Film

  • What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark? Review

    The only difference between you and me is that you can’t see the difference between you and me.

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    After saving genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist Tony Stark, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is on the rise, first named head of security, and later as COO for Stark Industries after uncovering a plot to assassinate Tony by The Ten Rings and Obadiah Stane. Working closely with Tony, they build a legion of drones meant to replace and save soldiers’ lives on the front lines of war, but the only way to get them working is to acquire vibranium. Meeting with black market merchant Ulysses Klaue, Killmonger reveals his true plans, killing Tony, Rhodey, Klaue, and T’challa aka The Black Panther when he tries to take the vibranium back to Wakanda.

    Arriving at the gates of what would have been his homeland, Killmonger delivers the body of Klaue as a show of service to Wakanda. King T’chaka is happy to embrace his lost nephew, but the time for reunion is cut short when General Ross sends the army of drones against the technologically advanced African nation under Killmonger’s deception that Wakanda assassinated Tony Stark. Killmonger quickly offers a plan to defeat the drones he created, and fights admirably alongside the Dora Milaje and fellow warriors of Wakanda. Rewarded for his bravery, Killmonger is named The Black Panther, protector of Wakanda. 

    Episode six of “What If…?” Takes us back to the very beginning of the MCU; the first scene of its first movie, Iron Man. With Killmonger’s rescue of Tony, the entire timeline is rewritten, leaving the world without Iron Man, and without the Avengers. It tells a dark story not only of Killmonger, but of Tony Stark, who without his experience being captured by the Ten Rings and learning a humbling lesson, instead sees his almost assassination as a reason to create bigger and badder weapons. Killmonger’s manipulations must have been planned over years to pull the strings of not only Tony, but two world superpowers, forcing America and Wakanda into a conflict he created only for himself to become the victor. It’s a plan worthy of the Killmonger we first met in Black Panther, and that’s kind of the problem. 

    As intriguing as his plan was, he was still the same villain we’ve seen before. Wonderfully performed by Michael B. Jordan who returned to voice the character again in “What If…?”, Killmonger was one of the better villains of the MCU. He wasn’t simply after power or money, or even solely vengeance. His motivations come from the oppression of African Americans which make his aggressive actions almost justified. He was a villain who not only nearly defeated The Black Panther, but forced T’challa to reconsider his perspective of how his nation could help African Americans in the US and throughout the world. But this episode misses the opportunity to show a different Killmonger, one who doesn’t resort to murder and deception to advance his agenda, but could be a true hero to his people in the US and Wakanda, standing beside The Black Panther to change the world. 

    It’s difficult to disagree with Killmonger’s perspective, because he’s absolutely correct about the oppression African Americans have suffered at the hands of imperial minded countries. In Black Panther, we got to see Killmonger acting in the same vein as Malcom X, a leader who advocates fighting fire with fire. In this episode, Marvel missed the chance to show Killmonger taking a different approach, advocating for peace and progress through unity and understanding, similar to Martin Luther King.

  • What If… Zombies?! Review

    So you wanna survive the zombie apocalypse.

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    After Thanos’ destruction of Thor’s Asgardian refugee ship, Heimdall uses the last of his power to send Dr. Bruce Banner aka The Hulk back to Earth to warn the Avengers of the impending danger. However, landing in Doctor Strange’s empty Sanctum Santorum, Bruce discovers a ravaged world full of zombies infected by a quantumverse virus brought back by Dr. Hank Pym. Running for his life from the undead versions of Tony Stark aka Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Wong, Bruce is saved just in time by Peter Parker aka Spider-man, and Hope Van Dyne aka The Wasp. 

    Taking refuge among other Avenger survivors like Okoye, General of the Dora Milaje, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, Sharon Carter, Happy Hogan, and Kurt Goreshter, they discover a signal from another survivor camp located at Camp Lehigh, the base where Steve Rogers trained during World War 2. Fighting through waves of zombies led by the undead Clint Barton aka Hawkeye, Sam Wilson aka Falcon, and Steve Rogers aka Captain America, they arrive at Camp Lehigh and find Vision, who believes he’s discovered a cure to the quantum zombie plague with the Mind Stone after a successful test performed on the reanimated, dad-joke spewing head of Scott Lang aka Ant-Man. But after a thorough exploration of the camp, they discover Vision is keeping a dark secret; the undead Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch. 

    Since her undeath, Vision has been luring survivors to the camp to feed Wanda while he tried to find a cure, but her powers proved too strong. Hoping to make amends for his deception, Vision sacrifices himself and gives the Mind Stone to Peter and the few remaining survivors so they can travel to Wakanda and use their technology and the Stone to counteract the virus. Because of Wakanda’s shields, they hope to find the African nation free of the zombie plague. What greets them, however, is a zombie horde led by an undead Thanos. 

    “What if… Zombies?!” brings to the MCU one of my favorite things; zombies! As a fan of zombie narratives and action, I’d like to admit my own bias for this episode. I knew it was coming, and now that I’ve seen it, I know the wait was worth it. From the first scene of Bruce arriving in New York, this episode delivered a fun, gory, action packed adventure worthy of being a part of the MCU. While the story was full of heart breaking moments, like Happy’s death or Hope’s tragic sacrifice, the strength of this episode comes from Peter Parker, voiced by Hudson Thames, Kurt Goreshter, voiced by David Dasmalchian, and the overall comedy as they try to lead everyone through popular zombie movie cliches. 

    As unique as this episode was, the story felt rushed as it squeezed a number of heavy plot points in 30 minutes. The narrative would benefit from a longer runtime, or even better if it were a series unto itself. While I know many are burnt out over zombies and the multiple Walking Dead series, a zombie series with our favorite Avengers that is the same quality as this episode would be a fun and worthwhile addition to the MCU, even if it remained an animated series. This episode also misses out on an opportunity of making a Walking Dead reference between Peter and Okoye, voiced by Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead’s fan-favorite Michonne. 

    Despite “What If… Zombies?!” flaws, this episode was a fun and thrilling adventure that made me laugh, and almost made me cry. It’s evidence that the best stories are the ones that have fun. 

  • What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? Review

    You’re a god! You can undo this!

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    With the death of the love of his life, Dr. Christine Palmer, in a tragic car accident, Dr. Stephen Strange, expert surgeon and future Sorcerer Supreme, seeks to master the mystical arts to bring her back in this alternate timeline. After mastering the Eye of Agamotto and defeating Dormammu (I’ve come to bargain), Strange turns his attention to reversing time to try and save Christine, but fails over and over again. Explained by the Ancient One, Christine’s death is an Absolute Point, the necessary event that cannot be changed that begins Strange’s path to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme. 

    In a desperate attempt to stop Strange from continuing his misguided path, the Ancient One splits this alternate timeline in two. As one Strange decides to ultimately move on from his memory of Christine, another pursues that memory to the Lost Library of Cagliostro, a sorcerer rumored to have found a way to change an absolute point. Strange finds the answer to saving Christine and begins to capture and harness the power of countless mystical beings (one probably being Cthulhu…) until he has the power he needs. Seeking out the other Doctor Strange to absorb his power as well, the two doppelgängers enter into a battle of mystic arts, ultimately ending in the Dark Strange’s victory. 

    Now, with all the power he needs, he revives Christine, only for her to meet the hideous creature he’s become as reality breaks around them. With a desperate plea to The Watcher to fix his mistake, to not let Christine and the world be punished for his arrogance, the universe is destroyed, leaving the smallest pocket dimension for Strange to spend an eternity in, alone and, once again, without Christine. 

    Despite all the excitement of WandaVision, the hype of Spider-Man: No Way Home, and the upcoming Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Episode Four of What If…? is the first time we’ve returned to Dr. Stephen Strange since Avengers: Endgame, and I couldn’t be more excited. Getting back into the fray of Marvel’s mystical side is something I’ve missed since the first Doctor Strange and his roles in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. The magic shown is so unique from the rest of the MCU. Doctor Strange brings something else to the table other than superpowers, he brings intelligence and wit, as well as some much enjoyed sarcasm and sass. Against Dormammu, instead of beating him to a pulp, he tricked him into a time loop until he was ready to relent, and his spells and magical items sound as if they’ve come straight out of the D&D Player’s Handbook. Which is where this particular adventure of Doctor Strange falls short. 

    While the overarching plot was heartbreaking and compelling, the magic this Strange used was more brute force than intellect or cunning. He consistently summons and defeats these beasts over and over, and his conflict with the other Strange throws away wits and uses another generic fight to beat the protective warding off of Strange until he’s defenseless. It lacks what I personally enjoy about the character. However, this episode offers another intriguing element that we haven’t seen yet; The Watcher in direct contact with the universe. In the beginning the Watcher warned us that he could not, would not, should not interfere in the timelines, that he must only watch. However, he’s now spoken directly the the timelines focal point, Doctor Strange. Is this foreshadowing that not only can The Watcher interfere, but will he if the situation were dire enough. Will these alternate timelines eventually converge into something dangerous that the Watcher must confront directly, or will they remain something only to be watched?

  • Marvel’s WandaVision “We Interrupt this Program” Review

    It’s all Wanda. 

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    Meet Capt. Monica Rambeau; pilot, agent of SWORD (Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division), daughter to Capt. Maria Rambeau, and surrogate family member to Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. After the shock of returning from five years being vanished from Thanos’ Snappening, she’s ready to return to work at SWORD. Unfortunately, due to the anomalies of the re-Snappening, Director of SWORD Tyler Hayward is grounding her until his agency is back on its feet. In the meantime, Monica is sent to Westview, New Jersey to help FBI agent Jimmy Woo on a missing persons case that has now turned into a whole missing town. Upon discovering a strange force field surrounding the town, Monica is quickly sucked inside, vanishing from sight. 

    Meet Dr. Darcy Lewis; astrophysicist, colleague of Dr. Jane Foster and Dr. Erik Selvig, and friend of Thor Odinson. After Monica’s disappearance, SWORD is calling in every scientist they can to help solve what is going on in Westview. Running every test they can think of, Darcy picks up a hidden signal through an older television and discovers the strange new TV show, WandaVision, starring two Avengers, one thought to be dead, the citizens of Westview, and Monica as Wanda’s new friend Geraldine. SWORD tries to contact Wanda through a number of ways that somehow change when they come into contact with the force field, such as the red and yellow toy helicopter that was once a drone, and the beekeeper from the sewers that was once a SWORD agent. They’re quickly running out of ideas when Darcy and Jimmy watch WandaVision’s third episode, the one where Geraldine delivers Wanda’s babies, and she mentions Ultron. The episode is cut short and Monica is violently thrown out of the Westview force field and returned to SWORD. 

    After three decreasingly charming episodes, “We Interrupt this Program” FINALLY gives us a clue to the greater plot of WandaVision. While feeling like a very fast and short episode, we are introduced to some of the bigger events and characters not only involved in this show, but the greater MCU, such as SWORD, Monica Rambeau (Teyona Parris), and the return of Thor fan-favorite, Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). Though there are still plenty of questions surrounding Wanda and Vision’s situation, we are given the sense that Wanda has some measure of control and awareness, along with a cryptic warning from Monica that “It’s all Wanda.”

    This episode also answers some logistical questions of how the world is operating post-Endgame. Earth and the rest of the universe suffered when Thanos snapped away half of all life, but five years after the fact, the world was healing and finding a new normal. Then, suddenly, those who vanished return without warning. We only see a glimpse of the chaos in the hospital Monica vanished from, where her mother Maria was undergoing cancer treatments, but imagine that chaos spread across the entire planet. People who vanished from crosswalks suddenly reappearing in the middle of the street. People who vanished and left empty homes reappearing to find themselves now homeless. Fortunately for Monica, her career with SWORD was waiting for her, for the most part, and she has the chance to resume some semblance of her old life, but others may not be as lucky.

