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I'm a 28 year old graduate student and I've had a lifelong obsession with film music, cartoon music, just about any kind of music!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 5 “Rookies”

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“The best confidence builder is experience”

Original air date: October 24th, 2008

The fifth episode of The Clone Wars is the first to focus almost exclusively on the clone soldiers (Anakin and Obi-Wan have cameos at the end but otherwise play no part in the story) and their day-to-day lives. This story follows a squad of clones assigned to Rishi Station, an outpost on the Rishi moon used to monitor for any Separatist ships that might attack Kamino (where new clones continue to be trained).

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While the clones are all genetically identical, they do as much as they can to differentiate themselves, including different hairstyles, tattoos and their own names. Thus, Rishi Station is led by Sgt. O’Niner, who commands the rookie clones Hevy, Echo, Fives, Droidbait and Cutup (all voiced by Dee Bradley Baker). Commander Cody and Captain Rex are en route for an inspection, but they’re not the only ones looking to arrive on the solitary moon. Under the cover of a meteor shower, several Separatist ships land to reveal…commando droids!! Thus far in the Clone Wars era we’ve seen B1 Battle Droids (introduced in The Phantom Menace) and B2 Super Battle Droids (introduced in Attack of the Clones on Geonosis). Those droids are easily disposable and not very smart. Commando droids are the complete opposite: their movements are human-like, they can plan strategy and they’re ruthlessly efficient. In fact, if the droid armies consisted of commando droids alone, the Separatists may have won the war, even with the Jedi fighting for the Republic.

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One other trick the commando droids have? They can modify their voices to sound like clone troopers. This comes in handy after the droids take over the station, as they’re (theoretically) capable of tricking the Republic into thinking everything is under control. However, while the droids can sound like clones, they can’t act like clones. This is proven when Cody and Rex announce their impending arrival, only to grow suspicious when the “trooper” they’re talking to tries to send them away, ending the transmission with “Roger, roger” which is something droids are known to say, not clones. Cody and Rex arrive and are barely alerted to the true situation in time by the surviving troopers (Hevy, Echo and Fives. Droidbait was killed when the commando droids slipped in and Cutup was seized by a Rishi eel after their initial escape). Working together with the commanders, the droids retake the station, but a lot of droid reinforcements are on the way, more than the clones can handle. The decision is made to destroy the station, as that will turn off the “all clear” signal being sent to the Republic and trigger an automatic response from the fleet to investigate. Everything is rigged to blow, but the remote detonator fails to work. Hevy (over the protests of his comrades) stays behind to manually detonate the explosives, leading to this final moment between him and the droids:

Droids: “Um, do we take prisoners?”

Hevy (reaching for trigger button): “I…don’t!”

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It’s a heart-wrenching moment but one that establishes the clones are 100% human, no matter how artificial their creation. They are willing to sacrifice themselves to save others, no droid is capable of that (well, except for maybe R2 or C-3PO, maybe….)

The surviving clones are rescued by Republic forces, and as a reward for how well they fought, Echo and Fives are inducted into the 501st Legion by Captain Rex. For now life is good for the clones that survived, but there will be more adventures to come.

I like this episode, Dee Bradley Baker does such a good job of breathing life into each clone, it’s easy to forget that they’re all voiced by the same person. Initially, Baker needed separate recording sessions for each voice, however by the end of the series, he’d gotten it down so well that he was able to switch between multiple characters in a single session.

Next time: R2-D2 goes missing in “Downfall of a Droid”

What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 4 “Destroy Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 3 “Shadow of Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 2 “Rising Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 1 “Ambush”

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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My Thoughts on: Downfall (2004)

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I have always been intrigued by films that show World War II from the perspective of the enemy (that is, the Germans or the Japanese). Given that so many films on this subject show the Allies as the protagonists, its jarring to see a story featuring the losing side of the war. But it’s also interesting because these films (like Das Boot) remind us that, for all the atrocities committed, the enemy were human beings with human desires (though this does not excuse their actions in any way).

