It Takes Evil to Write Evil. “Shirley” reviewed! (Neon / Digital Screener)


Backdropped inside the mid-1960’s of Bennington, Vermont, famed horror fiction writer, Shirley Jackson, and her husband, Stanley Hyman, a folk literary professor at the Bennington College, welcome a young newlywed couple, Fred & Rose, in their home, but the stay isn’t for social purposes as Fred stands to be the assistant professor aiming to achieve greater success under professor Hyman and Rose becomes the happy wife whose reluctantly willing to help with household chores as the surly Shirley flounders in a writer’s rut, sour around polite company, lethargic for most of the day, and at war with her cheating husband, but Shirley finds inspiration when taking a fascination to Rose, merging her with a news story of a missing local girl that leaves Shirley entranced, catatonic, and inhibited from writing her novel. Once disdained by Rose’s very presence, Shirley exploits Rose’s eager ambitions and trustworthy attributes by befriending her as an endless flood of literary muse offerings that breathe life into Shirley’s next masterpiece.

“Shirley” is a biopic allegory of half-truths and a tale of a grim waltz between common civility and the yearning, paralyzing pursuit of opus mastering from the “Madeline’s Madeline” director, Josephine Decker. From the creator of the “I Love Dick” television series, writer, Sarah Gubbins, who adapted the screenplay from the author of “Shirley: A Novel,” Susan Scarf Merrell, provides a textural interpretation of renowned horror and mystery fiction writer Shirley Jackson during the bitter final years of her and Stanley Hyman’s unusual, yet threadbare functional, relationship. “Shirley,” in itself, is like one of Jackson’s terrifically terrifying horror stories woven together with anecdotal fragments of Shirley’s flailing existence with the new energy of a fictional young couple to drain the life from for her own benefit and is cinematically arranged the story like a perverse thriller of intellectual capitalism. The Los Angeles Media Fund (“Dark Crimes,” “The Bye Bye Man”) and the biographical drama producing powerhouse, Killer Films (“Notorious Bettie Page,” “Infamous”) serve as the production companies behind “Shirley.”

Hot off her success in the gender-dystopian television series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and in Leigh Whannell’s vision of a Universal monster classic, “The Invisible Man,” Elisabeth Moss embodies the titular role of Shirley Jackson with a fluid performance of a corkscrew soul. Moss aims to make Shirley as a detestable gorgon with nihilistic and agoraphobic intellect and a narcissistic view of her work she considers to be the holy grail. Moss is methodic and calculating in her character’s icy social skill set and floats half-seen above the water’s surface like an alligator hunting, ready to snap when a warm blooded meal doesn’t expect a thing. Shirley Jackson is only as interesting as her philandering other half, Stanley Hyman, who has a whole separate cache of quirks and callous intentions, though parading in a much more vibrant, lively, and gregarious manner. “The Shape of Water’s” Michael Sthulbarg has pitch perfect execution of Hyman’s managing tugboat who pulls and escorts this cruise liner-sized ego to port with an unorthodox show of a manipulation and affable disingenuous blend working tirelessly that ship to anchor after a long voyage on rough, stagnant seas. Fred and Rose enter like a parallelogram, a four-side rectangular where two sides pair together equally in length, of innocents wondering into a den of a pair of hungry lions. Then, the parallelogram flips and skews to form an twisted mirror of itself that has turned the sweet and loving Fred and Rose into a pair of awaken fragments of Shirley and Stanley. We don’t get to experience much of Logan Lerman as the assistant professor who shadows in Hyman’s overshadowing dominance, but we’re rather engrossed by Odessa Young’s onscreen reciprocity with Elizabeth Moss. Rose falls short of being the epitome of youthful innocence with a fast and loose shotgun marriage to Fred because of her pregnancy and her rendezvousing sexual appetite with Fred, but Rose’s delicate curiosity and naïve gives way for Shirley, Stanley, and even Fred to tread all over her. Young fully grasps Rose’s disadvantage in the viper’s pit that sizes her up for a great fall.

