Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 3, Episode 13) – Stump Day / Holiday Spellcial

Before we enter 2018, the DisneyXD series Star vs the Forces of Evil, had one more episode to give us. This 14th episode, is considered a Holiday Special with it’s content, and appeared a few days after the start of December, 2017.

So, what are holidays like on Mewni? Let’s take a peek!

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– Stump Day –

On Mewni, Star Butterfly and her family are celebrating Stump Day, a holiday that celebrates the unity of the kingdom’s first settlers.

Star’s birthday also happens to falls on Stump Day, and Marco eagerly throws his friend a surprise party/Quinceanera. However, Star’s reaction is definitely unexpected.

For a few months now, some in the Star fan-community had heard some rumblings about Stump Day (there was even a revised print of Star and Marco’s Guide to Mastering Every Dimension, that had a cover-image related to the event!).

The episode plays a bit like a combination of the story Mewnipendence Day, mixed with Hungry Larry. On one hand, it gives us some more information about the kingdom and it’s origins, and in another way…it attempts to try and give us some scares in a very Krampus-like fashion.

We do get a nice little grouping of Star’s friends (including a re-introduction of StarFan13), though the whole event just quickly spirals off into chaos. There are some attempts at humor, but it feels like it goes a bit too far in a few areas. There are also some ‘relationship issues’ that come to light, but are quickly glossed over as the story moves into some darker territory.

Overall, the story could have been a bit stronger regarding it’s message of unity, but seemed to just want to focus a bit too much on wanting to watch Star freak out about Stump Day.

Final Grade: B-

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Best line from episode (said by King River): “Ha ha ha ha! You don’t tell me what to do!’”

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– Holiday Spellcial –

Inside Star’s magic wand, a number of her spells are preparing to also celebrate Stump Day. Spider with a Top Hat is eager for the festivities to begin, but several of the spells are a little unnerved by a new spell that has come to live with them: The All-Seeing Eye spell!

When Spider with a Top Hat got his own episode last season, it was a surprising revelation on how the magic of Star’s wand worked (even though there are still plenty of unanswered questions).

Unlike some of the other spells within the wand, All-Seeing Eye is definitely one that makes some uneasy. With the continual purple-flame encircling his yellow-orange eyeball, it definitely makes one want to watch their back when he’s close by (plus, he has that ‘silent-sneak’ bit down-pat!).

All-Seeing Eye is also a rather intriguing spell, given that he never speaks, except by showing things he’s seen, projected onto his huge eyeball. One thing I realized after viewing the story a few times, is that he’s the equivalent of that quiet person at a party, doing more observing than mingling.

The story seems to be a melding of one of those ‘he said/she said’ stories, mixed in with the idea of trying to be all in-clusive at a family gathering, where not everybody may be on the same level.

It was nice to see some of the more recent spells added to the wand since the last time we were inside of it, though one almost wonders what happened to the spells during the events of The Battle for Mewni (if the magic within the wand is unable to be used, are they able to still exist?). Plus, All-Seeing Eye is actually a spell created by former Queen Eclipsa, leading us to wonder just how these spells ‘materialize/appear’ in this world.

Steve Little returns to voice Spider with a Top Hat, and much like his last big episode, here he’s once again struggling to be the glue holding everything together. Of course, we also see the strain of the events (as well as All-Seeing Eye) wear on him as the story goes on.

Much like the gags revolving around Star’s party in Stump Day, the gags used in this story regarding the things that All-Seeing Eye sees (and shows), gets a bit overblown, in my opinion.

In regards to the way the episode wraps up, it feels like they could have given over a little more time (also like with Stump Day), to tell a stronger story than what we have here.

Final Grade: B-

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Best line from episode (said by Warnicorn ): “This, is your fault, alright? Instead of taking responsibility for MY actions, I am gonna blame YOU, for recording them, and then I, am gonna pummel you!”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Pony Head, in Stump Day): “Happy Birthday Star, it’s the ultimate gift: two boys are fighting over you!”

Watching Christmas-related specials over the years, I’ve found many are often struggling to find an entertaining balance, and this episode feels like it just manages to be decent, but like most of my feelings on some of the shows episodes…it could have been a bit stronger.

Stump Day pulls us into another tradition regarding the Kingdom of Mewni, but falls back a little too much on comedy, when the time could have been better-used to focus on the day’s meaning.

Holiday Spellcial shows us another side to Stump Day celebration, giving us a glimpse of how Star’s spells celebrate the holiday. It’s story about inclusion and truth-telling is passable, but feels like it just gets too filled up with what All-Seeing Eye has seen regarding the other spells.

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And that’s all Star has for the year 2017. My guess is we’ll get another dropping of multiple episodes sometime in the first half of 2018, possibly with Season 4 coming around next summer.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I hope to continue reviewing Season 3, when those episodes appear next year!

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Movie musings: looking through the first script for Barry Levinson’s “Toys”

When it comes to feature-film directors, many of them have a script or a project, that they desperately long to do.

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Robin Williams and Barry Levinson, on the set of Toys.

For director Barry Levinson, one script that had been on his mind since the start of his career, was Toys. Word was when he began to make the move from television to film, he wanted this film to be his feature debut. However, it’d take over a decade, and numerous attempts, before the film was made and released by Twentieth Century Fox, in 1992.

The film concerned a company called Zevo Toys. It’s founder Kenneth Zevo (Donald O’Connor) passes away, but rather than will the company to his son Leslie (Robin Williams), he requests his brother, General Leland Zevo (Michael Gambon) take over management.

