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November 8th, 2018 Movie – Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

star wars episode vii - the last jedi

It’s funny, but I just realized that it is almost exactly 1 year since I started reviewing the Star Wars movies, and I now find myself watching the most recent one. Now there was a lot of buzz about this movie but the biggest surprise was what happened after it came out. People went absolutely ape-shit on the internet over this movie, for all sorts of reasons. I can kind of understand the one bit about Princess Leia but the trolls that attacked Kelly Marie Tran really took things too far. Anyways, all of the negative media buzz concerning this movie weighed in on my mind when I finally went and saw Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, but I refused to let it ruin my day and set back to enjoy the movie.

The plot: After the destruction of the First Order’s Starkiller base, General Leia Organa orders the Resistance base on D’Qar to evacuate but a fleet of First Order Star Destroyers arrives before they can flee. General Hux, the former leader of Starkiller base, prepares to open fire on the base when Poe Dameron approaches his flag ship and opens a communication with it. As Hux speaks with Poe, Poe acts like he can’t hear him in an effort to stall for time, then he makes an attack on the First Order’s dreadnought, taking out it’s surface cannons. The ruse works as the Resistance is able to escape the base before it is destroyed and Leia orders Poe back to the fleet but Poe disobeys her orders, saying that they need to destroy the dreadnought while they have the chance. With the last of the dreadnought’s surface cannons destroyed, Resistance bombers head towards it, with Poe and other fighter craft covering them. As the bombers get close to the dreadnought, most of them are destroyed when a tie fighter crashes into one of them, causing it to explode and take most of the others with it. The last surviving bomber makes it over to the dreadnought and though badly damaged, manages to drop it’s bombs and destroy it, which brings a cheer to the Resistance members but Leia is saddened by the massive loss of life that the victory cost them. As the fleet escapes into hyperspace, Finn awakens from the injuries he sustained fighting Kylo Ren and wanders out of the med bay, only to be spotted by Poe and as Poe goes to help him get dressed, Finn asks where Rey is. On the planet Ahch-To, Rey hands Luke Skywalker his old lightsaber and he stares at it before tossing it over a cliff. Rey is shocked by his actions and after retrieving it, goes to try and speak to Skywalker but he refuses to open the door to his cabin. Rey gets Chewbacca, who knocks down the door and roars at Luke and when Rey says that Luke is coming back to the Falcon with them, Luke asks where Han is. Elsewhere, Supreme Leader Snoke hears Hux’s plan for how they will destroy the Resistance and is pleased to hear what it is. As Hux leaves to carry out his plan, Kylo Ren approaches Snoke and Snoke admonishes him for his defeat against Rey, causing Kylo to get upset after he leaves the throne room. Back on Ahch-To, Rey explains why she is there to Luke but he refuses to help her and goes about his day. Rey refuses to give up and follows him around but after a bit, she senses something with the Force and is drawn to an old tree, where she finds some ancient books inside. Luke confronts her and reveals that the books are the original Jedi texts and then questions Rey again about why she is there and when she tells him about what is happening with her, Luke tells her that she needs a teacher but he refuses to teach another generation of Jedi as he had come to the planet to die. The Resistance fleet comes out of hyperspace and as Leia chastises Poe, then discusses what their next plan should be, the First Order fleet appears behind them and starts opening fire. Finn says they should do another jump but Leia realizes that they tracked them through hyperspace, which should have been impossible, and if they did another jump they will be stuck with no fuel and at the First Order’s mercy. Poe goes to lead an attack squad against the Star Destroyers but Kylo and his squadron attack the Resistance flagship, destroying their fighter bay and all of the fighters in it. Kylo then goes to attack the bridge but when he senses Leia’s presence on board, he hesitates but his wingmen don’t and blow up the bridge, sending Leia hurtling into space. Kylo is called back as the Resistance ships have moved out of range for the Star Destroyers to cover him, but they continue chasing the fleet, picking away at their shields. Meanwhile, Leia uses the force to head back to the flagship but the effort leaves her exhausted and she is taken to the medbay, while Finn picks up the signal/tracking device Leia had to contact Rey. Back on Ahch-To, Luke sneaks onto the Falcon and is surprised to see R2-D2 on board. When Luke tells R2 that he won’t be going back, R2 plays the old message of Leia begging Obi-Wan Kenobi to help her, and Luke reluctantly agrees to train Rey. Back on the Resistance flagship, with Leia incapacitated and the rest of the leadership dead, command of the fleet has fallen to Vice Admiral Holdo and when Poe approaches her to find out what the plan is, she refuses to tell him. Meanwhile, Finn attempts to escape with the biotracker in an escape pod but he is stunned by a technician named Rose. As Finn recovers, Rose is taking him to the brig when they start arguing about the First Order being able to track them through hyperspace, which causes them to come up with an idea. Finn and Rose tell Poe their idea about sneaking on the lead Star Destroyer and taking out the tracking system long enough for them to get away. Poe contacts Maz Kanata to see if she can help them crack the First Order’s security codes but she is tied up in a labor dispute but recommends a first class hacker that can be found on Canto Bight. Meanwhile, Rey wakes up to begin her training only to see a vision of Kylo, who is also able to see her. Rey tries to attack Kylo and Kylo speaks to her but when Luke appears, the connection is severed. Luke takes Rey up to a cliff and teaches her the first lesson about the Force but as she opens herself up to it, a darkness within the island calls out to her, causing her to react via the force. As Rey stops her efforts, she comments that Luke has closed himself off from the force and Luke tells her that he has seen this much power once before and he wasn’t scared then but he is now. Meanwhile, Finn, Rose, and BB-8 head to Canto Bight to locate the master hacker but as they search for him, they end up being captured for illegally parking their shuttle on a private beach. Back on Ahch-To, Rey has another vision of Kylo, who wonders why the Force is connecting them and when she tells him she found Luke, he taunts her by asking her if he told her what happened the night the temple was burned. Luke continues the lessons and tells Rey how in the end, the Jedi were failures due to their own pride in their abilities with the Force. Rey disputes the notion but Luke tells her about how the Jedi allowed Darth Sidious to rise to power and create the Empire, and how his own pride allowed his nephew Ben to become Kylo Ren and slaughter his students. Back on Canto Bight, Finn and Rose try to figure out a way out of the cell when DJ, a hacker who is in the cell with them offers to help them. They refuse his offer but when DJ picks the lock and leaves, they leave as well, escaping into the sewers, while DJ encounters BB-8, who is knocking out the guards with coins he acquired. Finn and Rose find themselves in a stable and as the kids working in the stable move to sound the alarm, Finn and Rose tell them they are with the resistance and the kids help them escape by opening the stables and letting the racing fathiers out. Finn and Rose ride on the back of one through the city and out to the beach but the police blow up their shuttle before they can get on board so they continue riding up the cliffs. They manage to elide the police and set their mount free when BB-8 appears in a shuttle, driven by DJ, and they quickly get on board and speed off. Back on Ahch-To, Luke finally opens himself up to the Force and uses it to reach out to Leia, who calls out his name. Meanwhile, Rey continues to have conversations with Kylo and he tells her that Luke had attempted to kill him because he feared Kylo’s strength in the Force. Shaken by what Kylo told her, Rey heads to the hole that is strong in the Dark Side of the Force and ends up falling in. Inside, she finds a strange, cracked mirror, which shows myriad reflections of herself and when she tries to see her parents, she only sees herself again. Rey talks with Kylo about her experience and as they continue talking, they tell each other they are not alone and touch each other through the Force. Luke enters Rey’s cabin and seeing what is happening, yells out for them to stop, destroying the cabin in the process. Luke angrily yells at Rey to leave the island and Rey asks if what Kylo told her is true. The two end up fighting and Rey ends up besting Luke when she uses the Force to grab Anakin’s old lightsaber and uses it on him, causing him to stumble and fall to the ground. Luke tells her that he had sensed a darkness in Kylo and when he looked into his mind, realized that Snoke had already turned him. Luke reacted on instinct and activated his lightsaber but couldn’t bring himself to kill Kylo but Kylo realized Luke’s initial intention and struck down Luke and destroyed his school. Rey tells Luke that she had sensed Kylo’s turmoil and feels that she could bring him back to the light and despite Luke telling her not to leave, she takes off with Chewie and R2-D2. After they leave, Luke goes to destroy the ancient Jedi texts and the tree/temple when he sees the Force Spirit of Yoda watching him. When Luke can’t bring himself to do it, Yoda summons a lightning bolt to destroy the tree and texts and when Luke argues about it, Yoda tells him that they offered nothing that Rey didn’t already know. Yoda then tells Luke that he needed to pass on what he had learned, and that included his failures as they were more important to learn from. Meanwhile, Finn and Rose are making their way to the First Order fleet and when DJ tells them he expects to be paid for his services, they tell him the Resistance will pay him when they are done and Rose gives him her necklace as a down payment. Elsewhere, the Resistance fleet has lost both of it’s escort craft and when Poe goes to see Holdo to demand to know what their plan is, he discovers that she is fueling the escape craft and plans on having everyone abandon ship. Poe is angry that she is willing to risk everyone’s lives in unarmed ships and tells her about his plan with Finn and Rose and when Holdo refuses to change her plan, Poe leads a mutiny and takes command of the ship. As Finn, Rose, DJ, and BB-8 sneak onto Snoke’s ship, Rey tells Chewie to jetison her in the escape pod and wait for her signal to return, then leaves the ship and heads to Snoke’s ship as well. She is met by Kylo, who places her in manacles and takes her up to see Snoke. Finn, Rose, DJ, and BB-8 make it to the tracking system but are captured by Captain Phasma and as Poe, who was in contact with them, despairs over their capture, he is shocked to see Leia break through the door to the bridge and stun him. Lei has Poe loaded onto one of the escape shuttles and as she discusses the plan with Holdo, Holdo says she has to stay aboard and pilot the flagship to make sure the shuttles are able to escape and though Leia is saddened by the sacrifice, she knows Holdo is right. When Poe recovers, Leia points out the nearby planet Crait and explains that there is a former Rebellion base on the planet that is heavily fortified and should allow them to contact their allies in the Outer Rim while the First Order passes them by. On Snoke’s ship, Snoke reveals that he had facilitated the connection between Rey and Kylo, as he knew Rey would fall into his trap so he could either kill her or turn her. Meanwhile, DJ is revealed to have cut a deal with the First Order and told them of the Resistance’s plan and they begin firing on the escape shuttles. Meanwhile, Snoke continues to taunt Rey and reveals the Resistance shuttles being destroyed. Snoke orders Kylo to kill Rey but as Kylo moves to do so, he secretly maneuvers Anakin’s lightsaber so that it is facing Snoke, then activates it, cutting Snoke in half. Rey and Kylo then proceed to fight off Snoke’s guards and after killing them, Rey tells Kylo to call off the attack on the shuttles but he refuses, saying that they should get rid of the old and she should rule at his side. Rey refuses and they end up fighting over Anakin’s lightsaber, eventually causing it to be split in two, knocking them both out. Meanwhile, Holdo maneuvers the flagship towards the First Order fleet and jumps to light speed, sacrificing herself by crashing into Snoke’s ship and destroying or damaging several of the smaller Star Destroyers while buying time for the remaining shuttles to make it to the surface. Finn and Rose, who were about to be executed, attempt to escape in shuttle but are forced to deal with Phasma and her stormtroopers but manage to escape with BB-8’s help, who had taken over an AT-ST. Meanwhile, Hux heads to the throne room and sees Snoke dead and Kylo lying unconscious on the floor. Hux moves to kill Kylo when Kylo regains consciousness, saying that Rey killed Snoke and demanding to know where she is. When Hux tells Kylo that she escaped in Snoke’s escape pod, Kylo orders their troops to the planet’s surface to finish off the Resistance and when Hux questions Kylo’s authority, Kylo force chokes him into accepting Kylo as the new Supreme Commander. On Crait, the Resistance prepare to hold off the First Order, Finn sees that the First Order has a battering order cannon with them and warns that it will crack open the shield door in seconds. The Resistance starts to lose hope, especially when they learn the shield door is the only way in or out, but Finn says they have to have hope that their allies will come and they should hold out until then. The Resistance forces head out to the surface, while Poe, Finn, and Rose lead a squad of pilots in ancient Rebellion speeders to take out the battering ram cannon. AS Kylo orders the support Tie-Fighters to take out the speeders and ground troopers, the Tie-Fighters come under fire by the Millennium Falcon, with Rey and Chewie on board, and the fighters all go after it. Poe leads the speeders towards the cannon but as they start getting picked off, he tells everyone to break off the attack. Finn refuses to listen and continues towards the cannon, intending to sacrifice himself to destroy it, but Rose crashes her ship into his, knocking them both out of the way as the cannon fires and blasts a hole in the door. Finn rushes over to Rose’s ship to see if she is still alive and asks why she did that and she tells him that the way they will beat them is not by destroying what they hate, but saving what they love. Inside the base, the Resistance learns that their distress signal has been received in numerous systems but nobody is coming to help them and Leia says that they must have finally run out of hope. Suddenly, Luke appears in the base and speaks with Leia, apologizing for what happened to Ben (Kylo) and saying that he is there to face him. Luke heads outside to confront Kylo and when he sees him, Kylo orders his troops to open fire on him but Luke is seemingly unfazed by their attack so Kylo orders his shuttle to land so he can confront him. Poe and the remaining Resistance troops watch Luke and Finn wants to help him but Poe realizes that Luke is stalling so that they can escape. As Poe tells everyone to try and find another way out, he notices that the crystal foxes that were in the base have vanished. Bringing that to everyone’s attention, they all see one last fox staring at them before making it’s way down a tunnel and they all follow after it. They eventually catch up to it at the site of a recent landslide and Poe starts to give up hope when Rey, who had been searching for them, uses the Force to lift the boulders away, allowing the Resistance to escape. Meanwhile, Luke and Kylo are fighting when Luke suddenly stops, as he knows his stalling has worked, and when Kylo moves to kill him, his blade goes right through Luke, revealing that Luke was simply a Force projection all along. As Luke disappears, Kylo realizes he has been tricked and sends his forces into the base but they find it empty. On Ahch-To, Luke ends up dying from his exertion battling Kylo, with both Leia and Rey feeling him pass. Kylo senses Rey and the two stare at each other through the Force before Rey closes the door to the Falcon and they leave. As the surviving members congratulate each other on surviving, Leia and Rey speak about feeling Luke’s passing, With Leia saying that the Rebellion is reborn. On Canto Bight, The children that helped Finn and Rose escape are reenacting Luke Skywalker’s stand against Kylo and the First Order when the stable manager yells at them. As they rush off to get back to work, one of them uses the Force to summon a broom to his hand and starts sweeping before staring up into the stars.

