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TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E4 “Chapter 12: The Siege”

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E4 "CHAPTER 12: THE SIEGE"

Mando checks in with some old friends, The Child heads to (pre) school, there’s a couple twists on some old Star Wars set pieces, and honestly, everyone ends up in worse trouble in The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 4 ” Chapter 12: The Siege“, written by Jon Favreau and directed by Carl Weathers. With its planet/adventure of the week plot structure, The Mandalorian doesn’t have an ensemble cast, but it does have a couple of interesting recurring guest actors. Weathers and Favreau use them nicely in this episode and also provide more commentary on the post-fall of the Empire universe as the New Republic struggles to connect with the Outer Rim (Even though its greatest hero is from there!) and the remnants of the Empire engage in a very Star Wars form of eugenics to try to get back in power.

In this episode, Mando goes to the planet Navaro (Where the pilot and a bit of the previous season took place.) to finally get the Razor Crest repaired and travel to Corvus to meet the last scion of the Jedi, Ahsoka Tano. These days, Navaro is pretty law abiding thanks to Marshal Cara Dune (Notable transphobe, anti-masker and general conspiracy theorist Gina Carano) and Magistrate Greef Karga (Weathers). There’s a school, commerce, and Karga has even employed former Mando bounty, Mythrol (Horatio Sanz) as his accountant to work of his debts. (Think Suicide Squad, but number crunching.) However, on the other side of the planet, there’s an Imperial base with a lot of heavy weaponry, and while Mando is waiting for his ship to be fixed, Dune and Karga rope him into blowing its reactor and bringing peace to the planet with Mythrol acting as hacker, lockpick, and getaway driver.

Mythrol’s getaway driver status is short lived when the team discovers that the base isn’t your run of a mill, but a lab where Imperial scientists are running very unethical tests and experiments on subjects using The Child’s blood. However, they’ve run out and need to recapture him again so this episode becomes a lot more complicated than blowing up a base over a lava pit and going home. As soon as Mando hears The Child is in danger, he jets off to protect him while Dune, Karga, and Mythrol end up in a speeder chase in the Star Wars equivalent of a Ford F-150. You can feel Weathers and cinematographer Matthew Jensen‘s glee in this sequence, which goes full Grand Theft Auto and escalates to TIE fighters and wraps up in a very A New Hope way.

My favorite part of “The Siege” was the adrenaline-filled third act where Imperial scout troopers actually behaved cleverly for once and may have actually gotten the upper hand if they weren’t so fanatical. (See last episode’s cyanide pill popping.) However, Carl Weathers and Jon Favreau spend the first bit of the episode showing the change and growth that Mando, Dune, Karga, and even Mythrol have gone through since last season. Dune has gone from a mercenary and prize fighter to a sheriff, who can keep the peace with her blaster and physical combat skills while Karga is back to his old respected government job ways instead of running numbers and bounties. However, he’s got a little bit of edge as evidenced by making Mythrol take all the big risks during the Imperial Base caper. Mythrol is still cowardly and wants to make an extra buck, but his new job keeps him in line. Dune and Karga’s goals have gone from trying to make a buck and forget about their more traditionally noble or heroic pasts to helping others and creating a safe “green zone” on where folks can live a life free from New Republic policing and bureaucracy and Imperial fascism.

And Mando has changed the most. He’s gone from treating the Child like a bundle, nuisance, or McGuffin to straight up treating him like a son. For example, in the beginning of “The Siege”, Mando tries to walk The Child through fixing something on Razor Crest because the little cutie can fit in tight spaces. However, this is a little advanced for him, and honestly, Mando should have just let him do the sci-fi western equivalent of holding the flashlight. Weathers and Favreau even riff on the dread “first day of school” when Karga tells Mando to drop him off at the classroom while they go on their mission. Weathers inserts a lingering shot of him looking away as The Child immediately gets into mischief and uses The Force to steal a classmate’s snack. Mando’s motivation is keeping The Child safe, happy, and hopefully one day, reconnected with others like him. This is a hell of a thing to build a TV show around and demonstrates why so many folks have emotionally connected with The Mandalorian.