“Shirley” doesn’t bask in the spotlight of the biopic-ee’s celebrated work, like “The Lottery” or “The Haunting of Hill House,” even if it name drops the former; instead, Josephine Decker’s film is cut from the Susan Scarf Merrell cloth that disconnects and desensitizes intellect from moral conduct. Distinct lines are drawn between the couples Shirley and Stanley, whose dynamic teeters on alcohol, smokes, and a banter based on a fraction of love less, and Fred and Rose, who are teased with the taste of the good life, bow and scrape for the attention of their hosts. As the scrupulous infatuations begin to blur the lines and Fred and Rose become infected by Shirley and Stanley’s inceptive wicked cynicism, a metamorphosis occurs as the naïve newlyweds are now the bitterly tireless unable to cop with their shortcoming whereas Shirley and Stanley remain unaffected, if not, better off than from when they started, leeching the purity from the impressionable youngsters like a pair of scholarly vampires. Decker’s airy, dreamlike touch evokes another level of the already Freudian bombarded “Shirley” that’s laden with heavily schemed psychoanalytic foreplay and undercurrent human reaction to a string of unconventional occurrences.

Become the fly trapped in a web of deceits with “Shirley” heading to Hulu, VOD, virtual cinemas, and select drive-in movie theaters come June 5th, 2020 distributed from Neon. The rated R, 107 minutes quasi-biopic is presented a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, a digital screener doesn’t allow me to critique the A/V quality. However, composer Tamar-kali’s subdued score lingers on the right side of brooding without feeling overly dreadful and with feeling more horrifically intrusive, complimenting Shirley’s aggressive mind rape of Rose’s psyche. There were no bonus features included with the digital screener nor was there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. Unlike the sullen, reality bending state as the titular persona, “Shirley” is an entertainingly cathartic glimpse into the worst side of erudition plagued upon those lesser informed that builds lustrous works of horror on the backs of perfidy.

Purchase the poster with Elizabeth Moss!

EVIL’s Checkmate! “A Knight’s Tour” reviewed! (Terror Films / Digital Screener)


Set years inside the landscape of a post-apocalyptic world, a young locaiton scout named J.D. stumbles upon a hidden cabin after being severely injured during his travels. While catching his breath and notating the position of the cabin in his notebook, a man comes up behind him, armed with a hunting rifle and has it pointing at J.D.’s head. Playing cool and calm, J.D. relinquishes himself to the man’s every suspicion, even to the point of chaining himself inside a locked room, to ease the man’s fears. The next day, the man introduces himself as Henry and provides food and medical assistance when J.D. proves he doesn’t pose a threat. The two men begin to form a bound once the waters of distrust subside, providing Henry with much need and desire companionship and a place where J.D. can soothe his trekking feet, but when Henry’s paranoia bubbles to the surface and the feasible threat of a raiding group upon Henry’s quaint isolated cabin appears imminent, their newfound friendship will be tested.

In an unpredictable course that has been marked in our year of 2020, a pandemic has quickly spread through the most powerful and copiously stocked sovereign nations on Earth. Now, imagine if that same pandemic, ravaged the world’s population, and subsequently it’s resources, to the extent of lawlessness and death, leaving many question, lonely, and afraid and what that would do to their mental state. AMC’s “The Walking Dead” explores this pretty well through the course of the first few season until it just became a ebb and flow battle of the good versus the bad. However, writer-director Marvin Choi recaptures the core essence by exploring his vision of the apocalypse in “A Knight’s Tour,” where there’s more of a mighty, but small undercurrent of the unknown that overwhelms the brain’s rational thought process, affecting prosperous relationships and transforming them into a claustrophobic resistance of dangerously delusional episodes. The film, being released in 2020, is Choi’s first behind the camera and in the seat of the director’s chair, helming a script with a title based off a game played with a chess’ knight piece that has to tour every spot on a checkered chessboard within its allowed moving pattern, not to repeat a spot, and return back to its original point. “A Knight’s Tour” is also the Korean-American Choi’s graduate thesis at the California Institute of the Arts that saw supplemental fruition from fellow student-turned-producer Sara Razack and shooting was held on the Dominguez Ranch near California’s Lake Piru on a budget of $25,000 and released under Choi’s company banner, Fugitive Frames, a subsidiary of the Fugitive brand that also includes Fugitive Games, for videogame reviews that Marvin Choi plays, and Fugitive Photography for professional photos with partner John C. Velez.

