Categories
Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: Loki – Episode 2

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Loki – Episode 2: The Variant

After a stellar premiere episode, Loki propels forward in another intriguing, clever, and compelling installment. The Variant sees Loki and Mobius continue their investigation into the variant Loki wreaking havoc across the timeline as they uncover clues about the threat posed.

Two episodes in and it’s pretty clear: Loki is the best MCU series on Disney+ yet. So much brilliant exposition, narrative, character dynamics, and humor are packed into a tight 54 minute episode that simply flies by. A significant reason for the series’ success so far, as evidenced in The Variant, is the relationship between Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius. The two play off one another superbly and deliver screenwriter Elissa Karasik’s sharp dialogue to perfection. Hiddleston is such a commanding screen presence and continues to highlight why he’s the MCU’s best villain to date. Loki is tricky, devious, witty, and yet undeniably likable, which is no small feat given that this is the character who led an invasion of New York City just days ago. Owen Wilson’s Mobius serves as a worthy juxtaposition to Hiddleson’s character. Loki evokes a sort of maniacal confidence and egocentrism that is delicately balanced by Mobius’ calm, collected, and equally intelligent demeanor. Loki has clearly met his match in Mobius. Their relationship, especially given the organization of the TVA and sci-fi leanings of the series, feels like the MCU’s version of the relationship between Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K in the Men in Black series.

Unlike WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki doesn’t wait to dive head first into its central plot. The brilliant set-up in Glorious Purpose is capitalized on here as we see Loki and Mobius reluctantly team up to stop the variant Loki right from the get-go. Loki continues to draw upon Doctor Who, both aesthetically and narratively, while feeling like a natural next step in the sprawling MCU. And despite the speed at which we’re thrown into the core plot of the series, The Variant is largely devoid of action, with the exception of its opening and closing scenes. This felt refreshing as the character dynamics and machinations of the TVA are the most compelling aspects of the show so far, and the series continues to place these elements in the spotlight. Moments of tension and suspense do not rely on big, CGI-heavy action sequences to add stakes. But, rather, the plot and character arcs are driven by more intimate and clever conversations and revelations.

These conversations and revelations kept us interested for the entirety of the episode. We see Loki and Mobius do a bit of detective work to uncover that the variant Loki is hiding out in an apocalypse after disrupting other parts of the timeline. This revelation came about with a terrifically morbid sequence on Pompeii that somehow balanced the humor and horror of the situation. Ravonna Renslayer and Mobius’ conversations also added some depth to the Time Keepers and the inner-workings of the TVA. Everything we know about the TVA so far is so interesting and has surprisingly widespread implications for the MCU. Questions about free will, determinism, and the purpose of life add a unique, philosophical bend to Loki.

And the tension and suspense ramped up significantly in the episode’s closing act. The futuristic grocery store setting was eerie and fitting for the mysteriousness of the cloaked figure. Sophia Di Martino made her first appearance in the show as Lady Loki – confirming many fans’ speculations ahead of this reveal. Lady Loki has a crazy track record in comics to say the least, so it’ll be interesting to see how this character is depicted as the plot unfolds in Loki.

Verdict: 9.5/10

Loki impresses once again with an episode full to the brim with clever dialogue and interesting reveals driven by two superb leading performances. The Variant evokes element of Doctor Who and Men in Black as the time-bending, sci-fi-heavy plot moves forward in surprising and compelling fashion. The episode is worth watching for Hiddleston and Wilson’s relationship alone, but thankfully Loki has a captivating and impactful plot that lives up to the performances of its stars.

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

EXCLUSIVE LOOK: Star Wars Insider 203

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

The long-running Star Wars Insider continues this month with #203, and we’re happy to deliver an exclusive first look at the upcoming release. Featuring a new The High Republic story by Justina Ireland, an interview with Star Wars and Indiana Jones producer Robert Watts, a lookback at the cultural phenomenon that is The Mandalorian, and more, the new issue (hitting bookstands on June 22 in the U.S. and July 8 in the U.K.) looks to be full of interesting pieces and insights for all types of Star Wars fans. Check out the exclusive preview below!

MANDO MANIA

How secrets, storytelling and fan-pleasing moments helped make The Mandalorian an instant pop-culture phenomenon.

How the secret of Grogu helped the first live-action Star Wars series make the space-fantasy saga a cultural phenomenon yet again.

ROBERT WATTS INTERVIEW

The veteran Star Wars and Indiana Jones producer looks back on his days scouting the world for galactic locations.

Of all the distant worlds of the original Star Wars trilogy, one fact remained consistent: They each needed to be captured on film at a more down-to-Earth location. It was part of producer Robert Watts’ job to scout the real-world setting that would make for suitable doubles for the likes of Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor.

REBEL ROUSERS

From the dawn of its foundation to its triumphant victory, we profile the top ten leaders of the Rebel Alliance.

At the heart of Star Wars beats a story of good and evil. While allegiances and choices can be complicated – not all Jedi make the right decision all the time, and scoundrels and bounty hunters can make some of the best allies – the stories always come back to people who fight for justice, kindness, and freedom from fear. That’s especially evident in the story of the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire.

And that’s not all Star Wars Insider #203 has in store…

PAUL BROOKE INTERVIEW – TEARS OF A RANCOR KEEPER

The British actor reflects on his scene-stealing turn as Malakili, the tearful rancor keeper from Return of the Jedi.

