Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 5 (Strange Case)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Victoria Mahoney

We’re back with even more of everyone’s favorite gory soap opera!  Last episode found a fun and interesting setup to carry the episode, but sooner or later they’re going to have to make the Sons of Adam stuff be the least bit interesting if it’s what will ultimately carry this show to its conclusion; not to mention how much they have to make up for the utterly dour note that the last episode ended on.  Does the show finally find its footing and give us a cohesive narrative?  Let’s find out!!

We’re going straight to the nitty gritty right off the bat; half this episode is pretty good, some of the other half involving Montrose (Michael K Williams) is pretty underwhelming, and the rest involving Leti and Atticus (Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors) is quite insufferable.  If you’re expecting any real consequences or even acknowledgement of Montrose killing the two spirit woman from the last episode (apparently her name is Yahima while Arawak is her tribe I suppose?), you’re out of luck because Montrose ALSO burned the pages from the Book of Adam they found, and they are discussed with FAR more prominence than her.  Atticus beats the living hell out of Montrose for what he did and spends the rest of the episode sulking while Leti looks concerned which is not a particularly compelling thing to sit thru; especially since the whole purpose of these pages remains vague at best.

Still, as banal as that part of the episode is, it’s more of a subplot occasionally popping its head into a much better primary plot line about Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) which focuses on what this show does best; reframing genre tropes in terms of racial issues and making it both very real and very tongue in cheek.  In case the title wasn’t a giveaway, the episode is more or less a racial exploration of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, and though it’s not the FIRST piece of media to do so, I think it has a bit more going on under the hood than Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde.  Ruby wakes up from her night with William and finds herself in the body of a white woman (Jamie Neumann) which is not how she expected to start the day.  Convinced she’s lost her mind, she throws on a bathrobe and starts wandering the streets of her neighborhood where no one recognizes her and everyone seems slightly on edge that this random white woman is wandering down their streets.  It turns out to be a GOOD instinct because as soon as a young Black man comes up asking if he can help her, a patrol car screeches in and two cops start menacing him; threatening to beat him if he doesn’t confess to molesting her.  Realizing the terrifying power of her own whiteness, she starts pleading with the cops to let him go and that he didn’t do anything which they eventually do and they take her back to William’s house as the cops were told that she ran away from there for some arbitrary reason (she forgot her medication that morning or something).  Ruby’s not happy about this but it’s not like she has anywhere else to go (I think she’s still mad at Leti?), and as soon as she gets in the house she starts to feel VERY sick; almost like her skin is crawling off of her flesh!  As it turns out… yeah, that’s basically it.  She’s carried into the house by William and is laid on the flood (which is covered in plastic wrap of course) to writhe in pain until William comes by with a big butcher knife and carves the white skin off of Ruby who pops out and sheds it like a butterfly coming out of a very bloody cocoon!  See, THAT’S the kind of goofy nonsense that makes this show work!  You don’t see Robert Lewis Stevenson writing anything like that, do you!?  Seriously, after what I just saw, Dr. Hastie Lanyon can talk to the hand!

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Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 4 (A History of Violence)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Victoria Mahoney

We’re back with even more haunted shenanigans against the backdrop of the ACTUALLY terrifying 1950s, and after the last episode ended up being a refreshing change of pace by telling a straightforward ghost story I’m once again optimistic that this show will live up to the potential I saw in that first episode!  Is this another great story that continues the upward momentum of the series, or is going to be like The X-Files where we alternate between the awesome monster of the week episodes and the less interesting government conspiracy ones?  Let’s find out!!

We start the episode with Atticus’s father Montrose (Michael K Williams) who’s still dealing with the death of his brother George by crawling into a bottle, but on top of that he’s been reading a book he got from George about the Sons of Adam that contains ALL the answers that Atticus and Leti (Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett) have been looking for… and he just burns it; probably in grief but also possibly due to that whole Eldritch Horror thing that Lovecraft liked to do.  Perhaps the book was so horrifying that any mortal man with a shred of conscious cannot read it without losing their own mind, but then Montrose’s motivations have ALWAYS been extremely guarded so it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on with him on an episode to episode basis.

