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Review: WandaVision S1E9 The Series Finale

WandaVision S1E9 The Series Finale

*Warning: Minor spoilers for WandaVision S1E9 The Series Finale*

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has often had trouble sticking the landing. The first two acts might be great but the third and final falls into a punching extravaganza that focuses on special fx delivering spectacle. For much of its run, WandaVision has focused on the characters delivering an intriguing look at trauma and an attempt to deal with it. “The Series Finale” wraps things up delivering some emotion but is bloated by the expected spectacle.

The episode brings things together with Wanda and Agatha facing off in a battle of magic while the military does its best to take Wanda down with their own Vision.

About two-thirds of the show is that literal battle. Two witches squaring off and two Visions squaring off. There are some great visuals but overall it feels like something we’ve seen before. There’s nothing particularly memorable visually (like Ant-Man‘s shrunken fight) or different (like Doctor Strange‘s repeat and irritate). Instead, we get hand waving and magical energy flung around with lasers and punching thrown in. For a show that has done something so different for eight episodes, the landing is for the most part not spectacular for the majority of it.

What WandaVision has done great is focus on its story. That’s clear in the finale as it wraps things up. So many theories, expectations, clickbait rumors plagued the show’s run but in the end, the show kept its focus. It didn’t go for a real big bad. Its conflict was within one individual. Anything else would be an insult to those who experience trauma. It also knew there were expectations and played with them and that becomes evident in this episode when the truth of Pietro is revealed. There’s a meta wink and nod to it all, a tease by creators that I’m sure will continue for some time. It’s a reminder that the writers and creators behind the scenes are in charge, not fandom and speculation and the creators have no problems playing with that.

Though much of “The Series Finale” delivers yet another battle, the last quarter of the episode delivers heart. It’s an emotional ending that’s hard to not appreciate. That last fifteen minutes or so nails it perfectly as the episode forgoes the spectacle and gets back to its traumatic, emotional, roots. In many ways, it delivers the anti-Avengers: Endgame. It rolls back what was snapped into existence. The fabrication crumbles. And Wanda is left with facing her reality. And it’s clear she’ll be facing a negative reaction. Though she sacrificed a lot, the town is rightfully and understandably angry with her. They were impacted by the manifestation of her emotional trauma. It places Wanda’s future, and those of the other MCU heroes, in an interesting and complicated spot. The show continues the recent years’ exploration that being a hero is complicated and not all of it good.

While “The Series Finale” is a bit mixed, it closes this chapter and sets up a lot to come. It presents the reality that for those that enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’ll need to experience the television shows as well as the films to get the whole picture. The series will have a lasting impact on the MCU, just not in a way the clickbait lead you to believe it would.

Overall Rating: 7.0

Review: WandaVision S1E6 All-New Halloween Spooktacular!

WandaVision S1E6 All-New Halloween Spooktacular!

WandaVision S1E6 All-New Halloween Spooktacular! picks things up after the last episode’s surprise appearance of Pietro, Wanda’s brother. The big surprise being that this Pietro is the one from the Fox “X-Men Universe”, not the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The series is now fully in the 1990s with a Halloween episode.

The episode is the usual goofy plot you’d expect from this sort of episode at the time with Pietro using his speed powers to cause chaos and Tommy and Billy talking directly to the camera.

But, the episode is about the small moments and the attempt for Wanda to recognize her trauma. She and Pietro discuss their time in Sakovia and their hardship. There are also some digs in the fact that this isn’t the MCU Pietro, “something is different”. That also leads to a great joke about Evan Peters and Aaron Taylor-Johnson both appearing in the comic-based film Kick-Ass. There’s also a comment about Monica Rambeau’s changes going in and out of the “hex” and changes happening to her, hinting at her future.