It may have only been a few days’ work for actor Paul Brooke, but the bereaved rancor keeper Malakili’s brief appearance in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) remains a standout moment in the saga. Star Wars Insider caught up with Brooke to look back at his time on set shooting the memorable scene.

A GALAXY ON YOUR DOORSTEP

A guide to the Californian filming locations for the forest moon of Endor, Tatooine, and even the Death Star.

The Star Wars movies have been filmed at exotic and often remote locations all over the world, but there are some that are within easy reach of residents of mainland U. S. A. Star Wars Insider takes a trip across California to find a galaxy far, far away that’s not so very far away at all.

NEAL SCANLAN INTERVIEW – A FORCE REAWAKENED

An exclusive conversation with the award-winning Star Wars creature and special makeup effects supervisor.

Creature and special makeup effects supervisor Neal Scanlan headed up the Star Wars creature shop for all five of the movies released since 2015. Star Wars Insider spoke to him about the part his team played in bringing the Skywalker saga to a close.

A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW

Star Wars expert Michael Kogge explores the best locations for Rebel Alliance and Resistance bases.

STAR WARS INSIDER #203 is on sale: US: JUNE 22, 2021 / UK: JULY 8, 2021

U.S. / CANADA SUBSCRIPTIONS

U.K. SUBSCRIPTIONS

REST OF THE WORLD SUBSCRIPTIONS

DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS

Images courtesy of Titan Comics

Categories
Film Codex

Box Office Report: Weekend of June 11 – ‘A Quiet Place Part II Regains Top Spot as ‘In the Heights’ Underperforms

By @HolocronJosh for @FilmCodex

As movie theaters begin returning to normal once again domestically, new releases are coming on a weekly basis. Just a few weeks ago, A Quiet Place Part II landed in theaters, before the latest chapter in The Conjuring franchise came and conquered the box office. This weekend, it was In the Heights’ turn, albeit with lukewarm results that were less than what most predicted.

Directed by John M. Chu, In the Heights earned $11.4 million over the weekend, when it was predicted to make around double that figure at least. With great reviews (and a terrific 96% on Rotten Tomatoes), this performance came to a shock to many movie audiences and those in the industry, especially as Warner Bros. funded an expensive advertising campaign for the film. Still, audiences didn’t seem too keen on returning to theaters for Chu’s film, leading to a second place finish at the box office.

In the Heights’ performance could come down to a few factors. While audiences might feel excited to go to see films like A Quiet Place Part II in theaters, they clearly didn’t feel the same enthusiasm for this, perhaps showing the strength of the horror genre, something that we’ve seen in the past few years as well. By all means, A Quiet Place was an event film, and highly anticipated by audiences since the first movie released in 2018. As much as the studio wanted to push In the Heights as a similar movie that people simply couldn’t miss in theaters, they were unable to do so, which could have hindered the box office performance. And while the hybrid release model didn’t seem to affect The Conjuring 3 all that much, it’s plausible that audiences were indeed interested in In the Heights, but not driven enough to see it on opening weekend, instead watching it at home on HBO Max. If this is the case, it could show the inherent lack of sustainability in the hybrid release model going forward, or at least for certain kinds of movies such as this. Still, there’s a good chance that In the Heights recuperated some money on the streaming service, a bright side of all of this.

In its place was, once again, A Quiet Place Part II, coming in at $11.7 million. In doing so, the film was the first pandemic movie to gross $100 million domestically. Meanwhile, Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway opened with $10.4 million over four days (the film released on Thursday). Once again, this was below expectations, which signals the sheer unpredictability of the box office and that some films will do exceptionally well, but others won’t. And while this is similar to pre pandemic box office, it certainly seems to be more volatile and up and down, at least for now.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It came in fourth with $10.02 million, and Cruella rounded out the top 5 with 6.7 million.

Stay tuned to FilmCodex for more box office reports, news, reviews, and more!

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 7

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 7: Battle Scars

Tensions rise, questions are answered, and inhibitor chips are activated in the newest episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. The series’ seventh episode, Battle Scars, sees the Bad Batch join forces with Captain Rex as they seek out a way to deactivate the ticking time bombs inside their heads before it’s too late.

A stark contrast to the action heavy sixth episode, Battle Scars is a significant improvement – adopting a more slow burn pace that allows for plenty of suspense and intimacy. This is probably the most plot heavy episode since the terrific premiere and, while Crosshair, Tarkin and others are still absent, we’re treated to what ended up being a brilliant episode from start to finish. The return of Rex, while teased in promotional footage, was great to see and confirmed some suspicions after the appearance of a mysterious figure in last week’s episode. Rex’s inclusion added yet another sense of continuity between The Bad Batch and its predecessor series The Clone Wars. We’ve seen Rex in the waning days of the Clone Wars and his journey years later as a member of the Rebellion, but seeing him during this intermediary time added a new and interesting look at the character.

Rex’s inclusion also sparked the plot of this week’s episode: arrive at a medical facility and remove the inhibitor chips. And, due to this premise, there was a palpable sense of urgency throughout Battle Scars. Wrecker’s worrying headaches have increased and his utterance of “good soldiers…” was a chilling foretelling of what’s to come. It was a welcomed change of pace from last week’s episode with the slow burn, tension-building structure of Battle Scars.