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E4 "CHAPTER 12: THE SIEGE"

The Mandalorian Season 2 continues to be in conversation with previous iterations of Star Wars, and after last week’s detour to Clone Wars and Rebels, we’re back to the original trilogy. Carl Weathers and Jon Favreau go full fanboy (But not in a toxic way.) and insert in all kinds of goodies like the aforementioned speeder bike chase, blowing up a reactor a la Endor, the classic gunner heads up display used in Vader’s TIE fighter and the Millennium Falcon, and in a touching moment even though Carano doesn’t quite sell the emotion, Alderaan. The inclusion of these elements create a nostalgic reaction in viewers that helps some of the themes that Favreau is exploring go down easier like the Rebels transformation into New Republic beat cops. I mean, we go from Han Solo and Wedge Antilles to some protocol spouting guy in an orange jacket using the death of all of Dune’s friends and relatives on Alderaan to recruit to “join the force”. I find the politics and tension of this era of Star Wars history really fascinating, especially when Favreau gives us this boots on the ground view although the information about Mandalorians is interesting too and places Mando in a larger context beyond “lone badass with a soft spot for a cute, occasionally bratty kid.”

“Chapter 12: The Siege” has a tense chase scene, a pleasant performance from Carl Weathers as Greef Karga and continues to show the bond between Mando and The Child in a sweet, occasionally funny way as it’s interesting to see Pedro Pascal change his body language and movements from sharing some soup with him to gunning down stormtroopers and pulling off crazy maneuvers in good-as-new Razor Crest. However, Jon Favreau undercuts this fancy flying and uses the last moments of the episode to have Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon raise this season’s stakes with a slight eyebrow movement. He’s a great villain, Mando knows he’s alive now, and I can’t wait for their rematch down the road.

Overall Verdict: 8.4

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E3 “Chapter 11: The Heiress”

 THE MANDALORIAN S2E3 "CHAPTER 11: THE HEIRESS"

Like the previous installment of The Mandalorian, “Chapter 11: The Heiress” features The Child being gluttonous, yet adorable and eating every weird alien tentacle thing in sight. However, it also further the quest for the Jedi plotline while placing Mando and The Child’s journey in the context of a much bigger world as they finally encounter some Mandalorians, but they’re not the most, shall we say, sympathetic to his quest and have designs on ruling Mandalore. Step one in their plan involves lots of piracy and stealing imperial weapons.

Bryce Dallas Howard immediately flexes her directorial chops with a gorgeous shot of Mando, Frog Lady, and The Child’s ship sputtering towards the water planet of Trask. (If you like Mon Calamari, this is the episode for you.) Everything that could go wrong goes wrong as the ship ends up covered in kelp and badly in need of repairs so it’s out of commission for the whole episode. But hope can be found even in the most bleak situations, and Howard and writer Jon Favreau give us some payoff for Frog Lady as she reunites with Frog Man and their kids while Ludwig Goransson channels his inner John Williams for a sweet, stirring score. The relationship that Mando formed with them in the previous episode ends up being important as they babysit The Child while he goes on the dangerous mission part of the story and also teach him that frogs are friends, not food.

For the rest of the episode, there aren’t really as many tender human moments except for Mando jumping into the belly of a mamacore when he gets double-crossed by some Quarren (Aka the squid looking guys) fishermen, who want his beskar armor, and have no intentions of leading him to other Mandalorians. But he ends up being found by three Mandalorians: Bo-Katan (A charismatic Katee Sackhoff), Koska Reeves (Sasha Banks), and Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides). They take out Mando’s captors with precision and ease and rescue the child too. Howard captures their dynamic, fluid sense of movement compared to their opponents, and then shows they’re a little different when they remove their helmets, which is something completely against Mando’s belief system.

Speaking of belief system, the helmet removing and initial conversation between Bo-Katan and Mando sets up “The Heiress'” main theme, which is religious fanaticism. Apparently, Bo-Katan and her crew see Mando as a “zealot” and his views and mission to reunite The Child with the Jedi as restrictive. There’s a coldness between them even though Mando does agree to have a drink with them, mostly, because they’re his only lead as he isn’t super impressed by Bo-Katan’s aspiration to re-take Mandalore. He does show a grudging respect for her when she talks about being present at The Great Purge and having an armor passed down from generations. He is cool with helping them get weapons off an imperial freighter in exchange for information about the Jedi.