This is why I’ve been drawn to the 2004 film Downfall since I first saw it on Netflix several years ago. The bulk of the film is set in the last ten days of Adolf Hitler’s rule of Nazi Germany (beginning with his 56th birthday on April 20th, 1945) and ending not long after his suicide. The film’s plot is drawn from several accounts of those days, primarily from the memoirs of Traudl Junge, Hitler’s secretary (archival footage of the real Junge, who died in 2002 appears at the beginning and end of the film), Albert Speer (Hitler’s architect) and other eyewitness sources.

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The film broke a taboo in German cinema by featuring Hitler as one of the main characters (in years past if Hitler appeared at all it was in a cameo role often shot from behind so as to not show the face) in the story. Not only that, but according to what I read after first watching the film, it was one of the first (if not THE first) to have Hitler portrayed by a native German speaker (another taboo broken). Bruno Ganz’s performance as the infamous dictator is chilling and brilliant. The actor spent four months researching how to play Hitler, including studying a rare 11-minute recording of Hitler speaking in a normal tone of voice (the only recording of its kind), practicing an Austrian-accent and observing Parkinson’s patients to better mimic the symptoms Hitler showed toward the end of his life (it is now widely believed that Hitler was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which caused tremors in his hands and stooped his shoulders). Ganz’s performance is brilliant as I said, you have no trouble believing that he is one of the most evil men who ever lived.

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I also have to highlight Ulrich Matthes’ performance as propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The actor’s physical similarity to the real Goebbels is uncanny and his peformance will unnerve you to your core.

The film does humanize the Nazi leaders…to a point anyways. These aren’t evil, one-dimensional caricatures by any stretch. No, they’re all fully fleshed out, which really makes them even more terrifying because you see the depths of their twisted thoughts. Don’t worry about potentially feeling sympathy for them (except for the Goebbels children, they might be the only true innocents in the story), you won’t. The story really does bring home the horrors of the last days of the war in Berlin: everything is blasted to pieces, the streets are full of the dead and those left live in a panic bordered on hysteria. There are actually two scenes that show wild parties taking place. It seems that, in light of the Russians being days away, many in Berlin devolved into a “let us drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” sort of attitude. I’m not sure what’s worse, the characters who indulged in senseless parties knowing that all was lost, or the characters who stubbornly held onto their hope in “final victory” until the bitter end.

Downfall is definitely one of those films that you should see at least once before you die, though I warn you there are some pretty intense and graphic moments before the story ends. If you’ve seen Downfall, what did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film/TV Reviews

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The 3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon starts Friday!

It’s nearly time for the 3rd (THIRD!!!) Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon to start. The blogathon where we look at scores crafted by the late, great James Horner will begin on Friday and go through Sunday.

Many have already signed up, but it’s not too late to join. The link to the sign up page will be posted below. Keep in mind that you are free to talk about the film as well as the film music, it just has to be a film that Horner scored.

When you post your entry to the blogathon this coming weekend, be sure to include at the top a line such as:

This post is part of the 3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central

And include a link that links back to my blog 🙂

I can’t believe it’s nearly time for this blogathon to get going, I also can’t wait to see everyone’s contributions this year 🙂

Remembering James Horner Blogathon Info and Sign-up

See you on Friday!

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My Thoughts on: Incredibles 2 (2018)

*warning, minor spoilers ahead for Incredibles 2

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Wow, Incredibles 2 is simply incredible! (pun intended!!) The long-long-LONG awaited sequel to The Incredibles was fourteen years in the making and I am happy to report that this story is completely worth the wait. Incredibles 2 beats the odds and is a sequel that is not only the equal of its predecessor, it might actually be just a little bit better.

As promised, the story picks up immediately after the first film with the coming of the Underminer. The Parr family (helped by Frozone) work to stop the devious criminal, but it proves to be very difficult and there is a lot of collateral damage. Unfortunately, despite everything, being a superhero is still illegal and the Parr’s aren’t sure what they’re going to do. But then a media tycoon, Winston Deavor and his sister Evelyn come forward with a proposition. Using the technology and resources of DevTech they want to use a series of publicity stunts to create good press for superheroes to create pressure to re-legalize superheroes. And the poster child for this endeavor will be…Elastigirl!!

