The Strange (de)Evolution of Halloweentown

Halloweentown is a very unique series with such a simple and genius premise. What if Nightmare before Christmas was also Sabrina the Teenage Witch. A kid friendly take on all the monsters that go bump in the night along with a celebration of the spoopiest time of the year. It was also one of the few Disney Channel Original Movies to get continuous airplay on their channel around this time of year. It has engrained itself nicely into millennial public consciousness, but seems oddly under discussed. The sequels even less so, maybe it’s time to change that.

The first film, Halloweentown, is kind of perfect for what it wants to be. 13 year old Marnie Piper loves Halloween but cannot participate in it because of her mom. When Marnie’s grandmother, Aggie, turns up she ends up hearing about how she’s a witch and that there is a threat to Halloweentown. Marnie, with the help of her younger brother and sister, stow away with Aggie on her bus ride home only to find out themselves in the mystical of Halloweentown. Goblins, skeletons, and ghouls galore follow.

As an individual film it succeeds really well. Marnie working to learn her magic and uncovering this whole other world is great. She has a strong dynamic with Ethan, her brainy and skeptical younger brother, that is funny without going on too long. The acting from everyone is strong. Debbie Reynolds of well this series fame in Aggie, and being the mom to Carrie Fisher, stands out as the best grandmother ever. A Mary Poppins type that is clearly wise and deadly, but is so effervescent and charming.

The production values, though clearly dated, still give a sense of life to the town. It’s small Main Street America dipped in a fall fair aesthetic is strong. The costumes, though hit or miss, do help sell the town as real. It’s not deep. The politics of how the city works doesn’t matter, but all the diverse costumes and playing the only monstrous on the outside shtick gives it a Gravity Falls vibe.

The biggest weakness the film has is its pacing and plot. Though it gets through a lot quickly, not enough of the stakes are setup. Halloweentown is changing and there is a mastermind with a goal that’s never made tangible. It also ends a little too easily.

What really, I think, helped it standout aside from the aesthetic is the theme of not sepersting sides of the family and personhood. Not having to hide what makes you special because it could also be weird. It’s very whimsical about that, but the struggle to be human and be more than human is real. The cutaways to the mom watching informercials that’s their products is magic and her simply scoffing at that is proof enough.

Halloweentown was a success which meant there were sequels to come. The issue is that Halloweentown is such a simple movie that trying to expand the series is not as easy as expected and they each go in a different direction.

Halloweentown 2: Kalabar’s Revenge, is a very classic sequel idea. On Halloween someone tries to sabotage Halloweentown and make mischief in the mortal world, so Marnie and the Piper family must stop it. This time the machinations are being done by the son of the villain in the first film.

The film is more ambitious but less impressive. This is because it focuses on a couple different ideas that are good but also don’t totally work. One is that Halloweentown is being turned into a generic “Human World.” The whole Main Street and people are grayed out in an amazing practical effect. This is fun in concept, but the whole point of the series is to see this fun magical world. Now you get less of it. Marnie and Aggie have to save it, but that also means being stuck with comically dower characters.

The second focus is on the magic. The film goes into a lot more detail about how magic works. Spells are no longer just wishes but have meanings to be solved. It fun to make Marnie have to solve a puzzle to save the day instead of just wishing, but that is what ends up happening anyway so all that work is pointless.

The film is more ambitious with its effects and stunt work. The whole grayed out city looks amazing considering its all practical. Along with that, the new sets and costumes when they finally appear are defiantly impressive. It’s unfortunate that it feels like it is just all waiting makes the film more dull than intended.

Halloweentown High, the threequel, dives more into the Sabrina the Teenage Witch aspect to the series. It’s closer to a teen drama with supernatural elements than a Halloween movie. It also makes the title a let down.

Set a couple years after the previous film it finds Marnie taking on a group of exchange students from Halloweentown and letting them spend time in the human world at the cost of her family’s magic. Unfortunately a group called the Knights try to stop the progression of magic in the human world.

The idea of the monsters from Halloweentown coming to our world feels uninteresting. Again, the whole point of the series is to see that world and the costumes. The costumes that we see are great. A pink troll, cat girl, werewolf, and giant, are way more expressive and tangible than the past films, but you don’t see a lot of them. Instead they are stuck in human suits in order to push a pretty forward thinking message about tolerance for different people and to not give in to stereotypeing others.

The other big issue with the film is just how much it goes into the Sabrina the Teenage Witch feel. That show was incredibly punny, cheesy, and mushy. Those aren’t bad qualities. That was a great show, but that wasn’t what Halloweentown was about. It takes the fantastical and processes it down for us and then wants to say we need to treat others as people. We already did in the first two films and did that on their terf. It isn’t made better by doing it the other way around. This is also the one I saw the most and have the most nostalgia for. So even though I am harsh on it I think it’s still a fun watch. Just not the direction I would have gone. Also the mid 2000s look is strong with this one.

