Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 2, Episode 14) – Bon Bon the Birthday Clown

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It’s finally here. That most special of special treats bestowed upon the fandom of Star vs the Forces of Evil: a full, 22-minute episode!

Of course, the title Bon Bon the Birthday Clown doesn’t sound quite as exciting as Season 1’s 22-minute episodes, but if we’ve learned anything from Season 2 so far, it’s to not judge an episode or segment by it’s title.

So, let’s see what this episode has in store for us!

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Star is eager to attend a seance with Janna, to resurrect Bon Bon the Birthday Clown, on his 100th ‘death day.’ However, she panics when she realizes the seance is the same night as the school dance, which she was planning to attend with Marco.

Things seem to work out, when Jackie Lynn Thomas asks Marco out to the dance, and he eagerly accepts! While Marco goes to the dance with Jackie, Star and Janna head to the cemetery, but as the night goes on, Star begins to have second thoughts about not going to the dance…

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 From the start of the episode, it becomes pretty apparent that Bon Bon is doing things a bit differently from what we’ve seen before. The introduction to the episode, almost feels like how The Simpsons usually start off their episodes: Sending you down a side path, and then eventually directing you onto the main one.

Director Giancarlo Volpe has directed some of my favorite segments this season (such as Mr Candle Cares, and Naysaya), and like those favorites, he definitely cranks up the emotions in this episode.

Front-and-center, is Star becoming a little more quiet than usual, upon seeing Marco and Jackie together. It’s definitely a different reaction for Star, who since Season 1, has kept championing Marco to hook up with his crush.

Star’s inner turmoil can be seen throughout of the episode as well. She tries to keep herself preoccupied with the seance, but in little moments here-and-there, we see her mind drifting. To watch the scenes is both intriguing and emotional, especially when it seems Star might be developing a small streak of…jealousy?

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Speaking of Marco and Jackie, seeing them together brought a big smile to my face. I have to commend the writers for not just sweeping their story arc under the rug after the last episode. Season 2 feels like it’s been a major champion of character development, and we get plenty of that here.

The writers get down so many of the nervous nuances about going to dances, as well as the awkwardness of first dates (Marco trying to make small-talk with Jackie? Yup, been there, done that). Plus, Jackie proves to be full of surprises in this episode.

On the lower end of the character-development spectrum in this episode, is Janna. Given the way we see her act around Marco, I can’t help but wonder if her obsession with invading his personal (and private!) space, is somehow tied to a previous crush she may have had on him when they were younger. Maybe something happened, and she turned that disappointment into just being weird and anarchic most of the time?

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This is one of those episodes that will probably leave some of the show’s fans feeling confused, and a little frustrated. There’s some pretty heavy stuff that happens in Bon Bon, but we don’t get any solid resolutions. It’s like the episode has set in motion several new pieces of machinery, but what they’ll produce, is still up in the air.

There are definitely a few things in the narrative that have left me pondering as well. One of them, is a sub-theme about rats, that weaves its way throughout. It feels like there’s meant to be some inter-linking connection about them, but after viewing the episode several times, I still haven’t been able to figure it out.

Ending the review on a positive note, it almost feels like the writers try to balance out the changes we experience, with some references and callbacks to previous episodes. Some past segments have just given us one or two, but Bon Bon really goes to town!  We get everything from visual references, to reused lines, and even a return of several spells Star used in the first season (I never thought I’d hear “syrup tsunami shockwave” again).

Final Grade: A-

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Best line from episode (said by Janna): Smell his butt. You’ll thank me later.

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Janna):  Ooo, that explosion did a real number on your face.

In the end, I struggled with trying to come up with my final grade for this episode. When comparing it to longer episodes like St Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses, and Storm the Castle, I found that Bon Bon the Birthday Clown blew past them, with a more solid structure, and the way it dabbled a bit more in emotions, than action.

I’m always up for episodes that give us an emotional resonance, and this may be one of the first that really pushes hard in that area. Plus, the final moments, leave us even more eager to know what the final end-game will be for this season.

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(And, just as we jump back into Season 2, we’re pulled away! Word is this episode is considered a “winter finale,” which means we’ve most likely had our last taste of new “Star vs the Forces of Evil” episodes for the year 2016.

At this time, rumor is that maybe we’ll get our next episode in February of 2017, but until then, I plan to try and do some little “Animated Dissections” in regards to the series. I’m already working on one exploring Marco and Jackie’s relationship, and how it may be “a necessary evil” in the course of developing the show’s storyline.

Plus, the “Star vs the Forces of Evil” comic series is still being produced, and I intend to continue reviewing upcoming issues too. So, stick around. I don’t plan to have the winter hinder my thinking and analyzing this weird-and-wild series.)

Movie Review: Moana (with short: Inner Workings)

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(Rated PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements)

 

Earlier this year, Walt Disney Feature Animation surprised many of us, with its Spring release of Zootopia. The story and visuals, showed that the company’s animation division was continuing to “keep moving forward,” honoring the studio’s artistic legacy.

This year is also the first since 2002, that the studio has released two animated features from its Feature Animation division in the same year.

