My Thoughts on: Steven Universe: The Movie (2019)

*warning: minor spoilers for Steven Universe: the Movie

Given how much I was looking forward to Steven Universe: the Movie, part of me finds it really funny that I completely forgot the movie was getting a DVD release until I stumbled across a copy at the store. Of course as soon as I saw it my first thought was “I need to get this!” because, due to having no cable, I actually hadn’t seen the movie yet. And trust me when I say, buying the film on the fly was totally worth it.

As beautiful as the movie is, Steven Universe: the Movie is also another reminder that the story of Steven Universe is slowly winding down to a close. After five seasons of fighting evil and saving the world, Steven has grown into a 16 year-old who bears only a passing resemblance to how he looked for most of the series. Also? Steven’s voice is much, much deeper, and that took some getting used to for me.

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Speaking of changes, this movie is all about change and how necessary it is, even if it’s completely unwelcome. The movie opens with Steven and the Crystal Gems completely content with the life they’ve built on Earth after the events of season 5 (which I won’t mention because I don’t dare spoil it). However, since this IS Steven Universe, it doesn’t last long, and once again Steven is forced to deal with something that Pink Diamond did in the past. This part of the story is actually really sad, and I’m having a really hard time liking Pink Diamond right now due to what she did.

Spinel, the villain for most of the story, is one of the most tragic characters I’ve seen in all of Steven Universe. She was only doing the job she was created for, and then….THAT happened to her. It’s no wonder she’s angry, she has a right to be angry. And what she does to Steven and the Crystal Gems is not only cruel, it’s proof positive that we should never take the way things are for granted, because it change, permanently, at a moment’s notice.

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As with everything in Steven Universe, the movie is filled with songs that are memorable and catchy, just what you’d expect from Rebecca Sugar. I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack if you get the chance. There are songs everywhere, in fact, I almost feel like there are too many songs, because at times there’s one song, a beat, and then a second song begins. That doesn’t really bother me per se, but it might bother some.

Steven Universe: the Movie is a really fun movie. There are twists, highs and lows, and one surprise in particular had me gasping in surprise. And in the end, I felt extremely satisfied as the credits rolled. I’m still not ready to say goodbye to Steven Universe, but at least there’s still a little bit of story left to tell in Steven Universe Future.

Let me know what you think about Steven Universe: the Movie in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Admitting I was wrong about Steven Universe (2013-present)

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Frozen II (2019)

*warning: potentially minor spoilers for Frozen II below

I’ve been looking forward to Frozen II for a really long time, so much so that the first teaser convinced me to sit down and watch the first Frozen film earlier this year. Given how much the original film blew me away, I was really excited to see if the sequel would do something similar. And while Frozen II is a great film, I will say right from the start that it is not as good as the original.

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I say that because Frozen II, a great film as I said before, doesn’t quite hit the mark with its plot. In broad strokes the story is great. Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven are pulled into an adventure that threatens the very existence of Arendelle. Going to the far north, they find an enchanted forest locked away by a barrier of mist due to something mysterious that happened over thirty years earlier. Our heroes must uncover what really happened and make it right in order to free the forest and the people trapped inside. Thus far, the story is great. It’s in the details though, where things begin to slip. The story takes some…unexpected turns. Some of them make sense, others don’t, and if you’re not closely following along you might lose track of what’s going on.

One twist that isn’t explained very well is what happens with Elsa. The film almost explains why these things are happening to Elsa, but it doesn’t quite get there. I think I understand what happened where Elsa is concerned, but I don’t know for sure, and that’s a problem. One twist in particular, at the end of “Show Yourself” (a beautiful song by the way, I was crying by the end), had me wanting to scratch my head because I didn’t understand how we got to this point. It’s almost like the filmmakers skipped over a plot point in their haste to get to an admittedly beautiful moment.

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Those issues aside, Frozen II is beautiful to look at. The animation has evolved by leaps and bounds, with some startling and amazing effects that make everything feel so alive. I really like the “moments in time” and I thought it was a cool (no pun intended) concept.

As much as I enjoyed Frozen II, I hope there is not a Frozen III. There really is nothing more to add to the story at this point. We know, mostly, why Elsa has her powers, no plot threads remain unresolved. At this point, Arendelle should be left in peace. As I said before, the film isn’t perfect, but the brilliant animation and songs (especially “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself”) pretty much make up for it.