The final film, Return to Halloweentown, also feels like a misnomer. Not because the title is a lie. It’s true, Marnie and brother Dylan do go back to Halloweentown as college students while their mom is an empty nester and tries to do hijinx to sell a house. The misnomer comes from how this is much more of a classic portal fantasy like Harry Potter (even comes with a prophecy that makes the Cromwell line Marnie comes from ex-royalty and keeper of magical power and Magical Mean Girls). It’s less fall festival and more Ren Fair.

With that said the film is still incredibly charming even with the change from Kimberly J Brown to Sara Paxton. The dialogue feels sharper for one. The expanded costume for background characters is great, and expanding the ideas from the previous film, saying that getting to know others as people is important, but having powers that make you different doesn’t make you better is an important lesson. It’s just unfortunate that it ends with such a flop. The film seeming to want to set up another sequel or mini series to explore and never getting the chance to do so.

The fourth film has a negative reputation and has even less of that Halloween feeling, but taken as a whole series that was on the decline. Just so odd that as the series got better at writing characters and having better budgets they lost more and more focus on what made the first film so good and what they failed to carry over. They are still great watches for younger ones and I think that’s all that really matters

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Enola Holmes is a Better Mulan movie than Mulan 2020 (a Review)

Sherlock Holmes might be one of the most perfect properties in the public domain ever created. The skills of deduction, crime solving, and wit can be used, rearranged, deconstructed, reconstructed, parodied, and everything in between. That makes anything after the original stories more an exercise in expanding the scope of what a Sherlock story can be (you know, like secret sisters and my favorite story being turned into a dog and not a secret society of people with red hair). This leads to a varying range in the quality of said stories too.

This preamble takes us to the Millie Bobby Brown star vehicle, Enola Holmes. She too is a secret (or more surprise to us the audience) sister to Sherlock and Mycroft, only this time left abandoned with her mother after the death of their father and her brothers leaving. She was then raised to be strikingly independent by her mother. Teaching her life lessons and skills over a classical education. It was a good life that is thrown off course when her mother disappears leaving only a box of coloring utensils and book of flowers. When the Holmes brothers return Mycroft threatens to send Enola away. Enola, in turn, realizes the secret message her mother was trying to send and runs off in search of her. Upon her travel she runs into the son of a nobleman, next in like for the House of Lords whose life is in danger. It is then up to Enola to find out what her mother is up to, save the life of the young lord and evade capture from her brother. The game is truly afoot.

The film is surprisingly good. Not shockingly good. It’s not an amazing film or anything, but when all the trailers painted the film as a cringe fest it was a nice surprise to get a smarter film than that. A film that is actually about something, seeks to use its protagonist in a compelling way, make an actual role model for young girls, and when watching those same clips in the film are clearly more to be cheeky jokes than taken absolutely seriously.

Cheeky is often the tone of the film. It does have some far more hard boiled moments that are reminiscent of the Guy Ritchie films, but is often far poppier, lighter, and closer in tone to a mid-90s Disney live action film. The world can pop but is often rather basic in terms of sets and world design. Not a visionary style, but works.

It is more of a detective story than it seems on the surface. It takes quite a while for the plot to fully reach the surface, but when it does it is satisfying enough. You could put the clues together easily, feels fresh for a Holmesian mystery, and focuses on the stories main theme.

That is right, a movie about Sherlock Holmes having a smart, strong willed sister who must go out on an adventure alone in and use the skills she acquired by her feminist mother to save a white man does far more than dress the part. The film is expressly about the future and the power women have in that future. It uses the strict Victorian setting well in that respect. Enola gives a strong contrast to the rest of the women she runs into, and is shown to be competent but still make mistakes (even though no one would complain if it was Sherlock who did the exact same things but made no mistakes). It is helped that Millie Bobby Brown is a phenomenal actor.

Millie Bobby Brown seems to be the Emma Watson to Finn Wolfhard’s Daniel Radcliffe. As in to say (the internet ruined me because I know there are creeps who are waiting for her to turn 18 and proclaim how attractive she is in gross ways. Just like Selena Gomez Ariana Grande, or the Jenner Sisters) she is certainly a far stronger screen presence that can flow from emotion to emotion with ease. Can adapt well to any scenario she is in all while still feeling like a kid. She is truly a standout in the film and by far the best part in it. She turns what should be cringey dialogue into believable phrases that feel almost iconic. Some of her 4th wall breaking chats do get gratting, and the she can’t make the opening and closing voiceover work to save her life (no one could), but she does great.

