Archive | March 2018

Movie Review: Ready Player One

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language

While I had known about Ernie Cline’s debut novel Ready Player One for awhile, it wasn’t until hearing the author’s concept for the book, did I become intrigued: what if Willy Wonka was a video game designer, and he held his Golden Ticket Contest, inside his greatest video game creation?

That led me to seek out the book, and, upon hearing that Steven Spielberg was going to be adapting it, I was pretty much onboard for the bearded one’s latest film.


In the year 2045, much of the world is in economic ruin. To combat their dreary existences, many people have escaped into the lifelike-yet-fanciful virtual world called The Oasis. Created by legendary gamemaker James Haliday (Mark Rylance), the late genius secretly created a contest within his borderless world…a contest that not only promises massive wealth, but total control of his greatest creation!

The film follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who along with his friends, attempts to solve the riddles and puzzles Haliday left behind.


Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan)

However, the evil conglomerate known as IOI (Innovative Online Industries), is hoping to turn the free-to-roam world into a pay-to-play empire. Led by the business-minded Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the company will do everything it can, to win.


While several people I know were fully ensconced in the world that Ernie Cline had written, I will admit his novel didn’t fully grab my attention. With the film’s screenplay however, there has definitely been some fine-tuning. With help from screenwriter Zak Penn (who wrote the story for Last Action Hero), there is a small toning down regarding the video game references, and a bit more given over to the worlds of motion pictures.

For much of the film, Wade Watts (and his avatar known as Parzival), is our guide to this future world. Most of his friends exist within the world of the Oasis, with Wade not really knowing much about them beyond their avatars. I did like the camaraderie developed between Wade and his friend Aech (Lena Waithe), but when it came to Wade ‘crushing’ on a girl named Artemis (Olivia Cooke), the writing felt a bit ‘forced.’


Artemis (Olivia Cooke)

Unlike her novel’s counterpart, the character of Artemis is given over to being more of a ‘person’ here, and less of a ‘prize.’ Both her human counterpart and avatar are given more time and purpose in helping move the story along, but in regards to fully making her and Wade into a couple, it just didn’t work for me (then again, this could have been Spielberg channeling the ‘meet cute’ romances of 80’s films).

I’ve often believed that when it comes to Spielberg choosing his projects, he does so based on certain world events. Current events definitely feel like the world of 2045 in RP1 is possible: one in which high unemployment and crippling debt are the norm, and the majority of transactions are made digitally, with drones making all of our deliveries.

There are also some topics regarding the ‘disconnect’ many feel even when ‘connected’ through digital means, as well as how protecting your identity can be detrimental to your well-being.

Much like his work with The BFG, Spielberg’s work on RP1 ping-pongs between a virtual world, and a real one. CG character believability has been improving over the years, and for much of the film, I was surprised how focused I was on the motion-captured characters, and stopped looking for ‘bugs in the system.’


L to R: Sho (Philip Zao), Aech (Lena Waithe), Parzival (Tye Sheridan),  The Caretaker, Artemis (Olivia Cooke), Daito (Win Morisaki)

Of course, one thing that many will be looking forward to, will be the character-heavy scenes within the Oasis. While some references are called out, the film fortunately doesn’t stop for every single little moment, treating most of the licensed cameos, in the same way Disney’s Wreck-it-Ralph did. I will admit that I did have some ‘fanboy’ moments watching the film, but knew I had to judge the film on it’s merits, and not just on stuff I recognized.

Story-wise, the film thrusts us into it’s world pretty quickly, before allowing us some time to catch our breath in the second act. It feels like the story starts getting unwieldly in it’s third act, as Spielberg is almost in a mad dash to keep the action going, and resolve a number of plot threads. He almost ends up pulling a Return of the King with all that is going on, which made me pine for the simplicity (and editing) of a George Lucas Star Wars film ending.

While I was also very excited to hear that composer Alan Silvestri was on board, I felt his contributions to the film were sadly overshadowed too often by the 80’s soundtrack that was thrown at us. Even with the full force of the IMAX sound system around me during my screening, the only time Silvestri’s music really stuck out for me, was (sadly) during the closing credits.

Ready Player One overall, feels like it has a hard time finding it’s equilibrium. Spielberg struggles to bring out more of the novel’s cautionary vision of the future to viewers, but ends up sacrificing some of that message in favor of Wade and his friends, striving to ‘save the world’ in their own way.


Even so, I do wonder if the struggle of the young people in the film, fighting ‘a war for control of the future,’ may in some way inspire the young people in our own reality, who are struggling against forces that seem insurmountable as well.

Final Grade: B


Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 3, Episode 18) – Skooled! / Booth Buddies

Time is ticking away, as only a few episodes remain for the third season of Star vs the Forces of Evil.

Last week’s episode brought about revelations for Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz, both on Mewni, and back on Earth. Things are definitely changing around them, with some of those changes, being things beyond their control.

This week’s episode, brings about some more unexpected surprises.



