Cinema Dispatch: Mulan

Mulan and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Niki Caro

I’ll be honest, the animated Mulan wasn’t exactly one of my go to films when I was a kid.  I was more of an Aladdin/Pixar fan and while I remember Mulan being GOOD, it never really stuck with me like a lot of other films did.  But hey!  That’s why Disney is doing all these remakes in the first place, right?  To not only cash in on Nostalgia dollars for people who DO remember the original but to try and get the people who didn’t care for it the first time to invest in the property and maybe build a new theme park ride around it.  Does this remake of the 1998 classic hold up to and even SURPASS the original, or is this another live action remake from Disney that fails to bring anything new or interesting to the table?  Let’s find out!!

China is being attacked by the… Not Huns (Let’s get down to business!  To defeat… the Rouran Khaganate!) and it seems they have a witch on their side (Gong Li) that’s wreaking havoc on their outposts along the Silk Road.  In order to stop these invaders, the Emperor (Jet Li) orders the conscription of one man from every family in the country, and one of the villages they arrive at (which looks quite a bit like the slums from Kung Fu Hustle) is the home of Hua Mulan (Yifei Liu) and her family.  Her father (Tzi Ma) having no sons of his own volunteers to go despite having fought in a previous war and has a disabled leg because of it, but as you know this doesn’t sit well with Mulan and so she goes in her father’s stead; leaving the village in the dead of night and donning the identity of a man.  Mulan under the guise of Hua Jun must make it through the intense training of Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) while also keeping her identity as well as her overwhelming strength a secret; lest she bring shame on her family or even be executed by the very country she’s here to defend.  Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and the awesome witch lady might have the right idea, but Mulan is not about to let a little thing like impending death keep her from protecting her family and her homeland!  Will Mulan be able to successfully navigate the men’s world of warfare without her secret being discovered?  Who are these villainous rouges attacking China, and what’s driving them on their quest to conquer the country?  If they make a sequel to this, will it ALSO be about a feminist revolution in China or will they go in a different direction with it?

“My name is Hua Mulan.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”
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Cinema Dispatch: The New Mutants

The New Mutants and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Studios

Directed by Josh Boone

I was going to the movies multiple times a week for YEARS before this pandemic hit, and one of the things I kept seeing over and again was trailers for this movie. Every few months there’d be another one but with a different release date on it, and it got so ridiculously long that I vowed to be there opening day to see what kind of nonsense they were trying to cover up in post-production. Then the world came to an end and wouldn’t you know it? One of the first movies to go to theaters AND NOWHERE ELSE happened to be this one. All was not lost however as it turns out there’s a drive in theater nearby (the ONLY place I’ll go to see a movie right now) and they actually had this movie on their schedule, and so I was able to go out and keep that promise I made to myself all those years ago without having to take an unnecessary risk of CATCHING A POTENTIALLY LIFE THREATENING DISEASE in the process! So with all that buildup, with all the shakeups at the studio, and with all the world events that have broken the world between the first teaser trailer to now, does the movie manage to be any good? Did all the extra time working on it prove to be a fruitful endeavor, or are they hoping that the threat of getting sick would be enough for them to sneak this out without anybody noticing? Let’s find out!!

Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) finds herself stuck inside of a hospital of some sorts with a bunch of other young people under the watchful eyes of Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) who informs her that her family is dead and that she’s here because she PROBABLY caused it. Why? Well because she’s a mutant of course, and so is everyone else here! We’ve got Sam (Charlie Heaton) who can go fast and make things explode, Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy) who… has some sort of teleportation and sword fighting powers, Roberto (Henry Zaga) who’s the most dudebro dude ever and also might have fire powers, and Rahne (Massie Williams) who is… well she’s just a werewolf. I didn’t realize that fell under MUTANT powers, but I guess you can call anything a mutant power if you try hard enough. In any case, they’re all stuck in here with the discount Nurse Ratched who’s trying to get them to learn to control their powers through… group therapy sessions I guess, and clearly has some sinister motivations for keeping them all there that they’re vaguely aware of but none too concerned about. Dani, still trying to figure out exactly what happened to her father and not even knowing what her own super power is, tries to make the most of this very bizarre situation which only gets more disturbing once everyone starts having terrifying dreams or something relating to their past traumas which is certainly not making the overall dingy atmosphere of this place any more cheery. What exactly are Dani’s powers and are they in any way connected to the strange goings on at the hospital? What does Dr. Reyes have planned for them once she’s deemed them to be “better”, and is it somehow worse than having stay here? Are they actually stuck in some sort of Groundhog’s Day time loop which is why it feels like this movie’s been around for a hundred years!?

