(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

With Star Wars Celebration — Chicago Edition officially over, fans around the world have seen their first look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and how Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) story might play out. But while Rey’s narrative is front-and-center in the Disney era of Lucasfilm, there is another with that name that deserves recognition on the big screen. First Order Admiral Rae Sloane.  

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Shadow and Bone Netflix Series

In American pop culture, when people think of the fantasy genre, they usually think of the same things: magic, wizards, elves, orcs, fairies, dragons, a European Middle Ages setting. Despite the genre predating these concepts, the unprecedented influence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has so thoroughly wedged itself in our collective consciousness that it can seem impossible to disentangle. Everything from A Wizard of Earthsea and Harry Potter to The Dark Tower and Game of Thrones has found inspiration from Tolkien’s works. But there are so many other mythologies out there, waiting to be built and discovered. One of them, created in 2012 by author Leigh Bardugo, is unlike anything mainstream audiences have ever seen: Shadow & Bone, the first part of the Grisha Trilogy.

Originally set to be a film franchise by Dreamworks, the rights to the “Grishaverse” recently moved to Netflix. Eric Heisserer, the writer behind the streaming service’s horror film Bird Box, is set to be showrunner. This should give you some idea of what kind of tone to expect. While Bardugo’s series is sold as Young Adult, that doesn’t stop her from dealing in body horror and dark themes, all set against a backdrop based on Russian mythology instead of Nordic (where Tolkien mostly pulled from). The result is something worth checking out, for a number of reasons.

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(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

Out of all of the characters in the Star Wars galaxy, no species gets a shorter shaft than the droids. Created to fill gaps in everything from manual labor to cultural translation, there are probably more droids than organic beings in George Lucas’ universe. Yet for all their omnipresence, Star Wars has barely scratched the surface of what it truly means to have so many artificial life forms.

Whether you see Star Wars as science-fiction or science-fantasy, the apathy towards this huge chunk of the narrative weirds me out. After all, the foundational cornerstone of science-fiction asks whether or not constructs created by man have souls and aspirations. Teenaged Mary Shelley might not have known what a “robot” was when she created the sci-fi genre over a bored long weekend, but Frankenstein’s monster set into motion decades of questions that boil down to “What does it mean to be sentient?”

The time has never been better for Star Wars to pop the hood and examine the long, horrifying history of the treatment of droids.

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Movie Ticket Subscription Service - Theater

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: here’s how movie theaters can win back audiences.)

If you have even a passing interest in the business of movies, you’ll know movie theaters aren’t doing too great. Attendance by movie-goers in the United States and Canada hit record lows last year. Countless think pieces have been written about how streaming services and increased theater ticket prices (not to mention the concession stand extortion) are killing cinema. To hear some analysts talk, the end of cinema is nigh.

Nonsense.

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Daredevil Season 3

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: let’s read between the lines of Marvel’s statement about Daredevil and learn how to speak publicist.)

Every few years, something happens in the world of superhero entertainment that requires…massaging. Maybe a rumor crops up about casting or a character’s fate. Maybe a director or a writer drops out of a project. Maybe an entire series implodes unexpectedly. But the very nature of superhero films being based on decades of source material that is easily accessible means studios have had to thread a very small needle to keep their secrets.

Enter the publicist. Ostensibly a job that is half herding cats and half schmoozer, the true core of being a great publicist is to be an accomplished liar. This is a compliment. The words publicists put forth are in the public forever and will be parsed immediately by fans and journalists alike. Good PR hugs the wall of truth as it slides past a chasm of bald-faced lies.

Marvel, in particular, in all of their various forms and studios and divisions, is a master of lies. They lied about the title of Avengers: Endgame for months. They even went so far as to put a whole fake Hulk in the trailer for Infinity War rather than let on that Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) would be in the Hulkbuster suit. So when they released a statement about the cancellation of Netflix’s Daredevil, it helps to have a Publicist-Whisperer on deck to explain what they really mean.