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi was highly praised by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi honors the saga’s rich legacy while adding some surprising twists — and delivering all the emotion-rich action fans could hope for.” When filming, Laura Dern said “pew” every time she shot her blaster. Although not audible, one such instance even made it into the finished film. It can be noticed in the close-up shot when Holdo is stunning her opponents. With the passing of Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels is the only actor to appear in all 8 of the main Star Wars films. Though it didn’t earn as much as it’s predecessor, the movie was a box office smash, earning $1.333 billion off of a $317 million budget.

Here’s the deal. When you watch any of the new Star Wars movies, you have to ask yourself one question before you start; Was this movie worse than Episode I? With that being said, this wasn’t what I would consider a great follow up but it was a good movie, and definitely better than The Phantom Menace. The acting was good, with Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe), and Adam Driver (Kylo) doing good jobs reprising their roles. I also thought that Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were good reprising the roles of Luke and Leia respectively, while Kelly Marie Tran did a good job as Rose. The story was honestly a little disappointing because you had so many side things going on at once. Granted, the movie seemed to resemble Empire Strikes Back in some regards but while George Lucas did a good job keeping the different sub-plots flowing smoothly, the sub-plots in The Last Jedi seemed to keep jumping around at random in such a way that they felt disjointed with each other, until the last 30 minutes or so where they started to rejoin each other. Speaking of resembling Empire, the last battle on Crait really did feel like it was the Battle of Hoth, just with different equipment. Now, for the scene that brought about so much anger. Seeing as how she was the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, there was always a chance that Leia would be Force sensitive. In fact, she showed her abilities starting to emerge at the end of Return Of The Jedi. So to assume that in the years after the fall of the Empire, that she would not have undergone at least some basic training with Luke is pretty silly notion (in the old Star Wars books, Leia was actually trained by another Jedi, as she felt Luke was going to soft on her). Now, I will admit that the scene itself was quite a bit over the top, okay it was REALLY over the top, but it wasn’t as far fetched of a thing as the haters claimed it to be. The special effects were incredible and the colors and imagery in the scenes were amazing to see. I loved the battle in Snoke’s throne room, where Kylo and Ren fight the guards against the solid red backdrop of the walls and curtains, with the curtains catching fire and falling among them adding to the raw emotion in the scene. I also liked the sand that turned red on Crait, as it made for a nice way to liven up the otherwise barren battle scene. So it is a good movie and did do a good job in being the midpoint in a trilogy but it needed to nail down a couple of issues to be considered truly great.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Flashback Review: April 10th, 2014 Movie – Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker

batman beyond return of the joker

At the beginning of 1999, as everyone was talking about the new century/millennium that was fast approaching, a new Batman appeared to give us a glimpse of what the future might bring. When Batman Beyond first debuted, I was curious about it as the initial concept sounded pretty interesting. So I watched the pilot movie and thought it was incredibly well done and couldn’t wait to watch the cartoon when it started up on a weekly basis. Now some time after the show started, there were some rumors that started up saying that the 5th Batman movie might possibly be based on this new cartoon. If there is one thing that I will never forgive Batman & Robin for, it is the fact that they deprived us of the chance for a live action version. However, they made up for it by making an animated film involving the Joker and bringing Mark Hamill in to reprise the character. As soon as I first saw the ad for this movie I knew I had to watch it so I bought the DVD as soon as it came out, then upgraded it to Blu-Ray a few years ago. So let’s sit back and enjoy today’s movie, Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker.