The intimate production allows for the characters to unfold the story from the only two actors in performances that really saturate the frames with uneasy intentions and keep posterity uncertain outside cabin doors and beyond the safe haven thicket. Darnel Powell and Joseph Price star as J.D. and Henry in what would be their debut full-length feature film performances. Taking the roles head on, Power and Price relationship never takes a backseat during the entire 77 minute runtime. J.D. and Henry are rudimentary beings trying, in their own ways, to survive in what is now a collapse society; J.D. runs with groups, scoring out locations that might serve himself for refuge and, maybe, a bit of payment depending on the group whereas Henry shuts himself in after losing not one person but two people he’s cared about to death and the other reason is unknown during the chaos of the mysterious outbreak that cut society into grated chaos. Despite the subtle acquiescent approach to Henry’s disregard toward stranger-danger concept, Price plays into Henry’s strong silent type and can field and hold the switch out into Henry’s obtrusive and frantic visions of the past. Powell’s take of J.D. comes off a rudimentary and less of a bamboozler as suspect. J.D.’s smart, cunning, and experienced in the field and Powell plays into well enough, but not enough to actually sell the hustle or if there is even one. Dynamically, they’re not embroidered into the elaborate patterns of the knight’s tour, but more related to the chess match itself with sacrificing trust like pawns, able to diagonally out smart each other like Bishops, and exposing their true intentions like an unprotected King until they find themselves in a stalemate of unglued trust and friendship when designs are calculated and true self invokes pity.

“A Knight’s Tour” doesn’t feed into the thrills of a do-or-die, post-apocalyptic death heap as Choi carves out the materials for the ever fluid human disposition. Instead of junk cars revamped for destruction and pillaging carnage, Choi challenges the overglazed with violence eyes of audiences to determine the gambles set by the two leads, to extract the souls of J.D. and Henry, and watch them either become brittle or come to terms with a change of heart. What’s interesting about the two men, or more the structures of these two men inside the pages of the script, is there willing to quickly trust each other. At first sight, Henry has a rifle pointed at J.D., has the location scout chain himself inside a closet, and keeps the chain on him for a few days after. There are two sides to this coin soon after that first night. One, J.D. allows himself to be captured and subjected to Henry’s every called shot. J.D. even provides step-by-step exposition how he could have taken the rifle left on the table and shoot Henry in the back. J.D. is either a very honest and trustworthy individual or is trying to get on good terms with Henry, to observe his habits, and to get a better look at the loner’s stockpile for future taking. Two, Henry, though careful and precise, easily lets J.D. into his life, letting him out of the closet and able to roam around the cabin with the chain still around his ankle. Henry gives in into his desperation caused by loneliness, allowing himself to instantly attached to J.D. as if, and probably was, the only person he’s seen in a very long time. Much like the sequences of the game, “A Knight’s Tour” never retreads on the same path twice, proving to uphold the tension with a singular theme to chew on and comes out on top without any glossy doomsday bombardments that makes the blood boil with cathartic obliteration of each other.

“A Knight’s Tour” depicts the fragility and longevity of one’s inner thoughts sanctum while in a post-apocalyptic world and is feature debut from Marvin Choi, distributed by independent genre distributor Terror Films, and has made a noble run of the festival film circuit, including the Pan African Film Festival, DisOrient Asian American Film Festival, and Montreal International Black Film Festival. Set to release this month digitally, the roll out will include multiple streaming services for viewing pleasure, such as Prime Video, Tubi TV, Watch Movies Now, Google Play, and others. Since the product is a digital screener, the video and audio aspects will not be covered, but nothing obvious inherent seemed to disrupt the balanced, yet low-keyed audio mixes and 1.78:1 widescreen video presentation. There were no bonus features included or additional bonus scenes during or after the credits. Marvin Choi’s “A Knight’s Tour” will make a subtle impact across the indie film circuit with searing themes of manipulation, deterioration in solitude, and the games we play against each other for the advantage over our fellow man.

