Rinko Kikuchi westworld

This week’s episode of Westworld, “Akane no Mai,” finally walked us into Shogun World, a sister park set in Japan’s Edo period. As different as the costumes, culture, and scenery are, viewers looking forward to the introduction of a brave new world, unlike anything we had seen on the show before, may have been slightly underwhelmed by some of the deliberately samey aspects of Shogun World. As our own Chris Evangelista put it in his review: “Shogun World may not be all it’s cracked up to be.”

The park has noticeable similarities to Westworld and there are two very good reasons for that. To talk about the similarities and how they fit both the story Westworld is trying to tell and its cinematic influences, we’ll need to venture into spoiler territory for Westworld, season 2, episode 5.

So unsheathe you samurai swords and let’s charge right in like a band of ronin show-watchers in the age of Peak TV.

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In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • See video of a parade float going up in flames at the Magic Kingdom.
  • Guess which theme park has surpassed Epcot’s annual attendance.
  • You can now wear the Infinity Gauntlet (and drink from it) at Disney California Adventure.
  • Rumors peg Islands of Adventure for a new Jurassic Park coaster and Jurassic World re-theme.
  • Watch the full Spectacle Night Parade with Harry Potter floats at Universal Studios Japan.
  • And more!

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The Matrix Reloaded Defense

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: we go to bat for The Matrix Reloaded on its 15th anniversary.)

If the burden of a sequel is to equal or better its predecessor, then few movie sequels have inherited as great a burden as The Matrix Reloaded did when it first hit theaters 15 years ago today on May 15, 2003.

The first Matrix movie gripped the public imagination, tapping into something deep in the collective unconscious. Steeped in grandeur, a sense of pre-millennial purpose, it was a motion picture that wielded the same kind of myth-making mojo as the original Star Wars trilogy. If anything, back in 1999, The Matrix was more Star Wars than Star Wars, as evinced by how widely it overshadowed The Phantom Menace that year as a cultural phenomenon.

The Matrix Reloaded’s legacy as a sequel is such that it and The Matrix Revolutions often get lumped together as inferior specimens. In terms of simple storytelling effectiveness — the lucidity of their dream-weaving as movie machines — both films are inferior to the smooth-running high-concept engine that was the first Matrix. But while the law of diminishing returns is at play in The Matrix trilogy and Reloaded does show signs of the impending system failure that Revolutions would bring about, it actually manages, despite its infamous cave rave scene, to expand the series mythology in new and interesting ways. A decade and a half later, the film’s dismantling of the oosen One narrative set up in The Matrix gives it a different but no less intriguing pull, one that takes to the freeway and attempts to broaden the viewer’s perspective on reality in a manner that now seems ahead of its time.

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In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Find out where the new space-themed restaurant in Epcot will be located.
  • Universal Hollywood’s Jurassic Park attraction will soon be extinct … but life finds a way.
  • Which foreign country is likeliest to get a Disney park next?
  • See 4K video of the new Toy Story Land at Shanghai Disneyland.
  • A decision about John Lasseter’s future at Disney and Pixar may be imminent.
  • And more!

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Marvel Comic Plots That Could Inform the Avengers 4 Story

Avengers: Infinity War is driving a lot of speculation right now about what next year’s follow-up Avengers movie and the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe could look like. Part of that speculation draws from what we know — or think we know — based on movie news, but fans are also looking to comics history for possible indicators of where the story might go. If you read our feature about the iconic Marvel Comics moments that Infinity War brings to life, then you know that the movie is full of visual callbacks to the comics. More often than not, these moments have been re-contextualized from the comics, as if the filmmakers were using the same basic ingredients to make a different recipe.

Even before it stopped answering to the Marvel Creative Committee, Marvel Studios was never bound by a need to slavishly adapt specific stories. What it did do that set it apart from the studios behind the early batch of inferior comic book movies in the 2000s was demonstrate a genuine affinity and respect for the source material. This could be felt in things like the faithful costume design it afforded most of its heroes and some (but not all) of its villains. No longer was their colorful comic book look — the bright visual aesthetic that X-Men once dismissed with a cheeky one-liner about “yellow spandex” — regarded as silly and in need of black-leather revision.