In fact, there was relatively little action in this week’s episode, but, when blasters were raised, the action was intense and frightening. The moments leading up to Wrecker’s turn felt like every Bad Batch fan’s worst nightmare. Wrecker has been so endearing and sweet in the series so far, with Dee Bradley Baker conveying gentle giant energy to perfection. And his touching bond with Omega made Wrecker’s turn all the more gut wrenching. The sequence in which Wrecker tried to eliminate his friends, including Omega, was haunting and unpredictable. Will Wrecker remain this way as Crosshair did? Will we lose another member of the Bad Batch? Wrecker’s imposing strength also added a unique angle to this sequence as the brute force that often provides us with moments of humor suddenly became an imminent threat. This entire sequence was a “hold your breath” sort of moment and was executed superbly.

Speaking of superb execution, special attention should be drawn, once again, to the incredible animation on display this week. It was great to see Bracca make an appearance after its inclusion in Resistance Reborn and, more notably, Jedi: Fallen Order. The Bad Batch has done an excellent job so far in crafting unique settings for each episode, and Battle Scars continued this tradition. The wreckage on Bracca felt grand and vast, evoking what it was like to see massive collapsed Star Destroyers on Jakku in The Force Awakens. The beautiful water animation and design of the dilapidated ship were incredible to behold.

And, as the episode drew to a close, we’re left in an interesting position moving forward in the series. Rex encourages Clone Force 99 to join him in his efforts to defeat the Empire, but Hunter and the others are unsure what path to take. This concept of finding their way and their purpose in the changing landscape of the galaxy has been a central theme in The Bad Batch so far and it’ll be interesting to see how this continues to be explored in later episodes.

Verdict: 9/10

Greatly benefitting from a slower, more methodical pacing, Battle Scars tackles some important plot points in thrilling and chilling fashion. Tensions were high in an episode that saw Wrecker’s inevitable turn, and were beautifully balanced by touching moments of intimacy among the crew.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Lucasfilm

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

Breaking Down The Star Wars Production News

By @HolocronJosh for @sw_holocron

Collider recently reported a series of updates on several upcoming Star Wars series on Disney+, including the highly anticipated The Mandalorian Season 3.

According to Collider, the new season of the Pedro Pascal led series won’t begin filming until late 2021 or early 2022, alluding to a probable fall 2022 release date. This would keep the show in the fall slot on the calendar, and it would debut roughly two years after season 2. This would give the show a consistency in its release date that Lucasfilm and Disney have reportedly been keen on recently. Given all of the other Star Wars shows in active development for the streaming service, there’s definitely enough content to keep fans happy until then.

One of these other series is The Book of Boba Fett, which was teased (and announced) in a post credits scene attached to the finale of The Mandalorian season 2. This series recently wrapped production last month, as Ming Na Wen’s social media posts revealed, and is still on track for a December 2021 release.

Fett and his accomplice, Fennec Shand, are set to be the two leads of the series, but there are more appearances of characters from The Mandalorian yet to be revealed, according to Collider. While they don’t state who these characters are, speculation suggests that Timothy Olyphant’s Cobb Vanth could make a return, among others. This would make sense given his history with Boba’s armor and his residence on Tatooine.

Interestingly, Collider also described The Book of Boba Fett as “The Mandalorian Season 2.5”, further emphasizing the connection between the two series that will seemingly be furthered by these mystery character appearances. Given Kathleen Kennedy’s comments about a culmination event to come from all of these series, it definitely seems like they’re building a mini interconnected universe of sorts, so Collider’s report does seem to make sense based on what fans have heard.

Finally, Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is currently filming, is said to continue to be in production for several more months, which could be a reason for the delay of filming of The Mandalorian, which shoots on the same sound stage and the now famous Volume technology.

Source: Collider

Images courtesy of Disney and Lucasfilm

Categories
Marvel Tesseract

REVIEW: Loki – Episode 1

by @holocronJosh for @mar_tesseract

After 10 years, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has been through a lot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From discovering his true origins as a Frost Giant to his strained and complicated relationship with his brother Thor, and ultimate demise at the hands of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, Loki has had quite a journey so far. In that fateful first scene of Infinity War, it looked to be the end of the road for the God of Mischief, especially as he finally aligned himself with Thor and turned good (or as good as a character like Loki can get). This, however, proved to be a bit of a premature judgment, as Avengers: Endgame saw the 2012 version of Loki steal the Tesseract and escape…

Cue the latest Disney+ series, aptly titled Loki. Once again starring Tom Hiddleston in the titular role, the series also features an array of new side characters, most notably Mobius, played by Owen Wilson. Originally planned as the first Marvel Studios series on Disney+, production delays and the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the schedule was reworked to have WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiere first. After delays and much anticipation, Loki is finally here with its first episode, ‘Glorious Purpose’.

The premiere centers on Loki, fresh from the Battle of New York in 2012, as he wanders his new surroundings at the TVA, or Time Variance Authority. From here, both the character and the audience get a long exposition of the TVA and their role in the MCU, with some humor sprinkled in between. All in all, this exposition works, and proves to be far clearer on the mechanics of time and the multiverse than Avengers: Endgame. The little video that accompanied this exposition was an obvious callback to Jurassic Park and provided much needed foundational explanations as the MCU delves deeper into time travel and other similar plot lines,

The explanation continues as Loki meets Mobius, who works for the TVA as an investigator of dangerous variants (even more dangerous than Loki. One of the highlights of the premiere comes from scenes between Loki and Mobius, as Hiddleston and Wilson prove to have great on screen chemistry. Surprisingly, the back and forth, clever dialogue in Loki and Mobius’ scenes together proved to be more engaging to almost everything seen between Sam and Bucky in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, a show built around the premise of a buddy comedy adventure. Despite the success of this part of Loki’s premiere, the back and forth does end up continuing just a bit too long, one of the only criticisms that can be said of the episode. Loki denies the power of the TVA, along with the events he’s shown about his future, before Mobius refutes these claims. This results in a bit of over-explaining of sorts, which is certainly better than the opposite and not giving enough exposition, but it ultimately doesn’t bring the episode down in any substantial way.

