REVIEW: SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER – SEASON 4

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018)

CAST (VOICES)

Aimee Carrero (The Last Witch Hunter)
Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad)
AJ Michalka (Super 8)
Marcus Scribner (The Good Dinosaur)
Reshma Shetty (Blindspot)
Lorraine Toussaint (The Night Before)
Keston John (The Good Place)
Lauren Ash (The Disaster Artist)
Christine Woods (Flashforward)
Genesis Rodriguez (Tusk)
Jordan Fisher (Teen Wolf)
Vella Lovell (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)
Sandra Oh (Sideways)
Krystal Joy Brown (Castle)
Grey DeLisle (Paradise PD)
Merit Leighton (Alexa & Katie)
Antony Del Rio (Avengers Assemble)
Geena Davis (The Fly)

She-RaOn November 4, Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is back with season 4, which includes a full thirteen episodes like season 1 did (seasons 2 and 3 split the 13 episodes). This season takes a dark turn as the Horde gains the advantage over the princesses, the threat of Horde Prime looms, terrible secrets are discovered about the First Ones, and a rift develops between Adora (Aimee Carrero) and Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara). It’s a fully packed season, with plenty of goofy humor just like any other season of She-Ra, but this one definitely feels darker overall, for better or worse.downloadTo recap, season 3 left off with Catra (AJ Michalka) opening the portal even after being warned by both Adora and Entrapta (Christine Woods) that it was faulty. To stop it from destroying everything, Queen Angella (Reshma Shetty) gave her life to shut it down. Catra exiled Entrapta to Beast Island for trying to stop her. Adora found out that she’s a First One who came to Etheria as a baby through a portal, which is why the sword responded to her. Most importantly, Hordak’s (Keston John) message to Horde Prime went through before the portal was destroyed. Season 4 begins with Queen Glimmer’s coronation.she-ra-s4-review-1194462A lot of the season revolves around Glimmer learning how to embody her new role as queen, and it is not a smooth journey. As she feels more and more of the pressure of being responsible for everyone, she starts lashing out, mostly at Adora. Part of the appeal of She-Ra is the friendship between Adora, Glimmer, and Bow (Marcus Scribner). They’re supportive, adorable, and always work to resolve any issues between them. There’s a reason Bow likes to call them “the best friend squad.” But this season, all of that breaks down. Glimmer and Adora hardly have a pleasant and friendly moment all season long – something new character Double Trouble (Jacob Tobia), a shapeshifter, encourages – and the bitterness puts a damper on what’s usually a fun tone. What’s worse is that they don’t work out their issues and make up by the time the season ends, making the season feel unresolved. It’s also a shame that Glimmer doesn’t find her way as a queen. She only gets more cold and controlling as the season goes on, especially as she continues to take advice from Shadow Weaver. As it stands, fans will have to wait until season 5 for Adora and Glimmer to, hopefully, work things out. Poor Bow, all he wants is for everyone to get along.she-ra-season-4-images-4
Also seeing conflict this season is Catra and Scorpia’s (Lauren Ash) friendship. Though she’s part of the Horde, Scorpia has always been a really positive character and a great friend to Catra. This season, however, she finally starts to realize that Catra’s not such a great friend to her, especially as Catra continuously treats everyone around her worse and worse, as the Horde gets closer than ever to its goal of world domination. This is also on the heels of Catra banishing Entrapta, who Scorpia considered a friend. It’s nice to see the show take Scorpia’s character in new directions. She’s definitely one of the best characters on the show, and we finally get to learn about some of her background.she-ra-season-5-renewal-newsWe also get to learn a lot about Adora’s background this season, which is a good follow-up to last season’s revelation about Adora being a First One. We finally find out what the First Ones were doing on Etheria, the origins of She-Ra, what happened to Mara, and why Etheria is in Despondos (the pocket dimension that cuts them off from the rest of the universe). If you want answers about everything, this season is the one to watch. It also ends with a big change, from which She-Ra will never be the same.doubletrouble_0For all of the serious stuff going on, there’s still plenty of hijinks too. This is She-Ra after all. There’s an episode called “Boys’ Night Out” where Bow, Sea Hawk (Jordan Fisher), and Swift Wind (Adam Ray) sing some ridiculously silly songs, and accidentally on purpose get kidnapped so that the girls can overcome their problems and rescue them. The “Mer-Mysteries” episode feels like a perfectly campy murder-mystery party, as the princesses try to figure out who the mole is. In two of my favorite episodes of the season, we get to revisit the Crimson Waste (episode 2), and finally get to go to Beast Island (episode 11). Beast Island holds a number of revelations that you won’t want to miss. The show does a great job of mixing the goofy with the more serious, creating a perfect mixture of high stakes and comic relief.maxresdefaultFor all of the issues between Glimmer and Adora, the show still has great things to say about friendship and loyalty. One can never assume that just because a character is from the Horde, that they are purely bad. Catra and Scorpia’s fellow soldiers, Lonnie (Dana Davis), Kyle (Antony Del Rio), and Rogelio get to demonstrate the strength of their bond this season, while Hordak grieves the loss of Entrapta as his friend. Catra thinks she doesn’t need anyone, but she finds herself the loneliest character on the show, and it motivates everything she does. The plot is packed pretty tightly this season, especially as the princesses lose more ground than ever to the Horde. The stakes are higher than ever, and you can feel that tension in every episode. It’s both exciting and fun in a way that only She-Ra can be. With the fundamental circumstances of the show changed however, it’s anyone’s guess what next season will look like.