Now the big problem I’ve had with this show is the convoluted nature of its Mythology, and I’ll give this episode credit for making at least SOME of it clearer.  The Sons of Adam get their power from something called THE LOST BOOK OF NAMES, and there are two sets of deciphered pages. These are the MacGuffins that are driving the narrative throughout the episode as Atticus and Leti are looking for the set of pages owned by Titus (the guy who started the Sons of Adam and is the ancestor of Atticus) which are hidden in some sort of secret vault, while Christina (Abbey Lee) is looking for the pages stolen by Hiram (the ghost in the last episode).  It’s straightforward enough that you can focus on this episode on its own like you could with the ghost story, but also mercifully has enough of the Sons of Adam stuff informing it that some of that nonsense can start to seep in and become easier to understand.

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Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 3 (Holy Ghost)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Daniel Sackheim

Last week’s episode was a major disappointment, but not so much that they can’t find a way to come back from it.  The characters are still strong and engaging, the aesthetic has a fun pulpiness to it (not dissimilar from Perry Mason), and we’ve seen how effectively they can handle a difficult tone between horror fun and dreadful reality with aplomb, so there’s no reason they couldn’t pull it off again.  Does this show find a way to get back on track after the convoluted mess that was the last episode, or were all their best ideas in that first episode?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with Leti in the middle of a church service; staring off in the middle distance with an expression of empty sadness while… um… a Nike commercial is playing in the background.  The spoken word monologue on the soundtrack during this scene is from Nike’s NYC Be True Campaign from 2017 (written by Daisy Zhao and narrated by Precious Angel Ramirez) which seems like an odd pick for something like this.  Also, what exactly IS this?  If this is supposed to be the funeral of Uncle George, then it doesn’t read as such because there’s no casket, no pictures, and certainly no sadness from anyone else there who seem to be singing joyfully with Leti being the odd one out.  Perhaps my cultural signifies for what a funeral scene in a show or movie is supposed to look like are too narrow, but for me it started things off on an awkward note as I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on here.

After the funeral we get a quick update on the fallout between the last episode and this one which if you recall ended in the Sons of Adam being destroyed and Uncle George dying of a gunshot wound.  Atticus is taking care of Aunt Hippolyta and their daughter Dee now that Uncle George is gone, and on top of that he has to deal with his cranky dad Montrose who seems content to while away his time drinking from his flask and being a dick to his son.  Seems they’re apt to pick up their relationship exactly where they left it off; icy and cantankerous.  There’s certainly a lot of guilt being felt between the both of them, especially since they decided to not tell Hippolyta and Dee exactly HOW George died opting to go with a hothead sheriff shooting him; a decision that’s certainly weighing harder on Atticus than it does Montrose.

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Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 2 (Whitey’s on the Moon)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Daniel Sackheim

The first episode did a lot of things right with its characters, it’s setting, and its stomaching churning tension, as well as how well it pulled from its various sources of inspiration to create something that we really hadn’t seen before.  However, by the time we got to the end I started to worry that what made it so good was going to be pushed aside for something that felt more like a genuine SyFy series instead of an HBO riff on a SyFy series.  Does Lovecraft Country keep up the excellent tone and explore its interesting characters in greater detail, or are we already going off the rails only two episodes in?  Let’s find out!!