“A Knight’s Tour” on Prime Video!

When The Earth Goes Silent, EVIL Begins to Conquer. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” reviewed! (Shout Factory! / Digital Screener)


In a distant future, the entire Earth goes dark without warning. Communications are completely severed with no sign of life exists except for those scared and confused inside what is to be called The Circle of Life that has encompassed Moscow and other parts of neighboring countries. Reconnaissance teams venture out into the quarantine zones, discovering dead bodies as well as noticing people have gone missing. A month later, an outpost goes under siege by an army of bloodthirsty bears. These bizarre events go unexplained, leaving military jarred, and to find answers, seven teams are dispatched to various areas surrounding the outpost to locate signs of life. While the teams are scouting, an powerful alien reaches out to the outpost, warning them that Earth is in the middle of a four wave attack by his race looking for a new home. Before their 200,000 year trip ends with destination Earth, the last wave, 160 million mind-enslaved missing humans, will attack the Circle of Life at the command of the alien informant’s counterpart and it’s up to the ravaged scout team to band together to extinguish the extermination of mankind.

Nothing is more frightening than wiping out 95% of the world’s human population in the blink of an eye without so much of a sign of explanation. Welcome to “The Blackout: Invasion Earth,” which depicts just that very unfathomable scary episode of terra-loneliness and free-for-all, fear induced panic amongst the civilian population, tapping into the same vain of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” or “Arrival.” The big budget, Russian sci-fi action-horror, originally titled “Avanpost” or just “The Blackout,” is penned by television scriber Ilya Kulikov and directed by Egor Baranov. Released this past November in Russia, “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” touchdowns inside the North American market from genre distributor Shout! Studios come June 2nd, becoming a planet-sized contender for the biggest science fiction film of the year with relentless suspense, alien-on-alien hand-to-hand combat, and an encroaching bear blitz that can’t go unseen! The Moscow based TV-3 and Premier Studios serves as the production companies with studio heads, Valeriy Fedorovich and Evgeniy Nikishov, producing an estimated $4.3 million dollar film.

Unless you’re a no-life film buff whose up to speed with all the latest Russian thespians, many of us in the States will not recognize these Slavic actors; actors such as Aleksey Chadov, Pyotr Fyodorov, Artyom Tkachenko, or Svetlana Ivanova with no standing in the usual cache of domestic and international circle of ascertain identity that any joe can just look at a cast list and go, “aha!,” and put your index finger right on their name in recognition. However, if you look closer, you’ll unearth titles you might have heard of, such as “The Darkest Hour” (Pyotr Fyodorov) and Night Watch (Aleksey Chadov). Fyodorov and Chadov play Yura and Oleg, military comrades by circumstance who are pitted against an inexplicable and unknown occurrence. Though fighting the same war, the two friends contrast different backgrounds. Yura comes from a long lineage of military blood, but becomes somber in his soldier role as he suffers an immense loss at the moment of blackout and when he discovers love for a field medic, Olya (Svetlana Ivanova), his will to fight survives by a thread. Juxtaposed against Yura is the cab driver turned enlisted man Oleg whose only living relative, his dementia-malady mother, had survived the blackout and the event has given this man in a rut purpose and a fire lit inside him. Artyom Tkachenko plays the stoic alien savior with a nearly human form, all except the three slit vertical mouth, makes him deceptively trustworthy and Tkachenko eats into that cautionary persona of whether this being is actually assisting in saving the human race or angling his prey to work against an adversarial counterpart, Ra (lya Volkov) to gain dominance totality. Performances all around exact a fair amount of rigidness to them, but I blame the forced English dub that can seemingly thwart natural deliveries. The physical and range of action is choreographed with assiduity from the actors, making me believe root cause of the rigidness is certainly the dubbing. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” closes out the cast list with Konstantin Lavronenko, Andrey Mezhulis, Artyom Markaryan, and Lukerya Ilyashenko.