Of course, Leland is not of the same mind as his brother. Soon, the factory’s production begins to shift into making ‘war toys,’ which were never produced when Kenneth was alive. As the world around them begins to shrink and becomes more threatening, Leslie and his sister Alsatia (Joan Cusack), must find a way to restore their father’s legacy.

The film was released around Christmas of 1992, but even with it’s colorful production design, whimsical previews, and Robin Williams as it’s lead, the film failed to even recoup back it’s production budget.

Viewing the film on VHS several years after it was released, I couldn’t help but become curious over the years, and wonder: what was it about Toys that had Levinson signify it as his ‘passion project?’ Was there something in the original scriptment, that had somehow gotten lost in translation?

In July, a trip to California allowed me some time to stop by the Margaret Herrick Library  in Beverly Hills. Owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it houses a number of scripts, pictures, and other material not often available to the public.

Notable to me for this visit, was perusing through three drafts of Toys they had in their collection. Each script was written in 1979, 1982, and 1992, with writing credits on all three, given to Valerie Curtin (Levinson’s first wife), and Barry himself.

My curiosity piqued, I delved into all three copies of the script, but was most interested in the one dated December 14, 1979. What follows, is a summary of that script.

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Taking place in Connecticut, the story focuses on a company called Panda Man Toys, Inc. It is housed in a “three story, nondescript building sitting isolated in the countryside.”

The company’s founder, Kenneth Presswell, is close to death, and has sent for his Militaristic brother, General Leland Presswell. During their meeting, Kenneth makes clear his intentions to turn the factory over to Leland. The meeting takes a morbid turn, when Kenneth dies right in front of his brother.

The General is given time to consider the offer, and upon deciding to take over, is given a 60% stake in the company. The remaining 40%, is split between Kenneth’s children, Leslie, and Alsatia.

Leslie is identified as being 34 years old, but not ready yet to take over the company (with Kenneth’s assistant Wyeth Owens, claiming he’s ‘sowing some wild oats’). Leslie is somewhat of a prankster like his father, but is a ‘late-bloomer’ when it comes to business.

Alsatia is not given an age, though it is noted that she did not leave grade school until the age of 18. Even so, she is considered a devoted factory worker.

The General quickly makes it clear that he isn’t enamored with the factory’s ways, at one point claiming that money and manpower is being ‘wasted,’ when it could be used to ‘develop new ways to annihilate foreign races.’

Wyeth brings up his misgivings about the General to Leslie, but Leslie just brushes off the concern, figuring that time at the factory, will ‘loosen up’ his uncle’s demeanor.

Visiting his bedridden father (a former 5-star general), Leland tells him about the factory, but the old man shows no interest. However, as he talks about his brother’s company, Leland begins to formulate a plan.

Once he takes charge, the General makes it clear at a board meeting, that he feels the company will not survive, unless they start producing ‘toy weaponry.’ Wyeth claims that Kenneth never had the company make ‘war toys,’ because he was a pacifist.

“I know he was a pacifist,” declares Leland. “That’s why I used to kick the $#!t out of him all the time.”

(This declaration causes Leland to laugh at his ‘joke,’ while everyone else in the room remains silent.)

Talk of industrial espionage hurting the company’s R&D department, has the General send for his son Patrick, who soon starts using some brutal interrogation methods among the staff, to try and weed out the spies.

Leland also brings aboard his secretary, Gwen Tyler. Though she has a very serious demeanor at first, Leslie slowly starts to get her to lighten up, and a romance blossoms between them.

Still concerned with espionage, the General takes Patrick’s advice, and decides to counter-espionage designs from a competitor, named My Toys. Patrick manages to trick Leslie into helping him create a distraction for some guards, by putting on a strange show, seen on the My Toys security cameras. which manages to temporarily distract the guards, and allows them to make off with some of the company’s designs.

Upon hearing what has been done, Wyeth voices his objections to the General, but is ignored. Other projects and departments are then shut down, as the General commandeers the staff to work round-the-clock to produce toys off of the stolen designs.

The General likes most of the designs, but one of them he calls “a little submarine,” he thinks has potential. He soon hatches a plan to make ‘war toys,’ with the money made off of them, used to fund a few of the General’s ‘special projects.’ As work continues, more departments are shut down, and Alsatia even loses her office in the factory.

Soon, Panda Man Toys is producing and selling war toys (tanks, jeeps, paratroopers, etc). With the development continuing on the General’s projects, he soon invites some men from Washington to secretly see the designs for them. However, they are not impressed by his ideas, including his (as one of the men calls it) “submarine with a nose.”

After the General loses his temper and assaults one of the men, Patrick takes him away to calm down. Even with this setback, the General claims he is still going to go ahead with his plans.

One day, Wyeth manages to sneak into the restricted area of the factory. There, he finds men testing miniature war machines, along with video game simulators. However, Wyeth is spotted, and he is chased into a room with a large water tank. Wyeth gets into the water tank to hide, but is then attacked and killed by some underwater toys in the large tank (making the General very happy that they work!).

After Wyeth’s death is labeled an ‘industrial accident,’ Leslie demands Patrick tell him what the General is doing. Patrick attempts to stay loyal to his father, until Gwen tells him how his mother died (the true facts of which the General never told him!).

Patrick then confronts his father, and upon finding out that a nurse he likes also had an affair with his Dad, he finally confesses to Leslie, Alsatia, and Gwen, everything that has been going on. The General’s main goal, is to use video computer technology, to turn kids into ‘super-patriots,’ willing to die for their country without question!

The group then hatches a plan to steal the designs, and stop the General. Alsatia and Gwen are left behind, as Leslie, Patrick, and his surveillance team, attempt to break in.

