Archive | July 2021

Episode Review: The Owl House (Season 2, Episode 7) – Eda’s Requiem

When she was first introduced, Eda Clawhorne was a character I wasn’t so sure about. The Owl House could have easily made her out to be a wild witch out to make a quick buck (somewhat like Gravity Falls’ Stan Pines). As the show went on however, we began to see how she wasn’t as selfish as we originally thought. Slowly but surely, Luz Noceda’s plucky attitude ended up softening The Owl Lady, and the two grew closer.

Season 2 has shown how Luz’s presence has affected Eda, and in this episode, we see there is someone else who may have done the same a long time ago.

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Seeing Luz trying to get back to the Human Realm and King trying to find his father, Eda begins to feel like she is being abandoned. However, when she encounters an old friend from the past, she may have found a new calling in her life.

Meanwhile, Luz and King are working together to enter the Gland Prix and represent Hexside School of Magic and Demonics, in hope that a major win can help King get a message out to his father.

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Right from the start, the focus on Eda takes on a very mature tone. Quietly wrestling with the feeling that Luz and King are looking for ways back to their real families, the dramatic tone of the episode is rather mature content that I’m sure most of the younger viewers may not get.

For some of the episode, Eda is adrift with her feelings, until she encounters Raine Whispers (voiced by Avi Roque), an old friend from her younger days, and the new head of the Bard Coven.

Raine is an intriguing figure from Eda’s past. Soft-spoken but secretly incensed with the tactics the Emperor’s Coven is using against wild magic and witches. The episode seems to tiptoe around both Eda and Raine’s past, which makes me wonder if there will be more revealed in the future.

The episode shines a bit when Eda helps Raine’s secret cause, but it’s done so in a rather disjointed montage. We also get some scenes between the two friends that show the use of bard magic, but it was hard at first to comprehend just what I was seeing (it doesn’t seem to require the typical hand gestures we’ve come to know, and seems to almost run counter to Eda having lost her magical abilities).

Given the focus on Eda, this episode is one that could have benefitted from a more singular storyline like in the last episode. The Gland Prix “B” story just feels like it is (unfortunately) pulling us away from what could have been a deeper, more solid story. In regards to the “B” story, I feel we could have just dealt with it a little at the beginning and the end. The storyline tries to make the race seem exciting, but it just comes off mostly feeling like unnecessary filler.

Like most episodes this season, this one also felt like it is a little too jam-packed with stuff. From Belos’ plans, to information about different covens (with the appearance of two other coven heads) and information about Eda’s past, so much flies by so quickly that I had to rewatch the episode several times to understand certain things.

Episodes like this one always make me think how it could have been improved. Eda’s Requiem could have gotten emotionally deep, and really been something great. Character-building episodes need a stronger focus in order to really pull us in, and while there are some glimpses into Raine and Eda’s past, I yearned to really feel for something stronger to come out of this storyline.

Best line in episode (said by Amber): “You’re not our Mom!”

Final Grade: B-

Episode Review: The Owl House (Season 2, Episode 6) – Hunting Palismen

With The Owl House, Dana Terrace introduced the concept of the palisman, a combination of a talisman and familiar, in the form of a creature that a witch would carve themselves, and place on a staff.

Much like our previous season 2 episodes, this one looks to expand our knowledge a little bit more regarding them.

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At Hexside, Luz is excited as she and a number of students are included in an initiation where they will be able to choose their own palisman.

Meanwhile, Emperor Belos begins putting his plans into action, but finds that he needs some additional power that only palismans can provide…and his associate known as The Golden Guard, may be able to fulfill his request.

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This seasons episodes have often managed to tie into previous season 1 episodes, and this one was most notable in regards to a number of unexpected callbacks.

One of the most unexpected was the Batqueen, who utilizes the Hexside students to help adopt from the numerous abandoned palismen she cares for. This also brought about additional revelations regarding palisman creation, that helped expand our knowledge.

Most surprising about the episode, is that Luz is the primary focus (Eda and King show up, but just fleetingly). Since finding out about magic, she has been intent on becoming a witch herself, but this episode asks her a deeper question: what is her purpose to becoming a witch? It reminded me of Kiki’s Delivery Service, where Kiki takes on a rite of passage to leave home at age 13, but questions just what her purpose should be.

Thinking back on the Emperors coven talk and how it was handled in the first season, I often felt much of the information was kept away from us until the final two episodes. Because of this storytelling method, it still feels like much about Belos and his movement (let alone the other covens that serve him) are still a mystery waiting to be unwrapped.