Despite the grisly ending of the last episode, we start things up here as happy as can be as Lita and Uncle George (Jurnee Smollett and Courtney B Vance) are making themselves at home in this LUXURIOUS mansion while The Jeffersons theme is blasting on the soundtrack.  Lita is trying on all these fancy clothes that JUST SO HAPPEN to be in her size while George is reading all these books that JUST SO HAPPEN to be his favorites, and all the while Atticus (Jonathan Majors) is brooding all by himself as he remembers over and over again the monstrous creatures that nearly killed them the night before.  I mean jeez, buddy!  Get over it why don’t ya?  You don’t see the other two complaining about the nice clothes, the rare books, and the creepy white dude who pops in all over the place like a very smarmy Batman!  White dude by the way is William (Jordan Patrick Smith) who we saw at the end of the last episode that looks like a de-aged Matthew McConaughy, and he is rather cagey with the details of Atticus’s father but is more than happy to go on and on about this magnificent house!

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Super Recaps: Lovecraft Country – Episode 1 (Sundown)

Lovecraft Country is owned by HBO

Directed by Yann Demange

HBO Max is proving to be a darn good service and I’m finding a lot of great series to enjoy, particularly Perry Mason and Harley Quinn, so in the spirit of celebrating the arrival of another good streaming service (and looking for something I can review on a regular schedule), I’ll be watching their latest series which I can only assume is a Once Upon a Time knock off but about scarier monsters, right?  Okay, probably not.  Does this series have what it takes to grip you right away and leave you itching for more episodes, or does the novelty of the show wear off once you get past the title?  Let’s find out!!

The show begins with what I’m sure most of us were expecting when we heard it was called Lovecraft Country; a Syfy channel series with HBO money and gratuitous violence as we see a bizarre WW I trench battle involving flying saucers, alien bikini babes, and Cthulhu themselves being utterly wrecked by Jackie Robinson!  Seems like the kind of show that’s right up my very silly alley, but this is not to be as the show has much more on its mind as it all turns out to be a dream; escaping from a reality that may be more mundane but is certainly one our main character wants to get away from.  Our hero is Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors); a nerdy black kid from Chicago who joined the army, got super buff, and has been moving around the country since the end of his service.  He’s finally returning home because his father, the man he was trying to get away from by joining the service, has gone missing and the last thing he did was send a mysterious note to Atticus requesting his presence in Ardham Massachusetts which doesn’t seem to exist.  Seems like a straightforward enough task, except that this show takes place in the fifties and therefore he can’t just do a Google search and more importantly he has to deal with the terrifying barriers of systemic racism wherever he goes; where even riding a bus is rife with danger and indignities as we learn as soon as he wakes up from his exciting dream. The bus has broken down in the middle of nowhere and the only transportation that’s come to help is a pickup truck sending a very clear message of exactly WHO they’re willing to take.

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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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Cinema Dispatch: Overlord

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Overlord and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Julius Avery

I know World War II movies are pretty common during Oscar Season, but I still don’t think the Academy is gonna be looking towards this movie once voting begins.  One of these days there’ll be a zombie movie that takes home the gold, but until then we’ll just have to make do with what we’ve got which in this case actually looks pretty darn good!  I mean sure I’m not the BIGGEST JJ Abrams fan, even when it comes to stuff that he’s only producing and not directing, but he managed to turn Star Wars and Star Trek into sold movies for contemporary audiences, so maybe his outfit can do the same for World War II occult movies of which there’s actually a lot more than you’d think!  Will this be the movie exceed everyone’s expectations despite its seemingly low brow premise, or is this another example of a great idea failing to live up to its absurd potential?  Let’s find out!!