The only other standout is Henry “The Chin” Cavill as Sherlock. It is no secret that British men were often incredibly withdrawn folks. Cavill plays him that way and forgoes the excentric weirdos of Rober Downey Jr and Benedic Cumberbatch and focuses on that. His Sherlock seems to have a lot more going on under the hood. Refined, but still ever observant, sharp, and quick with hints of that outgoing nature. An interesting take that, along with the lack of a Watson, makes it feel like he’s still early in his career.

This film shares an odd amount in common with the 2020 crime Mulan. Both have highly competent women going out into the wider world in search of a cause connected to family, and deal with larger political themes around a less interesting male. They also are saved from being stabbed by the trapping they hide themselves in. difference, of many, is framing and character. Enola works hard, is shown to be outgoing and easy to like. She is shown struggle and works through it, and deals with the political issues directly as a example of why they work. The future is women not because they sometimes have super powers to help the totalitarian government, but because they are just as capable when given the proper education and challenges. They will rise (also the mother, played by Helena Bonnem Carter, because of course, is kind of dropped with no follow up which is weird but not movie breaking).

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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It’s my Birthday; let’s talk about my Favorite Film (a look at Mean Girls)

On the day you’re reading this (assuming you’re reading it the day it came out or the anniversary of the day it came out) it is my birthday! So of all the things I could do to think to celebrate I wanted to watch my favorite film.

Mean Girls is a neigh-flawless film. Follow Cady, a new student to a high school, must navigate the trials, tribulations, and friendships of high school. This is harder than she realizes when she falls in with the popular girls, the Plastics, and must find out what is truly real and what is just for show in the student-eat-student world of public high school.

It might seem odd having this be my favorite film. For one I didn’t come to this film until college. For another it is considered a “teenage chick-flick.” Third, and finally it has Lindsay Lohan in it. None of these are necessarily bad traits, instead they are often symptoms of bad movies (maybe the college factor less so, but it’s an older film that I just didn’t experience until relatively later in life). This film instead uses those elements to their fullest.

For being my favorite film, even as it is well respected in its genre, is not a masterclass in filmic work. It didn’t define a generation like Kane, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Jaws. It didn’t fill the zeitgeist with a whole new outlook on the world like The Matrix, and it’s not an intrenched classic like The Godfather, Forrest Gump, Toy Story. It’s just a teen comedy about a girl finding her place in high school. It uses incredibly standard filmic techniques to the absolute fullest. Every shot, though utterly normal, brims with life, color, and personality. When it does spice up the film with transitions, montage, or go big by using wide angle lenses they go hard. It gives the film a bigger impression than it really has. The school chaos scene still looks insanely good and complicated to have shot (also it seems like a point of inspiration for the final brawl in Cobra Kai season two).

Much of the film works, though, because it is a satire of high school comedies. Not a parody, but instead takes what seems like a relatively normal high school and ramp up the insanity by escalating petty drama with outrageous stakes. Having a friend go after your crush to be mean leading to a fight at the school because you made her fat and turned her friends against her with ease is all way too complicated for normal high school teenagers. On top of that, the terrible sex ed cutaways, commentary on teachers working extra jobs, and thin vineer of respectability that stops us from going fully primal is all talked about. Included in this is the incredible setup and payoffs the move has. So much of the early film is seameslessly integrated back in for either a good joke or emotional gut punch, or usually both.

This not even mentioning how uproariously quick, funny, and instantly quotable the film is. Every character has a solid voice and given strong lines to reinforce that and often an arc all woven in through dialogue. This is shown in how some aspects are both oddly progressive and poorly aged.

On one hand the side characters and student body is incredibly diverse even if it does fall into some stereotypes for comedy. They also use lots of words that no longer fly. The “R” and “Q” words being top among them. What separates it though is how only the characters we are against use them. Regina and the Plastics use them. Cady starts to use them more when she transitions into being plastic, and she stops using them when she reaches the end of her arc. She’s learned her lesson and that’s shown in how she speaks. In how most everyone speaks and behaves.

Inspite (maybe despite, i don’t know), or maybe because of that it makes the empowering message about lifting people up hit all that harder. Being different is what makes us special and is important to celebrate. It says that everyone has something about them that makes them better and not to get caught up chasing trends because of shallow popularity.

Some, if not all, of this seems obvious to anyone that’s watched the film. It is deeper than it looks but not pretentious. It is a good time. You watch it cause it is a really funny movie that gets more and more dated as the years pass. But being dated doesn’t mean it’s not relavent. Being glossied up in pinks and sparkles doesn’t mean it’s girly and fake. It can look plastic but be real. It’s more than just a film. It’s a good time, and that’s what movies should be.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Unpregnant more like Abor(what? What do you mean I can’t have that word in my title?That’s just what the movie is about. Okay, nevermind) – a Review

Despite being apart of the same network, it seems like HBOMax has been struggling to find programming to put on their service. That makes the edition of original movies interesting, especially simple road trip movies. Though, like romantic comedies, they are a staple of cinema and a good palet cleanser. A movie that can be made for any age group really. It’s almost genius unless they did something crazy like make it center around a hot button political issue. Then that would be crazy!