 

REVIEW: SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER – SEASON 3

she-ra-season-3

CAST (VOICES)

Aimee Carrero (The Last Witch Hunter)
Karen Fukuhara (Suicide Squad)
AJ Michalka (Super 8)
Marcus Scribner (The Good Dinosaur)
Reshma Shetty (Blindspot)
Lorraine Toussaint (The Night Before)
Keston John (The Good Place)
Lauren Ash (The Disaster Artist)
Christine Woods (Flashforward)
Genesis Rodriguez (Tusk)
Jordan Fisher (Teen Wolf)
Vella Lovell (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)
Sandra Oh (Sideways)
Krystal Joy Brown (Castle)
Grey DeLisle (Paradise PD)
Merit Leighton (Alexa & Katie)
Antony Del Rio (Avengers Assemble)
Geena Davis (The Fly)

juijujijooShe-Ra is making a return for its third outing on August 2, but we had the chance to watch all six episodes ahead of its premiere. And boy, is it a doozy. Getting into She-Ra was something of a slow burn for me. It took the more sedate pace of the second season, coupled with the fleshing out of several character ties and relationships, for it to really find its footing, but notching the action back somewhat paid dividends as the series heads into its third outing. The foundations upon which She-Ra has been built don’t just crumble away over the six episodes that showrunner Noelle Stevenson and her exceptionally talented and dedicated team have delivered to us. They’re obliterated.she-ra-huntara-adora-glimmer-bow-season-3And I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way. In fact, it’s a huge reinvigoration and looks set to take the entire show in a direction I can’t say anyone will have been expecting. It is complex, layered, and genuinely has me anticipating where it might go next — especially after the bomb-drop of a cliffhanger that the third season leaves you on. A cliffhanger that creeps up, slowly, over the course of the six episodes, and has been embedded into the DNA of the show since day one. It was just that the pieces never really come together until the third season plays out in all of its nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat glory.she-ra-season-3-images-3But the foundation that is rocked, more than any other, is the one upon which She-Ra built the bulk of its storytelling. Its true core: The relationship between Catra and Adora. It was always going to reach a tipping point, and if you thought season 2 took them right to the precipice, the third pushes them beyond the point of no return. Because, when it comes down to it, the actions of both characters, their choices, and the consequences of them irrevocably changes who and what they are to each other.  Where Adora searches for the truth — and, in some cases, finds it — about her origins and the power of She-Ra, Catra seeks to undermine her at every turn. Going back to who they were, together and apart, prior to Adora leaving the Fright Zone is never going to be possible, and both characters come to terms with what that means — with disastrous results.4201e13e-bb2c-4b04-8c4d-08e8707127b5-she-raBreadcrumbs of resentment have been littered between Catra and Adora over the course of many, many episodes. And that finally comes home to roost. The biggest catalyst being the wild-card of Shadow Weaver. The relationship that both Catra and Adora have with their pseudo-mother-figure is complex, steeped in years of emotional abuse and manipulation, but also a twisted sense of love and loyalty. Catra craves acceptance, validation, and yes, to an extent, an unconditional sense of love, but is always passed over in favor of Adora. The favorite child. In Catra’s eyes, at least. It introduces a pressure point that is something of a hot-button. People choosing Adora over her. More than anything, the need to beat Adora in all ways, shapes and forms drives and motivates Catra — when she falls, fails, and repeats the cycle, Catra gradually has nothing left to lose. And there is nothing more dangerous than a character who has nothing to lose.she-ra-animation-4And, in She-Ra’s case, that danger is more than just the degradation of a relationship — or, in some cases, several. It is universe-altering. Because when Catra is given the opportunity to go