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A major plot point in this story is Bob Parr adjusting to life as a stay-at-home dad taking care of three kids while his wife does hero work for DevTech. Bob’s heart is in the right place, though he’s initially frustrated by staying at home, he never tries to shirk his duty towards his children, but at the same time he is painfully unprepared for the amount of work it takes to take care of three kids. Complicating this task is the revelation to the family that Jack-Jack has superpowers (apparently they did not notice what happened when Syndrome had Jack-Jack at the end of the last film), as well as…complications with Violet’s social life.

And speaking of Jack-Jack, that adorable baby steals just about every scene he’s in. One that I can’t resist highlighting is a hysterical scene that takes place between Jack-Jack and a raccoon. The baby sees the raccoon (with his “mask”) and confuses the critter with a bank robber and decides to go attack it. The poor raccoon is subsequently thrown around and terrified as Jack-Jack displays a wide variety of powers.

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And on top of all this, there’s the mysterious villain Screenslaver, a mysterious figure that has taken to hijacking the airwaves to cause mayhem (and has a thing against superheroes). Anytime Screenslaver shows up things get weird in a creepy way. Syndrome from the first film was scary in a cartoony sort of way. By contrast, Screenslaver is scary in a genuinely dark and twisted sort of way. And as for the identity of this villain…I had my theories going in but the truth surprised me.

The scene with Bob, Jack-Jack and Edna Mode is everything we’ve ever dreamed of and more. The fashion designer is back in all of her glory and you will not be disappointed.

I am a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see Honey, Frozone’s wife. Hopefully if/when there’s an Incredibles 3 we’ll get to see this character in person.

In conclusion, Incredibles 2 is a great film, possibly the best of the summer and I highly recommend it.

What did you think of Incredibles 2? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 4 “Destroy Malevolence”

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“A plan is only as good as those who see it through”

Original air date: October 17th, 2008

The third and final episode of the Malevolence arc follows the Republic fleet as it moves in on General Grievous, fleeing for Separatist space in his damaged battleship. It seems like a Republic victory is only a matter of time but Count Dooku has a trick up his sleeve. With the aid of his master Darth Sidious (who is also Supreme Chancellor Palpatine) a certain senator from Naboo has been tricked into flying directly into the path of the Malevolence, believing she’s on her way to a diplomatic negotiation. That’s right, out of nowhere, Senator Padme Amidala, Anakin’s secret wife, shows up in the middle of the battle (along with C-3PO). The plan is for Grievous to hold Padme hostage, figuring that the Jedi will not risk harming the senator.

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Padme’s unexpected arrival complicates everything: Anakin immediately orders the fleet to stop attacking, even though the senator demands the attack continue regardless of the danger to her own person. This is one part of the series that almost defies belief: how in the world does no one catch on to the relationship between Padme and Anakin?? There are hints throughout the series, yet no one seems to realize they’re married. Ah well…it does make for good drama so back to the story…

Anakin, Obi-Wan and R2-D2 launch a rescue mission in the Twilight. The Jedi split up to find Padme and C-3PO, with Anakin naturally locating his beloved wife (naturally there’s a brief romantic interlude when the pair find each other) and Obi-Wan going after the protocol droid. Our heroes don’t have much time, Padme overheard from some battle droids that the hyperdrive is actually close to being fully repaired, meaning the Malevolence will be able to jump to hyperspace (and safety) in minutes! Obi-Wan goes to destroy the hyperdrive while Anakin and Padme head to the bridge to sabotage the navicomputer. Of course General Grievous, once he learns there are intruders aboard, has foreseen this possibility and is waiting for Obi-Wan, leading to a duel between the pair.

