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?

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– 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+

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

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– 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

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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!”

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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– 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+

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

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– 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-

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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).

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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“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!

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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:

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

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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.

A Peanuts Prospectus: Snoopy’s short reign as the Head Beagle

Over the years as numerous elections and campaigns have come and gone, it wasn’t that uncommon to see some figures in popular culture, try to ‘get in on the fun,’ and attempt to become the next Commander-in-Chief.

In the 1970’s, The Walt Disney Company had a little fun with citing Winnie the Pooh for a presidential candidate. In the 1990’s, the Brain from Pinky and the Brain, showed up on a campaign to “Put a Brain in the White House” (never mind his straight-forward intentions to enslave mankind and take over the world!).

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A vintage Snoopy for President pin.

When it came to the Peanuts Gang, the front-runners for President were usually Snoopy, Lucy Van Pelt, and Charlie Brown.

Of course, most voters often go straight for Snoopy: he’s a dog, he’s cute, and he has a vivid imagination. However, when it comes to his ‘political track record,’ few seem to remember his brief stint as the Head Beagle, back in 1970.

Fortunately, that’s what this Peanuts Prospectus is all about: to let you know the truth, so that you may know what to expect the next time you see a Snoopy for President slogan.

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In the Peanuts comic strips, the Head Beagle is the unseen ‘ruler’ of all dogs (though we never do find out why the position is not all-encompassing of all dog breeds). In the fall of 1969, he was officially introduced by name, when Frieda threatened to report Snoopy to him, for not going with her to chase rabbits.HB-1

Not wanting to get in trouble with his superior, Snoopy went with Frieda, but upon letting a rabbit get away, she angrily reported him, and he was soon summoned to appear before the Head Beagle.

Snoopy headed off to his appointment (clad in black), and returned in a daze, a few days later (“This is the way you always look when you return from having appeared before the Head Beagle!” he claimed).

Though Frieda’s letter did result in him being reprimanded, Snoopy mentions (in his thought balloons) that the Head Beagle was very understanding (so it wasn’t as horrible an experience as many would assume).

The subject of the Head Beagle followed Snoopy into the early months of the 1970’s.

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On January 4th, 1970, Snoopy received a yearly report sheet, which all dogs must fill out for the Head Beagle. The strip was obviously making fun of the irritation of having to fill out income tax forms, and it’s fun to see Snoopy getting snippy about some of the questions he is required to answer.

HB-2Snoopy snidely finished filling out the forms and sent it away, but remarked that though he hates filling out the yearly report, there was always the possibility that he could become Head Beagle one day, if he played his cards right.

The next day, Snoopy received another summons from the Head Beagle. This led to an assignment to stand guard over the playground adjoining the school where Charlie Brown and Linus went. However, after a few days, Snoopy was chased off the school grounds, but angrily cited that this did not mean the school principal outranked the Head Beagle.

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And then, on February 16, 1970, it happened: Snoopy received a letter, that claimed he had been chosen as the new Head Beagle!HeadBeagle6

Of course, the day after the news hits, some assume the worst (take Lucy, for example).

This was followed shortly afterwards by a televised inauguration. It must have been a dogs-only event, as Charlie Brown is seen watching it with Linus and Lucy, from his living room. Though Linus has kind words for Charlie Brown’s dog, Lucy just frowns.

“He’ll probably get impeached,” she murmurs.

HB-3February 19th, was Snoopy’s first active day in his new role. Right from the start, Snoopy soon finds that being Head Beagle, is anything-but-easy.

His job seems to entail the placement of dogs in areas where they are needed, as well as hearing out a number of cases. Of course, his appointed secretary is also a little inept.

HB-4As February turned to March, Lucy voiced her displeasure at the way the world was going (see right), and Linus inquired to Snoopy about pollution, claiming that the Head Beagle was supposed to do something about it. Frieda even demanded to see the Head Beagle at one point, but was met with an angry stare from his secretary.

March 5th was the day things finally came to a head. Working deep into the night, irritated that noone seemed to appreciate his hard work, Snoopy finally admitted to himself that he had had enough.

The next day, brought word that the Head Beagle had disappeared, when his secretary arrived for work, only to find noone atop the dog house!

HB-5Most of the kids in the neighborhood wonder where Snoopy could have gone, but Charlie Brown has an idea.

Calling up Peppermint Patty, his hunch proved correct. Finally tiring of his duties, Snoopy had gone awol, and was hiding out at her place.