The plot: In the year 2040, a gang of Jokerz (Bonk, Chucko, Ghoul, the Dee Dee twins (Deidre and Delia Dennis), and Woof (who has been spliced with hyena genes)) are stealing some high tech equipment when Batman (Terry McGinnis) shows up to stop them. Batman works on taking them out but gets briefly distracted by the Dee Dees when he sees them cowering in fear only to have one of them hit him with a taser when he turns his back and they both attack him. He manages to get away from them but Woof bites him and as Ghoul goes to help Woof, Bonk, Chucko, and the Dee Dees manage to get away with the equipment. Batman knocks out Woof and Ghoul and gives chase and when he attacks Bonk, he disengages from the device and flies off after him, leaving the other two unable to continue carrying the device. The Dee Dee that is with Bonk tries to attack Batman but ends up falling off the lifter. Batman manages to snag her with a grapple but Bonk attacks him. The other Dee Dee uses her lifter to save her sister as the device crashes to the ground and Chucko grabs the memory board from it before Dee Dee picks him up and they fly away before it explodes. Bonk continues attacking Batman but is struck by a flag pole and hangs onto it. Batman manages to jump from the lifter before it crashes but when he recovers, he sees that the Jokerz have gotten away. Returning to the Batcave, Terry tells Bruce about the Jokerz when he notices the news broadcast talking about Bruce returning to take control of Wayne Enterprises. Terry comments about some disparaging remarks from Jordan Price, who had been in line to run the company before Bruce’s return, and Bruce says he will keep him around so long as he is able to work by his rules. Despite Bruce telling him he should get some sleep, Terry heads out to meet his girlfriend Dana at a club but he ends up falling asleep on his feet there. Meanwhile, the Jokerz return to their hideout at an abandoned Jolly Jack candy factory, where Chucko hands the memory card to their new boss, who says it is worthless. As their boss calls them losers, Bonk loses his temper and yells at him, saying he wants out. The boss, revealing himself to be the Joker, pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot Bonk, who quickly apologizes. When Joker pulls the trigger, a flag with the word “Bang” printed on it pops out and Bonk breathes a sigh of relief, until the Joker pulls the trigger again and the flag is propelled into Bonk’s chest, killing him. Joker then addresses the other Jokerz and after getting a renewed pledge of devotion to him, has Ghoul find another facility that has the equipment they need. When he picks one, Ghoul worries about the security there but Joker says that it will make things more fun. The next night, Bruce and Terry attend a function welcoming Bruce back to the company when the Joker’s laughter is suddenly heard through the speakers just before Woof appears and rushes the stage, avoiding Terry’s attack. Security is called in but they are taken out by Chucko and Ghoul, who then proceed to steal the scanner they were after. Bruce manages to knock Woof aside with his cane, then tells Terry to get to work while he tries to leave but the Dee Dees grab him and knock him back onto the stage, just as Joker appears. Bruce reacts in shock at seeing Joker, who tells Bruce that he is the real deal and he should know, inferring that Joker knows Bruce was Batman. Batman shows up but Joker has Woof deal with him and once he hears from Chucko and Ghoul that they are almost done, he calls for a retreat, detonating some explosives and sending some of the guest falling to the ground, forcing Batman to save them and allowing him to get away. As they are leaving, Terry tries to get some information from Bruce on the Joker, who refuses to tell him anything. The next day, Terry goes to see Barbara Gordon, the police commissioner, who refuses to go into details but tells him that the Joker was like nothing he had ever faced before and to let it drop, then dismisses him as she has an appointment coming in to speak with her. Back at the Batcave, Bruce is analyzing the Joker’s voice from last night with a previous recording from an old crime and the computer says that they match. Terry returns to the Batcave and asks Bruce why he never talked about the Joker, even though he mentioned all of his other criminals. When Bruce says it can’t be the real Joker because he saw him die, Terry asks if he killed him. Bruce doesn’t respond and instead, asks Terry to return the Batsuit, saying he had honored his father’s killers and gone above and beyond to protect the city but he no longer needs to do that. Terry argues that before becoming Batman he was the type of punk that Bruce wouldn’t have wasted a second punch on and this was his way of making amends for his past. When Bruce chastises him, Terry tosses his backpack with the suit inside at his feet and leaves. Later that night, Bruce is working on making some Joker antivenom when Ace hears something and, growling, heads upstairs only to quickly yelp in pain. As Bruce calls out to him, some gas pellets drop down the stairs and Joker appears and confronts Bruce. Meanwhile, Terry heads to a dance club, where Dana is out with some of her friends, and tells her that he no longer has a job so he can focus on her more, which she is happy to hear. Suddenly, the Dee Dees, without their make-up, approach Terry and Dana and separate Terry from Dana, allowing Ghoul to grab her. As Terry tries to find her, the Dee Dees attack him, with Chucko and Woof showing up as well. Dana tries to get away from Ghoul, who ends up shoving her off the raised platform they are on and Terry saves her from getting seriously hurt but she still falls unconscious. As the Jokerz continue trying to attack him, Terry leaves Dana with thier friend Chelsea and tells her to hide, then leads them away before knocking over a giant lava lamp, catching the Jokerz in the rush of falling liquid, then knocks out Chucko when he tries to shoot him. Heading back outside to check on Dana, who is being loaded into an ambulance, Terry tells Chelsea to stay with her, then he gets on his motorcycle and heads to Wayne Manor. As he is driving, Terry calls Bruce and starts to leave a message when he realizes Bruce should have picked up and quickens his pace. When he gets there, he sees the wounded Ace and the entrance to the Batcave broken open and heads down to find the Joker has covered the cave in graffiti. Seeing Bruce lying on the floor, he discovers that he has been infected with the Joker’s toxin but Bruce is able to tell Terry about the antivenom and he quickly grabs it and administers it to Bruce. Terry calls Barbara to help tend to Bruce, then forces her to tell him what happened to the Joker. Barbara tells him that their last encounter with the Joker happened after Dick Grayson had left to become Nightwing; leaving Bruce, herself, and Tim Drake, the new Robin, to patrol Gotham. One day, Robin was captured by Joker and Harley Quinn and for three weeks, Batman and Batgirl searched for him with no sign of him. When they received a package from Joker, they head to the old Arkham Asylum grounds and find Joker and Harley there. Batman approaches them, having Batgirl sneak up to a higher vantage point. Batman asks them about Robin but the feign ignorance, then comment about their “Little J”, and when Batman heads in the direction the indicated, Harley uses her bazooka to trap him. Joker then explains that they have been doing this game for years and he decided it was time to start a family but Harley didn’t want to deal with pregnancy so they simply borrowed one of his kids, then molded him in their own image. Joker then reveals that Tim has been turned into a mirror image of Joker and an enraged Batman breaks free from his bonds and goes after Joker. Batgirl swoops down and knocks Harley back, then tries to talk with Tim to see if he remembers her but Harley attacks her, then tells Tim to get her bazooka. Batgirl renews her attack on Harley, chasing her outside where the building is falling apart. As they argue over what they did to Tim, Tim shows up with the Bazooka and tosses it to Harley, who begins firing at Batgirl but she is able to knock it aside and a stray round causes both of them to fall. Batgirl manages to stop her fall and tries to pull Harley to safety but Harley’s costume rips and she ends up falling to the water below. Meanwhile, Batman continues chasing after Joker, who leads him to the theater room and shows him the video of how he tortured and changed Robin, revealing that in the process Robin told him all of his secrets. Batman smashes through the projection room and assaults Joker, and prepares to kill him but stops when he sees Tim watching them. Joker takes advantage of the distraction to slash Batman with his knife before stabbing him in the leg, then knocking him to the ground. Joker then tosses a gun to Tim and tells him to finish off Batman and, laughing maniacally, Tim pulls the trigger, making the flag come out, but as Joker yells at him to finish it, Tim points the gun at Joker before pulling the trigger again, sending the flag into Joker’s chest. Tim continues laughing before the laughter turns into sobs of pain and Batgirl rushes in and consoles him. Barbara then says that they buried Joker in Arkham, while there was no sign of Harley, and her father helped them hide the truth from everyone but after Tim was restored to sanity, Bruce forbade him from wearing the Robin costume again and Tim eventually left. He became a communications specialist and is now married and has children, which Barbara feels he deserves after what he went through. Terry decides to question Tim, who tells him that he had nothing to do with the Joker and he was just as surprised as anyone when he returned. Leaving Tim, Batman heads off to investigate Jordan Price, as he would also have reason for wanting Bruce out of the way. On his private yacht, Jordan is surprised to find the Jokerz waiting for him and he asks what they want, as he already gave them the codes they needed to rob Wayne Enterprises, and the Jokerz say that their boss wants them to tie up loose ends. Jordan tries to get away but Woof knocks him down and they handcuff him to a table, then contact the Joker. Joker tells them to get out of there and Batman, who had been recording their conversation, tries to stop them but they slip out and Batman moves to follow but notices the light suddenly shining onto the yacht. Freeing Jordan, he gets off the boat with him and heads to shore, just as a laser beam shoots out of the sky and destroys the yacht. Batman gets caught in the wave that formed from the explosion but is able to rescue Jordan and heads to shore, where he turns Jordan, as well as the audio recording of his working with the Jokerz, over to the police. Returning to the Batcave, Terry chastises himself for not being able to figure out where the Joker is when Bruce comes down to the cave. As they discuss Bruce’s reason for not wanting Terry to face off against the Joker, Terry notices that despite all of the cases being smashed, Robin’s costume is the only one that was destroyed. Telling Bruce that Tim might be somehow involved this, he shows him all of the equipment that the Jokerz stole and how someone with Tim’s knowledge can turn it into a satellite jamming system. Bruce accepts Terry’s logic and tells him to suit up and Terry says he needs to bring something with him, staring at Ace. Batman goes to see Tim at his lab but finds it is a hologram, just as the lab is sealed off. Joker appears on the monitor and says that Tim is working for him and explains what he has planned, then invites Batman to try and stop him. Terry manages to get out of the lab and contacts Bruce but Joker interrupts their conversation and uses the satellite to attack the Batmobile, first by firing single shots and then turning the laser into a solid beam of light. As he is laughing at Batman’s plight, Joker suddenly gets woozy and cuts off the transmission, and as the satellite stops firing, Batman heads towards Joker’s hideout. As he nears the Jolly Jack factory, Chucko shoots the Batmobile down but Batman steers it right at him and takes out the tower he was on, knocking him out. Woof appears ready to fight but Terry sends Ace out to deal with him, leaving him free to deal with Ghoul and the Dee Dees. Batman heads inside to find an unconscious Tim on the floor and when Batman questions him, Tim says he doesn’t know anything about the Joker but then suddenly recalls seeing him. Tim seems out of it at first but then tells Terry that he is ok and when Batman asks how he knew his name, Tim says he knows everything about him, then throws a trap at him that incapacitates his suit. Tim then addresses Bruce, as he is watching through the suits video feed, and begins laughing and suddenly transforms into the Joker, shocking Batman and Bruce. Joker explains that he had placed his consciousness onto a microchip and placed it on Tim’s body when he was his captive, intended as a back-up plan. At first, he had to limit the time he was able to take control of Tim’s body, who would always chalk it up to nightmares about the Joker, but over time he was able to take control at will. He then plans on using the satellite to take out Wayne Manor, as well as Terry’s home and the hospital that Dana is in, then taunts Terry and asks if he has any last words for Bruce. Batman says “Yeh, sic ’em”, and Ace leaps out from behind Joker and knocks him into some cables. Batman calls Ace to him, who is able to bite the clamp off of his suit, then rushes at the Joker but Joker uses his joy buzzer to stun Ace. Before Joker can finish him off, Batman tackles him and the joy buzzer slips off his hand and short circuits the satellite controls, sending the beam straight towards them. Saying his plan is ruined now, Joker plans on leaving and when Batman tries to stop him, Joker easily pummels him, saying that he knew everything about Batman and Robin in their prime and that Terry was out of his league. Batman asks Bruce for advise but realizing the difference in their styles, Terry starts fighting dirty and then begins mocking Joker, causing him to get enraged. Joker eventually starts throwing explosives at Batman and traps him under a table before starting to choke him but as he taunts Batman, Batman reveals that he had grabbed the joy buzzer and uses it to short out and destroy the microchip, ridding Tim of the Joker once and for all. Able to free himself, Batman helps Tim and Ace out of there just before the laser destroys the factory before shutting down. Some time later, the Dee Dees are released from jail into the custody of their grandmother, who is revealed to be Harley Quinn. Meanwhile, Terry stops by to check in on Tim, who thanks him for what he did and says Bruce couldn’t have chosen anyone better to wear the suit. As he is leaving, Terry encounters Bruce, who stops Terry and tells him that he was wrong about what he said earlier; the Batsuit doesn’t make him a better person, but rather he makes the Batman a better person. Bruce then heads inside Tim’s hospital room to reconcile with his former sidekick while Terry heads out and puts on the Batsuit to patrol the streets of Gotham.

I have to admit that this was a bit darker than I expected but still a fantastic movie to watch. The voice acting was great, with Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle doing great jobs reprising their roles of Bruce and Terry respectively. Mark Hammill was fantastic coming back as the Joker, while Dean Stockwell did a good job as the older Tim Drake. The story was good but surprisingly dark considering it was essentially a kids movie. I liked how they were able to tie in the past events with the future, while the reveal that Harley was the grandmother of the Dee Dees, who were essentially a new generation of Harley, was pretty funny. The initial DVD that I bought had some scenes changed from the uncut version that is on the Blu-Ray, mainly how Joker killed Bonk and Tim killed Joker. The scenes showing Robin being tortured were definitely a little hard to watch and definitely not something that would be suitable for kids. The animation was great and felt like a step up from the animation from the TV show, which was pretty good to begin with. I wouldn’t necessarily let young kids watch it but it is definitely worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Flashback Review: April 5th, 2014 Movie – Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm

batman mask of the phantasm

In September of 1992, a new cartoon would debut on Fox Kids that would change the face of cartoons for years to come. Yes, a new Batman cartoon would debut to entertain children, and adults alike. However, instead of some of the cheesy story lines and dialogue that was found in earlier superhero cartoons, these cartoons had a more serious tone and garnered a lot of attention for it. I loved watching Batman, and still do to be honest, and thought it was a great cartoon. So when they decided to make a movie I had no problem going to see it in theaters and was not disappointed. Now, let’s sit back and enjoy today’s movie, Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm.