Loki’s escape proved to be the most action heavy section in a premiere largely devoid of action. This was a welcome relief and smart placement as it gives the audience some time to breathe before getting back into the main plot. When Loki finally stops running and returns to the room he spoke with Mobius in, he begins to watch the rest of the footage of his life, which provides the most emotionally gripping moments of the episode. Loki seems horrified at not only his death, but that he’s capable of essentially killing his mother and other acts he committed along the way. Loki also seems to regret his deteriorating relationship with Thor as he watches the two of them bond, before he admits to Mobius that he doesn’t want to hurt or cause pain to anyone. Mobius reminds Loki that he’s not a villain, and this is the start of interesting character work. Rather than showing the angry, god-like Loki, we get to see the vulnerable and more human side of him, one of the highlights of this episode. It also provides the framework for further character development as the show goes on, with Loki seemingly bound to move further into the anti hero, if not downright hero, territory once again.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger of a reveal that another Loki variant is killing TVA agents and causing chaos in the timeline, hence Mobius’ intent to recruit the 2012 Loki to help. As for who this could be, it seems unlikely that it’ll be Hiddleston. If it was, then he probably would have been shown. That this Loki was hooded and in the dark in the final moments perhaps reveals a much different version of the character, maybe even one played by Richard E Grant, who shares a resemblance with Hiddleston and is in the show in an unknown capacity. Nevertheless, this ending provides a lot of intrigue heading into the next episode and the rest of the season.

Visually and aesthetically, Loki’s premiere is stunning. The production design feels uniquely 1970’s and clearly evokes settings from shows like Doctor Who. It’s also notably different from anything in the MCU before, resulting in a welcome change from blander looking projects such as The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. This continues with the directing by Kate Herron, who lends a unique visual style to the whole premiere that makes it stand out from other recent Marvel movies and shows. That being said, the D.B. Cooper sequence, although entertaining, felt entirely out of place.

This episode was written by Michael Waldron, who has fast become one of Kevin Feige’s most favored screenwriters. After working on Loki, Waldron was tapped to write Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which he worked on with director Sam Raimi, before switching gears to a galaxy far, far away with Feige’s secretive Star Wars film. Because of this, there was added interest in Loki and Waldron’s writing of the series and the iconic lead character. Overall, Waldron shows his writing strengths as he clears up any time travel related questions left by Avengers: Endgame, which was not an easy feat. Waldron’s writing also gives the episode a flow that works extremely well, something that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier struggled to achieve for the entirety of its run. The dialogue is punchy and memorable, and the humor provides much needed comedic relief amidst heavy exposition, with the comedic talents of Hiddleston and Wilson taken full advantage of. Even though this does continue a bit too long, Waldron can be forgiven for this as he’s introducing such a large and unique concept into an already massive universe. After this premiere episode, it’s exciting to see what else Waldron does at Marvel and Star Wars.

Verdict: 9/10

Loki’s premiere is a unique, interesting time adventure reminiscent of Doctor Who driven by two leads with great chemistry. While much of the episode centers on exposition, this isn’t a bad thing (for the most part), as the show lays down a good basis for the TVA and the broader rules of time in the MCU. With much promise going forward, we’re looking forward to seeing what happens next in the latest Marvel series. From the look of things, it seems that Marvel Studios have yet another hit on their hands with Loki.

Images courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+

Categories
Horror Necronomicon

REVIEW: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

by @holocronJosh for @horrornecronom

Over the past eight years, The Conjuring Universe has proven that it’s possible to execute a successful cinematic universe outside of the MCU. And, amidst a slew of mixed spin-offs ranging from haunting and fun thrills like Annabelle: Creation and Annabelle Comes Home to the disappointing The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona, this franchise has always found its greatest successes in the core films. This time around James Wan takes a step back as director Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) helms the third Conjuring film. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It continues the journey of Ed and Lorraine Warren as they seek evidence to prove a young man was possessed while committing murder.

Like it’s predecessors, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It benefits from an excellent premise. A departure from the haunted house tales of The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, this film opens up with a wide range of intriguing directions for the plot to move to. Unfortunately, most of these opportunities are missed. The family dynamic was one of the understated selling points of the first Conjuring film, and there’s potential to do the same in this installment. However, as the film progresses, it loses focus and strays away from core family struggle, and the struggle of the accused man played by the underutilized Ruairi O’Connor. So much so that by the end of the film, it’s difficult to really care much about what’s going on with O’Connor’s character Arne as the movie had strayed away from him so heavily.

All of this would be tolerable if the film bolstered impressive scares, but, unfortunately, this is also not the case. James Wan’s deft hand at executing brilliantly crafted scare sequences is sorely missing here, making The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It by far the tamest of the franchise’s core films. Director Michael Chaves has a keen eye for framing shots and really capturing the era of the 1980s, but the unrelenting tension and menace of Wan’s films are absent here. The frights are serviceable, but anyone looking for sequences on par with the first two Conjuring films will be disappointed.

