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The Monkey King: An Animated Feature Coming To Netflix

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The Monkey King

Premieres: August 18, 2023

Director: Anthony Stacchi (The Boxtrolls, Open Season)

Producer: Peilin Chou (Over the Moon, Abominable)

Executive Producer: Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer)

Animation and Imagery By: ReelFX

Cast: Monkey King (Jimmy O. Yang), Lin (Jolie Hoang-Rappaport), Stick (Nan Li), Dragon King (Bowen Yang), Benbo (Jo Koy), Babbo (Ron Yuan), Jade Emperor (Hoon Lee), Buddha (BD Wong), Demon of Havoc (Andrew Kishino), Red Girl (Sophie Wu), King Yama (Andrew Kishino), Wangmu (Jodi Long), Elder Monkey (James Sie), Mayor (Andrew Pang), Mayor’s Wife (Stephanie Hsu), Mayor’s Son (Kuno Inghram)

Synopsis:
The Monkey King is an action-packed family comedy that follows a rebellious and charismatic Monkey and his magical fighting Stick on an epic quest for victory over 100 demons, an eccentric Dragon King, and Monkey’s greatest foe of all —his own ego! Along the way, a young village girl challenges his self-centered attitude and shows him that even the smallest pebble can have a big effect on the world.
THE MONKEY KING – (L-R) MONKEY KING (Jimmy O. Yang) and LIN (voiced by Jolie Hoang-Rappaport). Cr: Netflix © 2023
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‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’: Rebellion with a cause

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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 

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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.

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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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