Another unexpected reappearance was from Kikimora, a figure who much like Lilith Clawthorne, is rather irked at the Golden Guard’s closeness to Belos. It feels like this could evolve into something more going forward, but still, getting to see her operating outside the norms was very unexpected. Plus, her appearance also brings about a new creature that fits well within the Boiling Isles in its design (whether we’ll see more of this nightmare-beast, remains to be seen).

A highlight of this episode, is a much larger story element involving the character known as The Golden Guard. My original fears upon his first reveal, were that he was just going to be some cool-looking dude in a mask. This episode surprised me on how we got to learn more about him, as well as him dropping what could be hints on where Luz’s journey may go.

The episode is also notable in pairing up both the Golden Guard and Luz for part of the storyline. This is where the episode largely shines, in that neither is really happy with this arrangement, but circumstances have forced them to team up. Plus, there is an exchange of information between them, that could possibly benefit each of them in some way going forward.

What helps this episode quite a bit, is that it sticks to a singular story, as we follow Luz on a most unexpected journey with a number of revelations revealed (reminding me of episode 3 of this season), while adding new mysteries to be unraveled.

At times, it feels like we’re given a lot of new information here-and-there (which kept me from rating this episode higher, given it felt like the episode felt a bit too “busy” when dropping possible future hints), but this story so far feels like one of the strongest of the season.

Best line in the episode (said by Luz): “The password …is ’you’re a little angel.’”

Final Grade: B+

Episode Review: The Owl House (Season 2, Episode 5) – Through the Looking Glass Ruins

Upon finding herself in The Boiling Isles, Luz Nocera soon found herself accumulating something she didn’t have back home: friends.

Out of all of them, one who seemed to be used mainly for comic relief in season 1 was Gus, a human-world obsessed witch whose main expertise was illusion magic.

Continuing the streak of learning a little more about some characters this season, episode 5 chooses to focus mainly on him.

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After accidentally getting Willow wounded, Gus begins to question himself and his illusion powers. Things take an unexpected turn when he encounters a group of kids from Glandus High, who invite him along on a quest to help them obtain some ancient relics.

Meanwhile, Luz continues her search to try and find information that may get her back to her own world. A diary in the library might hold the key…and it just so happens that Amity Blight may be able to help locate it.

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As Season 2 began, I did hope we’d get to learn a little more about Gus. This episode definitely reveals some more about him, though I was hoping some revelations would have been done alongside his friends like Luz and Willow.

As the “A” plot of this episode, we find out a bit more about what Gus is capable of, as well as just where his knowledge and principles lie. Plus, we get to see him wield glyph-magic (courtesy of Luz, who wishes to help him impress the other kids).

The group from Glandus is led by a girl named Bria (voiced by Felicia Day), and gives us a little more insight into the student body of Hexside’s rival school. Her associates Gavin and Angmar seem to mainly be her followers, making them feel like they are taking up the comedic slack that Gus would have provided.

A most unexpected surprise was the reappearance of Mattholomule, a student we last saw causing trouble for Gus back in Season 1. It turns out Mattholomule has some prior history with Glandus, and we get a little more on his backstory as well (though he’s still a jerk).

For the “B” plot, Luz meeting Amity at the library to try and find more information about a human who once lived on the isles, feels a little odd that it is not the main storyline.

The library sub-story brought back memories of my favorite season 1 episode, Lost in Language. Here however, the journey deeper into the library serves as a chance for Luz and Amity to have some time together, while also continuing a theme of unease between them in regards to recent revelations.

While some feel that Amity is growing into her feelings that go beyond being just friends with Luz, it feels like some of the focus this season may be on what Luz thinks. Last season saw her really wanting to be friends with Amity, but it feels like she is currently struggling with feelings of her own.

There also are some fun minor appearances by Amity’s older siblings, Edric and Emery, with Emery providing some sisterly help when Amity confesses a few things.

Some areas of the episodes storytelling, did seem to get a little sloppy. The opening happens after Willow’s injury, and it feels like a shoehorned “exposition dump” as the episode tries to quickly shift us into our main focus on Gus. There also is a rather convenient way in which illusion magic comes into play, but I wish it wouldn’t have felt as convenient as we see. It seems implied that what Gus excels in, is considered the weakest of the different coven magics.

Luz and Amity’s story also has some rather convenient resolutions, but a lot of what is done here definitely kept my attention. This is their first real interaction in awhile, and it feels like their story is much stronger than Gus’. Much like episode 2 this season, we get a moment with Amity that is sure to be a real crowd-pleaser for the show’s fans, and feels more well-earned than some reveals from this season’s second episode.

Best line in episode (said by the Keeper): “Excellent!…I’ll call the hounds.”