They are attacked by a number of toys, with several of them dying (one is vaporized by a toy tank’s blast!). The final battle takes place in a miniature village, and it is during the fighting, that the ‘submarine with a nose’ (referred to as “The Guppy”) is unleashed. Of course, the General’s brilliant idea ends up being his downfall, as “the Guppy” kills him.

The final scene shows two tombstones, side-by-side. On them are the following:

Kenneth T Presswell – 1910-1979 – May Joy and Innocence Prevail

Leland H Presswell – 1914-1979 – I Disagree

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It’s never been divulged just how many scripts were written for Toys, but the next draft the library had (dated February 1982), starts to become closer to the 1992 shooting script. Here are a few noted changes:

  • The General’s secretary Gwen Tyler, becomes just another Panda Man employee, whom Leslie slowly falls in love with (becoming the character Robin Wright played in the final film).
  • The 82′ script changes Alsatia from being human, to a robot, whom Kenneth built after Leslie’s mother died when he was younger. Alsatia and Gwen also attempt to stop the General, going along with Leslie and Patrick at the end (the surveillance team Patrick had in the first draft, is dropped).
  • Unlike the 79′ script, the 82′ script has the men from Washington willing to forgive the General for assaulting them, and tell him that NATO has a weapons conference coming up, that he might be interested in getting ready for. This ‘second chance’ mentality, would be dropped in the final script.
  • The 82′ script also jettisons Leslie and Patrick stealing toy designs from a competitor. Instead, the General and Patrick purchase some competitor’s toys from the store, and attempt to build them. One of them that the General attempts to assemble, is a “Sammy the little Submarine” toy. Like the 79′ script, this toy somehow inspires the General to make a ‘killing machine’ based off of it, which the General dubs, “the Sea Swine.” Not much is told about this rendition of the sea swine, except it has two periscope-like eyes that pulsate with an eerie light, and it makes a ‘creature-like sound.’

What is most notable about the original script, is how dark it gets. Kenneth dies right in front of his brother, and his assistant Wyeth, and the General are killed. In the 82′ and 92′ scripts, Kenneth dies (off-screen) on the way to the hospital, and both Wyeth and the General survive.

There is also the fact that the original Panda Man Toys was little more than a non-descript factory building, before becoming a surreal toy factory, located who-knows-where. Plus, at the end of the day, I am still no closer to knowing when the decision was made to change the company name from Panda Man, to Zevo (the Panda Man moniker is still prevalent in the 82′ script).

Plus, there is still the question of just how a toy submarine, evolved to become the semi-alive ‘sea swine’ mentioned in the 82′ and 92′ scripts.

One item I found intriguing about the final scene in the 79′ script, is the difference in ages. I had assumed that Kenneth was the younger brother, and Leland had followed directly in their father’s foosteps. This may have been done to show the wisdom of the older brother, vs the younger, who may have wanted to be seen as acceptable in the eyes of their militaristic father.

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The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that Levinson’s goal with the ‘idea’ for Toys, was to create a ‘surrealist film.’

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Poster for the film, and Rene Magritte’s famous painting, Son of Man.

Surrealism is often the giving of something a dreamlike quality, where the material skirts the line between real, and unreal.

We see that so many times in numerous scenes in the final film. There are many bits inspired by surrealist painter Rene Magritte throughout the film(even the poster of Williams in a bowler hat, appears to be inspired by his works!).

One could even see the decision to put a Militaristic General in charge of a toy factory, definitely being one of several ways the story tries to keep it’s viewer ‘disoriented.’

I think that is Toys’ greatest flaw: Levinson got so into trying to make it surreal, that it probably would have made a better series of paintings (or even a short-subject), than a feature-length film.

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Over the years, when Toys has come up in interviews, Levinson still defends the film. In one interview, he claimed it’s been the one film he has been most criticized about.

Even with many not embracing the film, some can’t deny that it seemed almost prescient. This is notable in the use of small, unmanned planes, meant to get into enemy territory, without having to place a human soldier in danger.

This tied into the thinking of the time that Military budgets were being heavily slashed during peace-time, and there was some intent to keep advancements in weaponry relevant, as well as economical.

Of course, it may also be seen that Toys could be somewhat relevant in our current day-and-age, as we seem to also have a madman intent on turning our world upside-down, as we struggle to find some good in a world, that seems to have gotten darker.

Movie Musings: Do The Terminator and Titanic share similar story DNA?

James Cameron is a good example of how a filmmaker can come from anywhere. Originally working as a truck driver, his viewing of a film called Star Wars, inspired him to pursue a new career path.

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Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, and James Cameron, on the set of The Terminator.

After quitting his job and working on several films for Roger Corman, James eventually crafted his first original film, as a writer/director. The Terminator debuted in 1984, and quickly garnered praise for it’s effects-work, and gritty science-fiction scenario.

In the 30 years since the film’s debut, Cameron’s name not only became elevated in science fiction circles, but at the global box-office, where his last two films took off like gangbusters in 1997, and 2009.

In 1997, Titanic was released, and took off in a way that hadn’t been seen since the days of the early 80’s box-office hits!

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Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and James Cameron, on the set of Titanic.

The film was truly a phenomenon that could not be quantified: a $200 million film whose release was pushed back 5 months to the Winter of 1997 due to editing and effects issues. The numerous delays, made many feel that Cameron’s “Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic” story, would surely sink his career.

Of course, as we know now, the rest is history. Titanic managed to ‘stay afloat’ in theaters almost 8 months after it’s debut, and broke attendance and ticket records in almost every country it was released in!

While it isn’t my favorite Cameron film (that distinction still belongs to Terminator 2: Judgment Day), I still can’t help but admire the man’s big-budget attempts to bring his fascination with the ship to life. Willing to build a 90% scale recreation to film on, as well as the mixture of practical and visual effects, to put us aboard the doomed luxury liner, and make us feel for the plight of it’s 2,200 souls.