It’s the breaking of Wanda’s control that’s the real interesting aspect of the show. Pietro is aware of what’s going on and Wanda is “writing” the show. Vision spends his time examining what’s going on and trying to figure out what to do next. We also get to see the extent of Wanda’s powers as things begin to fall apart a bit and glitches in individuals within the town become clearer. Billy and Tommy also break barriers not just by displaying powers but also being aware of Vision’s predicament. It’s all adding up to show that while Wanda controls a lot, it’s clear her grip is slipping and she doesn’t have control over everything.

This is an episode that delivers a lot of “what’s to come”. Wanda shows off the extent of her powers even further and we get to see some more resistance to her control in multiple ways. It sets up characters for their roles much further down the road. It teases a lot of things that might come. It also delivers a lot of winks and nods to things in the past. “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” is a “bridge” in what’s to come not just for the series but the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole and continues to set up Wanda as a major player on multiple levels.

Overall Rating: 8.0

Review: WandaVision S1E5 On a Very Special Episode…

WandaVision S1E5 On a Very Special Episode

WandaVision S1E5 On a Very Special Episode is a difficult episode to review. The impact, not just on the series but on the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, is huge. After the last episode’s focus outside the bubble, we’re back to the world that Wanda has created. In the sitcom world, the episode is now in the 80s. It delivers the cold opening of shows of the time, fashion, and.. the cheesy aspect as well.

Not too long into the show, we learn that Wanda isn’t the only one aware of the situation she’s created. The walls she’s created are starting to crumble with more individuals “waking up” as to what’s happening. The “very special episode” is one in multiple ways. There’s a plotline about the twins getting a dog and then losing it. But more important is the relationship between Wanda and Vision and Wanda and pretty much everyone else. The “comedy” becomes more of a drama… really a horror story.

“On a Very Special Episode” begins to split the show between inside and outside the bubble. While we got glimpses of the “real world” in the first three episodes and the fourth was mainly in it, this one bounces between the two. It’s a blend between a more traditional Marvel show/film and the original format of the initial episodes. By doing so, we get a better sense of what is going on, what lead up to it, and the greater implications. Wanda is no longer the center of a comedy, she’s the center of a horror story.

This is the episode where the wall begins to break. Gone are the glitches. In their place are individuals who clearly know all is not right with the world that Wanda has created. It’s an awakening. On the outside, we have a better sense of who the “threat” is and how much of one there is. The implications are massive.

This is the episode that is clearly going to drive the narrative for the Marvel Cinematic Universe for many years to come. The indication is that Wanda is far more powerful than anyone expected making her more in line with her comic counterpart. What this means for the MCU is staggering and by the end of the episode… we’re not going to spoil it here. Lets just say this will reverberate for many years to come of storytelling.

While we’re currently in “Phase 4” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “On a Very Special Episode” will impact further films to come and many phases to come as well. It’s a shockwave through the Marvel multiverse and made this show one of the most important releases so far in Marvel’s plans.

Overall Rating: 10

Review: WandaVision S1E4 We Interrupt This Program

WandaVision S1E4 We Interrupt This Program

WandaVision S1E4 We Interrupt This Program delivers a new perspective on what’s going on in Wanda’s world. The episode opens just after the return of individuals after the Blip. We’re re-introduced to Monica Rambeau, the daughter of Maria Rambeau introduced in Captain Marvel. She’s now all grown up and we learn she works for S.W.O.R.D. S.W.O.R.D. is an organization teased up to this point but has had a major impact in the Marvel comic world.

The episode is a fascinating one. It takes us through the events of WandaVision from the perspective of Monica, Darcy Lewis (a returned Kat Dennings), and Randall Park‘s Jimmy Woo. The previous episode hinted as to what’s going on. This episode gives us the big picture of what’s being dealt with. The mystery becomes a bit more clear. It’s also definitive that Wanda is controlling things. But the how and why isn’t answered beyond hints that it’s due to the trauma she’s experienced.

We Interrupt This Program is the example of why individuals should wait and let serialized storytelling play out. It explains so much, such as the laugh track and the first three episode’s comedy homage. We get to see it all play out and explained as Darcy and Jimmy attempt to figure it all out as well. It’s the puzzle pieces being put together episode.