Let me know your thoughts on Frozen II in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Frozen (2013)

Animated Film Reviews

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Daniel Craig: Beyond Bond

The beloved English actor has been gracing our screens for many years, with women everywhere swooning at one glance. His piercing blue eyes and fair hair have been a contrast to the traditional tall dark and handsome Bond look, but his rugged style has upheld the attraction to the character of 007.

Craig has featured in four Bond films to date with his fifth film, No Time to Die, due to be released next year. His feature in Skyfall focused on the character’s childhood and for once, a Bond film revealed secrets about the character himself instead of his enemies.

But Craig is more than just one of the Bond actors. He’s played many great characters and not just the type who enjoys playing Roulette in casinos. Check out some alternative films that Craig has featured in and see what you think in comparison.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Situated in Sweden, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a film based on the Millennium book series by Stieg Larsson. Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has recently run into some trouble after publishing some content with questionable sources. In an attempt to save his career, he takes a job offered to him by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to help find his niece, whom the family have been searching for, for 40 years.

To help him solve the case, Blomkvist demands the help of the person who carried out the background checks on him for the job – he knows that some of the information isn’t in the public eye. Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, is a serial hacker and tech whizz. The pair work together to solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger as well as resolving their personal issues.

With lots of action scenes, you would think that Craig is in familiar territory. In reality, instead of playing the brave hero like he is used to in Bond films, he is playing a journalist who doesn’t know how to hold a gun and needs Lisbeth to rescue him time and time again.

An incredible crime and mysterious storyline that will leave you in disbelief and on the edge of your seat. Not only is there a sequel film, but the book trilogy is also available for you to continue discovering the adventures of Lisbeth and Mikael.

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Cowboys & Aliens

In this film, Craig plays the main character, Jake Lonergan. The outlaw wakes up in the middle of the desert with no memory of who he is or why he is there, but he knows the gauntlet around his wrist is not only not his, but not from anywhere he has been before.

Lonergan cannot remove the gauntlet so decides to find someone who can. He stumbles upon a town where he is made to stand trial for his crimes but ends up being rescued by powerful cattleman, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). Amongst the commotion, an alien aircraft attacks the town and activates Lonergan’s gauntlet as a weapon. He saves the town by shooting down the alien aircraft before having a flashback that reminds him of his recent alien abduction.

Lonergan unites the townsfolk, the natives and anyone he can find to battle the aliens. It’s a battle of tactics and brainpower, as the alien’s technology far outweighs the guns that the cowboys hold. In a bid to prevent the extinction of the human race, Craig and his fellow cowboys must fight fast, but it’s a race against the clock to protect the Earth from destruction.

And those are a just a few examples of some of the characters Daniel Craig has played outside of the world of James Bond. What are other notable Daniel Craig roles that you have seen him play? Let me know in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Iconic James Bond Locations Around the World That You Can Visit

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Soundtrack Review: Midway (2019)

The soundtrack to Roland Emmerich’s epic film Midway is now available digitally and will be available on CD November 22nd. The highly anticipated action drama, starring Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans, Nick Jonas, and Mandy Moore, premiered in US theaters via Lionsgate, alongside the soundtrack release. The film centers on the Battle of Midway, a clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy, which marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during WWII. The film, based on the real-life events of this heroic feat, tells the story of the leaders and soldiers who used their instincts, fortitude and bravery to overcome the odds.

The soundtrack for Midway was composed by Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser. Regarding the soundtrack, they had this to say:

“We agreed that the music for Midway should not be a traditional wall-to-wall orchestral score, with sweeping action cues where every change in mood and sentiment will be followed musically. We also set ourselves the goal that the orchestral pieces should be limited to the emotional moments of the film. Early on we asked our long-time collaborator Tommy Schobel to create some sort of musically driven sound design, using synth-based versions of sounds old war planes would make, but in a way so they make sense within the bigger picture of the score. When you hear these cues in the film, married with all the sound effects, it all becomes — quoting our re-recording mixer Greg P. Russel — ‘A Thing.’”

The soundtrack also features two contributions by singer Annie Trousseau. Here’s what she had to say about working on the soundtrack for Midway:

“I was asked by Harald and Roland if I had any big band songs recorded and would I be interested in performing a song in Midway. This was all happening last minute because they had just added a scene with a singer. Of course, I said yes immediately! Harald had pretty early on decided that “Jersey Bounce” would be the instrumental. “All or Nothing at All” was my top pick for the vocal track because it was the most fitting lyrically and emotionally for the film, and I just fell in love with the melody and Frank Sinatra’s 1939 version with the Harry James orchestra. What an honor to be the one singer asked to do this. We purposely did only two or three live takes of each song so we could keep the live feel. I’m very happy with the outcome. In preparation, I studied the enunciation of the era and did my best to give it that extra 1940s vintage sensibility. I was in heaven in a musical world and setting that allowed me to shine in a genre that I adore and respect so much. It’s been the best experience to work beside such amazing talents. Almost everyone in the film is also a musician! Such a dream come true for me.”