Wait, oh no…

Based off the book of the same name, the movie follows valedictorian Victoria. When she takes a pregnancy test and it comes back positive she scrambles to find a solution. Her only solution, however, is to travel from middle America Missouri to Albuquerque if she doesn’t want to tell her parents. After planning her route and trip she hits a snag when her boyfriend, who knew his condom broke, wants marriage and to settle down while her friends seek to sleuth out who is pregnant when the test is found in the school dumpster. This leads Veronica to turn to the only person she can trust to take her is her former best friend, who accepts. Once they hit the road however it is far from smooth sailing or driving in this case. Troubles with the law, anti-abortion freaks, an unhinged limo driver played by Giancarlo Volpe, and a stalker boyfriend are all mountains they must climb for something she should be able to get done down the block.

Road trip movies are built off of two things, chemistry between the leads and the detours the trip takes. This movie is passable on both. The two leads played by Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira give an all too standard former friends that were torn apart by growing up, home issues, and then eventually societal school pressures. Nothing about them feels very fresh outside of the, what unfortunately passes as progressive, differences. Thankfully one of them is played for more of a joke as we find out her friend is a lesbian and that she’s been out, but just didn’t tell Veronica about it. Bailey also gets more to work with, like trying to reconnect with her dead-beat dad while Veronica has her procedure looming.

The detours are hit and miss. Some, like borrowing a car without asking permission leading it to be seen as stolen and impounded feels a little too normal. Same with a trip to a a very Texas stock car race and carnival. But then it takes a turn with the above referenced anti-abortion people which leads to a full on desert car chase. They don’t find a good balance between just kind of weird without being outlandish and normal but not being dull. That same sentiment can go for the end of act two spilt and get back together. It just doesn’t quite find that center.

As much as those are problems, that’s not what the movie is about. It’s instead about abortion. Well in-so-far as it treats it like a normal procedure women should just be able to get, and that constant interference is unfair. Most of this comes out when Veronica has her mid-movie freak out. Stating rightly how back home she needs parental consent to get one but not to have to child, and just the lunacy of the whole stigma around it. None of it helped that her normal friends spend most of the movie playing “Veronica Mars” to find out who is pregnant and seek to mock whoever it is. It’s message is clear when you get to the procedure and the movie decides to just factually state what it is like and how it will go. It’s a scene that wants to empower and provide real information instead of playing “debunk the obvious lies.” If it fails in anything on that front, it would be how the movie still points to the stigma around abortion being that it’s a few bad apples who don’t understand and just need education instead of the systemic policing of women’s bodies (and failure to hold the separation between religion and state) that it is.

The movie is fine. Nothing that will change the world even as it seeks to deal with a heavy topic in a straightforward way, but maybe that’s enough. The movie is PG-13, and though it is on HBOMax, maybe teens will find it and see that they are not alone or that they don’t have to conform to what is told to them. It’s a fine enough movie for me, but I can see it making an impact on the right person.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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The Broken Hearts Gallery can Heal (a Review)

Despite being a Hollywood staple it always struck me as odd how prevalent romantic comedies are in cinemas. Not to say they don’t have artistic merit, again Mean Girls is my favorite film of all time, but just that they don’t feel like they ever truly use the medium of cinema’s scope and scale in meaningful ways. Probably going back to how they historically were mostly star vehicles for famous acting duos to play off each other and have a good time. Both that, and their box office dominance have dwindled thanks or because of Netflix and Halmark. The caliber of actors playing in rom-coms is not what it used to be, and they don’t rake in money. That makes it all the stranger to release a rom com with unknown actors during a pandemic when a Chris Nolan movie barley made 10 million dollars.

Written and directed by Natalie Krinsky, The Broken Hearts Gallery follows Lucy, a girl who holds onto mementos from every heartbreak. After a very bad one, and accidentally riding in someone’s car over an Uber she finds Nick, a hotel architect. When Lucy starts bringing her past heartbreaks to the hotel she starts a small gallery for all to bring their damage and let go, to heal. After a strong social media push and Nick losing the backing for his hotel they get pushed apart, but maybe that’s not the end. For, a heartbreak is just the start of a new beginning.

Broken Hearts Gallery is structurally conventional. It’s not a difficult movie to “call,” or predict. It’s also not trying to be. Instead it wants to focus on the idea of holding on, letting go, and healing. All those words feel utterly pretentious when applied to a romcom and they are, yet it reaches for that anyway. The way it does so is interesting, using interludes and cutaways that are either a comedic joke or heartfelt and earnest. It’s an interesting device but could have been used more.