– Skooled! –

Princess Ponyhead decides to return to St Olga’s, to continue her education. However, her attempts to get a handle on the new curriculum are thrown for a loop, when former headmistress Ms Heinous returns to the school, with an agenda of her own.

The previews for this episode definitely did a good job of masking the inclusion of Ms Heinous (also known as Meteora, the daughter of Queen Eclipsa, and her monster husband). After the reveal of Heinous’ heritage in the episode Monster Bash, this story attempts to fill us in on more of her backstory.

There is definitely some emotional storytelling at work here, but sadly, much of it seems truncated for time. It feels like the chance to go much deeper into Heinous’ past, was sidelined by the inclusion of the Ponyhead subplot.

There is even some time given to showing the other princesses around the school, but even here, it just feels like more ‘filler’ that doesn’t quite hit some of it’s comedy beats.

The last few minutes of Skooled may be some of the most shocking stuff we’ve seen in awhile (probably since the episode Toffee!). I think it’s fair to say that the ‘kid-gloves are off,’ and that the kingdom of Mewni may be facing a major threat, very soon.


Best line from episode (said by Princess Ponyhead): “If I don’t make it out of this, I want you to know…I hate you.”

Final Grade: B



– Booth Buddies –

At a wedding for royal servants Ruberiot and Foolduke, Star is ecstatic to see that Ponyhead (though not currently in attendance), has dropped off the old Bounce Lounge’s photobooth for the festivities!

Naturally, Star is eager to get some pics with one of her best ‘besties,’ Marco! However, as she looks over the snapshots, Star can’t help but feel that something isn’t right about them, and is determined to get an ‘acceptable’ souvenir…soon leading to the two friends being trapped in the booth!

One thing I’ve really enjoyed in some of my favorite Star stories, is when characters actually have candid, quiet moments. This can allow the writers to slow down, and give us some character introspection outside of the monster fights, and daily whirlwind of madness these characters find themselves in. We definitely get that here, as the storyline takes a deep breath…and starts tackling some stuff that these two ‘friends,’ haven’t really discussed over the season!

The story also introduces a new supporting character, in the form of Ben Fotino (voiced by Gravity Falls creator, Alex Hirsch!). Ben is the goblin handyman of the photobooth, and surprisingly, I couldn’t stop laughing at every little thing he did! He almost has a ‘trolling complex’ much like Roy the Goblin Dog vendor, only here, his jovial old-man routine is highly-entertaining (to me, at least).

Buddies manages to mix together drama and comedy in a very enjoyable package. Where it falls a little flat for me, is in some of the repetitiveness of the booth’s picture-taking moments. To me, I always come for the emotional content, and Booth Buddies had me yearning for a little more, than what we ended up with.


Best line from episode (said by Star Butterfly): “These aren’t photos…they’re travesties.”

Final Grade: B+



Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Star Butterfly, in Booth Buddies): “Well I like our adventures. And I thought you liked them too.”)

And there you have it… an episode with two stories that proved to not only be pretty entertaining, but also seemed to lay some groundwork for revelations further on down the line!

Skooled! pulls ‘the ol’ switcheroo’ when it comes to it’s storyline’s subject matter. Ponyhead’s subplot eats up valuable time, that could have been better utilized, focusing on Ms Heinous/Meteora’s dramatic backstory.

Booth Buddies was a pleasant surprise overall. The story of Star and Marco trapped in a photo booth managed to not only be humorous, but also poured on the drama, and confronted some topics that I think have been on the minds of many loyal viewers, for much of the season!


And with episode 18 down, we have one more 2-story episode, before two full-length episodes finish up the season.

Next episode, we find Ponyhead enamored with a Korean television drama, in the storyline titled, Bam Ui Pati! Then, in Tough Love, it’s a meeting of three characters that has me so excited, I don’t want to reveal their names! Needless to say, I am eager to see what’s coming in less-than-a-week’s time, and I hope you’ll return to read what I have to say about it!

Movie Review: Pacific Rim – Uprising

For filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, the movies he makes have often been about bringing to life something that he feels passionately about. In the case of his 2013 release of Pacific Rim, the result was an emotional mixture of Japanese monster fights, interpersonal connections, and Mexican wrestling.

The film wasn’t a big hit stateside, but racked up three times it’s domestic gross overseas. Five years after it’s release, Steven S DeKnight expands on Del Toro’s world, with Pacific Rim: Uprising.


Over 10 years have passed since the events in the first film.  In that time, the Jaeger program has been reborn, and newer, younger recruits are being trained for the possibility of another invasion from beyond our dimension.

One person who finds himself being brought back into the program, is Jake Pentecost (John Boyega). Jake has lived his life outside the shadow of his famous father Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), but is coaxed back into service by his sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi).


Jake Pentecost (John Boyega)

The human-manned Jaeger program also finds itself in jeopardy, when a Chinese consortium led by Liwen Shao (Tian Jing), wants to streamline the program, and control the huge machines by way of unmanned drones, thanks to the help of former Shatterdome scientist, Dr Newton Geisler (Charlie Day).

