake and eat it too: see, they married for love! But they’re both still royalty, because of course they are. It’s mixed messaging, to say the least. Phillip himself is a boring, one-dimensional character like all the early Disney princes, and he doesn’t really do anything besides wake Aurora with “true love’s kiss”, a.k.a. kissing her without consent. Rating: 3/10

The Villain: Maleficent, Mistress of Evil (not to be confused with Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil), is a hellish character with a lot of attitude, who does actually get stuff done, as opposed to her predecessors. Upon learning that she wasn’t invited to the christening of baby Aurora, Maleficent abandons whatever she was doing up until then and devotes her entire life to finding the baby and killing it. And she comes close, sending Aurora into an eternal slumber that lasts about twenty minutes, until her plans are undone by the magic of the Good Fairies. She’s a demonic force of chaos and unbalance that, honestly, is a lot of fun to watch. Rating: 5/10

The Songs: “Once Upon A Dream” is simply not an interesting song in any regard. Rating: 1/10

Happy Ever After? like all of Disney’s classic Princess films, Sleeping Beauty is tainted with sexism of all kinds: the non-consensual kiss; the arranged marriage (which is set up when Aurora is barely a day old, and Phillip is already, like, ten) at the movie’s core; and of course the three “essential” gifts that the Good Fairies give to Aurora – beauty, song, and…um, the ability to be awoken from a sleeping spell on her sixteenth birthday by her one true love, on the off-chance that something like that should ever happen. You know, just in case. On the other hand, even though Aurora is pretty much a non-entity, her guardians, the three Good Fairies, are all fully fleshed-out female characters with a lot of attitude and determination. Not only do these fairies not conform to traditional gender norms (their attempts to bake a birthday cake and sew a party dress for Aurora go…very badly), they also enter Maleficent’s castle on their own and save Prince Phillip, before basically becoming Athena-esque muses of battle, giving Phillip the magical weapons he needs to defeat Maleficent. Now, there are problems with this scenario: the three Good Fairies are so awesome, they could probably have fought Maleficent on their own without any help from a pesky mortal prince, and somehow they just decide that Phillip is Aurora’s “one true love” without ever consulting her beforehand – I know, I know, it would have been a little difficult, considering she was asleep, but come on: if Phillip’s kiss had failed to do the trick, would the Good Fairies have just rounded up all the men in the world and had them try to kiss Aurora back to life? In the live-action retelling, Maleficent, it is a mother’s kiss that awakens the sleeping princess – the three Good Fairies, who had basically been Aurora’s mothers for sixteen years, should surely have considered that “true love” doesn’t have to be romantic love, right? Apparently not.

The Little Mermaid (1989):

Every Disney Princess Movie - Reviewed! 5
thedisneywoman.wordpress.com

The Princess: Ariel deserves a lot of credit for being Disney’s first really proactive princess protagonist: as opposed to Cinderella and Aurora, who both get landed with magical godmothers they didn’t even ask for, Ariel actually goes looking for one, and finds one – who promptly manipulates her, uses her as a power-play in her war against the Sea-King, steals her voice, and then tries to run off with her boyfriend of two days. Yes, Ariel is the heroine of her own story, and she does make some very important decisions that shape the whole plot – but her willingness to make such decisions is almost always presented as a fault: instead of relying on the “wise” counsel of the men and male fish/crabs/seagulls, etc in her life, she commits the biggest crime that an outdated Disney princess can – she seeks out the help of another woman. *gasp* Ariel is quickly punished for that decision, and finds herself helpless and alone on land, her fate resting in the hands of a man who, honestly, is pretty darn callous and mean to her. And in the end, Ariel doesn’t even get to do anything to help defeat Ursula the Sea-Witch, instead having to be saved over and over again by men. Ariel is better than the Princesses who came before her, and she does significantly more in one film than all of them combined, but her greatest strengths (her bravery and headstrong attitude) are made out to be character flaws. Rating: 5/10

The Prince: Prince Eric is one of my least-favorite Disney Princes. He’s not the one-dimensional stick figure that was Prince Charming of earlier years – in contrast, he’s far too real. When we first meet him, seeing him through Ariel’s wide eyes, he’s a heartthrob who risks his own life to save his dog from drowning after a shipwreck. Ariel rescues him, pulling him to shore and singing to him – it’s lovely. But then, after Ariel spends a decent part of the movie obsessing over him, she finally reunites with him as he’s strolling along the beach looking for her – and he doesn’t recognize her. Without her beautiful singing voice, Ariel means nothing to him. He laughs at her, thinking that she must just be some random girl who got washed up by the sea (because sure, that happens all the time), and he takes her into his castle – where he definitely seems to be falling for her, until he meets another beautiful young woman who can sing (who also happens to be Ursula in disguise). And yes, everything works out in the end and Eric ends up with Ariel, but not until she gets her own voice back. God, I hate that guy. Rating: 2/10

The Villain: Ursula truly redefined what a Disney villain could be. She’s evil and nasty all right – but she’s also a total boss modeled off of an eccentric drag queen, who is all about body positivity and practicality. Up until Ariel enters her life, Ursula isn’t harming anybody: she’s just living it up in a fancy purple grotto with her pet eels and a garden of damned souls. Isn’t that what we all aspire to be? Rating: 8/10

The Songs: since Sleeping Beauty, we’ve not gotten a Disney Princess movie without at least one good song – The Little Mermaid, in fact, has two exceptional ones: “Part Of Your World”, which was nearly cut from the movie for fear that kids would find it boring, and “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, which remains Disney’s best villain song. And as for “Under The Sea”, which somehow won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, I’d say it’s mostly entertaining because of the accompanying visuals. Rating: 8/10

Happy Ever After? Disney had made significant changes to source material before they tackled this particular story: all three prior Princess films had their origins in extremely brutal fairytales involving torture, bloodshed and generally disturbing, messed-up stuff. But when it came to adapting The Little Mermaid, a story initially intended as a tragic metaphor for the author’s forbidden gay romance, in which the Mermaid, upon learning that her prince has abandoned her for another woman, commits suicide by drowning…well, needless to say, there was a lot of Disney magic at work here. And yet not enough: in the end, it’s still the story of a teenage girl running away from home to be with a man she’s never even really met, who eventually requires male aid to get her out of a dangerous situation with a queer-coded villain. Disney still had a long way to go before their first truly progressive heroine.

Beauty And The Beast (1991):

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variety.com

The Princess: Belle is a very complex character, because, while she’s undeniably more feminist than any Princess before her, she’s also trapped in a situation that is, without a doubt, not. There’s a lot of misconceptions about her character: some people want to believe she’s a victim of Stockholm Syndrome (i.e., a prisoner who begins to take on the characteristics of, and eventually falls in love with, their captor), and they’re not necessarily wrong for thinking that – but they should also take into account that Belle retains her individuality throughout the movie and is acutely aware of the fact that she’s a prisoner. At the same time, she does fall in love with a monster who repeatedly invades her privacy (he literally has a magic mirror that can see her anywhere she goes – ewww), violently threatens and intimidates her, and also locks her father in a cold dungeon. Even when he saves her life, it’s not immediately clear whether it’s because he cares for her, or because he’s just obsessively protective. On her own, Belle is a strong-willed, intelligent young woman with a passion for reading, educating herself, and understanding the world beyond her small-scale provincial life. It’s only when she interacts with the Beast that problems start to arise. Rating: 6/10

The Prince: the Beast is far from Disney’s most appealing character: he’s a selfish, self-absorbed brute who gets wildly aggressive at the slightest provocation and flies into a rage when Belle does…anything. A monstrous being covered in fur who happens to walk on all fours at certain points in the movie, the Beast is basically more akin to a large angry dog than an actual person. Belle falls in love with this large angry dog (raising questions I dare not try to answer), and eventually he warms up to her – most people claim that the moment he “changed” was when he rescued Belle from the wolves as she tried to flee from his castle: but considering that the previous scene had him yelling at her to get lost, I would honestly say that he only began to change as a person later on, when he woke to find Belle by his side, healing his wounds. Which means that his initial “rescue” attempt was actually just him going through another violent mood-swing and deciding he didn’t want her to leave after all. And that sort of thing makes him a villain in my book. Rating: 4/10

The Villain: the real villain of the piece, in a movie where everybody is a little more morally gray than your typical Disney Princess film, is Gaston: the hyper-masculine thug intent on marrying Belle and converting her to his outdated, backwards-thinking ideology about woman’s place in the world. Gaston usually ranks pretty low on most peoples’ lists of great Disney villains because of how evil he is – that steadfast, hateful evil is precisely what makes him so effective. In a movie that lauds itself as the first feminist Disney movie, the villain pretty much has to be toxic masculinity (fun fact, Gaston was Disney’s first male villain in a Princess film). Rating: 4/10