Except Bo-Katan doesn’t want to just steal weapons, she wants to steal the whole damn ship. Bryce Dallas Howard and Jon Favreau create some interesting parallels between her group of Mandalorians and the freighter’s crew led by the Imperial Captain (A stone-faced, yet really fun Titus Welliver). First of all, there’s this obsession with a return to a supposed Golden Age, which is the Galactic Empire for the Imperials and Mandalore for Bo-Katan. The Captain and his crew sign off with “Long live the Empire” when Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) refuses to send them reinforcements and would rather die than give the ship up to the Mandalorians.

Their sense of self-preservation has been overridden by their fanaticism. This extends to Bo-Katan and her crew, but they are much better fighters with Bo-Katan getting a thrilling sequence where she basically stabs a bunch of stormtroopers in close quarters combat. They have a single-minded cause and the skill to back it up, not unlike Gideon with his Darksaber at the end of last season.

Howard gets some bits of dark comedy from the reaction of basically the Imperial middle management to the report that the Mandalorians are onboard. She lingers on them sweating bullets as they realize that stormtroopers who “couldn’t hit the broad side of a Bantha” are the only thing standing between them and the Galaxy’s most ferocious warriors. The Stormtroopers do have fancy repeating blasters that even the odds for a little bit, but they’re no match for Mando, who is willing to put his body and Beskar on the line for a group of people he was duped by and strongly disagrees with.

The Mandalorian' Season 2, Episode 3 Review: 'The Heiress' Brings Back A  Fan Favorite

However, his real motivation comes into focus at the end of the episode where he warmly looks at The Child playing with Frog Man, Frog Lady, and their new baby and has an actual destination even if his ship is still on its last legs and crawling with some weird critters. (Hey, more food for The Child.) Jon Favreau never loses sight of heart of The Mandalorian, which is the bond between The Child and Mando, and they use the connection to the bigger Star Wars lore (Clone Wars and Rebels in this instance.) to add richness and stakes to their journey and explore themes like extremism and tradition with the help of cool armor and jet packs.

Finally, I have to give kudos to Favreau for being able to succinctly introduce Bo-Katan, her motivation, and the additions to the Mandalorian lore in a way that’s easy to follow for viewers who didn’t see those episodes of Clone Wars and Rebels while keeping the episode moving and not getting bogged down in exposition. I mean, that unyielding eye contact from Katee Sackhoff works all by itself.

“The Heiress” is a welcome return to form for The Mandalorian with versatile direction from Bryce Dallas Howard, who ably handles the big wide shots of planets as well as the intimate violence of hand-to-hand combat and a magnetic and storyline deepening guest performance from Katee Sackhoff as Bo-Katan. This episode is just a good time with plenty of action, adorable moments with Mando and The Child, and reminders of the complex world outside their quest.

Overall Verdict: 8.5

TV Review: The Mandalorian S2E1 “Chapter 9: The Marshal”

The Mandalorian S2E1

This review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian Season 2, Episode 1 “Chapter 9: The Marshal”

It’s becoming an old adage that television in the 2010s (And now, the 2020s, I guess) has abandoned the art of the single episode and instead wants to be a 10-hour movie. (Or 13 in the case of the Marvel Netflix shows.) However, The Mandalorian bucked that trend and became a kind of Have – Gun Will Travel meets Lone Wolf and Cub wrapped up in a shiny cinematic package with talented guest stars, directors that some would consider to be auteurs, and of course, having a connection to the immersive world of Star Wars without the ol’ Skywalker. Each episode is a Western mini-movie with just enough serialization to get audiences to tune in next week. Or keep subscribing to the streaming service. And “The Marshal” is no exception.