Watching films over the years, I would sometimes look through most filmmakers’ works, looking for similarities, or reasons why certain subjects would fascinate them. As I was looking through Cameron’s films, I was surprised to note that when thinking through the story of Titanic, I found several story elements, that seemed to borrow from the structure Cameron used on The Terminator.

And so, I thought I’d share some of my findings with the internet.

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A Stranger in a Strange Land

When it comes to the male leads for both Terminator and Titanic, one can see that both Kyle Reese and Jack Dawson, are ‘anomalies’ in the worlds they find themselves in (Kyle in the year 1984, and Jack aboard the Titanic).

Cameron-4The future world Kyle has come from, is one devoid of the luxuries that the average person living in 1984 takes for granted. As a soldier, Reese got by on his wits, struggling to just survive each day, in a world ravaged by the machines. When he gets to 1984 Los Angeles, Michael Biehn portrays him as a man out-of-time, determined to save Sarah Connor, while also dealing with post-traumatic stress, from his time as a soldier.

Jack on the other hand, has lived his life going from place-to-place, with a very bohemian lifestyle. An artist by trade, he does what he can to get by, but still is willing to keep to a basic set of principles.

Both men are also unique, in that they encounter their leading ladies in the midst of life-or-death situations (Sarah about to be killed by a Terminator, and Rose threatening to commit suicide).

Throughout the course of the films, both Kyle and Jack act as cheerleaders to Sarah and Rose, claiming they are more than what they seem. We see both women at one point claim that these men are mistaken, but as the story goes on, we see them breaking out, and even saving their men in several instances.

It is also notable, that both of these men sacrifice themselves so the leading lady can live, and are ‘lost to time’ as the films go on.

Cameron-5In Terminator, Kyle Reese did not exist until after Judgment Day. When the LAPD catch him, there is no record of him on file. During the final battle, Kyle sacrifices his life to try and destroy the T-800. After his body is recovered after the event, he is sealed up in a body bag, and is never heard of again.

In Jack’s case, he came aboard the Titanic along with his friend Fabrizio, with tickets not to their names (both were won in a poker game). After the ship sinks, Jack has Rose get aboard a piece of the ship, so she’ll be out of the freezing waters. However, in his attempt to save her, Jack succumbs to hypothermia.

When Rose let go of his hands, and he sank into the abyss, that was the last anyone saw of Jack Dawson. The only thing that physically exists that proves his existence, is the drawing he did of Rose (that was found in Cal’s safe). Rose even mentions that she has no picture of Jack, whose face only now exists in her memories (of course, the irony is that there actually was a person on the Titanic named Jack Dawson, just not the one that Cameron had Leo portraying).

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Technology will be Your Doom (if you let it)

Most of Cameron’s films have an underlying theme regarding technology, and whether Man can control it, or if that technology may end up destroying it’s creator.

Though there is a definite technological difference between Skynet’s T-800 Terminator, and The White Star Line’s Titanic, they both represent the hubris of man.

Skynet was a fully-automated system integrated into the US Military, as a deterrent to human error, and to safeguard against enemy attacks. However, the artificial intelligence soon deemed all humans to be a threat. The system triggered an attack that lead to a nuclear war, that became known as Judgment Day.

Though the Titanic was not a living entity, her creation could almost be seen in a similar light.

At the time of her creation in the early 20th century, the Titanic was touted by her creators as one of the largest, most luxurious ships of all time, and…she was considered to be unsinkable, at least, according to the press and media (word was the White Star Line never claimed such hubris).

Her double-bottom hull and multiple water-tight compartments were seen as a deterrent to death, their advanced technological breakthroughs deemed a way to keep her passengers safe.

Of course, the claims of how this early 20th century technological marvel was going to revolutionize travel and pretty much plow through whatever Mother Nature threw at her, were rendered moot after she struck an iceberg, and sank on April 14th, 1912.

Both Skynet and the Titanic, were creations meant to show how far mankind had come…and in ways that most could not comprehend, they ended up defying their creators.

Skynet was touted as a program that would not suffer from the errors of humanity, like fatigue or emotions. However, once those in charge soon realized what they had done, it was too late to change course.

The Titanic was touted in a number of publications of the time, as being ‘unsinkable,’ a vessel to stand against God and nature. The push for luxury over safety, also overruled the added safety deterrent, of giving the ship enough lifeboats to handle her massive human capacity, leading to the tragic loss of over 2/3’s of her passengers.

It is also notable that in both films, Skynet and Titanic, are shown within alien-like worlds, ravaged by time.

In Terminator, the world of 2029 is shown torn asunder by nuclear annihilation, and the neverending threat of Skynet’s many war machines, to wipe out the last of mankind.

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In Titanic, we see what became of the great ship’s own Judgement Day, some 85 years after she sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. Just like the future world of Terminator, we see once normal imagery made ‘alien’ before our eyes, bathed in a faint blue glow. The ocean, the sinking, and a number of other factors, have twisted the remains of the once-great ship, into something other-worldly, far away from the normalcy of her heyday, in 1912.

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You are more, than what you think you are

Though many decades separate their life-changing stories, Sarah Connor and Rose Dawson have story arcs that are very similar.

When we first meet them, both seem to be stuck in a certain place, seemingly trapped.

Cameron-6Sarah is working as a waitress, and looks to be heading towards a normal suburban lifestyle, that will eventually lead to marriage, and children.

Rose’s family name and fortune have allowed her to become the fiance to a young businessman, in a society and world where her choices seem limited.