The plot: In Gotham, crime boss Chuckie Sol is showing some of his men the newest batch of counterfeit bills that he wants laundered through his casino when Batman crashes through the window and begins fighting with his men. Sol escapes and heads to his car in the adjacent parking garage but when he gets there, he is confronted by the Phantasm, a cloaked figure wearing a mask and a bladed gauntlet on his arm. Sol attempts to shoot the Phantasm but he slices Sol’s gun in half, then moves to kill Sol but is distracted by a car leaving the garage. Sol is able to get into his car and attempts to run the Phantasm down but the Phantasm disappears in a cloud of smoke and Sol ends up crashing through the barricade and landing in the building across the street. Batman arrives at the scene and looks at the wrecked car, where the crowd notices him and believes he is responsible. As Batman leaves, he grabs a piece of windshield with some residue on it when he notices the Phantasm nearby and he goes to pursue him but the Phantasm disappears out the rooftop exit. The next day, City Councilman Arthur Reeves is holding a press conference where he lambastes Batman as a killer vigilante, despite Commissioner Gordon’s protests of Batman being innocent. Later, Arthur is on the phone with an old female friend, who is flying into town after being away for 10 years, and he asks her if she plans on seeing anyone special but she says it’s ancient history, as she is looking at a magazine with Bruce Wayne on the cover. That night, Bruce is hosting a party at his home and as some girls tease him about when he is getting married, one of his exes walks up and throws her glass of wine in his face. As Bruce walks away to clean up, Arthur offers him a handkerchief and then teases Bruce about his love life, mentioning his ex, Andrea Beaumont and asking how he let her get away. Bruce thanks him for the handkerchief and walks off, heading into his study, where he starts remembering Andrea. In flashback, we see Bruce at his parent’s graves when he hears Andrea Beaumont talking to her mother, who is buried close by. The two talk for a bit and as she leaves, Andrea asks him why the man who has everything looks so sad, claiming her mother was curious. A few nights later, Bruce, using a ski mask to hide his identity, stops some men from robbing a warehouse, receiving some injuries in the process. The next day, Bruce is talking to Alfred about how things worked perfectly but the crooks weren’t scared of him but Alfred says they should discuss that later, as Andrea is seen to be approaching. Andrea approaches Bruce, who is practicing jiu-jitsu, and when Andrea uses the self defense moves she had learned to knock him down, Bruce laughs before sweeping her legs out from under her and then kissing her. Back in the present, crime boss Buzz Bronski heads to the cemetery to pay his respects to Sol when he is confronted by the Phantasm. Bronski attempts to defend himself, yelling out for his men to help him, then runs away, falling into an open grave as he runs and the Phantasm knocks the angel grave marker on top of him, killing him. Bronski’s men arrive and see the body and the Phantasm in the distance and mistake him for Batman, blaming him for Bronski’s death. The next day, aging crime boss Salvatore Valestra reads the story about Bronski’s death and has a panic attack, fearing he might be next. At police headquarters, Arthur is arguing with Gordon over his refusal to go after Batman for the crime boss murders and Gordon tells him that Batman doesn’t kill and he will have no part in the witch hunt. Batman, who was listening outside the window, heads to the cemetery to investigate Bronski’s death when he sees Andrea by her mother’s grave. Andrea notices him and as they stare in shock at each other, Batman quickly leaves and Andrea goes to follow but Batman is gone and as she notices the grave she is standing by, she realizes that Batman is Bruce. Later that night, Andrea is having dinner with Arthur, unaware that Batman is watching them from across the street. As he watches them, Batman starts reminiscing his time with Andrea. After they go on a date to the Gotham World Fair, Andrea convinces Bruce to go meet her father and as she sets it up, Bruce questions what he is doing, saying this isn’t part of the plan but Alfred feels like this might be better for him. They head over to meet Andrea’s father Carl, who introduces Bruce to Arthur, who is one of his lawyers. Bruce, Andrea, and Carl are talking for a bit before they are interrupted by Valestra, who is there to speak business with Carl. As they leave, Bruce and Andrea see some thugs trying to steal money from a street vendor and Bruce goes to stop them but he gets distracted when he notices Andrea’s concern for him and one of the thugs is able to strike him with a bat before they grab the money and run. That night, Bruce is arguing with himself over what he should do, as he feels torn between the promise he made his parents and the possible happiness he could have with Andrea. Heading to the cemetery, he talks to his parent’s grave and asks for a sign, only to have Andrea come up behind him and suggest that maybe they had sent her to him and the two embrace. Back in the present, Arthur is walking down the street when Valestra’s car pulls up and Valestra tells him to get in. As they are driving, Valestra asks if it is true about Batman killing the others and when Arthur confirms it, Valestra wonders why before having another coughing fit, and Arthur asks to be let out. Meanwhile, Batman finds a connection between Sol and Bronski, noting that Valestra was the third partner in their dummy corporations, and he makes plans to go see Valestra. Alfred asks if he will see Andrea afterwards but Batman doesn’t answer him. Batman breaks into Carl Beaumont’s old office and as he stares at some of the pictures on the wall, he has another flashback. He recalls the day that he proposed to Andrea as they are walking along the grounds of Wayne Manor and she says yes but as they embrace, they are startled by a swarm of bats the fly out of an opening in the ground. As Bruce takes Andrea home, she sees that her father is apparently having a business meeting though thinks it is odd to have one this late. She tells Bruce that maybe they should wait until the morning to tell her father about the engagement and kisses him goodbye. The next day, Bruce explores the cave but when he comes back out, he finds Alfred holding the ring box with a note from Andrea, telling him she can’t marry him and she is leaving with her father and doesn’t know when she will return. Andrea’s departure is the catalyst that Bruce needs to focus full time on avenging his parent’s murder and leads him to becoming Batman. Back in the present, Valestra goes to see Joker, believing he is the only one that can stop Batman from killing him, saying his hands are even dirtier than theirs are, and Joker says he will do it. Meanwhile, Andrea returns to her hotel room and, noticing the balcony door is open, makes a show out of kissing Arthur goodbye. After closing the door and turning on the light, she sees Batman, who questions her about a photograph of Carl with the three crime bosses. The two argue over Carl before Batman leaves and Andrea ends up breaking down into tears when  he is gone. Later that night, the Phantasm heads to Valestra’s house to kill him only to find that Valestra has been killed by the Joker and left there as a trap. The house explodes but the Phantasm is able to get away only to be confronted by Batman. The two briefly fight on the roofs when the police show up and the Phantasm escapes while the police chase after Batman. He is able to escape to a construction site but one of the cops starts shooting at him and hits some fuel tanks, causing an explosion. Batman is injured in the blast and attaches his cape to a sawhorse and sends it flying towards the helicopter in order to distract the cops so he can escape. The cops give chase but Bruce is able to evade them when Andrea pulls up and helps him escape. Andrea takes Bruce back to Wayne Manor, where Alfred tends to his injuries. When he is done, Andrea tells Bruce about what happened the night they got engaged, and how Valestra, Sol, and Bronski were demanding money that he had embezzled and he convinces them that he will get them their money in the morning but after they leave, Carl tells Andrea they have to leave and forces her to come with him as he says they will kill her to get to him. She tells Bruce that they made their way through Europe and eventually settled off the Mediterranean coast, where Carl was able to use the money he embezzled to make a fortune and pay the men back but they wanted interest. Andrea apologizes and Bruce embraces her and kisses her. The next morning, Bruce hugs Andrea and tells her that he is going to have to confront her father but Andrea says he doesn’t matter, choosing Bruce over her father this time. After she leaves, Bruce takes another look at the picture when he notices Valestra’s body guard and realizes that the body guard is the Joker. Meanwhile, Joker pays a visit to Arthur, telling him that Batman wasn’t the one killing their old associates. Just then, Andrea calls Arthur telling him she can’t meet for lunch but will talk to him at dinner that night and Joker smiles before attacking Arthur, dosing him with Joker venom. Arthur is taken to the hospital and Batman confronts him there to find out what the Joker wanted with him. Arthur tells him that he helped Carl and Andrea escape the city but when he first ran for city councilman, he approached Arthur for some money and was refused so he sold him out to Valestra in order to get the money. Elsewhere, outside the abandoned World Fair, Andrea stares at the park and thinks back to when she had returned home one day to find Valestra’s body guard exiting her house and she rushes in to find her father dead. The Phantasm confronts the Joker, who knows that it is Andrea so she takes off her mask. The two begin fighting and Andrea appears to get the upper hand but Joker is able to escape. When Andrea chases after him, she gets caught in a trap when Joker activates the wind tunnel by Batman is able to rescue him. Batman confronts Andrea over her actions and she says she knows it isn’t right but they took everything from both of them and they deserved to pay. Batman tells her to leave, then goes after the Joker himself, but Joker activates some explosives he had set up all over the fair and then attempts to escape on a jet pack. Batman manages to grab onto him as he tries to fly out of there and they end up crashing to the ground, where Andrea appears before them. Batman tells her to leave before the place explodes but Andrea says that this ends tonight. As the place starts to explode, Andrea says “Goodbye, my love”, then disappears with Joker inside the explosions while Batman is blown clear. Later, in the Batcave, Alfred tries to comfort Bruce, saying there was nothing that he could have done to save Andrea, as her need for vengeance consumed her. As Alfred walks away, Bruce notices something glint in the light and he heads over to find Andrea had left her locket, with the picture of the two of them, in the Batcave for him to remember her by. Elsewhere, a cruise ship is sailing out of Gotham and Andrea is seen on the deck, crying over what she has lost while Batman returns to patrolling Gotham and keeping it’s citizens safe.

Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm met with mostly praise form the critics, holding an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Stylish and admirably respectful of the source material, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm succeeds where many of the live-action Batman adaptations have failed.” The majority of this movie’s plot is based off of the comic story line “Batman: Year Two”; with the Phantasm (who is never referred to by name) being patterned after the Reaper, who was the main villain in the comic. The movie unfortunately did not fare well at the box office, only earning $5.6 million off of a $6 million budget but did get a cult following and had more success when it hit home video. As a result, every subsequent release of a Batman, or any D.C. animated movie, was released direct to video (not counting the limited theatrical release of Batman: The Killing Joke).

This movie is still so much fun to watch, even 25 years after it came out. The voice acting was great, getting the same characters from the TV cartoon to reprise their roles and they all delivered great performances. The story was great, and I didn’t even know until years later that it was based off of an actual comic, which makes me want to go out and get a copy of the trade that they released of it. From what I gather, it is relatively close to the original story, though the toned down Batman’s going further down the dark side of vengeance and pushing the limit on his no killing policy that was in the comic. I did like the character of the Phantasm but the big twist that Andrea was the killer was honestly pretty easy to figure out early on into the movie so I feel like they could have done a better job of leading up to that reveal and making it more of a surprise. The animation was incredible and was a step up from the TV show in some aspect, but still kept the same feel from the show. A great movie and one well worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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June 2nd, 2018 Movie – Wizards

wizards

Now this is how a Saturday morning should be spent, watching cartoons. Back in the early days of the internet, when chat room and forums ruled the data highway, numerous people would sign on with the screen name of Necron 99, or some variation of it. I was always curious about it but not enough to really inquire as to why they chose that name. Then I went through a stage where I would hit up Blockbuster or Hollywood video and rent some cult classic movies and one day I ended up renting today’s movie. I had seen some of the director’s previous movies, most recently Cool World, and figured I would enjoy this one as well. Needless to say, I did and when I decided to go on an animated movie buying spree a few years ago, I made sure that this was one of them. So let’s sit back and enjoy today’s movie, Wizards.

