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‘M3GAN’: That’s No Child’s Toy!



A robotics engineer at a toy company creates a too-life-like doll for her recently orphaned niece, that takes on a life of its own!

So, M3GAN wastes no time diving right into the story, and neither will we! Cady’s beleaguered parents were trying to get her into some kind of snow vacation up in the mountains whilst lessening her fixation on screen time, especially the goofy Furby-like Purr-fect Pet that’s the latest rage in kiddie toys. And in the first of many predictable scenes, while Cady’s tired parents argue in their chain-less stopped in the middle of the road car, a gigantic set of semi-lights come barreling right at them, causing everything to irrevocably change.

Cady (Violet McGraw) is the lone survivor, and though her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) insists she wants to take Cady in for at least the time being, it’s quite clear that while Gemma is an engineering genius, she has no idea what to do with Cady at all. Sadly throughout the entire film, we actually learn very little about Gemma personally, how she fell from highbrow robotics engineering all the way down to toy manufacturing, for a profit-obsessed boss at that, what her personal life might have been like before this tragedy, we get none of that. Gemma mentions that she and her sister weren’t terribly close when taking custody of Cady, which of course adds to her already mountainous guilt, but that’s about it. What we do know about Gemma is that she loves to create things, robotic things specifically, and while it’s a wild coincidence that Gemma happens to be the main creator of those dumbass Purr-Fect Pets, what she’s really passionate about is the robotic doll she and her coworkers have been working on in secret.

It really seems like Gemma leads a very closed life, her house is practically empty and barren of decoration, she has/had no significant other, younglings, or pets that we can tell, and she’s simply obsessed with things like computer codes and synthetic skins and adaptive AI, but in order to make what? A too-life-like doll that can basically replace the need for a nanny or babysitter, yes, but also eventually supplant teachers, other peers in the appropriate age bracket, and even the parents themselves! Apparently, while Gemma can indeed code freaking adaptive Artificial Intelligence into her secret project, she doesn’t bother with things like Grandfathered Sci-Fi tropes, Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, or even the very real need for basic human connection. After all, Cady’s a child, and frankly, Gemma has absolutely no idea how to deal with her, and whether she realizes it or not, Gemma oozes awkwardness in trying to interact with the tiny human. I just want to take this opportunity to point out the irony in someone like Gemma making kiddie toys.

The stuff going on around Gemma is somewhat more interesting – the nosy Karen-like neighbor Celia (Lori Dungey) who absolutely refuses to leash her damned dog that always escapes through the hole in the fence between their properties, is absolutely asking for her comeuppance; coworkers Tess (Jen Van Epps) and Cole (Brian Jordan Alvarez) are all-in on the secret M3GAN Doll project, even helping Gemma to convince money-hungry boss David (Ronny Chieng) and his corporate thief of an assistant Kurt (Stephane Garneau-Monten) of the projects viability over those stupid Purr-fect Pets. The state-appointed therapist Lydia (Amu Usherwood) isn’t helping Cady at all, seemingly more concerned with the viability of Gemma as a caretaker, and as is the case more often than not with situations like these, demands Cady conform to her new reality without delay or protest.

After a night of awkward attempts at bonding over Gemma’s collectibles (“They’re not toys, you don’t take ‘em out of the box or play with ‘em”), the previous incarnation of M3GAN that Gemma called Bruce and capitalism made on youngling greed, Gemma is convinced the best solution is to finish the M3GAN Doll project and use Cady as her first test subject. Because of family, right?

And after all, M3GAN really is a synthetic-sheathed miracle of human engineering and genius, at least in the beginning. She’s funny, kind and caring, adaptive to damn near any situation, constantly upgrading and applying everything helpful possible to her first Imprinted child Cady, and more overprotective than a rabid mama bear. Thus far all the adults in Cady’s current life are either ignoring her, fobbing her off on someone else who can potentially “deal” with poor Cady better, or insisting she acts some kind of counter-intuitive way, usually adult-ish. Cady herself represents a problem that needs dealing with, instead of a miniature human that needs time and space to grieve for farks sake. It doesn’t help at all that Gemma tried to instruct M3GAN not to mention death or anything relating to it, to Cady. So when M3GAN and Cady Imprint each other, the newborn unfettered AI with the strength of several fully grown men and the desperately lonely orphaned girl, it’s a recipe for impending disaster!

