Somehow it is already December, and I know you all have holiday stuff to do. I know you don’t want to waste your time trying to find something to watch when you finally get some time to wind down. I’m here for you.
First up is the Disney+ series “Willow.” If you’re from Gen X, like me, you will remember the fantasy film “Willow,” starring Val Kilmer as Willow. Just kidding! Kilmer played Madmartigan who thus far does not appear in this series.
Willow is played by Warwick Davis, and my favorite part was when he showed up. His return had the same energy as the original Star Wars characters showing up in “The Last Jedi,” and and in fact Davis has said he was inspired by Mark Hamill’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker in that film.
I’m not sure how this is possible, but I did not realize Davis would be reprising his role from the 1988 film. I guess I haven’t been paying attention, and honestly, I don’t remember much from the original movie which I’ve mixed up with the 1985 fantasy film “Ladyhawke.”
As awesome as it was to see Davis back in the titular role, it doesn’t bode well that that scene was the best part of this show. Instead of reminding me of those earlier movies, this new series reminds me of nothing so much as Amazon’s adaptation of “Wheel of Time.” That’s not a bad thing, it’s just … a little confusing. It’s possible my middle-aged brain can only keep track of so many teenagers going on quests, but that’s probably a problem exclusive to myself (and maybe my fellow Gen X-ers).
So is “Willow” worth watching? I’ve only seen the first two episodes and I’d love to say it started out with a bang but so far it’s just meh. I will keep watching, in the hopes it will go from boring to amazing (which seems to be the trend – I’m looking at you, “Andor”) but if you have Disney+ and are into fantasy, or you’re just plain nostalgic, you’re probably already watching this one.
Netflix’s new series “Wednesday” is, of course, about Wednesday Addams from the 1960s TV show and the movie remakes from the ’90s. Actually, there are multiple iterations of this family’s story, but those are the only ones I’ve seen.
The earlier versions are dark comedies, but this one’s genre is a bit less clear. With Tim Burton producing (and directing the first few episodes), we know it will be dark, but is it a comedy? Is it horror? Or a murder mystery? I think it’s trying to be all of those, but not entirely succeeding.
Wikipedia calls it a “coming-of-age supernatural comedy horror television series.” I feel that’s at least one too many ingredients in the cauldron, but maybe I’m not the target audience. This Wednesday, now 16, is played by Jenna Ortega, who is perfect in this role. Christina Ricci (who also stars) is my generation’s Wednesday, and her deadpan Thanksgiving speech at Camp Chippewa is still one of my favorite movie scenes. The witch hunt story line in “Wednesday” seems to be a callback to that takedown of whitewashing American history in “Addams Family Values,” but it’s just one of many side plots in a somewhat tangled story.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did, and I’m not alone – “Wednesday” is so popular it even broke a record held by “Stranger Things” – the most hours viewed in a week for an English language series on Netflix. It is similar in some ways to “Stranger Things.” Both shows are creepier than I would like, but they also both have themes of friendship and perseverance against the odds. Both shows focus on teen outcasts, and they also both have some great musical scenes: Wednesday’s dance scene (accompanied by The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck”), is the one most talked about, but I prefer her cello cover of The Stones’ “Paint It Black” (although nothing can top Eddie Munson’s “Master of Puppets” moment).
Despite its flaws, “Wednesday” is suspenseful and addictive. If you like coming-of-age supernatural comedy horror, stock up on popcorn and binge watch this one.
‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’
If you are a Marvel fan, you know “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is absolutely worth going to see in the theater as you’ve likely already seen it and don’t need me to tell you how great it is. If you haven’t seen all the movies, you might be confused, as this is not just a sequel to 2018’s “Black Panther,” but also … lots of stuff has happened since that came out, in the films and TV series, but also in real life. Sadly, the actor who played King T’Challa/Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman, passed away in 2020.
The film did a great job in handling the death of his character and was a beautiful tribute to Boseman. I tried to avoid reading any spoilers, so I did not know who would be chosen as T’Challa’s successor. In that way, the film was unpredictable, which I liked. There are also some new characters introduced, who will likely have bigger roles in future installations.
I was less thrilled about the conflict the Wakandans had with the sea people, who reminded me too much of the underwater people from “Aquaman,” I guess because people who live in the ocean seem silly to me. Marvel has aliens and wizards and talking raccoons, but I apparently draw the line at mer-people. I don’t know why. Marvel villains always seem to lean toward the cheesy side anyway, so maybe it’s just par for the course.
Overall it was an exciting and emotional movie, and just as good as the first “Black Panther.” Maybe it was even better, since we already know and love these characters. I don’t think I’m giving away anything when I say this one is a tearjerker. Bring tissues.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’
Despite the fact that it looked a little low-budget, I enjoyed “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.” It was silly and fun, and it was released the day after Thanksgiving, which I thought was a good choice. Mantis’ and Drax’s antics were funny and the ending was even sort of touching and sweet.
The Guardians are my favorite MCU characters and the upcoming “The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is rumored to be the last film with these characters, which I hope is not true.
The new movie is scheduled to be released in theaters on May 5, the second Marvel film of the new year, after “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” coming Feb. 17. The trailers for both films have been released.
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