  • Marvel’s What If… The World Lost its Mightiest Heroes? Review

    Hashtag-Steve-Steve-Steve-I-Heart-Steve-0-7-0-4

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    There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, until those remarkable people began being murdered one by one. In just one week, Tony Stark, Thor Odinson, and Dr. Bruce Banner are found dead, presumably at the hands of SHIELD’s best agents, Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton. However, SHIELD Director Nick Fury isn’t so sure these cases are as cut and dry as they seem, especially when the Black Widow and Hawkeye die under even stranger circumstances. Trying to solve these murders goes from difficult to nearly impossible when an Asgardian army led by Loki Laufeyson invade Earth seeking vengeance for his brother’s murder. 

    Striking a deal with Loki, Fury has one day to find the would-be Avengers’ killer. With help from Agent Coulson, Fury thinks he’s discovered the killer’s identity, but to be sure, he needs the help of the God of Mischief. Traveling to a graveyard in San Francisco, Fury finds the tombstone of Hope Van Dyne, daughter of Dr. Hank Pym, and an agent of SHIELD. Pym confronts Fury while wearing his own modified version of the Yellow Jacket suit and blames him for his daughter’s death, revealing his motive and methods of murdering each of the Avengers in an attempt to leave Fury and SHIELD crippled. However, after some clever tricks, Fury reveals himself to be Loki, who captures his brother’s killer. Instead of returning to Asgard, Loki decides he’d like to stay on Earth a bit longer, and in only a day, conquers all of Misgard’s disparate nations, forcing them under his rule. Things seem bleak for Earth, but Fury has two more cards to play; two captains, one frozen in ice, and one returning from space. 

    Taking place over the timelines of Iron Man 2, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk, What If…?’s third episode attempts to be a classic whodunnit as Nick Fury tries to solve the murders of the Avengers. Much of the conflicts surround memorable scenes from the three films, much like its Captain Carter episode, though ending very differently as each of the Avengers end up dead. The twist of a vengeful Hank Pym and how he commits these murders is interesting, but the episode focuses more on Hulk’s fight scene, Tony’s donut scene, and Thor’s luxurious hair, rather than letting it play out like an actual mystery, lacking any real clues until the very end. Instead of an interesting whodunnit where the audience tries to solve the case along with Fury, it’s simply an instant replay of the MCU’s phase one with the end delivered on a silver platter.

  • Marvel’s WandaVision “Now in Color” Review

    I think something’s wrong here, Wanda.

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    Changes abound for Wanda and Vision. A new house, a new time period, new colors, and Wanda finds herself halfway through her pregnancy overnight! With the baby on the way, there is plenty to prepare, such as setting up the nursery and keeping Wanda’s early trimesters a secret from the neighbors, especially when the rapid changes affect Wanda’s magic, sending the whole neighborhood buzzing. 

    In the blink of an eye, Wanda transitions from four months all the way to nine months and starts having contractions. As Vision rushes to find the doctor, Geraldine pays Wanda a visit to borrow some supplies and gossip about her new job. Wanda can only hide her pregnancy for so long until the baby decides to come early. With Geraldine’s help, Wanda delivers a healthy pair of twins, just like Wanda and Pietro, named Tommy and Billy. But the mention of Pietro sparks something in Geraldine as she remembers his death at the hands of Ultron. Memories begin to flood her mind until she simply disappears. 

    Outside the city limits of Westview, a shimmering disturbance launches Geraldine into an empty field that quickly fills with SUVs, helicopters, and soldiers. 

    “Now in Color” continues WandaVisions journey through classic television series, moving from the 50’s and 60’s of Bewitched and Dick Van Dyke, and onto the 70’s of Mary Tyler Moore. The hour long episode is full of wacky shenanigans trying to hide Wanda’s magic and pregnancy that are mildly entertaining, but more of the same that we’ve seen in the last two episodes without introducing any of the greater plot until the very last moments of the episode. This episode also misses a huge opportunity by not having That 70’s Show actor Debra Jo Rupp appear in a 70’s themed show after her appearances in both previous episodes. Hopefully with this glimpse of the world outside WandaVision, we’ll finally start getting answers as to what is going on.

  • What If… T’challa Became a Star-Lord? Review

    Classic Star-Lord.

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    When young T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), Prince of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, seeks to explore the world, he is abducted by an alien spacecraft helmed by Ravager Captain Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), due to a mix up when trying to find Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Offering to show T’challa the entire Galaxy, Yondu takes the young prince under his wing, and together they reshape the entire galaxy. Now a man grown, T’challa goes by the name Star-Lord, a renowned intergalactic adventurer known for taking on dangerous missions, saving entire planets, and never backing down from a fight. And he does not travel alone; along with Yondu’s crew of ravages, including Kraglin (Sean Gunn), newly recruited fanboy Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou), and the reformed Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin), he also calls on the help of the galaxy’s most infamous femme fatal, the luxuriously blonde adopted daughter of Thanos, Nebula (Karen Gillan). 

    When Nebula offers a job to T’challa and the Ravagers to steal an ancient artifact from the galaxy’s kingpin of crime, The Collector, they hatch a scheme to sneak into his museum past his guards, The Black Order. Everything seems to be going to plan until Nebula double crosses them, paying off a debt to The Collector with the capture of the famous Star-Lord. However, to the Ravagers’ surprise, Nebula reveals this was all a part of T’challa’s plan. As Nebula leads the Ravagers in their escape, along with the artifact, saving her Mad Titan father in the process and building a bond between them, Yondu races to T’challa’s aid as he fights The Collector. Stuffing him in one of his own display boxes, they manage to make their escape. Having saved the galaxy countless times, T’challa feels the pull of his home in Wakanda. Returning to Earth,  T’challa introduces his royal family to his adopted galactic family. 

    What If…?’s second episode is a huge turn around from its previous Captain Carter season premiere. Unlike its first episode, this wasn’t trying to fit all of the same plot points of a film into a thirty minute retelling with just a few changes, but was a wholly new and original story, though still worthy of director James Gunn’s usual insanity. While it begins almost exactly like Guardians of the Galaxy, with Star-Lord on Morag, it quickly evolves into a comedic adventure starring the dashing galactic hero, T’challa. 

    There wasn’t a moment of this episode that I wasn’t laughing at the jokes or references or smiling because a galaxy with T’challa in it is genuinely a better place. Not only does he convince the Ravagers to become adventuring saviors instead of space pirates, or convince Thanos that there are better ways to allocate the universe’s resources than to cull half the population (everyone calling out Thanos’ genocide plan was the funniest running gag of the episode), but he even managed to save Drax’s (Dave Bautista) planet from a kree invasion, leaving him to be a happy family man and bartender. This was a fun episode where you knew everything was going to work out in the end and I was totally fine with that because it was just so much fun. It was truly worthy of the best and most exciting Saturday morning cartoons. 

    The only way this episode falls short is a missed opportunity for a special cameo. This episode was full of little references that were pure fan service, such as the Collector having all of the Avengers’ weapons and Hell’s stylish helmet, or Howard the Duck, but one Easter egg was missing; Stan Lee. Rumors abound that Marvel’s famed comics creator and “Generalissimo” had a different cameo than what was eventually seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead of his appearance in the beginning of the film with Rocket and Groot, he was supposedly meant to actually be apart of The Collector’s collection, not as some alien species, but as Stan Lee himself. Whether this was rumor or fact, the idea has become so wide spread that it is genuinely surprising they didn’t add it into this episode. 

    The fact that so many of the original Guardians of the Galaxy cast returned to lend their voices to this episode was such a treat. Michael Rooker was expected, but imagine my surprise to hear Josh Brolin and Karen Gillan’s voices, especially as the variant characters they were. 

    But the obvious star (lord) of the episode was Chadwick Boseman, performing his role as T’challa for the last time after his sudden passing a year ago. Just like this episode, this T’challa wasn’t weighed down by the burdens of leading a kingdom, avenging his father, or facing the world’s systemic racism. He was fun and charming and all of the good things you want in a character. He may have even been too perfect, but it worked and I’m not complaining. I’m so glad that Chadwick Boseman was able to perform this fun character before his passing. 

    “Dedicated to our friend, our inspiration, and our hero, Chadwick Boseman.”

  • Marvel’s WandaVision “Don’t Touch that Dial” Review

    How is anyone doing this sober?

    Disney+ and Marvel’s WandaVision “Don’t Touch that Dial” via Facebook

    Tonight is the big talent show and Wanda and Vision are preparing to perform a mysterious magic act. Before attending the show’s planning committee with the rest of the town’s housewives, Wanda discovers something strange; a red and yellow toy helicopter, clashing with the rest of the show’s black and white scenes. Putting it aside to think on later, Wanda and Agnes attend the meeting, hosted by Dottie, everyone’s least favorite and most feared planning committee leader. While Agnes gets drunk, Wanda meets a new, like minded friend, Geraldine. 

    Before the show begins, Vision accidentally swallows a piece of gum and it “gums up the works”. Taking to the stage in a humorous and inebriated state, Wanda manages to steer him on the right track of showing off the staged magical tricks instead of the town witnessing their own supernatural abilities. To great applause, they are awarded Best Comedy Act and return home to discover Wanda is pregnant! Before they can celebrate, they hear a noise outside and find a beekeeper climbing out of a sewer grate. With a simple “No”, Wanda manages to rewind the episode back to the magical discovery of her pregnancy just as the black and white transitions to full color. 

    Much like the first episode, “Don’t Touch That Dial” continues the wacky mishaps so often seen in Nick-at-Nite reruns. While we see more of the town and the cast of WandaVision, including meeting Geraldine, this episode doesn’t offer much else aside from a few WTF moments with no answers in sight. The strange moments of the episode, the beekeeper, the helicopter, radio message to Wanda, grab your attention, but they’re so brief compared to the lengthy sitcom narrative. It’s just as charming as the last episode, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

  • Marvel’s What If… Captain Carter were the First Avenger? Series Premiere Review
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    That was brilliant! Let’s give it another go!

    Meet The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), a cosmic being who observes the ebb and flow of time and reality. Guiding us through the multiverse of infinite possibilities and choices diverging into new timelines, he asks us to ponder the question what if…? For example, what if Agent Peggy Carter were given the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers? 

    Events are changed by a simple decision during what was meant to be Steve’s injection as a covert HYDRA agent shoots Steve before he can enter the test chamber. In an effort to save the experiment, Peggy Carter jumps into the test chamber and becomes enhanced in Steve’s place. Despite Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) claims of success, the patriarchal military refuses to accept a woman as a soldier. With Stark’s help, and some encouragement from a recovering Steve, Carter takes up her shield, emblazoned with England’s flag, and goes after HYDRA. 

    After kidnapping Dr. Armin Zola (Toby Jones) and the tesseract, which Howard uses to build Steve the first Iron Man suit AKA The HYDRA Stomper, Carter builds her forces and pushes the Red Skull’s army back to their headquarters. Launching a full scale attack of his castle, she witnesses the Red Skull’s ultimate goal; to summon HYDRA’s true champion, a tentacle monster from beyond the stars. Carter manages to push the creature back behind its dimensional gateway, but finds herself trapped with it. Seventy years later, as SHIELD experiments with the tesseract, the portal reopens, allowing Carter to return, though no time has passed for her. Met by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Hawkeye, he tells her the war is over, they won, but Steve and everyone she knew has passed. 

    With the end of Loki breaking the sacred timeline and releasing the multiverse, What If…? gets to work on what exactly that multiverse looks like. For the first time, Marvel Studios is choosing an animated approach to tell this chapter of the MCU, and it benefits from having Disney’s backing and expertise to create the animations. While still staying very cartoonish, the effects and art style is worthy of Disney and Pixar’s legacy. 