Once the weekend was over, Charlie Brown dropped by Patty’s place on March 9th, with a letter for Snoopy. Upon opening it, the writing was on the wall: Snoopy had been replaced as Head Beagle, for abandoning his post.

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HB-6The end of Snoopy’s career as the Head Beagle, also meant his appointed secretary was out of a job. However, a few days later, Snoopy found the little bird hard at work, writing a book: “I Was Secretary For The Head Beagle.”

Naturally, Snoopy was upset that he was being included in a tell-all book. However, the situation became a bit less upsetting, when his secretary attempted to send off his manuscript. Due to a tree and a strong wind, the pages of the tell-all book were never published.

Even though he abandoned his post, the fact that Snoopy had been the Head Beagle at one time, was enough to get him invited back to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, as a guest speaker. Word was there were some young dogs who wanted to meet someone who had come from the puppy farm, and gone on to such a distinguished position.

Of course, Snoopy’s speaking engagement didn’t go over so well, but that’s a story for another time.

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Naturally, we are left to wonder what the former secretary to the Head Beagle might have mentioned in his tell-all book, but hopefully, this article will make you think a bit, the next time you see Snoopy’s name appear on a ballot for an election. After all, if he couldn’t handle being the Head Beagle, how well do you think he could handle being President of the United States?

Retro Recaps: The Twilight Zone (Season 4, Episode 7) – Jess-Belle

Throughout the years, the concept of love and relationships has popped up in many shows, often as Valentine’s Day approaches.

In February of 1963, it just so happened that the broadcast date for a new Twilight Zone episode, fell on that fated day. And with it, brought the tale of an Appalachian love triangle, between flaxen-haired Ellwyn Glover (Laura Devon), the handsome Billy-Ben Turner (James Best), and the raven-haired Jesse-Belle Stone (Anne Francis).

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At the Glover’s annual barn dance, Luther Glover (George Mitchell) praises the bountiful harvest that he and his neighbors have collected, along with an announcement: his daughter Ellwyn Glover, is to be wed to Billy-Ben Turner.TZ47-1

However, not everyone in attendance is happy for the couple, notably Jess-Belle Stone, who quickly leaves.  Billy follows her outside, where Jess claims that she still longs for the time when they were together. She feels that Billy is only marrying Ellie for her family’s wealth, but Billy claims that isn’t so.

Before he returns to the dance, Jess asks Billy to tell his bride-to-be, not to start making her wedding dress just yet.

“Why should I tell her a thing like that?” replies Billy, curiously.

“She ain’t married you yet, Billy-Ben,” says Jess, sternly. “Maybe she never will.”

It is then that Rod Serling’s voice is heard, as we see Jess watch the lovers embrace, before storming off:

The Twilight Zone has existed in many lands in many times. It has it’s roots in history, in something that happened long, long ago and, got told about and handed down from one generation of folk to the other. In the telling the story gets added to and embroidered on, so that what might have happened in the time of the Druids is told as if it took place yesterday in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Such stories are best told by an elderly grandfather on a cold winter’s night by the fireside, in the southern hills, of the Twilight Zone.

Jess-Belle is next seen at the home of a woman named Granny Hart (Jeanette Nolan), whom the locals claim to be a witch. Granny just laughs this off, and inquires why the girl has come to her.

Jess claims she wants the old woman to help her make Billy-Ben love her again, but upon being asked for money for the old woman’s services, the girl claims she has none…but is willing to pay ‘any price.’

TZ47-2With those words, Granny pulls out a small bottle from a covered shelf. Jess drinks it’s contents, but suddenly flinches! After a few moments, her eyes open, and Granny Hart claims that once Billy sees her, he’ll never have eyes for another.

Jess-Belle then returns to the barn dance, where she interrupts a dance-circle, and catches Billy’s eye. Just as Granny Hart promised, he becomes enchanted by her, and as Ellwyn and the others watch, the two walk out of the barn!

Ellwyn’s mother and father immediately have harsh words for Billy turning his back on their daughter, but Ellwyn claims she knows what happened: “Jess-Belle bewitched him.”

TZ47-3Some ways off, Jess-Belle and Billy lay in a field, talking of their future together. Suddenly, Billy notes the moon overhead going down, causing Jess to suddenly claim she has to get home.

Once there, she rushes for her room, ignoring the entreaties of her mother. As the clock tolls The Witching Hour, Jess collapses to the floor of her room, and in a puff of smoke, turns into a leopard.