It is not quite as successful at reaching those heights as it is following the romcom playbook, but it’s characters are strong, and that makes up a lot of these movies. Lucy, played by Geraldine Viswanathan (last seen in Bad Education as the student that outed the principal’s illegal doings), skirts the perfect edge between adorkable, earnest, and realistic. Her backstory really helps sell her “this is only a thing in the movies” quirk. Her two roommates played by Molly Gordon and Phillipa Soo have a great chemistry and feel like honest to goodness friends. In fact most of the chemistry between the cast really works. The one time there is no chemistry makes it feel almost purposeful. That chemistry is also the only thing making Dacre Montgomery’s Nick an interesting character, because outside of a bad breakup and case of the broody loner he isn’t much.

The same cannot be said for the cinematography. As strange as it is a thing to say, this movie is beautiful and should be seen in theaters. This is mainly speaking for the wide shots that are so detailed, colorful, or impactful that it is impressive. The bright neon against a cold city aesthic this movie lives in is always striking. Not every shot is like that. It has its clumsy or basic moments, but those feel like the bland cereal part of a marshmallow-filled cereal. You gotta have some basic shot-reverse shot sometimes.

In terms of comedy it is nothing spectacular. It is mostly banter between characters, and since they have chemistry it works. They feel like human comedic moments that don’t stray too far into mumble-core or cringy awkward comedy. There are some great lines but nothing that will stick out.

For a movie that plays it too safe. So safe in fact that the 2nd act breakup feels utterly out of character and the worst part of the film, it tries. The concept of starting a gallery of heartbreaks as art. Give objects a deep connection to show people aren’t alone in pain, is strong. The fact the movie had to say out loud what Lucy’s deal has been the whole time feels too easy, but it’s use is well measured and help make it the uplifting film it is, but it is still centered on very millennial feelings. From the fact the gallery grew from social media, and the focus of grief older generations don’t feel the same, it has a target demographic that it won’t hit in theaters. Despite using its medium well to give scope, beauty, and loneliness it will have to wait and get found when it hits streaming.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Superman: Man of Tomorrow is a Great Superman Origin (a Review)

It is still so impressive that Warner Brothers and DC have continued to release direct to video animated films based on their characters. Something that is so utterly 2000s surviving this long shows some skill and ability along with ranges of storytelling and chabges in art style over the years help show how the teams have evolved and change. They already went through one of the biggest changes in ending their New 52-alike universe with an utter banger of a film and have been looking for smaller solo films. Deathstroke was a fine enough revenge feature, but to truly be a new step forward you should always go back to the OG superhero, the man who originated that name.

Superman: Man of Tomorrow acts as an updated origin story for Superman. Taking place in a time where Clark knows he’s an alien and has powers he uses as the Flying Man, his status quo changes when space bounty hunter Lobo shows up looking for the price on his head. After a showdown and intervention from a Martian, J’onn, a man gets hurt in the crossfire. When hotshot reporter Lois Lane, hot off of her outing of Lex Luthor as a criminal, gets on Clark’s trail to find out who he really is Clark must find out for himself before he is exposed and a new monster wrecks the city.

What makes this such a great Superman movie is multifaceted. The biggest standout is how they have a Superman that acts like a Superman. He saves lives, protects people, and is kind hearted. Though it is carried by the expert performance of Darren Criss. But the whole cast is utterly brimming with talent and energy for days. Zachery Quinto of Star Trek fame is an utterly devious and charismatic Lex while Alexandra Daddario (last seen on this show as playing the insane Alexa from We Summon the Shadows) plays the exact opposite as a strong willed and hard driven Lois Lane. There is not a single weak link in the cast.

Of course a good cast is supported by expert art design. The characters brim with personality. The solid mix between classic comic and updated style shows a strong attention to detail while the Metropolis feels utterly perfect and futuristic. Though there aren’t many, the fights that break out all feel weighty and well choreographed with expertly timed highs and lows.

It’s not a perfect film after all, it does have lows. Clark not being the one to figure out about his past and needing help feels wrong and cuts down on his journey of self discovery. There is a second act death that is revealed to be a twist that isn’t really explained but works to tie in the idea of being the last of their kind, and this film breaks the cardinal sin of Superman (before you know, people thought he should kill others). That sin being Superman getting his costume idea, even tangentially, from Batman. To clarify, Batman doesn’t show up, but does have a cameo in the Daily Planet and has his costume used as inspiration. Outside of that it is just an all around tight movie that feels effortless in making Superman feel plausible.