Both women find themselves in a precarious situation, when strange men from another world (Jack from the world of Bohemia, Kyle from a war-torn future), end up ‘saving’ their lives, and attempt to make them believe that they can be more than what they think they are.

Kyle tells Sarah of what he was told by John, regarding how she trained him to be a warrior, and was a source of great strength.

Jack’s pep talk is moreso based on what he’s observed regarding Rose. Jack has noticed that Rose seems to have a fire within her, much more than those around her. The upper-class world she is in won’t allow for such ‘outbursts,’ and she’s in danger of that fire burning out.

By the end of their films, both Kyle and Jack have died, and in the wake of their deaths, it is up to the women they championed, to decide if they want to die, or live.

Cameron-7In Terminator, the T-800 is still alive after Kyle is killed. It is up to Sarah to finish the job (and decide if she wants to live or die). Sarah manages to lead the Terminator into a metal press, where it is crushed.

In Titanic, a lifeboat returns to the ship’s debris field, looking for survivors. Upon realizing Jack has died due to hypothermia, Rose almost gives up, but then remembers her promise to Jack. She manages to get the attention of the lifeboat’s crew, and is saved.

In the final minutes of each film, we get a small glimpse of how these encounters changed both of their lives.

Sarah is last seen driving off into an uncertain future, though more confident, and starting a new life, to prepare her unborn son for what is to come.

In the final moments of Titanic, we see Rose asleep(?), with a number of pictures by her bedside. Each of them in a matter of minutes, shows that she seems to have tried to live life to it’s fullest…a life she probably would never have had, if she hadn’t encountered Jack Dawson.

While I have mentioned Terminator as sharing some DNA with Titanic, there is a little of Terminator 2 in the film as well…albeit in a deleted ending.

In his original ending for T2, once the T-800 had been destroyed, the film would cut to 30 years in the future, to a park in Washington D.C. Sarah, now a Grandmother, explains how Judgment Day didn’t happen. The disaster was averted, and John Connor is now a Senator.

In the audio commentary for T2, Cameron claimed that he became fascinated with the idea of seeing a person, at two different stages of their life. However, he felt that the sudden appearance of Hamilton playing Sarah at age 64, was too much of a shock to the system.

In re-evaluating what went wrong, he felt that if he were to sell the illusion of a character at different stages of her life, the character would need to be introduced at their older age, to help ease the viewer into their younger ‘identity.’

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Left: Linda Hamilton, from the alternate ending to Terminator 2; Right: Gloria Stuart as “old Rose,” from Titanic.

Cameron was determined to use this storytelling device post-T2, and made it work 5 years later on Titanic.  While Kate Winslet portrays the younger Rose character and is the film’s ‘lead,’ it is Gloria Stuart who bookends the film, as ‘old Rose’ leads us into her past, and back to the present day.

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While both films do not line up exactly in comparison, it is notable at what I’ve seen in regards to both films, and I have been surprised noone else has really written such a comparison piece. But then, I’m one of those people that is weird enough to do so.

I came back to finish this post, after seeing Titanic’s 20th anniversary release last weekend. The audience was rather small, but seeing it in an HDR setting with an incredible sound system, took me back to those halcyon days of my senior year in high school, sitting in my hometown theater for the first matinee of the film (minus it breaking 15 minutes before the end!).

That re-visit of the film on the big-screen got my mind going, and soon made me think of a few other comparisons one could make regarding Terminator, and Titanic:

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Picture Perfect

I was surprised to realize how in each of the films, an image of Sarah and Rose, are vital to the journey several people undertake in these films.

In The Terminator, it was a picture of Sarah Connor, that pushed Kyle to accept the mission, to go back and protect her.

In Titanic, it is Jack’s drawing of Rose, that brings ‘old Rose’ to the attention of Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton), as the image shows her wearing The Heart of the Ocean necklace, the treasure he is seeking within the remains of the ship.

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Search and Destroy

One scene that is most memorable to those who saw The Terminator, is when Arnold’s T-800 massacres a whole police station, in his search for Sarah Connor.

Surprisingly, a similar cat-and-mouse situation (minus the multiple guns and dead bodies) was shot for Titanic, but ended up on the cutting room floor.

After Cal (Billy Zane) chases Jack and Rose down to the flooded First Class Dining Hall, he gives up the chase, due to the rising waters and a lack of bullets in his gun…only to realize that Rose’s coat still has the necklace in it’s pocket!

In the deleted scene, Cal tells Lovejoy (David Warner) that he can have the necklace if he can get it, and the bodyguard reloads his gun, and skulks into the dining hall.

While the cat-and-mouse game in The Terminator helped with the suspense, the same scenario happening amidst the sinking dining hall just didn’t work.

Cameron had hoped the scene would excite the audience, as Jack gets some comeuppance upon Lovejoy. However, while the sight of the familiar setting being eerily submerged charmed Cameron, the added tension just seemed to be too much for the audience, who were already full ensconced by the more pressing matters of the ship sinking.

After a few test-screenings, Cameron removed the dining hall fight altogether, and with it, went any negative comments about the moment!

In the final film, Jack and Rose merely rush through the dining hall, and the audience is left to assume that Cal and Lovejoy returned to the upper-decks, to try and get on a lifeboat.

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I will admit the two films aren’t perfectly similar in their narratives, but as one can glean from the article, it seems that James Cameron likes to reuse some things, if he can find a place for them.

Of course, I do wonder if any other story scenarios will show up in the upcoming Avatar sequels. Cameron’s fascination with deep-sea diving, is said to be a part of the upcoming sequel. I doubt we’ll get any interstellar submersibles, but I’m sure he’ll work on trying to give us some fascinating underwater creations, beneath the waves on Pandora.

