Barry Jenkins To Direct A Sequel To “The Lion King” Remake!

First thing’s first: I did not like The Lion King remake, released last year. I didn’t see it in theaters, and I am happy for that, because being able to watch it at home for the first time and rant about it was a much more enjoyable experience for everyone involved, I’m sure. So when it was announced today that a sequel to the photorealistic CGI remake has been greenlit by Disney and will soon go into production, one would think that my response would be one of disinterest or active distaste for the whole idea. But that is not the case, because when you attach a director like Barry Jenkins to your project, no matter how outlandish or seemingly unnecessary, you have instantaneously captured my attention and ensured that, despite all my reservations, I will be watching this sequel.

The Lion King
vulture.com

An unsavory subsection of Film Twitter has already exploded with rage over the news, with many writing long, strongly-worded condemnations of Jenkins, the indie director behind hits like Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, warning him that he’s making a mistake getting involved in Disney’s corporate process, that he “could do better”, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to get into it too much, because I simply don’t have time for snobbish “intellectuals” who regard themselves as film connoisseurs because they wouldn’t touch a Disney film with a ten-foot pole, but I will make my opinion on the subject clear: Barry Jenkins has the right to make whatever he wants, and he doesn’t need to take career advice from anybody on Twitter. If he wants to make a movie about CGI lions, I am not going to stand in his way because – shockingly – it’s very possible he could actually do wonders with this franchise.

As I said, I was not too fond of The Lion King remake. It was virtually a shot-for-shot remake of the original animated film, but lacking the charm and pizzazz of the Disney Renaissance classic. The characters seemed boring and expressionless, thanks to the “improved” CGI animation, which stripped away any chance of liveliness or color. The story was basically unchanged, save for minor changes that had no impact on anything whatsoever. Worst of all, the iconic musical numbers were completely butchered. I never anticipated a sequel, though due to the remake accumulating over a billion dollars at the global box office, perhaps I should have guessed one was coming. But the sequel we’re getting isn’t going to be a straight-up adaptation of any of The Lion King‘s animated direct-to-video sequels. This is going to be something entirely new: a film that explores the “mythology” of the franchise’s characters, and intertwines past and present.

The Lion King
imdb.com

The mention of the word “mythology” is what has me the most intrigued, because, while it could mean anything, it immediately conjures up images in my mind of Beyoncé’s Black Is King, released last month to critical acclaim and intense social media fanfare. Black Is King, a strikingly beautiful visual album directed by the popstar herself, adapts the story of The Lion King with a bold, Afro-Futuristic twist, leading the viewer on a spiritual journey into the world of African mythology, folklore and tradition, all while celebrating Black beauty and culture in all its forms. While there’s no word yet on whether Beyoncé will return to voice the lioness Nala once again for The Lion King‘s sequel, I hope and pray she will be involved in the production design for the film. Not only because the sequel could use her distinctive stylistic bravery, but because the messages she included in Black Is King are messages that can – and should – be woven into The Lion King franchise itself. It’s well-known that The Lion King was based off on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but the sequel has the opportunity to draw new inspiration from far more ancient and arguably far more impactful African legends that are rooted deep in Black culture across the world. HBO’s Lovecraft Country is currently doing something very similar, taking the stories of racist author H.P. Lovecraft (and just the traditionally exclusionary sci-fi/fantasy genre in general) and re-examining them from a unique, Black perspective). And if anyone is the perfect choice to do that for Disney, it’s someone like Barry Jenkins, whose films have explored various facets of underrepresented Black culture.

The Lion King
indiewire.com

As of right now, there’s no word on when the film will start production, but the script is apparently completed and Jenkins has already officially signed on. And so we find ourselves in this bizarre situation, where a film that I hated with a passion is now getting a sequel I would have thought completely unneeded – until now. With Barry Jenkins and (hopefully) Beyoncé at the helm, this film could easily be a masterpiece in the making.

So what do you think? How do you feel about the thought of a sequel to The Lion King, and what would you like it to be about? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Nick Fury Heads To Disney+ – Are The Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. About To Assemble?

Nicholas Joseph Fury (better known to general audiences as Nick Fury, and to his friends and family simply as “Fury”) has long been the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most enigmatic mastermind, the figurative man behind the curtain: subtly moving and manipulating the events of the MCU to better suit his own purposes while cloaking his motives in secrecy. It took us over ten years just to find out why he put together the Avengers Initiative in the first place, or how he lost his eye. But now, Marvel is about to spill some of Fury’s darkest secrets in a new Disney+ series, which will find the spotlight turned on Nick Fury for the first time – with Samuel L. Jackson reprising the now-iconic role, of course. Although the only other real information we have about the series is that Kyle Bradstreet is attached to write and executive produce, there’s actually a good deal of speculation already going on…in which I am about to shamelessly partake, because why not? We’ve been so hungry for Marvel content these past couple of months: allow me this opportunity to indulge myself. I encourage you to join me, because we’re about to have a lot of fun wildly theorizing, and I’m also going to gush about Daisy Johnson for the first time in forever (okay, so it’s been, like, a month, but whatever), so there’s that.

Nick Fury
ign.com

There are several big questions everybody seems to have about this series, but the most urgent one by far is: will this be a prequel, or a sequel set after the events of Avengers: Endgame? If it’s the former, my hype will have plummeted – I just can’t imagine getting excited about only having Samuel L. Jackson return so that he can act as a framing device while a younger actor assumes his role for extensive flashback sequences set prior to Captain Marvel. As we saw in that film, Nick Fury’s life wasn’t actually all that eventful until the superheroine crashed into his life and a nearby Blockbuster. But everything happening right now, all the stuff that’s going on behind the scenes in the MCU that Nick Fury is very much a part of?…that’s what has me intrigued, and has me hoping that this series is not entirely new but is, in fact, one of two or three series’ rumored to be in early stages of pre-production some time ago. I am, of course, talking about Secret Invasion, Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. (which might also be the same thing as Secret Invasion), and Secret Warriors.

Nick Fury
Talos | nerdist.com

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to combine Secret Invasion and Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. into just one category. It was rumored that Disney+ was making a series which would follow the Agents of S.W.O.R.D. post-Endgame as they deal with a variety of intergalactic threats and generally try to prevent anything on the scale of worldwide decimation from ever happening again. Since we’ve already seen a tiny glimpse of the S.W.O.R.D. organization in the post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which clearly indicated that Nick Fury is overseeing the entire operation, it’s not a stretch to assume that a series about this team would necessarily involve Fury, probably in a starring role. My theory has always been that an eventual Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. series on Disney+ will start out with the team (comprised of humans and shape-shifting Skrull aliens) already formed and working overtime from their in-orbit space station, but will inevitably grow, over the course of one or maybe two seasons, into a full-scale, Secret Invasion storyline. For those unfamiliar with the notion, let’s break it down: basically, in the comics, the Skrull aliens are villains, and eventually attempt to overrun Earth by force, disguising themselves as well-known superheroes and wreaking havoc. In the MCU, this will have to happen for a very different reason, because the Skrulls have thus far been depicted as peaceful refugees trying to establish a new homeworld after their entire way of life was obliterated by the militaristic Kree aliens – but that reason has already presented itself. In Far From Home, it was revealed that the Kree already have sleeper agents on Earth – making it extremely likely that the Skrulls will want to eradicate them before they pose a problem. If this causes rifts between them and the humans on the S.W.O.R.D. team, we could see several Skrulls go rogue and use their abilities to sneak off the space-station and down to Earth – a secret invasion in more ways than one. I’ve talked at length about how certain characters could get roped into this, but the one we need to focus on today is Nick Fury, because of course, all of this will be happening under his watch. A Secret Invasion series would find the S.W.O.R.D. Director attempting to stop the invasion with the help of his team – which, in my opinion, would consist of established characters like the Skrull general Talos, American Air-Force pilot Maria Rambeau, Maria’s daughter Monica, the half-Skrull Hulkling, the infamous Flerken cat Goose…and “astro-ambassador” Daisy Johnson, who will finally make the jump from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the MCU proper. Daisy’s space-faring partners, Kora and Daniel Sousa, are give-or-take: I don’t mind them sticking around, but Daisy is currently my top priority, and if we have to make sacrifices to ensure she shows up as an Agent of S.W.O.R.D., then I’m prepared to do so.