However, things suddenly change when an unknown Jaeger appears, setting off a chain of events concerning Jake, and those around him.


Right from the start, it’s clear to see that Uprising is one of those sequels where most of the first film’s main cast, are either gone (just what happened to Jaeger pilot Raleigh Beckett is unknown), or relegated to supporting roles. Much like Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day sequel, this film wants us to focus on ‘a new generation’ of young characters.

Jake Pentecost quickly becomes our film’s Raleigh Beckett. Jake is played up as the rebellious child of a heroic figure, but fortunately, Boyega manages to do a decent job balancing out his character, as well as giving him several humorous moments.

While Del Toro’s 2013 film seemed intent on dealing with the emotions of his characters, Uprising either speeds through some of these areas, or doesn’t do quite enough. Case-in-point, is where we are introduced to the young Jaeger pilots. I was hoping we’d really get to see them come together through training, but much of this is glossed over in favor of focusing more on the Chinese Jaeger-drones subplot.


Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny)

Out of all the young pilots on-screen, the one whom the film puts most of it’s emphasis on, is the orphaned Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny). Given her attitude towards Jake and her mechanical prowess, I couldn’t help but feel like I was seeing a fleshed out version, of what Michael Bay intended for the character of Izabella in Transformers: The Last Knight to be (at least I could believe that Amara was mechanically-inclined!). However, while Amara can be a bit stand-offish, the film does make her more than just ‘a girl with attitude.’ She wants to make a difference, but fortunately, she isn’t going to just stand in front of a multi-storey Kaiju and tell it to ‘go to hell.’

For those who felt the first film was lacking in giant robot/creature battles, Uprising will definitely be seen as a marked improvement. However, some of the effects work feels like they had to pick-and-choose where the production money went (no elaborate ILM-budgeted night battles in the rain this time!). I’m sure some will feel that the new Jaegers are more in line with Michael Bay’s Transformers, but much like computers getting smaller over time, to me it makes sense that 10 years beyond the first film, the Jaeger designs would look a little leaner and more agile, rather than the bulkier, heavier first-generation models.


It’s fair to say that director Steven DeKnight does his own thing with the material, and while it doesn’t hit as deeply on an emotional level, I was surprised to find that Uprising felt like it could have been adapted from an anime or manga series. There are certainly some small touchstones to the first film, though I couldn’t help but feel like some bits of the story, felt like it was cobbled together from some recent science fiction films I’d seen in the last few years. However, unlike those films such as Independence Day: Resurgence and Transformers: Age of Extinction (that just seemed to plod on with a few punctuated scenes that held my interest for a few minutes), Uprising managed to press my buttons, and actually had me entranced throughout!

Seeing the film in IMAX (though not released in 3D) I thought would be quite entertaining. Unfortunately, it felt like the camerawork at times got a little too close to the action. Though it is impressive to see the images projected so large, it feels like an average-sized screen would be more-than-welcome for viewing purposes (plus, there weren’t any floor-to-ceiling IMAX-style shots to make it that worthwhile).


Final Grade: B (Final Thoughts: “Pacific Rim: Uprising” continues on in the world Guillermo Del Toro created, but feels ‘manageable’ for a second film. Writer/Director Steve DeKnight chooses to almost flip the first film on it’s head, choosing to make the giant robot/monster battles our main focus, while jettisoning some important time to allow the audience to really get to know much of the film’s cast.


Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 3, Episode 17) – Is Another Mystery / Marco, Jr

Last week’s episode of Star vs the Forces of Evil, was one of those one-two punch episodes that I often long to see more of. The stories that give answers to some questions, and bring about some new questions, without going overboard.

This week’s episode was somewhat of a ‘grab bag’ of ideas, when I heard the plot for both stories. So, let’s see what we have to work with.



– Is Another Mystery –

Upon finding a note left by Buff Frog saying that he is going away, Star and Marco are eager to find out where their monster-friend is. However, Marco steps aside on this trip when Star’s boyfriend Tom, quietly requests Marco excuse himself from the investigation, so Tom and Star can have some time together.

The absence of Marco from the story did have me perplexed once it got going, but then again, we haven’t really had a full-on Star/Tom adventure story (Marco already had one of those with Tom in Season 2’s episode, Friendenemies). There are also a few interesting moments in this story, where Tom may have some issues with Star and Marco’s friendship.

The revelation regarding Buff Frog and his decision to leave, definitely felt like it came out-of-nowhere. After promoting Buff Frog to the role of Royal Monster Expert in Starfari, I was seriously hoping that there would have been an episode showing Star and Buff Frog working to revamp the royal agency, but it seems that was something the show’s writers didn’t feel was worth exploring.

So far, most of the monster-related stuff has fallen on Star’s shoulders, with the events of the episode Monster Bash, seeming to be what pushed Buff Frog to leave.