The plot: The Earth was devastated by nuclear war, initially started by 5 terrorists, and it took 2 million years before the radioactive clouds dispersed enough for sunlight to reach the planet’s surface. Only a handful of humans managed to survive unchanged but most had been mutated by the radiation and roam the wastelands known as Scortch, unable to regain their lost humanity. In the good lands of Montagar, the true ancestors of mankind, Fairies, Elves, and Dwarves, return to the surface and begin celebrating a new age of peace. As 3000 years pass, Delia, the queen of the fairies, is at a celebration when suddenly dark clouds begin forming in the sky. Delia, seemingly in a trance, leaves the celebration and heads to her house on a high hill and after a while, the rest of the fairies seem drawn towards the house as well. One of the elves ventures inside to discover that Delia had given birth to twin magic users, which were polar opposites of each other; Avatar, who was kind hearted and used his magic to entertain his mother, and Blackwolf, who never went to see his mother and instead used his magic to change and torture small animals. As the years pass, Delia eventually died and Blackwolf was excited as he felt that he would now be able to rule Montagar. Hearing this, Avatar confronted Blackwolf and the two brothers fought, with Avatar’s grief fueling his magic enough for him to overpower Blackwolf. Blackwolf vowed vengeance, saying that he would make this a planet where mutants rule, and retreated to Scorch, eventually becoming it’s ruler. Years pass, and Blackwolf feels the time is right to strike and sends out 3 assassins to kill several targets in Montagar that teach or believe in magic. As one of the assassins, a robot named Necron 99, heads further into Montagar, he encounters two sentries and kills one of them but the second one, Weehawk, manages to briefly get away when he kills Necron 99’s mount. Weehawk’s mount also dies, overcome with exhaustion, and as he mourns it, Necron 99 attempts to sneak up on him but he steps on a branch and Weehawk attacks him, with both of them stumbling over a cliff and into the waters below. Elsewhere, Avatar is with the president and his daughter Elinore, whom Avatar is tutoring into becoming a full fledged fairy. The president is worried that they have heard no word form their sentries but Avatar is not overly concerned and considers arming his troops with science and technology. However, Avatar reminds him that they have been outlawed in Montagar for centuries and they have had peace in the region ever since. Avatar then continues his history lessons with Elinore, telling her of how after losing the initial battle, Blackwolf assembled an army in Scorch and sent them to attack Montagar several times over the last 5000 years, but each time his armies would get bored or lose focus and end up retreating back to Scorch. Recently, he has learned that Blackwolf has been sending his forces to excavate items from the ruins of the Pre-Holocaust era and he sent some elf spies to find out what he has found. The president is upset that he sent out the spies on nothing more than a hunch but before he can say anything further, Necron 99, who had scaled up the castle tower, kills him. Avatar uses his magic to deactivate Necron 99 and a grieving Elinore attacks the robot’s body while Weehawk enters and apologizes to Avatar for failing him and the president. Back in Scorch, Blackwolf is told that Necron 99’s signal light had gone out and Blackwolf believe that he has succeeded in his mission and believes the time is right to strike. Blackwolf orders his forces to assemble in the courtyard and he shows them the secret weapon to help them succeed in their battle, a movie projector and reels of Nazi propaganda and war footage that he uses to motivate them. As Blackwolf’s army march on Montagar, the elves and fairies make ready to defend the lands when suddenly, Blackwolf uses his magic to send the images from the Nazi war films onto the battlefield, demoralizing the elvish forces and allowing his army to march through and slaughter the opposing forces. Back in the tower, Avatar uses brain reading to learn about the projector and decides to go after it, reluctantly allowing Elinore to go with him. He sends Elinore and Weehawk to make preparations for their journey while he works on reprogramming Necron 99, whom he renames as Peace, as he is linked to the machine and will be able to guide them to it. Back in Scorch, Blackwolf speaks with his bride, getting upset with her that she doesn’t want to rule the world, only Scorch, and tells his troops guarding her that if she gives birth to a daughter, to kill it, as he only wants a son. Meanwhile, Avatar, Elinore, Weehawk, and Peace are making their way towards Scorch when they enter the kingdom of the mountain fairies. The fairies begin playing tricks on the group and during the commotion, Peace wanders away and encounters Blackwolf other two assassins, who are there to stop them. Avatar gets tired of the pranks and begins to use his magic against the fairies when they stop and invite Avatar, Elinore, and Weehawk to a feast. The king’s son Sean asks why they are there but before they can respond, shots suddenly ring out and Sean is killed. Weehawk believes Peace is the shooter and wants to go after him but Avatar stops him and says they have to rescue Elinore, who was taken captive by the fairies. Entering the mountain lair, Weehawk falls into a pit and tells Avatar to continue without him. Weehak then finds himself facing a strange monster and is almost killed but Peace, injured from killing the other assassins, rescues him. Peace then almost falls into a ravine but Weehawk saves him, then both of them collapse onto the ground. Meanwhile, a mob of fairies want the king to execute Elinore, blaming her for bringing men and death to their realm. Elinore uses some of her fledgling magic to try to force the fairies to release her but it only seems to make things worse. Avatar enters the chamber and approaches the king, saying he will not defends himself but will defend Elinore if she is threatened. Avatar explains their reason for being there when suddenly, an image of Blackwolf appears and contradicts him. One of the fairies shoots an arrow at Blackwolf and hits Avatar instead and the king says that Avatar was true to his word, when he chose not to retaliate for being shot by the arrow. He says that he will neither help nor hinder their efforts and transports them out of his lair, onto a snow covered mountain. Avatar and Elinore, believing Peace and Weehawk are dead, make their way down the mountain only for Avatar to find that they have been walking in circles. Hearing riders approaching, they move to defend themselves only to find that the riders were Peace and Weehawk, who were searching for them. After resting, and Avatar consulting with Peace on the best way into Scorch, they continue on their quest but end up ambushed by a patrol of elves. Their leader recognizes Avatar and brings them into their camp, hoping to get Avatar to help them attack Scorch and defeat Blackwolf but Avatar refuses, feeling the elves using guns goes against everything they stand for. As night falls, Elinore goes to check on Peace, who is sitting by himself when they are attacked by one of Blackwolf’s demons. Avatar and Weehawk wake from their sleep and Avatar dispels the demon, but the resulting explosion knocks him down the mountain. As Elinore, Peace, and Weehawk go to check on him, they see a tank approaching them. Peace begins firing at it but as he moves forward to fire into the tank’s cabin, Elinore suddenly throws her sword into his back, killing him while Weehawk is knocked down by one of Blackhawk’s flying creatures. As Avatar and Weehawk react in confusion, Elinore quickly jumps into the tank and rides off into Scorch. Elinore’s betrayal breaks Avatar’s heart, reducing him to a mumbling man who uses his magic to try and make Scorch beautiful, while Weehawk forces him to try and continue. Making their way into the main city, they encounter one of Blackwolf’s generals and Blackwolf’s lizard servant outside a bar and Weehawk kills the general, as well as two creatures, but ends up being slashed in the arm by the lizard, who then runs off to the castle. Avatar seems to come to his senses and apologizes to Weehawk and the two make their way into the castle. Elsewhere, the Elven armies approach the castle and Blackwolf’s forces move forward to intercept them. As the fighting commences, the Blackwolf starts the projector and the elves begin to get demoralized by the footage of the Nazi battles and begin to get slaughtered. In the castle, Avatar and Weehawk sneak into the throne room and Avatar tells Weehawk to destroy the projector, while he battles his brother, not caring if he lives or dies after Elinore’s betrayal. As Weehawk makes his way through the castle, he spots an imprisoned Elinore and moves to kill her, despite her protests of innocence. Weehawk is stopped when Blackwolf’s queen yells out at him, citing that the killing must stop, and as she flees with her daughter, Elinore explains that she was possessed by Blackwolf when she touched Peace and Weehawk realizes that they have to tell Avatar. In the throne room, Avatar approaches his brother and Blackwolf demands he surrender, saying that he can’t beat him and the war is over. Avatar says he wants to show him a trick, then pulls out a gun and proceeds to shoot Blackwolf, killing him. With Blackwolf’s death, the castle begins to fall apart and Weehawk and Elinore arrive and tell Avatar the truth and the three make their way out of the castle. On the battlefield, Blackwolf’s forces stop in their tracks, with some disappearing and others returning to hell. The elves kill the few remaining mutants that continue fighting before declaring the war over. As the elves celebrate, Avatar, Elinore, and Weehawk make their way back to Montagar but before they get there, Elinore tells Weehawk that he will be returning alone, to rule as the new king, while she and Avatar have plans to get married and start their own kingdom somewhere.

Wizards met with mixed reactions from the critics, holding a 61% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Its central metaphor is a bit too on the nose, but Wizards is an otherwise psychedelic, freaky trip into an alternate version of our world.” The scene with the guard crying out “They killed Fritz” was a reference to Robert Crumb’s Fritz the Cat, whom Crumb killed off in his comic series. Director Ralph Bakshi also directed the animated adaptation of Fritz The Cat and he decided to name the character Fritz just so he could scream out “They killed Fritz”. The movie was a success at the box office, earning $9 million off of a $2 million budget and would go on to become a cult classic of animated movies.

This is a great movie and definitely deserves it’s cult classic status. The voice acting was pretty good, with Bob Holt (Avatar), Jesse Welles (Elinore), and Steve Gravers (Blackwolf) doing good jobs in their roles. The story was really good and honestly did do a decent job of showcasing a good vs evil scenario, while also showing some of the psychological effects war can have on people. I will admit that I was a little unsure of the use of swastikas all over Blackwolf’s castle but you have to admit that there really isn’t a symbol that has been associated with evil more so than the Nazi swastika. That being said, I do think that the scene early on where Larry the lizard was eating a hanging body and as he is ripping it apart, the body turns and a Star of David was on it’s back was a bit much and could be viewed as anti-semitic. The animation was pretty good for the most part, though I am still a little undecided on the whole “shadow person” animation technique. There was one part where Larry was transparent for some reason that just looked odd but aside from that, the colors and movements were pretty tight. Definitely something that is worth giving a watch, and you can judge for yourself if it is worthy of being called a cult classic.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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April 1st, 2018 Movie – Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise Of The Panther

ultimate avengers 2

Happy Easter/April Fools everybody. I am curious how many people are pulling some pranks regarding Easter candy today. Anyways, today’s movie is one of Marvel’s early animated features that the released to DVD. Now I know you might be asking why I am starting with the second movie and not the first one. The answer to that is quite simple; I was too lazy to rebuy the first movie when it wound up to scratched up to be playable. Anyways, the one thing I thought was funny regarding the two movies was that they were based on the Marvel Ultimate version of the Avengers, which is also a little bit of the basis for the MCU movies. The timing of me reaching this movie now is pretty amazing, as this introduces the Black Panther to the series, where as Black Panther is winding down it’s takeover of the Hollywood box office and Avengers: Infinity War is coming out later this month. So let’s have fun with today’s movie, Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise Of The Panther.

