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Pinocchio (1940)

Disney profiting from IP they didn’t create is nothing new. In fact, it’s been baked into the company’s DNA since its conception in 1923. The earliest feature-length films produced by the company were all based on pre-existing stories like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty but only one would provide the iconic Disney Theme. 1940’s Pinocchio gave the world When You Wish Upon A Star which has become a staple of the company since then, although the film itself is just as memorable.

When Italian carpenter Gepetto wishes that his latest project, a wooden marionette, could be a real boy, he gets what he wants. The Blue Fairy provides the boy with life and bestows upon a homeless cricket named Jiminy the role of his conscience until he grows one of his own. Over the course of 90 minutes, Pinocchio gets swept up in an acting gig, a plot to turn young boys into donkeys, and a fight against a giant whale to save his father. Everyone he meets wants to use him for their own ends so, even if he never said a word, he’d still be a sympathetic character. Even his trusted Jiminy seems to only want the job initially because The Blue Fairy promised him a gold medal, although he goes above and beyond the call of duty as the story progresses. Even when he contemplates it, he never leaves “Pinoke” to his fate.

Everyone in this story is at least a little bit terrible, which makes them come across as more human than the perfect characters of modern Disney. The nicest individual seems to be Gepetto but he has a very one-track mind, only focusing on the son he wishes he could have. His poor kitten Figaro ends up pushed to the side most of the time but he still somehow ends up in the whale with him. The Blue Fairy, though not malicious, is still placing an absurd amount of undeserved faith in Jiminy Cricket who is in the role for only a few moments before Pinocchio manages to set his hand on fire. Even Pinoke himself is quite selfish, only abandoning that attitude in the final 15 minutes when he is required by the story to learn his lesson. Not that this justifies the trauma he goes through.

First comes the anthropomorphic fox “Honest” John and his mute, feline friend Gideon, who sell Pinocchio to the selfish puppeteer Stromboli. There is no explanation as to why they are the only anthropomorphic animals, but if one had to guess then it would seem that certain animators wanted it that way. After The Blue Fairy helps Pinocchio escape the cage Stromboli had locked him in, our protagonist is immediately found and sold by Honest John again. Although, this time, it’s to a Coachman who lures boys to an island without rules so he can turn them into donkeys and sell them. No explanation for these circumstances or the logistics of it but it’s still a horrific segment to sit through. Then Pinoke and Jiminy return home to discover that Gepetto is trapped in a whale and they embark on a mission to save him that nearly kills them. You’ll never find out how or why Gepetto got there either. This plot is a bombardment on the brain and because of that, it’s oddly gripping. It’s just one befuddling circumstance after another. It’s made more intense with the context of this occurring over a couple of days.

Pinocchio has not aged well,. There are numerous shots of people’s rear ends, Jiminy is relentlessly interested in those rear ends and there are some “of the time” depictions of minority groups. The song I’ve Got No Strings on Me is primarily sung to Pinocchio by female marionettes with pronounced busts and sultry intentions, which oddly isn’t as well remembered as the song itself. Then there’s Stromboli who can perhaps best be described as Jew-coded and The Island which features a solid 15 minutes of underage drinking, smoking, and an unflattering Native American statue. The phrase “you couldn’t make that these days” gets thrown around too much but this is the first one I’ve seen where most of it would have to be cut or altered drastically.

As with all fairy tales, Pinocchio has a moral…in this case several. The iconic scene of his nose growing as he lies (which only occurs once?!) is about how lies can grow until they’re as obvious as the nose on your face. The point of The Island is that partaking in “debaucherous” activities like smoking and drinking makes you look like a fool. Even the idea of Jiminy receiving a medal for his work reinforces the idea that good morals are rewarded. One might say it’s very on the nose (teehee) but fairy tales usually are. Arguably, having traumatic events transpire as part of the plot should further reinforce these morals but whether it worked or not is uncertain. Many people only seem to recall the donkey transformation scene and it’s not exactly one of Disney’s most re-watched classics as far as I can tell.

Pinocchio is the perfect film to watch with friends. It provides plenty of shared laughs and shocks as well as the opportunity for riffing jokes. It’s also a good reminder of how much (most) of society has come in terms of “othering” and how utterly gorgeous 2D animation is. Despite being drawings on a page, they are filled with so much life and can be classed as pieces of art in their own right. This can’t be said for the “live-action” remake but that’s a story for another day.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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Ranking the MCU

How does one rank 29 movies (and counting)? It seems like such a Herculean task and yet it looks like everybody else has already done it. Perhaps, I should have kept tabs along the way or perhaps I should have been more ruthless in my final decisions. Nevertheless, here it is…my ranking of the MCU from best to worst. I’ve chosen to split the films and television shows into two separate categories because they are designed differently. The films have a single runtime which usually maxes out at 3 hours, whilst the TV shows split many hours of content over 9-ish episodes in a televisual format. Also, fitting them in was too hard but know that they all make the lower quarter of the list.

I’d love to tell you this is the final ranking but it will continue to fluctuate for as long as I live. It won’t fluctuate by much, however, meaning everything here is in roughly the correct order. “Correct”, of course, being my own subjective opinion.

Avengers: Infinity War

The beginning of the end of 10 years of build-up. It can also be seen as the last part of the Infinity Stones Saga if you wish to disown Endgame. It’s full of a decade worth of payoff and features an astounding ending that still provides chills.

Captain America: The First Avenger

The best of Phase One, featuring the most likable and relatable of its heroes. Steve Rogers was the everyman and, despite his newfound powers, continues to fight for the everyman. Hugo Weaving also provides a stunning performance as Redskull and it doesn’t shy away from the nazi angle. It’s technically a War Flick and I thoroughly enjoyed it, which is something I can’t say of that genre as a whole.

Ant-Man

Despite spending years in development hell, this managed to be the funniest of all the MCU installments. Casting the ever-likable Paul Rudd definitely helped and giving him relatable issues makes him sympathetic. Also features the best Thomas the Tank Engine cameo of all time.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

This was a surprise. I fully expected a film built on fan service and callbacks but instead it was a solid story that provided a decent continuation of old stories for the most part. Still works better if you’ve seen the prior Spider-Man franchises but doesn’t rely on them. Also, Defoe is allowed to go full ham and it’s thoroughly engaging.

Thor

The best of his trilogy, the original story for the God of Thunder is gorgeous. Director Kenneth Brannagh was a perfect choice to bring a very Shakesperean reality to life and Hemsworth is inherently likable despite playing somebody who is kind of selfish. Grand in scale, shot wonderfully and it introduces Hawkeye.

Iron Man

The very first and one of the very best. RDJ was a perfect pick for the role and the warmongering subplot has remained annoyingly relevant throughout the years. Remember when superhero films used to be about something important, as opposed to pandering to fans? We’ve come a long way from the pseudo-realism in this film but it remains great.