As we also saw in Monster Bash, Tom has largely been on the sidelines regarding his girlfriend’s efforts to bring mewmans and monsters together. Surprisingly, he does actually seem to take a small interest in trying to get several monsters to believe that things are getting better in this story, but one has to wonder if he really is going to do anything in the future to work towards this goal, or if he was just saying those things to look good for Star.

There is definitely some emotion put into this story, and while I did like the writers giving Tom some more screen-time, there were plenty of places I felt the story could have been stronger in it’s execution.

Final Grade: B-


Best line from episode (said by Star Butterfly): “Ok, I don’t know what I just did, but I think it was pretty awesome and I am very proud of myself for it!”



– Marco, Jr –

At the request of his parents, Marco returns to Earth, only to learn that his mom is pregnant, and a baby shower is taking place!

Realizing that he didn’t bring a gift, Marco and Star make a mad dash to Quest Buy, where they enlist the services of a magical painter, to make a portrait of Marco (on a very short timeline!).

Walking into this story, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a title like Marco, Jr. My first thought was that we’d see a return of the character Naysaya, though Mr and Mrs Diaz quickly explain where the title of the story comes from (and why they would name their unborn second child, after their first one).

I was pleasantly surprised when Marco’s Mom became one of the entertaining highlights of the story as well. Over the course of her time on the show, it feels like the writers have enjoyed steering Mrs Diaz to be the more thoughtful of Marco’s parents. Mr Diaz is made out as the more ‘kooky’ of the two, and even gets a few humorous lines here too.

Most surprising, was the story taking a sudden sharp turn, and going off on an unexpected story tangent! This reminded me of Bon Bon the Birthday Clown, where that episode’s title alluded to one thing, and then the subject matter went down a surprising path.

This was also another story where Star is there as a ‘supporting character’ for Marco. This proved to be quite entertaining, both in her proactive nature, and in her knowledge regarding just ‘who’ Marco is these days.

I am always up for a good Marco-centric storyline that proves to be ‘weirdly entertaining,’ and this one hit a number of the notes that made me enjoy it more than I had any right to.

Final Grade: B


Best line from episode (said by Mrs Diaz): “…I spent 37 hours squeezing you out of my body, and this is what I get?”



Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Mr Diaz, in Marco, Jr): “No, I think stealing one of our sons is enough for now, Star.”)

I will admit that overall, this episode was pretty good, though definitely not as intriguing as the last one.

Is Another Mystery gave us a Star/Tom team-up that we hadn’t experienced before, but the subject matter felt like it could have used an extra episode of storytelling, to make the emotional moments really hit home.

I have a feeling some people may not enjoy Marco, Jr as much as I did, but I have a soft-spot for Marco-related stories, and the weirdness that was on display here, just worked for me!


Next episode, we see Princess Pony Head return to St Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses, in the storyline Skooled! Then, Star and Marco supposedly end up in a strange situation, in Booth Buddies. See you back here in a week for another review!


Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 3, Episode 16) – Butterfly Trap / Ludo, Where Art Thou?

Season 3 of Star vs the Forces of Evil, returned last week, with an episode that just felt…underwhelming.

This week’s episode however, covers two subjects that had me much more intrigued.

Join me in reviewing them…won’t you?



– Butterfly Trap –

It’s finally time for Eclipsa to stand trial for her past actions. While Queen Moon and the Magic High Commission preside over the trial, Star is also on hand to watch the proceedings.

This is one of those stories where it feels like a lot of talking goes around, but buried within the conversations, is some interesting information. Naturally, the Magic High Commission proves to be just as ‘overly-verbose’ as they have been in previous appearances, and it is largely up to Queen Moon to wrangle them in.

One of the highlights of the story, is the Box of Truth being used for the trial. This definitely streamlines the storyline, and manages to provide just the right mix of drama and comedy.

I feel if the trial had been a bit heavier on the drama of the situation, I might have given the story a higher grade. However, I was pleasantly surprised and very satisfied, to find that this story actually managed to not only be entertaining, but dropped some very important information about the Kingdom of Mewni (information that may very well affect it’s future!)

My one hope is that the episode’s ending revelations don’t just get shoveled under the carpet (seriously showrunners, there’s some good stuff to explore here before the season ends!).

Final Grade: B+


Best line from episode (said by The Box of Truth): “We need to talk-ALRIGHT LADIES, ARE YOU-PREPARE, FOR, JUDGEMENT!! ”



– Ludo, Where Art Thou? –

In the wake of Ludo disappearing after the events of The Battle of Mewni, almost noone has given his whereabouts a second thought…except his younger brother, Dennis.

With a little help from Ludo’s former cohort Spider, Dennis soon tracks down his older sibling…but is not quite prepared for what he finds.