First, the damned dog needs to be dealt with, permanently. We all knew the second the dog’s teeth met any part of Cady’s skin, that the doggy, and likely his owner too, were going to get disappeared, and soon. The film made a point of glossing over the actual death of the poor doggy and turned Celia’s death into a Chucky-like farce, so it was still fine for a PG-13 rating. (Sigh.) Then for some reason, Gemma thinks it’s a good idea to send a more recalcitrant Cady to an outdoorsy camp kind of deal, ostensibly just a campground program for fosters and troubles, but the place seems a lot more like a juvenile offender detention center wrapped up in postcard-scenery. Especially when the mini mass murderer in training the son of one of the camp counselors Brandon (Jack Cassidy) decides that Cady and her big-size dolly are the perfect next targets for his adolescent wrath – the scene where M3GAN contorts in a fury and chases the boy down like a rabid animal, showcasing M3GAN’s otherness and complete lack of restraint, is particularly well-done.

Time is starting to run out, Cady and M3GAN are far too close and the killer bot is starting to ice out anyone else in Cady’s life, at first socially and now quite literally. Gemma’s demonstration of M3GAN to the investors as the next big toy requires Cady’s participation, and the poor girl is unraveling under the ignorance of adults and the smothering care of her best friend-bot. Gemma is finally realizing, a little too freaking late for my taste, the potential wickedness of the thing she created, embodying the old adage, “Just because you can do a thing, doesn’t mean you should.” And now that Cady finally has the attention of the adults she’s been so desperately seeking, it’s not a moment too soon, because stopping M3GAN is going to require some creative thinking!

The physical acting of M3GAN by Amie Donald for any scenes that the animatronic puppet itself could not do, full of Ring-like contortions and demanding presence from such a small body, is truly impressive in its terrible beauty. Donald wore a static silicone M3GAN mask made by Morot FX, to be later replaced by a CGI version of M3GAN’s face to match the animatronic, and the adult voice of Jenna Davis coming out of that tiny frame gives M3GAN another stamp of wrongness. The overall effect is a bit like a murderous crazed Anime version of Alice from Alice in Wonderland.

Catch the killer adventures of a jealous best-friend-bot in M3GAN, on Amazon Prime now!

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‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’: Rebellion with a cause



The story of the rise of Coriolanus Snow, from teenage Capital City pawn to rising Dictator of the Hunger Games! 

Apparently no one out here in post-apocalyptic Panem has heard of irony and so they name their children things like Coriolanus (Tom Blyth), Tigress, and further off in Hunger Games lore, after swamp plants like Katniss. Corio’s father was a legendary general and that is pretty much the only reason young Snow and his meager family of grandmother called Grandma’am (Fionnula Flanagan) and sister Tigress (Hunter Schafer) are tolerated here in the Capital City at all. 

Most of the snotty youngsters at the academy won’t let Snow forget how far his family has fallen, but he’s generally not concerned with them. What is concerning is the strong disapproval of the drugged-up Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage) and the creepy attention of Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis) as she lurks in the classroom sniffing out talent. The Dean feels very strongly the annual Hunger Games should end, while Gaul is violently adamant that not only do the Games continue, but that they get as much more attention as possible. And young Snow is stuck in the middle, when the yearly prize money normally awarded to the academy student with the best grades gets switched out for, you guessed it, the student that can make this years’ Hunger Games as entertaining as possible. 

Whilst the students are protesting this sudden change, the annual Reaping is about to commence, and big shock and surprise, Corio’s candidate from District 12 Lucy Grey Baird (Rachel Zegler) is chosen as a Tribute. This is where the film begins to really take off on musical wings, for as it turns out, Lucy Grey can sing. Boy, can that gal sing! She can sing, she can play guitar, she can work a crowd, she can calm things down, she can fire ‘em up too! And Corio, being no dummy himself, instantly plots ways to use his Tributes amazing voice to draw attention to her, and admittedly his own, plight! 

Though far too many people sneer at the idea, Corio takes his position as Mentor to his Tribute seriously enough to sneak onto the tram taking the Tributes to their habitat, which turns out to be a completely appropriate moniker, as this year the Tributes are held before the Hunger Games in a large zoo habitat so the weatherman ‘Lucky’ Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman), host of this years games, can MC the hell out of everything up close and personal! 

What happens at this years Hunger Games and the subsequent consequences to both Corio and Lucy Grey is actually only half the story, and the movie. Coriolanus has always had to be opportunistic, but learning to be absolutely ruthless when necessary under the tutelage of Dr. Gaul, who basically thinks it’s always best to be merciless, is an eye-opening education indeed.  Even after they’ve both been consigned to military service and his friend Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andres Rivera) decides to finally rebel, Corio and Sejanus continue to deceive each other and themselves, to accomplish their separate goals. Not even the love Corio swears he feels for Lucy Grey can save him, or them, from the adamant absolute necessity of the Hunger Games continuing. And after all that’s happened, Coriolanus Snow has gotten a terrific education in the best way to be the absolutely ruthless next Hunger Games advocate, and oh yeah, President of Panem. 