The Songs: nearly one of Disney’s best musical repertoires, the Beauty & The Beast soundtrack is only marred by the inclusion of Gaston’s egoistic ballad to himself (a song that demands to be fast-forwarded through). “A Tale As Old As Time”, which rightfully won an Academy Award, is a stirring, beautiful piece of music which excellently compliments the incredible visuals of the Beast’s CGI ballroom – Celine Dion’s incredible vocals were far better suited to a song of that epic quality than to the wistful lullaby she recorded for the 2017 remake of the animated classic: “How Does A Moment Last Forever”. Rating: 8/10

Happy Ever After? a complicated film, to say the least. Belle’s character is adventurous, smart, introspective and empathetic – a great role model, right? But what about what her character’s romance with the Beast says about real-life relationships? Is it acceptable to stay with a violent, uncaring man who locks you in your room and forbids contact with the outside world? Um, no. We all want to praise Belle for choosing to become the Beast’s prisoner in her father’s stead, but we can’t do that without also condemning the Beast for his downright evil actions – and to do that, we have to rethink their romance, which leads to a lot more confusion. This is one of Disney’s messiest movies, and I don’t know whether the tale as old as time should go down in history as a feminist parable – or an uncomfortable metaphor for abusive relationships.

Aladdin (1992):

Every Disney Princess Movie - Reviewed! 7
filmmusiccentral.com

The Princess: Jasmine is the only official Disney Princess to not be the star of her movie – but if anybody deserved to be, it’s her. Outspoken yet inconsequential, Jasmine is constantly on the verge of having something to say: she always wants to do something big and bold, she also goes right up to the edge, she’s about to take the plunge – and then the male characters come in and interrupt her moment. It’s one of the reasons why it was so liberating to finally see Jasmine let loose in this year’s Aladdin remake, which saw the princess come into her own, at least a little, with a defiant song of her own. But even in the original film, while she had little to do, she still made the most out of every minute: though I’m a little confused as to how her sheltered palace life trained her to be a superior pole-vaulter (a talent she only got to display once, sadly). Rating: 7/10

The Prince: roguish, charming and charismatic, Aladdin is the precursor to Disney’s perfect Prince, Flynn Rider (who’s still almost two decades away, so keep waiting). Yes, so he lies to Jasmine about who he is and all that – but everybody in Aladdin lies about something at some point: that’s the nature of the story. It’s all about intrigue, deception, and how things aren’t always what they seem: but Aladdin, who seems to be nothing more than a no-good street rat, turns out to have a heart of gold…and for that I couldn’t be more thankful. In my opinion, he’s Disney’s first truly lovable Prince. Rating: 8/10

The Villain: a lot of people really love Jafar. I can’t say I’m one of them. The tall, gaunt vizier certainly looks impressive in his red and black finery, wielding his hypnotic cobra-scepter, but he royally messes up every strategy he devises, and most of his plans simply don’t make any sense: for instance, he had the Sultan of Agrabah under his control for the entire movie – and yet he wasted one of his three wishes making himself Sultan of Agrabah. Why bother? And at the end of the film, the power-hungry Jafar uses his final wish to become a Genie – at which point he gets trapped in his very own lamp and flung into the desert. Rating: 5/10

The Songs: most of the songs in the original Aladdin are good because of Robin Williams’ incredible voice-acting and improvisational method. That being said, nobody does “Arabian Nights” better than Will Smith in the 2019 remake. Similarly, “A Whole New World” was elevated by Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott in the remake to whole new heights – the original is okay, but a bit shrill for my taste. And Scott’s “Speechless” has become so iconic already that it’s almost too weird for words revisiting the original animated feature and remembering that the song wasn’t in it. Rating: 7/10

Happy Ever After? it may not be the best of Disney’s animated offerings, but Aladdin has a lot going for it – an intelligent princess who speaks her mind (or at least tries to); a prince who set the groundwork for an even better one to come; and a bunch of great songs. It’s got problems, of course: “slave Jasmine” reads as a desperate attempt to exoticize the Middle Eastern princess, and there are a handful of questionable lyrics that had to be revised when the film was remade this year. But for the most part, it’s a fun, charmingly comedic movie with a lot of heart, and irresistibly wonderful performances.

Pocahontas (1995):

Every Disney Princess Movie - Reviewed! 8
wallperio.com

The Princess: everything that Pocahontas does, she does for her people and the betterment of her society: a brave young woman looking for purpose and direction in an increasingly violent world, Pocahontas’s journey is extremely significant in her own era – both as an inspiration (she is, in my opinion, Disney’s first truly feminist heroine), and as a cautionary tale about the dangers of rewriting history. Unfortunately, the real-life Pocahontas wasn’t quite the spirited leader that the films paints her to be – in reality, she was a child kidnapped from her tribe and abused, forced into marriage, converted to Christianity and paraded around England as a “noble savage”. So while it’s perfectly fine to feel empowered by the Disney Pocahontas’ story, it also doesn’t hurt to learn about the real Pocahontas’ tragic life, and the violent history of European settlers in North America that Disney chose to bypass of even ignore in the film. Rating: 8/10

The Prince: John Smith is hard to like, largely because anyone aware of the historical narrative behind the film will know that the real-life Smith was anything but the blond-haired, blue-eyed “man’s man” that the film chooses to make him – Smith was, in actuality, far older than Pocahontas, and was just as nasty as the Disney film’s villain, Governor Ratcliffe. The opening of the film tries to show some of that, by having Smith laughing about how he’s going to kill a bunch of “savages” in the New World, but then attempts to redeem him by having him fall in love with the heroine and go on a psychedelic journey through an animated wilderness during the “Colors Of The Wind” sequence – yeah, last time I checked, all the beautiful animation in the world still isn’t enough time to turn racist colonizers into decent people. Rating: 3/10

The Villain: historical accounts vary, but one thing is clear: the real Governor John Ratcliffe was nothing like the greedy, vainglorious buffoon that Pocahontas and her allies face down in Disney’s reinterpretation of the story. The real Ratcliffe traded peacefully with the Native Americans he encountered, until his abrupt death at their hands: in an ambush supposedly laid by the Powhatan tribe, Ratcliffe was captured and burned at the stake. In the Disney movie, Ratcliffe is instead exposed for the fraudulent idiot that he is and sent home to England in chains. A perfect ending for a perfectly despicable villain. Rating: 6/10

The Songs: I have no idea whether this is an unpopular opinion, but Pocahontas has the best songs of any Disney movie. “Steady As The Beating Drum”? Beautiful. “Just Around The Riverbend”? Emotional. “Listen With Your Heart”? Magical. “Colors Of The Wind”? Inspiring. “Savages”? Terrifying. “If I Never Knew You”? Quite possibly the most romantic song from any Disney movie ever – and it only showed up in the end-credits! Rating: 9/10

Happy Ever After? the story of Pocahontas was horribly butchered to work in the family-friendly Disney narrative, and it’s no wonder that a lot of people try to forget about it, or pretend it never existed (have you noticed that it’s, like, the only Disney classic not getting a remake? Yeah, there’s a reason for that). It’s a shame, because Disney could have chosen any number of actual Native American folktales and legends to adapt that would not have involved the brutality and atrocities committed by white men in the Americas. A character like Disney’s Pocahontas, in a more historically accurate and responsible movie, could have been a revelation. But instead this is one movie that most people will always condemn for its undisputed dishonesty.