My anticipation for the fall release of Moana was high, given its main directors are John Musker, and Ron Clements. The two have directed over 7 animated features together over the last 30 years, including The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin. And now, 7 years after The Princess and the Frog, they have returned, with Moana.

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On the island of Motunui, resides Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of the village Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison), and his wife Sina (Nicole Scherzinger). Though her parents try to make her see that their island has plenty to offer, the young girl can’t help but wonder what lies beyond it’s familiar shores.

As Moana grows up, hardships begin to affect the island’s people , and she decides to make a daring attempt to save them. Leaving home, she sets out to find the ancient demigod named Maui, who may be their only hope.

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From the very start, Moana quickly reminded me of several other Disney animated films, but soon began to head down its own path.

Though many media and marketing materials claim Moana to be a Princess, she’s simply just the daughter of the island’s chief, and as such, certain royal titles are never brought up (well, only in a few jokes in the film). Not actually having a ‘title,’ actually helped make Moana more of an ordinary girl to me, though one who has a secret or two that makes her a little…extraordinary.

Moana has a spunkiness about her that may remind some of Rapunzel, or Anna (from Frozen). Of course, where she shines most, is in her determination as she takes on a journey that most would probably caution against.

We do get a bit of animosity between her and her father, Chief Tui, who keeps trying to keep his daughter focused on leading the islanders. Tui also shows a stubborness to break free of the old ways, which leads to a small bit of friction with his daughter.

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Gramma Tala (Rachel House) has a few words with Moana (Auli’i Cravalho)

The film may also be one of the first, in which we really see less of a connection with the lead’s parents, and moreso with a grandparent. Moana seems to get along well with Gramma Tala (Rachel House), who for being considered the village’s ‘crazy lady,’ still has a few life lessons to instill, and a few secrets to be told (to those who will listen).

Of course, one of the biggest selling points for the film, has been Dwayne Johnson (aka ‘The Rock’), playing the demigod, Maui. The way he’s portrayed, Maui comes across almost like a former rockstar, with a bit of an ego problem.

A small staff of hand-drawn animators also inject some humor into Maui, as they bring several of his many tattoos to life (with one acting almost like Maui’s conscience at times).

And then, there’s the music.

Broadway sensation Lin-Manuel Miranda has teamed up with Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina, to produce a a soundtrack that manages to keep one foot in the Polynesian world, and the other foot amid the likes of Broadway musicians Howard Ashman, and Alan Menken.

Tracks like We Know the Way, give us a taste of the culture the film hails from, while Maui’s song You’re Welcome, almost sounds like a combination of the songs Friend Like Me, and Gaston.

For me, one of the most enjoyable songs, is sung by Jermaine Clement, who sounds like he’s channeling David Bowie, and Ursula from The Little Mermaid (trust me, it works!).

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Maui (Dwayne Johnson) encounters Mowana (Auli’i Cravalho)

And as we’ve come to expect, the talented artisans at the studios in Burbank, craft a world so believable, you’ll want to get your feet wet on the shores of Montunui, or explore more of the eerie Realm of Monsters. The film also manages to do for water, what Frozen did for ice. One can only imagine how many sleepless nights were had, to make the ocean waters appear as believable (and unbelievable!) as they do.

One of the biggest hurdles I had while watching the film, was that some of the action sequences felt like a massive blur of color and motion. One scene I was really looking forward to, sadly seemed to barely give me much of a chance to really get a handle on what was going on.

There’s also a few modern-day references that didn’t work for me (and for most of the audience, judging by the silence), but overall, Moana proved to be one of the first Walt Disney Feature Animation releases since Wreck-it-Ralph, that seemed to really engage me on an emotional level. I feel that if it could entrance me as well as it did, it will surely do the same for you.

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Animated Short Review: Inner Workings (Rated G)

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Lungs, heart, and stomach start off a brand new day.

After Zootopia was released earlier this year without an animated short in front of it, I was afraid that Disney had abandoned the idea completely. Fortunately, Inner Workings proves that the tradition is still alive.

Taking its cue from textbooks that diagram the inner parts of the human body, the short functions almost like Inside Out, except with internal organs. The two main ones, are a man’s brain, and his heart. One wants to be sensible, while the other wants to be more spontaneous.

Director Leonardo Matsuda has some fun with the concept, giving identities to the organs, let alone exaggerating the world around our main character. The world outside of the man’s workplace, is full of curves, while he and his co-workers, are in a confined ‘square space.’

It’s a fun concept that Matsuda plays with, though I couldn’t help but feel that the short Paperman from a few years ago, really did a more entertaining job with its message of ‘follow your heart.’ Then again, maybe the short could just be telling us introverts, that sometimes, it can be okay to break out of our shells, and throw caution to the wind.

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Final Grade for “Moana”: B+ (Final Thoughts: This “Princess” film that isn’t, proves to be a pleasant and entertaining surprise. Moana’s journey leads her on a tale of self-discovery, in which the past and present collide, as she looks towards the future. Dwayne Johnson as Maui, adds some fun with his supporting role, and the music helps bring something new to the studio’s filmography. Some jokes don’t work so well, and a few action scenes come off as muddled, but the emotional resonance of the film helps keep it on course.)