Nope. Nope. There we go!
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Cinema Dispatch: Artemis Fowl

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Artemis Fowl and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

I don’t think I’ve seen a GOOD new movie since the theaters closed up which is probably no coincidence as any studio who thinks their film will earn MONEY will probably want to wait until theaters are open again to take their chances on a strong weekend box office.  It certainly hasn’t improved my general outlook in this very challenging time, but Disney has a chance to lift the spirits of the world by giving us a fantastic adventure film that the whole family can enjoy!  Is this the YA cash cow that Disney’s been looking for!?  Let’s find out!!

Artemis Fowl Jr (Ferdia Shaw) is the son of famed… artifact collector or something, Artemis Fowl Sr (Clin Farrell); both of whom live a happy little life in a giant coastal mansion with their not-butler Domovi Butler (Nonso Anozie).  The only problem is that dear old dad has a habit of jetting off to another adventure in artifact “collecting” which leaves little Artite with little more to do than win dozens of awards at school and be a pompous jerk about it because on top of being super-rich he’s also a super-genius with a bad attitude.  Everything changes however when one of his father’s trips ends with his yacht sinking in the ocean and somehow it also comes out that he’s actually a master thief.  In reality, he’s been captured by an EVIL fairy and tells little Artie to give them the MAGICAL MACGUFFIN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY, or else his dad is going to die.  Oh yeah, fairies and other magical stuff are in this movie which comes in about as abruptly as that sentence did and little Artie gets over the shocking revelation just as quickly.  It turns out the MAGICAL MACGUFFIN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY is some artifact from the land of the fairies which is located underground (glad we never ran into any of THOSE cities amongst all the fracking, am I right?) and Magic Cop Julius Root (Judi Dench) is adamant about finding it.  One of her subordinates Officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) has a personal stake in finding this artifact so she goes rogue and gets… let’s say ENTANGLED with Little Artie’s situation and through further complications, the ENTIRE Magic Army is on Artie Jr’s doorstop and are looking to drag him out of there with the help of a giant dwarf named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) who they need for… reasons I suppose.  Using only his wits, the help of his non-butler, and even the help of his non-butler’s niece who is ALSO a super genius and kung-fu expert, he must find a way to locate the artifact, get the Magic po-po off his lawn, and try to wrangle an entire novel’s worth of world-building and character development into less than ninety minutes of screen time.  Can Artie Jr outsmart the Magic Cops with this heightened intellect and penchant for slick suits?  What is the mysterious evil fairy planning, and what will happen if the MAGICAL MACGUFFIN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY were to fall into their hands?  Is this grab bag of every other fantasy movie even CLOSE to the sum of its blatantly lifted parts!?

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“We are NOT gonna win the group costume contest if we aren’t all on the same page!”     “Why are you looking at ME?  SHE’S the one who came as The Wasp!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Onward

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Onward and all the images you see in this review are owned by Pixar and Walt Disney Studio Motion PIctures

Directed by Dan Scanlon

It’s no secret that I’ve been pretty down on Pixar this past decade.  On the one hand, we DID get Coco and I guess Inside Out was just fine, but this was also the decade that brought us redundant sequels that I just failed to connect with; particularly Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 which everyone else seemed to enjoy a heck of a lot more than I did.  Because of this and the somewhat underwhelming trailers we got (It’s fantasy AND modern AT THE SAME TIME!?), I’m not exactly looking forward to seeing this kid friendly version of Bright, but that’s just the pessimistic side of me talking and maybe this really will be another return to form for the venerable studio.  Is this a road trip for the ages and the sequel to Brütal Legend we’ve all been secretly hoping for, or is this a mythical folly more disastrous than that Warcraft movie you’ve already forgotten about?  Let’s find out!!

Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is your typical Elf teenager; aspiring to be Legolas but more like The Elf on a Shelf.  He’s gangly, really quiet, and to some people he might come off as a bit creepy considering his lack of social skills.  VERY different from his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) who is basically the unholy offspring (in the cool Rock N Roll sort of way) of Andy Dwyer and Jack Black; spending most of his times talking theatrically, creating cool-tastic stories for his knock off D&D campaigns, and decidedly not getting a job or moving out.  Some of his arrested development issues as well as Ian’s social anxieties can be traced back to their father who died of an illness right before Ian was born, and there’s a lot of unhandled baggage there despite the efforts of their mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus ) to make a happy home and the stern if bumbling guidance of their mom’s new boyfriend Officer Bronco (Mel Rodriguez).  On Ian’s sixteenth birthday however, that all changes when their mother gives him a gift from his late father that she was instructed to hold off on until this day, and it turns out that their dad was a wizard who came up with a spell to bring him BACK FROM THE DEAD for one day so that he can see how great his sons turned out.  Sure!  Just ask the Elric brothers how well this worked out for them!  Well it KIND of works out as Ian is only able to bring back the bottom half of their dad and they now need to go on an EPIC QUEST TO FIND A NEW GEM FOR MAGIC STAFF, and cast the REST of the spell before the 24 hours are up.  Can Ian and Barley find the mythical Phoenix Gem and see their father one last time?  Who exactly WAS their father and how far does Ian want to go with these new magic gifts that he’s discovered?  Will Barley put him through the Rocky Training Montage of his life!?  He certainly has the right music for it!

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“You’ve gotta say it bro!”     “Sigh… This is my big staff, this is my wand.  This is for casting, this is for fun…”

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Super Recaps: The Mandalorian – Chapter 8

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The Mandalorian is owned by Disney

Directed by Taika Waititi

Would it be inappropriate to do the Darth Vader “NOOOO” right now?  Because I feel like doing the Darth Vader “NOOOO” right now.  I don’t want this season to be over!  Heck, I need this show more than I did BEFORE seeing The Rise of Skywalker!  What am I supposed to do between now and whenever the heck season 2 comes out!?  Read fan fiction!?  Play that Star Wars Destiny thing!?  On top of that, what is Disney Plus supposed to offer me between now and then?  They don’t even have the Goofy sports cartoons, let alone the REALLY good stuff like No Smoking!!  Does this season end on a high note which would make it the best Star Wars thing since The Last Jedi, or will this be a bigger disappointment to everyone than The Return of Skywalker?  Let’s find out!!  Oh, and today I think we’ll go with… Walter and Jesse.  I know we used a DIFFERENT Walter last time, but I had no idea that Gus was going to show up in that episode, so I’m using that name again for this one!!

The episode begins right after the end of the last one; with two storm troopers on speeder bikes heading back to the city to deliver Jesse to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and they are waiting just on the outskirts for a signal that it’s okay to bring the little bugger to him.  What happens next is one of the best scenes in the entire series as the two Stormtroopers played by Adam Pally and Jason Sudeikis just start chatting and doing random incidental things for like five minutes!  They argue, they shoot their blasters at a tin can (missing obviously), and they even punch Jesse in the head a few times just so you don’t forget that they’re jerks.  I’ve always had a fascination with henchmen and I love it whenever something like this takes a moment to give them the spotlight, and this scene doesn’t disappoint as it is simultaneously REALLY funny but also distressing as they really do clock that kid a couple of times which makes you hope that he uses his force powers to snap their necks and leave their corpses in hilarious poses.   Disney?  If you want to throw a few costumes at me, I will make you a storm trooper series!  Just say the word!!  Sadly this isn’t the entirety of the episode, but the scene does have a great payoff as the IG-unit (now the IG-Nanny I guess) shows up, rips one guy’s arm out of its socket and bashes the other’s head repeatedly into his own speeder.  Luckily the other speeder remained unharmed and IG-Nanny goes off with Jesse to presumably somewhere safe.  My question is where was the IG-Nanny when Nick Nolte was running to the ship?  He was within spitting distance of it, and yet IG-Nanny couldn’t have provided some cover fire!?