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 3, Episode 13) Monster Bash

And so, we’ve finally come to the episode, that is classified as the halfway-mark for season 3 of Star vs the Forces of Evil.

The last 12 episodes for Star vs the Forces of Evil, have definitely felt like the most thorough line of continuity we’ve had during a season so far. So much has happened, that when one sits back and thinks of what we’ve seen, it’s really quite startling!

So, let’s delve into Monster Bash, and see what we got.

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Thanks to the generosity of Rich Pigeon, Star is able to throw a party for the young monsters and mewmans in her kingdom! Also in attendance, are Marco (helping set up the party), and Tom (trying to get Star to just calm down and enjoy the festivities).

Things seem to be going well once the guests start talking, but some unexpected visitors may possibly derail Star’s perfect little party.

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One of the themes that has come to the forefront of season 3, is the treatment of monsters in the kingdom of Mewni. We’ve seen Star take small strides to try and understand more, and here, she attempts to try and fix things in her own way.

The party setup feels pretty simple, and it is nice to see some monsters we haven’t seen since season 2 (such as the more peaceful ‘alternative monsters’), but the writing for their attitudes feels a little ‘pedestrian’ at times.

We also see some mild interactions between Star and Tom. Even though they are unofficially ‘together,’ we’ve seen relatively little to support that rekindling of a relationship so far this season, (with only a few scenes in recent episodes, to back this up). It’s notable that Tom claimed a few episodes ago that he wanted to ‘better’ himself, but rather than help Star with her current project, he chooses to just ‘mope’ around at times.

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Marco on the other hand, once again shows his skills with trying to keep things ‘neat and orderly,’ as he tries to take care of some behind-the-scenes work at the party. Of course, nothing can stay perfect for very long, and we see both him and Star, having to deal with a few ‘problems.’

Things (surprisingly) begin to get interesting, when we encounter Ms Heinous again! I was afraid this was going to turn into another of her quick in-and-out appearances, but if there is anything that saves this episode from being average, it is the revelations regarding her character (revelations many of us have been waiting for since season 1!). Some questions have been answered, but now, new ones regarding Heinous, have been unleashed!

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We also have the return of Mina Loveberry, whom some may fondly recall from her season 2 segment, titled Starstruck. Sadly, it doesn’t really feel like her character is good for much of anything, except expounding a few lines of exposition, and just showing how totally off-her-rocker she is. It felt like there might have been some hope for the former warrior at the end of Starstruck, but it seems the writers just want to keep her as ‘the loose cannon,’ wandering around the kingdom at random.

These full-length episodes are often looked forward to by myself and many fans of the series, as they have the chance to give over more time, and tell a larger story. Monster Bash I feel, could have been a much stronger story with it’s many layers, but it feels a little too ‘loosey-goosey’ in some places to truly become a great episode.

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The revelations regarding Heinous are indeed serious, but one has to wonder if Star will take the initiative and reveal this to her mother (or maybe, Eclipsa?). Last season, she tried to hide the fact that she had lost her family’s spellbook and Glossaryck of Terms, before tearfully confessing her shortcomings. Seeing as this season she’s trying to become ‘a better princess,’ I would assume being truthful in matters like this, might be a wise (if shocking) decision, but we’ll have to wait and see what comes next.

Star’s efforts to also bridge the disconnect across multiple species in her kingdom felt like a good way to go, but could have been stronger. The final scene definitely raises some questions regarding her efforts, and how far she still has to go towards unity and acceptance, after generations of animosity towards monsters.

Final Grade: B

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Best line from episode (said by Star Butterfly): “Oh my dear sweet angel-lady, I thought I’d lost you!”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Rich Pigeon): “Legs heal Marco, but grudges last…forever!”

In the end, Monster Bash feels a bit like the halfway-mark episode from Season 2, titled Bon Bon the Birthday Clown. Fortunately, this episode’s title makes a little more sense regarding it’s storyline, but struggles a little more to keep itself together.

There are definitely some good ideas to be had here, but it feels like it wasn’t given as strong of a focus as it could have had.

The revelations regarding Ms Heinous are still strong in my mind, though the use of Mina Loveberry in the story, felt like a ‘distracting letdown’ to really making the story much more memorable overall. There could have also been a stronger plotline regarding Star’s trying to bring mewmans and monsters together. The potential is there in a few scenes, but it never seems to rise above little more than ‘set decoration’ in some areas.

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And with that, two weeks worth of Star episodes came to an end. But, there are a few more coming before the end of the year, and they happen to be full-length episodes.

Next up is the episode called Stump Day, which seems to be about Mewni’s version of Christmas. While the previews have shown plenty of ‘festive fun,’ I’m curious if some of the revelations from Monster Bash will make an appearance in the storyline. See you back here soon, to talk about where the next half of season 3 will (or may) take us!

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 3, Episode 12) – Night Life / Deep Dive

 

In the last episode of Star vs the Forces of Evil, a few more doors were opened to the neighboring kingdoms in the world of Mewni.

This episode returns to focus on our main characters, and and a few issues that are affecting their lives.

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– Night Life –

Wanting to do something else with his time on Mewni, Marco begins secretly hanging out with Hekapoo. With dimensional portals popping up unexpectedly, she needs all the help she can get to close them, and Marco feels like he’s well-suited for the job.

Last season, I found Hekapoo to be one of the more interesting new characters we were introduced to. The forger of all dimensional scissors, she has a rather abrasive wit about her, that plays much better than that of Pony Head. Plus, most of her humorous moments just hit better!

We also get some great references back to the segment Running with Scissors from season 2, and find out a little more information about the dimension she lives in.