Final Grade for “Inner Workings”: B (Final Thoughts: This animated short from the “Walt Disney Studios” shows that the studio is willing to experiment with new shorts and ideas. However, even with some wonderfully stylized characters and settings, the story feels rather average, as it attempts to encourage us to try something new.)

Comic Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil – Deep Trouble (Issue #2)

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Hello, yeah, it’s been awhile.

After the sudden arrival of the first issue of the Star vs The Forces of Evil comic at the end of September, many like myself were hoping for the second issue to appear a month later. However, it quietly kept getting pushed back in the comic release listings, until finally hitting comic store shelves, on November 16th.

Unlike our introductory story, the second issue’s storyline (titled Ole Moon River), quickly leads us down a much different path than where we left off.

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Star Butterfly is still determined to clear Flying Princess Pony Head’s name, and decides to use time-travel to do so.

Figuring she and Marco Diaz can go back in time to catch the real culprit in the act, they borrow the Wheel of Progress from Father Time, in order to put this plan into action.

Unfortunately, Star ends up going back further than expected, and the two end up in the past on the planet Mewni, where Star’s parents are in their teenage years!

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Reading comics over the years, I’ve noted how some multi-part stories often have the thankless task, of spending their opening pages, summarizing the past issue(s). In this issue, writer Zach Marcus quickly gets this formality taken care of, in probably the fastest way I’ve ever seen!

starcomic2-1Most surprising to me, was the appearance of Father Time, from the Season 1 segment, Freeze Day. Just like Star and Marco, the writer has managed to channel the character’s strange bi-polar tone, and the artists have made the Plains of Time just as many of us remember them from the show! For those readers who are familiar with this character, I’m sure you’ll be able to imagine Jim Gaffigan’s voice coming out of his mouth, just like I did.

Of course, the highlight of the issue, is seeing Star’s parents in their younger days. Up until now, there’s been scant information about the early years of Moon Butterfly and River Johansen, and it’s not clear if the story we see here, will be considered canon with the DisneyXD show.

Time-travel stories have usually held me in their sway since I first saw Back to the Future, and like that film’s story, Star runs a major risk of creating a time paradox here (though fortunately, we are spared Moon Butterfly having ‘the hots’ for Marco).

starcomic2-2Much of the action in this issue, feels more visual than verbal, as we follow River’s attempts to impress Moon, who seems more at ease with a handsome and clean-cut young man named Dirt (yes, you read right).

While the story is a valiant attempt to plunge us into an unexplored realm, it feels like it doesn’t flow quite as smoothly as the first issue. In a few areas, I found myself getting a little confused regarding several bits of wordplay, and who they were being directed at.

One of the more curious things about the story, is seeing Star refer to her parents as ‘preteens.’ However, we see Moon has her wand, and as Star mentioned in the first episode of the show, a Princess is only able to claim the wand on her 14th Birthday. So, is labeling Moon and River preteens, an error on the writer’s (and Star’s) part…or is it possible Moon obtained her wand early, because of unseen circumstances in her past?

starcomic2-3Also of note, is the additional use for dimensional scissors. In the show, we’ve seen they can be used to traverse across space, but in this story, Star shows they also have the ability to cut into the flow of time! Of course, the big question is, will this just be something isolated to the comics, or could it be used in one of the show’s stories? Given what we’ve seen in the last few episodes during Season 2, cutting into time could probably solve a few questions some of us have.

Much like in the first issue, I was rather surprised by the artwork. In a number of panels, illustrators Devin Taylor and Cindy Plourde break up the rather ‘flat’ imagery we’ve come to know from the show, and really push angles and perspective, for a more dramatic effect. It also feels like the art style is ‘loosening’ up a bit more from the first issue, as if the comic is trying to find a mid-ground between the show’s visuals, and it’s own particular style.

With issue #2, very little of it had anything to do with Pony Head, making the story feel like a major deviation from where we came from in issue #1.  This storytelling method used here, does make me question where the story is going. Will the next few issues follow this deviating adventure style, or will we soon fall back into Star attempting to clear her bestie’s name?

Final Rating for Issue #2: B-

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starcomic2-4With time-travel having proved a sticky road to go down, Star is going to be trying something a little different next issue.

As one can see from the cover image for issue #3, it looks like the enigmatic Glossaryck of Terms will be showing up to help (or hinder)the investigation to clear Pony Head’s name.

Will Glossaryck prove to be the key to helping solve the mystery? See you back here (hopefully soon), when we review the next issue!

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 2, Episode 13) – Page Turner / Naysaya

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Last week saw the return of Star vs the Forces of Evil from a short hiatus, bringing forth further revelations, both with characters, and the history of the world of Mewni.

This week somewhat continues that same trend, but episode 13 has some of its own twists and turns to maneuver through.

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-Page Turner-

When Glossaryck of Terms suggests Star choose what to study next in her wand’s instruction manual, she zeroes in on some forbidden texts about one of her ancestors.

Glossaryck is all set to make sure things don’t get too out-of-hand…until he’s summoned to a special meeting by the Magic High Commission. Unfortunately, trying to get to said meeting, is not as easy as it sounds.