“The Blackout: Invasion Earth” is a special effects juggernaut; some of the best, awe-inspiring visual effects I’ve ever witness has come from Russia, with love, that’s a projectile explosion of a thriller and, in true Russian fashion, a slew military grade heavy duty vehicles are heavily showcased through as if they’re on parade as modified tanks, BTR-70’s, and triple rotor attack helicopters for answers and rescue recovery. Being that the film is set in the future Moscow, Baranov didn’t oversell the evolution of technology and, in fact, made a stark contrast that hindered humanity still in the throes of a primitivism culture when up against otherworldly powers. Yet, there were still boots on the ground soldiers tossed into the meat-grinder that is the quarantine zone. Sure, there were some sentinel machine guns that shredded the enemy at the first sign of sensor, but despite all the flying gizmos, armed to the teeth choppers, and nifty gear, mankind had not strayed far into development. The stagnancy of man’s evolution became the highlighted theme as their deconstructed to being simply a virus that loves, hates, mates, etc. and without all that man has technically progressed throughout the years, man, itself, stays the same. The 160 million people caught in the blackout, turned into mindless slaves, and even before the war against an unknown force, rebellious and fearful groups pit brother against brother. The message suffers slightly from the cut-and-dry rigidness as aforementioned, but more so with the main characters with try to digest the alien’s, perhaps, too complicated plan of usurpation that has been 200,000 years in the works. While the story might be clunky and kind of claggy in the middle, the intensity clings to you from the moment of the alarming sound, troop mobilizing opening credits to to those BRT-70 trucks mowing down a horde of slaved individuals and never ceases with jaw-dropping, effects-driven cinematography to let you re-catch your breath for 128 minutes.

Witness mankind’s last stand against it’s first form in “The Black: Invasion Earth” being distributed on June 2nd by Shout! Studios onto DVD, Blu-ray, On-Demand, and digital streaming from these streaming services: AppleTV, Amazon, VUDU, GooglePlay, PlayStation®, XBOX, hoopla, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Charter, and AT&T U-verse. Since a digital screener was reviewed, the video and audio technical aspects will not be reviewed, but for the record, while the English dubbing is less desired and still hinders the story slightly, the dubbing isn’t all that terrible with crafty timing to stay in sync and maintaining some natural exposition deliveries. There were no bonus materials accompanying the release and there were no extra scenes during or after the credits. No bonus features were listed on the press release either. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” bedevils with a population consuming reset laced with existential philosophies and the ups and downs of human nature set up behind the curtain of an impressive visual menagerie of brilliantly detailed special effects on the most grandest of scales.

Available on Blu-ray!

And Prime Video!!!

Rock And Roll is the EVIL’s Music! “Dark Roads 79” reviewed! (Terror Films / Digital Screener)


Frontman Bobby Gray and his Southern rock band, Dark Roads, were supposed to be next big hit next to The Rolling Stones, but there fame and fortune started dwindling after some short-lived success. Barely surviving on a here-and-there gig in 1979, Dark Roads manager, Grace King, secures a secluded cabin in the woods for them to find their new sound before being dropped by their record label. Along with their female companions, chatty coach driver, their sensible roadie named Cash, and a handful of some hallucinogenic drugs, the trouble band members continue to squabble amongst themselves, especially more so against the vain and alcoholic Bobby Gray. Gray holds a terrible secret from his bandmates, a secret involving a pact he made with the Devil ten years ago and, now, the debt is due, placing the entire group in mortal danger…the price for fame and fortune.

Based loosely surrounding the tragic circumstances of the infamous 27 Club mythos, a moniker given for a collection of up and coming talented musicians who die unexpectedly and prematurely at the ripe young age of 27, “Dark Roads 79” incorporates into the fold the legendary tale of Blues musician, a 27 club victim named Robert (Bobby) Leroy Johnson, who sold his soul to the devil at a Georgia crossroads during midnight for to be the greatest blues musician, or so the story is told. The 2017 film is the fifth macabre picture from writer-director Chase Smith who co-wrote the film with documentarian filmmaker, Richard Krevolin, who no doubt kept the script on a historical accuracy path, as much as one supernatural storyline can stay on. “Dark Roads 79” is a production from Smith’s Georgia based independent filmmaking company, Spirit World Productions, and brought to viewers by “Old 37” executive producer “Jason Anderson” and co-executive producer Nicholas Frank Auger.