But, what’s really solid is that the characters roll with the wonder and strangeness of it all. Things aren’t explained away. Some of the answers are “what the hell”, these smart characters know about as much as we do. But, even with those questions, the big picture is so much clearer. And, it does all of this sci-fi while also delivering a solid sense of humor as well.

This is the episode where the picture becomes much more clear. We get a better sense of what’s going on inside the bubble and on the outside. It also brings the episode into the greater fold of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by re-introducing characters and formerly introduces a major organization in the Marvel world. This is the episode where the series begins to go in a more “traditional” direction and we get to see the bigger picture of its impact going forward. It’s a key episode that should make frustrated viewers happy and those “in the know” even more excited.

Overall Rating: 9.5

Review: WandaVision S1E3 Now in Color

WandaVision S1E3 Now in Color

WandaVision S1E3 Now in Color brings the moment so many are waiting for, the debut of Wanda’s “children”. Now taking place in the 1970s the couple is expecting their first child. Wanda “became” pregnant at the end of the previous episode. Now in color, the episode takes its inspiration from shows like The Brady Bunch and Laverne and Shirley.

With her being pregnant, Wanda’s powers are on the fritz. This causes issues for not just the couple but for all of those around them. It also is destroying the barrier that Wanda has clearly set up in this world.

Now in Color plays on pregnancies in television. There are the usual jokey pratfalls and laugh tracks over the situation. There are also some subtle nods to covering up pregnancies with objects around a house like a bowl of fruit.

As someone who grew up watching The Brady Bunch every day after school, the details of the set nail the nostalgia factor and makes me long for a trip to Hawaii with a cursed Tiki idol. Or maybe they can start a band. Above all, the show’s design, costumes, hair and makeup stand out above the quality writing and acting. The vision (no pun intended) of the show is spectacular. For technical reasons alone, the series is must-watch television.

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany do a great job of delivering the jokes and situation continuing to both send-up and do an homage to shows of the times. Their delivery of the material is solid in that somewhat cheesy way for the shows it takes its inspiration from. Both have much better comedic chops than I’d have expected. Their usually serious demeanor helps enhance the comedic bits.

Teyonah Parris ups her presence on the show playing the role of getting caught in the delivery and having to help Wanda. Those who know who she’s playing and who her character actually is will enjoy the layered meaning of what she has to say.

And again, it’s the small details of the episode in that all is not right that really makes things. On the surface, the riff on classic shows works really well. The fact not all is right is really what’s interesting. From an issue with a wall to a statement by their doctor, the big picture continues to come together. And it comes together in a big way as the wall really begins to shatter by the end of the episode.

The show has improved with each episode as the big picture comes better into focus. While I wasn’t too keen on the first episode of WandaVision, by the third I’m all in and want to see where this goes as to what’s going on becomes much clearer. It leans more into the concept of this world’s glitches building on the mystery. We don’t just know not all is right, we see it. A scene is rewound and played back, for instance.

This is a big episode as it has major implications to the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. Fans of Marvel Comics will be filled with excitement and know the future possibilities. For those that don’t, strap in, this could be a wild ride.

Overall Rating: 8.95

Review: WandaVision S1E2 Don’t Touch That Dial

WandaVision S1E2

WandaVision S1E2 continues its play off of the classic series Bewitched with an episode that has Wanda and Vision entering a talent show.

Compared to the debut episode, WandaVision S1E2 is much more intriguing. While it acts so well as an homage to classic television, it delivers more of what was lacking in the first, the hints at something more. In a black and white world, we get a colorized toy. A radio plays odd music and an odd message. It’s the small details that were missing from the first episode. Their inclusion enhances the experience. The lack of them in the first episode hints at a purposely slow build and reveal but that also means it’s a slow build and reveal. With the good comes the bad.

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany continue their excellent takes on classic characters. In this case, Bettany does the drunk individual coming close to revealing their two secrets. It’s a great switch of classic stories where Samantha was almost discovered as a witch.

But, it’s the small details of the episode where it works really well and shines.