You know those commercials, that make you think something big is going to happen to the show you’re watching? Well, Page Turner is like one of those commercials: they tease you, and then, instead of going down the expected path, they veer hard-right! Personally,  I feel we got more meaningful revelations in last episode’s segment, Into the Wand!

This segment mainly belongs to Glossaryck, as we see him dealing with the rigors of magical bureaucracy, which is like dealing with the incompetency of Quest Buy’s sloths, and Roy from the Goblin Dogs segment.

Once we started following Glossaryck on his own little adventure, I was fearful that this segment would probably fall apart. However, it just barely holds itself together, as we get a new location, and a number of new creatures to deal with (though the big question is, will they return for a more meaningful story in the future?), let alone one inconvenience after another.

There are still some revelations to be had (and a familiar face or two show up near the end), but, it feels like quite a lot of ‘nothing,’ to get to the few moments of ‘something’ the segment has been leading up to.

Final Grade: B

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Best line from segment (said by Glossaryck of Terms): “I don’t know! ‘Is everything alright?’ ‘Did you get on the right flight?’ ‘Are you running late?’ ‘Are you cracked?’ ‘Are you confused?’ ‘Are you MAD!!?'”

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-Naysaya-

Marco works up the courage to ask Jackie Lynn Thomas to hang out, but finds himself saying something totally embarrassing, every time he tries. Things don’t get much better when a small head grows out of his neck, and randomly shouts out his insecurities at inopportune moments!

As a person who has been looking forward to a segment focusing on Marco working through his feelings for Jackie, Naysaya was a ray of sunshine. Plus, several of Marco’s reactions, I could totally relate to (pounding your head on the table after a crushing emotional defeat? Yeah, I’ve been there, Marco).

Star and Janna also provide some decent support in the segment, with Star acting as a cheerleader to Marco’s wooing attempts, and Janna adding dribbling bits of snark regarding his misfortunes. What’s also fun, is that they find nothing freaky about the little Naysaya growing out of Marco’s neck.

The miniature head known as Naysaya, is almost like a combination of Stewie Griffin from Family Guy, and the overfilled zit Pustulio, from Invader Zim (luckily, with no possibility of a pus explosion!). He doesn’t get a whole lot of character development for mostly being the voice of Marco’s innermost secrets, but there is at least a small backstory showing that his growth is not an isolated incident.

Also welcome, was hearing Grey Griffin voicing more of Jackie. Following the segment Sleepover, it is nice to hear how Grey works the valley girl vibe with Jackie, regarding most of what Marco says.

There are also some past references, to tie Naysaya into other segments us die-hard fans know and love. Notable among these, is Janna’s infatuation with getting access to everything Marco has or owns (seriously, will we ever find out what is up with that!?).

Where it feels like the segment doesn’t reach high enough, is how it spends a little too much time with the multiple confessions of embarrassment from Marco and Naysaya. I understand teenagers have a lot of insecurities (been there, done that), but it feels like they could probably have used a few of those minutes for some other things. Plus, a few things Marco mentions that are meant to sound endearing, may make some go, “um, that’s a bit freaky.”

In the end, this is one segment that I enjoyed, but I could see certain fanshippers hissing at it like a scared cat. It does bring some questions into play as to what the future may bring (especially after what we see in the last 30 seconds!), and I hope some future segments will build on the character development shown here.

Final Grade: B

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Best line from segment (said by Star Butterfly): “Ohhh, you made a little Marco Junior!”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Marco Diaz): “Uh, Janna? That’s, that’s, not his hand, that’s-“

Like several episodes this season, this one was a bit of a mixed bag.

Page Turner‘s title seemed to promise hidden secrets, but instead, turned into a character study for Glossaryck of Terms. Though it was somewhat interesting to find out a bit more about where he’s been (and where he’s going), this segment may prove a disappointment to those who expected more secrets to be revealed, following last episode’s segment, Into the Wand.

Naysaya to me, ends up being the stronger and more entertaining of the two segments, and has some decent replay value. As someone who has longed to see more time given over to Marco working through his feelings for Jackie Lynn Thomas, I was willing to forgive the plot’s rather repetitive nature of just throwing out most of Marco’s ‘dirty laundry,’ in the form of the segment’s talking head. Star and Jackie also keep the comedy flowing in this piece, acting as both angel and devil to Marco’s conflicted emotions for his crush.

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starep213-6(And now, we come to that most cherished of gifts from this series. Next week, we get a full, 22-minute episode! We had two in Season 1, and this is the first for Season 2. The title of this upcoming episode? “Bon Bon the Birthday Clown.” Yeah, not as exciting as our previous full-episode release titles. Early summaries tell of Janna taking Star to a dead clown’s seance, but Star seems a little perturbed about Marco taking Jackie to a dance. Could this be an episode where my hopes and dreams for Marco and Jackie are dashed, and the younger, more rabid fanshippers will be dancing in the streets? Come back in 7 days, and we’ll find out!)

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 2, Episode 12) – Into the Wand / Pizza Thing

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Now that we’re halfway through Season 2 of Star vs the Forces of Evil, it’s as good a time as any to think about what the first half of this season gave us.