Before getting into the episode’s main plot, writer/director/show creator Jon Favreau crafts a bit of a cold open to remind viewers that Mando (Pedro Pascal) is a laconic badass, a man of honor especially where his beskar armor is concerned, and desperately cares for The Child aka Baby Yoda. (Even though he takes him to some not very child-friendly places, a Gamorrean deathmatch isn’t Chuck E. Cheese.) The sequence also establishes Season 2’s overarching plot, which is that Mando is looking for The Child’s people, and to find them, he needs to find more of his people, the Mandalorians. This is why he’s at the aforementioned deathmatch even though Mando isn’t a gambling man.

However, his contact, the Cyclopean alien Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo) sees more value in his armor than in his paltry excuse for a fighter, and we get to see some of Mando’s new toys he picked up last season in action. Pedro Pascal brings great physicality to this sequence, and Emmy Award winning cinematographer Greig Fraser shoots the fight like a boxing match while adding some levity when The Child slowly closes his cradle when he realizes his daddy is going to cause some carnage. Ludwig Goransson’s score really helps the opening scene build starting with percussion, then guitars, and finally into the show’s iconic theme music as Koresh gets his comeuppance courtesy of some critters hinted at in an earlier dark and gritty tracking shot, and Mando is off to good ol’ Tattooine to find another Mandalorian.

After an adrenaline-filled, almost neo-noir opening sequence, Favreau is back in Western mode as Mando and The Child visit the nearly abandoned Tatooine mining town of Mos Pelgo, which Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) treats as the neglected sibling of the more famous Mos Eisley and Mos Espa in an adorable guest scene. Sedaris brings a dose of comic relief and acts as Favreau’s commentary on rabid fandom surrounding The Child as she offers to buy him or his future offspring. She’s a bit of sunshine before they arrive in the bleak ghost town of Mos Pelgo, and Favreau introduces a fairly basic theme of working together despite one’s differences as a gun slinger duel between Mando and Marshal Cobb Vanth (An incredibly well-cast Timothy Olyphant) over his Jawa-bought Mandalorian armor turns into a Jaws with sand as a Krayt dragon (Whose call Obi Wan used to scare off the Tusken Raiders in A New Hope) slithers through town. This sets up the main plot of this episode of The Mandalorian, which is that Mando, Cobb, the townspeople of Mos Pelgo, and the local Tusken Raiders must join forces to kill the Krayt dragon once and for all.

The Mandalorian S2E1

Also, there’s a kicker about Cobb’s armor: it belonged to Boba Fett. He’s not a Mandalorian and obviously knows nothing about The Way as he immediately takes off his helmet upon meeting Mando as Olyphant exudes casual contempt. Jon Favreau’s script and direction of “The Marshal” is richly intertextual without being mere fanservice. He uses familiar touchstones to play with audience’s preconceptions, and where George Lucas saw stereotypes or archetypes, he does something a little more nuanced. In a flashback scene, Favreau shows that the destruction of the Second Death Star didn’t have a positive effect on every planet in the galaxy and led to the Mining Collective taking over Mos Pelgo until Marshal Cobb uses some random crystals that he finds to purchase Fett’s armor and shoot and guided homing missile his way back to a semblance of law and order. The scene of Cobb breathlessly crawling through the desert makes him a sympathetic figure that transcends his initial “gunslinger of the week” trappings, which would frankly be a waste of Olyphant’s talents.

Even better is Jon Favreau’s reclamation of the Tusken Raiders, who had been relegated to something to avoid or even slaughter in Lucas’ films. (Notice how Anakin’s actions towards them in Attack of the Clones were justified until he killed women and children.) He uses them as a (Let’s be honest: a bit on the nose) sci-fi metaphor for indigenous people in “The Marshal” with Cobb refusing to drink their “smelly” water in a scene where Mando is trying to set up an alliance and use their knowledge of the Krayt dragon to take it down. Olyphant does a good job playing the uncomfortable colonizer as Mando effortlessly communicates via low tones, hand signals, and the occasional loud utterance while Cobb and later the townspeople feel awkward and even react in anger when a Tusken raider fumbles an explosive charge. The agreement that Mos Pelgo and the Tuskens make also acts as a commentary on Western countries’ preemptive strikes as in exchange for the Krayt dragon’s blood and carcass, the Tuskens won’t attack Mos Pelgo unless they are attacked first. This has happened in the past as evidenced by a one-liner about Cobb not drinking their water even though he and his miners had stolen it in previously.