The movie does itself no favors by trying to stuff not one but two major storylines and a bunch of side storylines sadly introduced and then ignored, into the film. It would have been entirely possible to turn Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes into two different movies, separated between feathers and scales if you like, and do justice to the major storylines in both. Blyth gives a fine  performance as a young Coriolanus Snow, but the fact that President Snow is played by Donald Sutherland in all three of the Hunger Games films means Blyth has incredibly large shoes to fill. Rachel Zegler as Lucy Grey is absolute fire, and yes the actress did sing the songs in the film herself, including the Hunger Games franchise epic song, ‘The Hanging Tree’. Every time Lucy Grey opens her mouth and sheer soul-searing music comes out, it provides a distinct counterpoint to the soul-crushing ambition of Coriolanus Snow and further demonstrates the District and Caste separation Hunger Games is known for. And if, by the end of the film, Coriolanus Snow has come to agree that the Hunger Games must continue but perhaps under his own auspices, he has no one but himself to blame when another younger but still rebellious female blows it all up in his face! 

Choose rebellion or conformity for yourself in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

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Wondercon 2024 presents The Spiderwick Chronicles 



Based on the 2003 book series from Holly Black and Tony DeTerlizzi, Roku Channel presents us with a brand new TV show sendup of The Spiderwick Chronicles

We are graced (sorry for the pun) first with a trailer for the new show, which of course introduces us to the ever-amazing Christian Slater and his Fetch Calliope (Alyvia Alyn Lind), and the main family of the story, the Graces. And then of course nothing would be done but for us here at Wondercon 2024 to sit back and enjoy the showing of the very first episode of The Spiderwick Chronicles

So, meet the Graces – sister Mallory (Mychala Lee) with her fencing rig and future life plans; fraternal twins Simon (Noah Cottrell) and Jared (Lyon Daniels), who is unintentionally the cause of this entire move to another state and the old Spiderwick House; and mom Helen (Joy Bryant), fresh off a divorce and trying to create a new life here in a new place, while dealing with her troublesome kids and a potential strange family legacy inside Spiderwick House! 

Crazy old great aunt Lucinda (Charlayne Woodard), who used to live in Spiderwick House, has long held the family reputation for being, well, crazy, suffering visions of things that simply aren’t there, aren’t real. Right? Because things like hungry ogres and mischievous fairies don’t actually exist. Things like new psychiatrist evaluations, giant multiple-story house renovations, and thieving accusations, these are the reality, the norm, and let’s face it, the mundane. For someone like Jared, who’s beginning to be touched by crazy old Lucinda’s legacy of Seeing things that aren’t really there, at least for those without the Sight, the mundane is utterly boring, while being shoved headfirst into the Otherworld, where creatures such as Thimbletack (Jack Dylan Grazer) actually do exist, is almost vindication. 

Even bloodthirsty ogres with plans for utterly destroying humanity have to bow to real-world necessities like a cover story, a place to live and eat without the cops being called, and oh yeah, a job. While Helen is hopeful that Jared’s new psychiatrist will be able to help him, Jared himself scoffs at the idea. How’s that for a recipe for an utterly magical, whimsical, and totally epic disaster? 

The Spiderwick Chronicles premieres all episodes of Season 1 on April 19th, 2024, on the Roku Channel

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The 8 Episode Series Tries To Encompass A Lot Leaving Fans In A Cliffhanger.



The 2010 “Avatar: The Last Airbender” movie by M. Night Shyamalan faced criticism for its deviations from the beloved animated series. The film struggled with pacing, casting, and a lackluster script, disappointing fans who cherished the source material. In contrast, the 2024 Netflix series has generated positive buzz for its commitment to diverse casting, adherence to the original storyline, and improved character development. The series seems poised to capture the essence of the animated show, offering a fresh and faithful adaptation that resonates with both new and existing fans.

Even though the Netflix series comes closer to the core ideals of the animated series, I feel it lacks heart. Many scenes barely scratch the surface of the relationships between the characters and the push-and-pull relationship between Aang and Zuko. I will admit the CG versions of Momo and Appa are just so gosh darn cute.

The 8 episode series tries to encompass a lot leaving fans in a cliffhanger. It’s worth a watch and I am hanging on for the next season to be announced.

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