We’ve seen character development in Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz, the return (and growing threat) of Ludo, along with further development for Season 1 background characters like Janna, and Jackie Lynn Thomas.

Also notable, has been a continual pulling back of the curtains, regarding Star’s dimensional homeworld of Mewni.

For episode 12, the show’s writers walk the tightrope of giving us more information about Mewni, as well as character development in our own dimension.

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-Into the Wand-

When Star finds that her wand’s spells are not casting properly, she consults with Glossaryck of Terms for help. The solution? Star must travel into her wand, and find “the thing that does not belong.”

When it comes to Star’s wand, it feels like the writers keep making it as enigmatic as Felix the Cat’s magic bag. We’ve seen a miniature unicorn powering it, and a small pocket-universe where the numerous spells from the wand reside…though in the case of this segment, Star Butterfly goes on her own little, Inception-style adventure within it (with a bit of Into the Woods symbolism in a few places!).

The writers try to add some mind-bending layers to the story as well, with the wand acting as a repository for the memories of those who have wielded it…or at least, that’s what it feels like given some of the things that Star encounters.

Also of note, is the idea that time within the wand can have a habit of overlapping, or possibly rewriting itself. Not much is really explained when it comes to some of what we see, though. It almost seems to be the segment’s ‘here’s something cool but I won’t explain it’ card we’ve seen played in many other segments this season.

For character focus, the segment is mostly about Star (with Glossaryck getting more character time than Marco Diaz). As explained in some of my other reviews, these singular character-building episodes can usually become quite insightful, showing us how a person reacts and thinks when it’s all up to them in a certain situation, or setting.

The highlight of the episode, is opening the door further regarding the Mewnian line of Queens, let alone revelations and hints about Star’s past relations. The show’s writers give us just enough to keep building up thoughts on the history of what came before Star, but still not enough to let us know everything about these former Queens. Plus, we are treated to a “piece” of historical information, that makes one definitely wonder more about upcoming episodes.

On a more “nitpicky” note, the segment feels like there’s something a bit ‘off’ in it’s pacing. At times, Star’s line readings sound a bit “stilted,” and some transitions don’t seem to hold together quite as well. Into the Wand still provides another piece to Season 2’s overall puzzle, but even with those revelations, the uneven pacing seems to trip up the segment from feeling wholly satisfying to me.

Final Grade: B

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Best line from segment (said by Glossaryck of Terms): “Ok, don’t panic. I got the stain remover, you go start the car!”

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-Pizza Thing-

Star invites Flying Princess Pony Head over for a night of TV watching and pizza-eating with her and Marco. However, Pony Head grows bored just floating around the Diaz’s house, and tags along with Marco, who has been assigned to pick up the pizza.

Much like how Friend-Enemies gave Marco some one-on-one time with Star’s ex-boyfriend Tom, this segment sticks Marco and Pony Head together for the majority of the story. As we’ve seen from previous experiences with Pony Head, Marco is rarely ever happy to see her, and having her tag along with him, she ends up becoming more of a hindrance than a help most of the time.

The segment is almost like The Banagic Incident, wherein we have a main story to get something, that is sidelined by a number of incidental moments. Even so, the writing never gets to the point where one feels the writers have totally lost their minds, and as we’ve seen from some other appearances this season, Pony Head gets to be pretty entertaining at times (especially now that the writers have toned down some of her snarky attitude from season 1).

Every once in awhile, the segment gives the floor to composer Brian H Kim, and he brings to the segment, some of his most peppy and upbeat tunes so far. It’s stuff like this, that sometimes makes me wish we’d get an album of Kim’s background music to purchase.

This is one of those marginally good stories, which is a bit like popcorn: it fills you up, but doesn’t provide you with many lasting memories. The resolving of the pizza portion of the story seems a bit flimsy, almost like the segment is flashing you a thumbs-up, when you really wished for a high-five.

Plus, there’s a fun little ‘easter egg’ tying into an earlier season 2 segment…keeping us wondering further about Marco and his finances.

Final Grade: B-

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Best line from segment (said by Marco Diaz): “We got to get as far away from this as possible, and THEN report it to the Police!”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Star Butterfly): “We got burger juice on the wall rug, Chauncey.”

While not as strong as some of the last few episodes in entertainment value, episode 12 still had plenty of interesting places to go.

Into the Wand gives us some great eye-opening bits regarding Mewni’s past line of Queens, along with another view of what goes on inside of the Mewni Royal Wand. However, a stilted pacing and some mind-bending scenarios, may make some wonder what they’ve stumbled onto.

Pizza Time gives over more character development time to Marco, but throws in the rather abrasive Flying Princess Pony Head as a foil. The segment was not as annoying as I had expected, though I had hoped for a stronger end-game, to justify some of the hijinks and antics Pony Head put Marco through.

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(Now that we’re back in business, next week will bring about episode 13. In the first segment titled “Page Turner,” Star finds a forbidden section of her wand’s instruction manual, and is tempted to find out what is inside. This is followed by the segment “Naysaya,” where Marco has an inconvenient “growth,” that quickly starts to interfere with certain aspects of his life. Has the Monster Arm made good on its promise to return? Come back soon, and we’ll find out!)