Some time later, Billy comes to Jess, and gives her the ring he had given Ellwyn, claiming it now belongs to Jess. He also speaks how he has made plans with a preacher, and how her mother will make her a wedding dress, but Jess seems perturbed by all this.

TZ47-4She claims she needs to go away, but as Billy grabs her arm not wanting her to leave, she lashes out a hand at him…leaving three claw marks raked across the side of his face!

She then rushes back to Granny Hart, claiming she feels an emptiness inside. It is then that Granny claims that she really is a witch, and reveals the price Jess paid for Billy-Ben: her soul. Granny also reveals that because of this, Jess has also become a witch!

“You paid the price,” she tells the girl. “Take what you paid for.”

After several days of doubt, Jess puts aside her fears, and decides to heed the old woman’s advice, soon giving in to Billy’s request to be wed soon.

TZ47-6Sometime later, Jess-Belle comes across Ellwyn Glover picking wildflowers. The two trade ‘quiet barbs’ with each other, before Jess tells Ellwyn to watch out for a wildcat that’s been seen in the area.

However, Ellwyn claims her father is rounding up a number of men (including Billy) to take care of the creature, before morning the next day.

Jess returns home, where her mother works to hem her wedding dress. When she claims she saw Ellwyn out in the fields looking ‘sickly,’ her mother thinks maybe she should take the girl some tonic.

“You and your tonics,” laughs Jess. “You’re worse than Granny Hart-”

TZ47-5The slip of her tongue causes an awkward silence between mother and daughter. When Jess’ mother finds out her daughter has knowledge of the old woman, she soon deduces what her daughter has done in getting Billy to love her again.

When the girl reveals the price she paid, her mother says they should pray for her, but Jesse claims that will do not good. Instead, she asks her mother to lock her room door, so that she cannot get out until morning.

Though her mother does as she wishes, Jess (in her leopard form), escapes out her bedroom window, and ends up in the Glover’s barn, spooking the horses, and scaring Ellwyn.

TZ47-7The girl’s screams attract her father and the men hunting the cat. Billy and another man fire at it, and are surprised as the creature vanishes in a puff of smoke!

“A witch,” exclaims Ellwyn’s father. “That cat, was a witch!”

Billy examines where the wildcat disappeared, and finds the ring he had given to Jess. As the other men leave, Billy begins speaking to Ellwyn…a sure sign that his connection with Jess-Belle has been severed.

A year passes, and Ellwyn and Billy are set to be wed. As Billy prepares for the wedding, he is visited by Jess-Belle’s mother, who gives him her daughter’s silver hairpin as a gift…along with a warning.

TZ47-8As talk turns to Jess-Belle, her mother claims that she does not believe her daughter is dead. Though Billy claims one of his bullets hit the wildcat in the Glover’s barn, Mrs Stone tells how she saw a toad in her daughter’s room, and upon trying to kill it, it turned to smoke, and flew away!

Billy tries to put this thought out of his mind, but at the wedding, he notices a spider crawling on Ellie’s veil. Plucking it off and holding it in his hand, it then disappears in a puff of smoke, leading Billy to believe that Mrs Stone was right.

After the ceremony, the newlywed couple returns to Billy’s house, where strange things begin to happen. Ellie finds herself attempting to slap Billy, and a clock in the room suddenly falls to the floor! Billy then gives Ellie their Bible, and tells her not to leave the house, as he rushes off.

TZ47-9Billy seeks out Granny Hart, wanting to know how to kill a witch. She asks for a lock of his hair as payment, but Billy instead pays her in coins. Hart then tells Billy that he needs to make a figure of the girl, wearing something she wore, then stab it in it’s ‘heart’ with something of silver.

Billy then goes to Jess-Belle’s home, where her mother gives him the wedding dress she hemmed for her daughter. before he leaves, she tells Billy that she is sure her daughter would appreciate what he is trying to do.

Billy returns to his house, where he finds Ellwyn standing outside. He tells her that he knows how to be rid of Jess’ spirit, but is shocked when Ellie starts speaking, with Jess-Belle’s voice!

Billy rushes into the house and locks the door (with the possessed Ellwyn pounding on it from the outside). Putting the dress on a seamstress’ mannequin, he then stabs it in the heart-area with the silver pin. Suddenly, Jess-Belle materializes, before the figure crumples to the ground and disappears, leaving behind the empty dress.