Avengers: Endgame

I wouldn’t have this one so high on the list if it wasn’t the end of an era. There are elements that still annoy me to no end and I disagree highly with several character decisions but that final battle clenches it. It also doesn’t destroy the ending of Infinity War, allowing the heroes to live with their failure.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Marvel really decided that this character was going to have hilarious, relatable and often tragic installments. It’s more cohesive than the first but no less energetic and it’s about family. Perfect little palette cleanser before the last two Avengers films.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Again, it’s about family. James Gunn is known for stories driven less by plot and more by character actions and dynamics with this being no exception. Big one for Marvel fans with Daddy Issues and fans of David Hasselhoff. From here on out, the films are going to be what I’d classify as “lower-mid tier” so this is a good one to look at before the fall.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

An action flick featuring Steve Rogers should be an instant win but this is more of a generic film. It also heavily features Black Widow who is wasted by this franchise on top of being a bland character. Good Nick Fury angle though.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

More Nick Fury! He truly is underutilized in this franchise, not that he should ever be a focal point. The highlight of this one is the demonstration/adaptation of Mysterio’s powers and Jake Gyllenhaal gives a delightful performance. Was never keen on this Peter Parker so it’s a little difficult to become invested.

Captain America Civil War

A definite turning point in the MCU but not entirely for the better. This marked the beginning of a solo movie no longer being entirely focused on the titular character, with this one getting dubbed Avengers 2.5 by fans. Held together by a moderately compelling story and Baron Zemo.

Iron Man 3

Underrated, but not perfect by any means. Acts as the conclusion to Tony’s arc but isn’t particularly memorable. That said, it has some excellent moments such as the destruction of his home.

The Incredible Hulk

Also underrated. This one is more of a character analysis than a plot-heavy flick but it does feature a magnificent performance from Tim Roth as The Abomination.

Black Panther

Fairly forgettable aside from being a major deal for people of colour. The final battle sequence noticeably needed more time and Martin Freeman isn’t the greatest of actors. Kept afloat by brilliant performances, especially by the late Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan.

Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch is really trying his best with that accent but it’s just not working. As origin stories go, this one isn’t particularly notable although it does feature Wong. It’s the special effects that save this one, especially if you saw it in 3D.

Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s fun enough and the characters are likable enough but the romance between Starlord and Gamora really drags this one down. When people talk about “Marvel Humour” this is one of the films where it’s more prevalent, except James Gunn at least writes engaging characters.

Thor: Ragnarok

Entertaining on a first watch but grating whenever I revisit it. Thor has always been one of the most underdeveloped MCU characters and he shows a little growth here but it gets undone by the end. Also the comedy is prime “Marvel Humour” which is a shame because Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett are in this.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Kind of a mess, though still not as bad as some fans claim. Ultron is entertaining, the battles are intense and The Avengers are constantly on edge but there are too many plot threads that don’t really get resolved. It’s another set-up movie, which is a hindrance.

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Ah, the second best movie of Phase 4… not that it’s a high bar. For all the talk of Martial Arts films as inspirations, this comes off as more of an imitation than a homage. Those snappy Marvel edits remain intact and the final battle is primarily CG, which has become tiring. Sam Liu as Shang-Chi is lovely and it was a delight to see Trevor Slattery again.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

The Vulture is the only thing keeping this film from being closer to the bottom of this list. Peter Parker’s determination to please Tony Stark and Tony’s consistent presence throughout the plot, really don’t feel necessary. It draws the focus away from Peter and his adorable little friendship with Ned.

Thor: The Dark World

Another installment that’s an absolute mess, but isn’t as bad as fans claim. Kat Dennings as Darcy has always been underappreciated and Loki’s story in this one is full of melancholy but it does feel like several different films spliced together.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

This should have been better with Sam Raimi at the helm with this premise. I talk a lot about managing fan expectations, but with a movie title that promises madness across the multiverse, it’s reasonable to expect that. This film doesn’t deliver it and has the most obvious fan pandering I’ve ever seen with The Illuminati. Visually cool though.

Iron Man 2

This one is just really mean-spirited. Tony is at his most unlikable, Arnie Hammer has too similar a personality and Whiplash is underutilised. Plus Pepper and Tony are going through a rough patch and Rhodey has to be the one to restrain him. Just unpleasant to watch.

Captain Marvel

A lot of fun with a colourful aesthetic but categorically basic as films go. Designed primarily to pander to a female market who presumably are sick of being pandered to (I know I am). Rushed to introduce the character before she serves as a Deus Ex Machina in Endgame. Even if this was Top Tier Marvel, the motives drag it down.

Avengers Assemble

There’s no denying how culturally important this film is but when you strip that away, it’s not that good. The camerawork is astoundingly bad with constant close ups and cuts during scenes. The dialogue is very “of the director” too, who obviously doesn’t deserve to be named. It looks and feels like an episode of TV and it’s the only MCU film like that, which only makes it more jarring.

Black Widow

Remember when people wanted this film when the character was introduced in 2010? And then they didn’t make it until 2019, only releasing it after the character had been wasted for a decade and murdered violently? And then they refused to release it during The Pandemic, causing a lack of already waning interest? And it was a basic spy flick, which seemed designed to set up the next generation of Black Widows, with bad greenscreen effects?

Thor: Love and Thunder

The levels of cringe radiating off this film are unparalleled. The shots are flat, the characters wasted, the tone uncaring. Yet it seems so smug about its own existence. Gorr the God Butcher and The Mighty Thor both deserved better than this, considering they were the highlights.

Eternals

This one reeked of Oscar-Bait and the studio did not attempt to hide it. That kind of vibe doesn’t fit the MCU but, worse than that, most of these characters suck. Kingo, Karun and Phastos retain my interest but the rest are bland or unlikable. For the most part, the film also looks exceptionally grey, like an early DCEU movie. Uninspired and dull.


Hawkeye

Clint Barton has gone unappreciated in his time, so it’s great to spend more time with him. He also has an adorable relationship with Kate Bishop who is a lovable dork. Plus it has all the vibes of christmas.

Wanadvision

The only one on this list that justifies being a show instead of a film. It makes good use of different sitcoms for the first half, with excellent performances from Liz Olsen and Paul Bettany. It also brings back Darcy, which is an instant win.

Loki

The running theme here seems to be “characters I care about” and Loki is no exception. His relationship with Mobius is great and it doesn’t make a mockery of time travel. The series finale also sticks the landing, which is a nice change.

What If

Full of interesting ideas but it never carries any of them to fruition. The primary interest here is The Watcher, who could be one of the coolest characters in the MCU if they allow it. The worst aspect is that, despite occurring over multiple dimensions, every iteration of each character looks the same.