The plot: In the African nation of Wakanda, two warriors are racing back to their city, being chased by two Chitauri soldiers. In the city, King T’Chaka is holding a ceremony welcoming back his son, Prince T’Challa, who had been studying abroad, though some of T’Chaka’s advisors are not happy with T’Challa’s leaving the country to learn other ideas. Suddenly one of the Wakandan warriors appears on the cliff overlooking and shouts out a warning before he is killed. T’Chaka goes to don the garb of the Black Panther and head out to face the inturders, despite T’Challa saying that he is not fit to do battle. T’Chaka finds a group of Chitauri soldiers and kills them but ends up being stabbed by Herr Kleiser, who had survived his encounter with the Avengers. T’Challa, who had followed his father, cries out at seeing his father mortally wounded and Kleiser approaches him, hoping to finish off the royal bloodline. Seeing this, T’Chaka uses the last of his strength to turn more cat like and attack Kleiser, sending them both off a cliff, which finishes off T’Chaka but Kleiser is able to get up and walk away. Some time later, T’Challa oversees the funeral of his father and is escorted by the high priestess to the sacred chamber of the Black Panther, where T’Challa sees articles about Captain America’s own encounter with Kleiser back during WWII and his return. In the U.S., Captain America (Steve Rogers) is foiling a robbery by Hydra soldiers, getting shot in the process. Natalia Romanov (Black Widow) and some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrive after he is finished and Black Widow chastises Captain America for going in on his own and asks if he wants to kill himself. When Captain America brushes past her, Black Widow has Nick Fury try to talk to Captain America, and Fury ends up telling Captain America that he is pulled from the mission he plans on going on, threatening to have him arrested like Bruce Banner. Meanwhile, Bruce is being interrogated by Dr. Oiler,  a former colleague, over his assault of the Avengers during the Chitauri invasion and when Bruce gets riled up, asking to see Betty Ross, he is sedated and Oiler tells them to keep the video of the Hulk’s rampage playing on a continuous loop in Banner’s cell. That night, as Captain America is attempting to sleep, he is plagued by dreams involving Kleiser and when he wakes up, finds T’Challa, in the Black Panther costume, in his room. Thinking he is being attacked, Captain America grabs T’Challa and throws him out the window, then follows after him but as he grabs T’Challa and asks him who he is, they find themselves surrounded by S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers. Fury explains that the intruder is Black Panther but is shocked to see that is is T’Challa behind the mask. T’Challa explains that his father is dead and he needs to speak to Captain America about Kleiser, asking him how to kill him. Captain America says that he can’t be killed, as he had killed Kleiser twice before, and Fury tells T’Challa his only chance against the Chitauri is to open Wakanda’s borders so the Avengers can help. T’Challa refuses, saying he has betrayed his people already just by coming to seek Captain America’s aid and, asking one last time if there is any information Captain America can give him, T’Challa leaves, and Fury decides to bring in the other Avengers. In his lab, Hank Pym (Giant-Man) is working on increasing his maximum size beyond 60 but when the strain on him becomes too dangerous, Janet Pym (the Wasp) orders the experiment stopped and Hank gets angry at her for ruining his work. When Janet suggests him trying to go back to shrinking, he gets even angrier and storms out of the lab. Meanwhile, Tony Stark )Iron-Man) is on a business retreat when he gets the call from Fury while Thor is using rune stones to see the future and gets a vision of the dead bodies of his teammates. Back in New York, Betty Ross is examining the wreckage of a Chitauri ship and discovers sections of it have become incredibly brittle. Deciding to no longer put it off, Betty goes to see Bruce, who is happy to see her, and she mentions the strange phenomenon with the wreckage but when Bruce offers to help, she tells him that nobody wants his help or trusts him. When Janet, Hank, and Tony show up, Fury leads a mission briefing, telling them about Kleiser and what little they know of Wakanda, due to their isolationist tendencies. Fury wants the Avengers to head to Wakanda on an information gathering mission, telling them to try not to be seen as he doesn’t want an international incident, then places Natalia in charge, as Steve is to angry over Kleiser’s involvement to think clearly. When the Avengers arrive in Wakanda, they encounter T’Challa, who angrily tells them to leave, then relents and says that Steve can come with him but the rest must go back to their ship. T’Challa and Steve sneak into the city and T’Challa explains that in 1942, during the reign of his grandfather, the Wakandans were approached by Kleiser, who offered friendship between his country and theirs, but he betrayed them and attempted to steak the Heart of Wakanda. The Wakandans fought back and were able to bring down the Chitauri ship but it left the people untrusting of the outside world, prompting their adaptation of a more isolationist society. Meanwhile, the Avengers continue to look around and are discovered by T’Challa’s soldiers, who begin attacking them. Hank is drugged by multiple arrows while at giant size and Iron-Man is severely damaged when T’Challa shows up and puts an end to the fight. T’Challa says he will provide the antidote for Hank but they must leave immediately and Fury orders the team back to New York. Meanwhile, Kleiser contacts his commander and tells him that they had trouble securing the planet and his commander tells them that nothing must stop their takeover, revealing a Chitauri flagship heading towards Earth. Elsewhere, Thor contacts Odin to ask him about the vision he was shown and Odin reveals the Chitauri flagship on it’s approach towards Earth. Thor says that he must warn the Avengers and Odin says that Midgard has turned it’s back on the gods and he should no longer meddle in the affairs of mortals but Thor refuses to abandon his friends. Back at the Triskelion, Betty Ross is examining a cube of pure vibranium from the downed Chitauri ship and tells Fury she can’t get any readings off of it but knows that it has stored an incredible amount of energy. Meanwhile, Bruce notices something during the constant replays of his attack and asks to see Betty but Oiler has him sedated again, using increased doses to keep him under. As the Avengers are leaving Wakanda, Steve notices a Chitauri wandering in the jungle below and, defying Natalia’s orders, takes the jump ship back to Wakanda. Meanwhile, T’Challa faces the council of elders, who strip him of his authority to rule due to his bringing outsiders into Wakanda and defying Wakandan law. As he leaves the chamber, T’Challa notices the Chitauri and, donning the Black Panther costume, he goes after it. When Steve lands, he hears the sounds of struggling and sees T’Challa defeating with the Chitauri and Steve says to let them find out what it’s plan is and T’Challa agrees provided that he goes with them. They take the Chitauri back to the Avengers ship, where Natalia chastises Steve for risking their lives and T’Challa suddenly reveals himself to be Kleiser. The Chitauri reveals that it was playing possum and it begins attacking, injuring Janet in the process. Kleiser and the Chitauri soldier get into the jump ship and leave, contacting the flagship and telling it to fire on the Avengers’ ship. Meanwhile, Thor returns to the Triskelion and warns Fury of the approaching flagship and they get it on the screen just as the flagship blasts the Avengers’s ship but Thor is able to teleport there and bring his friends back to safety. Hank takes Janet to sick bay, angrily blaming Steve for her injuries, while Stark returns to Stark Tower, where he preps his War Machine armor for battle. In the detention center, Betty goes to see Bruce, who points out the Hulk attacking the Chitauri ship and theorizes that the Hulk’s gamma radiation affected the hull, causing it to become brittle. He tells Betty he has a small gamma generator she can use to test it and begs her to let him help but she says she can’t as Fury won’t allow it. Meanwhile, the Chitauri flagship extends a membrane like barrier across the planet, then proceeds to launch it’s armies onto the surface. In Wakanda, the people retreat into the palace and the palace defenses begin attacking the Chitauri. Inside the control room, the elders point out that they don’t need the help of any outsiders but T’Challa expresses his doubts. T’Challa  contacts S.H.I.E.L.D. and asks for their help and explains that the Chitauri are after the Heart of Wakanda, which is the mountain deposit of vibranium that fuels their technology but his transmission is broken up by the chief elder. Outside the city, Kleiser discovers that the Wakandans are using the wreckage of one of their ships to power their defenses and orders the flagship to blast it, and the resulting explosion powers down the palace defenses. Thor teleports Fury and the Avengers to Wakanda, where they are met by T’Challa and begin to lead a counter attack. Meanwhile, Betty finds test the gamma generator and discovers it does work against the Chitauri, just as the Chitauri begin to attack the Triskelion. Three Chitauri soldiers enter the detention center and attempt to kill Banner but when they can’t penetrate the glass, they order Oiler to give Banner a lethal dose of sedative gas in order to kill him. The Chitauri kill Oiler but are then killed by Betty and Janet, who wants to revive Bruce but he says it is better that he dies in order to ensure the Hulk doesn’t hurt anyone else and Betty cries as he dies. Betty and Janet take the generator to Wakanda and come up with a plan to take out the flagship. While Thor deals with the cannon, Tony will fly into the flagship and take out the core and Hank says he will go with him. Janet tells him no, as the strain of shrinking might be too much for him but Hank says he will be fine and shrinks down to go with Tony. Meanwhile, Steve and T’Challa are fighting with Kleiser and both end up being severely wounded by him but they manage to knock him into the smelting facility and pour molten vibranium on him, and he ends up sinking beneath the molten metal before it quickly hardens and entombs him inside. Meanwhile, the Triskelion is still under attack when suddenly, Banner transforms into the Hulk and breaks free from his containment, then proceeds to start battling the Chitauri. Back at Wakanda, Thor distracts the cannon long enough for Tony and hank to make it inside the flagship but is then blasted by the cannon and falls to the ground. Inside, Hank grows to giant size and holds off the Chitauri so that Tony can reach the core. Tony begins using the generator on the core but when it runs out of power, he throws the generator into the core in frustration. The generator cause a chain reaction that causes the core to explode, destroying the barrier covering the earth and depowering all of the Chitauri troops and vehicles around the world. Hank grabs Tony as they are blasted out of the flagship but some debris knocks him unconscious and Tony is forced to make Hank shrink back to normal size so he can save his carry him. When they land, Janet rushes to Hank who briefly speaks with her before dying from the strain he placed on his body. When they notice the flagship heading towards the city, Tony flies off to try and divert it, using up all of the power in his suit to do so, then he crashes to the ground while the ship safely crashes away from the city. Steve rushes to his friend just as Thor recovers and uses his lightning to serve as a defibrillator to revive Tony, but they are unable to revive Hank. The elders all apologize to T’Challa and restore his authority as king as the Avengers head back to New York. When they reach the Triskelion, they are unaware that they are being observed by the Hulk, who quietly whispers “Betty” before ducking away when she looks towards him, then leaps away and leaves the city. As Betty looks at the empty cell that Banner was in, Janet approaches and tells her that at least she knows he is alive somewhere, then they head off together. The Avengers all gather to hold a wake for Hank and afterwards, Tony goes to comfort Janet and Betty for each of their losses, Steve approaches Natalia and says they should think about their future before kissing her, while Fury and Thor share a drink and Thor tells Fury about how he once saved Midgard from Surtur.