    Hayley Atwell shines in this series premiere, as she always does. She’s played the role of Peggy Carter in four films, though only briefly in three of them, a cameo in Agents of SHIELD, and her own popular, but short lived, series Agent Carter. As much as I would love to see her return in greater fashion, having her back for this short episode just reminds me of how great she is in the role. Not only does she bring the charm and attitude of Carter to the animated screen, but now that she gets to be Captain Carter, it’s clear just how much fun she’s having playing the frontline soldier as opposed to the covert agent. Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Sebastian Stan, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, and Samual L. Jackson also reprise their respective roles, and while they only have brief scenes, it’s good to see the old Captain America: First Avenger cast back together (sans Chris Evans). 

    It’s not just the cast of Captain America that returns, but unfortunately some of its flaws come with it. What If…? is about thirty minutes long and attempts the retell the story of a two hour movie in that half hour. Because of that, the pacing feels rushed, and while it’s entertaining, things happen almost too fast to fully enjoy each scene. While there are obvious changes from the Captain America: First Avenger storyline, such as Captain Carter, Steve “HYDRA Stomper” Rogers, and Red Skull summoning an alien, for the most part, the rest of the story follows the same exact plot lines of the original film. It felt like even with the variants of Captain Carter, I was still just watching a sped up version of the film I’ve watched more than a dozen times since 2011. 

    Like every other Disney+ Marvel show, What If…? leaves us with some exciting speculations and intriguing questions. What was HYDRA’s champion? My first guess was that it was Hive, the ancient Inhuman that the HYDRA cult worshipped and was seen in Agents of SHIELD. Both are described as champions of HYDRA, and both have tentacles, though the tentacles were toned down in Agents of SHIELD. With Peggy trapped in an inter dimensional gateway, who created SHIELD? Howard Stark would still have been involved, but who else? Steve and Bucky? What was The Watcher doing before Loki released the multiverse, aside from listening to Earth adventures from The Stan Lee Watcher as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? Or because of time travel, did Loki breaking the multiverse at the end of time somehow make the multiverse an ever existing thing reaching back to the beginning of time? Finally, what is The Watchers agenda, if he has one at all? Obviously, his whole thing is just watching, and he states at the end of the episode that he should not, cannot, will not interfere. However, why show us these stories? Is he saying he won’t interfere to convince us, or himself?

    This series premiere of What If…? is a fun, animated, and imaginative view of the big events of the MCU. While it relies heavily on already seen plot points, it still manages to entertain and give fans a breather from the dramatic live action shows.

  • WandaVision’s Series Premiere “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience” Review

    We are an unusual couple, ya know.

    Marvel’s WandaVision via Facebook

    Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), once Avengers, are now newlyweds moving into their first home. They have everything; a lovely house in a lovely neighborhood, Visions job and career prospects, helpful neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), and of course Wanda’s magic. Everything a charming 1950’s sitcom household could need. 

    The only thing missing is their past, but more importantly, what special occasion marks the day. While Wanda spends time with Agnes preparing for what she believes to be their anniversary of… something, Vision is hard at work calculating numbers to increase the productivity of their input and output of… something. Vision begins to panic when he learns that they’d forgotten about having dinner with Vision’s boss, Mr. Hart and his wife (Debra Jo Rupp). 

    In a classic mixup, Vision and Wanda try to salvage the dinner as best they can with some help from their special abilities, and Agnes. When dinner conversation turns towards Wanda and Vision’s past, who they were, when they were married, where they came from, the situation becomes strange as Mr. and Mrs. Hart are temporarily stuck in a loop. Once passed it, they act as if nothing had happened and Mr. Hart awards Vision on his new promotion. After a wacky day of close calls, Wanda and Vision settle in for the night, deciding that this day will mark their anniversary. 

    WandaVision’s series premiere “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience” has all of the trademarks of classic sitcoms like Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie. A loving yet quirky family in a normal suburb, striving to live a normal life while hiding their secrets through fun and mischievous scenarios. 

    Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are delightful and fun to watch in their unique performances as they take on the characteristics of these sitcom characters. Particularly Bettany, who has most recently been seen as the stoic Vision. Seeing him simply as the charming and funny Bettany is a reminder of his range as an actor. Kathryn Hahn’s Agnes also offers her own brand of comedy as the borderline raunchy neighbor. 

    Despite being filmed with the advantages of today’s production and CGI, many of the effects of Wanda’s magic and Visions powers look authentically 1950’s with flying pans held up by strings and magic costume changes done with quick editing. It stays delightful until it takes a turn for the weird and moves from Bewitched to Twilight Zone. 

    This is already proving to be a fun, weird, and unique take on classic sitcoms and the superhero genre.

  • Marvel‘s Loki “For All Time. Always.” Season Finale Review

    We’re all villains here.

    Marvel’s Loki via Facebook

    With Alioth defeated and the pathway clear, Loki and Sylvie find themselves at the steps of an ominous castle floating beyond the void. As they prepare to battle whatever powerful creature waiting within, the doors open and they find themselves invited inside by the man behind the curtain; He Who Remains (HWR) (Jonathan Majors). A charismatic and welcoming host, HWR enjoys the company of the Lokis as he explains his role behind the TVA, how the brilliant and powerful variants of himself discovered the multiverse in the 31st century, and despite some variants wanting peace, others were more interested in conquering the other timelines which led to the Multiversal War. At the end of the war, the variant now known as HWR harnessed the power of Alioth and ended the conflict, then built the TVA to maintain order to avoid another war.

    Now, HWR is tired and wants to pass on the responsibility of running the TVA to the Lokis. Sylvie refuses outright and tries to kill HWR, but Loki is hesitant from his warning that by killing him, the conquering variants from other timelines will start another Multiversal War. Sylvie and Loki combat each other as they try to determine if he is telling the truth or not, until Sylvie opens a portal and sends Loki back to the TVA. Now alone, Sylvie plunges her sword into HWR’s chest, setting free the timelines.

    Meanwhile, Mobius returns to the TVA and with the help of B-15, reveals the truth about the TVA and all of its agents being variants. Finally confronting Renslayer, he tries to convince her the importance of free will and that what the TVA is doing is wrong. She however has other ideas, committed to HWR’s cause. After receiving a mysterious message from Ms. Minutes, controlled by HWR, she opens a portal and disappears. The Sacred Timeline is destroyed. Sylvie sits alone in HWR’s castle, and Loki runs through the halls of the TVA to find Mobius, only to discover he’s in a different timeline where Mobius has no idea who he is.

    It’s been an incredible fun run through time and space, but “For All Time. Always.” brings Loki’s first season to a satisfying end. Though it’s Loki’s show, Jonathan Majors’ HWR, which we already know to be Kang the Conqueror who will be returning in Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania, takes the lion’s share of screen time in this finale, and rightly so. Despite only appearing in one episode, he performs wonderfully, showing off the range of this character from comedic to insane to fury. Even when he has no lines and is just watching the Lokis interact from the background, you can’t help but focus on him. He’s like a sci-fi Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder, not Johnny Depp).

    While it’s great that we got the answers we’ve wanted all season, and despite Majors’ performance, the reveal of Kang felt expected. It was already reported that he would play Kang in Antman and the Wasp, and many of the show’s easter eggs pointed heavily to Kang. It felt so obvious that it had to be a feint. But if we’ve learned anything from WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s that the obvious answer is usually the correct one. Of the three Marvel shows so far, Loki is the first to introduce not only a villain who will show up in a future movie, like Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, but the potential big bad villain for phase four, maybe even further. It will be interesting to see how his story plays out, either as He Who Remains or other variants of Kang. If it does go the variant route, Majors will have the task and opportunity to test his range performing as different versions of the same character.

    Spider Man: No Way Home is set to come out in 2021, but we’ve seen no trailer under the mountain of rumors of the live action Spider-verse, fueled by Doctor Strange’s apparent involvement in the film. Doctor Strange’s own film, the Multiverse of Madness, is set for 2022 and will likely involve Scarlet Witch and the affects of these new multiverses. And Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania, which will feature Kang, doesn’t come out until 2023. And those are just the films that will most likely address the multiverse canonically. While the next MCU show, Marvel’s What If…?, will probably be more of a fun show and not affect the greater MCU, it is possible that the different episodes will actually be the peaks into different timelines.

    What’s next? He Who Remains is dead, the multiverse is branching, leaving the door open for worse Kang variants. Loki is seemingly lost in another timeline. Sylvie’s mission is over but she may be trapped in the void. Loki is confirmed to have a season 2 but there’s no release date yet, and we don’t know if Tom Hiddleston will appear in any of the upcoming films, such as those involving the multiverse or Thor: Love and Thunder.

    Loki has been a strong balance of fun mischief and somber moments of character development from one of the MCU’s best anti-heroes. Who would have thought the Asgardian god of mischief would work with a bureaucratic time agency? The entire show played well with common time travel motifs, making it feel like Marvel’s own version of Doctor Who, but an episode where there are multiple Doctors (Tom Hiddleston would make a great Doctor, by the way).

  • Marvel’s Black Widow Review

    My girls are toughest girls in the world.

    Marvel’s Black Widow via Facebook

    After breaking the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run from Secretary of State “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt). Hoping to stay hidden, Natasha is suddenly thrown back into the clandestine spy world she’s tried to put behind her for so long. After discovering the continuation of Russia’s Red Room program that turned her into the deadly Black Widow and its supposed deceased creator, Dreykov (Ray Winstone), she reunites her estranged family to help her destroy them once and for all; assassin sister Yelena (Florence Pugh), super soldier father Alexei aka Red Guardian (David Harbour), and brilliant scientist mother, and one of the original Black Widows, Melina (Rachel Weisz).

    It’s been nearly two years since our last MCU film, Spider Man: Far From Home, but Black Widow throws us back into action with Avengers levels of excitement, even if it takes place a few films back. Set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow shows us some of the most vulnerable moments of Natasha’s life. Despite taking place near the end of the Infinity Saga, it carefully lays out Natasha’s past before joining SHIELD, and her assassination of Dreykov and his daughter in Budapest, the act that cemented her defection to SHIELD and that still haunts her to this day. The action is fun and there is plenty of spectacle, but at its heart, this film is about those moments of Natasha’s past as she figures out how to deal with her present circumstances of fixing both her Avengers family and her childhood family of Russian super sleeper agents. 

    The film’s best moments are when the Romanoffs are together, easily falling back into the rhythm of annoying sisters and awkward parents. Johansson as Natasha falling into the role of the overprotective big sister to an annoying little sister is a delight, and Weisz is as usual fantastic as Melina, the matter-of-fact mom who just accepts the family’s eccentricities. Between that mother and daughter duo, they could take on the world. However, it’s Pugh’s punk phase younger sister and Harbour’s boisterous, family black sheep dad who steal the show. While Nat and Melina focus on saving the world, it’s Alexei and Yelena who are usually in the background carrying the films’s comedy and drama in equal measure, trying to accept themselves for who they are and how they fit in this unconventional family. Seeing just how quickly and fully the Romanoffs come together again offers some insight into the Natasha we see in Endgame, the overprotective mom of the Avengers who is willing to give her life not just to save her friends or Clint’s family, but probably her own who may have been snapped away. 

    Despite the strength and development of the Romanoffs, Black Widow falls short in not realizing their full potential outside the family setting, and other characters as well. Alexei as Red Guardian, a self described rival to Captain America (though it’s unclear if they ever actually met) is mostly used as comic relief. Though he is very funny, he’s also a super soldier who rarely gets to flex his muscles. His big fight at the end with Taskmaster, one of the film’s big villains, is brief and unimpressive. Even Taskmaster as a big bad is underutilized, only showing off a few mimicked iconic moves from other Avengers, and the big reveal of their identity is hardly a surprise. While Natasha obviously gets the most action time in the film, it’s nothing we haven’t already seen in other Avengers films, and the final confrontation is less action or intrigue and more a standard toxic masculine villain defeated because of their monologuing. 