Retro Recaps: The Simpsons (Season 9, Episode 22) – Trash of the Titans

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One of the more memorable things The Simpsons television show did during its early years, was poke fun at the wonderful world of politics. From Springfield’s Diamond Joe Quimby who kept getting re-elected (despite obvious showings of incompetency), to Bart’s rise and fall to become 4th grade class president (solely on him acting standoffish and belligerent-hmm…why does that tactic sound familiar?), the show’s writing staff always found some way to turn political absurdity, into smart-comedy.

I recall for the show’s 100th episode, the Fox Network made a big deal out of Bart Simpson making something totally crazy happen. Well, for the 200th episode 4 seasons later, all eyes were on Homer Simpson, and one of the craziest things he ever did.

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The episode starts off in a boardroom, for the department store chain known as Costington’s. While their analyst tells them that additional Holidays (like “Christmas 2”) have kept their bottom-line going, a profits slowdown in late Summer, gives their company head a moment to pause.

simpsonstott-3Shortly afterwards, a new Holiday is created to fill this profit hole, called Love Day. The Simpson family goes all-in, buying plenty of useless products (most of them just re-purposed from other store-created holidays) to celebrate it. However, the wrapping paper and product containers fill up the trash can, and noone wants to take it out.

Over the next few days, the trash keeps piling up in the can, until Homer accidentally knocks it over, making him the unwilling recipient to take it out to the curb.

Ticked off that he has to take out the overfilled garbage can (and never thinking that this could have been resolved days earlier), things get even more testy when the garbage truck drives by, and Homer attempts to chase after it, soon spilling the garbage all over the street.simpsonstott-4

Homer’s response is to name-call at the truck, but is surprised when it backs up, and the garbagemen confront him. This then leads to the Simpsons being ignored for future trash pick-up.

“Dad, is this another one of those situations that could be solved by a simple apology?” asks Lisa.

“I never apologize, Lisa,” claims Homer. “I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I am.”

simpsonstott-5With no trash pick-up, the family’s garbage piles up on their front lawn, becoming a smelly eyesore to the neighborhood, and a rat-infested hellhole.

Marge pleads with Homer to just apologize to the garbagemen, but he still refuses, claiming that he’s sure that his stand-off tactics against them are working.

Some time afterwards, Homer wakes up, and is surprised to find all the garbage on the front lawn has disappeared! He quickly brags to his family that he beat City Hall (“It’s just like David and Goliath! Only this time, David won!”), before Marge finally confesses that she sent a letter of apology to the sanitation commissioner, with Homer’s name on it.

simpsonstott-6Naturally, Homer is distraught about this, and goes down to the commissioner’s office to rescind the letter.

Though the sanitation commissioner Ray Patterson cheerfully greets him and returns the forged apology, Homer indignantly assumes that Patterson is mocking him, and claims that he intends to “fight City Hall,” and “rattle a few cages.”

When Patterson claims that “nobody wants to hear the nonsensical ravings of a loudmouthed malcontent,” Homer rushes off to be put on the ballot for sanitation commissioner.

simpsonstott-7Homer soon after starts up his campaign, though when questioned by his peers at the Nuclear Plant about what he’ll do different from Ray Patterson, he provides little information (“What am I, ‘the answer man?’ Just vote for me!” he tells his co-worker, Lenny).

Feeling that maybe he needs to reach the younger demographic, Homer sneaks into a U2 concert, and hijacks the show. However, his attempts to ‘rock the vote’ by spouting ‘hip lingo’ to the crowd, simply leads to him being escorted off-stage, and beaten.

Going to Moe’s, Homer wonders what he can do to get the people to listen to him.

Moe claims Homer just needs to come up with a campaign slogan that will appeal to “all the lazy slobs.” Even here, Homer laments doing work. “Can’t someone else do it?” he whines.

simpsonstott-8That line actually impresses Moe, and Homer quickly begins to use it as his campaign slogan! Going before the townspeople, he promises that his campaign will handle all the negative aspects of the garbage that the average person hates, and most of the townspeople quickly warm to his promises.

Soon, a debate is held between Ray Patterson, and Homer. Ray attempts to make the citizenry see reason (“This man has promised round-the-clock trash pickup. That’s impossible!”), but Homer takes every chance he can to mock the man’s logic. Naturally, the townspeople just eat up Homer’s grandstanding attitude, further exasperating the sanitation commissioner.

“All right, fine,” says Ray, eventually tiring of the game. “If you want an experienced public servant, vote for me. But if you want to believe a bunch of crazy promises about garbagemen cleaning your gutters and waxing your car, then by all means, vote for this sleazy lunatic.”

simpsonstott-9Of course, this is Springfield, so the ‘sleazy lunatic’ wins.

After the election, Homer goes to his new office, and finds Ray packing up his things. Homer acts totally oblivious to how he treated his opponent (“You told people I lured children into my gingerbread house,” growls Ray), and laughs off the slander, as if it was all a big joke.

As he leaves, Ray gives Homer one last speech.

“Simpson, the American people have never tolerated incompetence in their public officials. You are going to crash and burn, my fatheaded friend.”

simpsonstott-10Soon after, Homer takes charge of things, and starts paying off on his ‘crazy promises.’ Sparkling white uniforms for his garbagemen, brand-new trucks, and even a musical number!