Near the end of Season 2, we were introduced to Ludo’s family. Not only was it revealed that he was one of several children of Lord Brudo, and Lady Avarius, but he was also ‘the runt’ of their dysfunctional royal household. Also, there seemed to be noone who really cared about him, except for Dennis (whom Queen Moon met in the episode titled, Face the Music).

I was very pleased to see that Dennis’ minor appearance at the end of Season 2 was not merely a red herring, and that he had quite a substantial role here.

As for Ludo, it seems that the events earlier in this season, may have pushed him a little further than many of us assumed he could go. As we learn what has become of him, the story manages to slowly build up the ‘creepy’ factor, and I think many people’s expressions will mirror those of Dennis during these scenes.

This episode felt more like a ‘learning experience’ regarding both of the brothers, and how their oppressive home life weighs heavily on their personalities. At times, this story reminded me of last episode’s The Bogbeast of Boggabah, only this story takes it’s ‘crazy character,’ and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with that plot-point.

The ending hints that we haven’t seen the last of Ludo, but I do hope we will get some more information on Dennis, and how this story may shape his future.

Final Grade: B


Best line from episode (said by Ludo): “Dennis? Oh how long has it been? Last time I saw you, you were ‘this tall.’ And now you’re exactly as tall as I am!”



Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Queen Moon, in Butterfly Trap): “Hey!…sit down.”

Well, compared to last week’s episode, this week’s two stories actually had me very entertained, and intrigued by what had been revealed!

Butterfly Trap showcased Eclipsa’s trial, which happened to be entertaining, insightful, AND set up some new questions as we barrel our way to the end of the third season.

Ludo, Where Art Thou brought back Ludo’s younger brother Dennis, and also showed us that Ludo’s psychological underpinnings may be harder to mend than we originally thought.


Next week, I have a feeling that the stories may not be as intriguing, but hopefully just as entertaining.

First up, we have Is Another Mystery, in which Buff Frog disappears, and Star and Marco attempt to find him. Next, there’s Marco Jr, where Marco ventures back to a place we never thought he would return to so soon: Echo Creek! See you back here in a week for another review!

Movie Review: A Wrinkle in Time

(Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril)

The last time I recall reading Madeline L’engle’s book A Wrinkle In Time, was during the summer of 2003, when I decided to spend my summer reading banned books.

While I wasn’t wholly in love with the book, most of it’s concepts still stuck in my head (warping space and time is often a good way to get my attention).

When word came that Jennifer Lee (the writer of Disney’s Frozen) was attached to write an adaptation, I was actually excited to see what she could do with the material. And then, when word came that Ava DuVernay (the director of Selma) was attached, I felt this might definitely be something special, coming from the House of Mouse.


It’s been four years since the patriarch of the Murry family (played by Chris Pine) suddenly disappeared. In that time, Mrs Murry (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) has tried to care for their two children, Meg (Storm Reid), and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe).


L to R: Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), Mrs Which (Oprah Winfreey), Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon)

While Charles Wallace is an intelligent young prodigy, Meg has not coped well with the disappearance of her father. One day, she is surprised when Charles Wallace introduces her to three strange women, who may know where her father is.


As the film started out, I was very surprised at the pacing DuVernay was moving at (we don’t have any super-long backstories, and we don’t have Meg brooding around for half the film). This is definitely a film that trusts that it’s audience is smart enough to assemble the pieces, and just keep on moving!

While advertising has played up the roles of Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), they are most definitely here to just fill supporting roles (like Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland), along with providing a little humor (courtesy of Who and Whatsit). While some may be disappointed about not getting a huge dose of Oprah, I felt it was nice that the script didn’t try to make the three wear out their welcome.

For much of the film, the secret weapon that the marketing seems to hide, is Storm Reid as Meg Murry.


Meg Murry (Storm Reid)

Reid’s characterization manages to feel ‘real,’ and even when she’s spouting a few lines that should sound corny, she never seems to falter. This is Meg’s journey, and we can definitely see a change come over her, as the story goes along (plus, I did enjoy that Reid sports glasses throughout the entire film, just like Meg in the book!).

I had vague memories of Charles Wallace being a child prodigy from reading the book, and Deric McCabe managed to portray the character quite well. With know-it-all children, there is a certain propensity for them to get really obnoxious on film, but McCabe never manages to get there.

Overall, the film’s cast seems to be it’s greatest strength. Even the minor players like Levi Miller and Zach Galifianakis, work remarkably well with their limited roles.

The trailers have definitely played up a lot of fantasy visuals, but don’t expect this to turn into The Chronicles of Narnia. While most of the scenes manage to do a good job showing us places beyond our Earth, the film feels like it meanders a bit too long in a picturesque green landscape, that feels like Lord of the Rings mixed with the painterly visuals from What Dreams May Come.


L to R: Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), Calvin (Levi Miller), Meg (Storm Reid), Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon)

There are also a few areas that seem to almost have a very abrupt change-of-pace. One notable scene felt like it was building to something bigger, when it just suddenly fizzled out to a rather ho-hum resolution.