Already donning many hats, Chase Smith slips on one more broad brim and trashy cowboy mesh hat with Ian Cash, the level-headed, good natured roadie with a voice like an angel, but built like a Mack truck. Cash serves as narrator who sets up the story that swerves across the dotted line into spoiler territory just a tad, but Cash becomes the vehicle that brings the viewers up to speed on the legend of Bobby Johnson and the rise and fall of the Dark Roads, like a cowboy quick connect in case you needed help in establishing that Dark Roads’ success hinges on a fatal pact with the Devil himself. While Cash may seem like the focal point of the story, there’s a split with lead singer Bobby Gray (David A. Flannery, co-star from a few of the homoerotic thriller series “1313”) whose vanity flushes Dark Roads’s stardom down the toilet. Cash and Gray go toe-to-toe many times and Smith’s emits formidable tough guy appearance on screen while Flannery impresses with a complete loathsome veneer. Neither Smith or Flannery make top bill however as long as “Devil’s Rejects” Bill Moseley has a show stealing bit role as the wicked tongue Christian, Caretaker Williams. Moseley’s short, catchy tune of “Boys and Girls they’ll make some noise. They’ll all be burning in Hell” is a classic, archetypal Bill Moseley character idiosyncrasy. Though Moseley’s scenes are short, they’re definitely sweet and rememberable. “Dark Roads 79” rounds out with “Creature Feature’s” Austin Freeman, Lance Paul, Libby Blanton, and Chance Kelley alongside April Bogenshutz (“Attack of the Morningside Monster”), Jessica Sonneborn (“Never Open the Door”), Jennifer Masty (“Rabid”), Eddie George, Ramona Mallory (“Piranha Sharks”), and co-writer Richard Krevolin as the bands’ chatty driver, Thomas ‘Motormouth’ Jones.

“Dark Roads 79” is categorically a a mystery slasher with a supernatural edge that tinkers with blending lore and the theme of lost good times and friendships despite how unfriendly and uncouth they might be, but Smith and Krevolin purely tiptoe around the keynote of terrible, yet sense of family, camaraderie, failing to capture the coherency of the melancholic essence due to loss and despair built upon years of cathartic criticism, distrust, loathing, and continuous bickering between best buds. In fact, the band and it’s entourage displayed little love if it wasn’t under the influence of some drug, but we must remember that the narrative is told through the perspective of roadie Ian Cash who believed in the band, and, in so, believed in each band member albeit their merciless fair share of busting his balls. The editing, cuts, and transitions are, perhaps, some of the most interesting with “Star Wars”-like wipe transitions that effectively heightened as a hallmark of the swanky 1970s era and the emotion-extracting lingering shots, such as with the handheld super 8 cam that roams the room of an abiding jovial moment in time, capture more of the tender times between the group of bitter and weary druggies, alcoholics, and vain temperaments. Unfortunately, the positives do not outweigh the negatives with a scatterbrained and predictable story that comes off as another failed spawn of the 27 Club urban legend and shaves off the emotional baggage with cheap kills and too many unfulfilling characters.

Make a pact with the Devil himself by watching Chase Smith’s “Dark Roads 79” that’ll debut on stage with a wide digital release by the end of May from genre distributor, Terror Films. No set date has been announced. The film will be hosted on multiple digital platforms, such as TUBI TV, Google Play, Prime Video, ITunes, and various other streaming options. Since “Dark Roads 79” will be a digital release, the video and audio specifications will not be reviewed as it’ll be different for all personal devices, but I will note that some minor portions of the dialogue elements were echoey at times. The original soundtrack has strength behind it with Southern Rock tracks by Black Mountain Shine, Mark Cook, Benton Blount, and HK Jenkins, who composes the single “The Road You’re Going Down,” written by Chase Smith, for the film’s official music video. There were no bonus features with the digital screener. “Dark Roads 79” has the necessary ingredients of a backwoods-frat party gone awry slasher except with Southern Rock, but this Georgia based production is tuneless and tone deaf as it stutters through the Devil’s network of deadly deals.