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royal handmaidens of naboo

(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

Star Wars is a vast galaxy that was created by George Lucas, but more has been added to it over the decades by countless storytellers. Like a Katamari ball made of overlapping lore and disparate Earth cultures and architecture. Oftentimes, that works out great, with storylines growing from single throwaway lines and background imagery. But sometimes, you get a weird jumble that looks great from a distance but like a huge mess up close. One such Gordian knot is the government of Naboo.

Ostensibly a democratic monarchy — which first of all, no — Naboo is run by an elected King or Queen. Or is it run by the Naboo Governor? Or is it run by the Royal Advisory Council? Or is it run by the noble families, collectively known as the Royal Houses of Naboo? As of this writing, the whole thing is still very opaque, and while I for one would welcome a political drama about the push/pull between government officials with no term limits and the ever-revolving door of pre-teen monarchs, such a thing would need an easily accessible group of heroes. Luckily, Naboo has just such a group: the Royal Handmaidens of Naboo.

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This post contains spoilers for Castlevania season 2.

When you think of “Prestige Television,” what are the necessary elements? For me, the main ingredients are a deeply interconnected narrative with multiple moving parts that require the viewer’s full attention, a significant production budget, and emotionally resonant acting. For spice, most shows that get labeled as Prestige™ tend to be on the dark side, with characters dealing with heavy burdens and traumas. Think Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad or Westworld. Using that criteria, I would submit that Netflix’s Castlevania qualifies as a whole new sub-genre: Prestige Animation.

Everything about Castlevania is an over-dramatic gothic confection sprinkled with modern sardonic wit. Brutally violent, the plot hinges on the death (or fridging) of Dracula’s human wife which causes him to go berserk. As vengeance, he promises to kill all humans. It is up to the last scion of the Belmont family (Richard Armitage), a mage (Alejandra Reynoso), and Dracula’s son (James Callis) to put a stop to it. By itself, that narrative is enough. Heck, it’s already a better story than any other video game adaptation to date. But writer Warren Ellis wasn’t content to tell a simple, linear story because life is neither simple nor linear.

And he’s introduced one of the best new villains of 2018 in the show.

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Did you know it’s been almost 12 years since Netflix moved their business model from subscription-mail DVD rentals to online streaming? The company pivoted to video (sorry!) in 2007. Why am I bringing this up? Because I can recall, clear as day, having conversations at the time that boiled down to my generation telling older generations that Netflix had just killed cable. Like all Cassandra’s, we were ignored.

Now, only a dozen years after taking their first steps into the digital world, Netflix is releasing original content so quickly it’s impossible — literally — to keep up. Even folks whose job is to watch and critique television all day stare with glazed eyes at the glut of content. Just this past October, the streaming giant released 60 new shows and films. That’s almost two per day. The month before that? 54 original releases.

So it’s no surprise that things get lost in the noise. But what is a surprise, at least to me, is that somehow The Dragon Prince was one of the shows that got lost. As of this writing, the first season has a paltry nine reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. All fresh. But compare that to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina with 87 reviews or Disenchanted with 72 reviews. The Dragon Prince is flying under the radar, which is a travesty. One I’m hoping to remedy by laying out exactly why you need to give the show a go before season two drops in 2019.

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Rogue One A Star Wars Story - Diego Luna as Cassian Andor

(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

This week’s article is an exercise in serendipity. Captain Cassian Andor is the name on everyone’s lips as of publication, but I swear to you I was already writing about his fascinating life history before Lucasfilm came crashing in with their latest announcement.

But just in case you didn’t see any of the ancillary Star Wars films, let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: with Pirates of the Caribbean being rebooted, it’s time to note that this series is not all about a single actor or character.)

In the year of our dark lord Cthulhu 2018, the only true zombies are movie franchises. No matter how steep the diminishing box office returns, no matter how loudly we collectively groan when another installment is announced, sequel and reboots and spinoffs just keep lumbering to the local cineplex. One of the latest is Disney’s mega-popular Pirates of the Caribbean saga. It was announced last month that the Mouse House is considering a Pirates reboot and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since…especially since it was revealed that Johnny Depp is most likely not returning for this new adventure.

To which I say: that’s probably for the best.

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