When Secret Invasion becomes a massive hit for the Disney+ streaming service thanks to Daisy Johnson’s as-yet hypothetical involvement, the spin-offs will start – and that’s where Secret Warriors comes in. We might as well just refer to this one as the Quake Spinoff, because that’s essentially what it has to be. Another rumored project, this series is said to revolve around a storyline in the comics where Nick Fury enlists Daisy Johnson and a small, elite team of superhumans to take care of the Skrulls that have made it to Earth. This, of course, is where I anticipate Daisy reuniting with S.H.I.E.L.D. teammates like Yo-Yo Rodriguez, but it’s also the other potential series that Nick Fury could lead. That being said, it’s far more likely to be an eventual spin-off of Secret Invasion, and Fury himself will probably have a smaller role. So don’t get your hopes up for Secret Warriors just yet.

Nick Fury
Quake | wallpaperflare.com

At the moment, I think what we’re seeing is the first step towards Secret Invasion. For those of us who love Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s a first tentative step towards making that show officially canon to the MCU. For those of us who love Nick Fury and just appreciate seeing Black characters in leading roles, it’s about time that this fascinating super-spy moves to the forefront of the action, after more than a decade spent on the sidelines. For those of us who love both, it’s a win-win situation. And for the rest of you…well, I don’t know why you’ve read this far but I hope you’ve gotten something out of this.

So how do you feel about Nick Fury leading a series on Disney+, and which series do you think it will be? Do you think Daisy Johnson will show up in the MCU? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“WandaVision” 1st Trailer Review!

The Marvel drought is officially over, with the release of the first full trailer for the studio’s first ever Disney+ streaming series, WandaVision. In a perfect alternate reality, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier would likely already be well into its first season or might even have already concluded – but as we can see from the WandaVision trailer, picture-perfect alternate realities aren’t always as perfect as they seem from the inside looking out.

WandaVision
slashfilm.com

The trailer includes everything I was most hoping to see (and was worried I might not) in just under a minute and a half. The classic sitcom elements are all there, from the constantly changing aspect ratio to the laugh track that we hear punctuating two separate scenes. The psychological horror elements are front and center, with cheerful music accompanying scenes of a quaint suburban utopia glitching: time rewinding, scenes repeating themselves in a loop – all we’re missing is some color bars to make it apparent that Wanda Maximoff and The Vision (whose names, conjoined, make up both the title of the series and a clever play on the word television) are in fact living in a classic sitcom-inspired alternate reality as many of us have guessed from the day the series was announced.

The last we saw of these two characters, Wanda was still in a fragile emotional state and recovering from the traumatic events of several previous Marvel films – and as for Vision, well, he had been killed…twice. Once by Wanda herself after it became clear that she was the only person strong enough to kill him and seemingly destroy the dangerous Mind Stone embedded in his head; once by the Mad Titan Thanos, mere moments after dying the first time, when Thanos used the Time Stone to reverse the consequences of Wanda’s tragic sacrifice, resurrecting Vision only to rip the reconstructed Mind Stone out of his head, killing him instantly and far more brutally.

But now, in the WandaVision trailer, we find them happily married and moving into a lovely little townhouse in the suburbs….back in the 1950’s or 60’s, as is made obvious by the fact that everything is black and white, “Twilight Time” is playing, and Wanda and Vision appear to be channeling Dick Van Dyke and his onscreen bride Mary Tyler Moore. As the two get comfortable, they try to bond with the neighbors (including the nosy Agnes: more on her in a moment), which leads to an uncomfortable dinner party with the newlyweds trying to vaguely explain where they came from, how long they’ve been married, and why they’re still childless. As the screen glitches and Wanda begins to panic, the truth becomes clear – with the help of her supernatural powers, Wanda Maximoff has somehow built an entire idyllic dreamscape for herself an a resurrected Vision. Unable to achieve her happy-ever-after in the real world, she’s decided to build one from scratch. It helps when your alter ego is The Scarlet Witch and you can just do this stuff.

WandaVision
collider.com

But nothing comes easily. Even though we see Wanda trying to keep her utopia intact, the entire place is clearly coming apart at the seams. Why exactly is still unclear: is this whole world somehow contained within Wanda’s mind, and the mental toll of trying to hold it together is inadvertently causing it to crumble to pieces around her? Or are the events of this show playing out in, as I suspect, a pocket dimension, one which is quickly closing or becoming unstable and potentially deadly? To me this latter option seems the most likely for a number of reasons: note, towards the end of the trailer, what looks to be a gated compound surrounded by armored vehicles, helicopters and teams of heavily armed agents (who, by the way, come from S.W.O.R.D., the sister organization of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Note how, when we see Monica Rambeau get thrown through mid-air in Wanda’s world, she pops out through a rift in the real world before into the earth at the same location where all the S.W.O.R.D. agents are stationed (notice also how she zooms straight by a town sign in the real world that seems like it might say Westview, just like the name of the town in Wanda’s world, according to Vision’s newspaper). I think there’s something beyond all those electric fences, something S.W.O.R.D. is guarding or observing, and I think it’s probably a portal to another dimension into which Wanda has entered and to which she has now lost herself – and I think Monica is the agent who’s been tasked with trying to get in and retrieve the Scarlet Witch before the effects of her tampering with the space-time continuum bleed out into the real world (I’ve speculated previously that this is why I think Darcy Lewis will also be appearing in WandaVision: she was a prominent figure in Thor: The Dark World because of how much she knew about portals opening between worlds and dimensions, and her expertise could be vital to S.W.O.R.D.). But, no matter how much Wanda may privately realize she’s living out a fantasy, she’ll still resist having to leave and she’ll probably become a destructive force of dark magic if anyone tries to separate her from Vision – or the two newest members of her family, her twin boys.

Yes, it looks like Wanda and Vision have been busy making up for lost time in this new life they share. Their twin sons, Wiccan and Speed, are both powerful and important heroes in the Marvel comics, and it’s great to see them onscreen at last, even if they are still babies. Thanks to Wanda’s reality-warping powers and the fact that she keeps changing the decade (we start out in the 50’s and progress through television history all the way to the 90’s or early 2000’s in the sitcom world), I expect both boys to be in their teens by the end of WandaVision, making them perfect candidates to join the ranks of the Young Avengers team being assembled across the MCU. I’ve speculated that we’ll see Wiccan, one of the most notable LGBTQ+ characters in Marvel history, come out as gay to his mother after meeting Hulkling, his eventual boyfriend, when the latter arrives as part of the same S.W.O.R.D. team sent to obtain Wanda.