Final Grade: B

Episode Review: The Owl House (Season 2, Episode 4) – Keeping up A-fear-ances

With each new episode of The Owl House in Season 2, creator Dana Terrace opens up the world of The Boiling Isles even more.

We’ve already learned more about King and Amity Blight, but in this episode, we get a little more insight into The Clawthorne sisters, Eda and Lilith.

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While Luz continues to try and find a way back to the human realm, the Owl House is thrown into turmoil when Eda and Lilith’s mother Gwendolyn Clawthorne shows up.

Eda’s mother claims she has found a way to cure her daughter’s curse, but Eda isn’t so accepting of her mother’s good intentions. This leads to Luz taking an interest in helping Gwendolyn, figuring Eda is just being stubborn.

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So far this season, the series seems to enjoy hitting us with stuff hard-and-fast. We just got off a major revelation with King regarding his origins, and now we’re leaning into past information about Eda and her family.

Right out of the gate, Gwendolyn seems to be well-depicted as a concerned parent. We get to see what she was like in a flashback, along with her current incarnation as a “mother knows best” kind of witch. There’s something very “real” about the way she’s depicted, especially given how Eda claims she’s been coming around on a yearly basis to try and cure her (I think most will feel like they too have experienced Eda’s “parental frustration”).

The narrative also paints an intersting picture regarding how the Clawthorne sisters were treated by their mother. Most notable is there seems to be a tinge of of jealousy on Lilith’s part, as feelings surface that she feels her mother doted on Eda more than her. I would have liked to have seen some more development on this, but this information gets shoved down into the smaller “B” plot of the episode.

Much of the “A” plot revolves around Luz interacting with Gwendolyn, as the two work together to cure Eda. However, Luz has some misgivings about the methods they are using, leading to an interesting conundrum. Even though this is fantasy, it feels decidedly “real-world” in the depiction of how a parent’s desperation can cause them to lose focus.

After the last episode felt like The Owl House was getting its balance back, this episode feels like it’s a bit lopsided in its storytelling. The introduction of Gwendolyn is notable, but it feels like the episode pushes a little too much on some gags, when it might have used some of that time to give us some more moments between the sisters talking about their mother.

That isn’t to say there isn’t some good stuff given out (just not enough to make the episode better in my opinion). The episode does lean into a bit of horror-style visuals in places (notably where Eda goes mentally when the curse takes over her body). There also seem to be bits of information that may be hinting at things to come in future episodes (notably one that will surely make many persons jaws drop!).

Best line in the episode (said by Lilith): “Mother visits Edalyn…regularly!?”

Final Grade: B

Movie Review: Luca

Rated PG for rude humor, language, some thematic elements and brief violence.

One name at PIXAR Animation Studios that has stuck in my mind over the years, is Enrico Cassarosa. Hailing from Italy, he has been a story artist at the studio for some time, and even directed their 2012 animated short, La Luna.

Cassarosa also has a distinctive drawing style that borrows from the designs of Japan’s Hayao Miyazaki, in numerous pencil and watercolor works he has done over the years.

Needless to say, when I heard he was going to be directing a film for the studio (in a style that seemed to shake things up from the norm), I was definitely looking forward to seeing what he had come up with.

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Close to the seaside community of Portorosso in Italy, liveS a small community of sea monsters. One of them is Luca, a well-behaved kid, who slowly grows enchanted with the world above when he befriends another young monster named Alberto.

Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Luca (Jacob Tremblay) head off to the village of Portorosso.

Wanting to learn more about the world up above, the two head off on their own to find adventure in the nearby village, where they have to stay dry to appear human…lest the monster-wary villagers figure out what they are.

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After watching Luca, a thought went through my mind: “Given how we hold Pixar films to such a high standard, is it okay for a film of theirs to just be…good?”

Luca is a film that does not go as deep as past films such as Ratatouille or Soul. In some respects, it reminded me of a film I rather enjoy that a lot of people despise: Cars 2. That film was one that still tried to be entertaining, while also having some emotional content to it. In fact, One has to wonder if this style of filmmaking may be something we will see from the studio going forward (maybe “good” films can stave off more sequels like Toy Story 5 or The Incredibles 3?).

The simplicity of Luca is quite notable. Aside from being sea monsters, Luca and Alberto are pretty ordinary. Luca is the kid who is curious, but just needs someone to give him a shove, which (first) comes in the form of Alberto. Naturally, since Alberto has adapted to land for some time, it is a given that Luca believes almost everything that comes out of his mouth (like claiming the lights in the night sky are fish).