    Black Widow is also an unfortunate victim of Covid. Pushed back over and over again for over a year, and then being the first MCU film post-pandemic, there were high expectations that it just couldn’t live up to. While we’ve gotten three great MCU shows via Disney+, a new MCU film carries much more weight after 13 years of filling movie theatres two or three times a year. Sitting down in your living room to watch this new movie just isn’t the same, and that is a significant feeling. Of course this isn’t Black Widow’s fault, but simply a casualty of the situation we find ourselves in. 

    Black Widow is a fun addition to the MCU, and it’s best moments come from the complexity of the Romanoff family rather than the spy action we’re so accustomed to from Natasha. Despite its flaws, it’s good to be back watching MCU films again, and I’m looking forward to what Phase Four has in store.

  • Marvel’s Loki, “Journey Into Mystery” Review

    Why the Hel is there any alligator in here?!

    Marvel’s Loki via Facebook

    After witnessing the pruning of Loki, Sylvie confronts Renslayer about the truth about the TVA. Renslayer admits she’s as much in the dark as Sylvie is, except for the fact that the temporal energy can’t be destroyed, so when something is pruned it is sent to void at the end of time. After some stalling from Renslayer, Sylvie prunes herself in order to rejoin Loki and find whoever is behind the TVA. 

    Meanwhile, back in the void, Loki joins four other variant Lokis; Kid Loki, Old Man Loki, Worthy Loki holding a variant of Mjolnir, and an alligator with Loki horns I am lovingly calling Loki-gator (move over Baby Yoda!). After discussing their backstories, the strangeness of Loki-gator, and fight the more violent variant Lokis who have survived the void, Loki learns about the greatest danger of the void, a beast named Alioth, an all consuming cosmic being who devours everything in its path. As Sylvie arrives, finds Mobius, and joins Loki, they come up with a plan to enchant Alioth and find whoever is behind the TVA. With some distraction from Loki and an impressive display of magic and sacrifice from Old Man Loki, Alioth is enchanted and dissipates, revealing a castle beyond. 

    After the last episode’s dramatic revelations and near goodbyes to favorite characters, “Journey Into Mystery” throws out some silly antics to lighten the mood. Particularly funny are the variant Lokis Loki meets in the void, such as Worthy Mjolnir wielding Loki who lies about gathering the Infinity Stones, or President Loki and his “Vote for Loki” marauder Lokis who are constantly betraying one another. But honestly, Loki-gator steals every scene he’s in just by existing and having his growls translated. But when there’s danger, Loki-gator is fast to lend a hand to his friends, or bite one off. 

    It didn’t skip out on offering more insight into the greater story though, or building the love between Loki and Sylvie. Having the different Lokis, while entertaining, also offers new perspectives for Loki to see himself, such as Old Man Loki who was tired of the destruction left in his wake and chose to simply live alone instead of being killed by Thanos. Loki also glimpses just how powerful he could be based on Old Man Loki’s magic. 

    One of the biggest, and exciting, questions from this episode, though, is the origin behind Alioth. It’s not likely to be a creation of whatever is behind the TVA, but an inevitability that will occur at the end of time. Given its nature, is it possible that Alioth is somehow connected to Galactus, the all encompassing cosmos being who feasts on galaxies? Could Loki and Alioth be evidence of the MCU beginning to focus on its cosmic elements? Silver Surfer? The Fantastic Four?

    Who is behind the TVA? What will Loki and Sylvie find in the castle? Is Loki-gator going to save the day? There is only one episode left of this season and we are only steps away from answers, hopefully.

  • Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)

    I have to admit that I was totally hyped hearing about the Fear Street films that would be making their way onto Netflix this year. R. L. Stein’s Fear Street books were one of the few things that slipped under my parents radar. I only got my hands on a few, but boy were they addicting. I never dreamed there would be a film adaptation of these.

    Netflix can be very hit or miss with it’s adaptations (looking at you Death Note, ugh) so I was understandably nervous, but holy hell I was not disappointed by this movie. Fear Street 1994 did for 90s kids what Stranger Things did for the 80s. The music nostalgia alone was well worth watching and there are constant references to the time without being overtly obvious. There was so much packed into this movie I find myself wanting to watch it again because I know there are things I had to have missed.

    In all, this movie is a great teen slasher film that also pays homage to the classics before it. There are clear influences and references from Scream, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and more. It managed the perfect blend of teenage drama and classic horror while also bringing it to the current times by adding a diverse leading cast and lgbtq+ representation. It wasn’t perfect, but it is a really fun movie.

    The second installment, Fear Street 1978, comes out next week, July 9th on Netflix.

  • Marvel’s Loki “The Nexus Event” Review

    Work your Loki.

    Marvel’s Loki via Facebook

    While Mobius and Renslayer deal with the fallout of Sylvie’s attack and the Lokis’ escape, Loki and Sylvie sit on Lamentis-1 accepting their doomed fate. Then, the blossoming love Loki feels for Sylvie causes a nexus event the likes of which has never been seen before, and the TVA rescues them just in time. 

    Loki is placed in a time-loop cell of a memory of Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) beating him up and Sylvie is put under guard. Renslayer and Mobius toast to a case closed, however, Mobius can’t shake the feeling that something is off after Loki tells him what he learned from Sylvie; the TVA agents are all variants. While he digs for the truth, Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) forms her own doubts after Sylvie brought up an old memory when she was enchanted in RoxxCart. 

    Finding his own evidence of the TVA’s lies, Mobius makes his move to release Loki and Sylvie, but is quickly found out and pruned. Renslayer brings the Lokis to stand before the Time-Keepers, then with help from B-15, Sylvie and Loki fight their way to the Time-Keepers and cut off one of their heads, only to discover… it’s a robot. Unsure of what to do now, Loki seizes his chance to reveal to Sylvie his feelings for her, but before he can say it, Renslayer prunes him. 

    In an after credits scene, Loki awakens in a strange place, with two variant Lokis and a variant Thor standing over him. 

    That escalated quickly! Not only were the seeds of doubt planted in “The Nexus Event”, but they were watered, harvested into cabbages, brought to the market to sell, only for the cabbage cart to be knocked over. So many significant developments happened that it’s hard to review this episode, and instead I just have to freak out and speculate on what we just saw. Mobius and Loki were pruned! The Time-Keepers are robots and even Renslayer is in on at least part of the lies. Will word spread of Mobius’ and B-15’s rebellion and cause other agents to doubt and want to find their old lives, possibly causing a civil war within the TVA?

    All this time we thought when a variant was pruned, they were destroyed. But with Loki’s awakening in another place, does pruning instead transport variants to some sort of TVA re-education camp to bolster their ranks? Are these other Loki’s leading some sort of resistance? What other variants are we going to see here? Since they would vary from the Sacred Timeline versions and Avengers and other characters, there are literally no limits to who we might see. We could even see characters from other universes from Marvel Comics (please be Marvel Zombies!). Finally, who is behind the Time-Keepers and the TVA? The level of technology within the TVA was always advanced, but now that we know the Keepers themselves are robots, perhaps that technology is the clue. MODOK? Mephisto? (Probably not) Some other villain we haven’t thought of yet?

    I don’t even know what to do with all of the information we learned in this episode. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going into deep hibernation until next week’s episode airs.

  • Hell House LLC (2015)

    As a fan of found footage films, I’m always on the lookout for a good horror movie of the genre. I can’t believe I slept on 2015’s Hell House, LLC for so long. This film had me actually covering my eyes in fear for the first time in a long time. The scares are suble but intense, and right from the beginning the tension in this film can be felt in a tangible way. If you’ve not seen this gem of the found footage horror genre, run, don’t walk. This is a perfect weekend horror movie to watch with friends, or on your own, if you’re feeling brave. There are sequels and I’ve added them to my watch list in hopes that they’re half as good as the original.

  • Marvel’s Loki “Lamentis” Review

    Independence, authority, style.

    Marvel’s Loki via Facebook

    After setting off dozens of TVA time bombs across the sacred timeline, the Variant Loki, aka Val, aka Sylvie, her actual name that we soon learn, jumps through a portal to commence her attack against the TVA with Loki close behind her. Fighting her way through TVA hunters, Loki eventually corners her, using her TVA TemPad to transport them away from the TVA and to one of Sylvie’s hideout apocalypses; Lamentis-1, a sci-fi, western, mining town about to collide with a moon. 

    Now stuck, Sylvie and Loki agree to a truce until they find a way to escape. During their time together, the Lokis get to know each other better, discovering their similarities and differences, and even forming a bond with each other. Running out of time, they decide to hijack the planet’s ark, meant to transport civilians to safety, but arrive too late as the ark is destroyed by crashing meteors. 

    The focus of “Lamentis-1” falls on the variants Loki and Sylvie as they dig into each other’s backstories, allowing us to find out just who Sylvie is, and more about her motivations. Apparently living a harder life on the run from the TVA, Sylvie lacks the magical abilities Loki does, aside from her self taught enchantments, though it seems she does have some raw, untapped power within her. They also share their own stories of their mother, Loki’s memories of Frigga, and Sylvie’s loss of her own, though whether they share Frigga as an adoptive mother is uncertain. 

    This episode also touches on the theme of romantic love, an aspect of Loki we’ve never seen before. It’s been confirmed that Loki identifies as gender fluid and they outright state their interest in “princesses and princes”, but what’s interesting is the kind of romantic spark between Loki and Sylvie, so essentially Loki and… Loki. Leave it to Loki to fall in love with him or herself, finally finding someone they’d consider an equal. 

    One last bomb of information is about the TVA itself. According to Mobius, who is missed in this episode for obvious reasons, everyone in the TVA was created by the Time Keepers. However, according to Sylvie, the truth is all of the TVA agents are actually other variants who’ve had their minds wiped. What other secrets are the Time Keepers hiding? It seems obvious that while destructive, Sylvie’s motives may be more altruistic than we’ve been led to believe.

  • Trey Plays Marvel’s Avengers

    Avengers Reassembled

    Marvel’s Avengers

    After releasing Terrigen gas in San Francisco, turning ordinary citizens Inhuman and leading to the death of a beloved hero, the Avengers are no more. It’s up to young Inhuman Kamala Khan to reunite Earth’s disgraced mightiest heroes to combat AIM and put a stop to their inhumane Inhuman experiments. A co-op action RPG, Marvel’s Avengers let’s fans play as a handful of their favorite character from Marvel comics in a unique story separate from the MCU films. Dropping players into individual maps to fight bad guys and find gear to help rebuild the Avengers and SHIELD, the gameplay is fun and action packed. However, the story is short and is followed by repetitive missions, and undelivered new characters and DLC causes Avengers to be pushed out of gamers minds so that when a new character is released, no one cares.

  • Marvel’s Loki “The Variant” Review

    Are we holding out for a hero?

    After an annoying TVA training orientation, Loki and Mobius visit the most recent attack of the Loki Variant; a renaissance festival in 1985. Finding nothing except signs of a struggle and a missing TVA agent, Mobius puts Loki to work studying all of the past encounters with the Variant to see if they missed something. Searching through the records, Loki comes up with a theory; the Variant is hiding in timeline apocalypses where consequences don’t matter since everything is about to be destroyed anyway. Confirming their theory with a visit to Pompei on Volcano Day, Mobius and Loki’s next stop in search for the Variant is during an apocalyptic event at a RoxxCart superstore in 2050 Alabama. Splitting up, Loki encounters the Variant through a number of mind controlled people and tries to discover their motives until he meets the real Variant face to face; a female variant of Loki. Setting up a series of bombs in an attempt to destabilize the Timeline, Variant Loki escapes through her own TVA portal with Loki following close behind.

    After a therapeutic first episode, “The Variant” quickly puts Loki to work with Mobius and the rest of the TVA on their hunt for the Variant Loki, who I’m currently calling Val, because 1. Variant Loki is a lot to type over and over, and 2. throughout the credits the TVA logo is shown upside down and spells out VAL and I’m speculating there’s a reason for that. Or maybe not. We’ll see. 

    This second episode also raises questions about the origins and true motives of the TVA and the mysterious lizard people aka Time Keepers. In an enlightening conversation between Loki and Mobius, they discuss the nature of existence; Loki’s birth of a frost giant and raised of Odin in Asgard, realm of the gods, and Mobius and the TVA’s creation by the Time Keepers and the predetermination of the end of time. Mobius’ comments on the end of time and everyone joining in an everlasting peace and an end to chaos is said with reverence, making the TVA sound almost like zealots rather than a fascist time dictatorship erasing free will, with the Time Keepers set as gods and saviors, which fits strongly with Loki’s running theme and self identity as a god. 

    This idea of an end to chaos might also illuminate the motives behind Val’s war against the TVA. As the god of mischief, an end to chaos would likely mean an end to Val, and in turn Loki. But chaos comes with negative connotations when in Loki’s perspective, chaos would also mean free will. Destabilizing the timeline creates branches of new timelines which could create a sense of free will against the TVA. Val’s motives may actually be altruistic, even if her methods are extreme. This chaos Val might be striving for could lead to the reformation of the Multiverse, which may come into play in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. 

    This episode also brings a small reference to the greater MCU with RoxxCart, which is likely a retail outlet owned by Roxxon, a familiar, and often villainous, corporation seen in other shows and movies like Agent Carter and Daredevil. And finally, a possible nod to another popular time traveling series, Doctor Who, after the “you’re the criminal with the blue box!” line in episode one, when Loki and Mobius visit Pompei, which the Tenth Doctor visited as well.

  • The Lodge (2019)

    Very few horror movies leave me staring blankly at the screen as the credits roll, but 2019’s The Lodge had my mind scrambling to process what I had just watched. This movie takes you on a journey of true psychological horror with an ending so unexpected that you’re left questioning the entirety of what you just witnessed. I watched it with no information or knowledge of the movie beforehand and I’m glad I did.

    I can’t review this truly without giving spoilers so please only proceed once you’ve seen the movie.

    Not a single character in this movie was redeemable in any way and that my be part of what makes this movie so horrifying. While Grace did not deserve the horror she went through in that lodge, she knowingly broke up a marriage where children were involved and was the catalyst that resulted in their mother’s suicide. Perhaps she was preyed upon by the father, Richard, who met Grace while he was writing a book about a suicide cult where she was the only survivor. We are never told how their relationship came to be, just that it happened during the writing of the book, and was the direct result of Richard leaving Laura, his wife and mother of his children. Though, who knew that those children could turn out to be so fucking vengeful?

    One major red flag for that is probably the fact that their father is so goddamn awful. He seems to give no actual shit about his children’s feelings, especially after his wife’s suicide. The children don’t want anything to do with Grace and their father insists on forcing togetherness even during their first holidays without their mom.

    All this culminated into some truly fucked up children who were capable of some of the most terrifying things I’ve seen in a while. I was left questioning what was happening during the entire movie and the end left me truly unsettled. I’m not sure I could personally stomach watching it again but it was a good horror movie. 4/5

  • Loki, “Glorious Purpose” Series Premiere Review

    You’re that criminal with the blue box!

    Only enjoying a brief escape from the Avengers after the events of Endgame, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) finds himself a prisoner of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), a powerful agency charged with protecting the timeline from disruptions. While many wish to “reset” Loki for his crimes, Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) has other ideas. Sitting down with the god of mischief, he digs deep to find out Loki’s motivations before offering him a chance at redemption for helping them catch another dangerous time variant: another Loki. 

    Loki’s series premiere continues to fix the character of Loki that was introduced in Thor: Ragnarok; more mischief, less gloom. However, where Ragnorok focused more on the mischief and comedy, “Loki” manages to strike a strong balance of causing mischief and still playing the dramatic role Hiddleston so excels at. 

    The TVA is an interesting addition to the MCU. Created by three all-powerful beings, the TVA seems to be even more powerful than the Infinity Stones, which many employees use as paper weights. But with their power also comes a comedic bureaucracy that you’d find in a Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett book. 

    Finally, Wilson’s Mobius is a surprisingly charming and insightful counterpart to Hiddleston’s Loki. It might even be said that Mobius is the Agent Coulson of the TVA, who is also seen briefly in a memory. The majority of this episode focusing on their conversation, it was almost like a therapy session that also caught this post-Battle of New York Loki up to speed to the current events of Infinity War and Endgame, successfully continuing Loki’s overall character development since the first Thor instead of resetting the entire arc.

    Just how powerful is the TVA? What are the other variant Loki’s motives and where does he come from? What are Mobius’ plans for the god of mischief? Hopefully we’ll have answers to these questions in the coming weeks.

  • Weekend Watch: Man of the House (1995)
    Despite having a dangerous criminal with a vendetta after him, attorney Jack Sturges (Chevy Chase) has a tougher adversary to worry about – his girlfriend’s son, Ben (Jonathan Taylor Thomas). As Sturges and Ben’s mom, Sandy (Farrah Fawcett), become more serious, Ben increasingly ups his efforts to sabotage the relationship, since he has no intention of giving up his prime spot in the household dynamic. Sturges is determined to connect with Ben, but Ben is going to make him work for it.

    Before I knew or cared who Chevy chase was or batted an eye at – there was “Man of the House”. While I can’t remember seeing it in theatres, I do remember renting it enough times from our local video store to drive my mother crazy. It could have been the fact that I was going through the divorce of my own parents at the time or my love for “Home Improvement” but I adore this movie.

    Now, I’m not one for spoilers. So if you’re looking for a full analysis – do yourself a favor and click the button below that says “SPOILERS”.

    Jonathan Taylor Thomas & Chevy Chase work surprisingly well together but the true stars of the movie are the father/son duos of the “Minotauk Tribe”. Specifically, George Wendt and his wholesome performance as “Chet Bronski” and Art LaFleur as the stickler for rules “Red Sweeney”. On the flipside, Richard Portnow gives a laughably bad performance as the son of gangster “Frank Renda” in a loosely tied together plot point involving mobsters and an attempt to kill Chevy Chase’s character “Jack Sturges”.

    “Man of the House” doesn’t do anything different, new or exciting. In fact, it follows just about every cliché in book. Arguably devolving into a “Home Alone” knock off by the films finale. Normally I would chalk it up to nostalgia but upon a recent re-watch, it holds up well. Sure, Chevy Chase is wasted in a roll that doesn’t suite his strengths and a lot of the films drama comes from a generic lack of communication but through the eyes of a child – who the fuck cares?

    Still on the fence? Did I not convince you? Feel free to see what others thought…

    Oh wait…people hated this movie.

    I had a dog once who had a terrible case of the squirts. He was my best friend in the whole world.

    – Ben Archer

  • Things Heard & Seen (2021)

    Netflix’s new horror film, Things Heard & Seen, is less of your typical horror movie and more of a thriller meets the spiritual. Starring Amanda Seyfried, this book turned movie shows a charming idealic marriage that isn’t quite what it seems. The themes of the story is its strongest champion, constantly adding to the undercurrent of tension that you can feel right from the first moments, even before the family moves into a new home that seems to have a sinister guest lingering. While not a scary movie, it does leave you feeling heavily unsettled. Unfortunately, I felt the ending fell terribly flat, even feeling a bit unsatisfied at the conclusion. It was still a really good movie despite this, one that kept me on the edge of my seat through the entire film. If not for the ending, I would have given this movie full stars, but its shortcomings were just too many to ignore.

  • Trey Plays Star Wars Day: Star Wars Battlefront 2

    Star Wars Battlefront 2

    Star Wars Battlefront 2 delivers on its promise to transport gamers to a galaxy far, far away and drop them into the middle of some of the biggest battles in Star Wars history. Spanning the timelines of the three trilogies, players can choose maps and characters from the clone wars, the galactic rebellion, and finally the galactic resistance. While multiplayer is the focus, Battlefront 2 also offers single player arcade modes and an intriguing story campaign set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, though this campaign is sadly very short.

  • Support the New Orleans Film Festival on Give NOLA Day

    The Oscar-qualifying* New Orleans Film Festival is one of the largest film festivals in the Southeast, serving audiences numbering upwards of 30,000, hosting as many as 500 filmmakers, and providing cash awards and prizes valued at over $150,000.

    The festival will celebrate its 32nd edition this year between Nov 5 – 21 with in-person screenings in venues across New Orleans and a Virtual Cinema which will be available globally!

    Support New Orleans Film Festival on Give NOLA Day, May 4!
    Donation scheduling is now open!

    For more information or to donate, visit https://www.givenola.org/nofs

  • NOPD Hunts Dangerous Wookie
    NOPD seeking suspect in Eighth Distrcit Stabbing

    The NOPD is seeking to locate a suspect in the investigation of an aggravated battery by cutting on April 24, 2021 in the 700 block of Toulouse Street.

    At about 8:50 p.m., the pictured subject – a street performer in the Eighth District known to wear a Wookiee costume, one of the races from the popular sci-fi franchise Star Wars – reportedly stabbed the victim with a knife after a verbal disagreement. The subject’s actual identity is unknown.

    Wookiees, natives from the planet Kashyyyk, are a proud warrior race who aided the Grand Army of the Republic during the Republic Clone Wars, but were then enslaved by the Galactic Empire. Seen as savage animals by their captors, wookiees were used as slave labor or hunting targets, until the Empire was destroyed by the Rebellion during the Galactic Civil War.

    Anyone with additional information on this incident is asked to contact NOPD Eighth District detectives at 504-658-6080 or call anonymously to Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans at 504-822-1111 or toll-free 1-877-903-STOP.

  • Falcon and the Winter Soldier “One World, One People”, Finale Recap Review

    The only power I have is that I believe we can do better.

    The Flag Smashers have made their move to stop the GRC’s vote, which would restore the world’s borders and status quo before the Snap, by attacking their offices in New York City. Bucky tries to make his way up from the ground while Sam, sporting a brand new Captain America uniform and wings, gifts from Shuri in Wakanda, and the shield, makes his way to the top floor. Before getting very far, he encounters an angered Batroc, hired by Sharon to help the Flag Smashers, who is out for revenge, as Bucky and a covert Sharon Carter try to track down the Flag Smashers and their GRC hostages. 

    Making short work of Batroc, Sam takes to the sky as the Flag Smashers escape with the GRC by both air and truck. Following their helicopter, Sam manages to to unseat the Flag Smasher pilot and get the hostages to safety.  Bucky chases Karli through the streets until they’re interrupted by John Walker, equipped with a DIY shield and a thirst for vengeance against Karli. Bucky trades blows between Karli, John, and the rest of the Flag Smashers, until Karli maneuvers a situation where John must choose to go after her or save the hostages. John, surprisingly clearing his head, chooses to save the hostages, with a little more help from Sam. With the hostages safe, Sam, Bucky, John, and Sharon, go after Karli, enraged at her failure. Cornering her alone, Sharon and Karli stand off at gunpoint where it’s revealed that Sharon was the Power Broker all along. Interrupted, Sam confronts Karli one last time, urging her to stand down before she draws a gun on him and Sharon takes her shot, killing Karli, ending the Flag Smashers, and keeping her secret role as the Power Broker safe. 