WandaVision
Hulkling and Wiccan | comicsbeat.com

Whether Wanda will be so fortunate in her love life remains to be seen. We know she’s in Doctor Strange: The Multiverse Of Madness, so she clearly survives WandaVision, but she could be permanently scarred (mentally, emotionally, and perhaps physically) by whatever happens to her and Vision here – I definitely don’t see Vision making it out alive, meaning Wanda will likely once again be left heartbroken (especially if S.W.O.R.D. takes her children into their custody as well). Hiding won’t work: even in the confines of her perfect reality, the couple are still in danger thanks to their nosy neighbor Agnes, who is very likely the evil sorceress Agatha Harkness.

In the comics, Harkness is an agent of chaos who mentors/manipulates Wanda and gets the younger Witch embroiled in a couple of unsavory situations, including some very literal deals with the devil. Her iconic purple and fuchsia outfit is reflected in the character Agnes’ bright purple leg warmers and hot pink tights (circa 1980-something). and the witch hat she wears while sitting paralyzed in her car on Halloween, which is where Vision finds her and gently tries to wake her with his own superpowers. When she jumps, and hurriedly asks if she’s dead, it prompts Vision to ask her in his most innocent tone of voice why she would ever think that. “Because you are,” she responds bluntly, before bursting into maniacal laughter. I’ve got to imagine that being informed in the middle of the night by a teal-haired woman wearing a witch’s hat that you’re actually dead and your wife murdered you (oh, and also you’re definitely living in a simulation and your kids are probably fake) has to be an emotional gut punch of some kind.

Probably explains why Vision looks so glum in the next shot, where we see him trick-or-treating in the neighborhood while wearing his iconic outfit from the comics as a Halloween costume. It looks absolutely ridiculous, but it’s an Easter Egg, and I love it. Wanda also wears a version of her comics-accurate costume for the Halloween episode, which includes her signature crescent moon tiara, red cape and gloves. Here’s hoping she gets a more sophisticated version of the costume (or at least the tiara) to wear into battle when she’s inevitably forced to defend her family from intruders.

WandaVision
nerdist.com

I have a suspicion she’ll take down some S.W.O.R.D. agents before all is said and done, but they may not all be so easy to kill, even though she’s armed with dark magic. The way the trailer ends, with us getting our first good look at Monica Rambeau as she recovers from being thrown through the air, makes me think these two women will quickly become nemeses. It won’t be a one-sided fight, either: in the comics, Monica has some cosmic superpowers of her own, which are similar to Captain Marvel’s, and she goes under the alias Spectrum. If push comes to shove (and it will), I think Monica is more than capable of holding her own. It’s even possible that she’ll obtain her powers due to her close proximity to Wanda’s magical outbursts: since we know only Wanda, whose powers derived from the Mind Stone, was able to destroy the Mind Stone, it stands to reason that the only way to defeat Wanda is to use some of her own power against her.

Before we go, I have to make a bold prediction: based off this trailer and what we already know, I think that WandaVision is about to be the most wildly original and imaginative thing that Marvel has ever done, and I believe that it has the potential to usher in a new era in the studio’s history. Marvel’s tried and true formula is known to work, but many of us have been wanting the studio to branch out, try some new things and take some big risks: this trailer is all of that. The MCU is about to get a whole lot messier, as the complications of the Multiverse ensure that literally anything can happen from now on and creative freedom can go unchecked, and I’m here for it.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

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Tatiana Maslany Cast As Marvel’s “She-Hulk”!

Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany has become the second member of Marvel’s growing Hulk family, as she has – according to Deadline – signed on to play Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) in a highly-anticipated Disney+ series which will follow the fan favorite character on her journey to becoming the indomitable, bright green superheroine. Maslany, whose career highlights include prominent roles on BBC’s Orphan Black and HBO’s Perry Mason, is an unexpected but refreshing choice to play the character, whose casting has been a topic of debate in the Marvel fandom for months.

She-Hulk
theverge.com

Jennifer Walters, the heroine at the heart of the upcoming She-Hulk series, is a character with a lot of heart and humor, and the fancasts for her have primarily been actresses with a background in comedy, such as Alison Brie (who was rumored to be the type of actress Marvel was looking for), Aubrey Plaza and Stephanie Beatriz. My personal favorite fancast was always Aladdin’s Naomi Scott, but clearly that was just me. Anyway, the casting of Maslany might indicate that Marvel has something a little different in mind: Maslany isn’t a stranger to comedy, but her talents are definitely best showcased in her wide range of dramatic performances, from her role(s) on Orphan Black as Sarah Manning and over a dozen clones, to her recent appearance as Sister Alice McKeegan (based on the real life evangelist Aimee McPherson) on Perry Mason. Taking all that into consideration, I’m willing to make a guess that Marvel’s She-Hulk will be just as much a dramatic character as a comedic one, something that I’m relishing the chance to see. Jennifer Walters’ story lends itself to a dramatic telling.

For those unaware of She-Hulk’s origins (and those who mistakenly still think she’s just a Hulk rip-off without her own personality or backstory), here’s a little refresher on where she comes from: in the comics, she starts out as ordinary Jennifer Walters, the cousin of Bruce Banner (who, by then, is already the Hulk). After her father angers a homicidal crime lord, she gets caught in the crossfire and has to be rushed to the hospital, where Bruce Banner gives her an emergency blood transfusion to save her life. The gamma radiation in his blood transmits to her and gives her nearly identical powers, but with a few interesting differences: firstly, when she transforms into her She-Hulk persona, she retains her human intellect and emotions, allowing her greater control over her actions and ensuring she never turns quite as destructive as her cousin; secondly, she doesn’t become a monster…instead, she just turns big, muscular and green, with (typically) an iconic purple and white costume and a mane of 80’s curls that has her at the top of my list of best superhero hairdos. When she’s not fighting crime with her fists, she’s fighting it in the courtroom as a lawyer who represents both civilians (particularly minorities and members of marginalized communities) and superheroes. I have a feeling her backstory will be slightly updated to have her first take legal action against the crime lords, who will then later retaliate and intentionally try to kill her, prompting her into a bit of a crisis as she has to try and figure out whether to go after them as a superpowered vigilante or as a prosecutor backed by the justice system. There’s a lot of potential for drama there.

She-Hulk
usatoday.com

But, as in the comics, there’s also plenty of room for humor. I kind of doubt that the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of She-Hulk will ever directly break the fourth wall as she does in the comics, but that doesn’t mean she still can’t be every bit as funny and sassy as her comics counterpart. A lot of it will depend on surrounding her with a great supporting cast who can act as foils to her: there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner will appear (I mean, he probably has to for her origin story to work), most likely in his newest form as the cool, self-confident Professor Hulk, unless the series takes place prior to the events of Avengers: Endgame. There’s also rumors that a number of other Hulk and Hulk-related characters could show up, including Red Hulk, and maybe even Hulk’s former love interest, Betty Ross (hopefully, as rumored, with Liv Tyler reprising the role).

Kat Coiro, who will direct the She-Hulk pilot and several more episodes in the show, and Jessica Gao, who is the head writer of the series, both also come from the comedy genre and will likely keep things light-hearted (I mean, as much as possible when you’re dealing with a character whose powers literally derive from a nearly fatal shooting).