Along with using Star Wars lore to make sociopolitical commentary, “The Marshal” is also a damn fun monster movie. Favreau parcels out just enough exposition to make Mando, the Tuskens, and Cobb’s plan easy to follow and then shoots it all to hell to keep things interesting. He goes the Steven Spielberg route and saves the big money shot of the monster for the end of the episode using the effects of its actions like the sand shifting and windmills aggressively blowing as well as stories of its exploits (It ate the Sarlacc and is living in its lair!) to build tension. And it lives up to the hype with some wonderful creature design that matches its sandstorm introduction. Also, Mando and Cobb get to fly around on jetpacks to fight it, which is damn cool, and there’s another Boba Fett related Easter Egg that is integral to how they best the creature.

The Mandalorian S2E1

The way that Mando takes down the Krayt dragon also adds to his character as he’s willing to improvise and come up with non-orthodox solutions in stressful situations and is willing to take chances and sacrifice himself for those around him. Even though its the first episode of a season in a show named after him, Pedro Pascal really sells the fact that he might die and makes sure that The Child is well taken care of before he literally goes into the belly of the beast. Although, he doesn’t play an active role in the plot, The Child continues to humanize and soften Mando even in the most high-stress situations.

Some heavy-handedness aside, “The Marshal” is a fun and smart return for The Mandalorian as Jon Favreau and company use the world and mythos of Star Wars to tell a genre-bending story that comments on the role of indigenous people in both science fiction and Western stories. It’s also a hell of a shoot ’em up with cinematic action and a memorable, nuanced guest performance from Timothy Olyphant, who parts as friends with Mando, and I hope makes a return to a series as a gun-slinging lawman that learns to be a little less species-ist. And the final scene is truly a jaw dropper…

Overall Verdict: 8.6

Spider-Man: Far From Home Gets Its First Post Endgame Trailer. Spoilers Within!

Spoilers within the video!

The new trailer for Spider-Man: Far from Home is here and not only are there some spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, there’s an interesting reveal within!

Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter’s plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!

Spider-Man: Far From Home is out July 2nd.

Disney+ Launching November 12 for $6.99 a month or $69.99 per year

Disney+

The anticipation for Disney+, Disney‘s digital streaming service, has been growing. Rumors have been running rampant about shows that we might see, how much it will cost, and when will it launch. Now, we know the details as Disney has pulled back the curtain showing us what we can expect.

Disney+ launches November 12 costing $6.99 per month or an annual price of $69.99. It will include brand new original series exclusive to the ad-free subscription service. Here’s what they’ve announced.

The Technical

The service will allow downloading of content so it can be accessed offline. There will be individual profiles and that includes custom avatars.

It will launch over each major region of the world over a two year time frame due to expiring contracts in specific territories. The United States will be up first.

In the presentation, images of televisions, computers, Apple TV, Playstation, X-BOX, and the Switch were all shown indicating the service will be available to watch on those and more.

Disney and Pixar

The entire Signature Collection will be available on launch. Rumors had indicated Disney’s complete movie library would be available. All Pixar films will be available in the first year of launch. All Pixar theatrical shorts will be available at launch.

One of the original series to debut in the first year is Unknown: Making Frozen 2 which is a documentary series exploring the behind the scenes creation of the animated film.

The new Toy Story character Forky will get a series of Pixar shorts with Forky Asks a Question. Toy Story’s Bo Peep will also get a short entitled Lamp Life.

5,000 episodes of Disney Channel contet and 100 original movies will be available to stream on lucnh.

On top of that, more than 7,500 episodes and 500 films will come to the library.

Marvel

Captain Marvel will be available on the service on the first day. Disney announced two original series. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany will star as Wanda Maximoff and The Vision in the series WandaVision. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan will team up in The Falcon and Winter Soldier. Tom Hiddleston will play Loki in a series of the same name.