full-tilt into her darkest urges, she grasps at it with both hands, despite several characters attempting to pull her back from the edge. And once Catra commits, it is like dominoes: thing spiral at speed. There is no going back as the show enters new, uncharted territory. Not only in Catra’s choices to move further away from Adora’s reach, and her friendship with Adora, but also for how we — and in turn, the characters — understand Etheria, and the universe in which it exists. For those of us who have been waiting for the mythology and lore of the show to expand, season 3 is a veritable treasure trove.Screen-Shot-Hordak-a4erd-1024x552The truth about Hordak and where he came from, as well as the origins of the Horde and what Etheria could look like if they win, are all present and accounted for in season 3. And it is, in some ways, a villain origin story that is steeped in well-walked tropes and expectations — but there is also more to it than just that. Hordak and Entrapta’s fledgling friendship pushes them both, and provides Hordak with a side that we — as audiences — have not always been privy to. Certainly, there is more to uncover and dig into — and future seasons will undoubtedly do so — but what we learn here is rich with expanding upon the characters and their pasts. The previous She-Ra, Mara, is included in that. The clues were woven into the fabric of the second season for when Adora needed to find out more about who she is and where she came from, and Adora follows them through to their conclusion — even when it means leaving parts of her former life behind, for good. Glimmer and Bow, through it all, stand strong by her side, and the three of them will need each other more than ever when the dust settles on the third season, and the dawn of the fourth arrives — because certain catastrophic events transpire that will alter the course of their individual trajectories forever.UntitledOh, and the introduction of Huntara and the Crimson Waste is undoubtedly one of the true delights of season 3. I was disappointed not to learn more about Huntara — and eagle-eyed fans will not miss some subtle interactions between her and another character during the trio’s time in a Crimson Waste tavern — but there will be time for that. Especially, and hopefully, if she plays a bigger role moving forward. And I really, really would love for her character to be expanded upon. The hints at Huntara’s past give her a connection to Adora that is difficult for Adora’s other friends in the Princess Alliance to understand or fathom, and it is something that Adora might need moving forward. Huntara is, without a doubt, the best source to tap into for that potential — especially with Catra moving even further outside of Adora’s orbit. There was something of a safety-net hanging securely underneath She-Ra prior to season 3. These six episodes remove that net, and the show plunges deep into something unknown. Stevenson and her team are testing the boundaries of what, and who, She-Ra is, and both the character and the show are all the better for it. It’s not entirely clear where they might take She-Ra beyond this point, but that is certainly part of what makes it so exciting.

 

REVIEW: THE FLY (1986)

CAST

Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park)
Geena Davis (The Exorcist TV)
John Getz (Curly Sue)
Joy Boushel (Terror Train)
Leslie Carlson (Highlander: The Series)
Michael Copeman (Death To Smoochy)
David Cronenberg (Alias)

At a meet-the-press event sponsored by Bartok Science Industries, Seth Brundle, a brilliant, eccentric scientist, meets Veronica Quaife, a science journalist. Seth takes Veronica back to the warehouse which serves as both his home and laboratory, where he shows her a project that will change the world: a set of “Telepods” that allows instantaneous teleportation of an object from one pod to another. Brundle convinces Veronica to keep the project’s existence quiet in exchange for exclusive rights to the story, and she begins to document his work. Although the Telepods can transport inanimate objects, they cannot teleport living things, a test baboon is turned-inside out during an experiment.