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Through the course of the series, Anakin and Grievous come close to meeting several times, but never do (with Skywalker wondering from time to time if he’s ever going to actually meet the cyborg). This is is because Revenge of the Sith establishes that Anakin and Grievous are meeting in person for the first time and since everything in The Clone Wars takes place before that film, it’s impossible for the two characters to meet.

While Obi-Wan is busy with Grievous, Anakin and Padme reach the bridge of the Malevolence where they destroy the battle droids and Anakin rigs the navicomputer to fly into a nearby moon the next time it’s used. Our heroes manage to get back to the Twilight and escape, but General Grievous is pursuing in his own fighter. It’s a good thing the cyborg decided to follow because back on the Malevolence, the droids are engaging the hyperdrive, only to realize too late that they’re headed straight for a moon! The cyborg can only watch in horror as his prize battleship is completely blown apart on impact. Dooku will not be pleased with this development, oh no he will not!

Thus concludes the Malevolence arc, a good story and the first of many to include General Grievous. Next time: clone troopers are under attack from droids in “Rookies.” What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 3 “Shadow of Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 2 “Rising Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 1 “Ambush”

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 3 “Shadow of Malevolence”

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“Easy is the path to wisdom for those not blinded by themselves”

Original air date: October 10th, 2008

The second episode in the Malevolence arc follows Anakin Skywalker and his Shadow Squadrom of Y-Wing fighters as they plan an attack on General Grievous to take out the Malevolence and its ion cannons. At the same time, Dooku has ordered the robot general to attack more Republic ships before ordering Grievous to go after the Kaliida Shoals Medical Center, a hospital in space used for treating wounded clones (and currently holding over 60,000 patients, many of whom are in no condition to move). This is a truly despicable move on Dooku’s part. It’s one thing to take out enemies in a pitched battle, but sending the Malevolence after an unarmed hospital station is just wrong (but neither Dooku or Grievous care about that).

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Anakin, being Anakin, has devised a daring attack to strike at Grievous’ ship before the attack fleet led by Obi-Wan and Admiral Yularen arrive. In order to strike more quickly, Anakin plans to use a “short-cut” through the Kaliida Nebula that will take them to the hospital station faster than going around. Once they’re through, the plan is to take the Malevolence head on and destroy the bridge, taking out Grievous at the same time. As Plo Koon points out, it’s a very aggressive plan, but Anakin will not change his mind. The plan almost immediately hits a snag when it turns out the Kaliida Nebula is also the nesting ground of Neebrays (picture giant sting rays/space whales with large pointy teeth that can fly through space), this is why sane pilots fly around the nebula (even Grievous goes around en route to attacking the station).

On a side note, if the Y-Wings look familiar that’s because they were originally featured in Episode IV during the attack on the Death Star. It’s not the exact design, but close enough that if you compare them you can see the resemblance.

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In another call back to the original films, when we see the ion cannon firing, there’s a shot of the energy stream building inside the ship that is modeled after the Death Star as it prepared to fire on Alderaan.

Once Shadow Squadron engages the Malevolence, Anakin’s aggressive tactics go about as well as you think, which is not very well. While the Jedi is able to dodge enemy fire with ease, as Ahsoka points out, most of his squadron is getting blown apart because they can’t keep up! What’s left of the squadron barely avoids a blast from the ion cannon and it’s clear a new plan is needed. While our heroes debate what to do, the Malevolence begins preparations to fire on the hospital station (which is still half full of patients). If the ion cannon hits the station, it will disable all the power and life support and kill tens of thousands of clones recuperating in bacta tanks. That’s when our heroes come up with a new plan: instead of taking out the bridge, they’ll fire on the ion cannon as it powers up. When Grievous gives the order to fire, the cannon backfires, causing severe damage to the ship (and disabling the hyperdrive in the process). Grievous is outraged at this failure but things are about to get far worse: the Republic fleet led by Obi-Wan has arrived! While Shadow Squadron limps to the hospital station, the Republic ships set off in pursuit of the Malevolence which is limping back to Separatist space. Anakin is upset after losing so many men, but he won’t be able to mourn for long, the battle is far from over!