While The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It lacks in horror, it works as a mystery and investigation tale. In a poetic sense, The Conjuring heavily evokes The Exorcist, and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It feels more like The Exorcist III. The Warrens’ attempts to unravel the mystery are captivating and offset what the film lacks in focus and thrills. The mystery pans out somewhat flat, but it’s efforts to depart from the structure of previous films were commendable.

This third installment also benefits greatly from the leading performances of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga again. They are in large part what anchors this series and why so many of the spin-off films fail to capture the brilliance of the core Conjuring films. Ed and Lorraine feel so natural and comfortable together, a real testament to the work Wilson and Farmiga have put into these characters over the years. A b-plot in the film centers on a heart condition Ed has developed, although this angle is never really explored deeper than some huffs and puffs from Wilson’s character. That being said, the movie, especially in its latter third, does an excellent job showcasing the love Ed and Lorraine have for one another. At the end of the day, The Conjuring films have been as much about the Warrens as they have been about the demons they fight and, thankfully, The Devil Made Me Do It continues this tradition.

Verdict: 6/10

A steep decline from its predecessors, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It proves to be an unexpectedly tame installment in the successful franchise. Although the filmmakers fail to capitalize off of a captivating premise, the investigation plot and bond between Ed and Lorraine Warren do more than enough to compensate for the film’s shortcomings.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros and HBO Max

Categories
Film Codex

Box Office Report: Weekend of 6/4 – ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ Beats Out ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ to Take Top Spot

By @HolocronJosh and @HolocronGeorge for @FilmCodex

The latest chapter in the Conjuring franchise, ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’, over-performed expectations and earned top spot at this weekend’s domestic box office with an impressive $24 million. This total takes the Conjuring franchise passed $1 billion overall, an impressive number for a series with a collective budget of less than $200 million across 8 films. The latest Conjuring film is also available to watch on HBO Max.

Meanwhile, ‘A Quiet Place Part II’, another horror movie, took in $19.5 million. This adds to its impressive total last week where it had the biggest opening weekend at the box office since the pandemic began.

Disney’s Cruella also had its second weekend at the box office, and earned $11.2 million for a 10 day total of $43.6 million. The monetary performance of this film is impressive particularly when the sales on Disney+ are factored in. Audiences responded well to the Emma Stone led movie and a sequel is already in the works. Spirit Untamed and Wrath of Man rounded out the top 5.

For the second weekend in a row, movie theaters are finally showing signs of life. Audiences are also showing an appetite to see movies in the theater, even if they’re available to watch on streaming, a good sign for the recovery of theaters and the box office. With big releases like F9, Black Widow and more coming up this summer, this is expected to continue and earnings are anticipated to grow.

Stay tuned to Film Codex for next week’s box office numbers, reviews, news, and more!

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 6

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

Action, action, and more action. That was the focus of The Bad Batch’s sixth episode, an episode light on characterization, but rich in tension and intrigue. Decommissioned sees Clone Force 99 continue their work with Cid by traveling to Corellia to claim a soon-to-be destroyed tactical droid.

As The Bad Batch progresses, it seems to have settled into a comfortable structure moving into its sixth episode. The initial episodes highlighted how the Clones navigated the immediate aftermath of the rise of the Empire, including their frantic attempts to escape, rescue Omega, and hide. With the continued inclusion of Cid (voiced by the wonderful Rhea Perlman), The Bad Batch is slowly building out their array of side characters as its animated predecessors did beforehand. And, in doing so, as the crew settles down so do the audience.

With this structure, the adventure of the week is an interesting premise: go to Corellia and retrieve the Separatist tactical droid. This premise works on a number of levels. For starters, we get to see Corellia again. The planet beautifully came to life in Solo: A Star Wars Story and it’s always great to see interesting locations like this be revisited in other projects. The retrieval of the tactical droid is also a point of interest in that writer Amanda Rose Muñoz and director Nathaniel Villanueva find a way to intelligently explore the ins and outs of the galaxy in such a transitional and tumultuous time. This is something the entire series has excelled with so far and it adds a feeling that this galaxy is really lived in – the Empire’s takeover has consequences. In this case, we see how the Empire dealt with the remnants of the Clone Wars in melting battle droids to scrap. It’s little things like this that really make the universe feel alive.

For better or worse, Decommissioned leans heavily into action set-pieces. The vast majority of the episode consists of a sprawling action sequence between the Bad Batch, the Martez sisters, and the police droids. The factory is beautifully designed and obviously evokes scenes on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones. The return of the Martez sisters was a welcomed surprise after their run in the final season of The Clone Wars. And Omega’s practice with her new weapon offered another endearing way to showcase her growing role in the team. Eventually, however, the action does grow tiresome. So far, The Bad Batch has struck a delicate balance between intimate character moments, overarching plot, and exciting action. But it seems that this balance was somewhat off in Decommissioned.

While the episode doesn’t delve much into the father-daughter bond of Hunter and Omega, it did offer a few points of intrigue worth noting. Wrecker’s progressive deterioration continued, and the utterance of “good soldiers…” felt daunting of what’s to come. It would be heartbreaking to see him turn the same way Crosshair did. We are also still left wondering who hired Fennec Shand to hunt after Omega, although it’s likely the Kaminoans are up to something. And, finally, who are the Martez sisters communicating with at the end of the episode? Although Ahsoka seems like the logical choice, she seems a bit too obvious for this reveal. Could it be Bail Organa? Or another rebel? The person was referred to by “he” (I think?). Regardless, this offered an unexpected mystery heading into future episodes.