While it’s true, after listening to the score, that this is definitely not a wall-to-wall orchestral score such as what you might normally find for an epic film of this magnitude, I think movie audiences will appreciate the music just as much. It oozes with tension in various places, which makes sense given how pivotal the Battle of Midway proved to be. Everything hinged on this one fight going exactly right, and it feels like that is reflected somewhat in the musical score.

TRACK LISTING
1. Nobody Wants A War
2. Midway Main Theme
3. See You In China
4. Morgue
5. Getting Some Fun Out Of Life – Performed By Annie Trousseau
6. Pearl Harbour
7. This Is It
8. Bombing Six
9. What’s Their Target
10. Attack On Midway
11. Good Luck Sir
12. Jersey Bounce – Performed by Annie Trousseau (Instrumental)
13. They’ll Follow You Anywhere
14. Still Night Submarine
15. Above The Clouds
16. Dogfight
17. The Last Dive
18. This Is For Pearl
19. Victory Lap
20. Best Returns
21. Abandon Ship
22. Midway End Titles
23. All Or Nothing At All – Performed by Annie Trousseau

Let me know what you think of Midway (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Death Stranding (2019)

From Sony Music, the soundtrack for the video game Death Stranding is available now. The soundtrack for Death Stranding was composed by Swedish composer Ludvig Forssell and Joel Corelitz. Forssell’s previous contributions to video game soundtracks include composing the music for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

The summary of Death Stranding is as follows:

After the collapse of civilization, Sam Bridges must journey across a ravaged landscape crawling with otherworldly threats to save mankind from the brink of extinction.  In the near future, mysterious explosions have rocked the planet, setting off a series of supernatural events known as the Death Stranding. With spectral creatures plaguing the landscape, and the planet on the verge of a mass extinction, it’s up to Bridges to journey across the ravaged wasteland and save mankind from impending annihilation. 


Corelitz, according to this interview with Paste Magazine, had several contributions of his own to make to the soundtrack:

My contribution was broken up into chunks that were similar to sprints. Initially I created 10 one-minute tracks using all original sounds (both synth patches and sampled material mostly created from found objects) that were edited down into their components and turned into sample libraries. So the tracks themselves weren’t designed to be used or heard as music, just to house the raw materials that Ludvig could then use in his own compositions.

This took maybe three to four months. It went well, particularly the found object samples so we decided to dedicate three days just to sampling, with all of us (including Sony’s audio department) in the same room. That’s when we did the piano. Then, I was asked to create 40 more minutes of additional music to accompany the rest of the score, so I actually got to use the instruments we created on my own cues. That was a huge surprise and a lot of fun. This part took maybe five months total.

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Having sampled the soundtrack, I can say that it is hauntingly beautiful, not at all what I expected for a game like Death Stranding. The music puts me in mind of a number of science-fiction epics, but it particularly reminded me of the scores for both Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 (and that’s a good thing). In some places, I was even reminded of the music for God of War (the most recent game) in a few places. If you get a chance to listen to the soundtrack, I would especially recommend listening to “The Face of Our New Hope,” that track is especially beautiful.  I know music doesn’t really indicate the quality of a video game overall, but if Death Stranding does have any problems, the soundtrack is definitely not one of them.

Track Listing

1 Once, There Was an Explosion

2. Alone We Have No Future

3. BRIDGES

4. Soulless Meat Puppet

5. Beached Things

6. Chiral Carcass Culling

7. The Face of Our New Hope

8. John

9. An Endless Beach

10. Heartman

11. The Severed Bond

12. Claws of the Dead

13. Fragile

14. Stick vs Rope

15. A Final Waltz

16. Strands

17. Lou

18. BB’s Theme (From Death Stranding)-Jenny Plant

19. Flower of Fingers

20. Cargo High- Joel Corelitz

21. Demens- Joel Corelitz

22. Decentralized by Nature

23. Mules

24. Porter Syndrome

25. Chiralium

26. Spatial Awareness

27. Stepping Stones

28. Frozen Space

29. The Timefall

Let me know what you think about Death Stranding (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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My Thoughts on: The Great Dictator (1940)

I’m fairly certain I’ve known about The Great Dictator since before this year, or at the very least I knew it was notable for a certain speech. It was only a few weeks ago that I decided to check out this film after a video of the famous speech at the end came across my Facebook feed. So in a sense, I learned about this film backwards, since I saw the ending before I watched anything else.