May the EVIL Be With You! “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” reviewed! (Disney / Blu-ray)


The rebellion suffers lost after lost against the oppressive First Order and news that the evil Emperor Palpatine lives casts an even larger shadow of fear and hopelessness across the galaxy. As Fin and Poe Dameron continue running small strikes against imperial targets, Rey finalizes her training as a Jedi with the help of Princess Leia, but as Kyle Ren discovers the Sith coven and the existence of Palpatine, his desire to search and track down Rey grows stronger before releasing a new First Order fleet of Star Destroyers with the capabilities to destroy entire planets. The Force pulls at Rey, guiding her to face her most difficult challenge: the truth about her parents and lineage. Rey faces crossroads that will determine whether she will continue to fight for good or cave into her anger and fear that’ll inevitably lead to the dark side.

Star Wars? What is Star Wars doing being reviewed on a blog that mainly covers the schlocky low-budget horror scene and the occasional obscure and weird Sci-Fi arthouse film? And the fact that “The Rise of Skywalker” is a Disney film makes this writeup the first ever Disney review for ItsBlogginEvil. No, don’t fret. I’m not selling out my love for the gore, scream queens, and pint-sized productions for the mondo-glitzy, big budget Hollywood epics nor am I making a soft right turn into bloodless PG-13 commercial commodities, but, and this is a big atypical but, “Episode IX” needs to be heard from those outside on the fringes. “Episode IX” is perhaps the darkest film of the cross-generational saga alongside “Revenge of the Sith,” or at least a close second, and, so it be, Disney was gracious enough to provide us a Blu-ray review copy of the J.J. Abrams grand finale to an adventure that has trekked through 40 plus years of galaxy-conflict, saw countless different alien species, gave us more pew-pews than we could ever hope to hear, three different versions of Anakin Skywalker, and the phantasmic super powers of what is known as the Force, all of which is encompassed by a fascist, utilitarian power. Co-written with Abrams is “Argo” and “Justice League” writer Chris Terrio from a story co-written also by “Jurassic World’s” Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow.

“Episode IX” begins with Kylo Ren (“The Dead Don’t Die” and “BlacKkKlansman’s” Adam Driver) discovering a pyramid shaped device that’ll Mapquest his way to find the secret Sith location where a familiar evil figure from the past returns and has built a gigantic fleet over the last three decades. This time around, Kylo Ren’s less of a toddler in the throes of brain development as he’s embattled with guilt and choice. Adam Driver does nail the performance with solemnity in his last performance as the son of Leia and Han Solo. The story’s heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley), is also facing internal conflict with self-discovery as the prospect of knowing who she is sets her on a quest to discover her ancestry and what she might find might blur the sides of good and evil. The young actress who had a number short films and one horror title under her belt (“Scrawl”) before skyrocketing into “Star Wars” mythology returns to Rey as a Jedi hot off the Leia training course and thrusted immediately into the Force’s subconscious dark star, shielding her from the truth for fear of what may come of it. While Ridley shines, the Rey character sprints from, at this point in the Saga, point M to point Z, jettisoning much of the internal grappling to a mere blip on the ship’s internal sensors. Rey also feels entirely infallible, thrusting her character beyond the limits of mortality by completely overshadowing not only Kylo Ren, but also Emperor Palpatine. The other two new to the “Star Wars” crew, Poe (“Ex Machina’s” Oscar Isaac) and Finn (“Pacific Rim: Uprising’s” John Boyega), received similar shaft treatment of reworked characters from the original trilogy, possessing nothing new to offer. Poe a watered down version of Han Solo, a hot shot pilot who doesn’t understand the concept that together him and his fellow rebellious friends can defeat anything that stands in front of them; Lando Calrissian had to educate him with a bit of heart-to-heart exposition. However, Finn is perhaps the biggest undercooked character who has an inkling of Force within him that always simmers to the surface, but nothing is definite, nothing’s explained, and nothing is provided to perhaps the best known minority character in all of “Star Wars” behind Lando. Lastly, and I know the character write is up long and might be a little drawn out, Abrams really botched Carrie Fisher’s Leia that worked in awkwardly unused footage of the Princes/General from previous films. The simple and bland rhetoric used when Leia’s having a “conversation” with Rey is nearly painful to stand as Rey pours from an emotional spigot and all Leia can be, responsively, is cold, blank, and superficial. Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Harrison Ford, and Greg Grunberg co-star.