Moon Knight

Came the closest to being like the Netflix Marvel shows but refused to fully commit to the violence or dark themes. Oscar Issac is trying his best with that accent and there are interesting elements throughout the series but it could have been more condensed.

Ms. Marvel

Blurs the line between Disney Channel and Marvel without ever being good at either. Kept afloat by a wonderful performance from Iman Vellani and Kamalas relationship with her family.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

This one really wanted to be about something but again it refused to commit. It’s difficult to have a show about how prevalent racism is when you’re also trying to condem people who think that *checks notes* there shouldn’t be borders because the world works better that way.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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Jessica Jones Series 1

If Daredevil came with a word of warning then Jessica Jones would require an advisory screen. Whilst the former is filled with violence and dark undertones, the latter is a borderline phsycological horror. It’s unlike anything Marvel Studios has ever produced, with the only project that had the ability to come close being the Disney+ show Moon Knight, which ultimately fell short. It manages all of this while being an excellent detective show too, more specifically a Noir Mystery, right down to the husky voiceover. The series sees the titular Private Investigator take on an old enemy/lover whilst reuniting with old friends and making new ones.

One of Jessica Jones‘ greatest aspects is that it doesn’t feature much set-up. Daredevil was focussed on the founding on Nelson and Murdock, the rise of Kingpin, and the establishment of the city that is Hell’s Kitchen. Jessica Jones has less scope, focussing primarily on the rivalry between Jessica and Killgrave as well as her relationships. Considering the lonliness of the character, it’s a good choice to isolate her story like this but that doesn’t mean that the wider shared universe goes unacknowledged. Nurse Claire Temple from Daredevil makes an appearance and even discusses her history with superpowered individuals, namely the Devil of Hells Kitchen himself although she never name drops him. It’s a nice little “if you know, you know” moment. There’s also the introduction of fellow superpowered individual Luke Cage, who would later go on to get his own series, but he’s not just here for set-up. He’s present in this story because he is important to the narrative and is a particular lynchpin in Jessica’s life, meaning he actively moves the plot and characters forward.

The other lynchpin of the show is Kilgrave, who is one of the greatest villian’s Marvel Studios has ever produced. He also has powers, being able to make people do literally anything he tells them, which makes him a major threat without even having to introduce him immediately. Actor David Tennant embues the character with a pompous air that would make him unlikable, even if he wasn’t using his powers for evil. Unlike Kingpin, it’s difficult to think of him as sympathetic because he revels in his cruelty. He claims his motive is love, because he’s just trying to convince Jessica to get back together with him of her own free will, but he’s still an awful person. When his softer side is finally revealed, along with his tragic backstory, there’s a moment where the audience could feel bad for him…before he reminds you that you shouldn’t. He clearly believes himself to be a victim but the show never agrees with him. His final stand-off with Jessica is a literal stand-off as opposed to the usual one v one fights that many Marvel fans are used to and ends as bluntly as Killgrave deserves. He doesn’t get his final glorious, poigniant, self-reflective moment and that is immensely satisfying.

The style of the show is interesting too. Much like Daredevil, it makes excellent use of colour. There’s plenty of purple, which is Kilgrave’s signature, while flashbacks have their colour subdued to differentiate them from the present. The camerawork is often closer to the ground, keeping focus on the characters without ever getting too close to them, with a decent amount of wide shots. This feels like how Jessica sees the world as a PI, with a focus on individuals but occassionally taking a step back to look at the bigger picture. The show is often seen from her perspective, including her PTSD attacks which are intense to sit through. Frantic camera movements and sweeping motions with an added blur effect that distorts the world around her is a very 2015 way to get the attacks across but it’s effective.

Series one of Jessica Jones is excellent on its own but paired with Daredevil it’s exquisite. Like that show, it’s filled with interesting characters and themes but it’s more trauma-heavy. It’s the most adult production that Marvel Studios has crafted since 1998s Blade but it manages to achieve that without spilling as much blood. This doesn’t mean there’s no blood though, in fact it features as much as Daredevil. This show is a beautifully intense.

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The Bob’s Burgers Movie

2D animation deserved better. For decades, it was the go-to art style and helped to make Walt Disney Pictures one of the biggest companies on the planet. Then along came PIXAR and Dreamworks, whose CG motion pictures made them as much money with seemingly less effort. There was a noticeable shift at the turn of the millennium where 2D movies started earning less at the Box Office and by around 2004, they were all but finished. They’re still out there, it’s just that they’re not hitting the mainstream anymore, and those that do, aren’t overly profitable. Unfortunately, this is the case for The Bob’s Burgers Movie.

The plot sees the Belcher parents (Lind and Bob) attempting to pay off the loan for their restaurant whilst the Belcher children (Tina, Gene, and Louise) solve a years-old murder. Unlike The Simpsons Movie or The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, this isn’t meant to serve as a conclusion to the Television show of which they are a continuation. (Bob’s Burgers, by the way, has barely faltered in quality over the last 12 series and is worth checking out if you haven’t already). Instead, it exists as part of the continuing story, which means it doesn’t require any finality or a bombastic plot. Spongebob journeyed across the ocean and The Simpsons traveled to Alaska but The Belchers never leave their hometown. The plot is marginally more extravagant than a regular episode of the show but not by much.

The main difference is in production quality. Bob’s Burgers has always looked and felt unique compared to other animated shows so a bigger budget and more staff simply exemplifies that. It seems unfair to call it more professional looking because the show has always looked professional. It’s simply more detailed. There are more shadows, and sweeping landscape shots whilst the edges and voice acting seem crisper. It’s a gorgeous film to look at, especially on the big screen.

It’s easy to get lost in the animation but the story is just as good. Each member of the family is dealing with an issue that allows for a miniature personal arc. Tina is worried about asking long-term love interest Jimm Junior to be her Summer Boyfriend, Gene is worried that he isn’t as musically gifted as he once thought and Louise is concerned that continuing to wear her pink hat with bunny ears is stunting her personal growth. Meanwhile, the parents’ journey is less about personal growth and more about dealing with a working-class issue…not having enough money. Each of these issues is proportional to the age of the characters, even if Tina’s has a fairly weak ending that maintains a series-old status quo. 

It’s all tied together with a wonderful score by Tim Davies, including several songs written especially for the film by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith. Musical numbers are nothing new as the show has been doing them at an increasing rate for years but there are more of them here. The show has one per episode whilst the film averages one every 20 minutes or so. They aren’t just decorations either, they actively push the plot forward as any Broadway song does. Actually, taking that into consideration, a Bob’s Burgers musical wouldn’t go amiss.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie didn’t exactly underperform. It made $31.8 million worldwide, which is around what 20th Century Studios predicted it would make, and it finished 3rd at the Box Office that week. It seems to have garnered praise from all who saw it, but when it’s up against a blockbuster like Top Gun: Maverick, it’s unlikely to remain in the public consciousness for long which is a shame.