According to other reports, only four Marvel films will come to the service within the launch window.

Star Wars

All Star Wars films will be available on the platform within the first year of its launch. Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk will join forces for a series based on Cassian Andor. The Mandolorian, Jon Favreau‘s live-action series will premiere on launch.

More Originals

Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader will star in Noelle. Director Tom McCarthy will have an original film, Timmy Failure that will release in the first year. An adaptation of the best selling book Star Girl will come to the platform. William DaFoe will star in the original film Togo about a man’s real-life story about his and his sled dog’s journey through the Alaskan tundra. That will be out in the first year. A live-action Lady and the Tramp will come to the service.

The Phineas and Ferb Movie, a new animated adventure will come to the service.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is coming to the service.

And More!

More than 250 hours from National Geographic will come to the service and that includes the film Free Solo. The World According to Jeff Goldblum, from National Geographic, will premiere on the channel.

The Simpsons!

Disney+ will be the exclusive home for streaming The Simpsons starting at launch. That’s all 30 seasons on the first day of launch.

Upper Deck’s Iron Man 3 Cards

Box ImageThe first major blockbuster of the summer is upon us with Marvel’s Iron Man 3 opening on May 3.  Fans can start preparing for the much anticipated release by collecting cards and stickers from Iron Man 3 starting this week! The 60-card base set chronicles the exciting events of Tony Stark after the events in last summer’s blockbuster film Marvel’s The Avengers’.

Upper Deck continues its product line with Marvel Entertainment, to produce new Marvel movie and character-based trading cards and games. This release will be chock full of all the elements that fans have come to love from Upper Deck movie products including actor autographs, movie-worn memorabilia cards, 1-of-1 artist sketch cards and printing plates, and for the first time, stickers!

The Iron Man 3 trading card set features exclusive images from Iron Man 3. Featured in the set are autographed insert cards from some of the film’s compelling stars including Rebecca Hall (Maya Hansen) and Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan). In addition to autographs, swatches of movie-worn and production costumes from Iron Man 3 will be utilized on rare memorabilia cards, which will fall at a rate of two per hobby box. Premium 1-of-1 “Artist Sketch” cards have also been inserted at random, and showcase original moments inspired by the Iron Man movie and comic book franchises.

Some other highly anticipated elements of the set include the Hall-of-Armor series that showcases the many suits of Iron Man from the movies. Also look for 1-of-1 printing plate cards of the 60 card base set and insert sets. Hard-core Iron Man fans will definitely want to collect the foil parallel set!  Retail fat packs include exclusive stickers containing images and logos from the movie. Collectors can find two stickers from the full 50 sticker set per pack.

Upper Deck’s Iron Man 3 Trading Cards boasts seven cards per pack, 24 packs per box, and are just arriving on store shelves!

2013-Upper-Deck-Marvel-Iron-Man-3-Cards-Base-Hall-of-Armor

Check out more cards below!

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It’s a pretty quiet weekend with most people focused on the aftermath of the Japanese earthquakes.  For the geek end of things this weekend also saw both SXSW and PAX East going on.  For fans of both, what is one supposed to do!?  I decided to couch surf all weekend instead.  But that begs a bigger question.  Who would win in a fight, SXSW Hipsters or PAX East Video Game Geeks?

Around the Tubes:

Comic Book Resources – Emerald City Part 1: A Week in Pre-Show Hell – An interesting article of one person’s lead up to Emerald City Comicon.

Bleeding Cool – Hot Comics – The One Hundred Dollar Club (March 2011) – Bleeding Cool continues to check out the collecting side of the comic book industry with these comics that are all in the $100 to $200 range.

The Beat – C2E2011: Transportation – We’re probably not going to C2E2 but The Beat has the breakdown of the transportation for the convention.

The Beat – C2E2011: McCormick Place – A breakdown of the floor, which is very helpful.

Around the Tubes Reviews:

The Times Herald – An Elegy for Amelia Johnson

Comic Book Resources – Off Road

Fangoria – Vampire Cheerleaders/Paranormal Mystery Squad Vol. 1

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