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Seeing Grievous’ consternation over the ship being damaged is fun to watch, apparently he was convinced the ship was invincible. Something troubling however is Anakin’s recklessness in battle. He gets so super-focused on his objective that he doesn’t take into account what’s happening to his men until Ahsoka reminds him of it. This is a sign of things to come: the further Anakin slips towards the Dark Side, the more he focuses on what he wants, no matter the cost.

And those are my thoughts on “Shadow of Malevolence.” Next time, the Malevolence arc concludes with “Destroy Malevolence.” What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 2 “Rising Malevolence”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 1 “Ambush”

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 2 “Rising Malevolence”

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“Belief is not a matter of choice, but of conviction”

Original air date: October 3rd, 2008

“Rising Malevolence” is the first part of the Malevolence arc and the introduction of General Grievous to the series. It follows the Republic as it hunts a mysterious new Separatist weapon, confounded by the fact that every ship they’ve sent to find this thing has disappeared with no survivors. Enter Jedi Master Plo Koon and his ships as they locate the Separatist weapon located on a massive ship named the Malevolence in the Abregado system. He contacts Anakin and his padawan Ahsoka in order to relay their position but then their communications are jammed and the Malevolence attacks. It’s secret weapon is revealed to be a massive ion cannon that disables Plo Koon’s Republic cruisers, making them easy targets for the Separatist’s turbolasers which blast the ships apart. Plo Koon and many clones make it into the escape pods but the danger isn’t over yet. To ensure there are no witnesses, Count Dooku orders Grievous to send out hunter droids to destroy the escape pods. It’s a race against time to see if Plo Koon and the clones with him will be rescued…or killed.

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This is the first episode to feature Anakin and Ahsoka and we’re given a look into their contentious relationship as Master and Padawan. For instance, during a briefing where Anakin is instructed to take his fleet to a rendezvous instead of searching for Master Plo Koon, Ahsoka interrupts to tell everyone what she thinks (despite being warned by Anakin to not speak unless spoken to). Anakin scolds his padawan afterward (which feels really weird by the way, for Anakin Skywalker of all people to be harping on following the rules), but as it turns out, he had a plan all along. The problem with what Ahsoka said, according to Anakin, is not what she said but how she said it. Basically what Anakin is saying is one needs to be sneaky when implementing secret rescue missions. So while Anakin’s fleet heads on its way as ordered, Anakin takes his personal ship, the Twilight (with Ahsoka) and sets off for the Abregado system to see if they can find Plo Koon and any other survivors.

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Meanwhile, it’s not looking good for Plo Koon and the clones. While they’ve been able to restore power, the only other pod they’ve seen has been ripped open, letting them know someone is out there hunting for them. Inevitably, they’re spotted by the droids who charge in to destroy this pod as well (pretty sure the lead droid is humming the Imperial March as he closes in). This leads to a pretty cool scene…if you can suspend your disbelief that is. Plo Koon informs the close that he can withstand the vacuum of space “for a short time” and heads out to do battle with the droids. The clones that have armor follow (clone armor contains pressure suits so they act as space suits also) and there’s a fight in the vacuum of space. It looks really cool, but despite what Plo Koon said it looks really strange to see a character, no matter how alien, simply floating in space with no protection and doing alright.

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There are a few short moments spent with Grievous and Dooku onboard the Malevolence, but the bulk of the episode is split between Anakin/Ahsoka and Plo Koon and his men. This is a good episode that ends with Plo Koon and his men being rescued and our heroes escaping the ion cannon with a hyperspace jump at the last minute. Their escape guarantees that the Republic will learn about the Malevolence, which annoys Dooku to no end (he leaves with the ominous statement that he must contact his master (Darth Sidious)).

And those are my thoughts on “Rising Malevolence.” What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

Next time: The fight against the Malevolence continues with “Shadow of Malevolence”

See also:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1 Ep. 1 “Ambush”

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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