Mulan (1998):

Every Disney Princess Movie - Reviewed! 9
bustle.com

The Princess: it’s no secret that Mulan is my favorite Disney Animation film of all time, and in no small part because of Mulan herself: brilliantly voiced by Ming-Na Wen and brought to life with incredible humanity, the character is an icon. A selfless, introverted woman who decides to takes her father’s place during war-time by disguising herself as a man and joining the army, Mulan ends up becoming China’s greatest warrior, defeating the invading Hun army not once, but twice, and winning the respect of her family and country. She’s the only Disney Princess who’s not technically a Princess – but she was given the title because her bravery and acts of courage were just that awe-inspiring. She’s consistently ranked near the top (or at the top) of Most Feminist Disney Princess lists. And did I mention she saved all of China? Rating: 10/10

The Prince: not only was Mulan not a Princess, but her love interest, Captain Shang, was most assuredly not a Prince. A practical, cynical, solemn guy who has the honor of being Disney’s first Prince to go fully shirtless, Shang established a close relationship with Mulan before he even knew she was a woman in disguise: so close, in fact, that some believe Shang was subtly coded as bisexual. And when Shang does find out, well…okay, well, first he sulks, and gets really angry about it, and he storms off like the drama queen he is – but then, when Mulan comes back to tell him that the Huns have invaded the capital, he finally loosens up, sees the error of his ways, and helps her defeat Shan Yu. Rating: 7/10

The Villain: speaking of Shan Yu, he is absolutely the weakest part of this incredible movie. I don’t know if Mulan (which is, all things considered, Disney’s most mature Princess film) could have sustained a more over-the-top, comical villain like an Ursula or a Hades, but it could probably have used something a bit more exciting than this creepy killing-machine. Shan Yu gets down to business in the very first scene of the movie, and doesn’t relent until he gets blown to pieces by fireworks in the finale: he doesn’t take any joy in his evil (though he smirks so much you might get the wrong impression), and he’s not got a charismatic bone in his gigantic body, but he’s definitely terrifying. And in the tradition of Disney villains having bird sidekicks, Shan Yu has a particularly menacing hawk that follows him around – before getting deep-fried in one of the most lovely bits of comeuppance I’ve ever seen. Rating: 5/10

The Songs: yet another virtually perfect soundtrack from Disney. If I had to point out one problem, it’s that the reprise of “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” at the end of the film is far too brief, and that the version of “Reflection” used in the movie itself doesn’t quite match the splendor of the end-credits version performed by Christina Aguilera. Rating: 8/10

Happy Ever After? this is my favorite Disney movie for so many reasons. Action, adventure, comedy, drama, feminism, romance, you name it – Mulan‘s got it. And it marks a huge progression in the way that Disney portrayed (and continues to portray) female characters: Mulan was the first Disney Princess to bear arms, and unsurprisingly she also has the highest kill count of any Disney Princess (her record is 1,995, in case you’re wondering). The Emperor even offered her a place in his council (which she politely refused). And while she and Shang clearly had feelings for each other, their relationship still had a long way to go by the end of the movie, marking a nice change from other Disney films in which heroines meet, fall in love with, and marry their love interests in less than a week (ahem, Ariel). Considering that the film was originally conceived as the story of a starving Chinese orphan girl who is saved from her miserable life by a British gentleman and goes off to live with him in the West, I’d say that’s progress.

The Princess And The Frog (2009):

Every Disney Princess Movie - Reviewed! 10
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The Princess: Tiana gets overlooked and underrated a lot. Disney’s first African-American Princess, and the first Princess to hold a job, this idealistic, hard-working modern (a.k.a. 1920’s modern) woman was a refreshingly unique addition to the royal Disney line-up. Unfortunately, due to plot circumstances, she spent almost the entirety of her movie in the body of a frog, meaning that there was very little time to actually learn to appreciate her as a person. Like Pocahontas before her, Tiana is an awesome Princess trapped in a so-so movie: in a better one, where she could have been happily human, I think she might have connected with audiences far more than she did. Rating: 8/10

The Prince: Prince Naveen, the distinguished (but nearly bankrupt) royal visitor to New Orleans who gets turned into a frog and accidentally drags Tiana into his chaotic troubles, could have made for a fairly interesting love interest – but the movie never really does anything with him. We never even get to learn what culture he’s supposed to come from, or what his motivations are – beyond making (or rather, being given) large amounts of money. He’s the pampered, materialistic royal brat that Princess Jasmine was originally written to be – but there’s a reason the makers of Aladdin changed Jasmine’s characterization, and somebody should have thought to do the same with Naveen. Rating: 4/10

The Villain: the New Orleans sorcerer charlatan Doctor Facilier has all the elements of a great, even iconic rogue – his bright, flashy sense of style; his deep, charismatic voice (provided by Keith David); and his unique brand of magic, informed by voodoo and occultism. In his secret lair/otherworldly portal/music hall, the top-hatted Doctor plots devious ways to scam the gullible out of their money, while his autonomous shadow capers about the shadows with gleeful sinuosity. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t use him to the full extent, and as a result he too is frequently forgotten. Rating: 5/10

The Songs: with a soundtrack inspired by the awesome sounds of Jazz Age New Orleans, you would think The Princess And The Frog would have some of the most memorable songs in Disney history. But as with everything in this movie, it’s a great concept that doesn’t really amount to anything in the actual film. There’s a couple of tunes you can hum along with – “Almost There”, “Friends On The Other Side” – but that’s my limit. Rating: 4/10

Happy Ever After? according to Disney executives, putting the word “Princess” in the title of this movie was their fatal mistake, as it supposedly alienated audiences who felt it was more childish than other Disney offerings. But in my opinion, the studio should have worried less about the title and more about making a good movie. The Princess And The Frog has a whole bunch of cool, even unique ideas, but they’re buried under a boringly conventional comedy: you want two interesting protagonists who are both people of color? Okay, but, surprise, they’re frogs. You want a thought-provoking exploration of class and racial divides in a historical setting? Okay, but only about a half-hour of the movie is actually set in New Orleans – the rest of the time you’ll spend in the fantastical bayous of Louisiana with a musical alligator and a romantic firefly. This movie could have been excellent, but there’s simply too many stories and subplots going on all at once.

Tangled (2010):

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The Princess: Rapunzel is everything that Ariel should have been twenty years earlier: she’s just as naive and occasionally nonsensical as her aquatic predecessor, but always retains her wits and sense of responsibility – unlike Ariel, Rapunzel looks before she leaps (quite literally) from her cloistered tower. Her journey is also one of Disney’s strongest arcs in recent history: a princess whose incredibly long hair inherited the healing properties of a magical flower, Rapunzel was abducted at birth by Mother Gothel (more on her in a minute), who raised her as a daughter for sixteen years, using her to extend her own life and keep her healthy and youthful. But once Rapunzel realizes what’s going on, she wastes no time in standing up to her abusive parent and fighting for her rights. Rating: 9/10

The Prince: Flynn Rider is Disney’s best Prince: classically charming, roguish, casual, funny, practical, handsome…it’s almost like he was designed by a focus group of real women who were asked to design the most attractive man in Disney history. Oh wait, he was. The culmination of decades worth of experimentation and slow progress, Rider is the perfect counterpart to Rapunzel’s innocence – a cunning outlaw who initially underestimates the princess, but eventually finds himself falling in love with her. Rating: 9/10

The Villain: Mother Gothel, Rapunzel’s abusive mother figure, has her pros and cons – on the one hand, she’s very much a revamp of the Wicked Queen and Wicked Stepmother of earlier Disney films, and her motivations (everlasting beauty and longevity) are uninspired; but on the other, her character is far more interesting – and real – than almost any Disney villain before her. Gothel is purely evil, manipulating Rapunzel and constantly undermining or mocking her: in her chilling song, “Mother Knows Best”, the hateful villain derides her daughter for even daring to think she could survive in the outside world. But trapped in Gothel’s tower, Rapunzel is subjected to constant humiliation on multiple levels – for instance, Gothel’s affections are rarely lavished on Rapunzel herself, but rather on her magic hair, the only part of her that Gothel actually cares about; Gothel even refers to her as “Flower”, reducing her to nothing more than an inanimate object to be used for her powers. What’s even more terrifying is the realization that, if Flynn Rider had never shown up and upset the natural balance of things, Rapunzel would have been forced to spend her entire life serving the needs of this horrible, semi-demonic creature. Yikes. Rating: 8/10

The Songs: None of the songs in Tangled are real showstoppers – there’s the aforementioned “Mother Knows Best”, which I think is the best song in the movie, and there’s “I See The Light”, which is formulaic at best, and beyond that…well, there is “When Will My Life Begin”, which does have a catchy tune. I mentioned a while ago in this post that all the Disney Princess films since Sleeping Beauty have had at least one great song? Tangled is the only slight exception to that rule. Rating: 4/10

Happy Ever After? this film has had one of the longest journeys to the big screen in all of movie history – initially, Walt Disney himself planned to adapt the classic fairytale, but couldn’t figure out a way to make the story suitably epic (apparently, Snow White was epic enough for him), and he shelved the project. Decades later, in the early 2000’s, the studio began working on a Rapunzel movie that would have been witty, funny and a little cheesy. Then it became a modern fairytale set in San Francisco. Finally, after much deliberation and years of hard work, it became the studio’s fiftieth animated picture, and opened the door to the new world of Disney CGI films. Along the way, they created one of their most charming, heartwarming stories yet: an empowering, distinctly modern fairytale that would probably have Walt Disney spinning in his grave. It’s a great indicator of how far Disney (and society) has come, and of how far they still have to go.