Sung to the tune of “The Candy Man,” Homer’s song about how “The Garbage Man can,” shows its numerous workers disposing of questionable garbage materials, and taking care of the garbage issues that noone wants to do!

Things seem to be coming up roses for Homer…until Mayor Quimby angrily points out that the department’s yearly budget has been used up in one month!SimpsonsTott-11.jpg

Homer is beside himself on what to do, confessing to his family that Ray was right, and he’s “crashing and burning.”

“You know, Dad,” says Lisa. “There’s a lesson in all this. Many cities have problems with garbage disposal, and it’s time we realized you ca-“

“Wait, shut up!” interrupts Homer. “I just thought of something!”

He rushes out of the house, and a few days later, returns to his office with enough cash to keep the garbagemen happy, and his crazy promises going!

When the family asks to know what he did (they all assume it had something to do with drugs), Homer shows them.

SimpsonsTott-12.jpgGoing to an abandoned mine on the outskirts of town, Homer explains that other cities are paying him to dump their garbage in Springfield, and bury it deep within the mine shafts under the town!

“But Dad, you can’t cram trash under Springfield forever,” cautions Lisa.

“Sure I can, honey-kitten,” replies Homer, confidently.

Some time later, Homer is on a golf course with Mayor Quimby, who is happy that Homer resolved the sanitation department’s budget woes (though never questioning Homer on how he did it). Suddenly, a lump forms on the course! Homer quickly tries to push it down, but another lump forms, before garbage suddenly spews up from the hole on the course!simpsonstott-13

Lisa’s warning appears to be coming true, and like a reverse sinkhole, the garbage buried beneath the city, begins popping up everywhere!

An emergency meeting is called, wherein the town votes to have Homer horsewhipped for causing the crisis, and Ray Patterson is reinstated as sanitation commissioner.

With a roar of approval from the townspeople, Ray takes to the stage, a big smile on his face.

simpsonstott-14Oh, gosh,” says Ray. “You know I’m not much on speeches, but it’s so gratifying to leave you wallowing in the mess you’ve made. You’re screwed.Thank you. Bye.”

And with those final words, Ray walks off the stage (and out of the show entirely).

Quimby attempts to keep order, but when a deluge of garbage suddenly spews up from his podium(?), he declares that the town must consider its contingency plan: Plan B.

simpsonstott-15The plan calls for the entire town to be moved five miles down the road, and soon, all of Springfield’s buildings are loaded onto flatbed trucks, and headed to their new home.

“So, we transplant the town,” says Lisa. “We’re just gonna trash the new Springfield too.”

“Yeah, but what are you gonna do?” says Homer, speaking as though he hasn’t learned a thing.

As he jump across to a flatbed with Moe’s on it, he tosses a potato chip bag, that lands at the feet of a Native American standing nearby. Saddened at the thoughtless littering, the man sheds a tear.

simpsonstott-16“Do yourself a favor,” says a friend of his, coming up behind him. “Don’t turn around.”

The camera then pans behind the two, and we see a vast wasteland of trash, with a “City of Springfield” billboard in the foreground. A scream follows shortly afterward.

“I told you not to turn around,” comes the voice of the second native.

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And that was Trash of the Titans. Overall, not one of the strongest of the Simpsons episodes, but it plays quite well with Homer making a mountain out of a molehill, that could have been avoided had he just taken the trash out in the first place…instead of leading to the ciry-wide crisis that befell Springfield.

The episode was directed by Jim Reardon, who is responsible for directing a number of popular episodes on the series. He has also written for films like Wall-E and Zootopia, showing that he has a very famous pedigree in the world of animation.

The episode’s original concept, was to have Homer run for some form of public office. Writer Ian Maxtone-Graham recalled a friend from Chicago, who had made their way into the city’s sanitation commission, and decided that might be an interesting position for Homer to take on.

Guest star-wise, the episode contained vocal appearances by Steve Martin as Ray Patterson, and the group U2 as themselves.

Martin gives a fun turn as Ray, bringing forth that super-serious tone we know and love, while tweaking it in that way that just makes you laugh. His acceptance speech that turns into a refusal at the end, is definitely a highlight.

U2 seems to have a little fun with their roles, notable with some of the band members giving Bono guff for being overly-charitable. There’s even a small bit over the end credits, where one of the band members is seen to be collecting spoons from each location they visit. 

With the episode’s ending with Springfield buried amid a mountain of trash, some thought that the episode was sending an environmental message, but interview and audio commentary from the show staff, later denied this.

Strangely enough, fiction almost became reality. In the early 2000’s, the city of Toronto’s city council proposed turning an abandoned mine into a dump site for the city’s trash! Two councillors who opposed this move, surprised their colleagues one day, and played the Trash of the Titans episode, and supposedly, the viewing helped cancel the proposed project.

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 2, Episode 11) – Hungry Larry / Spider with a Top Hat

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Well, what can I say but…wow!

Over the last few weeks, Star vs the Forces of Evil has given us some great character development, underlying story progression, and the entertainment value has kept pretty consistent, making for some of the most entertaining segments so far this season!