Verdict: 7/10

Star Wars: The Bad Batch continued in fine form with an exciting and intriguing sixth episode. Although action set-pieces take up too much of the episode, Decommissioned offers plenty of cool throwbacks, locations, character moments, and surprises to make us eagerly anticipate what Clone Force 99 will be up to next.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm & Disney+

Categories
Star Wars Holocron

What’s New in Star Wars – June 2021

by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron

From new adventures in the High Republic, to more of the Bad Batch, to the start of the War of the Bounty Hunters crossover event, June looks to be a thrilling month for Star Wars fans. It is important to note all of these release dates are subject to change. Below includes a list and description of upcoming Star Wars projects in the month of June:

June 1 – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: Special 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

After several delays, celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back with this upcoming collector’s edition from Titan Comics. You can check out an exclusive preview of the book here, featuring some cool behind the scenes stories and production stills of one of the film’s most iconic moments. The publisher’s summary for the book is as follows: “Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, the fan-favorite Star Wars movie, with this deluxe special edition dedicated to the making of the iconic film. Inside its pages is an in-depth look at how George Lucas expanded the saga with new environments such as Hoth and Cloud City, and new characters like Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, and Yoda. It also includes comments from the cast and crew involved in the making of the film, including Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. See how scenes such as the Rebels battle against the AT-ATs were created and learn more about how Luke Skywalker’s battle against Darth Vader was filmed in a must-have item for every Star Wars fans collection!”

June 2 – War of the Bounty Hunters 1

The highly anticipated War of the Bounty Hunters finally kicks off this month after a few interesting appetizers in May. The crossover event looks to be one of the most ambitious projects in Star Wars comics to date and will fill in a cool gap in canon regarding how Han ended up at Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. The publisher’s summary for the first issue, written by Charles Soule, is as follows: “AT WAR FOR THE GREATEST PRIZE OF ALL: HAN SOLO! THE HUNT BEGINS! Nobody. Steals. From BOBA FETT! The notorious bounty hunter will not stop until he gets what’s rightfully his. For the thief, no corner of the galaxy is safe. Good thing for them that the REBEL ALLIANCE, THE EMPIRE and every bounty hunter in the galaxy is standing in Boba’s way. With a last-page reveal that will blow this Death Star–sized story wide open, Issue #1 is just the beginning. The biggest crossover in STAR WARS history will continue raging through the pages of the WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS event miniseries and tie-in to STAR WARS, DOCTOR APHRA, DARTH VADER and BOUNTY HUNTERS through October. Only one hunter will be left standing, and the STAR WARS galaxy will never be the same!”

June 4 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 6

The adventures of Clone Force 99 continue in the sixth episode of the series, hitting Disney+ on June 4.

June 8 – Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol 2 — Target Valance

Marvel Comics’ 2020 series Star Wars; Bounty Hunters is compiled in this upcoming trade paperback collection. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “With precious cargo and a price on his head, Valance must turn to the one person he can trust. But the Unbroken Clan has sent a unique and deadly pair of bounty hunters after him! No one in the galaxy can escape the combined cunning of 4-LOM and Zuckuss! Wounded and on the run, Valance reunites with a long-lost love in a secret rebel base — but the deadliest bounty hunting duo in the galaxy are closing in! The pair are ready to capture their quarry, dead or alive — and they brought an army of Clone War-era Battle Droids with them! As Valance makes a desperate gambit to survive, he’ll risk the wrath of pirates in the Outer Rim…and set himself on a collision course with his old rival, Dengar!”

June 9 – Bounty Hunters 13

Ethan Sacks’ Bounty Hunters series for Marvel Comics continues with its 13th issue this month as part of the War of the Bounty Hunters crossover event. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “THE WOOKIEE ALWAYS WINS! Hot on the trail of BOBA FETT, VALANCE and DENGAR run into a rather large obstacle—the mighty CHEWBACCA! Will T’ONGA escape the trap set by a mysterious organization out to upend the underworld? And who is the figure in the shadows hunting them all?!”

June 11 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 7

The adventures of Clone Force 99 continue in the seventh episode of the series, hitting Disney+ on June 11.

June 15 – Star Wars: Join the Rebellion!

A fun reference book for young readers about what it takes to join the Rebellion releases this month from DK Children. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Jump aboard with the Rebel Alliance and the Resistance. Find out what it takes to topple the evil Empire and the First Order…Being a rebel in the Star Wars galaxy is dangerous work! There are stormtroopers to avoid, TIE fighters to dodge, and lightsaber-wielding Sith Lords to outsmart before they learn the location of the latest secret base. Just how did these brave heroes defeat not one, but two, Death Stars? Star Wars Join the Rebellion! will answer this question and many more in an engaging and funny book for young readers. Featuring doodle-style illustrations, stills from the Star Wars movies and animated shows, and lively, humorous text, Star Wars Join the Rebellion! will enthrall even the most reluctant young reader. Learn all about the most famous rebel leaders, from Admiral Ackbar to Princess Leia. Follow them into big battles. Discover interesting facts about their ships, droids, and the missions that changed the galaxy.”