Brave (2012):

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The Princess: Merida absolutely should have been awesome. She’s a feminist warrior princess with irreverent Gaelic sensibilities, who wields a gigantic longbow, communicates with the magical spirits of her highland forest like Scottish Pocahontas, and refuses to get married despite her mother’s insistence that she act like a proper Medieval lady and marry another nobleman to unite the clans. Merida realizes that she doesn’t need to get married to do that: instead, she brings unity to her land through sheer presence and force of will. And all those things help to make her one of Disney’s coolest Princesses – on paper. In the actual film, while Merida displays incredible bravery, she never gets to fully unleash that inner Boudicea that I think we all wanted to see – as a warrior, she doesn’t even come close to rivaling Mulan’s kill-count. And as someone of Celtic descent myself, I expect to see my Celtic princess go full berserker. One measly fight with a demon bear? That’s the best that Disney/Pixar could muster? Rating: 7/10

The Prince: Merida is the first Disney Princess to remain single – but she doesn’t just turn down her hordes of suitors. Instead, when she learns that her mother has set up a competition where the firstborn sons of other clan leaders have to succeed at an archery contest in order to win her hand in marriage, Merida, as the firstborn daughter of the King, marches out onto the field and demands to compete for her own hand – and don’t let it be thought that her bark is worse than her bite, because Merida totally owns the competition, splitting another contestant’s arrow-shaft right down the middle in an incredible feat, and scoring a perfect bulls-eye. I’d like to see either of the Charmings try something like that.

The Villain: the primary antagonist of Brave is a giant demon bear named Mor’du, who is revealed to have been the King who originally split up the four clans in an age long past. But by the time our story begins, Mor’du is just kind of wandering around the woods, randomly attacking people or lurking in a super-creepy ruined castle. While there are some truly disturbing flashbacks sequences in which we glimpse Mor’du’s transformation into a giant demon bear, he’s not a particularly interesting villain in an already conventional movie. Rating: 2/10

The Songs: because this is a Disney film, there are songs in Brave. Because this is a Pixar film, those songs aren’t actually sung by the characters in the film – which makes them subsequently feel more removed from the story, less integral to character development and more like pretty embellishments. So no, the music of Brave isn’t anything too fantastic, but I’ve got to give it a few extra points because…well, it’s Celtic. I’m sorry, but anything even vaguely Tolkienesque makes me happy. I’m tempted to give the film far more credit than it deserves simply because one of the art manager’s first name is Lorien. Rating: 5/10

Happy Ever After? Brave might be an unambitious and downright archetypal fairytale at times, but it’s got a lot of heart, and a great emotional core in the story of a young woman’s complicated relationship with her mother; a story that most people will be able to relate to in some way, even if not all of us have accidentally transformed our mothers and siblings into bears. I certainly haven’t. Merida is cool, if underused. Celtic anything is fun, at least in my mind. The humor is typical of Pixar’s more mature, edgy brand. It’s a good movie: it just doesn’t bring anything really groundbreaking to the table.

Moana (2016):

Every Disney Princess Movie - Reviewed! 13
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The Princess: she arrived in theaters mere weeks after the shocking 2016 election, ushering in what many believed to be a new, proudly feminist era of Disney movies. This young Polynesian explorer, with her realistic body standard and irrepressible courage, was bound to be embraced with open arms. Decades worth of Disney history are written into Moana’s character, like her very own set of magical tattoos: the fearlessness of Mulan; the stubbornness of Merida; Jasmine’s defiance; Ariel’s curiosity. She’s not Disney’s most unique Princess, but she has the benefit of being the latest in a long line of heroines who have slowly been breaking the glass ceiling since 1950 (sorry, Snow White, you did nothing). Rating: 8/10

The Prince: as in Brave, there isn’t one. Moana spends the entirety of the movie happily single, and shows no interest in romance – nor do her parents or community try to force her into marriage; a refreshing change. Maui, the mischievous demigod who helps Moana on her journey, is sometimes unofficially referred to as the film’s Prince. I prefer to think of Moana as only the second Disney Prince-less movie. And yes, that’s a stupid pun, and no, I don’t care, because Moana features some of the worst humor in Disney history: I think I’m justified.

The Villain: not including a major element of the Disney Princess formula in your Disney Princess movie is a risky move, but it can be done. But that’s not to say it should be done in excess. The big reveal at the end of Moana is that there is no real villain – the volcanic goddess Te Kā turns out to be the life-giving goddess Te Fiti after all: Moana returns the magical Heart of Te Fiti to the deity, and all of Polynesia is saved. It’s a shocking easy ending, and one that instantly makes you think there must be something else coming: but no. Throughout the film, there are minor antagonists (sea monsters, demon pirates shaped like coconuts, a giant crab), but nobody that actually equates to a full-out villain. And without that crucial element, the entire movie ends up falling a little flat. Yes, it’s original – but it’s also somewhat uninteresting when we’ve spent an entire movie watching Moana summon the incredible powers of the Pacific Ocean…only to never have her use them except to part the waves.

The Songs: at the very least, the film has a pretty catchy soundtrack. “How Far I’ll Go”, despite often being unfavorably compared to Frozen’s “Let It Go”, is one of my favorite Disney tunes  it’s powerful, inspiring, beautifully performed by Auli’i Cravalho, and it’s accompanied by a great sequence of Moana diving into the ocean and retrieving the Heart of Te Fiti, before rising out of the waters to find the ghosts of her ancestors assembled in a veritable armada, flanking her as she steers her ship into the future. Gets me every time. The downside is that this soundtrack also includes “Shiny”, which ranks somewhere between 0 and -1 on my ranking of Disney songs. Rating: 5/10

Happy Ever After? I’m not a big fan of Moana, personally. It’s got its moments, but the majority of the film is basically just Moana and Maui sailing. While there’s complexity in Moana’s own emotional arc, the plot is just a straight line between Motu Nui and the island of Te Fiti – there are pitfalls and a couple of detours, but nothing that lasts more than a couple of minutes. Watching the film is rather like being on a very slow-moving boat: after a while, the beautiful scenery is really just more water, and the destination is just a hazy question-mark on the horizon.

So there you have it. Every official Disney Princess movie ever – from chirpy Snow White wandering around the forest looking for houses to clean, to fearless Moana daring the open ocean to bring peace back to her village. Do you see the difference? Since 1937, the idea of what defines a Princess has been evolving – slowly, at times, but always just enough that with each new Disney movie there comes just a little bit more progress. We no longer idolize Princesses whose only defining trait was “good housewife” – now, we have warriors, leaders, explorers and businesswomen. With each new movie (except Frozen for whatever reason), the Princesses get stronger, more diverse, and more representative of the personalities, characteristics and motivations of real women and girls across the world.

Who is your favorite Disney Princess, and why? Share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

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Amazon Prime’s “Lord Of The Rings” Renewed For Second Season!

With several months yet to go before filming even begins on the first season of Amazon Prime’s hugely ambitious adaptation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the studio has already gone ahead and renewed the big-budgeted fantasy series for a second season. There are several new details in the Deadline article which broke the news, so allow me to ramble on about them with urgency and excitement. As you can probably imagine, I’m trembling with anticipation.

Amazon Prime's "Lord Of The Rings" Renewed For Second Season! 14
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First of all, we have the news that the second season of the series is already in the works – Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios, has confirmed that as we speak, the writer’s room for the series (which includes J.D. Payne, Patrick McKay, Gennifer Hutchison, Bryan Cogman, etc) is currently collaborating on writing the bulk of Season 2 scripts. As is noted in the article, this is really good news because it means that we, the audience, won’t have to wait that long between Seasons 1 and 2. In fact, at the speedy rate that things are going, we could expect to get the first two seasons almost back-to-back. My heart can’t take this.

Additionally, it has been revealed that after J.A. Bayona has finished filming the first two episodes of the series’ first season, the show will go on hiatus for four to five months, allowing time to review the footage and write more material for the second season before moving on with filming. In Deadline’s words: “By going on a longer than normal hiatus, LOTR will be ready with Season 2 scripts so it could possibly film some Season 2 footage during the Season 1 shoot, or even film the remainder of Season 1 and Season 2 back-to-back.” This is, of course, the same tactic that Peter Jackson used when directing his equally ambitious movie trilogy of Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. Parallels. Parallels!

The article also notes that the majority of the series is expected to film outdoors, on location in New Zealand, as we suspected. That could mean a return to the practical-effects pioneered by Jackson in his movie trilogy, or it might indicate something else entirely (Deadline suggests that it’s because Tolkien loved the outdoors: I have no idea whether they’re right or not).

So there you have it! This is an extraordinary action by Amazon, as it seems to suggest complete confidence in the fledgling series, which has a long way to go before it gets off the ground. While we wait, leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter Two” Review!