This movie is burger flipping great.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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An Update

Hello there,

It’s been a while since I properly checked in so I thought I should bring you up to speed. We are now HALFWAY through 2022 (or 200% of the way through 2021, I’m still not sure) and it’s been an interesting 6 months. I haven’t seen as many films as I had this time last year (I’m at 29 so far) and very few of them have stood out to me. Things seem to be picking up with Top Gun: Maverick and The Bob’s Burgers Movie being some recent delights. I’m hoping to catch Lightyear and Everything Everywhere All at Once soon, which have become 2 of my most anticipated releases of the year.

Whilst my film trips haven’t been numerous, I’ve still been a part of some incredible projects over the past half a year. I experienced a Project For Awesome livestream for the first time, attended BFI Flare digitally (review here), wrote for UnDividing Lines magazine, became a member of The Banana Meter, wrote for an online publication and even popped up on a podcast! I’m hoping to keep the momentum going as we go into the latter half of the year and beyond.

Online, I’ve tried to be a bit more of a presence. When it comes to fandom, I’ve always sort of lurked in the shadows but I’m trying to be a more active member when it comes to Doctor Who and Star Wars especially. I’ve been lucky enough to find a group of really wonderful people from each, who have made me feel comfortable in the space with their opinions, vibes and open support of queer and POC rights.

Personally, I changed job a couple of months ago and the amount of stress that doing so lifted is incalculable. I feel pretty good most of the time now. I now consider myself a “film journalist on the side” because, whilst this isn’t my job, it takes up a large amount of my time. Most importantly, it makes me happy. We may be 6 months into 2022 but we’re entering the 4th year of Shakesqueer and I feel like we’re in a pretty good place right now.

I hope you are too.

Thanks for sticking around and take care of yourself.

Signed: Your grateful neighbourhood queer
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Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

First impressions are important. When Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was first announced at E3 2019, it had a lot to live up to. The first two Lego Star Wars games (later edited and repackaged as The Complete Saga) held a special place in the hearts of fans with its charm and visual storytelling. The following installment, based on the Clone Wars TV Series functioned differently with less of a focus on individual levels and more of a focus on open-world gameplay. The same is true of the Lego adaptation of The Force Awakens but after that game, there was silence. There were no video games based on The Last Jedi but with The Rise of Skywalker on the horizon, fans hoped that something would manifest. Anticipation was high and when that first trailer dropped at E3 it seemed to deliver. It boasted all 9 core films in Lego form in glorious high definition, which was further demonstrated by the second trailer unveiled in the lead up to December of 2019.

It quickly became one of the most anticipated releases of 2020, before it was announced that the game would be delayed until sometime in the first quarter of 2021. This wouldn’t be the first delay, with it finally being released on April 5th, 2022, although there were frequent trailers during this time that gave a further glimpse at the expanded galaxy each time. Those who pre-ordered the Deluxe Edition of the game would receive an exclusive Luke Skywalker Minifigure with his own carton of blue milk as well as each of the 7 DLC Character Packs as they released. The first two of these packs, featuring characters from Solo: A Star Wars Story and series one of The Mandalorian, would be available from the day of the game’s release.

This is where the issues began.

The code given with the deluxe edition, which was to provide access to the DLC, only granted access to the Classic Character pack. It would seem that the codes meant for the deluxe edition ended up in the cases for the standard edition which was an issue for sure, but fixable. Within 2 days of release and after countless e-mails from fans, the developers were able to patch the game providing the correct DLC for those who paid for it. Thankfully, it wasn’t an issue that affected the core gameplay…that came later. Many players have reported several bugs over the past month, which they hope to be resolved in a patch of some kind. It’s worth noting that the developers aren’t to blame for this as they (like all video game developers) crafted this game under ridiculous time constraints, unfair hours, and a paycheck that doesn’t reflect the hours they actually worked. Crunch time is a serious issue and video game companies should be held accountable.

A major bug prevents the level markers for Maz Kanatas mission from loading in, meaning that players cannot play this level or any that follow it. Since each episode of the saga needs to be completed to unlock the next, it leaves players unable to access episodes 8 and 9 as well as the planets and missions unlocked by playing through them. It seems like opening a new save file may solve these issues for some players although it would mean replaying through any portions of the game that have already been completed.

Next are the loading issues, which aren’t game-breaking by any means, but may be bothersome to some. The biggest of these occur during the Smugglers Run missions, where the player will occasionally drop out of hyperspace to take on battalions of villains. If the player has already fought some of the Capital Ships (like the Galactic Trade Federation Ship) then it will load in during these battles but only as textures. They take up a large portion of the screen but they have no mass, meaning that they can be flown through. The only workaround seems to be completing these Smuggler Runs missions before taking on the Capital Ships, however, since they spawn at random this isn’t possible.

EDIT: In a patch, it appears that the developers have managed to smooth over the majority of these bugs. It is currently still unclear how many but the Capital Ships issue is entirely fixed.

Lastly for this article, although I’m sure there are more hidden in the game itself, is the loading screen. It’s a gorgeous piece of artwork in its own right with many of the main characters from across the entire saga just hanging out. There are some neat little character moments in here like Rose Tico tasering Jar Jar Binks or Poe Dameron and Finn being unable to keep their hands off each other (methinks there was a Stormpilot fan on staff) but these are not the flaws. The flaws are that, on occasion, they will load in incorrectly. So far, they have loaded in the lightsabers minus the characters and, more horrifyingly, loaded in the characters minus their faces.

These issues are particularly frustrating because the game itself is excellent. It’s not simply a remaster of the previous games (like GTA: The Definitive Edition was) but a completely new game, built from scratch and designed for a totally different experience. The Complete Saga was primarily focused on the missions, 6 for each episode, which were accessed through doors at the main hub – a cantina. Meanwhile, The Skywalker Saga spends less time on levels and more time on open-world exploration and collectable hunting. There are numerous side quests, puzzles, and trials to complete across the 24 planets and the space in between them along with almost 400 characters to unlock. The galaxy is vast in a way that’s never been fully exemplified before, with the closest approximation being the Battlefront games which showed areas previously unseen but which only scratch the surface in comparison to this. It’s clear that the developers hope that the player will explore every nook and cranny, given how much walking there is between levels. It can feel as though the 9 episodes are merely to acquaint the player with game mechanics and to unlock the various planets, with the “real” game being the galactic exploration. This won’t be for everyone but it’s an absolute delight for anyone who wants to marvel at all the galaxy has to offer.