So, what does episode 11 of season 2 have in store for us? Well, let’s dive in and find out!

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– Hungry Larry –

The Diaz’s decide to turn their place into a haunted house for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters. However, Mr Diaz’s scare methods don’t even impress the local 8-year-olds.

Wanting to help, Star and Janna summon a spirit called “Hungry Larry,” in hopes that he can help make the place scarier…but maybe they should have listened to Marco, when he cautioned them not to.

Much like Team Spirit and Brittney’s Party, Hungry Larry is another one of those stories where Star wants to help make something better…but, ends up plunging everyone into a chaotic situation.

One of the highlights of the segment, is Hungry Larry himself. At first, he reminded me of the character Sam from Trick ‘r Treat. He may seem simple and docile at first…but after a few minutes…look out!

When it comes to his summoning, it’s easy to see that “Hungry Larry” is a takeoff on the urban legend of “Bloody Mary.” This is evident in the instructions Star and Janna follow. It is neat how the brief conjuring scene manages to be both funny, and eerie at the same time.

The segment also gets high marks from me, in regards to how it is put together. From the timing of the different scenes and scares, to Brian H Kim’s music, this is one of those stories that was fun on so many levels!

While Larry seems to encompass the ‘a-story’ of the piece, Mr Diaz’s ‘b-story’ about not being considered scary is decent, but may put some in mind of Stan Pines’ ‘b-story’ segment, from the Summerween episode of Gravity Falls. In fact, it feels like a bit of that show’s DNA is in this segment, but that could just be me looking for the closest comparison to what we experienced here.

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Best line from segment (said by kid dressed as a vampire) Look, man. You seem like a nice guy. And, I wanna be scared…I really do! But the truth is, I’m 8. That’s like 90-years-old in Halloween years. Next year, we might not even be afraid of monsters. I don’t wanna waste my time.

Final Grade: B+

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– Spider with a Top Hat –

Deep within Star Butterfly’s wand, are living quarters where all of the magical creatures she conjures up, reside. The menagerie include warnicorns, narwhals, and several other non-fighting denizens.

Notable among the inhabitants, is the diminutive Spider with a Top Hat, who usually acts as a cheerleader for the more constant, battle-hardened creatures that come-and-go. However, deep down, Spider with a Top Hat longs to find a greater purpose to his life.

The idea of the creatures Star summons living within the wand, did make me wonder just “where” this living space is, given that we’ve seen the inner-portion of Star’s wand in the past, contains its main power source (a unicorn on a treadmill). Maybe what we witness in this segment, is a pocket dimension that the wand connects to (but that’s just a theory I have, until someone from the show can prove otherwise).

When I first heard what this story was about, I was definitely not expecting much from it. However, as it carried on, it seemed to carry a heft and weight, making it more dramatic than I could have originally imagined. The creatures within the wand, remind me a bit of Andy’s toys from Toy Story: they know they’re there to serve a specific purpose, and there’s a pretty decent camaraderie amongst them.

One would assume that maybe Spider would be looked down upon, but he’s well-liked and appreciated by his fellow magical creatures, who do show some concern when he seems to lose some of his positive attitude as the story goes along.

Brian H Kim’s music also helps the mood along greatly with this piece, including a very memorable 8-bit sounding ‘wake-up song’ that Spider uses to get the day started off for his friends.

The last few minutes of the segment are quite surprising. I liked how we become just as disoriented as Spider does for a few moments, and the effect helps elevate the emotional level so well, that I was actually surprised the segment ‘went’ where it did.

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Best line from segment (said by Spider with a Top Hat): I will break you.

Final Grade: B

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Mr Diaz, in Hungry Larry): Leave this Place.

I was very surprised to find that this week, both of the episode’s segments blew me away with what they had to offer!

Hungry Larry has the kind of humorous-yet-dark tone that I loved so much in the segment, Monster Arm. The tone of the piece, coupled with the timing and music, makes it a really great watch, that I just can’t get enough of! It makes the most of its 10-minute running time, while also giving over some character development time to Mr Diaz.

Spider with a Top Hat sounded like a low-quality concept for a segment, but much like the little guy, looks can be deceiving. The segment delves into a more dramatic turn, regarding the magical creatures Star summons, and delves into the hopes and dreams of a few of them. Needless to say, you may look at Spider with a Top Hat’s appearance in the show’s closing credits, a little differently from now on.

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(And with episode 11 in the can, we are now officially halfway through the second season of “Star vs the Forces of Evil!” In light of that news, word is that we’re about to enter another hiatus…a month-long hiatus!! Luckily, a wiki on the show has revealed some details about what to expect when we finally get around to episode 12. In the first segment, “Into the Wand,” Star has Glossaryck further investigate what has ‘broken’ inside her family’s wand, and see if it can be repaired. The second segment, “Pizza Thing,” involves Marco and Flying Princess Pony Head, attempting to pick up a pizza. One hopes maybe we can get a preview soon on what may happen, but until then, our reviews for the series will return in 4 weeks. However, I may use that time to do an analysis of the first half of this season, and compare it to last season’s 13-episode run. Bye for now!)