June 15 – Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

Del Rey’s The Essential Legends Collection kicks off with the first of the Darth Bane trilogy titled Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. The novel written by Drew Karpyshyn was released in 2006 initially, but will be featured in this new re-release with stunning cover art. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Now for the first time in trade paperback: A Star Wars Legends classic featuring the fearsome Sith lord Dark Bane, repackaged to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm. Once the Sith order teemed with followers. But their rivalries divided them in endless battles for supremacy. Until one dark lord at last united the Sith in the quest to enslave the galaxy-and exterminate the Jedi. Yet it would fall to another, far more powerful than the entire Brotherhood of Darkness, to ultimately realize the full potential of the Sith, and wield the awesome power of the dark side as never before. Since childhood, Dessel has known only the abuse of his hateful father and the dangerous, soul-crushing labor of a cortosis miner. Deep in the tunnels of the desolate planet Apatros, endlessly excavating the rare mineral valued throughout the galaxy, Dessel dreams of the day he can escape-a day he fears may never come. But when a high-stakes card game ends in deadly violence, Dessel suddenly finds himself a wanted man. On the run from vengeful Republic forces, Dessel vanishes into the ranks of the Sith army, and ships out to join the bloody war against the Republic and its Jedi champions. There, Dessel’s brutality, cunning, and exceptional command of the Force swiftly win him renown as a warrior. But in the eyes of his watchful masters, he is destined for a far greater role in the ultimate Sith plan for the galaxy-if he can prove himself truly worthy.”

June 15 – Heir to the Empire

The Essential Legends Collection also sees the release of Timothy Zahn’s iconic Heir to the Empire. You can check out a video where we talk about how Heir to the Empire may be the basis for the upcoming crossover event in The Mandalorian here. The publisher’s summary for the exciting new re-release is as follows: “Now for the first time in trade paperback: A Star Wars Legends classic featuring the ever-popular Thrawn, repackaged to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm. Here is the #1 New York Times bestselling novel that reignited the entire Star Wars publishing phenomenon. The biggest event in the history of Star Wars books, Heir to the Empire follows the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia after they led the Rebel Alliance to victory in Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi. Five years after the Death Star was destroyed and Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated, the galaxy is struggling to heal the wounds of war, Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins, and Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of new Jedi Knights. But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords—the brilliant and deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn—has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to create.”

June 15 – Shatterpoint

Matthew Stover’s classic Clone Wars novel sees new light with this re-release as part of Del Rey’s The Essential Legends Collection. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Now for the first time in trade paperback: A Star Wars Legends classic featuring Jedi Master Mace Windu, repackaged to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm. Mace Windu is a living legend: Jedi Master, senior member of the Jedi Council, skilled diplomat, devastating fighter. Some say he is the deadliest man alive. But he is a man of peace—and for the first time in a thousand years, the galaxy is at war. Now, following the momentous events climaxing in the Battle of Geonosis, Master Mace Windu must undertake a perilous homecoming to his native world—to defuse a potentially catastrophic crisis for the Republic…and to confront a terrifying mystery with dire personal consequences.”

June 15 – The Skywalker Collection: Episodes I–IX

Golden Books and Star Wars are always a great combination, and this upcoming collection looks to continue this tradition by focusing on the entire Skywalker saga from beginning to end. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “All nine films in the epic Star Wars Skywalker space saga—The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker—are retold in this Little Golden Book hardcover treasury! Featuring stunning retro illustrations, this collection of nine Little Golden Books is perfect for Star Wars fans and Little Golden Book collectors of all ages. Star Wars has captivated millions worldwide for over forty years. The phenomenon began with the 1977 theatrical debut of Star Wars, later retitled A New Hope, and has expanded to include ten additional major motion pictures (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and The Rise of Skywalker), television programming, publishing, video games, and much more.”

June 16 – Star Wars 14

The Star Wars mainline series from Charles Soule continues with this War of the Bounty Hunters tie-in. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “The REBELS finally have a lead on the location of HAN SOLO! It’s time to save the captain of the MILLENNIUM FALCON from his frozen carbonite tomb! A general, a Jedi, and a Wookiee will mount a desperate rescue mission… But they have no idea what actually awaits them.”

June 16 – The High Republic Adventures 5

IDW Publishing’s impressive The High Republic Adventures run continues with this fifth issue in the series. The publisher’s summary for Daniel José Older’s comic is as follows: “The Nihil have launched an attack on Burundang. The Republic sends Yoda and his Padawan learners, along with other Republic and Jedi ships, to try to stop them from escaping. Zeen and Lula pursue Krix, hoping for a final confrontation between the two friends. Writer Daniel José Older, bestselling author of Star Wars: Last Shot, and artist Harvey Tolibao bring IDW into The High Republic, a massive publishing crossover spanning comics and prose!”

June 18 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 8

The adventures of Clone Force 99 continue in the eighth episode of the series, hitting Disney+ on June 18.

June 22 – Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol 2 — Into the Fire

Greg Pak’s Marvel Comics Darth Vader series is compiled here in this upcoming paperback compilation. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Darth Vader failed to turn his son, Luke Skywalker, to the dark side. Vader sought revenge against those who hid Luke from him for all these years… and in doing so nearly betrayed his master. It did not go unnoticed by Palpatine… and now it is time for Vader’s next lesson. Now, left battered and broken by his punishment, the Dark Lord drags himself across the scorched surface of Mustafar with vengeance on his mind! But as Vader closes in on the key to Palpatine’s greatest secret, the deadly assassin Ochi of Bestoon stands in his way. Vader and Ochi are in for the fight of their lives, with the fate of the Emperor in the balance — but how much of this deadly scenario is Palpatine’s grand plan?”