It’s a gorgeous game, making the most of every pixel on screen. Whether it’s the reflective surfaces, sunset skies, or the sheer quality of the high-definition graphics, there’s plenty to be in awe of. This carries across to the characters and the way they interact with their surroundings. They leave little square footprints on the ground, dirt sticks to their clothes, and the frost builds up along the plastic seams. It’s no wonder this game took so long to make. It’s not just a treat for Lego fans but for Star Wars fans too, with little easter eggs and nuggets of lore littered all over the place. A high number of these may be accidentally missed by the player if they’re not keeping a watchful eye, making this world feel lived in and loved. There’s a recreation of a photo featuring Warwick Davis with some of the original cast on Endor, cover art for previous Lego Star Wars games, and even a literal easter egg. It is abundantly clear that this game wasn’t just made for Star Wars fans, it was made by Star Wars fans.

One of the game’s strongest aspects is the voice cast, comprised mainly of returning voice actors from the Clone Wars TV series. Fans of the show will get a kick out of hearing such iconic voices reading even more iconic lines, like James Arnold Taylor uttering Obi Wans famous “hello there”. It also provides a little more weight to his final duel against Matt Lanter’s Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, which they deserved the chance to voice. The standout performance comes from Sam Whitwer who, as well as returning to voice Darth Maul, voices Emperor Sheev Palpatine. He pours as much energy into this performance as he ever did for Maul, absolutely cackling with devilish glee as he delivers lines like “do it” and “I am the Senate”. This is on top of the return of some original cast members too, like Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Brian Blessed, and Daniel Logan.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga may not be the definitive edition of this story but it’s the most expansive. Having been created all it once, it has benefits that the original 9 films never did, like referencing any piece of the lore that they choose in any era. (Keep an eye out for the Jawas!). The John Williams composed soundtrack is as beautiful and meticulously crafted as it has always been, which perfectly matches the beautifully crafted locations. It’s got plenty of that Lego-brand humour that will delight both children and adults, without ever overshadowing the original story. The amount of travel won’t be for everyone, nor will the numerous bugs, but if you can survive these then you’re in for a whole galaxy’s worth of fun.

May the Force be With You…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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New York Ninja

When travelling, it is often the longest route that provides the most interesting journey. Such is the case with martial arts movie New York Ninja which is finally seeing the light of day after 37 years thanks to the efforts of film preservation studio Vinegar Syndrome. They have crafted a thoroughly entertaining, high-definition motion picture from raw footage, no audio, and no script. The latter two of these they had to provide themselves in a tale that’s as barmy as the film itself and has to be heard to be believed.

New York Ninja stars martial arts legend John Liu as the titular vigilante who is hunting down the gang responsible for killing his pregnant girlfriend. This gang is also behind a slate of female kidnappings and is led by The Plutonium Killer, who regularly exposes himself to the chemical in order to survive. It’s a simple story, embellished by the absurdities within, although it isn’t as much a story as it is a reason to move from one fight scene to the next. Liu demonstrates impressive kicks and astounding flips throughout the 92-minute runtime, with his opponents acting as mere puppets to be demonstrated upon. His feats are truly stunning and matched in entertainment value by the costumes.

The 1980s were an interesting time for fashion, with big shoulder pads and even bigger hair. These are present in New York Ninja, but the most fascinating clothing choices are made by the villains who would fit right into a low-budget pantomime. It’s a style that can only be described as “mismatched Halloween costumes” but the choices are to be laughed with instead of laughed at. Equally commendable are the special effects, which appear rarely but make an impact whenever they do. This particular era of filmmaking was home to fake-looking effects that only needed to get the notion of gore across on-screen and it’s immensely charming. The blood has a paint-like quality but the prosthetics are genuinely brilliant, especially where faces are involved.

With no surviving audio or script, both had to be provided by the restoration team, which is a difficult task, especially when the ADR has to fit over pre-existing mouth movements. The team solved this by only matching when required, and considering the average quality of ADR work in mid-tier production movies at the time, it feels more like an homage than it does a necessary choice. It’s not an award-winning script either, but the voice actors are delivering lines with all the campness required. There are stretches with very little dialogue outside of grunts and it’s in these moments the score is allowed to shine. Composed by Detroit-based band Voyag3r, the score is written specifically for the film and oozes 1980s excitement. It’s as much a work of art as the film and equally worth checking out on its own.

The DVD release will feature the 50-minute documentary Re-Enter The New York Ninja which features interviews with both original and new crew members. It’s a bizarre tale of guerrilla filmmaking, studio dismissal, and surprising secrecy which details the importance of preserving media.


Vinegar Syndrome’s mission is an admirable one. Many may see New York Ninja as just another martial arts movie but, due to its complicated history, it is so much more than that. It is a testament to those who salvaged it and to all those who salvage the media of the past. It saved the inspirational 1927 sci-fi classic Metropolis and 79 episodes of the original run of Doctor Who. Saved pieces like this are a love letter to those original artists, credited or not. New York Ninja does not list those who worked on the original production because the restoration team could find no names to list but hopefully, they hear about their rescued project and seek it out. Hopefully, they’re proud of their work and the added work of Vinegar Syndrome because they should be. They’ve helped create a campy, violent work of art.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer
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Unus Annus: A Summary

Contained within are the links to the summaries of the videos of the former Youtube channel – Unus Annus. Created by Mark Fishbach and Ethan Nestor, with assistance from friends, the channel’s aim was to drive home the inevitability of death. They posted a video every single day for 365 days with the intention of deleting everything at the end of the 365th day. Along with the channel, they deleted all social medias but the memories and the merch will live on.

Month 1

Month 2

Month 3

Month 4

Month 5

Month 6

Month 7

Month 8

Month 9

Month 10

Month 11

Month 12

Memento Mori
Featured

Poem: This Will Make Sense When I’m Older

Im young, maybe 8 or 9
There’s this girl and she looks nice.
Why do I care? Boys do too.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’m grown now, I think 13.
I have a girlfriend for now.
She leaves and I hurt inside.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’ve grown again, 15 now.
I’ve got a new girlfriend now.
She leaves. My male friend seems cute.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’ve grown a bit, still 15.
He ends up being a tool.
My heart has broken again.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’m 16. Bisexual.
Don’t feel I can tell my fam.
Told my girlfriend though. She’s nice.
This will make sense when Im older.

One more year and girlfriend gone.
She’s replaced by my “true love.”
Feel this could last forever.
This will make sense when I’m older.

It fell apart. All my fault.
It fell apart. ALL my fault.
It fell apart. ALL MY FAULT.
This will make sense when I’m older.

The next year isn’t so great.
I want to die and try to.
Think I can’t love anymore.
This will make sense when I’m older.

I’m 19 now. I found God.
I finally have feelings.
It’s a lot. This girl seems nice.
This will make sense when I’m older.