Private Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) is not what you’d call a happy camper.  He was just some guy living his life in peace, presumably doing his part for the war effort, and then one day Uncle Sam tells him to stop buying War Bonds because he’s going to stab some Nazi bastards himself!  At least he MIGHT get to do that if the plane he’s on doesn’t get shot down before they even get to where they’re going, but what are the chances of THAT happening?  Actually a lot higher than you think which leads to him and a few other stragglers including Ford, Tibbet, and Chase (Wyatt Russell, John Magaro, and Iain De Caestecker) to complete their mission all on their own.  Said mission is to get to a French church that’s been overtaken by Nazis and destroy the radio tower that’s been constructed there which is causing problems for the Allies, and they need to do it on the double!  Along the way they meet a civilian named Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) who lives in the occupied village next to the church wants to scalp Nazis as much as most of them do, and so they must work together if they are to not only shut down that tower but free her village from the bastards who just love to kidnap the villagers when they aren’t outright shooting them dead in the streets.  If that wasn’t bad enough however, rumors have been flying about what else the Nazis might be up to in that Church and it’s surely something these soldiers are not the least bit prepared to deal with on top of the neigh impossible mission they’ve been saddled with.  Can our heroes take down that tower and stop whatever is going on in that Church (*cough* zombies *cough*) before it’s too late?  Is Private Boyce prepared to do what’s necessary to complete the mission, or will he buckle under the pressure of what he’s being asked to do for his country?  Is JJ Abrams STILL trying to pull that whole “mystery box” shtick even when the premise is THIS obvious and telegraphed!?

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“Those aren’t zombies!  Those are Killer Klowns from outer space!  Welcome to the Killer Klown Extended Universe!”

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Cinema Dispatch: Star Trek Beyond

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Star Trek Beyond and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Justin Lin

We’re once again invited to visit this new Star Trek universe, though it doesn’t quite have the same shine that it used to now that we saw the bafflingly mishandled Into Darkness, and even that really crappy video game that came out.  Remember that?  While we all may fondly remember the first reboot film in this series that kicked off this new universe, there’s no doubt that some damage has been done in the intervening years that it’s now up to this movie to start correcting.  Do they manage to steer the ship back on course, or should we all start heading for the lifeboats before this whole franchise crashes and burns?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the crew of the USS Enterprise who are in the middle of their five year mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.  Of course, for some reason there’s a Federation space station in the middle of this supposed unknown, but whatever.  They need to fuel up the tank every once in a while.  Anyway, during their pit stop at the space station Yorktown, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is getting ready to give up his command of the Enterprise… for some reason, but can’t do it just yet as a distress ship manages to make it to Yorktown with an alien who’s begging Starfleet to help them out.  Kirk agrees to get everyone back on board the Enterprise (probably pissing off a lot of the crew in the process) and heads to wherever this planet is which honestly doesn’t seem to be too far but there’s a giant nebula between Yorktown and this mystery planet so maybe it’s just that no one wanted to fly straight through that.  Kirk does however, but once they make it to just outside the planet’s orbit, a fleet of a bajillion tiny ships tears the enterprise to shreds and the bad guy of this movie simply known as Krall (Idris Elba) JUST SO HAPPENS to find that the Enterprise is carrying the ONE piece of a superweapon that he’s been searching for all this time that’s only on the ship due to a fluke peace mission from some point during their five year mission.  Luckily Kirk manages to hide it before the ship goes down in flames, but now the crew is completely separated and needs to find a way to get back together, defeat Krall, and get the hell off this planet.  Spock and Bones McCoy (Zachary Quinto) are together constantly kvetching at each other, Scotty (Simon Pegg) ends up meeting a local alien trying to get herself off the planet too named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), Uhura and Sulu (Zoe Saldana and John Cho) are captured by the enemy along with most of the remaining crew, and Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) are left with the alien who initially sent them to this planet and are working together to find what remains of the enterprise.  Can these heroes set aside their differences and work together so they can survive this mission?  What is Krall planning to blow up with the super weapon once he finally gets the pieces together?  Most importantly, just how grumpy can Bones get!?

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“So what’s the plan again?”     “You forgot already?”     “Damn it Spock!  I’m a doctor, not a-”     “Alright fine!  I’ll explain it again!”     “Is he always like this?”     “All the time.”