She-Hulk
nerdist.com

Since the question will eventually come up…no, I really don’t expect the 5′ 4″ Maslany to play She-Hulk in her actual Hulk form: in other words, while she’ll still do the voice and presumably motion-capture, I presume the She-Hulk persona will be realized through CGI. This is a little bit disappointing, especially since no one wants to see special-effects budget limitations possibly hinder how often She-Hulk will be onscreen, but it can’t be helped: Hulk was a fully CGI character too, and no one complained (up until Avengers: Endgame, and then everyone complained). And the Disney+ shows have big enough budgets that She-Hulk’s design should look pretty good, no matter what.

On the other hand, if Tatiana Maslany wants to try and convince me that she’s a towering green woman with the physique of a professional bodybuilder through sheer force of acting, I think I’d buy it. She’s that good an actress.

What do you think of the casting? Are you excited to see She-Hulk make her MCU debut on Disney+? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“The Mandalorian” Season 2 Teaser Trailer! Baby Yoda Is Back!

This is the way.

In the absence of any of the original Marvel content that was supposed to debut this year, Disney+ is relying on a second season of its mega-hit The Mandalorian to keep subscribers satisfied with the streaming service: and yes, while it’s disheartening that we’re now probably getting two seasons of this one show before a proper trailer for either Marvel’s WandaVision or Falcon And The Winter Soldier, I’d be lying if I said that the irresistible duo of Pedro Pascal and his puppet sidekick Baby Yoda isn’t enough to tide me over for a while yet. And the first trailer for The Mandalorian‘s upcoming second season gives us plenty of the adorable single father/social media celebrity pairing that we can’t get enough of, no matter what other problems we (or is it only I?) might have with the series overall.

The Mandalorian
radiotimes.com

During the first season, I mostly took issue with the slow pacing and general sense of meandering that had me wondering, more and more with every episode, whether there was supposed to be a plot throughline or not. Everything worked out by the end, when the Mandalorian (whose real name is Din Djarin) had his epic confrontation with ex-Imperial Stormtroopers under the command of Moff Gideon, who was revealed in the finale to be in possession of an ancient, powerful weapon: the Darksaber of Mandalorian legend, once wielded by generations of Mandalorian leaders and even the tyrannical Sith Lord Darth Maul. But this time around, new problems have emerged: specifically the castings of Rosario Dawson as the Jedi Ahsoka and Gina Carano as Cara Dune. The former, who is joining the show for the first time this season, has allegations of transphobic abuse leveled against her by a former employee; the latter, a holdover from season one, has recently been embroiled in a number of online controversies, including urging people not to wear masks or stay in quarantine during coronavirus and appearing to mock the trans community with her new set of joke pronouns.

The Mandalorian
Ahsoka Tano | thedisinsider.com

Will they detract from my enjoyment of the new season? I hope not, because the teaser trailer has me deeply invested already in the Mandalorian’s next adventure across the galaxy, but you can be sure I will continue to address it throughout my coverage of the season. We briefly catch a glimpse of Cara Dune in the teaser, and I have to admit feeling a bit of disappointment that I can’t get as excited about her appearance as I should be. It’s doubly unfortunate because, for the moment at least, Cara Dune is the show’s female lead and Ahsoka is supposed to be a major character too. Thankfully, other female characters are leveling up in the show, including Sabine Wren: who is possibly the hooded woman we see watching the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda in the teaser.

The teaser, thankfully, highlights a number of other things to get hyped about, including what looks like a more structured storyline revolving around the Mandalorian trying to reunite Baby Yoda with the infant’s kin; a bunch of new and old locations, including Tattooine and an ice-planet (Hoth? I don’t remember many other ice-planets in Star Wars); and an increase in violence. No sign of Moff Gideon or his legendary Darksaber just yet, but I’m sure he’ll pop up in future trailers. As for the Jedi, they seem to be remaining in the shadows for right now, but I have a feeling more are out there then we think (my theory is still that Jedi Master Yaddle survived the Great Purge and is Baby Yoda’s mother).

The Mandalorian
Baby Yoda | syfy.com

Speaking of Baby Yoda, the adorable little baby is still pint-sized and easily portable, something that comes in handy during action scenes I’m sure. Just so long as no one smacks the baby on his itty-bitty fragile little head this time around (looking at you, random Stormtrooper from season one), he should be doing pretty good: he’s learned how to quickly evade danger by disappearing into the safety of his floating cradle. He has the power to use the Force, but he’s just not in the mood to do so, and you know what?…I respect that.

So what do you think? How excited are you for The Mandalorian season two? Are you here for the plot, or for Baby Yoda? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

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“The Kane Chronicles” Are Coming To Netflix!

Author Rick Riordan has quickly become a hot commodity in Hollywood, a status I’m sure he never thought he’d achieve after the complete and utter embarrassment that was the feature film adaptation of his Percy Jackson And The Olympians series in 2010. Following the recent announcement that Percy Jackson will find a better home on the Disney+ streaming service (where it will be adapted as a series with the potential for multiple seasons if when the first one does well), Riordan has managed to complete a deal with Netflix that will allow the streaming giant to develop feature films out of all three books in his fabulous – but criminally underrated – Kane Chronicles series.

Kane Chronicles
riordan.fandom.com

The Kane Chronicles were Riordan’s second foray into the world of urban fantasy, as he deftly wove Ancient Egyptian mythology into a modern setting, pitting a team of diverse protagonists led by Carter and Sadie Kane against the Egyptian serpent Apophis, a seemingly indestructible force of pure evil capable of swallowing the sun and ending life as we know it. The series has received less attention than Percy Jackson’s exploits in the universe of Greek and Roman mythology, but is no less well-written, funny, or surprisingly educational. Carter and Sadie, biracial twins descended from a long lineage of Egyptian magicians, travel across the world battling gods and monsters from the mythos, learning spells, and uncovering secrets about their powers. The Kane Chronicles are perfectly suited to a film adaptation: and Netflix definitely has the money to make the Egyptian setting come to life with appropriate grandeur and spectacle.

It will be important to make sure that Netflix doesn’t attempt to whitewash either Carter or Sadie Kane, or any of their extended family. Rick Riordan himself got into a quarrel with several of his publishers in European countries after cover art for the books featured both protagonists as white, prompting the author to clarify that Carter is canonically a “dark brown” African-American young man, while Sadie is lighter skinned. Netflix has similarly faced accusations of whitewashing over the years, as have most film and television studios, but Rick Riordan’s involvement in the project gives me hope that he’ll keep a close eye on these and other important issues. That being said, the extent to which he is directly involved is still unclear: Riordan’s official announcement on his social media was only a few seconds long, too brief to provide many crucial details, and his website provides only a little more, noting that he started corresponding to Netflix in October.

One thing is clear, however. While in the books it’s at first implied and then later confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Kane Chronicles and the Percy Jackson series exist in the same universe, that won’t be possible here because…well, Netflix and Disney+ are separate, competing streaming services. This definitely won’t impact either series (in the Percy Jackson series, Egyptian gods are never referenced as far as I can remember, and in The Kane Chronicles there are a few scattered hints about something happening in Manhattan, but nothing actually substantial in the main books themselves: Carter Kane and Percy Jackson would only first meet up in a short story written by Riordan, which was followed by two more crossovers), but it does mean that any hopes of one vast, Percy Jackson Cinematic Universe under the Disney+ banner are impossible. Goodbye, PJCU…we hardly knew ya. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is sure to disappoint a bunch of fans.