When it comes to animated comic book movies, DC almost always beats out Marvel, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good movie because it actually is. The voice acting was pretty good, with the various actors returning to voice the characters from the first movie. The story was pretty good, though I don’t know if it necessarily follows an actual comic story line or not. The animation was pretty good and did a great job in helping to sell the action. It’s a fun movie to watch but I will be honest, the only thing it does right now is make me want to see Black Panther again and get me further hyped to see Infinity War.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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adventure, movie, movie review, musical, sci-fi, tv episodes

November 17th, 2017 Movie – Star Wars Holiday Special

star wars holiday special

Happy Life Day everyone and if you haven’t figured it out by now, today’s movie is the reason for my buying a ton of movies at the beginning of the year. So 39 years ago today, a television event occurred that has since become legendary for how absolutely terrible it was. CBS had approached George Lucas about doing a TV special featuring the characters from Star Wars, as the recent re-release of the movie in theaters showed that the movie’s popularity had not waned in the least. Well, George Lucas agreed and the end result ended up being a train wreck of such epic proportions, that it was never rebroadcast after the initial airing, nor did it receive an official release on home video,  so the only way you could obtain a copy was through a bootleg copy of an original recording or, in more recent times, off of the internet. George Lucas has never considered the special to be part of the Star wars canon and, in regards to the bootleg copies, has stated that “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every bootleg copy of that program and smash it (with a couple of profanities thrown in there).”

Fast forward a few decades, and I managed to pick up a copy of the special at DragonCon. Some time later, my friends and I decided to watch it one night while watching a slew of “bad” movies and thought it was absolutely hysterical. Since then, some of my friends and I will wish each other a Happy Life Day on this day. Last year, I wished my friend Paula a Happy Life Day and she said I should review this special since it was “Life Day”. Well, at this point last year I was only in the “P’s” so that wasn’t going to happen but I looked at where it fell on the schedule and realized I could quite easily make it happen this year. Thus, 150 some odd movies later (mostly off of the two box sets I bought) I am able to watch today’s movie, The Star Wars Holiday Special, on the anniversary of when it first debuted.

The plot: Han Solo and Chewbacca are heading to Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk when they are attacked by two Imperial Star Destroyers. Han wants to turn back but Chewie convinces him to continue as the day is important so Han makes the jump to light speed. On Kashyyyk, Chewie’s son Lumpy is playing with a wooden X-wing while his grandfather, Itchy, sits in a chair carving a second one. When Lumpy gets on Itchy’s nerves, Chewie’s wife Malla has him take out the garbage, admonishing him when he tries to steal a cookie that she baked, though he quickly takes another one when her back is turned. Malla and Itchy are starting to get worried that Chewie isn’t there yet and Itchy lets Lumpy watch a holovid of some acrobats and jugglers in order to keep him entertained. Malla checks a scanner for approaching ships but finds nothing in the area. She then contacts the rebel base and reaches Luke Skywalker, who is working on his X-wing with R2-D2, and when Luke learns that Chewie and Han haven’t reached Kashyyyk yet, he tells them he doesn’t know where they are but is sure they will be there soon. Malla then contacts Saun Dann, a local trader, to ask if he has heard from Chewie but Suan’s shop is being searched by Imperial troops so he has to give Malla a coded message telling her that Han and Chewie are on their way while on board one of the Star Destroyers, Vader tells his officers to search every house on the planet for the Rebels. Malla works on cooking a meal when a message comes through the view screen announcing an Imperial blockade around the planet. Just as the message ends, someone knocks on the door and the wookies fear it is Imperial troops but it is only Saun, who had brought them all some Life Day gifts. Lumpy grabs his gift and quickly takes it up to his room while Saun gives Itchy a holotape, which he claims is “Wow”, and puts it in for Itchy, who uses the privacy viewer to watch it. Princess Leia and C-3P0 contact Malla and when they learn that Han and Chewie haven’t arrived yet, Leia worries that the Imperial blockade might be more of a problem for them and asks Saun to stay with Malla and the others until they get there. Han and Chewie arrive at Kashyyyk but when they notice they blockade, they decide to enter in the Northern area where they have less of a chance of being spotted. Malla, Lumpy, and the others hear the Millennium Falcon’s engines and they rush to the door to greet them only to find Imperial troops outside. As the Imperials begin searching the house for any signs of the Rebels or Rebellion contraband, Saun tries to distract them, showing one of the officers a holovid of a band singing but the officer in charge forces him to leave. As the Imperials continue searching the house, Lumpy starts watching an animated adventure of the Rebel Alliance. In the cartoon, Han Solo and Chewie had gone to fetch an ancient talisman but Han falls victim to a sleeping sickness attached to the talisman and they end up crashing on a planet close to the hidden Rebel base. Luke, R2, and 3P0 head to the planet but they end up stuck in the planet’s surface and a creature begins attacking their ship before they are rescued by a man named Boba Fett. Boba Fett offers to help them and takes them to the Millennium Falcon but as Luke enters, he falls victim to the sleeping sickness just as Chewie gets rid of the talisman. Boba Fett thinks Chewie did something to them but 3P0 translates that it was the talisman that caused them to fall asleep, though it only affects humans. Boba Fett says he recognizes the virus and offers to go into town to get the cure but Chewie demands to go with him. When they get to town, Boba Fett has Chewie wait while he gets the cure but as he does, he secretly contacts Darth Vader, who had hired Boba Fett to locate the Rebel base. After returning to the Falcon and administering the cure, Luke thanks Boba Fett but R2, who had intercepted Boba Fett’s transmission, informs Luke of Boba Fett’s deceit and Boba Fett uses his rocket pack to fly away. The Imperials finish searching Lumpy’s room and order him to clean it up but Lumpy uses the time to work on building a transmitter. Back downstairs, a live video, which is required viewing for all Imperial soldiers, tells of Tatooine having a curfew placed on it and watch as the bartender, Ackmena, tries to kick everyone out and eventually does so by singing a song and leading them in a dance. Lump gets his transmitter working and fakes an Imperial transmission telling the soldiers to return to base. The Imperial officer orders one stormtrooper to stay behind while the others leave but the stormtrooper hears the repeated message coming from Lumpy’s room. The stormtrooper smashes the device and chase Lumpy outside but Han and Chewie arrive and as Chewie moves to protect Lumpy, Han manages to trick the stormtrooper into falling off the deck and into the jungle below. Han and Chewie enter the house and after making sure everyone is ok, Han leaves, wishing them all a Happy Life Day. Saun returns to the house just as the Imperials try contacting the stormtrooper but Saun convinces the Imperials that the stormtrooper had deserted and they agree to send a search party to look for him. After Saun leaves, Chewie and his family each hold up a globe and they end up wearing red robes as they are transported into space, where they join a procession of other aliens walking into a star. They arrive at the Tree of Life, where they are joined by Han, Leia, Luke, R2, and 3P0. Leia greets everyone and sings a song to celebrate Life Day, as Chewie thinks back to how he met all of his new friends, before heading home with his family and having dinner.

Everything you heard about this special is true, but that actually makes it fun to watch because it is such a train wreck. The acting from the main Star Wars cast (Hamill, Ford, and Fisher) felt pretty stifled and nowhere near as crisp as it was in the original film. Art Carney did a good job as Saun while Bea Arthur (Ackmena) made for a funny twist as the bartender and Harvey Korman was hysterical as the alien chef and the instruction manual for the communicator. The base story was honestly a little weak and they tried too hard to stretch it out for a 2 hour special. Some of the side bits to help stretch things out were pretty good; such as the cartoon, which was the first appearance of Boba Fett, and the scenes with Harvey Korman were funny as hell. The scene with Itchy watching the holovid of the woman is a little disturbing, as it was more or less implied that he was essentially watching porn. Equally as disturbing was the scene with Jefferson Starship and I know that it was supposed to be a lightsaber but it honestly looked like Marty Balin looked like he was singing into a glowing dildo (my apologies if the description offends you). This is not good in any sense of the word, but it can entertaining in the whole “so bad, it’s good” style of enjoyment.

Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 (but the entertainment value could bump this to a 2 1/2)

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action, adventure, fantasy, movie, movie review, sci-fi

November 16th, 2017 Movie – Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Star Wars Trailer

 

In 2012, the deal of the century was made when it comes to Hollywood, as George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for just over $4 billion. This means that Disney, who already had a newfound  cash cow going with the MCU, now had control of arguably one of the biggest movie/pop culture franchises of all time. It wasn’t long after the purchase that the news came out that a new trilogy was being worked on, with the first entry getting a release date of 2015. Now I have been a Star Wars fan for a long, long time, but I will admit that I was a little nervous about Disney getting a hold of Star Wars, with my biggest fear being that they will make it too kid friendly and lose some of the dark tones that made the original movies so great. Despite my worries, I had no problem going to see it and obviously enjoyed it, as I bought it when it came out on video, so let’s get set for the new adventure in a galaxy far, far away with today’s movie, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