Though the movie is good, and it is, it doesn’t feel high energy and that was worrying. It had good pacing but didn’t feel like it was going anywhere fast. That was until the climax. In the climax everything fell into place so well, and gave a strong self sacrifice that showed how anyone can internalize what Superman stands for. It is bold, bright, uplifting, and all around a good time and a strong start for whatever movie they do next.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Scattered Thoughts on Tenet

I am not reviewing Tenet. Not for any ethical issues I have with them releasing a movie during a pandemic where people can still get sick and die, and if they don’t die catch the same virus again. No, that’s a larger problem with our society that one movie can’t be held responsible for. Maybe the director pushing for it to be the first blockbuster out, maybe him. I’m off track. I’m not reviewing it because co-king Shane is a massive Nolan fan. He even liked Interatellar (poor guy) and this was probably his most hyped movie, and he can’t see it cause there is no theater close to him. So, I will not steal that honor away from him. Instead I’ll give some scattered thoughts on the film.

Tenet is a film that should be experienced for a second time. More specifically it’s a film that you should have already seen and watched for a second time. It’s means it is strangely compelling to see Nolan simultaneously weave a fine enough story that is just barely more clever than it thibks it is with the ability to emmerse yourself into it that you see the twists coming but still feel the impact of them.

The film is also oddly complicated. Not complicated in the way most Nolan things are. Instead it’s complicated in the way Sucker Punch is complicated. It feels like the long way around in order to just get to fun set pieces and cool ideas. For Nolan, instead of a strange multi-dream trip, he opts for the second worse option, a spy film. This means that the actual plot of the story is exceedingly simple, save the world by finding out who is doing the bad. It’s the details that get overly complicated for no reason and turns makes most exchanges purely transactional.

Movies with mostly transactional exchanges works for Nolan considering he manages to get great actors to basically give vague exposition. It’s a good thing then that the great actors are great and make you care about their characters with very little. The downside is how much one climax centers around a character’s emotional resolve and other than generally empathizing with their plight there isn’t much to them or make people care.

It, too, is thankful most people do not go to Nolan for deep complex emotions. They go for the strong action set pieces. And, man, are they really strong this time round. Many so impressive and massive they make him flipping a real truck in Dark Knight looks tame, and is a new bar that Mission Impossible needs to climb, and those aren’t even the ones that deal with the temporal shenanigans the film gets up to. With those additons, even if they make no sense no matter how much or little is explained about them, some scenes and ideas are so fun it’s hard not to like.

It is easy, however, not to like the mind bending science this time around. It feels somehow too loose and under explained while hand holding through the simple explanations people could reasonably know. An example would be explain the grandfather paradox while not explaining how the time is perceived to work in the way it does other than simply, atomic radiation. It makes for an interesting idea of if choices are made because they already happened or choosing them causes them to happen, but doesn’t take it far enough.

By the end the film was finally picking up and making good on its promise of time bending action. It’s just unfortunate it takes so long to get there, no matter the obvious payoffs that still work. Hence why it feels important to see have seen the movie for a second time without having seen it a first time. The slower beginning and payoffs will feel tighter and more of the dialogue and ideas might sink in, but for a first watch it is a good movie that works by being so different in all the right ways.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Mulan 2020 Misses the Point (a Review)

The animated Mulan film is one of my favorite Disney and normal films of all time. It’s got amazing art, characters, the best Disney song until Moana released, and a strong message for not just woman, but people of all types who are held back for one reason or another. That made the announcement and production of a live action version both suspect and intriguing to me. Now, after copious COViD related delays it’s released on Disney+

The plot of the film remains close to that of the animated counterpart. China is invaded by northerners and the emperor conscripts an army in order to fight back. When it comes time for Mulan’s family to send it’s soldier all who is available is her ailing father, so Mulan takes up his sword and armor in his stead. From there it is up to Mulan to keep her true nature secret while training to face the invading army. In the process her secret is exposed but so it’s the Khan armies plan to assassinate the emperor. Mulan must work with her former allies and show she is just as capable as any soldier.

The changes the film tries to make in broadening the story makes sense, and with its similar structure it is able to build what should be a fine enough story. Unfortunately the film fails in every way it was trying to succeed and misses the point in the process.

It is hard to deny the films beauty. Every frame is gorgeous, every shot unique and expressive, and clearly has a form of passion brought into it. That makes it all the more sad that it wastes every gorgeous set, costume, angle, and frame. Part of this is the film’s frinetic pacing. In an attempt to be impactful but fails so many shots are made to be quick and hit hard. The best example would be Aquaman. That too could be called frinetic, but that same energy is used to make sure the picture is clean, readable, and given time to process. This is most noticeable in the action scenes. In a film that looks like an epic and should want to show off incredible fight choreography to match other martial arts and kung-fu films it instead is often too close or too cut up to give the action full, fluid movement. It is not the same as a jump cut or shaky cam. Instead it is closer to losing frames between shots.