TZ47-10Billy then finds Ellwyn outside, having no recollection of what happened since her wedding. As he embraces her, the girl’s eye is drawn to the heavens, where she witnesses a star, streaking through the sky.

My mama says when you see a falling star,” she tells Billy,  “that means a witch has just died.”

“So I’ve heard tell,” replies Billy, sure that he and Ellwyn are now safe, and that Jess-Belle is truly gone, but also finally at peace.

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I’ve often been a fan of stories with a “be careful what you wish for” storyline. Of course, this wasn’t the first Twilight Zone episode to handle the concept of love and potions.

In Season 1, there was the modern-day story called The Chaser, where a young man gets a love potion to get a girl he lusts after, to love him. In the end however, her constant fawning over him gets to be too much, and he ends up paying for something called, “the glove cleaner,” to fix his dilemma.

Writer Earl Hamner Jr, wrote eight episodes during the last few seasons for The Twilight Zone, and in one interview, he claimed that Jess-Belle was his favorite one to write.

It was also done relatively quickly. When another script fell-through, Hamner pitched, wrote, and finished Jess-Belle in a week’s time (with no time for revisions!).

There was also an issue with the kind of cats considered for Jess-Belle’s nightly transformation. The original idea for a tiger was dropped, when the producer Herbert Hirschmann claimed they were hard to work with. After this, there was consideration for a black leopard (to match the color of Jess’ hair), but none could be found, leaving the production to settle on the spotted leopard in the episode.

Along with writing the episode, Hamner also wrote the lyrics to several musical interludes throughout. As the story progresses, a female voice sings bits of a small ‘ballad,’ about the story. It is notable that in place of a closing narrative by Serling, we get a reprise of part of the ballad, heard in the beginning of the episode:

Fair was Elly Glover, dark was Jess-Belle.

Both they loved the same man, and both they loved him well.

Hamner also uses some creative wordplay, when it comes to Jess and Ellwyn. They never get into a shouting match over their love of Billy-Ben (being decent young women), but Earl gives them a small moment of trading barbs, through wordplay.

TZ47-11This comes when Jess-Belle finds Ellwyn in a field by herself.

“Lots of wildflowers around here,” notes Jess. “Saw a patch of ‘old maid’s fern’ up on the mountain.”

A few moments later, Ellwyn responds with: “I notice a lot of ‘vixen-wort’ around here m’self.”

Buzz Kulik, the director, also was a Twilight Zone alumni, directing nine episodes during the show’s run.

In several of his episodes, he had a way of having the camera play among people’s faces, having the actors say plenty with just their expressions.

This type of storytelling is seen in the opening scene especially, when we see Billy-Ben looking a bit nervous, locking eyes with Jess-Belle, after his and Ellwyn’s engagement is announced.

It’s the look of a young man who seems to have possibly made a snap-decision, without telling the other party.

The overall story plays out almost like an Appalachian ‘fairy-tale,’ but it does feel like it stretches the story a bit long for the hour-long format of Season 4. Some areas feel a little repetitive, though one wonders if maybe there could have been more of Jess-Belle in her leopard form, and how her late-night presence affected the locals.

Word is that Earl Hamner was also planning to adapt the story into a musical at one point. When Anne Francis (who played Jess-Belle) heard this, she told him she’d love to play the role of Granny Hart in it…only for him to say he didn’t feel she would have been right for the role. However, this venture was never completed (as far as I know).

Out of all the characters in the episode, it is Jess-Belle and Granny Hart that stand out the most.

The character of Jess-Belle could easily have been a vindictive and over-the-top girl who is willing to knock aside anything and anyone in her way. One can easily see the girl’s name is a take on the word ‘jezebel’ (meaning ‘an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman,‘ according to Merriam-Webster), but the character here is crafted to be little more than a young woman, whose yearnings end up being her downfall. She thinks all her troubles are behind her once she has Billy-Ben, but it feels like everyday after, she is stuck living with the consequences of her actions, making her a tragic figure.

Jeanette Nolan seems to have the more ‘fun’ role in the episode, as she plays Granny Hart as a witch with a spirited personality. There is a devilish mischief Nolan imbues on the old woman. She seems to delight in causing mischief, and a naive young woman who wishes for a man’s love, gives her some entertainment. It doesn’t help that she seems to smile a great deal, a Cheshire grin that makes one wonder what is going on in her mind.

TZ47-12There is even an interesting juxtaposition, as we first see her in black robes conjuring something, before she pulls the robes away, and simply looks like a kindly old woman, expecting company.