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Cinema Dispatch: 10 Cloverfield Lane

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10 Cloverfield Lane and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

Look, I barely remember the original Cloverfield, so I’m not gonna have a clue if this has any connection to it other than if the monster itself shows up for a cameo.  That seems to be working in my favor though because the movie is not being sold as a direct sequel (some are calling it a “blood relative” of the original) and it also means I won’t be distracted by looking for connections or hidden Easter Eggs while watching it.  Besides, who needs ANY of that giant monster stuff when the real monster is… man?  Yeah, it seems to be one of those movies (aggressively small cast in a claustrophobic environment) which can be REALLY compelling if all the pieces come together correctly; leaving very little room for error considering how sparse the resources they have to work with are.  Is this going to be an amazingly taut thriller for the modern day, or will this be a simple cash grab for a studio that didn’t have faith in a bottle film making enough money without attaching it to a completely unrelated movie?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaving her husband for unknown reasons and eventually getting into a car crash on her way to… somewhere.  That’s not too important though as she wakes up to find herself in a small cell; shackled to the wall like a prisoner of some kind.  It doesn’t take long for her captor to reveal himself (Howard played by John Goodman) and inform her that the world has more or less ended while she was unconscious, and that he’s taken her to his fallout shelter to ride out the apocalypse.  In the bunker as well is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) who doesn’t seem to be thrilled sharing a space with Howard, but somehow finagled his way in as a way to survive whatever it is that’s going on outside.  Without any real information to go on, Michelle eventually capitulates into staying with Howard and Emmett for the time being, but also seems cautious of Howard who is clearly a psychological mess, and extremely dangerous.  Can the three of them survive whatever is going on outside by staying in this bunker together, or will they all kill each other in the process?  What exactly IS lurking out there that they need to be protected from?  Will Howard at any point take a chill pill!?

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“So Howard.  You know any good knock knock jokes?”     “Shut the fuck up Emmett.”     “I’m sensing a lot of hostility right now.”     “Yeah, I’ve got your hostility right here.  Keep at it bucko.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios

Directed by JJ Abrams

Alright, look.  This review is going to have spoilers and if you’re worried about that, then here are my thoughts real quick.

The movie is fantastic.  The bad guy stuff is the best, the good guy stuff is bogged down a bit by the references they’re trying to fit in, but overall it’s a fun ride and a worthy successor to the original trilogy.

You got that?  Okay, here comes the rest of the review.

The movie starts off with Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) getting a sci-fi USB stick that contains the location of Luke Skywalker who has been missing for a very long time.  Before he can take the flash drive to The Resistance however, the village he’s in gets raided by the new bad guys named The First Order who are the Empire in all but name.  Kind of like how Kentucky Fried Chicken changed their name to KFC.  Nothing’s changed, but now they have a less obviously evil/unhealthy name.  Anyway, Poe gets captured by Darth Vader 2.0, also known as Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) but not before Poe gives the USB stick to R2-D2 2.0, also known as BB-8.  The droid makes his way to a scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who takes it in while simultaneously A Storm Trooper named FN-2187 (John Boyega) breaks out Poe from the evil starship.  Their escape is cut short when they get shot out of space and crash land on the planet below (the one BB-8 and Rey are on) and FN-2187 (also known as Finn) is the sole survivor.  His deal is that he wants to get as far away from The First Order as quickly as possible, but now that he’s on the dirt planet he doesn’t really have a way to do that.  Fortunately, he eventually finds the droid and Rey, poses as a Resistance fighter, and convinces them to help him escape the planet and drop off the droid (with him escaping to wherever the hell he wants to in the process).  Can these two make it to The Resistance before The First Order can capture them?  Will Finn step up to the plate when the time comes, or will his self-preservation instincts kick in before he has a chance to play the hero?  Is Rey more than what she appears to be and is the she the key to stopping The First Order once and for all?  WHERE’S HAN SOLO!?!?  Oh wait, there he is.

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“Chewie… We’re gonna make a SHIT load of money doing this!”     “Rheeaaahhr!!”

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