June 23 – Darth Vader 13

Whenever Vader is involved, we’re always interested. And this is most certainly the case with the upcoming 13th issue of Greg Pak’s incredible Darth Vader run with Marvel Comics. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “DARTH VADER and OCHI OF BESTOON embark upon a search for the carbonite-frozen body of HAN SOLO. Get ready for intrigue, betrayal and action in the heart of HUTT SPACE with the explosive reappearance of EVERYONE’S FAVORITE ASSASSIN DROID, IG-88! …And a shocking cliffhanger brings the shadows to life!””

June 23 – Star Wars Adventures 5

IDW Publishing and Katie Cook team up once again for the fifth issue of Star Wars Adventures. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Padme [sic] and Anakin have grand plans to have a romantic night celebrating a recent victory. But before they get a chance to get together, Anakin is Jedi-napped by a group of outlaws with their sights on a holocron in the Jedi temple! Now it’s up to Padme [sic] to use all of her cunning to infiltrate the outlaw base and rescue him.”

June 25 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 9

The adventures of Clone Force 99 continue in the ninth episode of the series, hitting Disney+ on June 25.

June 29 – The High Republic: The Rising Storm

The adventures in the High Republic era continue with the highly anticipated second adult novel titled The Rising Storm by author Cavan Scott. You can check out our advanced review for the book here (thankfully it lives up to the brilliant Light of the Jedi). The publisher’s summary is as follows: “Following the dramatic events of Light of the Jedi, the heroes of the High Republic era return to face a shattered peace and a fearsome foe. In the wake of the Great Hyperspace Disaster and the heroism of the Jedi, the Republic continues to grow, bringing more worlds together under a single unified banner. Led by Chancellor Lina Soh, the spirit of unity extends throughout the galaxy, with the Jedi and newly established Starlight Beacon station at the vanguard. In celebration, the chancellor plans “The Republic Fair,” a showcase of the possibility and peace of the expanding Republic—a precept the Jedi hope to foster. Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar, Elzar Mann, and others join the event as ambassadors of harmony. But as the eyes of the galaxy turn toward the Fair, so too does the fury of the Nihil. Their leader, Marchion Ro, is intent on destroying this spirit of unity. His storm descends on the pageantry and celebration, sowing chaos and exacting revenge. As the Jedi struggle to curb the carnage of the rampaging Nihil, they come face to face with the true fear their enemy plans to unleash across the galaxy. The kind of fear that even the Force cannot shield them from.”

June 29 – The High Republic: Race to Crashpoint Tower

Daniel Jose Older continues to deliver some excellent stores in the High Republic, now with an exhilarating junior novel. We found the book to be a thrilling adventure that complements the events of The Rising Storm really well, as you can see in our advanced review here. The publisher’s summary is as follows: “The Republic Fair is coming! Visitors from all over the galaxy are traveling to the planet Valo for a massive, awe-inspiring festival celebrating the Republic. While his fellow Valons prepare for the fair, Jedi Padawan Ram Jomaram is hiding out in his favorite place: a dingy garage filled with mechanical parts and tools. But when a security alarm goes off on the nearby hilltop nicknamed Crashpoint Peak, he ventures out with his trusty droid V-18 to investigate. There he discovers that someone has knocked out Valo’s communications tower—a frightening sign that Valo, and the Republic Fair, are in danger. Sure enough, as Ram races to warn the Jedi, the dreaded Nihil unleash a surprise attack! It’s up to Ram to face down the enemy at Crashpoint Tower and send a call for help to the Republic. Luckily, he’s about to get some assistance from unexpected new friends…”

June 30 – Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi 2

The second issue of the Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi comic series drops this month. The publisher’s summary for this reprint is as follows: “The Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Empire’s dreaded Death Star, but the Imperial starfleet continues hunting the rebels throughout the galaxy. Luke Skywalker now seeks to support the Rebellion as an X-wing fighter. But as he flies with the pilots of the Red Squadron, Luke feels stirrings of the Force. And this farm boy turned fighter pilot begins to suspect that his destiny lies along a different path.”

June 30 – Doctor Aphra 11

Alyssa Wong’s Doctor Aphra series for Marvel comics continues in this 11th issue. And fan favorite Durge will make his long-awaited debut in canon with this issue! The publisher’s summary is as follows: “MYSTERIES ABOUND ABOARD A DURGE-ANGED SHIP! DOCTOR APHRA and SANA STARROS discover an eerie abandoned ship while on a new mission from DOMINA TAGGE. But on board they will come face-to-face with a nightmarish horror not seen in the galaxy for untold eons. And then there’s….THE FEARSOME BOUNTY HUNTER DURGE!”

For reference, a condensed list of upcoming projects in June without descriptions is included below:

June 1 – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: Special 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition 

June 2 – War of the Bounty Hunters 1 

June 4 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 6 

June 8 – Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol 2 — Target Valance 

June 9 – Bounty Hunters 13 

June 11 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 7 

June 15 – Star Wars: Join the Rebellion! 

June 15 – Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

June 15 – Heir to the Empire

June 15 – Shatterpoint

June 15 – The Skywalker Collection: Episodes I–IX 

June 16 – Star Wars 14 

June 16 – The High Republic Adventures 5 

June 18 –Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 8 

June 22 – Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol 2 — Into the Fire 

June 23 – Darth Vader 13 

June 23 – Star Wars Adventures 5 

June 25 – Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Episode 9 

June 29 – The High Republic: The Rising Storm 

June 29 – The High Republic: Race to Crashpoint Tower

June 30 – Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi 2 

June 30 – Doctor Aphra 11 

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, Disney, Del Rey, Marvel Comics, IDW Publishing, and Golden Books