"The Mandalorian: Chapter Two" Review! 15
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Okay, so a quick rundown of everything that happened in Episode 2 of The Mandalorian, a.k.a. Chapter 2: The Child.

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing. That was quite possibly one of the most inconsequential episodes of television I’ve ever watched. I don’t even feel like spoiler tags are necessary for this review, but here’s your quick warning anyway. SPOILERS AHEAD. If you want to call them spoilers. Honestly nothing happened.

The episode picked up where the last one left off, with The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) escorting baby Yoda through the desert. The two are immediately attacked by other mercenaries, whom the Mandalorian dispatches without trouble. The rest of the episode follows the pair as they hunt down a group of Jawa aliens who had ransacked the Mandalorian’s spaceship for parts, leaving the bounty hunter and his cargo trapped on the desert planet. Finally, the Mandalorian reaches an agreement with the hostile scavengers: in exchange for the needed parts, he will bring them an egg from some sort of alien rhino monster. He does so, just barely surviving the experience, and the trade happens: with the help of the alien Kuiil (Nick Nolte), he fixes his spaceship and leaves the planet with baby Yoda.

And that’s it. There’s one big “reveal”, but it’s predictable: during the fight with the alien rhino, the Mandalorian is beaten up and on the brink of death when he is saved at the last moment by baby Yoda, who wields the Force, allowing the Mandalorian the time he needs to regain his footing and plunge a knife into the monster’s flank. At which point baby Yoda falls asleep, apparently exhausted by the effort. And all that would be hugely exciting…if the baby in question wasn’t obviously a miniature version of one of the greatest Jedi masters of all time. Whether this Yoda is a clone or a child of the original, it was kind of inevitable that he/she (we still don’t even know its gender!) would have the same powers as the previous Yoda. Honestly, I was expecting a couple of clues, or at least some hints or teases, of what’s to come. But instead we got an entirely pointless escapade with the Jawas, just so we could confirm something that pretty much everybody already guessed was coming.

And beyond that…literally nothing. This little side-quest did not need to be an entire episode – it could have been summed up in maybe five minutes at most. Unless, of course, the Jawas and the Egg have some important part to play later on in the series: though, the Jawas did eat the Egg immediately after receiving it, so it might be a bit late for that.

As we wait for the next episode, I have to wonder what was the point of Chapter 2, and how much longer we’ll have to wait before something of consequence happens. Now that the Mandalorian is finally on the move again, it’s hopefully only a matter of time before something happens: but, in a show that just wasted a half-hour episode on Jawa scavengers, nothing is certain.

Everything frustrating about the first episode is made even more annoying in the second: the Mandalorian himself is, in fact, more clumsy and incompetent than before – he’s easily defeated by the Jawas (the Jawas, who even the notoriously lame stormtroopers were able to kill with ease in A New Hope), and the big rhino almost succeeds in killing him. He’s just not a particularly interesting protagonist as of right now, and this episode does nothing to change my perception of him.

So…until next week, Star Wars fans. Let’s hope that when we rejoin the Mandalorian and baby Yoda, they’re actually doing something important.

Episode Review: 1/10

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter 1” Review!

The first segment of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni’s The Mandalorian is an intriguing introduction to a darker, grittier corner of the Star Wars universe, doing a whole lot of worldbuilding, establishing a compelling mystery spanning several planets, and leaving viewers with plenty of questions.

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Set sometime after the fall of the Empire in The Return Of The Jedi, the series presents us with a region of deep space that seems unaffected by the peace and prosperity we saw blossom across the universe in Jedi‘s celebratory finale. The aliens and humans we encounter in the pilot episode are barely scraping by, surviving only by hunting down their enemies and killing them – or hiring others to do so. The nameless protagonist played by Pedro Pascal, known only as the Mandalorian (or “Mando”, as he is disparagingly called in one space cantina), is supposedly one of the most legendary bounty hunters in the parsec, though he does surprisingly little to earn that reputation in this episode: the action sequences are few and far between, and the big battle at the end of the episode is really just a whole bunch of red laser-bolts dancing wildly across the screen, leaving the Mandalorian himself with little room to prove his own tactical or military prowess. His uncomfortably awkward encounter with an alien monster named a Blurrg undermines the character even further. As of right now, I can’t understand why everyone is so terrified of the Mandalorian, or how he has somehow established such command in the bounty hunter guild he works with – but his ally, the hunter droid IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), while undeniably more malevolent, is even more clumsy, so perhaps this is a trait shared by all of Star Wars‘ bounty hunters – even the mighty Boba Fett fell into a Sarlac pit, after all.

It’s an unpleasant reality, but Pascal’s Mandalorian is simply not as interesting as some of his co-stars in the first episode, who receive far less screentime but far more personality and character. Even the Armorer, a female Mandalorian who designs a shoulder pauldron for the Mandalorian (I get that they’re a secretive people, but names would be really helpful right about now), is marginally more interesting than him: Mandalorian culture in general is something that I’d love to see explored in greater depth as the series progresses – though at present, there’s a much greater mystery unfolding, one which definitely takes precedence over “why are shoulder-pads so important to the Mandalorians?”

Werner Herzog plays the Mandalorian’s nameless client, who appears to be a survivor of the Empire’s demise: he commands a host of trigger-happy stormtroopers, and is working closely with a suspiciously enthusiastic scientist named Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi). The two men employ the Mandalorian to hunt down a dangerous target on the other side of the galaxy, though neither is willing to give many details about their prey – save that Pershing wants it alive at all costs. We’ve known for quite some time that this series could give us crucial details about how the fallen Empire rebuilt itself into the First Order that currently threatens Rey and the Resistance: if I had to make a guess at this early stage, I would assume that Pershing and his mysterious friend have something to do with that. And I’ve even got the beginnings of an idea as to why that might be, but it requires us to get into spoiler territory – so without further ado, here’s your SPOILER WARNING!

At the end of the episode, after the Mandalorian and IG-11 have broken into an alien base on a desert planet, they come face to face with the unidentified asset they’ve been hunting via tracking fob. And while some of us might have been expecting their target to be a prominent Star Wars character such as Obi-Wan Kenobi or Princess Leia, they are instead greeted by…a tiny floating cradle. It would have been absolutely outstanding if the cradle’s occupant had turned out to be baby Rey, but no…

It’s baby Yoda.

Now, The Mandalorian takes place after Yoda’s death, so obviously this isn’t the Jedi Master himself – which means there are only a couple of reasons why this character would even be introduced, and why the Empire would be so desperate to hunt him/her down and capture him/her. It could be that Baby Yoda is a completely unrelated member of the Jedi’s same species (which, let’s face it, isn’t likely). It’s possible that Baby Yoda is Yoda’s child, which is at least theoretically plausible. But I happen to think this baby is none other than Yoda’s clone: an infant messiah who the Empire might want to capture for two reasons – firstly, because letting it live isn’t exactly Imperial protocol; and secondly, most importantly, because at this point in the Star Wars timeline, with the Empire collapsing into ruin across the galaxy, with the forces of evil on the run, the Sith Lords are desperate for something to restore their greatness and glory. What better way to do so than to bring back Emperor Palpatine himself – something we know will happen in The Rise Of Skywalker – through use of cloning technology? Why else would a scientist be so desperate to get his hands on the seemingly harmless child? Why else, unless he wanted to study the secrets of cloning and use that technology to resurrect the Emperor?

But the Empire didn’t count on Pedro Pascal’s Mandalorian being a kind-hearted softie who can’t bring himself to hurt the baby when he confronts it – even killing (or at the very least injuring) IG-11 when the droid tries to “terminate” Baby Yoda. The episode ends with a powerful shot of Baby Yoda holding the Mandalorian’s hand, staring up at him with adorably naive eyes and making cute cooing noises. I don’t know what to expect from Episode 2, but somehow I don’t think that the Mandalorian will be responsible for taking the baby back to the Imperial baddies.

Aside from Baby Yoda, the episode’s finale leaves us with a couple of big questions. Is IG-11 really dead? Will the Mandalorian be able to escape with Baby Yoda? – his Ugnaught guide Kuiil (Nick Nolte) was adamant that people who enter the desert don’t come back alive, but the Mandalorian seems to have taken care of all of the infant’s alien guardians pretty easily. As for the Mandalorian himself, who is he? Glimpses of his backstory as a war refugee played in a montage while the Armorer was designing his shoulder-pad, so it looks like Pascal’s character might have had a tragic past during the Clone Wars.

When all is said and done, the series’ pilot episode is merely good – with hints and teases of better material down the road. At the very least, it’s worth watching for Ludwig Göransson’s beautiful score, which sounds almost more fantasy than sci-fi. And with characters like Ming Na-Wen’s assassin Fennec Shand yet to appear onscreen, there’s plenty to look forward to in later episodes.

