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: 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