Seth and Veronica soon begin a romantic relationship, and their first sexual encounter provides inspiration for Seth, who reprograms the Telepod computer to cope with living flesh. Shortly thereafter, he successfully teleports a second baboon. Seth wants to have a romantic celebration with Veronica, but she abruptly departs without telling him why. Seth’s judgment soon becomes impaired by alcohol and his fear that Veronica is secretly rekindling her relationship with her editor and former lover, Stathis Borans. In reality, Veronica has left to confront Borans about a veiled threat, spurred by his romantic jealousy of Brundle, to publish the Telepod story without her consent. Drunk and jealous, Seth hastily teleports himself, unaware that a common housefly has slipped inside the transmitter pod. Brundle emerges from the receiving pod, seemingly normal.

After Seth and Veronica reconcile, Seth exhibits what at first appear to be beneficial effects, such as increased strength, stamina, and sexual potency, and he mistakenly believes that the teleporter has improved and “purified” his body. Veronica, however, is more concerned about Seth’s growing mania and the strange, bristly hairs growing out of a recent wound on his back. Brundle quickly becomes unstable, intolerant and violent, and he tries to force Veronica to undergo teleportation. When she refuses, he abandons her to indulge in a barroom arm wrestling match and casual sex with a woman named Tawny, whom he picks up at the bar. Veronica’s next-morning arrival at the lab spares Tawny from being forcibly teleported. Brundle angrily throws Veronica out and dismisses her concerns about his health, but when his fingernails begin falling off, he realizes something went horribly wrong. He checks his computer’s records and discovers the Telepod computer, confused by the presence of a secondary life-form, merged him with the fly at the genetic level.

Four weeks later, Seth reaches out to Veronica, and theorizes that he is slowly becoming a hybrid creature, which Seth dubs “Brundlefly”. Now severely disfigured, Brundle exhibits fly-like characteristics, such as vomiting digestive enzymes onto his food, and the ability to cling to walls. He also realizes that his motives and compassion as a human are waning, replaced by savage impulses. Attempting to find a cure for his condition, Brundle installs a fusion program into the Telepod computer to dilute the fly genes in his body with more human DNA. To her horror, Veronica learns that she is pregnant by Seth, and cannot be sure when the child was conceived. After she has a nightmare of giving birth to a giant maggot, a terrified Veronica seeks a late-night abortion, only to be abducted by Brundle, who begs her to carry the child to term, since it could be the last remnant of his untainted humanity. Veronica sadly refuses, afraid that the child will be a hideous mutant. When Borans, armed with a shotgun, attempts to rescue Veronica, the horribly-degenerated Brundle dissolves Borans’ hand and foot with his corrosive enzyme.

Brundle then reveals his desperate, last-ditch plan to Veronica—he will use the three Telepods (the third pod being the prototype) to fuse himself, Veronica, and their unborn child together into one entity, so they can be the “ultimate family”. Veronica frantically resists Brundle’s efforts and accidentally tears off his jaw, triggering his final transformation into a monstrous hybrid. The “Brundlefly” creature traps Veronica inside Telepod 1 and steps into Telepod 2. However, the wounded Borans uses his shotgun to sever the cables connecting Veronica’s Telepod to the computer, allowing Veronica to escape unharmed. Breaking out of its own pod just as the fusion process is activated, Brundlefly is gruesomely fused with the metal door and cabling of Telepod 2. As the mortally-wounded Brundlefly/Telepod creature crawls out of the receiving pod, it silently begs Veronica to end its suffering with Borans’ shotgun. Veronica tearfully hesitates, then pulls the trigger, and starts crying on in sorrow.The Fly is a creative and gross but nevertheless awesome movie with great performances and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

REVIEW: BEETLEJUICE

CAST

Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Alec Baldwin (Mission Impossible 5)
Geena Davis (The Fly)
Winona Ryder (Star Trek)
Glenn Shadix (Hercules: TLJ)
Annie McEnroe (Wall Street)
Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone)
Jeffrey Jones (Sleepy Hollow)
Robert Goulet (Two Guys & A Girl)
Tony Cox (Bad Santa)
Jack Angel (A.I.)