A few times, I was surprised when non-orchestral score music was used across several scenes, somewhat ruining the mood for me. While this may have been done to play to the younger audience, I couldn’t help but wonder what composer Ramin Djawadi could have done with the few scenes I saw.

At times, I was reminded of the tone of films like Bridge to Terabithia and the recent remake of Pete’s Dragon. There’s a sense of trying to make a family film that is a bit ‘smarter’ than most of the other stuff out there, and one that almost goes back to the ‘darker’ tone of films from the 1980’s (such as The Neverending Story, and Labyrinth).

A Wrinkle in Time does have it’s faults, but I was very surprised that even so, it’s heart was in the right place. DuVernay’s film managed to hit me emotionally in several places…something that I felt was severely lacking from the last Wrinkle in Time adaptation I saw, which was made by Disney’s Television division back in 2004.


Final Grade: B (Final Thoughts: Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of “A Wrinkle In Time” brings us a PG-rated fantasy film, that carries along at a good clip, thanks to the talents of it’s cast and crew. The pacing of the story can feel a little uneven in places, but even with a run-time of almost two hours, it never feels boring. )

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 3, Episode 15) – The Bogbeast of Boggabah / Total Eclipsa the Moon

So far, we’re well past the half-way point for Season 3 of Star vs the Forces of Evil.

This season, much of the focus has shifted to the inter-dimensional land of Mewni. We’ve seen the Kingdom of Mewni almost fall, Marco Diaz is now living in the castle, and we’ve learned that the former head of St Olga’s, Ms Heinous, is actually Meteora…the daughter of former Queen Eclipsa…who is still alive!

Like many viewers, I am hoping we’ll get some revelations to some of these things before the season ends. But for now, let’s see what episode 15 was all about.



– The Bogbeast of Boggabah –

As Queen Moon continues to prepare for Eclipsa’s trial, Star wants to discuss the events and revelations of the Monster Bash she attempted to put on a few episodes ago. However, Moon dismisses her daughter, and King River decides that now is a good time to take Star on a quest…a quest to find The Bogbeast of Boggabah.

This is another one of those episodes that makes you think you’re going down one path, only to suddenly direct you onto a number of others.

When it comes to River-centric storylines, I’ve become a little bored with these “crazy king” type of stories. River’s antics here reminded me of the earlier Season 3 episodes Marco and the King, and a bit of the story in King Ludo.

We are shown a little more in regards to Mewni beyond the castle walls, as well as some of it’s forested areas and those who dwell within, but sadly, much of the story just feels like a big distraction from a much better story between Star and Moon.

Boggabah tries to be humorous with River’s antics and Star’s frustrations, but I found myself being moreso on Star’s side of wanting to just get back to the castle. The story also throws in a new costume change for Star, but even that new addition to her wardrobe can’t seem to shake my feelings that this story just felt like another throwaway episode.

Even the tacked-on moral at the end, just didn’t have much weight to it.

Final Grade: C+


Best line from episode (said by King River): “MAKE! ME! PRETTYYYYY!!!’”



– Total Eclipsa The Moon –

Queen Moon continues to research former Queen Eclipsa’s history, but upon consulting with Eclipsa over records in the castle…finds that they seem to have been tampered with.

Eclipsa then requests they sneak into the Royal Archive in the Bureaucracy of Magic, to look for more information…a move that puts Moon on edge!

Unlike adventures with King River, it feels like almost every journey Queen Moon goes on, is another way to learn more about this (supposedly) proper figure.

The journey also manages to reveal more secrets regarding the Butterfly family, as well as the Bureaucracy of Magic.  Plus, we finally have a name for Eclipsa’s monster-husband!

The interaction between Moon and Eclipsa, reminded me a bit of seeing Moon interact with Buff Frog earlier this season. In both situations, she started out seeming uneasy around this other figure, but softened towards them as more things were revealed.

It’s not a very strong story, but it has moments along it’s meandering journey, that made it more memorable than Bogbeast. Plus, it provided clues that I feel will actually lead onto future revelations within the series.

Final Grade: B-


Best line from episode (said by Eclipsa): “Have you got a hairpin?”



Best honorable mention line from episode (said by King River, in The Bogbeast of Boggabah): “I lied, just as my father lied to me, and his father lied to him and his father lied-he was a liar.”

This feels like the second time this season where we’ve returned from hiatus, with an episode that has a rather blase first part, and a semi-intriguing second part.

What was most notable, is that the stories tied into a specific time-frame, showing how Star and River went on one adventure, leaving Moon and Eclipsa to have one of their own. However, I feel that Moon got more out of her adventure than Star did.

There also was the observation that both Star and Moon are the frustrated ones in their stories, paired up with someone who is a bit off-the-wall, and they come out the other end of the story, having learned something. In the end though, it is Moon’s journey that proves to be the more memorable one, and Star’s just feels forgettable.

