The Dilettante’s Guide to ‘The Force Awakens’


By now all the fanboys, fangirls and fanpersons have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens with just my fellow ambivalents and dilettantes left checking the matinee prices and hoping the theatre sells beer. Although I have probably seen OG Star Wars at least 50 times, I never bothered to watch the prequel trilogy. Not interested.

I was also pretty meh about The Force Awakens, until I saw a preview, had my “Oh shit” moment and realized this was the true and honest SEQUEL to Jedi we’ve been waiting for. Suddenly, I cared.

Still, I’m just a Star Wars fan, not a Star Wars FAN. I couldn’t tell you the name of the cantina from A New Hope, or the names of any planets besides Endor, Tatooine and Alderaan. But I’m a child of the 70’s and 80’s so Star Wars is part of my canon. Unlike FANS, though, it’s not part of my blood.

With that in mind, I give you the dilettante’s guide to The Force Awakens (complete with some potential spoilers, so beware).

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SDCC15 Review: ‘X-Men Days of Future Past Rogue Cut’


To celebrate the home entertainment release of the X-Men: Days of Future Past Rogue Cut Blu-ray on July 14th, fans at San Diego Comic-Con were treated to a special advance screening of the extended version of the film. Shown on four screens simultaneously at the Reading Cinema in downtown San Diego on Saturday, July 11, the Rogue Cut features an extra 17 minutes of footage including bringing Anna Paquin’s Rogue into the film’s main plot.

The additional scenes add some more humor and action to the film. It’s important to note that although the Rogue storyline accounts for probably 50% of the extra footage, the other 50% is equally as golden. Highlights of the later portions include some very funny bantering between Quicksilver and Magneto and a romantic scene between Beast and Mystique. Several fans at the SDCC screening pointed out they had already seen these portions online as deleted scenes.

As for the Rogue bits, they fit and strangely enough they seem essential to the plot. Sadly, since we’ve all seen how the film carries on without, they end up feeling more superfluous than they were intended to be. That said, that Bryan Singer was able to take Rogue out and still make Days of Future Past work and work well is commendable. It couldn’t have been easy to re-work scenes, dialogue, and climatic moments all to remove one character.

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Movie Review: ‘Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts’


Fans who grew up with Batman: The Animated Series as their go-to cartoon superhero show have undoubtedly noticed the darker, more violent trend in those same cartoons now. I don’t think this is bad or even unwanted, as you can tell from my review of this month’s Batman vs. Robin. But a return to a more traditional, 90s feel is certainly welcome. That’s what we get in Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts.

The story brings together classic Batman foes and heroes to uncover the plot behind Penguin’s new invention of Cyber Animals. The robotic creatures keep popping up during strange crimes committed by the Animilitia, a squad of animal-inspired villains that includes Silverback, Cheetah, Killer Croc and Man-Bat. Luckily, Batman has his own squad to call on and Flash, Green Arrow, Nightwing and Red Robin answer.

Animal Instincts comes straight out of DC Entertainment’s desire to create a Batman animated film for younger kids. That sentiment registered strongly with screenwriter Heath Corson who “wanted to capture that fun of Silver Age Justice League comics.” He’s definitely done that here. Humor is used to great effect and is mixed effortlessly with both hand-to-hand and high speed action scenes. Fight sequences are often one-on-one giving each hero and villain a chance in the spotlight.

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WonderCon15 Review: ‘Batman vs. Robin’ Animated Film


As is quickly becoming a tradition, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, DC Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Animation unveiled a new Batman movie at a world premiere event at WonderCon on April 3. Inspired by best-selling graphic novel, Batman: Court of Owls, Batman vs. Robin is an excellent addition to the ever expanding universe of DC’s original movies.

Picking up on three months after Son of Batman left off, Batman vs. Robin showcases the still tenuous relationship between Bruce and Damian Wayne as they each try to better fit into their respective roles as father and son. Being crime fighting partners is both a help and a hindrance to their relationship, especially when it seems like Batman can’t rely on Robin to put aside his League of Assassins tendencies. The duo are to the test when Talon, the enforcer for The Court of Owls, tries to lure Damian in as his new protégé while Gotham’s secret society also enacts a plan that could destroy the city.

The film boasts a strong voice cast, including the return of Jason O’Mara (Batman), Stuart Allan (Robin), and Sean Maher (Nightwing). Allan once again brings the perfect amount of petulance to Damian and Batman vs. Robin goes the distance to remind us Damian isn’t a child the way the previous Robins, including Dick Grayson, were.

He was born and raised with assassins. Nightwing even remarks to Batman about Damian, saying, “He’s just a 10-year-old boy.” But Batman gently corrects him. “No. He just looks like one.” The film drives this message home so well it doesn’t seem as impossible for a kid to face off with full grown adults, even Batman, and hold his own or come out ahead.

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Movie Review: ‘The Gunman’


Sean Penn is a sniper working for a mercenary group in Africa. He assassinates a government official and must go into hiding, leaving behind his girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca) to be scooped up by fellow merc Javier Bardem. Years later, he’s back in Africa under a different name working for a humanitarian organization when a handful of assassins try to take him down. He investigates the source, meets up with the shady fellows from his past, and tries to reconnect with his former love.

This isn’t anything new – it’s okay action, your standard plot, lots of buffed-up Sean Penn showing he’s a killer who cares, and exotic locations. There’s little humor, not much suspense, a non-sequitur role for Bardem, but there’s also not much of a ham-fisted political message either. Nor is it on the level of director Pierre Morel’s earlier film Taken; it’s a hardy helping of American-cheese slices on semi-stale crackers – not an extravagant hors d’oeuvres, the cheese could be better, even generic sharp cheddar, and the crackers aren’t buttered, but it’s not spray cheese and wafers either. As a light snack before the real action movies arrive in a few months, it’s palatable.

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