Episode Review: 7/10

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“Soul” Teaser Trailer Review!

Disney & Pixar’s Soul promises a whole bunch of mind-boggling metaphysics in its first, minute-long teaser trailer: and surprisingly few “ugly-cry” moments from a studio that will keep Kleenex in business for years to come. But if anyone’s gonna make us sob in this movie, it’s going to be star Jamie Foxx, who is already doing an excellent job in his Pixar debut as the studio’s first black leading man.

His trailer monologue sounds like excerpts from some rousing speech that his character, middle school teacher Joe Gardner probably gives in the third act: he talks passionately and brilliantly about how life is too short to waste being anything other than what you want to be – what you were born to be. For Joe, that’s a career as a great jazz musician, a goal he works hard to achieve – before tripping into an open manhole in the street and…um, turning into a tiny glowing green vaguely-amoeba shaped thing? Did he die? Is he unconscious? Knowing Pixar, they killed him.

Either way, his little green soul is clearly very much alive – or, at least, undead. He finds himself in what appears to be the vast expanse of the cosmos, watching in exasperation as Tina Fey’s little glowing green undead soul tells him that she wants to be remembered for her funny cowboy-dance. I’m not entirely sure what Joe is supposed to learn in the soul region, as he already appears to have his life pretty much in order and he clearly understands what he wants to be and how he wants to get there – but Pixar is usually pretty good with thematic material, so I trust them to put together a compelling story.

So what do you think? How would you rate the trailer, and how many tears do you think you’ll shed, watching little green lightbulbs wax poetic about philosophy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 9/10

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Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell Join “The Batman”.

Okay, we’re doing this again, aren’t we?

Not too long ago, I spoke about how bizarre it was that an actor like Jonah Hill could be circling the role of The Riddler in Matt Reeves’ upcoming DCEU origin story, The Batman, which will follow a young Dark Knight as he navigates a Gotham City seething with villainy and corruption. Hill, who was far more suited to the role of The Penguin, eventually walked away from the project entirely, both due to that and the fact that he was asking for significantly more money than Warner Brothers was willing to pay for him to play a character they didn’t even want him to play.

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independent.co.uk

And now we’re kind of in the same situation: just now, news broke that Andy Serkis, famed motion-capture performer and director of Sony’s Venom 2, will be joining the cast of The Batman (despite, you know, directing Sony’s Venom 2 at the same time) as Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth. Fans had long hoped that Serkis would exploit his friendship with director Matt Reeves (the two worked together on the recent Planet Of The Apes movies) in order to win a role in the DC film, so this isn’t disappointing news by any means. Andy Serkis is always a win. But it is kind of surprising, in light of the other casting announcement that came out mere minutes later.

Colin Farrell, the handsome Irish actor known for his work in films such as Saving Mr. Banks and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them, has landed the role of Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin in DC lore. To be clear, I’m not complaining about this casting choice, but if I had to choose someone to play the stout, eccentric Gentleman of Crime, it would not be Colin Farrell: in fact, if I had to choose an actor to fit that role perfectly, it would be somebody a bit older, with a crazy glint in their eye, somebody who could rival the incredible performance of Danny DeVito in the same role in Batman Returns – actually, it would probably be Andy Serkis. Whereas the taller, fine-featured, soft-spoken Farrell would be a perfect fit for the role of Alfred Pennyworth.

But as we’re beginning to expect with this movie, it’s the other way around.

Farrell’s casting, in particular, is noteworthy because (a) he’s another ridiculously good-looking addition to this already bizarrely beautiful cast, and (b) see above. The Penguin has never been portrayed as a handsome man, and, in fact, much of his origin story revolves around him being the exact opposite: bullied relentlessly for his obesity and shuffling gait, the young Oswald Cobblepot turned to his pet birds for friendship as a child, and became an avid student of ornithology, eventually adopting bird-themes into his villainous style. Reeves is obviously going in the opposite direction with this out-of-the-box casting – and, while I find it intriguing, I can’t say I abhor the idea of Colin Farrell donning Penguin’s signature top hat, monocle and umbrella while wreaking havoc on the streets of Gotham. It just makes me wonder whether Matt Reeves will reveal Gotham to be a stylish, trendy modern city more in line with today’s New York City. Maybe it’s time we moved past Gotham’s traditional representation as a depressingly gritty underworld of criminal activity, seething with corruption and pollution. Margot Robbie’s Birds Of Prey movie almost seems to be leaning in that direction already with its bright neon color palette and fresh, alluring style, but it’s too early to tell yet if she got to that idea first, before Reeves.

Farrell and Serkis will join Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright in The Batman, which is slated to release in 2021.

So what do you think of the idea of Andy Serkis as Alfred and Colin Farrell as The Penguin? Should the actors have been swapped? How would you feel about a new take on Gotham? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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“Fantastic Beasts 3” Has Been Greenlit!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald was not a good movie. In fact, it can be argued that it was a downright bad one – certainly critics and audiences were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the film’s many convoluted subplots, crowded cast of characters, and disrespect toward Wizarding World canon. Nonetheless, many of us hoped and prayed that, despite fan backlash, despite that ugly Rotten score, despite (worst of all) the lower box-office returns, the franchise could reach its full potential in a third installment, a third film that could right Grindelwald‘s wrongs and put the series back on track. We, the faithful few, suffered devastating setback after devastating setback: the film was pushed back to a 2021 release date; star Ezra Miller’s busy schedule seemed to indicate that he might be leaving the Beasts franchise, or worse, that it might be canceled – these were the concerns that kept us awake at night. We heard rumors that Johnny Depp was out as Grindelwald; that Warner Brothers had lost faith in writer J.K. Rowling’s ability to turn out a good film; that nothing was certain.

Today, one year after Crimes Of Grindelwald put the franchise’s future into question – a third film has been confirmed.

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cinemablend.com

Beasts is not dead, despite how long it took to get the series off of life-support. In Fantastic Beasts 3, the franchise will need to work harder than ever before to convince fans to stick around – but Rowling can’t rely on the same tactics she thought would make Grindelwald an instant hit: her literary style, the complexity of her stories, her excessive callbacks to Harry Potter – that all needs to stop now, for the third film to work. No more subplots within subplots within subplots, all stuffed into one gigantic red-herring; no more half-baked characters tossed into the story to fill up space and time; no more queer-baiting Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s LGBTQ relationship. It’s time to put the focus back where it belongs, on the core narrative of our four heroes (Newt Scamander, Jacob Kowalski, Tina and Queenie Goldstein), and strip away the layers upon layers of underdeveloped plot that turned Grindelwald into the tangled mess that it was. Bring us back to basics, Jo, and give us a good, stand-alone story that is comprehensible, accessible, and enjoyable.

Thankfully, she’s not alone. As many of us suspected and hoped would be the case, a real screenwriter has been brought onboard to assist Rowling in translating her impressive vision to the big screen: Steve Kloves, the writer for all of the Harry Potter films (except Order Of The Phoenix). Rowling was originally set the write the third film on her own, but reason has prevailed.

I’m not saying that Rowling is not a good writer – on the contrary, I believe she is quite an excellent one: she has an eye for detail, she weaves clues and hints into her writing in an intriguing way that allows fans to play along, and she has a knack for compelling mystery (so much so that, when not writing wizard books/movies, she writes mystery novels under a pseudonym). But her style is best suited to the literary format, where she has all the time she needs to write those mysteries and weave those intricate stories. In a two-hour film, her plot is virtually bursting at the seams, demanding to be given space to breathe, pleading with the viewer for more time – time that Rowling simply doesn’t have. With a professional screenwriter at her side, she will hopefully be able to edit her story down to a decent size, give it a clear focus, and make it just a bit more cinematic: certainly there’s enough in the third film to make a good movie, it just needs a good script.

Fantastic Beasts 3 is confirmed to be another world-hopping adventure like the first two films, with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, set as one of the main locations – though the Deadline article in which the news broke does make it seem like the story will span several continents: which would fit in with what star Dan Fogler suggested earlier this year, that the third film would be bigger in scale than the first two combined. Oh please, Jo, don’t mess this up. This could be your last chance – don’t mess this up!

The regular cast, including Johnny Depp as Grindelwald and Jude Law as young Albus Dumbledore, are confirmed to be returning for the third film. Jessica Williams, who had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Grindelwald as Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, will also have a pivotal role, though no further details have been revealed about her character. Production will begin in Spring of 2020.

What do you think of the news? Are you relieved, or disappointed that the franchise is continuing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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“The King” Movie Review!