Over the three seasons, we’ve only had a few times where Star and her mother actually had episodes where they got to interact more as mother and daughter. I am hoping maybe with some revelations coming around the bend, we’ll get that dynamic back before the end of the season.


Well, this episode was just okay…but I’m really looking forward to the next one!

Next episode, Eclipsa is finally put on trial before the Magic High Commission, in Butterfly Trap. Then, in Ludo Where Art Thou, the little despot’s younger brother Dennis, goes on a quest to find his missing relation. See you back here real soon!

Movie Musings: Observations about “Titanic,” and it’s deleted scenes

When Titanic was released in December of 1997, I quickly got swept up in the tidal wave of fandom, that soon overwhelmed the world during those next few months.

After perusing through everything from the official movie tie-in book to Cinefex magazine’s coverage of the film’s visual effects, I still hungered for more.

While surfing on the internet at the Public Library after the film came out, I was surprised to find a copy of the original script. It was one of the first film scripts I read, and I was surprised at what was contained within it. While it retained certain elements of the finished film, it revealed a number of unused or cut scenes to me, making my mind imagine what might have been.

TDS-1It wasn’t until the release of Titanic: The Illustrated Screenplay in 1998, that I got a more behind-the-scenes look at what had gone into the film.

The original shooting script in the book contained almost everything I had already read, but included notations regarding some of the scenes and script changes.

I doubted I’d ever see the scenes that the script mentioned, but when Titanic was ported over to a 2-disc DVD in 2005, James Cameron made sure that a number of special features were included…including over an hour’s worth of deleted/cut material!

In going over them, I thought I’d make note of ‘a few’ scenes that were cut, including the alternate ending to the film.


Taking in the grandeur and history

With so much information about the Titanic at his disposal, one could almost forgive James Cameron for originally trying to cram so much stuff into his film.

Cameron’s camera sometimes lingered in some of the less-considered places, such as the ship’s gymnasium. In one scene, Rose and her family’s tour of the ship would have included a stopover here. There would be a tinge of irony, as the gym’s instructor Thomas McCauley, asked Rose’s mother if she would like to try out the rowing machine.


“I can’t imagine a skill I should likely need less,” says the woman, little realizing what she would be doing in less than 24 hours.

Another notable scene would have taken us off the ship, as Titanic’s wireless operators get upset at the ice warnings coming from The Californian, and tell the operator to shut up. This would have led to a scene of the Californian’s operator shutting down for the evening, and giving us a view of the ice field near that ship.

There was also word that when the Titanic sent her distress signals, she also used the newly designated SOS signal, that soon afterwards became a standard among sailing vessels. A deleted scene shows the wireless operators using the signal (instead of just the standard CQD signal, as seen in the final film).


Cameron also filmed (and cut) scenes where Captain Smith and several officers attempted to call back some of the half-filled lifeboats, so they could be filled to capacity (which the actual Smith and his officers attempted to do). However, none of the boats returned (most of the sailors captaining them, fearful that the ship’s suction would drag them down into the icy waters).


A Fight to the Finish

As the Titanic’s lights flickered off in the darkness, the grand ship began to tear itself in two.

tds-4Notable about this scene, is that we see Cal Hockley’s manservant, Spicer Lovejoy. As his eyes go wide, I’m sure some were surprised to see his face had been bloodied!

Some could probably assume that he may have suffered some trauma trying to just get to where he was on the ship, but the head-wound is actually from a major deleted scene.

Originally, after Jack and Rose escaped from Cal trying to shoot them, they rushed into the first-class dining hall. Out of bullets, and realizing how much water the ship was taking on, Cal gave up the chase.

However, handing the gun he had taken back to Lovejoy, he told his man-servant that the Heart of the Ocean necklace was in Rose’s coat, and that if Lovejoy was able to retrieve it, he’d let him keep it.

What followed was a several minutes long game of cat-and-mouse, as Lovejoy reloaded his gun, and attempted to find the couple. The fight largely took place between Jack and Lovejoy, with the bloody injury coming from Jack shoving the bodyguard’s head through a glass window!


Jack also ended up getting some payback, from when Lovejoy had punched him in the gut in the master-at-arms’ quarter. “Compliments of the Chippewa Falls Dawson’s,” proclaimed Jack, throwing a punch, and Lovejoy’s taunt back at him.

The scene was one that Cameron liked, but test audiences were lukewarm to it, as it slowed down the film’s overall momentum.

In the final film, Jack and Rose simply rush through the dining hall, and we are left to assume Cal and Lovejoy give up the chase, and return to the upper-decks.


Cameron’s fictional steerage characters

As Jack and Rose cling to the railing on the stern of the ship, Rose’s eyes alight on a blonde woman next to them. Some time later, as the ship’s stern tilts up to 90 degrees, the frightened woman ends up plummeting to her death (off-camera).

TDS-6What most may not realize, is we’ve actually seen this woman previously. She is Helga Dahl, one of several fictional steerage passengers Cameron created for the film.