Kane Chronicles
tumblr.com

Assuming both series’ are handled respectfully and Riordan is able to work closely with the producers and creative teams, we should see two separate adaptations of his work that both offer a much better vision of his extensive world and worldbuilding than the 2010 Percy Jackson movie could ever have accomplished. I have high hopes. While I’m nervous about how Netflix will adapt The Kane Chronicles, I can’t deny I’m wildly excited to see characters like the Egyptian gods and goddesses (Bast, the cat goddess and Kane family guardian, was always my favorite) finally brought to life with all the heart and humor that Riordan always intended. It’s a good time to be alive, if you’re at all a fan of Riordan’s mythos.

So what do you think? Did you read The Kane Chronicles, and if so, who are you most excited to see make the jump from page to screen? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Mulan” Finally Makes Disney Live-Action Remakes Worth It.

Far and away the best of a slew of recent live-action remakes of animated Disney classics, Mulan blends the fantastical whimsy and stylized beauty of the 1998 film with the epic, somber maturity of the ancient Chinese ballad of Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei), finding its balance in a delicate sweet spot that it has difficulty maintaining the whole way through – but it manages, thanks to Niki Caro’s direction and an extraordinary ensemble cast: and in several instances it doesn’t just stay on par with 1998’s Mulan, but dares to soar above and beyond the constraints from which other live-action remakes have suffered. In only a few places does this version of the story falter or fall behind its predecessor.

Mulan
comicbook.com

Nostalgia (and the ways in which it can be exploited for money) has been both the reason why these live-action remakes continue to be made, and also why they often feel watered-down and uninteresting next to their animated counterparts. Afraid to change too much of the “original” stories (I put original in quotes because most of Disney’s classic fairytales are just that; adaptations of far older fairytales), the directors of these remakes choose to simply rearrange plot points inoffensively, and/or bloat the films’ runtimes with filler material: exposition, explanations and lengthy justifications for plot holes in the animated films, and new musical numbers that (with a few exceptions) feel like lackluster imitations of the real thing: though that last problem is made less noticeable when even the live-action recreations of the original songs are usually lackluster imitations (looking at you, the entire soundtrack of 2019’s The Lion King). Mulan, however, never suffers from these problems, because director Niki Caro has made the bold and commendable decision not to lean on nostalgia so heavily, but instead to weave the Chinese source material and the Disney animated film into one beautiful amalgamation of the two that feels like the truest version of the story yet. This decision necessitates removing entire sections of the animated film. Several major characters have been cut out entirely. The animal sidekicks and their hijinks are absent. The songs have been dropped. And most importantly, the tone of the story has changed entirely: Mulan was always one of the funniest, zaniest Disney movies, but this version feels more like an accessible, family-friendly tribute to the wuxia genre’s greatest hits, particularly Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In retrospect it’s obvious that, while the animated Mulan remains my personal favorite version of the story and my favorite Disney animated movie, this is how the legend of Mulan deserved to be told all along: as a war film with dark, adult themes, masterfully choreographed action scenes, and beautiful, luxurious imagery.

As for Mulan herself, the woman who disguised herself as a male soldier to take her father’s place in battle is a national heroine in China, and it’s no secret that Chinese audiences never liked how she was written in the animated film. This time around, Liu Yifei embodies a quieter, more reserved version of the character, who is hiding her inner power from herself and her family. But the key aspects of Mulan’s personality have not been changed: she is still a strong-willed woman endeavoring to carve out a place for herself in a world dominated by an unwavering patriarchy. If anything, these aspects have only been emphasized through the way the story has changed.

Mulan
variety.com

Gong Li’s character, the mysterious and absolutely stunning sorceress Xianniang, balances out Mulan’s storyline with her own sad, cautionary tale. Like Mulan, she is a woman with aspirations and ambitions, but unlike Mulan, she has already fully embraced herself and her truth before the story opens; and it is for that reason that she now finds herself an unwanted outcast on the fringe of society, reviled even by her allies, who feels compelled to try and warn Mulan of the dangers she will face if she ever tries to upset the “natural” order of things. Her complex relationship with Mulan forms the film’s emotional core, and, side-note, has already sparked substantial interest from members of the LGBTQ+ community who have pointed out that, in the original ballad, the character of Xianniang is Mulan’s best friend and maybe love interest. There’s hints of that chemistry in their interactions here, although Mulan has a more explicitly romantic relationship (in fact, too explicit for some Chinese audiences) with a new male character named Honghui (Yoson An), a soldier in her regiment.

Throughout the film, a great deal of the plot revolves around Mulan trying to unlock her qi, an internal life-force that can give her gravity-defying acrobatic and martial arts skills, if only she can learn to control it. Xianniang is already in touch with her own qi, though she has been using it for evil for many years. It is this qi which allows both women to shine most brilliantly in their numerous action scenes, which – thankfully – have not all been revealed in the trailers. Xianniang, in particular, has a lot of tricks and surprises up her long, flowing silk sleeves (which themselves double as weapons designed for quick and easy strangulation of all enemies within about a ten-foot radius).

Mulan
cinemablend.com

The animated Mulan had numerous story issues, but none was bigger than the problem with its villain, the Hun leader Shan Yu: who was definitely one of Disney’s most terrifying and threatening villains, but maybe not one of the studio’s most well-written or dynamic. That problem has been solved. The duo of Rouran warlord Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and Xianniang, and the bond of mutual distrust between the two is very well-written. Bori Khan isn’t quite as menacing as his animated counterpart, but he has a much cooler look, a much more personal motive, and a much more compelling performance. Although in the trailers you’ve seen him and Xianniang working together, the movie establishes early on that their pairing is necessary for both to achieve victory, but is by no means motivated by any strong affection for the other. I absolutely love characters who have separate needs and wants, so this development worked for me.

There are several other standouts in the cast who make so much of their roles that they’ve instantly surpassed the animated versions of their characters. Mulan’s father, war veteran Hua Tzo (Tzi Ma), has a much larger role to play in the story, and his character’s kindness and genuine love and respect for his daughters made me very happy to see: I particularly enjoyed watching his internal conflict play out, as he tried to reconcile Mulan’s unconventional dreams with the more strict, uptight wishes of his community and culture. The village matchmaker, no longer a grotesque caricature, has a slightly expanded role and even gets a moment of payoff to her character arc that I never knew she needed. And The Emperor (Jet Li), while no longer charming or sassy, is again less of a caricature and more of an actual character, who even gets to participate in the third act battle. I did miss the antics of the Hua family’s matriarch, Grandmother Fa, but I never once found myself bemoaning the loss of the diminutive dragon Mushu or the lucky Cricket Cri-Kee (oddly, the lucky cricket does show up in a way, but not how you might expect). Mulan has gained a new animal guardian: a majestic Phoenix, which follows her on her journey. It’s not a very talkative bird, but it is very pretty to look at, and it feels much more appropriate with the tone of this movie.