Didn’t think it would matter.
A guy dating me? Doubt it.
Turns out i was super wrong.
This will make sense when I’m older.

21. Boyfriend loves me.
He asks me to marry him.
I say yes. People aren’t keen.
This will make sense when I’m older.

23. Living with him.
Being bi isn’t easy.
But life goes ever onward.
This will make sense when I’m older.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Thor: Love and Thunder (Spoilers)

“You’re over 1000 years old and you don’t seem to know who the hell you are”

This is the analysis of Thor made by Starlord in the opening scenes of Love and Thunder. It’s an astonishingly non-self-aware statement because, after 11 years, the MCU doesn’t seem to know who he is either. He is, at the very least, a character re-experiencing the same narrative for multiple films in a row. Thor is unsure what kind of man he is and must embark on a journey of self-discovery either by choice or by force. Being unsure of yourself can be a lifelong experience but Thor seems to revert to stage 1 after every adventure so that he can be easily molded into whatever kind of hero that specific narrative requires. This time, he’s a buffoon whose trauma and emotions are often the butt of the joke.

By contrast, Thor in the previous solo installment Ragnarok was often the one setting jokes up. Actor Chris Hemsworth has excellent comedic timing and it was on full display there but here, he’s more akin to the man we saw in Avengers: Endgame. You remember, he was funny because he was fat(!). Had this film taken him seriously it could have had more to say about toxic masculinity and how stereotypically “feminine” emotions aren’t societally accepted in men. Instead, the audience is invited to laugh at his pain, or at the very least to find the image of a grown man crying amusing. This tone isn’t just directed at Thor, it’s present throughout the entire movie, and this makes it near impossible to care about any of the characters.

One such character is Doctor Jane Foster who returns after being absent from the MCU for 9 years barring a minor Avengers: Endgame cameo. Actress Natalie Portman had previously declined to return to the role due to “creative differences” during the making of Thor: The Dark World (which is one of my favourite Hollywood reasons by the way. Like, was there a screaming match? Were you refusing to pay her as much as Chris? I need specifics). As a result, the announcement of her return was a major deal for fans, with the added excitement of seeing her take up the Mighty Thor mantle. In the comics, she uses the mystical powers of Mijolnir to combat her cancer before it becomes evident that the iconic hammer is hindering her healing as opposed to helping it. Given how serious this subject matter is, fans were unsure if it would make it into Love and Thunder but it did. If done right, this could have provided solid emotional grounding for the plot and characters as well as providing a new Thor for a new age but this isn’t what happened. Her cancer is treated with the same levity as everything else, although it’s never used as a punchline. To cap it off, she dies. Despite a long run in the comics and the popular fan perception that she would be taking over as Thor…she dies. This makes Thor very upset, which seems to be the only role that MCU Jane is destined to play. She makes it to Valhalla so if she happens to get resurrected later (a la the comics) then her death will be even less impactful in retrospect.

On the subject of being non-impactful, Love and Thunder‘s gay representation is abysmal. Director Taika Watiti and actress Tessa Thompson both claimed it would be “queer AF” whilst many reviews heralded it as being for “the she’s, they’s and gay’s” but this isn’t the case. The one canon gay character is the rock-being Korg who holds hands with a male of his species, which is their equivalent of intercourse, however it falls flat because Taika is (as far as we know) straight. This somehow isn’t the first time that a straight director has portrayed a gay character in the MCU either. Why wasn’t this effort being put into Valkyrie, who passes for straight so well that she might as well be locked in the closet? Making seductive eyes at a woman and using the term “girlfriend” isn’t queer representation, it’s every party girl after a couple of drinks. All of this accounts for less than a minute of screentime too, so those foreign markets that Disney loves so much can cut it without losing anything. The “she’s, they’s and gay’s” deserve better and have better (Jennifer’s Body, Heathers and Booksmart to name few).

As mentioned in the Spoiler-Free review, there’s still things to like. The designs of the costumes and sets (like Omnipotence City) are gorgeous, whilst the soundtrack is comprised of some of the greatest Rock and Roll anthems of all time. However, Love and Thunder‘s biggest asset is the drastically underused Gorr. Actor Christian Bale turns in a riveting performance, as he so often does, with this semi-tragic God butcher. He feels betrayed by these all powerful dieties, feeling that they serve only themselves and care not for their subjects, including Gorr’s recently deceased young daughter. He’s still willing to kidnap and threaten the lives of all the children in New Asgard though, which seems a bit odd for a recently bereaved parent. Of course, this is a Marvel film so these children are never actually going to die but Gorr feels like he would murder these children without hesitation if the age rating allowed it. He’s also delightfully manic, giving off what can best be described as Joker Vibes. The Dark Realm, where he resides, is amazing too with its monochrome pallette which is only filled with colour from the light of Mijolnir and Stormbreaker. Tragically, he’s only present for 20 minutes and dies at the end so this is likely the only time we will ever see him.

“Tragic” is an apt description for Love and Thunder as a whole. It has plenty of potential in its foundation with the option for major character progression and grand Galaxy-wide scale but it never goes down these routes. Instead, it spends two hours filling the screen with cringe-worthy humour and a large amount of flat shots which are broken up by action scenes and establishing shots. Had it chosen to commit to all the great aspects hidden within, it might have been a great send-off for Chris Hemsworth…although Hemsworth isn’t leaving. After 11 years playing Thor, which makes him the longest-standing Avenger, he’s sticking around for whatever comes next. Maybe it’s for the best because he deserves a better send-off than this.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Daredevil (Series 1)

When I was a girl, Marvel studios created the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some people may try to convince you that it had a grand plan from its inception but this simply isn’t true. There was certainly a rough outline, with some things more likely to happen than others, but never a concrete plan. This uncertainty is present throughout the ABC Studios series Agents of SHIELD, which eventually diverged from the core MCU timeline into it’s own entity, and in the hit Netflix series’ produced under the Marvel banner.

These shows exists in a bizarre state of limbo, with their canonicity to the larger MCU bordering between non-existent and questionable. It’s present from the very first episode of Daredevil, which was the very first of the lager pantheon of Netflix Marvel shows. Reporter Ben Urich has articles, written by him, framed on his wall about the Hulks rampage in Harlem and the pivotal Battle of New York meaning that the canon of the films do exist here. However the favour isn’t returned as none of the plot points, locations, or characters from the Netflix series’ ever appear in the big screen outings (I know…I discuss it here.) This occurred because current head of the MCU, Kevin Feige, wanted these shows to eventually appear alongside their cinematic counterparts but the people in charge at the time did not, vying for both a television empire and a theatrical one. As a result, Daredevil exists, for lack of a better phrase, as Kevin Fieges headcanon.