This editing style hinders the broad, mostly slapstick comedy, making it near unintelligible. So many quick cuts to pan to a large gag feel off. The comedy outside of that is all stale, bargain basement war buddy shtick with no flare. It is all the worse that the film has very little comic relief in it. There has been much made before the films release at the lack of Mushu, but now that the film is out his absence is the symptom of a larger problem.

Most of the characters in the film are dull. An argument could be made about many in the original, but the animated feel and exaggerated voice acting allows for some personality to filter through. This movie seeks to fix that by giving everyone no personality. Instead most characters are wrapped in talking about virtues, honor, and truth over any substance. This leads to what little chemistry and romance that exists to be so far in the background it could have been cut out all together.

Those problems make a bad, inconsistent movie. Unfortunately it gets worse because it didn’t seem to get the point of the story it’s a remake of. Mulan is about honor, but it’s more about how anyone of any gender can bring honor by following their path. This film thinks it’s about that. The problem is that it overcomplicates everything making Mulan special.

The only thing that set Mulan apart in the original was her sex, and a not all that helpful ancestral dragon. She could do everything a man could do, proved her worth and then put a twist on it with the climax where they had to do something only women could do in order to save the emperor. That’s now changed to Mulan having magical chi that is good for men but bad for women to have. So, now Mulan doesn’t do everything a man can, but can use magic to help. This is tried to play in contrast to the witch the invaders use. She too is a woman of high chi that was exiled for it and decided to turn against China. Only it fails.

The reason the compare and contrast between Mulan and the witch fails is what feels like missing scenes or unclear filmmaking. The big push that sets Mulan apart, supposedly, is her bond with the army and how she is such a great and brave soldier. The problem is that there are no scenes of that, that the rest of the garrison saw. There is one fight where she uses chi and it impresses the soldiers but that is it. Outside of one scene it’s played like she is a tight part of the army despite hardly being with them. This all makes the redemption arc for the witch character make no sense because she was clearly not accepted and it is unclear what the difference is other than the side they chose to fight on. It would have made more sense if it was against oppressive people, but that’s not discussed. It’s just that Mulan is working for the emperor and people like her. In fact, she was expelled from the army because she lied, not because she was a woman. That makes it feel all the dumber she had to cross-dress since once the final battle comes not even the emperor seems to mind.

The focus on her lying over her gender could be interesting if it was drilled into the viewers heads that women shouldn’t be soldiers. Though, in retrospect that seems more like a garrison rule to not fraternize with women and her father’s restrictive world view. It would help if the society was explained more and given a context and not just told. Because, as the movie is now, the bigger lesson is that it’s bad to lie to your family and it’s more important to be devoted to them even if they hold you back until you do something big to prove them wrong… which you shouldn’t have needed to do.

This must be how people who cares about Lion King or Beauty and the Beast, or Dumbo (haha I kid, no one cares about Dumbo) felt. I had no drive to see those films because I didn’t care about the originals. I saw the originals but they aren’t important to me. Mulan is important to me, and making it a war epic is such a strong idea that is totally squandered by the lack of characters, societal world building, hacked up editing, and no coherent thematic through line. A

lso it’s about protecting China and clearly hyper-made to appeal to their market. (Mandatory thing about how Chinese people are not bad, but they are under a repressive regime that uses communism in the wrong ways) A push to make movies marketable in China makes sense as it is a growing industry and world market, but forcing changes to fit with what they (by they I mean both audiences and the content review board that makes sure the government likes the film) like removes any authorial creativity and keeps companies subservient to a country that regularly abuses human rights.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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New Mutants is an Experience We’ve Been Waiting for A Long Time (a Review)

New Mutants is an experience so many of us have been waiting for, even if you don’t care about the movie, because it’s a return to the cinema. That is, on top of a movie that has been in delayed and development for years, even after being completed. That makes it all the more exciting and terrifying to see how if it lives up to any sort of hype.

Following Danny Moonstar, a girl whose reservation is destroyed in a tornado, she awakens in a strange facility and learns she’s a mutant. She’s allowed to work on training her still mysterious powers, and meet with the four other mutants at the facility in hopes of leaving to join a second school. Unfortunately her appearance at the facility has coincided with strange visions and haunting dreams arresting the patients sanity. Now these new mutants must find the source of the nightmares and find out who is truly running the facility in order to be free.

The film is strongly compelling. Not necessarily in any bad ways, but more in how it feels like a movie that was supposed to be realessed years ago. A movie late to a trend that it should have rode to great success but now is stuck in this limbo state as Marvel and Disney come up with plans for the X-Men in the MCU.