Mulan
hollywoodreporter.com

There are only two major instances where the 2020 film stumbles in comparison to the 1998 film. Neither one is a spoiler (unless you don’t know anything about the animated Mulan), so I can share both. The first is the iconic scene where Mulan dons her disguise and flees her home to join the army: in the animated film, this scene is set to a pounding, exhilarating piece of music, and is loaded with striking, memorable imagery: the rain and the lightning making bold silhouettes, the reflective sword-blade slicing Mulan’s hair, Mulan’s father stumbling in the mud and the bejeweled comb flying from his hand. In this version, it’s all over in a matter of moments, and lacks all of that potent symbolism. In fact, many of the iconic shots and symbols of the animated movie are gone completely; however, in most instances they have been replaced by visual cues that are almost as compelling. To name a few: a sprig of flower blossoms discreetly hiding Mulan from view as she bathes in a lake; droplets of blood falling ominously from one of Xianniang’s wounded claws during a fight; a lone soldier descending an unbelievably long flight of stairs in the Imperial City; and a number of extraordinary uses of fabric, such as Mulan twirling in purple silk, a black scarf untwisting around Bori Khan’s face and being caught in a desert wind, Xianniang’s deadly sleeves swirling heavily through the smoke of battle. None of them, however, match the power of a dead girl’s doll resting in the snow, or a flower blooming in adversity.

The second misstep is the pacing. This is a movie that needed to be much longer than it ended up being. The first thirty minutes fly along far too quickly, barely giving us any time to indulge in the opulent Hua family household or explore the dynamic of their peaceful village before we’re whisked off to war. Throughout the film, this continues to be a problem: the entire story feels rushed right up until the third act. A large part of why that is has to do with the lack of songs, because it’s important to remember that in the animated film, songs don’t just act as cheerful interludes between plot points – they literally are plot points. And if you’re going to remove them entirely, you can’t just leave blank spaces where they used to be: you need to do the work to replace them. This is done most effectively with You’ll Bring Honor To Us All, which is effectively supplanted with nuanced dialogue and a sprinkling of exposition that doesn’t feel heavy-handed or forced. But nowhere is it more badly handled than with A Girl Worth Fighting For: without that song, it’s impossible for the film to effectively recreate that shocking transition from the animated film where the untested Imperial army suddenly, unexpectedly, runs into the site of a brutal massacre. And without Reflection, we never get to fully understand Mulan’s motivations from her own point of view – and because we spend hardly any time in her village, that scene isn’t replaced by anything, so she sets out to war before we’ve even had time to understand why. Earlier in this review I criticized the remakes that bloat the story with filler material: but I’m not going to let this one off the hook because it does the opposite and subtracts important story beats without putting anything in their place.

Mulan
vox.com

But even with what feels like so little time, Mulan still captivates the heart and captures the eyes’ undivided attention, and it left me feeling satisfied – and wanting more. Sign me up for the next movie! Even though this remake doesn’t surpass the animated movie, it’s the first Disney live-action remake that feels justified: as if it’s actually taking steps toward trying out new things and making exciting creative choices…not all of which pay off entirely, but all of which feel intentional.

Rating: 8.5/10

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Happy Quake Week! What Will It Take To See Quake In The MCU?

Yesterday we discussed a fan-driven campaign very dear to my heart – the #SheRaMovie movement – but today we need to talk about another one: #QuakeSpinoff…and also #ChloeIsMyQuake…and just #QuakeWeek in general. There’s a lot of Quake related hashtags going around on Twitter today, and they’re all created by fans of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series who fell in love with the character of Daisy Johnson, better known by her superhero nickname Quake, and who want to see her return in a big way in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why? Because she’s amazing, that’s why.

Quake
latimes.com

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was created as a Marvel Cinematic Universe spin-off, but since then it has diverged radically from the main timeline of the MCU – until the finale earlier this month, that is, which showed the team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents apparently returning to the main timeline (or something like it, at any rate) and moving on with their lives, going their separate ways. Daisy Johnson’s storyline, which began with her as a roguish hacker trying to decipher S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets, ended with her furthering the organization’s mission of peace and goodwill in the depths of outer space, onboard the Zephyr Three with her sister Kora and boyfriend Daniel Sousa. Instantly, fans caught onto clues left in this very open ending: specifically, the way it seemed to link her to the S.W.O.R.D. organization, a team of space-faring agents who operate as ambassadors to alien nations while dealing with cosmic threats. S.W.O.R.D. is currently being introduced in the MCU, with former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury organizing an entire army of new agents on a top secret space station: other members of this team are expected to appear in the WandaVision series on Disney+. For years, fans have been hoping to see the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cross over into S.W.O.R.D. after the end of their own series, and the conclusion to Daisy’s story seemed to leave the door wide open for such a continuation.

Couple that with actress Chloe Bennet’s recent statements about how she doesn’t think she’s done playing Daisy, and you have yourself a fan-driven campaign. #QuakeWeek was started as an attempt to celebrate the superhero’s long and frankly fantastic character arc on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., highlighting her epic seismic powers. #QuakeSpinoff demands that Daisy not just debut in the MCU, but, obviously, get her own film or Disney+ series – personally, I’d settle for a major role in a Secret Invasion or Secret Warriors series. And #ChloeIsMyQuake insists that Marvel doesn’t simply take the character of Quake and recast her; Chloe Bennet is responsible for the popularity this character has across all mediums. For instance, I highly doubt you’d see Quake showing up in the new Avengers video game if Bennet hadn’t made her a fan-favorite with her nuanced performance.

Quake
cinemablend.com

Now, there are issues involved with transitioning Quake to the MCU – obviously, otherwise this probably would have been a done deal ages ago. Marvel Studios and Marvel TV started out with the intention of having a mostly symbiotic relationship, with the events in the movies impacting the TV shows and vice versa: but that hopeful dream was crushed fairly quickly, even though the few crossovers between the two led to some extremely memorable events on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and also the opening sequence of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Since the latter event, there’s been a huge rift between the two divisions, which has only finally been healed now that the TV division has been folded under Kevin Feige’s management. The concern is that Feige has no interest in the entire TV division and wants to throw it all out: he hasn’t ever specifically said that, but he has his own clear vision of the future and it’s unclear what he wants to do with this remnant of Marvel’s past. Reassuringly, it was stated earlier this year that Feige has had talks with ABC, the network on which S.H.I.E.L.D. aired, about future collaborations: there’s no hint of what that might entail, but it’s comforting to know that he cares enough about the work that was done on ABC with S.H.I.E.L.D. to want to expand on that.

At the very least, it’s not implausible that Daisy Johnson could transfer over to the MCU. She’s an extremely popular character, and she has ties to several other major characters and plotpoints soon to be introduced in the MCU, such as the Inhumans, Kamala Khan, and S.W.O.R.D. Most importantly, she and the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team are about as close to the MCU as they can be after the events of the series finale. It’s been confirmed that, at the very least, they now exist somewhere in the same multiverse – a multiverse that, need I remind you, will be explored in depth in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel. And while it’s hard to say what’s canon to the movies anymore, the movies have subtly hinted that there’s still a connection: Captain Marvel was the most recent Marvel film to reference a S.H.I.E.L.D. character.

Quake
medium.com

And as for why Quake should cross over, well, here’s the thing: she’s not quite the first superheroine in the MCU (and environs), but she’s one of the most consistently well-written ones they’ve ever had. In fact, all the women of S.H.I.E.L.D. are. Daisy Johnson, Yo-Yo Rodriguez, Melinda May, Jemma Simmons…these women have been given the blessing of having hours upon hours of screentime in which to develop their strengths, their flaws, and their messy, complex personalities: this isn’t at all meant to diminish the onscreen achievements of heroines like Peggy Carter, Natasha Romanoff, Gamora, Hope Van Dyne, Okoye, Shuri, or Carol Danvers, but it is noteworthy that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had not one but two heroines of Asian descent throughout its entire run (one of them being Daisy herself), and since season three has featured a prominent Latina heroine – something the show never gets enough credit for, in my opinion. These are groundbreaking advances that can’t be undermined or ignored: representation matters. Daisy Johnson matters.

And that’s why I’m lending my voice to the growing movement of passionate Quake fans, and calling on Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel to make Quake canon. Bring her into the MCU. Have her enlist at S.W.O.R.D. Even if it’s just for a glorified cameo, make sure this character continues to matter for future audiences.

How would you feel if Quake entered the MCU? Delighted, right? Right? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Howard Ashman’s Story Is Brought To Life In “Howard”!

Howard is yet more proof that one of the Disney+ streaming platform’s greatest strengths, despite an overall lack of original content, is its catalog of documentaries – not all of which, to be fair, were created exclusively for the service. Between this, Into The Unknown: The Making Of Frozen II, The Imagineering Story and Waking Sleeping Beauty, viewers are in for a treat if they ever seek out this particular genre on Disney+. Unfortunately, it remains one of the service’s better kept secrets that all these films and miniseries’ are even on there at all. Howard, which explores the life and times of one of the studio’s most celebrated songwriters as well as the impact he had on the Disney Renaissance, is neither the most illuminating nor the most well-made of these documentaries, but it is a welcome addition to the collection – and like the rest, it affords us a much-needed glimpse behind the curtain into the making of Disney magic: particularly the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the creative process.

Howard Ashman
d23.com

Now, if you’re already familiar with many of the details of Howard Ashman’s story (and/or if you are subscribed to the superb Dreamsounds channel on YouTube, which examines Disney music through an LGBTQ+ lens and as a result focuses several video essays around Ashman), then Howard probably won’t be anything too groundbreaking. The film goes over all the pivotal moments in Ashman’s life, from his youth to his accomplishments in musical theater and film, to his tragic death from AIDS, before closing off with a look back at his legacy – accompanied by a montage which includes footage from Disney’s live-action remakes of Beauty & The Beast and Aladdin – but while it does also dig a little deeper into his personal life it still feels distanced and a bit cold until the very end: though this could be because the film only uses voiceover from the people who knew and loved Ashman to narrate a long string of old photographs, snippets of footage, etc, rather than allowing us to attach faces and, most importantly, real emotions to the names of the interviewees.

Probably the most important element of the film is how it tackles the latter period of Howard Ashman’s life, while he was simultaneously turning out some of his greatest work for Disney and also suffering from AIDS. The documentary appropriately doesn’t make the whole story about Disney (though you might think that’s the case early on, as Ashman’s sister recounts how as a child he used to create fantastical stories about magic and made-up characters), nor does it gloss over the horrors of the AIDS epidemic: the 1980’s was a terrifying and extremely dangerous place for gay men, which the documentary makes very clear by recounting how Ashman kept his illness a closely-guarded secret until near the end of his life for fear of losing his insurance and being fired by Disney. Just because he was working for a studio with a reputation for charming, happily-ever-after fairytales doesn’t mean he was oblivious to the reality that at the time (and even now, to some extent), there was no surety that Disney was an LGBTQ+ friendly company or that they would accommodate his needs (they did, much to Ashman’s relief; sending their teams of animators and writers to his home in upstate New York rather than requiring him to fly back-and-forth between the East and West coasts, and continuing to involve him in the songwriting process for Aladdin while he was hospitalized).

Howard Ashman
medium.com

The gay subtext that Ashman is believed to have put into the music he wrote for Disney is also addressed (though again, if you want to know more about it, I recommend the Dreamsounds channel, which covers this topic in much greater depth). Both Part Of Your World, the iconic “I Want” song from The Little Mermaid that Ashman fought for despite Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s objections (the “I Want” song wasn’t Ashman’s invention, but he certainly popularized the term) and The Mob Song from Beauty & The Beast are often believed to have LGBTQ+ themes, though only The Mob Song is brought up to prove this point in the film, with parallels being drawn between the townsfolk’s fear/hatred of the Beast, which results in them marching with pitchforks, gun and torches to kill him, and society’s fear/hatred of the LGBTQ+ community, which expressed itself in similar, and no less brutal, violence. A counterargument is provided that Howard Ashman wasn’t projecting his own experience into the lyrics of his songs, but was instead stepping into the shoes of the characters with the help of his remarkable amount of empathy, but it can’t be argued that a large part of his empathy with the struggles of misunderstood and mistreated characters like Ariel and The Beast is likely to have stemmed from his own struggles being accepted in a homophobic society.

Following the course of one man’s real life story leads us inevitably to Howard Ashman’s last days on earth, with his working partner Alan Menken, The Little Mermaid star Jodi Benson and others sharing their last memories of him, including a prophetic dream of the lyricist wearing black robes which Menken had on the same morning as Ashman’s passing. It goes without saying that the last couple of minutes of the documentary are an emotional ride.

Howard Ashman
syfy.com

Howard Ashman was able to get a lot done in his life, and several of the interviewees note that his frustration at having so little time left often motivated him to work even harder during his last years. Despite only working on a handful of films for Disney, Ashman shaped the future of the studio, its storytelling and its music, and he continues to impact the way they craft their animated films to this day. The whole Disney Renaissance is largely because of him and the way in which he was able to seamlessly reinvent the studio’s formula to closer match that of the Broadway musicals which he loved. On the stage, of course, he was responsible for the legendary Little Shop Of Horrors musical and was involved with the subsequent film adaptation, which is itself getting a remake sometime in the near future. And he is particularly notable for being able to accomplish so much of this while working as an openly gay man, no easy feat in any time period. In the documentary, he is heard humbly admitting that he doesn’t think of himself as a trailblazer – but there is no question that he was one of the most brilliant minds in music during his time, and that his influence will continue to be felt for a very while.

Movie Rating: 7.5/10

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“Tron 3” Moves Into Production – With Jared Leto Starring.

Tron, an epic story of civil war between tiny cyber-people living within computer programs, has never been an easy concept to sell to general audiences: not back in 1982, when the original film became a financial disappointment and a strange, yet admirable, cult classic; not in 2010, when the sequel turned a profit but fell short of fan expectations, giving the franchise a bad name; and not today, in 2020, a decade since the second film’s release, when it was announced that director Garth Davis would be teaming up with Jared Leto to produce the third film in the series. About a month ago, it was reported by The DisInsider that a third film might be in the works: these new details confirm that.

Tron
cinemablend.com

So no, not quite the total reboot that many of us had been hoping for: Tron 3, as it’s being referred to (though there’s a possibility the title is Tron: Ares, which is…something), will indeed follow the events of Tron: Legacy, the poorly-written sequel that tarnished the brand’s reputation and halted the franchise dead in its tracks for years. That means we will probably be forced to resume where we left off with our protagonist, the average straight white guy played by Garret Hedlund, whose character name I’ve completely forgotten despite having watched this film extremely recently (if I had to guess, it’s probably Jake; it’s always Jake), and Olivia Wilde’s Quorra, a Grid resident who escaped from the destruction of the cyber world at the end of the second film and now lives in the real world. Jeff Bridges will likely return as both Kevin Flynn and his villainous clone Clu, because there’s no way either one actually died in that blinding flash of white light, and Tron himself is probably due for a return, having finally overridden his malevolent programming before crashing into water and definitely not drowning. Bruce Boxleitner will probably be back, and Cindy Morgan, as before, will probably be left out of everything.