    Outside, a stunned crowd and GRC thank Sam for his heroics, though he quickly shuts them down and explains the ramifications of their actions trying to return the borders to how things were before the Snap, comparing them to the actions of the Mad Titan, Thanos five years ago. Giving them something to think about, Sam has one more thing to take care of before returning home. Visiting Isaiah Bradley, Sam brings him and his grandson to Washington DC, where he shows them a new addition to the Captain America memorial exhibit in the Smithsonian; a statue of Isaiah and a history of his service as a super soldier, ensuring that America will never forget what he has done for this country. 

    The season/series finale of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, or Captain America and the Winter Soldier as the end credits show us, makes up for the lack of action from the previous episode by getting right into thick of things. Sam has shown some pretty incredible moves as the Falcon throughout the entire season, super soldier or not. But when he adds attacks with the shield AND his wings? That was AWESOME! It would have been even cooler if I wasn’t so distracted by the new uniform. I hate to admit it, but I’m not a fan. I know it looks very similar to the comics, but I’ve never been a fan of that outfit either. It may just be a preference thing, and it’s a trifling matter as Sam’s real moment to shine was not how he looked or his sweet moves, but what he says in his ending monologue to the GRC, and really the whole world. And it’s not just what he said but it’s THAT he said it. So often people shy away for fear of rocking the boat or biting the hand that feeds or poking the bear or any other metaphor, and not take a stand for or against something. Not to say Steve or even Tony Stark ever kept their opinions to themselves, but seeing this character share this view was refreshing, even if it was the view he’s had for the whole season. Something about him standing up for what was right, directly to the politicians and the reporters and the mob, right beside the river of truth, and telling them “No, YOU move.” Of all the moments Sam earned the title of Captain America, that one shined the brightest. 

    John Walker, former Captain America, received his own small redemption arc as he made the right choice to forgo his pursuit of vengeance against Karli and instead helped save hostages. Good for him for doing the bare minimum of saving people over killing someone? If you’re going to give a villain, or even just an asshole, a redemption arc, make it a strong one. This felt too easy. Even Bucky, who had the most to say against John, seemed to quickly accept him as a new team mate, at least in this particular fight, even somewhat teasing him later on like they were old pals. Of course, that could show some of Bucky’s own character development, but for John it didn’t feel earned. Especially given his new role as US Agent by Contessa Valentina and evidence that he’s perhaps learned nothing from this experience. 

    What are Valentina’s true motives, and who does she work for? Remnants of Hydra? Some new government agency we haven’t met yet? What are Sharon’s plans as the Power Broker now that she’s back in the good graces of the US intelligence community? Either seem like a formidable enemy for Captain America and the Winter Soldier to face in an upcoming movie or second season.

  • What Lies Below (2020)

    With Netflix dumping a slew of newer Horror movies onto its platform, I decided to check out the 2020 movie What Lies Below since it raked in enough viewers to pull into Netflix’s top 10. Though the Sci-Fi Horror kicks off a feeling of unease right from the get-go, this is a slow burn in the truest sense. The relationship between the characters, especially the mother and daughter, angered me constantly. The movie is littered with missing scenes and explanations and its confusing ending dragged its potential down to the dirt. That being said, I do have to give credit where credit is due. Writer-director Braden R. Demmler states that he made the movie on a shoestring budget, but you can’t tell. The visuals and effects are simply gorgeous, with none of the typical cheesy compositions that seem to be prevalent in most underfunded Horror movies. I would honestly love to see what he could do with a bigger budget.

  • Falcon and the Winter Soldier, “Truth” Recap Review

    They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be.

    Confronting John after his brutal and public murder of one of the Flag Smashers, Sam and Bucky take the shield from him, aggressively. With Karli’s disappearance and John being brought up on war crime charges, the US government and Global Repatriation Council (GRC) taking over jurisdiction of the hunt for the Flag Smashers, Sam seeks out Isaiah Bradley to understand his story and experience as one of the first Black superheroes. Hearing his tragic tale, Sam returns home to Louisiana to focus on saving his family and his community rather than saving the world. 

    Bucky easily tracks Zemo down at the Sokovian memorial where the city once stood before it was destroyed by Ultron, one of the big three. Bucky isn’t swayed by Zemo’s warnings against Karli’s radicalism and that the only way to stop her is to kill her, and to Zemo’s surprise, Bucky turns him over to Ayo and the Dora Milaje who promise to bring him to the Raft, the government’s maximum security lock-up for enhanced criminals, like Jessica Jones’ Trish Walker. Bucky also asks one small favor from Ayo and Shuri; a new set of wings for Sam, which he delivers to Sam back in New Orleans, and stays for a time getting to know his family and slowly becomes a part of the community. Before he leaves, Sam and Bucky discuss the ideas and unfortunate repercussions of Steve’s decision to pass the shield to Sam, a Black man. However good intentioned he was, neither Steve nor Bucky could truly understand what experiences Black men like Sam and Isaiah have had, and why their representing the stars and stripes of America is complicated, to say the least. But, knowing Karli and the Flag Smashers are still out there, Sam and Bucky decide to not let the shield’s legacy decide who they are, and build their own identity away from Steve’s shadow. 

    The building intensity and globe trotting of Sam and Bucky’s hunt for the Flag Smashers takes a back seat in “Truth”. That back seat however is actually the trunk of a large van with three rows of seats that are filled with the messages of racial inequality and mistreatment of veterans that this show has put at the forefront of Sam, Bucky, and even John Walker’s story, just in case those messages were too subtle for you. 

    Early in the episode we see John Walker’s hearing for the murder he committed, and as much as we want to rail against him for his actions, the statements he makes about doing what he was trained to do, what he was “built” to do, the same actions that the US government were now discharging him for, weren’t wrong. While there aren’t many super soldier veterans, this same scenario is a familiar one for many who find themselves tossed aside after a military career because they were no longer needed or they were inconvenient. While they give John a pass on the murder due to his service, he’s given no counseling, no accountability, and no military benefits often reserved for veterans. The men who trained John to be the ultimate American star-spangled man are the same exact ones tossing him aside, not because he murdered someone, but because he did it in front of everyone and made them look bad. Does any of this forgive John of his actions? No. But just like many aspects of this series it offers an intriguing perspective into how soldiers and veterans are treated. 

    It’s also interesting, and tragic, to hear Isaiah Bradley’s full story as a Black superhero. What stands out is how similar it is to Steve Rogers story, a man even Zemo had admiration for, though with key differences.  While Steve signed up for the super soldier serum and was hailed as hero, Isaiah was lied to and used as a test subject for the experimental serum. Steve single handedly fought his way into a Hydra base and freed Bucky and the rest of his future Howling Commandos, and in return was heralded as Captain America and given his own authority to lead troops in the war. Isaiah broke into an enemy POW camp to rescue his fellow soldiers before the American army could bomb the compound and kill them to get rid of the evidence of their experimental serum, and in return was locked away from the rest of the world for 30 years. This parallel shows signs of the two (Captain) Americas that are still present today; one for the white majority, and one for the Black community and other minority groups. And Isaiah is right, nothing has changed. 

    Lastly, who is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine?! It was a huge surprise to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus take the screen in a very brief meeting with John Walker after his hearing? A woman who clearly has big plans for John, but what are they? Could she be the mysterious Power Broker we’ve been hearing about? Does that take the suspicion from Sharon Carter now that she’s apparently helping the Flag Smashers by connecting them with Batroc? But then Batroc wants revenge on Sam? So many questions. Hopefully they will be answered in next week’s season (series?) finale.

  • Reese Witherspoon Looking for LA Extras

    Reese Witherspoon’s next project, an adaptation of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” is going to be filmed in Southeast Louisiana, and the production is looking for local extras.

    According to HoumaToday.com, filming will take place in and around Houma and New Orleans from mid-April to mid-June. The movie is an adaptation of Delia Owens’ bestselling novel.

    Adult extras will be paid $105 for 12 hours of work. Minors under 18 years old will earn $80 for 8 hours work. No acting experience is required, according to the official casting call.

    To apply, email crawdads@caballerocasting.com with the subject line, “Crawdad’s General Background.” Include your name, age, contact number, height, weight and city and state of residency, as well as two photos, a head shot and a full-body photo.

    Men are asked to include their shirt, pants, shoe and coat size. Women are asked to include their measurements, blouse/dress size, pant size and shoe size. Those with a mycastingfile.com profile can also apply there.

    According to Southern Living, Olivia Newman is directing the production with Witherspoon serving as executive producer. Screenwriter Lucy Aliba, most recently known for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” screenplay, is adapting the project for the screen. The movie will star Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith and Harris Dickson.

    Find more info at https://bit.ly/39Uirkj

  • Falcon and the Winter Soldier, “The Whole World is Watching”, Review

    Were you ever offered it, the serum? If you had been, hypothetically, would you have taken it?

    Falcon and the Winter Soldier via Facebook

    Following up on their lead from Madripoor, Donya Madani, Sam, Bucky, and Zemo find themselves in Ziga. After learning that Madani has since passed, Bucky discovers another complication; Ayo and the Dora Milaje have followed them and intends to take Zemo back to Wakanda to answer for his murder of King T’chaka in Captain America: Civil War. Uninterested in Bucky’s reasons for working with him, she gives him eight hours to conclude his business and hand him over.

    Pressed for time, they search for the location of Donya Madani’s funeral, hoping to find Karli and her Flag Smashers and stop her before she becomes even more violent in her crusade. But again, they find themselves followed by the new wanna-be Captain America and Battlestar, John Walker and Lamar Hoskins. Hoping calmer heads will prevail, Sam convinces the others to let him speak with Karli alone, referring back to his experiences as a counselor for fellow veterans who struggled with mental health after returning home from war. They’re talk begins to go somewhere as Sam and Karli discover they’re more alike then they thought, before a hot headed John breaks up the conversation, sending Karli on the run. Losing Karli, John focuses on capturing Zemo who had his own plans with Karli as he catches up with her and destroys what little super soldier serum she has left. John knocks him out and discovers one intact vial left. Blaming Sam and Bucky for Karli’s escape (seriously?), John assumes to take command of their mission and Zemo, until Ayo and her sisters arrive to take Zemo on their own. Tearing through John and his shield as if he were wet tissue paper, they discover that Zemo had slipped away during the fight.

    Emasculated by being beaten so badly by warriors he assumed were just girls with “pointy sticks”, John secretly takes the last vial of serum before going after Karli one more time. Unbeknownst to him, Karli was setting a trap to kill the symbol of a bygone era as she lured away Sam and Bucky by calling his sister, subtly threatening her and setting a meeting. Once they discover her plans, Sam and Bucky chase after her before she and the Flag Smashers kill John, but are too late as they instead kill Lamar in the struggle. Enraged, John chases the Flag Smashers through the streets of Ziga until catching one unawares and smashing his skull with the shield in front of everyone.

    While it was only a small part of “The Whole World is Watching”, the inclusion of not just the Dora Milaje, but also a short scene of Ayo and Bucky in Wakanda during his recuperation, was exciting to see. For a moment, I half expected to see the late Chadwick Boseman appear on screen, and was heart broken when I was reminded of his passing. But this scene in Wakanda also came with it a brief moment of celebration for Bucky as we were witness to the first moment he knew he was free of Hydra’s programming as Ayo repeated his trigger words and he remained in control of himself. Knowing Bucky’s history, so many of the things he’s been through, this one true, pure, moment of happiness was such a powerful, if brief scene.