Marco seems to be trying to branch out and do things that don’t concern Star (seeing as how she seems to trying to deal with some of her own problems), making it feel like this story ties into a few revelations at the end of the segment, Lava Lake Beach.

We do get some friction between both Star and Marco, notably in how Marco claims he wants to help Star, but isn’t there for her a few times. Plus, it feels like there may be a some straining on their friendship, and…a tiny hint of jealousy, perhaps?

The storytelling on display here, is the kind that I really enjoy. We get a sense that something is going on, and while we don’t get all the answers, we get enough information to feel like the time and effort put forth was adequately used to not only entertain us, but push the overall story forward!

There is a subplot about secrets and lies, and it manages to weave it’s way through the segment in a very enjoyable way. One revelation proved to be a bit ‘heartbreaking,’ but still, this is definitely a segment I’ll come back to in the future for repeat viewings!

Final Grade: B+

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Best line from episode (said by Hekapoo): “Ugh, you know I can’t resist your ‘adult voice!’”

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– Deep Dive –

At night, Star is still finding herself transforming into her 6-armed, ‘golden butterfly’ form, once she falls asleep. However, it seems that there is a pattern to her nightly activities.

Wanting to figure out more about what is going on, she enlists Marco’s help, and brings her friend Janna from Earth, to monitor her.

It was quite a surprise to see this segment tie into the previous one in several ways. Rarely do we have that ‘one-two punch’ of storytelling happen in this series. Plus, the information from that last segment is still fresh in our minds, as this one takes off.

I kept wondering if Janna would come to Mewni (given her appearance in the new season 3 opening animation), and it looks like this segment finally allowed it to happen. One could see this story focusing moreso on Star and Marco, but it feels like Janna was brought in as a ‘buffer’ regarding where their paths go during the story. Plus, Star probably feels that since Janna is used to the ‘strange and unusual,’ she might be able to help figure out what is happening to her.

This turns out to be another story whose roots seem planted in the events of The Battle for Mewni. We’re introduced to some new characters, places, and concepts, that have sprung up since that event. This also raises a few new questions regarding what Star went through at the end of the ‘battle,’ as well as leaving us to wonder if there may be more to ponder about what we glimpse here.

We also get some brief, but startling revelations regarding Marco, who does something that I don’t think any of us could have foreseen…and consequences that are now making us ask, ‘what just happened there?’

The mood and mystery of this story really sticks in my head, but even with it being entertaining, it feels a few steps shy of reaching the levels of enjoyment that permeated through the previous segment. It’s not without it’s charm, but just needed a little extra ‘oomph’ to have reached the levels of enjoyment I had with Night Life.

Final Grade: B

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Best line from episode (said by Star Butterfly): “Oh Marco…that was incredibly stupid of you.”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Janna, in Deep Dive): “Chicken butt.”

And that, is how you do an enjoyable 1-2-punch of a 2-segment episode!

Night Life shows us Marco trying to do things on his own away from Star, but finding out that that might not be so easy to do. This story was also a welcome return to see Hekapoo in action, as well as learn a bit more about her character, and the way the dimensions in this universe seem to function.

Deep Dive provides a nice complimentary segment, as Marco and Janna are tasked with figuring out what is going on with Star when she falls asleep. There’s a bit more mystery here, but we are introduced to some new, and intriguing questions. Plus, there’s some new information about Marco that will surely have many fans eager for answers in future storylines!

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And that concludes the dual-segment episodes for now. Next up for review, is a full-episode, titled Monster Ball. Star decides to go forward with holding a party for all young monsters and creatures she knows. Of course, no party can just go off without a hitch. What happens? Well, we’ll see you next time to find out more!

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 3, Episode 11) – Death Peck / Ponymonium

Over the last few episodes, we’ve been given more information about some of the different kingdoms and species that populate Mewni.

In this episode, we get a little more information about one we were introduced to in the first season, and a new one that recently came to light.

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– Death Peck –

Wanting to bring unity among the different creatures and kingdoms on Mewni, Star, Marco, and Pony Head, journey to the Pigeon Kingdom. It is here, they hope to get Rich Pigeon, to join their cause.

This is another precarious situation for our trio, though it quickly turns into one of the most action-packed segments we’ve seen yet. Sugarcube studios definitely shows they have the skills to do action scenes right, though the segment feels like it’s a bit too full on filler, and less on the reason for Star’s being there.

We do get some more information about the Pigeon Kingdom, let alone learn more about the recently-introduced Rich Pigeon, and his family’s legacy. When he was first introduced during the Silver Bell Ball, I just figured he was going to be a one-off character, but given what we are shown here, he might have more to offer coming up this season.

While Death Peck accomplishes some stuff in the course of it’s storytelling, it just mostly feels like ‘action-movie filler’ for most of it’s run-time, with only a few well-placed gags here or there.

Final Grade: B-

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Best line from episode (said by Pony Head): “Yeah, Marco’s right. Whoa, did I just say that out loud?”

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– Ponymonium –

Pony Head invites Star to her family’s castle for dinner. However, Star finds that her best friend’s family, may be a bit more dysfunctional than she imagined.

Star and Marco’s Guide to Mastering Every Dimension actually had a section about Pony Head’s sisters, and we finally get to see some of them in action. However, with so many different sisters, there are only a select-few that we focus on, and the others are just treated as background fodder. Plus, it feels like when it comes to the birth-order of the sisters, one has to have the Guide to figure this out (sorry, newcomers).

Most surprising about the storyline, is how Star almost acts as our ‘innocent’ avatar to what is going on. She enters this dinner knowing very little about her best friend’s homelife, and we’re along for the ride with her, trying to figure out just what is going on.