Tron
newsweek.com

But despite accumulating so much star power, the people over at Disney apparently felt like a little more was needed – so they settled upon Jared Leto. Leto, an Academy Award winner, has been circling a lead role in the Tron franchise for years, long before this third film was greenlit, but it appears to be official as of today: he will star, in an as yet undisclosed role. Nobody appears to be very happy about this news, and Disney would probably be wise to take note of the general dissatisfaction with this peculiar casting before they go through with it, but they’ve never been very wise when it comes to managing the Tron brand, so this latest misstep is hardly a surprise. Leto is not a bad actor, by any means, but the horror stories about his particular form of method acting have done a lot to ruin his reputation, and have already sparked a deluge of fair complaints on social media. Thus, what could have been a joyous occasion for Tron fans has now been almost irreparably tainted.

Tron
nme.com

Fortunately, there is a little bit of good news to come out of this. Though it’s a less flashy headline than Jared Leto’s attachment to Tron 3, a director has also been selected for the third film. Garth Davis, an indie director best known for his Oscar-nominated 2016 drama Lion, “aggressively pursued the job”, according to Deadline, and seems to have succeeded in his mission. Whether Davis will be able to combine visual spectacle with top-notch storytelling remains to be seen, but it’s at least a welcome change of pace for the franchise, which needs to find some way to achieve that balance again. Tron: Legacy tried to use dazzling blue CGI (seriously, everything in that movie is neon blue: it’s pretty at first, but it gets old real fast) and nostalgic music to disguise its heavy reliance on stale tropes, one-dimensional characters, and meager use of both Cillian Murphy and Michael Sheen’s talents, but fans saw right through it.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Tron 3? More so or less so because Jared Leto is attached to star? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Raya And The Last Dragon” Promotional Art Reveals Title Character!

Despite the fact that it’s probably going to be an amazing movie based off the few details we know so far, Raya And The Last Dragon isn’t on the radar for most general audiences just yet. The upcoming animated feature film from Disney Animation was quietly announced last year and has since dropped off the face of the earth: no new casting, no first look images, no trailers or teasers – and no clear release date in site, since coronavirus is still keeping every film studio on their toes. Raya And The Last Dragon is tentatively set for March 12th, 2021, but that date could certainly change several more times.

While we wait, however, the internet has been blessed with a new piece of promotional art for the film which comes to us via a Panama-based shipping company promoting their services and collaborations with companies such as Disney: tucked away on their Instagram, one is able to discover the brand new artwork, which gives us our first clear look at Raya and a not-quite-as-clear look at the Last Dragon.

Raya And The Last Dragon
thedisinsider.com

The image doesn’t reveal much beyond that, but that hasn’t ever really stopped me from theorizing before. Raya And The Last Dragon takes place in an entirely fictional realm, rather than in any particular historical period, but it draws influences from the culture, folklore and mythology of Southeast Asia – as evidenced in this image by Raya’s clothing, the sinuous, almost serpentine dragon trailing across the sky – and, unfortunately, mostly hidden behind cloud cover – and the ruined stonework overgrown with strangler figs, a sight common in locations such as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, an ancient temple complex reclaimed by the jungle. With that in mind, I’ve already begun exploring Southeast Asian mythology (much like how I took a deep dive into Scandinavian folklore before the release of Frozen II) and hunting for details that could show up in the film.

Raya And The Last Dragon
Angkor Wat | bbc.co.uk

One thing in particular interests me about the new poster: surrounding Raya (who, by the way, is perfectly dressed for a heroic quest to find a dragon, though I really would have appreciated a glimpse of her weapon: we can see the hilt, but not much beyond that) is a field of glowing blue flowers, and so far I haven’t come across anything like this in the legends and lore of the region. That being said, it’s hard not to see a resemblance between these flowers and the glowing blue will o’-the wisps that guided Princess Merida to her destiny in Pixar’s Brave, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if these flowers serve a similar purpose in Raya And The Last Dragon.

What do you think of the image? Are you excited for Raya? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“The Little Mermaid” May Have Found Its Vanessa!

In times of crisis, it can be comforting to know that not everything has been canceled or delayed indefinitely. The Little Mermaid live-action remake may not be sailing into port any time soon, but it is still coming to a theater near you, and today we’ve learned that a big name may have just joined the cast of the fishy fairytale. The brilliant folks over at The DisInsider broke the news that singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves has been circling the role of Vanessa in The Little Mermaid, and that, while she’s not locked in just yet, she has spoken with Disney executives via Zoom call to discuss the subject.

The Little Mermaid
popsugar.com

Musgraves as Vanessa is an unexpected casting choice that is sure to provoke renewed interest in the film – but then again, so was Halle Bailey as Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula: and for a moment there, so was Harry Styles as Eric until he passed on the coveted role. Like Halle Bailey, she is better known for her career in music than in movies: she is a nine-time Grammy nominee, and six-time winner, and one of the most well-known female country singers working today. But she’s also a frequent collaborator with Disney – just last year, she performed All Is Found for the closing credits of Frozen II…the song is somewhat forgettable, and I don’t understand why she wasn’t chosen to sing something more powerful like Show Yourself, but don’t get me started on the ways in which that song was robbed. Anyway, she’s established a relationship with the studio, and that’s clearly paid off.

For those who have been living under a seashell for the past thirty years, Vanessa is the human disguise of shapeshifting sorceress Ursula in The Little Mermaid, who shows up for a couple of scenes near the end of the movie to try and steal Eric away from Ariel and prevent the mermaid from scoring a true love’s kiss. Vanessa uses Ariel’s stolen singing voice to easily win over the prince (I’ve always disliked Eric, despite the fact that this technically isn’t his fault), and the two hastily arrange a marriage on the prince’s ship – a marriage which is interrupted by Ariel and her animal sidekicks when they overhear Vanessa singing about her evil plan (when will Disney villains ever learn?). Physically, the character of Vanessa matches Kacey Musgraves pretty perfectly. But there is one problem which I hope is resolved.

The Little Mermaid
Prince Eric and Vanessa | littlemermaid.fandom.com

Vanessa barely ever sings. And while Kacey Musgraves is still a win either way, I can’t help but wonder why Disney would be focused on her for the part if they don’t plan to expand the role of Vanessa and give her more songs beyond the two she has in the original animated film (and when I say she has two, I really only mean she wails beautifully on the beach when seducing Eric and then has two or three lines where she’s maybe singing, maybe just talking melodically about her evil plan). But Howard Menken, who is doing the music for The Little Mermaid, has only written four new songs that we know about – and according to The DisInsider, these consist of a solo number for Eric (he doesn’t need one, but whatever), a duet for Eric and Ariel (have I mentioned I don’t like Eric?), a song for Scuttle the seagull (who will be voiced by Awkwafina, so I’m letting this otherwise ridiculous decision slide), and a solo number for…King Triton, of all people. It’s possible Menken will write additional songs as production gets underway, but for now this is what we know. No new solo numbers for Ariel or Ursula, nothing new for Sebastian, and nothing new for the character of Vanessa. So as of right now, unless Disney simply plans to fill out Vanessa’s Song (the evil plan song: it doesn’t even have a real title, it’s that short) with more lyrics, then I don’t see the reasoning behind Kacey Musgraves’ casting, though I am still excited for her.

What do you think of this new casting for The Little Mermaid? Do you hope to see Vanessa’s role expanded and/or new songs written for her? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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