    While this is a buddy-cop-esque series between Sam and Bucky, more and more I feel Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes takes more of the spotlight, or at least pulls a lot of the weight of the show. I LOVE Anthony Mackie as an actor (NOLA represent!), but I’ve always felt his portrayal of Sam Wilson wasn’t that far from his own personality, which isn’t a bad thing. Stan’s performance as Bucky, however, is so layered. He has plenty of humor to offer the show, but it’s a dry kind of humor based off the stark contrast of Mackie’s sarcastic and upbeat attitude. But Stan also has the challenge of presenting a veteran suffering from extreme cases of PTSD from nearly a century of horrifying experiences of war and violence. Not that Sam doesn’t have his own share of turmoil, but his war time experiences are more managed, to the point that he is even able to act as support for his fellow veterans, like Bucky. But Bucky is still healing, still sleeping on the floor and waking up in old sweats, still having nightmares and flashbacks. So that one moment of happiness that Stan shows on Wakanda was performed beautifully and made you feel for this character, if you weren’t already.

    This episode also gave a small glimpse into the war time experiences of Wyatt Russell’s John Walker. There is very little we know about this character before being given the title of Captain America aside from a service record that earned him three Medals of Honor. But in a short discussion, we learn that those medals are apparently reminders of the worst day in his life, a time when he did things that didn’t seem heroic. We now see more of John’s motivations for taking up the mantle of Captain America, and why he puts so much pressure on performing to the best of his abilities, despite seeming to fail time and time again, pushing him further over the edge as we see in this episode.

    One final note…

    STOP HARRAASING WYATT RUSSELL! STOP HARRASING ACTORS AND PEOPLE IN GENERAL BECAUSE OF A ROLE THEY PLAY IN FILM OR TV! IF YOU DON’T LIKE THEIR PORTRAYAL OF A VILLAIN, IT MEANS THEY’RE DOING THEIR JOB AND GIVING A GOOD PERFORMANCE!

    Time and time again we “fans” have shown just how emotionally immature we are because we apparently think it’s a good idea to harass and bully and threaten people because we don’t like the character they play on screen. This kind of behavior is unacceptable. These actors, these PEOPLE, owe us NOTHING. They don’t have to portray a character accurately from the comics. They don’t have to give a good performance for us. Yet they do their best, take the criticism that is bound to come with the job, and still show up to press conferences and conventions to meet fans. And for this, we take things too far and threaten them for performing a character to the best of their ability. If this continues, actors are going to stop taking these roles, and I wouldn’t blame. No one deserves that kind of treatment, and we should be ashamed.

  • Hell Fest (2018)

    As someone who indulges in horror movies, I’m always aware that I may be wasting the next 90 minutes of my life on something terrible. Horror movies always seem to be hit or miss, with more misses than I care to talk about, but I was pleasantly surprised by 2018’s Hell Fest. My worst nightmare comes to life in the form of a serial killer finding his victims disguised as a scare-actor in a Halloween festival that could be a knockoff of Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. Though not a unique story, the movie sticks to the roots of older horror films where the focus is more on survival than trying to find the identity of the person trying to kill you. It’s not a perfect film, but it is one that was enjoyable and intriguing enough to merit a sequel.

  • The 501st Legion at Wizard World New Orleans: “We all help each other out”
    The 501st Legion via Facebook

    Wizard World New Orleans marks both the end and the beginning of the New Orleans Comic Con circuit. Usually taking place the first weekend of Jan., this year Jan. 3-5, 2020, Wizard World New Orleans is one of, if not the biggest, comic convention taking place in New Orleans. Every year it fills the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center with shop tables, board games, fandom panels, and, one of the biggest draws, celebrities. In the past, Wizard World New Orleans has hosted legends like Stan Lee, Peter Mayhew, Bruce Campbell, and even a number of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cast such as “Captain America” Chris Evans and New Orleans’ own “Falcon” Anthony Mackie. This year saw much of the cast from “Smallville,” the Superman prequel series. Visitors had the chance to meet some of their favorite characters like Erica Durance, who played Lois Lane, Michael Rosembaum who portrayed Lex Luther, and even Superman himself, Tom Welling. But what really gets fans excited for this convention is the cosplay.

    Cosplay, a combination of costume and play, sees cosplayers, designing, building, and wearing costumes portraying their favorite characters across pop-culture. While it’s a hobby for many, a number of cosplayers have found enough success and popularity to make a career out of cosplay and convention appearances. All cosplays are different, though. Many cosplayers strive to work toward film accuracy, even using the same materials used by costume designers for the official films. But other cosplayers take more creative freedoms, mixing fantasy and science fiction characters, genres, and even creating pin-up style costumes. 

    While solo cosplayers wander the show floor posing for pictures, other cosplay organizations have their own tables set promoting the group’s cosplays, events they have attended in the past, and even promoting charity organizations. “We are generally a costuming a group but we focus on charity and community programs, so we support charities, cancer walks, any kid groups and organizations, a lot of school events, and conventions. In this case, we’re raising money for The Peter Mayhem Foundation,” says Kevin Bachemin, the Commanding Officer for the Bast Alpha Garrison of the 501st Legion in Louisiana. 

    The 501st Legion has a long history of cosplaying dating back to their founding in Aug. 1997. According to their website, “… The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work…” 

    The 501st’s table held pamphlets with information about upcoming events, 

    “One of the primary drivers of the 501st is the screen and film accuracy,” says Bachemin. “A number of our California members were in “The Mandalorian,” and we’ve had members who have been in some of the films as extras, so they come with that kind of screen accuracy. We look like we can be on the screen because we have been.” Behind Bachemin were other members of the 501st, dressed as different stormtroopers, standing in front of a backdrop simulating a hallway in an imperial star destroyer. They posed for pictures with other “Star Wars” fans, and even let con-goers try to shoot them with nerf-guns.

    “Get to know the community. Get to know the people, a lot of our folks are very friendly, knowledgeable, and have been through costume builds for all the Star Wars groups,” said Bachemin, gesturing to a number of other tables in the area. While the 501st cosplayers were dressed as imperial stormtroopers, other subgroups had cosplayers dressed as characters from Disney+’s recent show “The Mandalorian.” Another was a mix of Rebel and Resistance fighters and Jedi Knights wielding differently colored lightsabers, the iconic weapon for the Jedi Order. “A lot of members will sometimes have groups that will get together to have costume parties. Once you have the materials, we’ll help out. We have a lot of resources. We all work well together. We all help each other out.”

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Toxic Fandom
    Facebook

    “THE DEAD SPEAK!” viewers read with excitement as the traditional opening crawl of “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” premiered on movie screens on Dec. 20, 2019. Decades after Emperor Palpatine a.k.a. Darth Sidious, the Dark Lord of the Sith, was defeated by the father-son duo of Anakin Skywalker a.k.a. Darth Vader, and Luke Skywalker, the galaxy trembles in fear at his supposed return. Through the power of the Dark Side and the science of the galaxy, Palpatine has managed to stay alive but broken, and promises the new Supreme Leader of the First Order, Kylo Ren a.k.a. Ben Solo the power of an enormous fleet of star destroyers he can use to conquer the galaxy and squash General Leia Organa’s Resistance. Meanwhile, after struggling with her own training with Gen. Organa, Rey is reunited with her friends Finn and Poe Dameron, and discovers a way to reach the Emperor’s hidden planet and stop the launch of his fleet before it begins. The stakes have never been higher for these heroes as the fate of the galaxy rests in their hands and the allies they make along the way.

    “I liked the movie. I think it had a lot going on. I really liked the battle scenes. I think what they did for Carrie Fisher was amazing,” says longtime “Star Wars” fan Hillary Dupont, speaking of the digital addition of the late Carrie Fisher’s Gen. Leia after her abrupt passing in Dec. 2016. “I think I like this arc better than I liked the prequel arc. I have a soft spot for this trilogy as ‘The Force Awakens’ was the first date I had with my now husband.”

    “Rise of Skywalker” has plenty of features working in its favor. As DuPont said, the action scenes were fantastic, whether it was Finn and Poe blasting through hallways full of First Order stormtroopers aboard a star destroyer, to the clashing of lightsabers during Rey and Kylo Ren’s confrontations. These scenes were exciting to watch and looked fantastic on the big screen. The chemistry of the trio of heroes is also another point in the film’s favor. In “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” Rey, Finn, and Poe were separated as they tackled their own obstacles. Now that they’re together, their friendship really shines as they bicker like old friends and deliver snarky comments that gave even some of the darkest scenes some brief humor. The reintroduction of Billy Dee Williams’ gambler turned freedom fighter Lando Calrissian, whose origin story was revealed in May 2018’s “Solo” and wonderfully played by Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino, manages to bring back some of the classic love of the original trilogy, and even had me choked up when he flies into battle piloting my beloved Millenium Falcon. On the surface, this final installment in the “Skywalker Saga” (for now) is a fun sci-fi adventure through a galaxy we’ve come to love over forty years. However, when looking under the hood of the film is where cracks begin to shine through. 

    The actual pacing of this movie is so fast it’s initially difficult to follow the story. The reemergence of Emperor Palpatine feels like a Hail Mary after the divisive reactions to the previous film, “The Last Jedi.” While Palpatine’s return does link the prequel, original, and new trilogies together with the Emperor’s manipulations, having literally no reference in the previous two films makes this villain feel like they wedged him into the trilogy’s finale in hopes to recapture some of the popularity of the original trilogy. 

    “Rise of Skywalker” also nearly completely removed the character of Rose Tico, the Resistance engineer played by Kelly Marie Tran who transformed from resistance grunt to resistance hero in “The Last Jedi.” The decision to remove this character feels like a response to a number of fans who not only despised her character but literally harassed and bullied her off of social media in 2018. Instead of standing up for Tran and her character, director J.J. Abrams and the “Star Wars” producers seemed to think practically removing her altogether was the right choice. 

    The final slap in the face was the redemption of Ben Solo, the powerful neo-imperialist, neo-sith, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren. Don’t get me wrong; I think Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren has been a great character, and I even enjoyed the shift in attitude from Kylo to Ben when he rushes to aid Rey in the final battle with Palpatine. However, this character has been offered redemption over and over, to the point of there being a literal line for him to cross, and each time he has chosen the Dark Side, first by killing his father, Han Solo, in cold blood, then by slaughtering the Resistance and billions of people as he destroyed their planets. But, once again, Kylo Ren was offered redemption, despite his actions, and he finally sheds the moniker of Kylo Ren and takes up his name, Ben Solo. With these decisions, Abrams and Disney have set a dangerous precedent of giving in to the demands of a toxic fanbase who have chosen to bully, harass, and slander actors and other fans because they feel “The Last Jedi” was too much in line with the “social justice warrior” agenda of standing up to neo-nazis and giving women and people of color prominent roles. 

    To put it simply, “The Rise of Skywalker” is a fun film, full of exciting battles, emotional moments, and a goodbye to a saga that has lived for over a generation. This new trilogy let us return to the galaxy far, far away to be reunited with our original heroes Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Han Solo, and Lando Calrissian, and gave them a fond farewell. But, the behind-the-scene decisions to give in to the demands of toxic fans throwing tantrums give cause to worry over any future “Star Wars” movies, or the film making industry in general.

  • Wizardfest: Holding Out Hope that Dragons are Real

    What gets a group of geeks to hang out at a bar late on a school night? Wizardfest! Pop-Up Party Tours and Southport Hall in Jefferson hosted a “Harry Potter” themed “pop up wizarding experience” for fans of the popular book and movie series. 

    Walking towards the bar, Southport Hall looks fairly unassuming; a large, dark, cabin looking building off River Rd. across from the levee. The parking lot wasn’t full, and there wasn’t any activity going on outside or people hanging around the door. I thought I’d gotten the location or the date wrong. Is there another Southport Hall? Walking inside, however, I was met with the sights of people dressed in red, green, blue, and yellow Hogwarts colors, and others dressed up as “Harry Potter” characters and creatures. This was definitely the right place. 