The show follows lawyer Matthew Murdoch who, having been blinded by chemicals as a child, uses his heightened senses and martial arts training to fight crime. Simultaneously, he is attempting to keep his newly established law practice afloat as well as friendships with fellow lawyer Foggy Nelson and client-turned-secretary Karen Page. However, as the light rises, so too does darkness to meet it. Across the first 3 episodes, a shadowy figure looms large over the neighbourhood of Hells Kitchen, controlling all the major crime syndicates. This shadow finally reveals itself toward the end of episode 3 as Wilson Fisk, in an introduction that perfectly captures why this series works so well.

Wilsons presence, despite only being off-screen initially, is overbearing. His determination to complete his goal is without question and his willingness to kill whoever stands in his way is more than apparent. Yet, his first on-screen appearance is a gentle one. He stands in an art gallery, musing over a canvas painted in several shades of slightly-off white. When asked by the art curator how it makes him feel he responds by saying that it makes him feel alone. This is a stark contrast to the typical “villain” one might expect. He’s driven by emotion and doesn’t truly yearn for violence…he’s just doing what needs to be done. He’s a grounded character that exists in a moral gray area and this is what this show does so well. There isn’t a single character here who’s presented as purely good or evil, everyone is willing to do something a little sketchy if they aren’t already doing so.

It’s often seen in the friendship between Matt, Foggy and Karen which fractures as the series goes on. It doesn’t happen because they want it to, instead it happens because they each come to harbor a major secret. Even when there is some reconciliation towards the series’ end, it’s clear that the dynamics are forever changed. This isn’t the typical “Act 3 Break-Up”, it has lasting implications. Even their interactions with secondary and tertiary characters change the course of the plot. Aforementioned reporter Ben Urich teams up with Karen as they work to take down Fisk through journalism, with the repercussions being some of the most heartbreaking moments of the show. Meanwhile, Father Paul Lantom’s discussions with Matt provide an interesting look at the moral gray areas which are central to the core of the plot. He also isn’t a holier-than-thou preacher, he’s a down to Earth realist who happens to have devoted himself to God and does what he can to keep Matt on the right path. It’s a really good portrayal of Christianity and preaching God’s word.

Capping it off is the brutal action which is present from the very first episode. With a 16+ rating in the UK (TV-MA in the US), Daredevil makes the most of the violence which is allowed. The prime example is episode 2s famous Hallway Fight which lasts around 5 minutes. It’s shot as a continuous take which makes it feel more grueling and only switches angles when it’s truly necessary to keep that feeling going. By the end of it, Matt is bruised, bloody and tired which is a far cry from the heavy hitters of the MCU like The Hulk or Captain America. Daredevil isn’t a superhero, he’s just a hero who happens to do super things. Then there’s the copious blood, which is more often seem from Fisks victims…particularly an unfortunate Russian who has his head caved in with a car door. It displays yet another core aspect of the show which is how far people are willing to go for their causes. How far do things go before murder is a viable option?

This first season of Daredevil is the blueprint on which the following Netflix Marvel shows were founded. It has a different tone to the theatrical releases, opting to be more grounded and dark, although there are plenty of laughs too. Ultimately, this is why it will be remembered, regardless of whether or not they ever become canon.

Thor: Love and Thunder

Comedy and film journalism are vaguely similar concepts. Responses to both are based on objectivity and are there to entertain, so when it comes to reviews of comedy films it’s probably best to form your own opinion. You can certainly gauge what your reaction might be if you have a reviewer whose opinion you often share but their objectivity is not yours. The following piece is a reflection on how I felt about Love and Thunder (the good and the bad) which some may agree with and others may not. Regardless of that, here’s hoping it still entertains.

Thor: Love and Thunder follows the titular God as he embarks on a mission to stop Gorr the God Butcher from carrying out his murderous plan. He is assisted by old friends Valkyrie and Korg, as well as returning romantic interest Dr. Jane Foster who has gained the powers of Thor. Director Taika Watiti returns, having helmed the previous installment Thor: Ragnarok, but it feels like his best comedy was used there. When the running gag is a couple of screaming goats, it’s not a great sign. Regardless of the fact that it’s a dead meme from over a decade ago, it only works when it has shock value to it, which is lessened over its 5 or so uses.

The dialogue isn’t great either. When it isn’t spouting exposition, which it so often is, it’s one-liners with a snarky undertone. Very few lines in Love and Thunder feel genuine or grounded in these characters that have been around for so long. When it isn’t that, it’s the several voiceovers from Taika as Korg, which feel unnecessary. They seem to be there to set the tone as opposed to carrying the plot forward, but the tone is so in-your-face that a voiceover isn’t required.

There are things here that are likable. The film is visually gorgeous, from the cast to the locations. Every scene is bursting with colour, much like Ragnarok was,, which gives the film a more comic-book feel compared to the Earthier hues of other MCU installments. When the cinematography is allowed to fully display these locations crafted by the talented (and over-worked/underpaid) folks in VFX, it’s utterly gorgeous. Omnipotence City (home of the Gods) is caked in classical, golden architecture akin to Asgard. The shadow Realm (residence of Gorr) is totally devoid of colour but is still interesting with its barren landscape across a miniature planet.

Gorr the God Butcher is Love and Thunder‘s greatest strength. Christian Bale’s performance is occasionally comical but never loses that sinister edge and is best demonstrated when talking with the Asgardian children he’s kidnapped. None of these children are going to die because this is an MCU flick but there’s never any doubt that Gorr would take them all out. Unfortunately, he isn’t present for the majority of the film’s runtime, which brings us to the largest of the issues. Thor: Love and Thunder wastes its characters.

A big deal was made about the return of Natalie Portman as Dr. Jane Foster but her presence here seems to primarily be furthering Thors arc. His arc, as per usual, is about discovering what kind of person he is but the plot refuses to take his arc or character seriously. His fragility is often the butt of the joke and his trauma is dismissed with similar hilarity. Meanwhile, Valkyrie (who still isn’t gay enough) is here to primarily chaperone Jane, whilst Korg (who is somehow gayer) is here to spout one-liners and exposition. Then there are the Guardians of the Galaxy who feel like a hold-over from Avengers: Endgame that need to be gotten rid of before the real plot can progress. Nebula is still great though. Her lines are some of the film’s best.