Once I saw the entire film though, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d never seen this film before, since it is amazing, not to mention it’s the ballsiest film I’ve ever encountered. It’s one thing to make a film or a tv show that mocks dictators and evil regimes like Hitler and Nazi Germany, but it’s quite another to make a film while said dictator is very much alive and in charge of that evil regime. The Great Dictator went into production the week after World War II started, and the fate of the world was very much up in the air when it was released in late 1940. That took a lot of guts, since if things had gone differently, Chaplin would have been in huge trouble.

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The film is a pretty straight parody of what was currently happening (or, more accurately, what was known to be happening) in Nazi Germany. Chaplin swore afterward that if he’d known the full extent of what was going on, the film would never have been made. The story is split between two polar opposite characters (both played by Chaplin): a nameless Jewish barber (who bears a suspicious resemblance to the famous Tramp of the silent era) and Adenoid Hynkel, the power-hungry dictator of Tomainia. Chaplin spent hours watching newsreel footage of Hitler giving speeches to nail his impression and it shows in the film’s opening speech. While the words are nonsense, the diction and pacing is straight out of something seen and heard in a Nazi propaganda film.

Of all the Nazi-parody characters, the one that actually scares me the most is Garbitsch (the parody of Joseph Goebbels), brought to terrifying life by Henry Daniell (best known to me as Lord Wolfingham in The Sea Hawk). While Hynkel and Herring are fairly comedic portrayals of Hitler and Goering respectively (with minor exceptions for Hynkel later in the film), Daniell plays the role of Garbitsch completely straight. At no time is there anything funny about this character, and that’s what makes him so scary.

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While I could mention a number of moments in this film that stood out to me, the one I must talk about is the food fight between Hynkel and Benzino Napaloni (a dead-on parody of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini). It almost feels wrong to laugh, but the comedy between Chaplin and Jack Oakie (playing Napaloni) is just so funny, I can’t help but laugh, especially when the two are gesturing and shouting, each caught up in their own individual tirade.

And of course, it all leads to the iconic speech Chaplin gives at the end of the film, dropping both of the characters he’s played to give a rousing address that left me in tears the first time I heard it. If you get the opportunity, you should definitely watch The Great Dictator in its entirety. Let me know what you think of the film in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

As my quest to see more of King Ghidorah continued, I decided to watch Invasion of Astro-Monster, another film to feature a certain three-headed flying space dragon (I love saying that). This is the second film to feature King Ghidorah and while I did enjoy it, I didn’t like it as much as Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. The story is set in the near future and sees humanity make first contact with an alien race, the Xiliens, on Planet X (a previously unknown moon of Jupiter). Claiming to be under constant assault from King Ghidorah, the Xiliens beg for the use of Godzilla and Rodan to keep their small planet safe. It seems like a straightforward situation and a reasonable request, but this is a Godzilla film and nothing is quite what it seems.

One of the things that sticks out to me right away are the Xiliens themselves. Even if I hadn’t read the film summary beforehand, I would’ve been immediately suspicious of the Xiliens, simply because of their appearance. From their stiff mannerisms, to the fact that you can’t see their eyes, everything about these aliens screams “Do not trust them!” Therefore, there’s very little surprise when the double-cross occurs. The other giveaway? That first fight between Godzilla, Rodan, and King Ghidorah is over way too quickly.

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Another detail that I found more awkward than anything is the presence of Astronaut Glenn (Nick Adams) in the story. I hope this doesn’t come out wrong, but it was more than a little jarring to look at the movie and suddenly realize there’s a non-Japanese character in the mix (the ONLY such character, I might add). Maybe I just found it awkward because all of Glenn’s lines are dubbed in Japanese, it’s just something I wanted to comment on.

I did find the monster action to be quite satisfying, though I was also sad when Godzilla and Rodan were left behind on Planet X. You could literally feel the monster’s sadness at realizing they’re being left in a strange place. Again, it amazes me that these monsters could wring such feelings out of me considering they’re men in rubber suits (more or less).

As I mentioned before, Invasion of Astro-Monster is an enjoyable film, with plenty of monster action for everyone. However, it’s just not as good as other Godzilla films that I’ve seen. Let me know what you think of Invasion of Astro-Monster in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

My Thoughts on: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Film Reviews

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