The classic cartoon style is fantastic. The introduction of Teyonah Parris as Geraldine is fantastic. The line delivered in her introduction is so layered and done so well. It’s a prime example the show is smarter and more thought out than it’s quirky premise would have you believe.

WandaVision S1E2 is an improvement of the start in so many ways. Wanda is clearly trapped in this world but is it something someone is doing to her or is it a creation of her own? This episode throws that big question out there and there’s some massive implications.

Like I said in the review of the first episode, this is a series whose whole will likely be better than the individual parts but this part is pretty damn good on its own.

Overall Rating: 8.5

Review: WandaVision S1E1 Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience

WandaVision S1E1

The next phase of Marvel’s cinematic universe begins in the highly anticipated WandaVision. The Disney+ show brings an intriguing new format and take on the classic Marvel characters of Wanda Maximoff and Vision. WandaVision S1E1 takes us into the homage/spoof of classic television shows kicking off with Dick Van Dyke meets Bewitched showing the two in a blissful marriage. But, is this reality?

The last we saw Wanda, she had helped defeat Thanos in Avengers: Endgame after being returned from being blinked out. She attended Stark’s funeral, and that’s where we left her. Vision, as far as we know, was killed in Avengers: Infinity War. In an attempt to stop Thanos, Wanda destroyed the Mind Stone in Vision’s forehead with Visions saying “I love you” just before he was destroyed. But, Thanos returned Vision using the Time Stone to then plunk the stone from Vision’s forehead and helping to complete his gauntlet. Due to Vision being destroyed before the blink, as far as we know he didn’t return.

So, what’s going on?

WandaVision‘s debut episode doesn’t tell us a whole lot until the very end. The two are living the domestic life presented as a classic black and white television show. It’s entertaining in its winks and nods to shows of the past but, the concept drags on for far too long. There’s a lack of enough hints as to what’s really going on making this debut just… weird.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda and Paul Bettany as Vision are charming enough in their roles. The pull off the now cringe-worthy style of story of the time. The episode is a solid send-up of the overused story of the boss coming over for dinner. As far as playing off of classic shows, WandaVision S1E1 does things really well.

The addition of Kathryn Hahn as Agnes is solid and she nails the tone of the era as well. It’s all enhanced by a goofy add for a toaster by Stark Industries that’s way over the top.

WandaVision S1E1 nails down what it’s trying to do. The tone, style, story, costumes, stage, it’s all damn near perfect. But that doesn’t mean it succeeds.

The show drags on for its rather short 29 minutes and only gets to the point at the very end. Something is very wrong in this pollyannish world and the episode would have been stronger by focusing on that. Glitches in the episode would have played well. Small details not quite sitting right and being out of place would have worked well. It’s these sort of things and the addition of them would have made the concept all the more intriguing.

Olsen’s depiction of Wanda is a bit odd too as her Sokovian accent seems to have gone away for a Jersey-ish delivery. It could be to play up the time and it might return. It could be to play off the style of the time. But she’s “European” as Vision tells his boss to which he makes a negative response. Why this choice was made is unclear, beyond the boss’s reaction, but it’s all very weird. It’s just a very noticeable decision and is a bit odd.

WandaVision S1E1 isn’t bad. There’s a lot to like. It’s just rather boring. This isn’t your normal Marvel Cinematic Universe entry, and that’s a good thing. But, the episode stumbles. It’s clearly a series that the whole will likely be stronger than each individual part.

Overall Rating: 7.0

Marvel’s WandaVision Comes to Disney+ on January 15

It’s been announced that the original Marvel Studios television series WandaVision will debut on Disney+ on January 15.

The series stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany and is the first Marvel Studios series to debut on Disney+. In it, Wanda Maximoff and Vision are living an idealized suburban life but begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.