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Cinema Dispatch: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by JJ Abrams

So here we are once again, though I guess things are a little bit different since we last got a Star Wars movie with a number at the end of it.  Whatever problems you may personally have with The Last Jedi (I have my own as well!), it certainly didn’t justify whatever the Fandom Menace was and only ended up souring people on Star Wars rather than provide constructive criticism of it.  Seriously, if you’ve made MULTIPLE hour long videos letting people know just how much you dislike a movie, there’s probably something else going on than just critical analysis.  With all that negativity surrounding the trilogy’s middle entry (from I must stress a VERY small if VERY vocal minority of people), there was a lot of interesting energy going into this final film as Lucasfilm and Disney were either going to ignore the toxicity and continue with what Johnson started, or they were gonna thread the needled of appeasing those people while also not losing the overwhelming majority of the audience that understood and appreciated what Johnson was going for.  Do they succeed in stitching this fandom back together (or better yet unambiguously denouncing and excising the toxic parts of) with one great movie to finish of the Saga of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo?  Let’s find out!!

After narrowly escaping destruction in The Last Jedi, the Resistance has started to grow its ranks once again on a well-hidden planet where Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her Jedi training with Master Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).  Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is now Emperor of the First Order has been searching for Emperor Palaptine (Ian McDiarmid) ever since a mysterious broadcast from the dead guy went out across the galaxy, and he eventually succeeds in finding some sort of tracking beacon that leads him right to his mysterious and hard to reach planet.  It seems that Palpatine is still somehow alive (I’ll say The Force did it) and has an unstoppable military force waiting to be unleashed on the galaxy that Kylo can control IF he brings him Rey.  The Resistance learns of this overwhelming power that Palpatine has at the ready from a mission that Poe and Finn (Oscar Isaac and John Boyega) just barely manage to complete and survive so now there’s a clear ticking clock that the Resistance is working against in order to stop The First Order once and for all; get to Palpatine’s planet and destroy its fleet before it can leave port on Doom Planet.  Rey, Poe, Finn, and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo)take it upon themselves to search for one of those tracking beacons that Kylo Ren used to find Palpatine’s planet and start looking into The Resistance’s past as well as the Empire’s past in order to find it and maybe a few more answers along the way.  Will our quartet of space heroes find a way to stop Palpatine once and for all; a task that as it turns out Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader weren’t up to?  What will Kylo Ren do to stop them from finding the beacon, and what agendas does he have of his own?  Will this movie FINALLY make those angry Star Wars fans finally happy?  Well of course not, but will it make the other ninety-nine percent of Star Wars fans happy!?

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“I feel a great disturbance in the force.  As if millions of fanboys suddenly cried out in betrayal and then never stopped doing it.”

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Super Recaps: The Mandalorian – Chapter 7

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The Mandalorian is owned by Disney