It felt like out of all the recent storylines that have dealt with Pony Head so far this season, this seemed to shuffle her all the way back to her first season’s appearance, where she’s downright ‘abrasive’ for the entire length of the segment. I guess we can hope that when we see her again outside of her home, she’ll be a bit more palatable.

We also get a minor cameo from King Pony Head, who also gets in one of the funniest lines of the segment. Of course, it may lead some to wonder just where Queen Pony Head is (maybe she just had enough of the girls, and left?).

This episode is kind of like digging through dirt to find some gold. There are some moments that manage to save the storyline, but it feels like the storytellers missed the chance to really give us a memorable first impression of the Pony Head Kingdom.

Final Grade: B-

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Best line from episode (said by King Pony Head): “Take me with you.”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Star Butterfly, in Ponymonium): “Okay, thanks for having me…because I definitely, feel like I’ve been ‘had.'”

This episode managed to open up the world of Mewni a little more, but felt like we were only allowed a taste, before being thrown into a crazy set of events, before we get some closure at the end.

Death Peck takes us to the Pigeon Kingdom, and manages to show us that there’s more to Rich Pigeon than it seems. However, much of the segment is taken over by an action sequences, which keeps it from feeling like a more fully-formed story.

Star attempts to guide us through the craziness that is Ponymonium, but it seems to be a way to distract from the rather blase story going down regarding Pony Head and her sisters. This was a segment that had potential, but felt like it just…happened.

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Next episode, it looks like the return of our favorite fiery redhead, when Marco and Hekapoo team up in the segment, Night Life. Then, we get a little more introspection into Star’s late-night journeys, with Deep Dive. See you soon!

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 3, Episode 10) – Sweet Dreams / Lava Lake Beach

Well, it’s two days in a row where we seem to have a segment for Star, and one for Marco!

Last episode dealt with Marco having to deal with telling ‘the truth,’ and Star trying to heal a rift between the inhabitants of her kingdom.

Today, their stories become a bit more…difficult.

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– Sweet Dreams –

Star is surprised to learn that after falling asleep, she ends up flying off to other dimensions (without using dimensional scissors to travel!), but doesn’t know the meaning behind it.

Not wishing to worry her parents, Star asks Marco to help her figure out what is going on, which leads to some rather unexpected surprises.

Sweet Dreams feels like one of those ‘first step’ storylines, where what we see, could possibly lead to further information down the line. It strings along a number of gags, though some of them end up feeling a little ridiculous.

There isn’t a whole lot explained in this story, and it feels like it just coasts by on it’s visuals for much of the storyline, leaving me wishing we could have gotten some stronger story moments in certain places. Even so, the story does give us some rather ‘freaky’ imagery, that almost feels on par with what was seen in the segment, Rest in Pudding.

Probably the one place where the segment seemed to get really intriguing, was with the brief appearance of Eclipsa. We also get some surprising information about part of Star’s room, that has had some people asking questions since season 1.

Final Grade: C+

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Best line from episode (said by Eclipsa): “Oh, are you afraid I’ll get my ‘evil cooties’ on you?”

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– Lava Lake Beach –

Star, Marco, their friend Kelly, and Tom decide to go down to the beach in the Lucitor kingdom (where Tom lives), to watch the ‘soul rise.’ However, as the group tries to enjoy the rather abrasive atmosphere, Marco notes that something seems to be on Kelly’s mind.

We were given a little bit of information about the kingdom Tom lives in, in the book Star and Marco’s Guide to Mastering Every Dimension. However, we are only shown what seems to be a small portion of the ‘underworld’ dimension here (and Tom seems perfectly fine just being a regular demon on the beach).

This segment is notable, as we get a little more information on Kelly, and see her having relationship issues with her boyfriend, Tad. However, it seems that she may finally be tiring of the constant cycle of breaking up and getting back together with him.

The story revolving around Kelly, feels like the high-point of the segment, as Marco goes to talk to Tad, and gets probably the biggest emotional slap-to-the-face one could get!

This episode pretty much becomes for Marco, what Just Friends last season was for Star (seriously, I could hear Love Sentence’s song Too Little, Too Late in my head during a moment in this segment!). Sadly, it feels like the story’s attempts to help drive this realization home, get a bit ‘hokey,’ and one scene that probably could have been as emotional as Star seeing Marco kiss Jackie Lynn Thomas in Just Friendsdoesn’t ‘hit hard enough’ in my opinion.

The interactions between Marco and Kelly here, is what keeps the story from just falling flat. Marco is the kind of guy who wants to help others, and we see that on display here in full-force. Plus, we see that while Kelly can be a bit weird at times, she’s just as understanding when it looks like Marco needs someone to perk him up.

Final Grade: B-

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Best line from episode (said by Kelly): “Um, I actually licked all these.”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Dorby, in Lava Lake Beach): “EXISTENTIAL WAR CRY!!”

This episode had some decent information/revelations folded into it’s stories. However, they didn’t hold up so well in the long-run.

Sweet Dreams shows Star going through changes in her life, but decides to keep the vagueness of the new mystery open. It does salvage itself at the end with a revelation courtesy of Eclipsa, but it doesn’t go far enough in my opinion to become a really good story.

Lava Lake Beach is a storyline, that deals with coming to terms with something you maybe didn’t want to consider. It plays well off of both Marco and Kelly dealing with relationship issues, but the filler bits with the beach’s fight-obsessed inhabitants in the Lucitor kingdom, felt a little too ridiculous for my tastes.

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Next episode,  it looks like we’ll look at a few of the other kingdoms on Mewni. Death Peck sends Star to the Pigeon kingdom, while Ponymonium takes us to the Ponyhead kingdom. See you back here soon, to see how these two storylines play out!