New Mutants is much more of a hang-out, talk-it-out mood piece with horror elements than it is a horror film, or action film. This works to its benefit in setting up the cast. Each of the five mutants feels very distinct and accurate to their comic counterpart. That accuracy does not make it good, but shows the team mining material already there to give a more grounded spin. This results in a film that focuses on the real trauma people would have when they find out their mutants. The damage, dread, and regret that is only ever hinted at in the pages of the more mainstream books is brought fully out and on display. They’re all tragic figures trying to work out their deal and be better. That is all present and feels X-Men.

The particulars of that, and how a story like this: one more comfortable having characters hold conversations about how damaged they feel and why they may or may not be able to movie on, deals when it has to end with a big climax and have twists to reveal is less than satisfying. Without giving anything away, the source of the monsters is revealed just as the true purpose of the facility is exposed to them. This leads to a climax where the group must come together and finally use their powers to help save their friend. It ends well enough and is resonate with the theme of understanding and patience over force but is lacking.

It reminds me in some ways of Project Power. The difference is that Project Power needed a climax and came up with a boring solution. This film felt like I should have had a climax, or, if it did, it should have been something far more subdued. Instead the film feels like it was forced to find a way to have a big action scene at the end and did their best with it.

All of this makes it a compelling movie now, but should have been a better movie at release. The more grounded, character driven, slow burn origins were all the rage. Heck they tried and failed to do that with Power Rangers, but this one had a chance. These characters do honestly come alive as their guarded personalities fall to reveal their true selfs and they bond to form a team. It feels purposeful, with the horror only used to accentuate and manifest what the characters are feeling. Turning the abstract in the physical. It works at that, but does feel compromised to get it there.

Also, despite the long production time for the film, none of that time was used to clean up the effects. Some, like spoilers for X-men fans I won’t give away, look good. Others are very bad and hinder the horror when it looks far more cartoony than scary.

This movie wanted to be Buffy. I don’t mean that in the sense that most things want to copy what Whedon and his ilk did with their respective shows. I mean Buffy, literally. They play it all the time in the background and it is distracting (because I’d rather watch that. It’s season 4 if you’re interested). It makes diagetic sense, but also is used as foreshadowing. The issue is that Buffy, though dealing with the same general theme, is far more focused on building a threat to fit the story and arc, not the other way around. Buffy doesn’t spend its time talking until a monster shows it. It’s about the monster in all of us. New Mutants is about that too, but doesn’t hit the mark.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

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Should Movie Theaters Even Open?

We live in a capitalist society, captalism means expansion through the use of money. We want movies and experience them on big screens, movie studios want money so they’ll put them on big screen. There is no ethical consumption under capitalism, so yes, based purely on an economic perspective they need to be open. They’re a major employer across the world after all.

But that’s not what that questions means, is it? That question isn’t asking if they should open because we want money/spend money and to watch the moving pictures that have stories in them. Because the answer is obviously yes. It’s one of the reasons movie theaters and pizza joints done close in a recession. We need that escape. Anyway, no, that’s not what the question is asking. It’s asking if it is safe to go into a theater. Frustratingly enough, the answer to that is not as easy.

The pandemic is still around, and though it ended up not being nearly as deadly as feared it can still be crippling to those who get it, even the generally healthy. It’s stealthy nature for those who could be infected but are fine is also a terrible, and real concern. This makes the any gathering dangerous at least. It’s clear to see with the opening up of schools. So many, no matter how impossibly careful they are, still have massive outbreaks that crippled any chance of normalcy returning to an ever mundane place as a school.

That alone, along with the toll it puts on the employees of not just theaters, but all places of employment, alone should confirm that we should not open up. It might be easy to counter with examples of the flu and things alike, but recall how diseases from the common cold to the flu can often tear through a place of employment and leave workers crippled for day. Keep in mind those are diseases our bodies have encountered before. This disease is new. Even if we can shake off a mild case of it, we are unaware of its lasting impacts on our systems.

I will cop to being a far more cautious person, even as I partake in my journalistic integrity to review New Mutants. I thankfully live in a safer scenario then most as far as personally, and have an independent theater that doesn’t get busy even for big movies. But that doesn’t take away the danger everyone is put in.

I’m aware I made the claim at the start that they need to open for purely capitalist endeavors, but if the only form of economics can be so thoroughly crippled by one disease, then maybe it is time to rethink the systems we have. I may not be able to say what that is, but I know it’s a dangerous path we walk, but hey, movies are coming back! I’m so glad I can continue my hobby of reviewing movies in the hopes of… I actually don’t know what the end goal is. I just know it doesn’t involve getting other sick cause I wanted to enjoy a movie about whatever New Mutants is about. I haven’t watched a trailer with sound on for it, honestly. But either way no one should fear for seeing a movie of all things.

I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!

If you enjoyed this: like, comment, and follow us here, and on Facebook & Twitter at Tower City Media! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, Tower City Media and Submit to the suggestion box:!