Directed by Deborah Chow

We’re back with the further adventures of Mando and Baby, though frankly I would have preferred if they had just waited a week to release this episode instead of releasing it so soon after the last one.  This is the busiest time of the year and you throw THIS at me at the same time I’m doing a million other things; INCLUDING watching your new Star Wars movie!?  So if you’re wondering why this is so late, that would be the reason; because Disney are huge jerks for giving us too much to enjoy all at once!  In any case, even with a few minor bumps in the road here and there I’ve enjoyed every episode of this series and will certainly be sad to see the season come to an end in just a few more days.  Does this episode continue give us high quality Star Wars adventure on the small screen, or are they hoping to give us an episode so bad that we won’t be knocking on their door every day to give us season two right the heck now?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with… Let’s go with Walter and Buddy (Tis the season!) flying around in their space ship when Walter gets a message from Carl Weathers who we haven’t seen since episode three.  It’s a very interesting one that sets up yet another trope of the classic western and pulp movies; i.e. the convoluted double cross where Carl Weathers offers Walter a chance to clear his name with the guild if he goes on one more assignment for them.  It turns out that The Guild trusting Werner Herzog and his fascists militia turned out to be a bad idea (WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED!?) as Herzog has since grown his forces and has basically taken over the planet of Navarro which is where all this started and where Carl Weathers resides. If Walter will come back with the baby and go through a mock exchange with Buddy to Herzog, that will get him close enough to put a bullet in the man’s head; ending his rule, ending the chase, and clearing Walter’s name once and for all.  It’s a very enticing offer to be sure, but the amount of trust that Walter is being asked to impart to Carl Weathers is high and at any step in this process it could turn out to be one big trap.  That’s why he needs a few cards close to his chest if he’s going to go through with this, and what better backup than Cara Dune (Gina Carano) who already help Walter protect the kid back in episode four, so perhaps she can be trusted to not stab him in the back; especially when she finds out that the dude they’re bumping off is an ex-Imperial scumbag.  Apparently that’s a bit of a sore spot for her, but as with everything in this episode there’s always the threat of mistrust and double cross so I’d keep my eye on her just in case!

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Super Recaps: The Mandalorian – Chapter 6

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The Mandalorian is owned by Disney

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

I get the impression that a lot of people weren’t too pleased with the last episode which is astonishing because it had some really great moments in it including a fun part for Amy Sedaris, AND it was basically like every other episode we’ve gotten so far so I don’t see what’s worth crying foul about with that one.  In any case, we’ve got a new episode look at so let’s see if they can pick things up a bit for those who are starting to lose interest.  Does the show maintain the high bar of fun and excitement it’s set for itself within the Star Wars universe, or will the genre hopping antics will finally start to feel stale for me as well?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with… how about Al and Bud, arriving on some sort of space station which already sets this apart from other episodes in the series, and Al is out there to get another job so he and Bud can stay on the run for another day.  He meets up with an old contact named Ranzar (Mark Boone Junior) who immediately becomes my favorite person in this entire series, and he lets Al know that it’s a five person job with him as backup and his ship serving as the SPACE GETAWAY CAR; more or less making him responsible for bringing this sorry sack of scumbags to their job and back again in one piece.  Said scumbags include a devil looking dude named Burg played by CLANCY MOTHER FREAKING BROWN, an android with a bug head named Zero voiced by Richard Ayoade, a Twi’lek knife expert and former flame of Al’s named Xi’an played by Natalia Tena (think of the dynamic between Brock Samson and Molotov to get an idea of what’s going on there), and of course the leader of the bunch called Mayfeld played by comedian Bill Burr; trying his darnedest here to land a role in a Scorsese flick.  See, this is why I have to respectfully disagree with anyone who’s getting bored with this show as it may be doing the genre recreation thing for every single episode, it’s still doing it in interesting and uniquely Star Wars flavored ways.  Heck, I’m sure Clancy Brown has been in a dozen of these, let alone everyone else in the scene’s filmographies, and yet we haven’t seen a heist story like this in the Star Wars universe!  Yes, Rouge One was about stealing plans, but that was still within the context of the noble rebellion fighting against fascism!  This is just a bunch of definite Bad Guys committing crimes because it’s their job, and Al trying to justify taking this job to himself as necessary to keep his little boy Bud safe and sound.  It’s immediately familiar and yet still compelling because the show continues to do such a good job of keeping Al interesting as a character as well as introducing new and exciting elements within the Star Wars universe!