Fun Halloween movies more often than not fall flat on their faces; I’d say that Beetlejuice is the best in years. The straightforward script by Michael McDowell (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Warren Skaaren (Batman ’89) posits Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin & Geena Davis) as the cute owners of a hilltop house in New England, who run afoul of “life-continuance issues.” As ghosts in the next world, they fail to absorb the wisdom in a thoughtfully provided Guidebook for the Dead, and are horrified when a New York family moves in and begins remodeling their happy home.
Charles (Jeffrey Jones) is a financial adviser taking a break from the strain. His wife Delia (Catherine O’Hara), an artist hungry for recognition, insists on turning the house into an avant-garde eyesore. Daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) dresses in widow’s black and luxuriates in morbid thoughts. The Maitlands make contact with Lydia, who is delighted until her parents attempt to co-opt the ghostly tenants as a moneymaking status symbol (this is the 1980s, after all). But Adam and Barbara have troubles too. Frustrated by the red tape they find in the afterlife — pictured as a welfare office manned by the acerbic Juno (Sylvia Sydney) — the Maitlands are so keen to evict the new owners that they summon the services of the demon Betelgeuse, aka Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), an obscene, unkempt imp who bills himself as a “bio-exorcist” — a Ghostbuster in reverse.
Filmmaker Tim Burton may work within a limited range of themes, but in his personal playroom there’s nobody better. Beetlejuice is crammed with visual invention and whimsical allusions. The Maitlands’ moment of crisis on a New England-style covered bridge is a lampoon of a Norman Rockwell “human interest” painting, complete with a “cute” dog. Delia is obsessed with annoyingly aggressive modern artworks. When possessed by spirits, one of her sculptures crawls like the brain-things in Fiend Without a Face and another engulfs Delia like an Iron Maiden (one of umpteen recurring motifs in Burton films). Charles’ attempt to relax through bird watching results in an hilariously black comedy throwaway gag worthy of Charles Addams.
The pushy small town real estate agent (Annie McEnroe) balances the script’s New York snobs, played by Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett. In his best film appearance, Cavett dismisses poor Delia as a consummate flake. Burton uses the gathering to pull off an uproarious musical number, using Harry Belafonte music to great effect. Glenn Shadix’s conniving art hustler Otho is forced to dance along to the calypso beat. As the ultimate humiliation, Beetlejuice throws Otho into a brightly colored leisure suit. Otho’s reaction proves that horror is where one finds it.
 The over-the-top Michael Keaton figures in only about of the third of the show, which is perfect judgment. Beetlejuice rattles on like Robin Williams, eats bugs and tries out the raunchier jokes. Running his bio-exorcism racket like a used car lot, Beetlejuice hangs out at the brothel in Adam’s miniature model of the town; to scare the humans he turns into a manic phantasmagoria of illusions. The character was such a success, it was incorporated into a theme show for the Universal Tour.
Winona Ryder is the first live-action representative of Burton’s ideal introvert’s girlfriend, initially represented as a portrait of the “Lost Lenore” in his animated short Vincent. Since then Burton’s dream girls, from the Corpse Bride to Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd have all had tiny chins and soulful eyes … hmm … Burton’s ego-surrogate Johnny Depp follows the same pattern. Like Natalie Portman in Mars Attacks!, Lydia suffers in the shadow of overbearing parents but blooms when confronted by real adventure — in this case her friendship with the dead. Even in the afterlife, the Maitlands continue to be caring individuals. This makes Beetlejuice less of a horror spoof than a charming addition to the ranks of Films Blanc.
Tim Burton’s arts ‘n’ crafts visual sense invests Beetlejuice with several arresting stylized environments. The yuppie heaven of the Maitland home gives way to Delia’s Manhattan tastes. The attic has Alec’s hobby world, the miniature map of the town. A hole in a brick wall leads to the expressionist bureaucracy of Juno’s welfare office, where an ordinary janitor mops the floors of Caligari-like corridors. Beetlejuice can slip between dimensions as long as he’s given a verbal passport, like Rumplestiltskin. Seen first in cheesy advertisements, Beetlejuice can inhabit Alec’s miniature as well as perform fantastic transformations. He appears as a gaudy carousel and as a giant demon-snake (courtesy of stop-motion animator Ted Rae). Turning the comedy to a darker tone, Beetlejuice resurrects Alec and Barbara as Dia de los muertos wedding ghouls. He summons a toad-like preacher from hell for his marriage to the dazed Lydia — who finds herself outfitted in a scarlet wedding dress. All of this great fun is at the expense of Fritz Lang, The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, with free public service messages thrown in about smoking and Ecuadorian headshrinkers. In the spirit of playfulness, Burton leaves us with a literally uplifting calypso coda. Lydia spoke idly of suicide, but her happy times with the dead