In the eyes of history buffs, The King will probably be a decent, if boringly conventional retelling of a fascinating story from the vaults of Medieval history. For fans of Shakespeare, this interpretation of the bard’s work, watered down in the telling, will probably be a bland disappointment. But in my opinion, the movie, while not particularly fresh or exciting, is worth a watch merely for the performances from Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson, accompanied by Nicholas Britell’s beautiful score. And if you find yourself drifting off in the first half of the movie, with its interminable gray color palette, dreary dialogue and half-hearted brutality – simply fast forward to when Pattinson shows up about an hour in, at which point the movie finally sheds some of its solemn trappings, develops a faint splash of color, and actually gets interesting.

The story itself is classic: the brief, tumultuous reign of King Henry V (Timothée Chalamet) of England, who stormed and nearly conquered France in 1415. But with two versions of the story out there – the historical account, and Shakespeare’s heavily fictionalized version – the film goes for the least interesting option: trying to blend the two into one coherent whole, using historical realism to set the scene, but sticking faux-Shakespearean dialogue into the mouths of its actors, who, to their credit, actually make it sound halfway decent – up to a point. Director David Michôd and writer and star Joel Edgerton haven’t made anywhere near enough additions or alterations to the story, and as a result The King often feels like it’s treading on well-worn ground – or rather, sinking in the muddy field of Agincourt, weighed down by plate armor and brooding plot. To put it simply, the movie isn’t particularly fun, and it doesn’t have much room to breathe. But what it lacks in originality of voice, it makes up for with the casting of two stellar performers.

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indiewire.com

Chalamet embodies the young king of England with a stone-cold solemnity that sets the tone for the whole movie – the rest of the movie, however, fails to achieve the same balance of neutrality and watchability as Chalamet does consistently. Rather, the movie itself begins to fall away and fade into fog, while Chalamet’s Henry becomes more clearly defined with each passing minute, until, in its closing scenes, he is the only life it has left. And what life he possesses! Typically seen as a dewy-eyed Hollywood heartthrob, Chalamet is here a gaunt, pale figure with leering eyes that disguise a heart longing for peace in his time – he is at times inspiring (as when he rallies his men for battle on the morn of Agincourt, using dialogue that is nowhere near as impressive as the St. Crispin’s Day speech his character utters in Shakespeare’s play but still sounds good because it’s Timothée Chalamet), or terrifying (as when he confronts his dying father in the latter’s bedchamber, ripping the sheets away from the bed, letting the old man shiver and tremble as the life slips from his body). But he is always a commanding presence onscreen, never rivaled by any of his castmates until Pattinson enters the picture, challenging Chalamet’s calm with a startlingly zany performance that turns The King into one of 2019’s most unexpectedly weird movies.

Pattinson, another actor trying to reshape his image in the public conscious, is a terrifying/hysterically funny revelation in his role as the Dauphin of France. Other reviewers are conflicted about his portrayal of the character, saying he ruins the serious nature of the film, or, alternatively, is its one saving grace. A callous, sadistic idiot, the Dauphin somehow manages to seem like an absolutely credible and formidable force even while being an unabashed peacock, strutting about in fancy black armor, laughing like a maniac and grinning dumbly at his own offensive jokes. But while I personally loved Pattinson’s portrayal, I can easily understand why critics can’t decide whether they love him or hate him – his performance is so deliberately exaggerated that it feels like it must be saying something, or attempting to: but what? If he’s merely trying to insult the French, then at least he’s made Shakespeare happy.

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(Something that struck me in Pattinson’s first scene in The King, while he was busy talking about how he wanted to drain Henry’s body of its blood and bury it under a tiny French tree, was how happy I am that he will be soon be the DCEU’s new Batman: immediately after thinking that, Pattinson turned his head in such a way that it almost appeared that he had elf-ears for a fleeting moment – and that, coupled with his long blond wig, impressive eyebrows and sinuous physicality, made me gasp, pause the movie and go on Twitter to express my regret that Pattinson had not been cast as Sauron in Amazon Prime’s upcoming Lord Of The Rings prequel series. I’m sorry I have to bring everything back to LOTR, but this is something that I cannot now unsee and cannot ever forgive Pattinson or Amazon Prime for: just think of the beautiful young Sauron that might have been, gifted with Pattinson’s charismatic craziness! It would have been perfect).

The supporting cast is okay, though the only other standout is Ben Mendelsohn as the aging King Henry IV. Joel Edgerton’s Falstaff is made out to be the film’s Everyman archetype, but the character is boring and lifeless (and Edgerton’s performance is so tired that it’s hard to tell whether his yawns are in-character or not). Then there’s the Archbishop of Canterbury (Andrew Havill), who I feel deserves a dishonorable mention simply because of how insufferably annoying he managed to be in the five minutes of screen time he possessed. As for female characters – there are a grand total of three. Lily Rose-Depp is merely okay in the role of Catherine of Valois, who only appears in the film’s last twenty minutes and has one scene of importance; her performance is most notable for the fact that Catherine claims at the outset that she can’t speak English and then proceeds to do so anyway for the rest of the scene.

The film suffers greatly from its muted color palette, and cinematography that is, for the most part, drab and uninspiring. The sole exception is the scene in which Henry V’s forces besiege the castle of Harfleur, using massive trebuchets to launch flaming missiles over the fortress walls: who doesn’t love a good trebuchet? They’re far more interesting than catapults, in my honest opinion. And filming them in action also allows for plenty of interesting camera-work, as The King proves beyond a doubt. Beyond that, the film has nothing going for it in terms of visual splendor – there just isn’t any. The splash of somber green we get from the field of Agincourt is a brief respite from the damp grays and browns of Merry Old England – but even that is quickly transformed into a melee of upturned mud, and the filth of violence.

For history buffs (myself included) the legendary battle of Agincourt is what will keep you watching until the end of the movie: and it’s teased in a big fashion, with a single line of dialogue delivered by Pattinson’s Dauphin in one of the most hilariously exaggerated French accents you’ll hear outside of a Loony Tunes sketch, guaranteed to make your skin crawl in anticipation of the inevitable – “Let us make famous that field out there, this little village of Agincourt that will forever mark the sight of your callow disgrace.” I’m glad I watched The King for that line alone – and thankfully the ensuing battle delivers exactly what the film needs: it’s brutally epic, chaotic, and realistic. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drown in mud, then The King is the film for you!

An additional incentive to watch the movie (beyond mud-drownings) is the score by Nicholas Britell, which is stirring and appropriately ominous.

All in all, did I have fun watching The King? No, not exactly. I don’t think it tells the story of Henry V better than any history book can – certainly not better than Shakespeare (and I don’t typically praise Shakespeare). But I do think it’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of either Chalamet or Pattinson, or want to check out a “highbrow” sampling of their work. Just don’t expect too much from the movie itself – it may be called The King, but its crown belongs firmly to its stars.

Movie Rating: 6.9/10

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Marvel On Disney+ – Updates, Rumors And Theories!

Disney+ is speeding towards its launch date on the 12th of this month, and people are already eager to finally have the streaming service and its boatload of content, both old and original, at their fingertips. But those of us who are Marvel fans, and have thus already watched all of the Marvel films that will be on Disney+ about ten times over, are looking much further ahead to when we will finally have original Marvel content to stream on the platform. There are eight Disney+ exclusive miniseries in the works, but all of them are still a long way off. So here I am to tide you over, while you wait, with all the latest updates on Marvel’s venture into the world of streaming.

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variety.com

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: first up is the series which will follow Sam Wilson (“The Falcon”) and Bucky Barnes (“The Winter Soldier”) as they fight evil in the name of the late great Captain America. Rumors suggest that the duo will face off against one of Marvel’s most controversial villains – US Agent John Walker, a Southern conservative who receives the title of Captain America from the US Government after the powers that be decide that Falcon, a black man, isn’t fit to carry the Captain’s shield and legacy. Created in the Reagan era as a warning against hyper-patriotism, Walker is an interesting character to explore, especially given the current political climate. Baron Zemo, first seen in Captain America: Civil War, will also serve as an antagonist in the show, and one of the central plot elements is rumored to be a killer virus that Falcon and Winter Soldier will have to stop from spreading across the United States – it’s unclear what the virus will be, but the Russo Brothers originally planned to use a similar storyline for Civil War, in which Captain America would have to stop the spread of the Madbomb virus, which turns people into mindless, bloodthirsty berserkers: Madbomb could be brought back for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, and would make for a pretty compelling story. Thankfully, we only have to wait until next Autumn to find out how the two superheroes will deal with that onslaught of dangerous threats: the show is currently filming in Atlanta, Georgia.