Almost as a counter-point to the real-life First Class Passengers and crew Rose interacts with, Cameron gave us a number of fictional Third-Class passengers, to interact with Jack and his friend, Fabrizio. The one that got the most characterization was Tommy Ryan, but many of the others were excised or cut-down as the film production went on.

Helga appears throughout the film (along with her parents), and was originally to have been a love-interest for Fabrizio (the two can be seen dancing together in the steerage party scene). However, during editing, Cameron decided to leave almost all traces of the couple’s growing relationship, on the cutting-room floor.

Another minor group of characters was the Cartmell family, who were most notable for having a little girl named Cora, whom Jack interacted with several times.


After the Grand Staircase was submerged, Cameron planned to have a scene of the Cartmell’s trying to escape from third class, but stuck behind locked steerage gates, panicking as the waters rose around them.

One can’t help but feel some might have taken offense at the scene which shows the waters rising around Cora, much like some felt Cameron went a bit too far putting Newt in danger, in parts of his film, Aliens.


The Epiphany of Brock Lovett

One scene I’ve heard people question over the years, is the final one, in which it is revealed that for much of her life, Rose had the Heart of the Ocean necklace in her possession!

This revelation was originally to have tied into the sub-story involving Bill Paxton’s treasure-hunter character, Brock Lovett.

Originally, when Rose told her story to Brock and his crew, the tale would have been told over several days, not what seems a matter of hours in the final cut.

Following the scene of Cal Hockley first giving the necklace to Rose, we would have faded back to the present day. Old Rose mentioned how the necklace felt like a ‘dog collar’ around her neck.

We would also see Lovett’s crew be a bit more ‘detached’ from the tragedy, with Brock’s friend Bodine making a crass joke about Rose’s suicide attempt (“all you had to do was wait two days,” he laughs).


After Rose is taken away to rest, a ‘ticking clock’ is introduced, where we find that the people funding Brock’s expedition intend to ‘pull-the-plug,’ leading to his desperation to get Rose to tell him as much as she knows.

It doesn’t help that Lizzy overhears Brock’s frustration towards her grandmother, and tells him that even if he is desperate, she isn’t going to put pressure on her elderly relation.

“This is three years of my life going down the drain here,” Brock tells Lizzy (sounding eerily similar to what Cameron must have been feeling!). “I bet everything to find The Heart of the Ocean.”

Lizzy reminds Brock that Rose contacted him with the information, and in a way, he has to ‘play by her rules.’

After Rose finished her story near the end of the film, there was a subtle hint that Brock had somehow understood just what the shipwreck stood for.

“Three years,” he tells Lizzy. “I thought of nothing but Titanic…but I never got it. I never let it in.”

This was where Brock’s story ended on-screen, but in the original ending, Cameron decided to push further with this revelation.

Brock and Lizzy would have seen Rose heading towards the rear of the ship, and sprinted after her, fearful that she was going to throw herself overboard!

However, upon confronting her, Rose would have revealed the necklace in her hand!


“The hardest part about being so poor, was being so rich,” she tells tells the two. “But everytime I thought about selling it, I thought about Cal, and somehow, I made it without his help.”

Brock attempts to talk Rose out of what she is doing, but she claims her mind is made up. However, she does give into his request to hold it, placing the jeweled portion in his hand.

“You look for treasure in the wrong places, Mr Lovett,” says Rose, sounding as if Jack Dawson is speaking through her, “Only life is priceless…and, ‘making each day count.'”

Brock’s hand closes around the stone, but lets it go (three years and funding be damned!), as Rose pulls it away and tosses it into the Atlantic, causing Brock’s friend Bodine to rush to the ship’s railing, watching the necklace sink into the abyss!

“That really sucks, lady!” he cries out, as Brock just looks at his empty hand…and starts laughing!


As Bodine storms off, Brock asks Lizzy to dance, and Rose smiles at the two of them.

Looking over the additional bits of subplot and ending, it does get a bit heavy-handed with Rose expounding life-lessons on Brock. While it seems the mission may be a bust, there is also the possibility that the subs could be sent back down to retrieve the necklace once Rose is asleep.

Bill Paxton also had a little fun with the ending, when he reprised his role of Lovett in a 1999 skit on Saturday Night Live. In it, Brock and the crew get upset with Rose, and even her granddaughter lands a few punches, when she finds out her grandmother had a multi-million dollar necklace in her possession, that could have had them set for life!

Paxton also got Cameron to do a fun little cameo at the end of the skit:


“I’m James Cameron, saying: ‘you’re the King of the World.'”


It’s hard to believe that at over 3 hours in length, the final cut of Titanic feels pretty ‘tight,’ when one sees all that could have been included.

The acting isn’t perfect in all of Cameron’s films, and some of the deleted scenes reflect this. There’s also a feeling that the story would have started to bore the audience if all of these scenes (and others) were kept in.

Overall, the deleted scenes are interesting to analyze, but none of them really feel like we’re missing out on anything too important.