Knowing the studio’s penchant for pulling from old back issues, let’s dig into the Marvel Comics library and take a look at some elements that might make it into Avengers 4 and Phase 4 of the MCU.

Potential spoilers for future Marvel movies and definite spoilers for Infinity War lie ahead.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • See the star-studded grand opening of Fast & Furious – Supercharged at Universal Orlando.
  • A land themed to Sesame Street is coming to Sea World Orlando.
  • The Ferris wheel at Disney California Adventure has a new name.
  • Explore 360-degree ride footage of Avatar – Flight of Passage.
  • Watch Wheezy the Penguin come to life in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • And more!

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Infinity War brings to life

Eighteen years into the comic book movie millennium, it’s easy to take for granted that there now exists a whole cinematic universe full of characters that Marvel Comics readers could previously only dream about seeing up on the big screen. What once seemed like a fan pipe dream has now become a reality with Avengers: Infinity War, a movie that brings together heroes from at least five different film series (nine if you count the MCU characters who currently only have one solo movie under their belt). 

Born out of the tradition of Marvel crossovers, Infinity War leverages a decade of character-building into the ultimate mega-sequel. It’s the culmination not just of Marvel’s ten-year reign at the box office, but of forty years worth of comic book movies. As someone who used to sit on the floor of his bedroom and obsessively-compulsively organize his comics collection across multiple long boxes, I can still remember a time when the only remotely decent superhero films were the ones centered on Superman and Batman. If you look back to 1978 when Superman: The Movie came out and think about all that has transpired since then, the shared weight of comics and movie history speaks volumes.

The world has changed a lot since the X-Men first got their own movie and since Iron Man built the foundation of the MCU. In many ways, geekdom is no longer a sub-culture: it’s the dominant culture in entertainment. And now instead of long boxes, I’ve got an iPad and a subscription to Marvel Unlimited, the digital comics service. So let’s put those tools to good use and take a look at how Avengers: Infinity War remixes moments from the panels and pages of Marvel Comics into the blockbuster to end all blockbusters. Spoilers and comic book art abound below.

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In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Get a glimpse at the grand opening of Toy Story Land at Shanghai Disneyland.
  • A second Star Wars Nite has been added to the Disneyland After Dark event roster.
  • Learn the exact dollar amount actor Neil Patrick Harris paid for a Haunted Mansion prop.
  • See some exclusive new front-row pics of Tokyo Disneyland’s 35th-anniversary parade.
  • Find out which Disney park uses men in drag to play certain female characters.
  • And more!

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doctor doom movie

At San Diego Comic-Con last year, Fargo and Legion showrunner Noah Hawley revealed that he was developing a Doctor Doom movie for 20th Century Fox. This news was met with excitement from fans who feel that the live-action Fantastic Four movies up to this point have done a disservice to the character of Doom — arguably Marvel’s greatest super-villain. Recently Hawley talked a little about his vision for the film as a political thriller along the lines of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yet the proposed acquisition of Fox by Disney — which could fold the Fantastic Four and X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe — could also complicate matters insofar as it may see some projects that were in development before the acquisition fall by the wayside.

The second season of Legion is now underway on FX and the show has allowed Hawley to carve out his own weird yet worthwhile corner of the X-universe on television. The show’s first season introduced one notable Marvel villain in a way that made him truly scary, and there is evidence now from the second season that Hawley may be crafting a Breaking-Bad-like origin tale for another such villain right under our noses. It just goes to show: he’s the perfect guy to tackle Doctor Doom.

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Millennium Falcon theme park ride

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • See what the Haunted Mansion might have looked like if it had been called “Museum of the Weird.”
  • Disney World might finally be getting a fleet of brand spanking new monorails.
  • Check out early test footage for the Millennium Falcon attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson continues his recent pattern of popping up around theme parks.
  • See video of the updated Pixar Play Parade and Tokyo Disneyland’s new 35th-anniversary parade.
  • And more!

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