    After receiving a small gift bag full of themed treats like a rubber bracelet, a Wizardfest koozie, and candy (no Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, though), I made my way to the merch table where I got to pick out my own wand, which proudly sported the yellow and black Hufflepuff colors of my Hogwarts house (or black and gold for New Orleans’ Saints? Who Dat LeviOsa!). This wasn’t one of the larger, film-accurate wands that could be bought online or at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but were simply handcrafted with a small wooden stick and sparkling hot glue, which actually makes it all the more unique. 

    The trivia contest was starting soon, so I made my way to the bar to prepare for the questions and got to check out the specialty drinks being made for the event. They had drinks like ButterBeer, Polyjuice Potion, and even Unicorn Blood (I stuck with the ButterBeer). As the trivia began, I racked my brain to come up with answers to some of the harder questions (who was Harry’s first kiss?! Cho Chang? Ginny? Moaning Myrtle?). The winning team were dressed in their own Hogwarts house colors and called themselves the Golden Snitches (though “snitches” was replaced by innuendo).

    After trivia, the wizards and witches headed to the dance floor and I had the chance to speak with fellow fans about what they loved about Harry Potter. “The stories are fun and nostalgic,” says Laine, dressed as a Slytherin student and sitting next to her friend dressed as Volde- uh, You Know Who. “It was the best reading experience of my life!” 

    “I’m holding out hope that dragons are real,” says Kate, fellow Harry Potter fan and zookeeper at the Audubon Institute. “I basically want Hagrid’s job.”

    For me, I grew up with Harry Potter. When Harry was 11, so was I, and I felt a strong connection to the character and the things he dealt with; mean teachers, bullies, making friends and just finding where you belong. Even going back now 10 years after the final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” was released, I’m amazed at how relevant the story remains and how it brings back that connection I felt when I was younger. Though, I do find myself yelling at Harry more and more (go find an adult!).

    Everyone has their reasons for loving “Harry Potter,” from just being good books, to dreaming of taking care of dragons. Wizardfest may have been a small event, but it brought together fans of the books and movies to share and celebrate their fandom. Hopefully, the party didn’t keep the Muggles up too late.

  • The Batman: Hero or Pirate?

    After D.C.’s successful release of Joker, news is coming out for director Matt Reeves’ The Batman, with Twilight star Robert Pattinson playing the Caped Crusader. Two of the films roles have been revealed and cast, with Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle’s Catwoman, and Paul Dano as Edward Nashton’s The Riddler. 

    While the film is still in the early stages of production, this casting news sheds potential light on what we can expect from this new film. While the most recent Batman, played by Ben Affleck,  was older and grizzled, much like the Batman seen in The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Pattinson’s younger Batman could take more inspiration from Batman: Year One, also by Frank Miller, which introduced young Bruce Wayne to the seedy underbelly of Gotham. 

    Speaking to the New York Times about his preparation for the role, Pattinson revealed his thoughts on the character of Batman. “Batman’s not a hero… He’s a complicated character, I don’t think I could ever play a real hero; there’s always got to be something a little bit wrong. His morality is a little bit off. He’s not the golden boy, unlike almost every other comic-book character. There is a simplicity to his worldview, but where it sits is strange, which allows you to have more scope with the character.”

    While Batman is a very dark and complicated character, as Pattinson remarks, I have to disagree with the idea that Batman isn’t a real hero. The term hero can be subjective and include a number of different qualities and characteristics. But to consider Batman as “not a real hero” seems like a stretch, considering his crusade against the corruption in Gotham, and working to ensure that no one else suffers the same loss of family that he did. 

     Taylor Oliver, an English graduate student, briefly weighed in on the idea of Batman as a hero. “I think Batman has heroic qualities and exhibits the mystery of being a superhero, while also being human.”

    However, Pattinson had more to say about his upcoming performance as Batman, specifically his voice. “[Willem Dafoe’s] voice in The Lighthouse was quite inspiring for it, to be honest. It is pretty similar, the voice I’m gonna do, to Willem’s. Batman has a sort of pirate-y kind of voice.”

    “Oh no! No!” exclaims biology major Troy James. “It’s messing up our idea of Batman! He’s from Gotham! Not some skinny pirate boy!” 

    While I am doing my best to reserve judgment on Pattinson’s Batman until I see it, I share the same fears as James. As good of an actor as Willem Dafoe is, his high pitched and scratchy voice with a pirate (or privateer) drawl doesn’t seem appropriate for the Caped Crusader. Despite it only being one aspect to the character, previous performances of Batman’s voice have been highly ridiculed before, specifically Christian Bale’s rough, raspy, difficult to understand growl. Is this voice heading down the same path before it’s even premiered?


    We will have to wait until The Batman’s 2021 premiere date to find out. But until then, some of us may share English graduate student Kirsten Quarforth’s thoughts on the film; “No matter what, I’m always going to imagine Robert Pattinson as a sparkly vampire.”

  • Superhero Movies: Cinema War

    Despite Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Endgame, the applauded finale to their twenty-year-long Infinity Saga, the survival of their recent tug-of-war with Sony over whether Spider-Man will remain in the M.C.U. or not (he’s in, for now), and D.C.’s surprisingly successful release of Joker, superhero movies everywhere are once again under attack. 

    In an interview with Empire, critically acclaimed director Martin Scorcese recently shared his views on the popularity of superhero movies. “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

    Standing in solidarity with a friend and fellow filmmaker, famed director Francis Ford Coppola let know his own thoughts. “When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

    Despite their words being harsh, Coppola and Scorsese are titans in cinema. Both are recognized as two of the greatest directors of American film, so when they are speaking about what is and isn’t cinema, they might just know what they’re talking about.

    So, that’s it, folks. Time to put away our Captain America t-shirts and Iron Man sunglasses. Superhero movies aren’t cinema and are despicable. 

    Not so fast. It can be argued that in Scorcese and Coppola’s own words, Marvel movies, most superhero movies, in fact, qualify under the umbrella term of cinema. 

    In their latest film, Marvel Studios accepts Scorcese and Coppola’s challenge of delivering a film that gains “some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration,” and presents “human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” In Spider-Man: Far from Home, we see a post Avengers: Endgame Marvel Cinematic Universe where the world is trying to figure out how to move forward, while young Peter Parker grieves the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark. Not only does he work through this grief with friend and former bodyguard of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, but he also becomes more confident in his abilities as Spider-Man without the safety net of Iron Man. 

    To gain some perspective, I reached out to fellow students at U.N.O. “Yes, [I’m a fan of superhero movies]! Every single last one. Even the dumb ones,” says Biology major Troy James. “They make people who think they may not be able to do something feel like they can impact the world in a big way.” Kirsten Quarforth, an English graduate student, feels differently, that “they are a cinematic experience, but I don’t take away anything else from them, apart from just seeing a lot of violence.”


    This entire discussion is subjective to each person’s own tastes. Someone who loves superhero films may also love The Godfather (1972) and The Departed (2006), but think Apocalypse Now was boring (I’m talking about myself, here). Whatever our different opinions, movies are also meant to entertain. As long as they continue to do that, whether superheroes or cinematic dramas, they’ll still have a place in society.

  • Superhero Movies: Cinema War by Trey Guillotine

    Despite Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Endgame, the applauded finale to their twenty-year-long Infinity Saga, the survival of their recent tug-of-war with Sony over whether Spider-Man will remain in the M.C.U. or not (he’s in, for now), and D.C.’s surprisingly successful release of Joker, superhero movies everywhere are once again under attack.

    In an interview with Empire, critically acclaimed director Martin Scorcese recently shared his views on the popularity of superhero movies. “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

    Standing in solidarity with a friend and fellow filmmaker, famed director Francis Ford Coppola let know his own thoughts. “When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

    Despite their words being harsh, Coppola and Scorsese are titans in cinema. Both are recognized as two of the greatest directors of American film, so when they are speaking about what is and isn’t cinema, they might just know what they’re talking about.

    So, that’s it, folks. Time to put away our Captain America t-shirts and Iron Man sunglasses. Superhero movies aren’t cinema and are despicable. 

    Not so fast. It can be argued that in Scorcese and Coppola’s own words, Marvel movies, most superhero movies, in fact, qualify under the umbrella term of cinema. 

    In their latest film, Marvel Studios accepts Scorcese and Coppola’s challenge of delivering a film that gains “some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration,” and presents “human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” In Spider-Man: Far from Home, we see a post Avengers: Endgame Marvel Cinematic Universe where the world is trying to figure out how to move forward, while young Peter Parker grieves the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark. Not only does he work through this grief with friend and former bodyguard of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, but he also becomes more confident in his abilities as Spider-Man without the safety net of Iron Man. 

    To gain some perspective, I reached out to fellow students at U.N.O. “Yes, [I’m a fan of superhero movies]! Every single last one. Even the dumb ones,” says Biology major Troy James. “They make people who think they may not be able to do something feel like they can impact the world in a big way.” Kirsten Quarforth, an English graduate student, feels differently, that “they are a cinematic experience, but I don’t take away anything else from them, apart from just seeing a lot of violence.”


    This entire discussion is subjective to each person’s own tastes. Someone who loves superhero films may also love The Godfather (1972) and The Departed (2006), but think Apocalypse Now was boring (I’m talking about myself, here). Whatever our different opinions, movies are also meant to entertain. As long as they continue to do that, whether superheroes or cinematic dramas, they’ll still have a place in society.

  • Jay and Silent Bob Reboots in New Orleans

    Whether you were rocking out to Nirvana or being Saved by the Bell, nothing presented the 1990s pop-culture better than Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse. Created by the now cult classic actor and director Kevin Smith, his production company View Askew gave us classic like “Clerks” (1994), “Mallrats” (1995), “Dogma” (1999), and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (2001). With each new film the View Askewniverse grew, adding actors who were at the beginning of their careers like Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and Michael Rooker. “Mallrats” was even one of the earlier Stan Lee cameos (the same cameo Lee can be seen rehearsing in his Captain Marvel cameo).

    It’s been nearly a decade since fans have gone to theatres to see a new Kevin Smith View Askewniverse film, and the lack of immature jokes has taken its toll. But now… THEY’RE BACK! “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” is now in select theatres across the country and Kevin Smith fans can rejoice. 

    Part of Jay and Silent Bob’s epic return to theatres was filmed here in New Orleans, the new “Hollywood of the South.” I recently had the chance to speak with one of the film’s extras. “I would say I am a fan of Kevin Smith’s View Askew films. My favorite is honestly a toss-up between Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Dogma. I love them all though and really I can pinpoint where I was on my personal journey when each one came out,” says Kelli Ledet, lifelong New Orleans resident and extra for “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.”

    “Originally we were just extras, but while I was waiting in the makeup line, my friend Anne was pulled aside to be “Zombied.” They asked if she was paired with a SIlent Bob and they came and got me. They tore our clothes and then we had to sit through makeup. The fake blood was AWFUL, and throughout the night they would apply it over and over again. 

    “Kevin Smith came in and talked to us as a group at one point, and Jason Mewes played around a lot in between takes and interacted with the extras. For the final scene, Kevin thanked us all, shook our hands, and really seemed nice.

    “Filming reaction shots was weird. We would start at a mark that was usually attached to a crane, and as they would start to roll someone would yell out things and they wanted to film our reactions to it. So, you are looking at a piece of neon orange tape and making facial reactions to things like “nipple twisting!”

    “The movie is very tongue-in-cheek and really does an excellent job of absolutely poking fun at itself. It felt like it was a great send-off that touched every one of his previous View Askew films.  I was surprised at how much was cut too. WE FILMED A TON OF STUFF. It flowed, but it was just amazing as to how much content was cut out. I am hopeful for a director’s cut.” 

    While Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is only open in select theatres, fans can hope to see it when it comes out on Blu-ray or digital release. Thankfully, Smith has plans for more films, namely “Clerks 3,” which has not announced a premiere date yet.