Ultimately, Thor: Love and Thunder is damaged most by its lack of seriousness. If the film doesn’t care about the lore, characters, or stakes, then why should the audience? It’s one of the weakest entries in the MCU and no amount of classic rock songs on the soundtrack can hide that.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Stranger Things 4: Part 2 (Spoilers)

Nowadays, it’s become the public consensus that no TV show has a good finale. People will often point to the likes of Lost, Smallville, and Supernatural but when finales are seen like this it detracts attention away from the ones who get it right. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Breaking Bad and Friends are just a few examples of endings that are as good as it gets. Stranger Things 4: Part 2 comes very close to being in the latter camp, especially considering it’s just under 4 hours long. Any other finale may meander during this time, taking time away from the primary plot and inserting it elsewhere into background characters, but that’s not the case here. There are secondary characters and tertiary characters but they’ve never been in the background. New favourites like Eddie, Yuri, and Argyle get a large amount of focus, as does the returning season 3 favourite Murray, but they’re as important to the story as the main cast. There isn’t a wasted character here and they are all incredibly likable. Even the villains are characters that are fun to hate.

There’s a lot of tension too, which is a difficult task to accomplish over a long period of time. Technically, episode 8 would be the penultimate one with episode 9 serving as the actual finale but it doesn’t feel constructed that way. Both episodes are considerably longer than the ordinary length, with episode 8 coming in at 1 hour 25 minutes and episode 2 clocking in and a full 2 and a half hours. They were also released on the same day, with the first 7 episodes having been released 5 weeks earlier so it feels like the intention is to treat “part 2” as a separate, conclusive, entity. A lot of it is in the characters. The acting in season 1 was good but the majority of the cast were children and they’ve matured into adult actors now. Millie Bobby Brown will likely receive the majority of praise but she deserves it with her emotional, often scary role as Eleven. The rest of the cast are stellar too, selling the stakes and their love for each other perfectly.

It’s a brilliant finale to look at and listen to. Time is split fairly equally between the real world and the Upside Down, which is as dark and dusty as it’s ever been. It’s never too dark that the action is unwatchable and it’s gorgeous when the red lightning is covering everything. There’s a reason that this specific dimension has become so visually iconic, after all. The soundtrack deserves an equal amount of praise. The original score, composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, really embodies the often foreboding and occasionally emotional tone. Meanwhile, the songs chosen for the “soundtrack” portion of the finale fit wonderfully. There’s the obvious example of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, which has re-entered the charts after 37 years and become THE song of the series. It would have been nice to perhaps see one of her lesser appreciated hits like Babushka but there are plenty of other songs to obsess over. Musical Youth’s Pass The Dutchie is a delight and there’s a spectacular needle drop for Metallica’s Master of Puppets.

The only issue with the finale is that it isn’t the conclusion of the entire show. It feels like it should have been, considering the amount of hype surrounding its release and finality of the majority of the story. However (and HERE are the spoilers) it feels like the writers didn’t put in the climactic battle between the team and Vecna. With half an hour to go, Max’s life on the line, and a rift opening in the centre of town, Vecna is successfully injured before the plot cuts to 2 days later. I presume that Max has been kept alive (and very broken) to be used as a vessel by Vecna in series 5 but if this isn’t eventually the case, it undermines her attempted sacrifice. Instead, they opt to kill off Eddie Munson which feels unnecessary. Sometimes people don’t need to die to complete their arc and introducing a brand new character to kill off in the space of a series is played out. Marvel has already done it this week so surely the quota has been met.

If the decision to not have the climactic battle was down to production time, it’s still a little infuriating but it’s understandable. You can only do so much with the time that’s allotted to you. But if it was a conscious decision to prolong the run span of the show, it stings a little bit, especially when there’s still no information as to what form the final series will take. It seems like the story could be wrapped up in another 4 hours and perhaps that is what will happen but it’s likely a couple of years away. Of course, the entire point of having a cliffhanger like this is to bring the audience back the following series but runtime is becoming a real concern. There was a noticeably split reaction to Series 4s runtime, to the extent that some people were unsure if they would tune in and this isn’t just a Stranger Things issue (the MCU is facing a similar problem).

This didn’t stop it from amassing 7.2 billion minutes of viewing time for the week of May 30 – June 5 though, which is the most of any streaming series since the advent of weekly streaming rankings.

Ultimately, it’s a mostly solid end to a solid series. Hopefully, series 5 is as good…when it finally arrives.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Lightyear

Science fiction is an amazing genre. You can be anyone, anywhere at any time doing anything, with the only actual limit being your imagination. The realm of animation is the same and perhaps nobody knows that better than PIXAR Animation Studios. Their first feature film – 1995s Toy Story – is a landmark of cinema and they continued to push the boundaries of possibility with films like 2002s Monsters Inc and 2003s Finding Nemo. Today, Toy Story remains one of their most profitable IPs with 3 sequels and numerous shorts but clearly, they’re not done yet. Their most recent release is the first one to hit cinema since 2020s Onward, thanks to the COVID Pandemic, and it’s a wonderful return.

Lightyear sees Space Range Buzz Lightyear marooned on a distant planet with entire spaceships worth of people, determined to get them home. To do so he must perfect the formula for a hyperspace crystal and battle an armada of robots led by the mysterious Zurg with the assistance of several not-quite-rookies. The trailers may imply that this is an action blockbuster akin to the later Star Wars films but it has more in common with the 1977 original. There’s action, but it’s more focused on the main character and his journey, both across the barren landscape and emotionally. Chris Evans slides seamlessly into the role made famous by Tim Allen without ever feeling like a stand-in or replacement. The other characters can be fun too, especially the Hawthornes and Sox but Mo and Darby can often feel a little one-note.

The film is filled to the brim with references and homage. It may not be to everyone’s taste, especially if you dislike things feeling too meta, but others are sure to get a kick out of it. For sci-fi fans, there are plenty of recognisable callbacks to some of the finest films ever produced in the genre. There are elements of  2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Alien that aren’t difficult to find with Lost in space being especially prevalent. There are plenty of nods for Toy Story fans too. A large amount of the dialogue is lifted directly from Buzz’s lines in the first two Toy Story installments without ever feeling forced or out of place. Even a few of the camera shots are direct parallels from previous movies, particularly the iconic scene of Buzz landing on Andy’s bed.

Tying it all together is the majestic score from Michael Giacchino who is one of the finest composers currently working in the industry. This marks his 8th collaboration with PIXAR and he continues to bring something new to everything he writes. The Incredibles was perfectly heroic. Ratatouille was suitably quaint and Lightyear aptly provides the space-traveler feel. It helps this to feel like the kind of movie that would inspire a TV show like Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.

A TV show that actually happened, aired on the Disney Channel, and never got a proper release after the fact. It deserves to be released DISNEY.

As previously mentioned, it won’t be for everyone. Some may find it slightly derivative of other sci-fi stories or may find that it doesn’t hit as hard emotionally as other PIXAR productions but it never feels like it set out to do these things. It exists to tell an entertaining story with some amazing visuals and it does that. As “kids’ first sci-fi” it’s brilliant, introducing a wide variety of concepts and explaining them simply. It feels like a love letter to the genre and the realm of animation.

It doesn’t go to infinity or beyond but it’s still worth travelling to see.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer