The 92nd Academy Awards: Review!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ceremony Rating: 7.9/10

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter 8” Review!

The final episode of The Mandalorian‘s first season on Disney+ is quite appropriately titled Redemption – for not only does the title work in-universe, but it’s also an amusingly apt reflection on the fact that Redemption very literally redeems the slow-paced series’ many mishaps. The plot itself often seemed like an afterthought while Mando (Pedro Pascal) and his tiny, adorable sidekick Baby Yoda traveled the galaxy, stopping in at random planets to marvel at the visual spectacle and meet new friends – or enemies. But in the season finale, masterfully directed by Taika Waititi, the story is rich, thrilling, entertaining and emotional; the characters feel more fleshed-out than they have appeared previously; and, most importantly, Baby Yoda is the cutest we’ve seen him yet.

And that’s all I’ll say in the non-spoilers section. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, but plan to, then turn away now! SPOILERS AHEAD!

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The finale is chock-full of plot twists and gasp-out-loud revelations, but none more bewildering than the fact that Taika Waititi, who has never directed a Star Wars property previously, is somehow able to ease into the director’s chair for Redemption with all the graceful assurance of Dave Filoni, who at first glance would seem the natural choice to bring this series home to its epic (and thankfully, only temporary) conclusion. Waititi’s work here is surprisingly understated: you’d be hard-pressed to find any clues that this episode comes from the mind that brought you crazy, colorful comedies like Thor: Ragnarok or Jojo Rabbit (though it is amusingly unsurprising that the finale stars Waititi’s own character, assassin turned nurse droid IG-11, in a particularly prominent role). Obviously, directing a single good episode of TV doesn’t warrant immediately getting a three-picture deal with Lucasfilm, but hey, why not give Waititi a shot at his very own Star Wars trilogy?

Another surprise that boggled my mind, at least, was that Mandalorians are cool – for what I feel is the first time, despite everyone else in the world idolizing the very ground that Boba Fett walks upon. And one of the coolest things about them (apart from jetpacks and flamethrowers) is that they’re not a specific race of people, as Cara Dune (Gina Carano) reveals during an emotional moment in the episode: they’re a creed. Not only does it reinforce a particularly Rian Johnson theme in Disney’s Star Wars, that anyone can be a Mandalorian without having to have been born one, but it also makes the Mandalorians seem a lot more noble – in an extended flashback sequence which haunts our protagonist’s mind, we witness a squad of the flying, armored warriors acting as human shields for wounded refugees trying to escape from brutal droid-warfare: and it is revealed that during this battle, a young orphaned boy named Din Djarin was rescued by these Mandalorians and taken to safety with them – that boy was our very own “Mando”, whom I guess we can finally call Din Djarin? We’ve actually known that name for a while (Pedro Pascal ever-so-slightly spoiled it last month), but it’s only now canon, meaning I can only now use it. Yes, the Mandalorians are still vaguely cultish, and more than a little creepy, but at least they’re not solely defined by characters like Jango and Boba Fett anymore, or even just the term of “bounty hunter”. Djarin’s other biggest secret, his face, was also finally revealed in this episode…and, well, it’s Pedro Pascal’s face. I’m not entirely sure what we were all expecting, but honestly, that reveal was a bit underwhelming. It’s not like his face was even altered in any way: he didn’t have any scars or third-degree burns to speak of, no missing eyes or other distinguishing facial features. Not even a different hair color.

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Djarin’s secrets weren’t the only ones brought to light: IG-11 is revealed to have been entirely reformed by Kuiil’s repairs, riding in to rescue Baby Yoda from a couple of monstrous stormtroopers who amuse themselves by punching and mocking the adorable little infant – the droid then straps The Child into a baby-backpack and goes on a killing spree around Nevarro, mowing down stormtroopers. He later sacrifices himself to rescue the whole team, self-destructing and blowing an entire legion of enemies sky-high. Baby Yoda himself is given his own hero moment when he faces down a flamethrower-wielding stormtrooper and deflects the attacker’s fire back at him: there’s a couple more reveals about his character, but I need to address those separately. Then there’s Cara Dune, whose home planet is revealed to be Alderaan (Princess Leia’s planet, infamously blown to pieces by the Death Star in A New Hope), thus explaining her undying grudge against the Empire. Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) turns out to have been an ex-Imperial himself, though that big secret falls a little flat due to the fact that we barely even know Karga, and have always been on-the-fence about whether or not to trust him and his Bounty Hunters Guild, anyway.

The person doing a lot of this dramatic-revealing is none other than Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), who is being set up to be the series’ big bad, and Din Djarin’s arch-nemesis. Gideon toys with his victims as they shelter in the burnt-out rubble of Werner Herzog’s lair, spilling their secrets to the world and promising them tantalizingly good deals if they’ll only hand over Baby Yoda. We never do find out what Gideon or Herzog wanted with The Child (and, come to think of it, we never even found out Herzog’s character name or purpose in the story, before he was unceremoniously murdered in the assault on his hideout), but considering how despicably evil Gideon is revealed to be, I’m going to assume it’s not because either of them just wanted cuddles and hugs. Gideon is also shown to have an alarmingly dangerous arsenal: not only can his tiny little handgun pierce through beskar steel, but the Moff is also a trained TIE-fighter pilot capable of handling his own in a dogfight. Oh yeah, and he just so happens to be in possession of the one black lightsaber in the entire galaxy, no biggie.

The lightsaber in question, better known as the Darksaber, has never been seen in live-action before this day, though it was seen in the animated series, Star Wars Rebels, which gave us a couple clues about the saber’s history. It was crafted by Tarre Vizsla, the first Mandalorian Jedi, during the reign of the Old Republic, and has since meandered across the universe, through the hands of a number of notable peoples and individuals, including the belligerent Mandalorian Clan Vizsla (to whose ranks Din Djarin appears to belong), the legendary Sith Lord Darth Maul, and Nite Owls leader Bo-Katan, who was the last known person to wield the blade, almost a decade before we seen Moff Gideon crawl from the wreckage of his TIE-fighter with the weapon in hand. The Darksaber is something of a mystical item, bestowing upon its wielder the title of Mand’alor, or leader of the Mandalorians – Gideon certainly has a fascination with the religious order, having been personally involved with eradicating them during the Great Purge and keeping tabs on those who survived. And now that he’s back on his feet, we can safely assume Din Djarin and Baby Yoda won’t be safe from his murderous rage anytime soon.

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But for the moment, Din has a more urgent problem to worry about: while visiting his old friend The Armorer (Emily Swallow), he was gifted a number of odds-and-ends, including his very own jetpack, a personal sigil, and custody over Baby Yoda – which, apparently, is something that The Armorer can just hand out to anybody she feels like. But there’s a catch: while she tells Djarin to protect and train the baby (and even bestows upon them a title, the “Clan of Two”, which seems to hint at Star Wars’ common theme of duality), she also instructs him to seek out the child’s people – it’s not clearly indicated whether she’s referring specifically to Baby Yoda’s birth-family, or the Jedi in general, but it’s obvious that this will be a central plot-point in the series’ second season. But honestly, as much as we all want to see a whole planet of Baby Yodas, I think I’m just as excited to see The Child training as a Mandalorian – just so long as Din Djarin doesn’t try to make him wear a ridiculous helmet of his own: Baby Yoda’s adorable, expressive little puppet-face will not be hidden from the world, not if I and the internet have anything to say about the matter.

For the record, I think there’s a decent chance that we do actually see the home-planet of The Child’s species in The Mandalorian, and that the Jedi sage Yaddle will be revealed to be his mother. I know, I know, Yaddle is presumed dead – but there’s never been any conclusive evidence that that is the case, and honestly, she deserves so much more recognition than she gets. You know what, I’m just gonna say it: I think Yaddle is a better character than Yoda. Come at me, Yoda stans!

We’ve been left with a number of pressing questions from the season finale, but a bunch of mysteries have also been resolved, and we’ve left Din Djarin and Baby Yoda in a good place, all things considered. What did you think of the finale? Are you excited for Season 2? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 9/10

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“The Mandalorian: Chapter 7” Review!

Minor SPOILERS For Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Ahead!

The penultimate installment in The Mandalorian‘s (sometimes) epic journey dropped last Wednesday, so as to avoid having to compete with Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker‘s Friday release date, but I am only just getting around to reviewing the suspenseful episode today. And I’m pleased to announce that, while the series has moved too slowly up until now, director Deborah Chow once again manages to send a jolt of tension into the story’s creaking mechanics just in time for the season finale.

The episode opens with The Mandalorian (voiced by Pedro Pascal: it was revealed recently that Pascal himself only occasionally portrays the masked and armored mercenary physically) receiving an urgent message telling him to return to the city of Nevarro with his precious cargo, the adorable Baby Yoda. But Mando, still finding time for detours in all the chaos and fast-paced action, first makes brief stops to two other planets to recruit former ally Cara Dune (Gina Carano) as additional muscle, and blurg-herder Kuiil (Nick Nolte) as a babysitter for The Child. But things don’t go entirely according to plan, and everything that happens next is one big spoiler – and for once, I actually mean that. This episode actually does have some twists and turns, and one shocking cliffhanger ending.

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The first big surprise comes when Baby Yoda uses the Force to try and choke Cara Dune as she arm-wrestles the Mandalorian on his ship. The action is undeniably defensive on the Baby’s part, as he was obviously just trying to protect Mando from what he thought was real physical harm, but it still leaves the audience reeling: yes, Baby Yoda is capable of actually killing someone with the Force already, and isn’t afraid to use his powers. Not much later, he uses the Force to heal a wound dealt to Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) in a battle with giant bats. This is even more alarming than the Force-choke incident – Baby Yoda is one of only two (possibly three) characters in the current Star Wars canon to possess Force-healing abilities, the other(s?) being revealed in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. That would seem to suggest that Baby Yoda is very powerful and very unique, and it’s no wonder that the Empire wants him – we just don’t know what they plan to do with him.

But we will find out soon enough: after entering Nevarro and finding the city overrun with ex-Imperial stormtroopers, Mando, Karga and Dune come face-to-face with Werner Herzog’s mysterious character, still known only as The Client, while Kuiil takes Baby Yoda and rides as fast as possible back to the Mandalorian’s ship. But while Mando’s plan initially seems to be successful, as he guns down an entire squadron of stormtroopers and seemingly kills Herzog’s character, Kuiil isn’t so lucky. Stormtroopers intercept the mustachioed alien’s communications with Mando and hunt him down even as he tries to escape: the episode leaves us with a heartbreaking final shot of Kuiil’s tiny body, still smoking from a fatal laser blast, lying just a few feet from the spaceship. And Baby Yoda? The stormtroopers have him in their grasp.

Mando and his little team aren’t in great shape either, going into the finale. Their story leaves off with them barricaded inside Herzog’s lair, while dozens of stormtroopers surround them on all sides – far more than the “four” bodyguards that Karga had warned them about going into the mission. And that’s not even the worst of it: arriving in a majestic Imperial TIE-fighter, resplendent in military uniform, is Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) a new character to the Star Wars universe, but not wholly unfamiliar either: A New Hope introduced fans to Peter Cushing as the menacing Grand Moff Tarkin, commander of the first Death Star, and there have been a couple other “Moffs” here and there, grand or otherwise. Gideon, with his battalion of special death-troopers, certainly looks like one of the ex-Empire’s most senior officials. Whatever he is, his intentions are clear: he wants Baby Yoda, and, knowing the Moffs, he’s probably prepared to blow up the entire city of Nevarro to get his hands on the adorable little creature – I mean, can we blame him? Poor guy’s probably been scouring the internet for good-quality Baby Yoda plushies and has finally snapped and gone after the real deal. That’s a perfectly legitimate villain origin story.

Other highlights from the tense episode include the return of IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), the assassin droid whom Mando slew in the very first episode. Kuiil reveals that he found and repaired the droid, and that the former bounty hunter no longer remembers his past life of brutality and violence, and is now a willing servant, farmhand and waiter. But the droid’s eerie interactions with his killer suggest that maybe IG-11 is just waiting for his chance to strike.

As we wait for the eighth and final episode in the series, I think it’s about time we started considering how many of our pressing questions can logically be answered in a forty-minute finale: will we learn who Baby Yoda is, and what the Empire wants with him? Will we learn anything about the state of the Empire at this point in time, and will it help to clarify certain elements of The Rise Of Skywalker? Will more of the Mandalorian’s former friends and enemies make an appearance one last time, or will it just be him, Dune, Karga and Yoda against the world? Will Mando remove his mask, give us a hint of his shadowy backstory, or explain why he hates droids so much? Was it Moff Gideon who approached Fennec Shand’s body on the sands of Tatooine in Episode 5, or was that another, as yet unknown character? We’ve got a lot of questions, and Episode 7, aptly titled The Reckoning, has only added more to the mix.

Fingers crossed that the finale can answer at least a couple of them.

Episode Rating: 8/10

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“Free Guy” Trailer Review!

A lot of people thought Ryan Reynolds’s signature brand of crazy, edgy, meta humor would be suffocated under the Disney label, but the first trailer for his comedy action movie Free Guy proves that Reynolds isn’t going to be easily dissuaded from doing whatever he wants – including poking fun at the Mouse House in the first few moments of the trailer: the opening title cards read “From the studio that brought you Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, followed after a beat by “Twice”). And from there on out, Free Guy looks like a wildly fun, unabashedly ridiculous movie that fans of Reynolds will love.

Reynolds plays an NPC (non-playable character) named Guy, trying to live his life in the background of a gigantic, action-packed video game filled with explosions, car/motorcycle/helicopter/fighter plane crashes, and daily heists and hostage crises at the bank where he works. But one day, he can’t take it anymore, and sets out to change his tiresome routine by becoming the hero of his virtual reality. So basically this movie is what would happen if Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph and 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool had a baby – or rather, it is what happens when Disney and 20th Century Fox merge and start making movies together.

The trailer looks comedic and entertaining in a 90’s sort of way, with catchy music, bright colors, and a familiar cast of characters. It looks fun: nothing more, nothing less. I had been expecting something a little more unpredictable, but what we’ve got looks good enough for right now.

Trailer Rating: 6.9/10

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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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“The Mandalorian” Trailer Review!

The Mandalorian, which is being hailed as a “visionary” new chapter in the Star Wars saga, has a lot of responsibility on its caped shoulders: as the flagship original series for Disney+, it needs to pull in viewers fast, and hold their attention across a span of several weeks. Does its second – and presumably final – trailer succeed in attracting customers to the new streaming platform?

Well….

I’ll say this: if you were already hooked by The Mandalorian after the first trailer, I assume this trailer will pique your interest even further. But this isn’t the type of trailer that tries to expand the prospective demographic; it doesn’t reach out to a new target audience or even tease any big reveals that could entice general audiences. No, if you like Star Wars – you’re going to have to watch this show. If not…well, I guess there’s always that Lady & The Tramp remake.

Even for Star Wars fans, this trailer doesn’t really have a whole lot to say: it’s mostly just quick glimpses of hand-to-hand action and a couple of important-looking-people walking around, zooming across the desert on little hoverbikes, etc. Nothing too revolutionary. It does promise a bit of backstory for the First Order, and it shows us what the galaxy was like in the days after the return of the Jedi (based on the trailers, I’d say it seems to be relatively the same as it always was, except without nearly as many storm-troopers – since a lot of them have seemingly been killed by the native populations of the planets they subjugated, and have had their heads mounted on spears. Yep, this is just your average family-friendly Star Wars adventure!)

But maybe that’s all on purpose. Rumors say that The Mandalorian is loaded with spoilers, so much so that Disney won’t even be showing episodes of the series to the press before its premiere on Disney+ launch day, November 12th. Perhaps we’ve seen so little because there’s so much that can’t be shown yet. Fingers crossed, right?

So what do you think of the trailer? Share your own thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 5.9/10

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Is There Any Chance Of Hela Returning?

It’s time for a Marvel theory, because we haven’t done one in a little while, and because I don’t really know what there is to say about the fact that a Love, Simon series is coming to Disney+, and I don’t want to get embroiled in the catastrophic mess that is Disney’s live-action Mulan, unless I absolutely have to. So, instead, let’s talk about something nice – the Goddess of Death.

The last time we saw Marvel’s iteration of the iconic villainess Hela (portrayed by legendary actress Cate Blanchett), she was being crushed under the weight of the fiery giant Surtur, and the crumbling wreckage of Asgard at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. As if that wasn’t enough, the entire planet around her then blew up, to the point where it would be entirely possible to ever rebuild, at least according to Korg, the helpful blue rock-monster. So, the general consensus among fans is that whatever remains of Hela is floating somewhere in the frozen void of space. But is it that simple?

According to Cate Blanchett, the character doesn’t have to be permanently dead, and she’s perfectly willing to reprise the role, if director Taika Waititi allows. What with everything else supposedly going on in the fourth Thor movie, Thor: Love And Thunder (two versions of Thor, Valkyrie looking for a girlfriend, possibly a last hurrah from Loki himself) it might be difficult to find a place for the Ragnarok villain, but there’s a few ways that it could work.

Firstly, there wouldn’t need to be any elaborate explanation for how she survived. She’s the Goddess of Death. Maybe she physically can’t die – and if she did, wouldn’t that pose a problem for all the dishonorable dead, who would now lack an overlord? Is her fiefdom now leaderless? What’s happening down in Hel? Honestly, it’s better to just say that Hela survived the destruction of Asgard, fled back to Hel (since she wouldn’t have anywhere else to go), and is now either scheming over some new plan, or has begrudgingly made peace with Thor, her younger brother – even though she kind of killed a large part of his population, cut out his eye, destroyed his homeland and set into motion the tragic events of Avengers: Infinity War. It’s not hard to imagine: take a look at Hela’s Wikipedia page and count how many times people are being brought back to life either by her, or because of her.

So what would she be up to, in the post-Endgame world? Well, it’s obviously too late to have her fill the role of Mistress Death, Thanos’ one true love and divine muse; something that fans had wanted to see. But she could have a few tricks up her sleeve, still.

The one that seems most likely to me, not only because it’s fun but because this is a Taika Waititi movie, and that man is absolutely insane (in a good way), is a storyline from some of the more recent Thor comics, in which the Goddess of Death sets up shop in Las Vegas, Nevada, opening a lair for criminals called the Inferno Club – not to be confused with the Hellfire Club, also from Marvel comics. Here, Hela has met and plotted with some of the greatest villains in the cosmos, including Loki, Mephisto, and even Dormammu (remember him, from Doctor Strange?). Her stories on earth have mostly revolved around her trying to foil the plans of the New Mutants, including Magik and Dani Moonstar, so it provides an opportunity for some X-Men cameos or namedrops. And who wouldn’t pay the price of admission just to see Cate Blanchett, decked out in the character’s campy black-and-green attire and lofty antlers, managing a casino?

As for how she could be tied into the plot, well, that might rely on everyone’s favorite God of Mischief, who may or may not be returning for the final Thor film. If he does come back, it will be a very different Loki than the one who was killed by Thanos in Infinity War: this Loki would be the one who escaped through an alternate reality in Endgame, still very much a villain – i.e., the exact type of person who would get lured into Hela’s club, and who might even strike a deal with his evil sister, if he hasn’t reformed by that time.

So there you have it: a perfectly good, and perfectly Waititi, way to bring the Goddess of Death back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What do you think? Will Blanchett make a return to the role? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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“Thor: Love And Thunder” Adds A New Thor!

That title possibly counts as clickbait. No, Chris Hemsworth is not being replaced in the role of the thunder-god Thor. But he will be joined by a new Thor in his upcoming fourth film, which was officially revealed last night at Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con presentation.

First of all, let’s just talk about the fact that the titles revealed at SDCC are some of the craziest, most over-the-top names I’ve ever heard – Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings; Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness; WandaVision. But it’s this one, Thor: Love And Thunder, that takes the cake and eats it too. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from director Taika Waititi, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let him be crazy, because he does it really well, and it’s brought about some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most memorable moments – like Jeff Goldblum strutting around in a sparkly gold bathrobe, or Cate Blanchett with antlers, or…literally everything in Thor: Ragnarok, honestly. But Waititi’s craziness also meant that, when he took over the Thor franchise, he basically had to change a lot of stuff in order to make it work for him – victims of his beautifully bizarre style included the Warriors Three, Odin, and Jane Foster.

Now, technically, Jane Foster’s sudden disappearance from the MCU wasn’t really his fault. Actress Natalie Portman had played the one-dimensional “scientist girlfriend” character in two films already, and had been reduced to a damsel in distress on multiple occasions. She was bored with the character, she had no interest in the stagnant franchise, and she wanted out. She got out. So out, in fact, that it was something of a miracle when she “appeared” in Avengers: Endgame via recycled footage from Thor: The Dark World, and was even given her own title-card in the film’s credits. It seemed almost like an apology to the character that Marvel had overlooked, ignored, and eventually had to scrap because of their creative mistakes. In Thor: Ragnarok, she didn’t even get that – just a brief line from Thor about how she had broken up with him, and that was it. It wasn’t long before the god of thunder was making eyes at Valkyrie, the alcoholic warrior goddess/mercenary.

Well, two things have happened since then: one, Valkyrie is now openly bisexual, and has no interest in Thor, despite his flirtatious advances. Actress Tessa Thompson has made that clear in the past, but she confirmed it onstage last night, with Marvel president Kevin Feige’s approval, and Feige commented afterwards that Valkyrie will indeed be in a relationship with another woman in Thor: Love And Thunder. In fact, Thompson suggested that Valkyrie will be actively searching for a Queen to rule alongside her as she leads the people of New Asgard into an uncertain future.

The other big thing? Oh yeah, Natalie Portman is returning to the MCU for Thor: Love And Thunder, and, oh right, she’s still playing Jane Foster but this is Jane Foster as female Thor, and, I almost forgot to mention, she can wield Mjolnir now, and I am honestly about to pass out.

It was shock-and-awe last night: when Natalie Portman came onstage to accept the Hammer of Thor from Taika Waititi, Marvel fans around the world were absolutely flabbergasted. Certain fans went online to cheer and applaud the brave decision; others went online to complain bitterly about feminists taking over the MCU. The reaction to this has been incredible to watch. It was easily one of the biggest highlights of the presentation: Portman is obviously excited to be back, and this time she (and we) can be assured that she’s not going to be anybody’s boring-love-interest-sidekick – nope, this time around, she’s a superhero in her own right. It remains to be seen whether or not Waititi will adapt some of the other aspects of Jane Foster’s character from the comics: specifically, the fact that she is diagnosed with cancer and eventually passes away. Waititi is capable of inserting powerful emotion into his generally funny stories, as the death of Odin in Thor: Ragnarok proves.

Finally, yes, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor will still be in the movie, though there’s not actually any confirmation of whether or not the “Thor” in the title refers to him or Lady Thor. We’ll presumably find out when the films arrives in theaters November 5th, 2021.

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Taika Waititi To Direct “Thor 4”!

It’s official: Marvel’s Phase 4 line-up will include a fourth chapter in the saga of Norse thunder-god Thor Odinson, continuing on from what was previously believed to be the character’s final solo outing back in 2017, in Thor: Ragnarok. This is huge news – presumably, Marvel wanted to keep it secret for just a few days longer until they could reveal it at San Diego Comic Con, but word has gotten out prematurely.

This is something that a lot of fans have been pushing for, ever since Ragnarok, which proved to be Thor’s most popular film by far, both critically and financially. New Zealand director Taika Waititi brought a fun, zany flair to the character and invigorated what had been one of Marvel’s more stagnant franchises, paving the way for Thor’s hugely expanded role in Avengers: Infinity War, and in Avengers: Endgame. Chris Hemsworth is expected to return to the role, having already admitted that he wants to continue making Thor films, and that he, Waititi, and fellow co-star Tessa Thompson, have all discussed the possibility of a fourth film. Waititi has also been attached to Thor 4, and has in turn delayed production for his live-action Akira anime adaptation for Warner Brothers (poor WB).

As for the plot, that is still completely unknown, but there’s a lot of theories. Thor is expected to at least have a supporting role in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie, since he joined their team at the end of Avengers: Endgame and was already thinking about renaming the group the “Asgardians of the Galaxy” – something which Guardians director James Gunn has already said won’t be happening: then again, considering that Gunn was recently fired from Disney and is still recovering from his own scandals, he really shouldn’t be calling the shots. But anyway, anything could happen in that film that could affect the plot of a Thor 4.

Another thing to consider is that a fourth film for Thor might not be set in his established homeland of Asgard (since it was destroyed), or even New Asgard, his colony on Earth (since he went off to space). And it also might not include much of the character’s usual supporting cast: aside from Thompson’s character Valkyrie, the rest of them are all kind of…dead. Odin is dead, Loki is dead, the Warriors Three are dead, Heimdall is dead, Lady Sif is just gone, Jane Foster isn’t coming back because Natalie Portman doesn’t want to come back, Hela is supposedly dead (though she’s the Goddess of Death, so I don’t know how that works). This could open the possibility of Thor starting over completely from scratch and gathering an entirely new cast, or it might mean that some of these characters will have to be resurrected. In the case of Loki, that’s not impossible: the trickster god is getting his own Disney Plus series, which suggests that his death in Infinity War was not entirely permanent. As for Hela, she was such a formidable villain, and Cate Blanchett is such an incredible onscreen presence, it seems a waste not to bring her back (especially since we never got to see her as Lady Death, something fans were hoping for before Infinity War came out). Maybe we could even get Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster to return for a brief cameo.

So what do you want to see? Are you happy that Waititi is returning to direct the film? How do you think Warner Brothers must feel about this? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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“Avengers: Infinity Wars” Movie Review!

With Avengers: Endgame only a few days away, it makes sense to revisit the first part of the Infinity Saga – Avengers: Infinity Wars, one of the greatest movies of the past year and the beginning of the end of the current phase of the MCU. This movie is such a monolith of pop culture that it could be easy to overlook the fact that, first and foremost, it’s a film just like any other, and should be reviewed as such. So here’s my comprehensive and complete analysis of everything in Avengers: Infinity Wars that you need to remember before going into Avengers: Endgame, plus everything you need to know about Infinity Wars itself, as a film.

SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity Wars ahead. Obviously.

So, in case, you’ve forgotten everything that happened (how could you?), we’ll start out with a brief summary of events: the film picks up where the 2017 film Thor: Ragnarok left off, with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) among the last survivors of an attack on their spaceship. It is soon revealed that the attackers are led by none other than the Mad Titan Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin), who is hunting for the six incredibly powerful Infinity Stones that have been scattered across the universe. Having already been armed with the Power Stone, Thanos is able to force Loki to divulge the location of his next target, the Space Stone – which, unsurprisingly, turns out to be in Loki’s possession. During the ensuing fight, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) gets sent hurtling off into space, headed for earth, and Loki gets strangled by Thanos. The spaceship blows up (with Thor inside, still cradling his dead brother’s body), and Thanos and his minions go their separate ways, pursuing the other Stones.

This opening scene is fantastic: it sets the mood for the rest of the film (grim and tragic), and kills off two characters very quickly – Loki, and Thor’s best friend Heimdall (Idris Elba). It also sets up some important questions for Avengers: Endgame – (1) is Loki really dead? (2) What happened to two other characters, Valkyrie and Korg, who were on that spaceship before the attack? (3) Is this whole thing really Thor’s story?

These questions don’t have answers yet, but there are a number of good theories out there: (1) Loki was holding the Space Stone during the fight, so it’s possible he was able to use it to escape across the galaxy, leaving a clone of himself to die. (2) It has been confirmed that Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) escaped the attack, and that she will be returning for Avengers: Endgame – it’s still a mystery where she went, though, or what her purpose in Endgame could be. The fate of Korg (voiced by Taika Waititi) remains unknown. (3) This question has been asked a lot. Infinity Wars starts with Thor, and it ends with Thor (more on that later). The heroic Asgardian god doesn’t actually have very much to do throughout the film, but in Infinity Wars he was undeniably the only Avenger with a clear motive to stop Thanos. And it’s worth noting that Infinity Wars and Endgame are just two halves of one movie, according to the directors, Joe and Anthony Russo. If Thor was the protagonist in the first half, will that carry through into the second? I’d suspect not. While Thor is a crucial member of the team, Endgame truly belongs to Iron Man and Captain America. That’s my opinion, and you’ll see why in a minute.

But enough about Endgame! Back to Infinity Wars: so we follow the Hulk as he crashes through the earth’s atmosphere and rips a hole through the roof of the New York Sanctum, interrupting a conversation between Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) about deli food and metaphysics – the Hulk, however, has now turned back into his human self, Bruce Banner, and is babbling about Thanos. Strange and Banner decide to awkwardly interrupt an intimate moment between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). They themselves are then interrupted by Thanos’ minions landing in New York City, looking for the Time Stone, which just happens to be owned by Doctor Strange himself. This alien invasion also interrupts a certain school field-trip to MOMA, during which Peter Parker (Tom Holland) escapes out of a school-bus window and goes to help Tony Stark. Things don’t exactly turn out well, however, and Doctor Strange gets captured and sucked into a spaceship, where alien telepath Ebony Maw (voiced by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) attempts to perform surgery on him but is interrupted by Tony and Peter, who have crept aboard the spaceship. Using techniques learned from Aliens and a good amount of help from Doctor Strange’s magical cloak, the heroes manage to toss Ebony Maw out into the freezing depths of space, and hijack the ship.

And, of course, there are more hints about Endgame here too: most notably the fact that after Tony gets on the alien spaceship, he makes a call to Pepper – as the connection goes out, Pepper tells him either “I’m going to-,” or “I’m going too-“. The latter seems more likely when one takes into consideration that Gwyneth Paltrow posted a photo of herself from the Avengers: Endgame set wearing a superhero suit. Could we see Pepper suit up and fly off into space to follow Tony in Endgame, or is she going somewhere else? Or is it just a misdirection?

Now, obviously, we’ve still only discussed Thor and Tony Stark, and Infinity Wars wouldn’t be much of an Avengers film without Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye – which is exactly why Infinity Wars is not a proper Avengers film in my opinion. Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) get maybe five or six minutes of screentime each, while Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) doesn’t show up at all. Instead, we get a fast but admittedly impressive fight scene in Scotland as Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) defends her robot boyfriend Vision (Paul Bettany) from getting a certain Mind Stone ripped out of his forehead by Thanos’ minions, who interrupt them during a romantic moment – what is with all the interruptions in this movie? Nobody can finish a conversation without having magic doctors pop out of portals or aliens stab them through the chest! Thankfully, Captain America and Black Widow spend their five minutes of screentime rescuing Scarlet Witch and Vision and then ferrying them to the nation of Wakanda, where they hope the genius inventor Shuri (Letitia Wright) can separate the Mind Stone from Vision’s body by non-life threatening surgical methods.

By now, the plot is literally jumping everywhere in the universe. The Guardians of the Galaxy find Thor still alive, floating in space, and rescue him: he promptly steals their escape-pod and flies off with their captain, Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and their talking tree, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Meanwhile, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) takes the remaining Guardians on a suicide mission to stop Thanos from getting his hands on the Reality Stone…which fails…massively. Thanos’ daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) tries to kill him, and then, in desperation, calls on Star-Lord to kill her – which also fails, massively. So the Reality Stone now belongs to Thanos, and so does Gamora, Thor is lost in space with a raccoon which he thinks is a rabbit, Tony and his crew are looking for Thanos, Thanos’ minions are hunting Vision, Scarlet Witch is having a crisis because Vision keeps telling her she needs to kill him, Black Widow and Bruce Banner have literally two lines of dialogue to address their entire romantic history, and those two lines are, respectively, “Bruce” and “Nat”. And meanwhile Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is getting a new metal arm that has absolutely no consequence on anything that happens later in the story, and – oh god, not flashbacks too!

(Actually, the flashback is one of the best scenes in the movie, as Gamora reminisces about her first encounter with Thanos. Young Gamora learns to balance a knife on her fingertip while her people are systematically slaughtered by firing squad in the background – beautiful, heart-wrenching stuff, and all complimented nicely by some beautiful music).

Eventually, the plots and subplots start to come together, after a rocky first act. Gamora agrees to lead Thanos to the Soul Stone, located on a desolate planet, where (surprise, surprise) the movie has time to reveal that Red Skull is still alive, even though he has absolutely no consequence on anything that happens later in the story. Though presumably there’ll be more time to deal with the effects of this reveal in Endgame, where we might see a final showdown between the Red Skull and his arch-nemesis Captain America. Thanos learns that the Soul Stone demands a sacrifice before it can be won: specifically, that which you most love. Thankfully, Thanos came to this planet with Gamora, the only person he ever truly loved! Thankfully there’s a giant cliff nearby that is just perfect for throwing people off of! Thankfully the so-called “fiercest woman in the galaxy” chooses this moment to resort to trying to ineffectively punch Thanos’ arm as he throws her off of the aforementioned cliff!

With four of six Infinity Stones now in his grasp, Thanos promptly heads to his ancient homeworld of Titan to go deal with Tony Stark and Doctor Strange, who by now have run into the other Guardians of the Galaxy. On earth, the nation of Wakanda comes under attack from Thanos’ minions while Shuri works frantically to try and get the Mind Stone out of Vision’s head. Meanwhile, Thor is skiing around a frozen star (okay, fine, he’s lighting the forges of Nidavellir or whatever, but it looked like skiing to me). And…Peter Dinklage is an awesome actor, but this movie is already overcrowded with characters – did we really need a giant Peter Dinklage manning the forges of Nidavellir and loading us down with boring exposition? The only interesting part about this sequence is the fact that there’s an Infinity Gauntlet up there in Nidavellir, which may or may not be important in Endgame.

But finally…we get to the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Thanos arrives on Titan and uses the full power of his own Infinity Gauntlet to wreak havoc on the planet. What follows is one of the best fight-scenes in any movie, ever: nanotech weaponry, a moon pulled from its orbit, Doctor Strange transforming into a Hindu deity, the robot assassin Nebula (Karen Gillan) crashing her own spaceship straight into Thanos – and all of it is in vain, because idiot Star-Lord goes and starts punching Thanos in the face while they have the Titan sedated. Seriously, Star-Lord?

After that, the rest of the movie is just tragedy after tragedy. Doctor Strange gives Thanos the Time Stone in exchange for Thanos sparing Tony Stark’s life. There’s apparently a reason for this: Doctor Strange looked into the future and saw only one outcome in which the Avengers win the Infinity War. But to win, Tony Stark has to live, and Thanos has to get the Time Stone.

And Thanos doesn’t waste a single moment before teleporting to Wakanda and going after Vision – whose operation has not been going well. The poor robot literally gets thrown out of a window, on a surgical table, down a cliff. And then (finally) Scarlet Witch puts an end to the whole thing by blasting him in the head and destroying the Mind Stone.

Good thing Thanos didn’t literally just receive the ability to turn back time!

As if having his surgery rudely interrupted by aliens and getting killed by his own girlfriend wasn’t enough, Vision then has to endure being brought back to life and killed again – as Thanos simply reaches into his forehead and plucks out the Mind Stone.

Nobody saves the day in this movie. Not Doctor Strange, who tells Tony sadly that it was “the only way”. Not Tony himself, who is still recovering from having a very large piece of metal shoved into his chest. Not even Thor, when he finally shows up in Wakanda wielding an incredibly ugly ax. Thanos gets what he wants: a fully-powered Infinity Gauntlet that allows him to wipe out half of all life with a snap of his fingers – which he does, without hesitation. The audience is forced to watch in horror as beloved characters turn into ash and disappear: Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Spider-man, Star-Lord (serves him right), Scarlet Witch, etc, etc. Who gave Marvel the right to do this?

Even worse, who gave Marvel the right to use such sloppy CGI on the Hulkbuster suit that Bruce Banner wears during the Battle of Wakanda? And for that matter, the Battle of Wakanda is filmed in such a boring fashion that it’s a crime all in itself: boring color palette and boring choreography make that fight scene one of the most forgettable in any recent Marvel film.

I’m not trying to look for fault in the film, of course. The film is quite good, overall. But the storyline is all over the place, and certain characters (ahem, Star-Lord) did not need anywhere near as much screentime as they got, while other characters (ahem, Captain America) got little to no screentime, when they should have been stars. Hopefully, everything will be resolved in the second half of this still very incomplete movie, which is only a few days away now. Half of the Marvel universe is currently dust, the villain has won and is relaxing on some paradise planet, and the Avengers are all split up across the galaxy.

Let’s hope Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) can do something about this problem when she arrives on earth…

Movie Rating: 9.5/10

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James Gunn Reinstated by Disney

Last July, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was fired from Disney after old tweets of his surfaced, in which he had touched on multiple sensitive and offensive topics, making jokes of them. Gunn appeared to apologize, and the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy came out in support of him – most notably Dave Bautista, who plays the character Drax in the Marvel films. There was a social media debate that lasted for months, James Gunn retreated from Twitter, and there was even speculation that Dave Bautista would also be let go.

James Gunn then got picked up by Warner Brothers in October to direct the DC Suicide Squad sequel. Meanwhile, Disney appeared to be looking for someone new to helm the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 film, but it seemed no one could be found. However, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he had supported the unanimous decision by Disney executives to fire Gunn, and, “I haven’t second-guessed their decision.”

Yeah, well, today, it became clear that he did.

Today, Disney brought James Gunn back to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. There was fanfare about it too: Marvel directors such as Peyton Reed and Scott Derrickson welcomed him back, and Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan quoted the franchise’s mascot Groot with the line “we are groot”, as if to say the Guardians family is back together at last.

James Gunn himself has issued multiple apologies for his offensive statements, and it is worth noting that the tweets were brought to light for overtly political reasons: on the other hand, was this really the right move? As a marketing strategy, certainly, this doesn’t seem like a good idea: for Marvel fans, it has already proven divisive, with some saying the firing was misguided and provoked by politics, and others claiming that Gunn shouldn’t get a second chance after some of the remarks he made.

For myself, I believe that Disney should not have rehired Gunn: I just feel that this will increase rifts between the opposing sides of the fandom. A new director, such as Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), could have filled Gunn’s shoes easily. I also understand, though, that a lot of people believe the outrage that sparked the firing was itself contrived, and that the tweets were made long ago. But I don’t know if I, personally, can feel comfortable supporting this decision yet. If I can have solid proof that Gunn’s old tweets do not represent who he is as a person (proof other than his own apologies) then maybe…maybe I can get on board. But this is simply not the sort of controversy that should have to accompany the MCU going forward, nor was it unavoidable. Disney could have hired a new director: however, we know now that they never even considered the possibility. They always meant to bring him back on. Which means Bob Iger lied.

And that…that is what makes me so angry. Why fire him in the first place, if you knew he was blameless? Iger’s plan seems to have been to let the scandal die down for a few months before bringing him back into the MCU. This is something that, even if it is entirely innocent, simply doesn’t look good.

Will it prove to be a blunder for Disney? Will James Gunn be re-fired and re-hired again? Well, we don’t know yet. But I know that from this point on, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 will become a hot-topic in the Marvel fandom, and maybe not in a good way. But who knows? Maybe Gunn (who apologized again today) really is a better person: maybe he isn’t the man that he implicated himself to be with those tweets: maybe.

This debate, I feel, does not end here.

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