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Super Recaps: The Mandalorian – Chapter 5

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The Mandalorian is owned by Disney

Directed by Dave Filoni

The episode begins with a bang as we find ourselves in the middle of a dogfight between The Mandalorian and some random fool who thinks he can step up to the greatest bounty hunter ever like he’s just another bail jumper.  It’s the John Wick problem all over again; the only people foolish enough to try and kill him are the people least likely to get the job done.  As you’d expect (if for no other than we’ve got a bunch more episodes to go), The Mandalorian does NOT die in a massive space explosion but instead explodes the other dude with his quick reflexes, sharp wit, and awesome space ship; not to mention his little baby cheerleader who provides the best kind of support possible; moral support!  By the way, I think I’ll go with… Bob and Gene this week, and I hope we get some real names for them soon enough as the well is starting to run dry and I dread the episode where I’ll start referring to these two as Beavis and Butthead.

So anyway, Bob and Gene land on a nearby dirt planet to fix up their ride before heading to… wherever it is they’re headed, and they run into AMY FREAKING SEDARIS as a foul mouthed mechanic who will fix up the ride as Bob heads into town to run a few errands.  I choose to believe this means that Jerri Blank is now a part of the Star Wars canon which makes it all the more hilarious when she finds Gene inside and plans to “take care of them” while Bob’s away.  I can only assume this means she’ll leave them in a park or sell them on the black market, but let’s hold off on references to twenty year old Comedy Central series and find out what Bob’s up to on his day off from babysitting.  As with most parents who are free from their children for the first time in a while, he heads straight to a bar where we find out that this dirt planet is ACTUALLY Tatooine and that they use robo-bartenders complete with dirty rag wiping uselessly on the scuffed countertop.  Just to clarify, the robot isn’t actually CLEANING anything here as he’s barely covering six square inches of the gigantic counter; it’s purely for aesthetic affect and someone had to build him to do that.  Now despite my cheeky allusions to Bob doing a bit of day drinking, he’s actually there to find a quick bounty for some quick cash as he presumably burned through all their food money fixing up the spaceship and he meets a guy named Toro (Jake Cannavale) who looks super green but has a bounty he’s willing to split with Bob.  Sounds like the perfect opportunity, but the target in question is a big wig assassin who’s been on the run after the fall of the Galactic Empire, and Bob knows this will ultimately end with someone’s untimely death and he doesn’t want to deal with either himself dying or having to cradle this whipper snapper in his arms before succumbing to his fatal case of Red Shirt-itis.  Then again, Toro is kind of adorable in an utterly pathetic sort of way (and Bob could really use the cash), so against his better judgement he agrees to help this bounty hunting newbie secure his target.

Continue reading “Super Recaps: The Mandalorian – Chapter 5”

Super Recaps: The Mandalorian – Chapter 4

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The Mandalorian is owned by Disney

Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard

The episode begins with an idyllic looking village on an unknown planet where villagers are catching fish, weaving things, and hoping that nothing bad or “Empire” like will come out of the forest to destroy their lives.  Well the good news is that the Empire does not in fact attack the village!  The bad news… some other dudes with lasers and pointy sticks do, who look suspiciously like Lord of the Rings Orcs, and we see that one mother and her child just barely survive the attack by hiding under water.  From there we cut back to… let’s go with Homer as the Mandalorian and Bart as Baby Yoda, who are still flying in the middle of nowhere space; the little green hellion continuing to touch things and nearly kill them all while Homer is keeping his eyes on the space road.  Sensing a bit of pent up energy within the little bugger’s attempts to destroy the ship by flipping levers, Homer decides it’d be a good idea to land on the nearest planet and let Bart run around a bit while he plans their next move.  As it turns out, the planet they land on is the same one we just saw and it’s a planet so idyllic and peaceful that their skeevy space saloon is about as threatening as an Applebee’s.  The best part is when Homer and Bart take a seat and they notice a mercenary sitting in a corner and they try to get information on her from the waitress, but she legitimately knows nothing and after Homer tosses her some cash to spill what she knows, she literally thinks it’s just a big tip for doing so well at her job.  That was pretty funny and you can even tell the frustration that Homer is feeling from underneath the helmet for having to deal with people who AREN’T backstabbing jerks.

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