Alberto and Luca meet Giulia (Emma Berman)

Another influence on Luca comes in the form of Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman) a chatty redhead who helps her father Massimo (Marco Barricelli) at the local pescaria. She recognizes that the two boys seem “out-of-place” in the village, and does her best to make them feel welcome. She also welcomes their interest in entering the local Portorosso Cup triathlon, when the boys feel it may win them the means to acquire a Vespa scooter to see more of the human world.

Naturally, any group of kids needs someone to rain on their parade, and this is where Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo) comes in.

With Ercole, it feels like a long time since we have had a villain character that was just a bullying jerk in a Pixar film. He doesn’t play as prominent a role, but he’s somewhat like Portorosso’s Gaston, who seems to hold quite a bit of sway over the town, though we are never privy as to how or why (maybe his parents hold a prominent place in Portorosso’s social hierarchy?). He does have a few funny moments, but an attitude that will make many eager to see him get some of what he dishes out.

Ercole (Saverio Raimondo) encounters Giulia and her new friends.

Even with some storytelling areas that seem familiar, there are places in the film that surprised me by not going for the easy way out.

It does help that there is a simplicity to the storytelling that focuses mainly on the kid characters, but never makes their problems too insurmountable. At times, it feels like the film could have been adapted from a picture book in how the story is woven together. Even with so many people in the village, the film rarely strays from a set number of characters to focus on.

Where the film falters at times, seems to be as a result of some of the supporting cast, such as Luca’s parents. The film tries to mine some humor out of them, but it often feels like they don’t necessarily flow well with the rhythm of the story as it moves along.

There also is a theme of accepting others even if they are weird or strange, but it feels like this message gets somewhat buried in the storytelling. The film even attempts to shoehorn in a revelation around this train of thought, but it just doesn’t feel natural.

The seaside village of Portorosso.

One area that is never a place for criticism, is in the crafting of the environments of the film. There’s a rich coloration both below and above the sea. We get dazzling blue hues in the water, and bright sunny yellows throughout the hills and town, that feel warm and inviting.

There are also moments where the film dips into some flights of fancy that the boys have. From leaping Vespas to floating planets, the daydreams are cute little moments, but one could almost see them being put into a short-subject of their own.

Along with channeling Miyazaki-esque stylings, one can’t help but feel like Cassarosa has made something that feels akin to Studio Ghibli films like Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Porco Rosso. Luca definitely won’t crack the top 5 for most peoples favorite Pixar films, but it’s got a charm to it that makes it hard to dismiss.

Final Grade: B

Episode Review: The Owl House (Season 2, Episode 3) – Echoes of the Past

With the second season release of The Owl House, each of the episodes we have so far encountered, have filled us in a little more on some characters.

From Eda Clawthorne’s sister Lilith to Amity Blight’s parents, our knowledge has been expanded upon in several ways.

With their latest episode, the show sheds some light on the backstory of one of its main characters.

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Hearing King prattle on about his past and being “The King of Demons,” Lilith feels certain that the little creature’s claims are nothing but a story.

Determined to prove her wrong, King takes Lilith, Luz, and Hooty to a mysterious island…an island that might hold an even more terrifying secret.

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After his rather low-key appearance in the season two opener, it is nice to see King being a bit more of his typical self, even if some moments feel a little “forced.” Being around Luz has definitely “tamed” him, and while he can be bombastic at times, this episode is so far his most emotional.

Even though this episode is largely King’s, Luz has some notable moments. We see that she has continued to expand on her research of glyph-magic, and how she has even found a way to make new spells. There are also moments where we see how she tries to be a good friend to King, notably in how she can handle his demands and claims.

One exciting thing about the episode is a return to that feeling of exploring some strange new environment like in past episodes. The ruins encountered here feel like there is quite a bit to be deciphered, let alone the acknowledgement by Lilith that her knowledge of the Boiling Isles, mysteriously does not include the island. It is also notable that the creepy atmosphere is helped along by the music played over the scenes.

Speaking of Lilith, The episode also continues our character development with her. From her use of glyph-magic to being chummy with Hooty, she fulfills the Eda role for much of the episode. Hooty also gets some interesting moments, as the episode brings him along for the adventure (with one scene that is quite funny, yet disgusting at the same time).

This is one episode that breaks away from the typical “A/B” storylines, and just focuses on King. Eda even shows up to give us some information about him, though there is one moment that feels a little “too convenient” in some information she provides.

Echoes of the Past feels like the second season has found its footing after some rather over-bloated first episodes. The pacing is good, though some revelations and a few areas feel a little hokey in how some of the material is handled. However, what holds our attention are the characters and the new setting that reveals more information about King’s past…let alone the promise that there are still more secrets to be revealed in the future.

Best line in the episode (said by Luz) : “This environment is not conducive to learning…it’s conducive to death!”

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Final Grade: B+