Joining Olsen and Bettany are Kat Dennings, who reprises her role as Darcy Lewis from Marvel Studios’ Thor and Thor: The Dark World; Randall Park, who reprises his role as Agent Jimmy Woo from Ant-Man and The Wasp; and newcomers Kathryn Hahn, who plays their plucky neighbor, and Teyonah Parris, who plays the adult Monica Rambeau, who was first introduced in Captain Marvel. The series is directed by Matt Shakman.

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.

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

We’ve all heard the rumors and know the reality that Solo: A Star Wars Story, the latest entry into the yearly Star Wars movie release schedule, was a full on production disaster. Directors were replaced. Rumors of actors unable to do the basics and in need of coaches. A script that was a mess. With all of that you’d expect what has wound up on screen to be an utter disaster. But, that’s the farthest thing from reality. Solo: A Star Wars Story is actually pretty fun.

Is it high art? No. Is it as good as the original trilogy? No. But, it’s a solid popcorn film that has enough new and enough winks and nods to make Star Wars fans and non-fans happy.

If you go into the film expecting what has come before, you’l be disappointed. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a departure from what has been released in many ways. While it is the second stand-alone film, Rogue One being the first, it’s also the first real stand alone film. Rogue One was a prequel to the original trilogy tying directly into it with its final scene and delivering a pretty key story to the adventure. Solo is something different. While the film obviously ties into everything that has happened, it also isn’t a vital tie-in. It’s a film set in the Star Wars universe as opposed to a film that’s a must watch fleshing out the story of the original trilogy.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is interesting in so many ways because of all of this. The film is the right direction for the franchise and while it stumbles at times, it’s entertaining. The story follows Solo as he joins the criminal underworld and we see key moments of his career. There’s his meeting of Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian but there’s also a lot that’s new. There’s also some interesting fleshing out of the Star Wars universe with hints and direct tie-ins that should make long time fans happy.

Solo is a gangster/crime/heist film set in the Star Wars universe. At its heart there’s little that’s new. A job is screwed up and the crew must make up for it with a bigger heist. That plot has been seen before. But, it hasn’t been seen in a Star Wars film. The heist plot has been seen in the animated spin-offs though and this film feels like it has more in common with Star Wars: Rebels, the latest animated television series, than anything else.

The film hits the right notes and at times things feel like a checklist when it comes to that. We get Chewie, Lando, and the Kessel run. None of it is surprising and it’s all fan service. But, it’s a fun ride with some great visuals and a presentation that feels unique.

The cast is all over in their ability. Alden Ehrenreich steps into the role Harrison Ford made as Han Solo and at times he channels Ford and at other times he’s about as far away in delivery as one can get. It’s not bad but it’s also not a star-making turn. Joonas Suotamo repeats as Chewbacca and the character feels appropriately younger and more physical. Woody Harrelson as Becket is the gang leader and he brings his curled smile that he delivers in so many roles. Emilia Clarke is the love interest who is good but something is missing that we get at the end of the film. Where her character goes is what we should have seen more of. Donald Glover steals the show as Lando Calrissian. He channels Billy Dee Williams at times sounding exactly like Williams. Glover’s performance emphasizes how off Ehrenreich’s Solo is at times. Glover is so good it makes every else look far behind (other than Suotamo). Thandie Newton‘s Val is underused and Paul Bettany‘s creepy Dryden Vos is a sleezy mob boss and great on screen. The film’s break out star is Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s L3-37, the film’s robot compadre. L3-37’s belief in robot rights and being convinced of Lando’s crush is the thing of entertainment and delivers something special to a film which would be so much less without.

As I mentioned, the film visually is great and the characters and sets look fantastic. This is a grittier film in many ways showing the coldness of space and the Empire’s machine. This is a Star Wars universe I want to see more of. We can have stories set in the world that isn’t just an extension of the original trilogy’s story. We need spin-offs that can stand on their own.

The film isn’t perfect, far from it, but it is fun and entertaining. There’s some great sequences and it’s possible my lowered expectations due to the on-set drama may have had me expecting very little. While it may nit be as good as the original trilogy it’s definitely better than the prequels and well worth the price of admission. And, the film has me wanting to see what’s next.

Overall Rating: 7.0

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