Jess-Belle is not one of the more popular episodes of The Twilight Zone, but it feels like it was somewhat ‘experimental’ in it’s execution. And for that, it sticks out in my mind.

It’s cautionary tale about how love can sometimes blind people to the consequences of their actions, proves to be an intriguing story that the episode’s cast and crew, wove together, all those years ago.

Movie Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

(Rated TV-MA, for Mature Audiences. May not be suitable for children 17 and under)

10 years ago, Matt Reeves and JJ Abrams released Cloverfield. Composed of classified found-footage, it put the audience in the center of an alien invasion, whilst intertwined into the lives of a number of young people, as they attempted to get out of New York.

Many thought that was all, until 8 years later, we had the release of 10 Cloverfield Lane. However, while many came seeking answers, what they got was little more than another end-of-the-world story, with very little to do with the first film.

Rumor was that there would be another Cloverfield film (or two), and then, during the 2018 Superbowl, Netflix dropped a trailer, claiming the next installment, would be shown exclusively on their channel, following the game.

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On Earth, numerous countries are on the brink of war over dwindling resources.

Hoping to resolve this issue, the Cloverfield space station is put into orbit (along with an international crew), along with a particle accelerator, that many hope will be able to supply unlimited, free energy to save the planet. Even with this possibility, some fear that using the accelerator will lead to horrifying consequences.

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L to R: John Ortiz, Zhang Ziyi, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühlm Gugu Mbatha-raw, Chris O’Dowd

After many failed attempts, the accelerator finally works. However, after an overload of power, the crew finds that Earth is no longer outside their window, and a number of strange things begin to happen aboard the station.

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When it comes to anything with JJ Abrams as producer, expect the unexpected.

That definitely seems to be the case with Paradox. Up until the announcement of the film’s release during the Superbowl, I had no idea what this third film’s title would be, but once I heard the word Paradox, my time-addled brain began to consider some possibilities.

And true, the film did start clicking into place regarding a few of my hunches…and then, it started doing all sorts of crazy things.

There’s talk of time distortion, alternate dimensions, but that seems to become part of a jumbled mass of ‘craziness,’ as the film pushes onward. That seems to be the film’s modus operandi: stuff starts happening, and you are supposed to accept it, and move on to the next set-piece.

The crew of the space station is comprised of 7 people, led by Ava Hamilton (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Of all of them, she is the one given enough back story, while the rest are little more than multi-national crew members. Strangely, while many can speak and converse in English, the filmmakers have decided that Chinese engineer Tam (played by Zhang Ziyi) should only speak in Mandarin-Chinese.

Unlike the time given over in the first two films to get to know some of the characters, much of the crew here, are just dependent on you gleaning some of their personality from a little bit of time with them (reminding me of how Ridley Scott chose to introduce us to his crews aboard the Prometheus, and Covenant).

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While stuff is happening aboard the Cloverfield Station, we also cut back to some bits with Roger Davies, as Ava’s earthbound husband, Michael.

However, much like the isolated camera-view aboard the space-station, the filmmakers keep the camera on Michael as tightly as possible. Apparently, stuff is happening down on Earth…but as to what, that’s largely left up to our imagination for much of the film.

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I can imagine a lot of people (like myself) going into The Cloverfield Paradox, expecting it to give us answers related to the last two films. Well, prepare to be disappointed.

At this point, it feels like the use of the word Cloverfield is just meant to be some continuing ‘gag’ by Abrams and his filmmakers (I’m waiting for the day when we find out that it was once the name of some guy’s childhood sled, that brought him joy before the monsters came). It’s becoming a bit like going to an event expecting an awesome ‘free gift,’ and you find out it’s just a dinky little keychain.

Paradox did little more than make me wish I was watching other films that it seemed to be referencing at times (heck, I think I could even have been willing to give Europa Report a second chance after this). At this point, it might be time to put the Cloverfield ‘experiment’ out of it’s misery. By now, it is starting to feel more and more like some kind of test to see just how much the audience can take, before they realize they’ve walked into another pit of quick-sand.

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Final Grade: C+ (Final Thoughts: “The Cloverfield Paradox” wants us to be enthralled and concerned for it’s lost spacepeople, but much of it’s story is little more than strange set-pieces, as we go from one ‘happening’ to the next. Even when the film seems to have settled down a little, it never gives us enough ‘grounding’ to really feel for the plight of it’s characters, with the minor exception of Ava Hamilton, who seems to be this film’s ‘Ripley.’)