WandaVision: a direct tie-in to Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, which will release in the summer of 2021, WandaVision will explore the life of Wanda Maximoff after the events of Avengers: Endgame, as she descends into insanity and constructs an elaborate alternate reality for herself and a resurrected version of her dead lover, the Vision. A new rumor suggests that when Vision is brought back to life in the series, he will appear as the White Vision, an alternate version of the character that became very popular in the 1980’s – basically just Vision, but without any human emotions or memories of his past life. The series is also apparently looking to cast two babies, which strongly implies that Wanda Maximoff’s twin children from the comics, the heroes Wiccan and Speed, will make their MCU debuts in this show. WandaVision will probably begin filming fairly soon. Randall Park and Kat Dennings will reprise their roles as comedic relief characters Jimmy Woo and Darcy, respectively, while Teyonah Parris joins the series as Monica Rambeau, whom we last saw as a child in Captain Marvel.

Hawkeye: an upcoming Marvel project that has generated some controversy already is the Hawkeye miniseries which will focus on the current Hawkeye, Clint Barton, and the future one, Kate Bishop. Jeremy Renner, who plays Barton in the MCU, has been the target of a whole bunch of allegations from his ex-wife recently, accusing him of physical and emotional abuse. There’s still no official word on whether or not Renner will remain as the star of the series, though reliable sources have hinted that Disney has considered recasting the actor if the allegations are true. According to Marvel executive Trinh Tran, one major element for the series will be explaining Barton’s origins: presumably his time as a circus performer, and then as an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. – maybe even another tantalizing reference to the infamous Budapest incident. The series doesn’t have a production start date, but will release in Autumn of 2021. Hawkeye is just a boring character in general, though (at least, in my opinion), so no one is really too upset that we have to wait a little longer for this series. Just sayin’.

Ms. Marvel: speaking of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a prominent member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team could be joining the MCU through the Ms. Marvel series. The show, which will start production in April of next year, has just hired Krista Husar, the casting director from the ABC TV series Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, leading to speculation that Ms. Marvel might be looking to cast actress Chloe Bennet, who plays Inhuman heroine Daisy Johnson on S.H.I.E.L.D., in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: it could be a stretch, but it would make sense story-wise, since Ms. Marvel is already rumored to include multiple Inhuman characters, including the Royal Family of Attilan, and, of course, Ms. Marvel herself. Marvel is currently looking for an actress to play the shape-shifting teenager, and is now casting her entire family, including her parents Yusuf and Muneeba, and her brother Amir. A villain is also reportedly being cast for the series – and here’s where I want to take a moment to just admire the fact that, if the rumors are reliable, then Disney+’s roster of characters will be weirder than anything we’ve seen from the MCU before: because apparently the villain that Marvel is looking to cast is none other than (bear with me here) The Inventor – a clone of legendary genius Thomas Edison who, due to an accident with his DNA, ends up becoming an anthropomorphic bird-man hybrid who operates out of Bayonne, New Jersey. Between that and Ms. Marvel herself being a walking rubber-band, this series is shaping up to be…interesting, to say the least. Even Ms. Marvel’s original creator, G. Willow Wilson, is afraid the lead character will lookreally creepy” in the live-action format.

Moon Knight: finally, the Moon Knight series is also getting off to a good start, with casting underway for a Jewish actor to portray troubled antihero Marc Spector, the former CIA mercenary who becomes the unwitting servant of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu (these premises are crazy!). And a recent rumor indicates that Marvel is looking to adapt another absolutely bonkers villain for the small-screen story: Stained Glass Scarlet, the psychic, crossbow-wielding ninja nun/vigilante/former prison guard who kills her own son after he turns to a life of crime, and forms a telepathic bond with Spector through his dreams, is apparently destined for a place in the series as a lead antagonist. In the comics, she has something close to a redemption arc, in which Spector learns to pity her, and eventually allows her to escape from the police. How much of that will be transferred over to live-action is still unclear.

At this point I can only imagine what the casting calls will be like for series’ such as She-Hulk or Loki. It looks like Disney+ will be home to some of the wackiest heroes and villains from the Marvel Comics, and I hope to hear of more in the near future: from the reality-bending antics of WandaVision to the polymorphous weirdness of Ms. Marvel, it looks like there’s plenty of room for more insanely unique storylines on the small screen.

So what do you think? Share your own thoughts and theories in the comments below!

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Bee Gees Biopic In Development At Paramount!

I’ve gotta get a message to you, dear film-aficionado: get your fancasts ready, jive to the sweet sounds of 70’s pop, and rejoice – the Bee Gees, one of the world’s most beloved and recognizable music groups, are finally getting their own movie. Following the huge success of films like Bohemian Rhapsody (the Academy-Award winning Queen biopic), and Rocketman (the Academy-Award hopeful and Elton John biopic), and the promise of more to come (a…Boy George biopic?), the Bee Gees, whose personal lives are a dramatic and compelling story of triumph and heartbreak, accompanied by an upbeat disco soundtrack, were inevitably going to end up on the big screen at some point – nonetheless, it’s very exciting to see it happen in the lifetime of Barry Gibb, the last surviving member of the band (Maurice died in 2003 of medical complications at the age of 53, while Robin died from cancer in 2012, aged 62).

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bbc.co.uk

It’s also exciting that Paramount will be the ones to make the film. While that’s not entirely surprising (they are, after all, the studio that brought you Rocketman, mentioned above), it is especially fitting since it was a Paramount movie, Saturday Night Fever, that helped to turn the Bee Gees into the household name they are today: the film’s soundtrack, for which the group wrote iconic songs such as “Stayin’ Alive”, became the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time upon its release in 1977 and, in the words of music supervisor Bill Oakes, “breathed new life into a genre that was actually dying”. And now, perhaps because of that fateful union of film and music, the Bee Gees themselves will be stayin’ alive in the memory of filmgoers for years to come. It brings a tear to the eye, that’s for sure.

Paramount has bought the rights to the story of Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, and all of their music, and Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King is already attached to the film. So, while Paramount searches for a writer and director, it’s time for us fans to start considering who should be cast in the lead roles (since, obviously, that’s the most important question). Share your suggestions in the comments below!

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“The Witcher” Main Trailer Review!

Henry Cavill is intent on making us believe that he’s rocking that silly silver wig – and you know what? He’s actually doing a pretty good job of that.

That may be, at least in part, because he actually has dialogue and substantial scenes in this trailer, as opposed to the first teaser for this hotly-anticipated Netflix release – which now has a release date of December 20th. Netflix obviously hopes that The Witcher, with its fast-paced action, alluring premise and tons and tons of magic, will appeal to fantasy fans – especially that crucial contingent of unhappy Game Of Thrones ex-fans who might be too impatient to wait for HBO’s upcoming Thrones prequel, House Of The Dragon. It would be a big win for Netflix as the streaming wars heat up and HBO prepares to launch its own streaming platform, HBO Max.

Henry Cavill himself has a personal stake in Netflix’s war against Warner Brothers (and, by extension, HBO), having been unceremoniously ousted from the role of Superman – a bit of a thankless role these days. Cavill is clearly having more fun chewing on the dramatic, darker material he’s been granted with The Witcher than he ever had with the goofy glasses of Clark Kent – speaking of chewing, we learn in this trailer that Cavill’s character, protagonist and anti-hero Geralt of Rivia, had his fangs filed down, which is…cool, I guess? Creepy? By Cavill’s line-reading, it would seem he intended it to sound vaguely seductive (hey, am I going to sit here and say he’s the greatest actor to ever walk the planet? No, but I do think it’s admirable that he’s landed himself a big role and is clearly taking it seriously, even though his performance does occasionally appear a bit counter-intuitive to that goal, at least based off these trailers – trailers which also do nothing to convincingly sell the idea that Cavill is a natural platinum-blonde).

Cavill’s co-stars are a diverse and intriguing cast of characters: Freya Allen as Ciri has a charming, ever-so-slightly hobbit-y look to her; and Anya Chalotra is every inch a sorceress in the role of Yennefer – both characters, whose backstories have only been hinted at before in Witcher novels and video games, will be major players in the Netflix series. And, considering how cool and powerful they seem to be, that’s probably not a bad thing: Yennefer especially seems to have a great deal of dark magic up the sleeves of her impressive fur-coat.

All in all, the series looks good – with a definite focus on delivering a dark blend between horror (sort of: I don’t know about you, but the CGI monster we catch a glimpse of at 0:22 isn’t all that terrifying), nonstop action (with magic!), and political intrigue (okay, I love political intrigue stories, so sign me up for ten hours of palace drama, royal squabbles, and stunningly beautiful costume design).

What are your thoughts on The Witcher trailer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 7.9/10

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