The plot: 30 years after the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star, a new regime known as the First Order has risen up and seeks to overthrow the New Republic. A resistance, led by General Leia Organa, tries to stop the First Order while also seeking out Luke Skywalker, who has disappeared years ago. On the planet Jakku, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron meets with a village elder, Lor San Tekka and receives a map to where Luke is hiding. Suddenly, his astromech droid, BB-8, alerts him to the arrival of 4 First Order troop carriers, and he quickly makes a run for it but his X-wing is damaged. Poe gives the map to BB-8 and tells him to run, then tries to help the villagers by shooting several stormtroopers. The stormtroopers quickly round up the villagers, killing those that fight back, and wait as a shuttle lands and Kylo Ren, the newest Sith Lord, departs and proceeds to question Lor before killing him with his lightsaber. Poe attempts to shoot Ren, who stops the laser blast with the Force and freezes Poe, allowing some stormtroopers to take him prisoner. Ren orders Poe taken aboard his ship, then orders Captain Phasma to kill the remaining villagers but one of the stormtroopers, who had been affected by the death of another trooper, does not fire his weapon. As they return to their Star Destroyer, Poe is taken away while the stormtrooper, FN-2187, is told to report to Phasma’s division to explain his lack of action in the village. Back on the planet’s surface, a scavenger named Rey is grabbing materials to sell from a crashed Imperial Star Destroyer and heads to the nearby town to sell the materials. After returning home and eating some food, Rey investigates a commotion and finds another scavenger attempting to capture BB-8 and she quickly rescues the droid and reluctantly allows him to come home with her when he keeps attempting to follow. The next day, Rey takes BB-8 with her to sell her salvage and when the merchant offers to buy BB-8, she considers it but refuses his offer and leaves with BB-8, not knowing that the merchant contacts someone to steal the droid from her. Back on the Star Destroyer, Ren begins interrogating Poe and, using the Force, learns that the map is with BB-* and orders his men to find it. Some time later, FN-2187 takes Poe from the interrogation room and, pretending to be transferring the prisoner, sneaks him into an empty compartment and says he will help Poe escape if he takes him with him. Poe and Finn, what Poe decides to call the stormtrooper, sneak into a Tie-fighter and, after blasting the hangar while still tethered, manage to escape from the Star Destroyer and Poe heads back to Jakku to collect BB-8 but they are struck by a missile and end up crashing to the surface. When Finn regains consciousness, he goes looking for Poe but only finds his jacket before the wreckage disappears beneath the sand and explodes. Shedding his stormtrooper armor and donning Poe’s jacket, Finn makes his way to town and witnesses 2 men attempt to grab BB-8 from Rey but as he goes to try and help her, she manages to knock them both out. As Rey releases BB-8 from the bag they put him in, BB-8 sees Finn wearing Poe and cries out, causing Rey to notice him and chase him down. Knocking Finn to the ground, Rey questions him about the jacket and he explains that he helped Poe escape from the First Order but that Poe died when they crashed. Suddenly, they see a pair of stormtroopers being pointed in their direction and Finn grabs Rey and starts running, with the stormtroopers firing at them as they chase after them. The stormtroopers call in for some air support and a pair of Tie-fighters arrive and begin blasting the city. Rey, Finn, and BB-8 try to escape in a ship but when it blows up, they board an old Corellian YT-1300 freighter, with Finn manning the lower gun turret while Rey attempts to fly them out of there. After making their way through the wreckage of a Star Destroyer, and Finn shooting the two Tie-figters, Rey takes them into space but says she has to go back, as she is waiting for her family to come back and get her. Finn convinces her to help him get to the Resistance base, then secretly asks BB-8 to tell them where the base is. Before they can leave, their ship is captured by a larger freighter and they quickly hide only to be discovered by Han Solo and Chewbacca, who had seen the freighter and recognized it as their stolen Millennium Falcon. Han wants to get rid of them but when Finn says that BB-8 has a map leading to Luke Skywalker and they need to get to the Resistance, Han pauses and turns to face them. Suddenly, they hear a noise and when Han checks his ship’s sensors, they see a ship docking with them so he tells Rey and Finn to hide. Han is confronted by two gangs that he swindled money from and Rey tries to help by sealing the gangs behind the blast doors but accidentally releases two of the Rathtars that Han and Chewie were transporting. As the Rathtars begin attacking everyone, Han, Chewie, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 manage to get on board the Falcon, though Chewie is injured in the process, and escape but one of the gangs contacts the First Order to let them know that Han has the droid. Kylo Ren and General Hux go to see the First Order’s Supreme Commander Snoke and inform him of the latest developments and suggests they use their newest weapon to destroy the Republic, weakening the aid for the Resistance. After Hux leaves, Snoke speaks with Ren, asking if he will have a problem in his mission since Han Solo is his father but Ren says he means nothing to him. On the Falcon, Han asks to see the map that BB-8 has and after seeing it, says the map is incomplete. Rey asks what happened to Luke and Han says that Luke had been training a new generation of Jedi but one of his apprentices turned on him and destroyed everything. Luke felt responsible for what happened and simply left everything and rumors had him seeking out the first Jedi temple. Han agrees to help them get to the Resistance and heads for the planet Takodana and meets with Maz Kanata to get her help, but as they walk with her, a droid contacts the Resistance to inform them of BB-8’s location while a second patron contacts the First Order with the same information. As Maz is speaking with the group, she stares at Finn and says she sees the eyes of someone who is running, then points at two smugglers who are heading to the Outer Rim and Finn leaves to go talk to them. Rey follows and asks what he is doing and Finn asks her to come with him but when she refuses, he tells her to take care and leaves. Rey feels something compelling her to head down to the lower levels of the bar, where she finds a chest containing a lightsaber. When she touches it, she suddenly sees visions of Luke’s past, as well as her own, before seeing a future vision of her fighting Ren and she quickly drops the lightsaber and backs out of the room. Maz approaches her and explains that the lightsaber had belonged to Luke and now calls out for her but Rey doesn’t want anything to do with it and quickly runs from the building. Meanwhile, General Hux is giving a speech his troops as they prepare to fire the Starkiller, a planet that has been converted into a weapon more powerful than the Death Star, and they all watch as the beam fires, destroying the Republic capital and several smaller planets, as well as portions of the Republic’s fleet. On Takodana, Finn, Rey, Han, and Chewie, as well as several other patrons see the beam and the planets destructions. Finn goes back to Hand and Chewie and asks where Rey is and Maz hands Finn the lightsaber and tells him to give it to Rey, just as the First Order arrives and begins attacking. In the forest, Rey and BB-8 are running from some stormtroopers and Rey tells BB-8 to keep moving while she holds them off but she ends up being captured by Ren. Meanwhile, Finn, Han, and Chewie are captured by the First Order but are rescued when Resistance X-wings arrive and begin fighting the First Order. Ren orders his troops to fall back and Han and Finn see Ren carrying Rey on board his shuttle and leaving. When a Resistance transport arrives, Han is reunited with Leia and he tells her he saw their son. As they are taken back to the Resistance base, Finn finds out that Poe is still alive and the two friends embrace before Finn asks Poe for his help. Poe takes Finn to see Leia, and Finn says he knows about the Starkiller base and offers to tell them what he knows in exchange for her help in rescuing Rey. BB-8 gives them the map, which C-3P0 says matches no system in their charts, then BB-8 approaches the powered down form of R2-D2 and tries to get him to function but 3P0 approaches and says R2 hasn’t moved since Luke left. Back on Starkiller Base, Ren attempts to interrogate Rey with the Force to learn Luke’s location but Rey’s is able to resist and senses that Ren is scared he will never be as powerful as Darth Vader. Ren approaches Snoke and tells him of the situation and when Snoke asks about the droid, Hux appears and says that Ren said the droid wasn’t necessary since he had Rey and that it is probably in the hands of the Resistance. Not wanting the Resistance to locate Luke, Snoke orders Hux to use the Starkiller on the Resistance and Hux orders the weapon to charge, drawing it’s energy from a nearby sun to power it. Meanwhile, Rey is able to use the Force to influence her guard into freeing her and she leaves before Ren returns to take her to Snoke. Back at the Resistance Base, they learn that the Starkiller Base is charging to fire again and that they are it’s target. Finn tells them how they can destroy the base but he will need to be on the surface to do it and Han says he can get him there. As the Resistance prepare for the mission, Leia approaches Han and as they talk, she asks that he try and bring their son back alive. Han, Chewie, and Finn had off in the Falcon and reach the planet, breaking through their shield by coming in at light speed. Once they get inside the base, they capture Captain Phasma and have her lower the shields so the Resistance fighters can make their attack run. Finn wants to try and locate Rey but Han points behind them to show that Rey had escaped. They meet up with her, and Rey hugs Finn when she learns that the rescue was his plan, and they head outside but when they see that the Resistance fighters are not making any progress in destroying the weapon, Han says they can’t leave and they head to the firing oscillator, where Han and Chewie begin planting explosives inside. When Ren shows up inside the facility, Han goes to confront him, calling him by his real name, Ben. Ren seems to feel remorse and moves to hand over his lightsaber but as the star’s energy is finally drained, Ren stabs Han in the chest with his lightsaber. Han lovingly touches Ren’s face before falling down the shaft and Chewie roars in anger and loss before shooting Ren in the side, then detonating the explosives. Seeing the opening caused by the explosives, Poe has the remaining members of his team cover him as he flies inside, destroying the power cells from the inside and causing the weapon to explode. As Finn and Rey make their way back to the Falcon, they are confronted by Ren, who uses the Force to shove Rey into a tree, stunning her. Finn uses Luke’s lightsaber to attack Ren but Ren is able to overpower him and slashes Finn in the back. Ren then attempts to summons Luke’s lightsaber to his hand but it instead flies into Rey’s hand, who begins fighting with Ren. Ren starts to overpower her and says he can show her the ways of the Force but when she hears that, Rey calms down and is able to channel the Force to help her, eventually defeating Ren and slashing him across the face, leaving a scar. Before she can finish him off, the planet starts breaking apart due to the stored energy from the star and a chasm separates the two of them. Rey goes to Finn’s body just as Chewie shows up with the Falcon and they load him on board and leave the planet before it explodes, while Snoke orders Hux to bring Ren to him to complete his training. At the Resistance base, Finn is placed in a medical tank while Leia and Rey hug over the loss of Han. R2 reactivates and displays a map, with BB-8’s portion of the map showing the way to reach Luke. Rey leaves with Chewie and R2 and heads to the planet located on the map, where she finds Luke and hands him back his lightsaber.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens met with high praise from the critics, holding a 93% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series’ former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.” In a tragic story of life imitating art, Mark Hamill and John Boyega lobbied director J.J. Abrams and Disney to allow Daniel Fleetwood, a Star Wars fan diagnosed with terminal cancer, to see the film early as he was not expected to live to see the movie released in theaters; which was similar to the plot of the movie Fanboys, where some friends attempted to steal a copy of The Phantom Menace before it hit theaters so their sick friend could see it. The Force Awakens was a box office juggernaut, earning $2.068 Billion off of a $306 million budget, making it the highest grossing installment in the franchise (unadjusted for inflation), the highest grossing film in North America, and the third highest grossing film of all time.

 I have to admit, Disney did a good job with this one. The acting was pretty good, with the new stars of Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), and Oscar Isaac (Poe) doing great jobs in their roles and taking up the reigns for a new generation. I like the glimpses we were given of Snoke and look forward to his development as the main bad guy but I was a little undecided about Adam Driver (Ren) but I think the emo, temper tantrum throwing portrayal was actually doing a halfway decent job in showing the struggle he was going between staying on the path to the Dark Side with Snoke or going back to the Light Side as he was taught by Luke and his family. Harrison Ford (Han), Peter Mayhew (Chewie), and Carrie Fisher (Leia) did good jobs reprising their roles but I wished they at least stated whether or not Han and Leia had gotten married. The story was good, but I have to admit that the similarities between this movie and A New Hope were too many to make it seem like this wasn’t more than a remake, which did hurt it some. The special effects were definitely top notch and were everything you would expect from a Star Wars movie. I also liked how rough and unpolished the lightsaber fights were, as even though Ren had some training, he is still struggling with his conflicting emotions (indicated by his tantrums and wildly slashing at objects), while Rey and Finn had no training so they would just wildly swing at Ren when they fought him. A really good movie but there is room for improvement with their storytelling in the future.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5
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