I adore “Star Wars” as much as the next nerd who grew up between the first and second trilogy. The blending between science fiction, westerns, and samurai tropes speaks volumes on how engrained George Lucas made space come alive with larger-than-life gusto that appeased not only fans of space adventure and wonders, but also fans saturated inside the spaghetti westerns and those with an affinity for Akira Kurosawa films. Those genre bending tactics really brought the film community together to appreciate the novelly detailed miniatures that came to life and the eccentric, sometimes outlandish, characters like Han Solo, Jabba The Hunt, Boba Fett, and Leia in that scantily-clad slave girl bikini. Yet, “Episode IX” irks me, irks me hard, as the once innovate “Star Wars” has been placed into a bingo ball spinner to have it’s originality called out once again in one ginormous homage to see, again, the Emperor, who seems very high and mighty upon his throne of Sith muscle, pitted against a ragtag team of good doers and their champion quasi-Jedi who has to make a between benevolent freedom or a junta power. That’s not to say that “Episode IX” is a total sham of a finale. Fans will receive the totality of a “Star Wars” film complete with light saber clashes, space battles, and the beautiful, yet sometimes violent, different worlds that ships can hyper speed to in seconds. The visual and practical effects are bar-reached and awe-inspiring by means of thousands of ships clustered together, the dim-lit bars crowded with varied character creatures, and the speeders racing through canyons and sandpits become heart-pounding thrill rides of excitement. The introduction of new characters, like the amiable and smile-evoking bot technician Babu Frik, the former Poe co-spice trader and survivalist Zorii Bliss, and another ex-Storm Trooper, Jannah, forms that similarity bond with Finn, are new blood that delight when on screen. Yet, these new characters are shamefully underused as minuscule support that garners only a speck of adoring fandom but little else to the story’s plotline.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” comes home with a 2-disc Blu-ray and Digital Code release, sheathed inside a rigid slipcover, presented in 1080p, full high definition, widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Video is top shelf quality of everything a “Star Wars” film should be with colors and details galore that are arranged purposefully and perfectly to aesthetically please a contrast against the bleakness of space. The extensive line textures are seriously sharp and along with the vast special effects professions who model, shape, and digitally imprint the liveliness into the work, but there are instances, such as on the Sith home world, where the visual effect of an arena filled with distantly scoped blurry Siths dampens the moment of Rey’s endmost consignment. It looked and felt cheap and didn’t properly convey’s Rey’s loneliness against all odds. The lossless English language 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio caters to every pew-pew blaster sound, every ship zipping through space with an engine-like exhaust, and every electrical discharge of a light saber humming in the throes of dual. The dialogue, and Chewbacca’s guttural growls, are effervescently prominent with a natural tone and not commingled by the other tracks, making “Episode IX” some of the best sound work to date in any “Star Wars” film. Capping off the Saga soundtrack with the familiar John Williams robust overtone and coursed throughout an engaging orchestra that moves in synth with story’s dynamics. The bonus feature disc includes an over two-hour documentary entitled “The Skywalker Legacy,” a full length feature of orgasm supplementary regarding “The Rise of Skywalker” and diving deep into the mythos of “Star Wars'” history. Other bonus material includes the mechanics of creating a speeder chase on the Pasaana world, shooting in Jordan to utilize it’s dessert location to create an alien planet, exploring the D-O ship that’s new to the franchise, an interview with Warwick Davis who returns to “Star Wars” to once again don an Ewok character along with his son Harrison, and a cavalier look at the otherworldly creatures and highlighting those who play the part of these beings. For many, the book of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” has been closed as the final episode completely arcs the Skywalker story. Yet, for a few who wish to explore more, “Star Wars” is sought to be an open to a means for other characters to be explored, such as with The Mandalorian,” and, just maybe, that cute Babu Frik. “The Rise of Skywalker” exited in a cliche fashion, a warp drive to an already established and tiresome rehash of circumstances, while only supplying a healthy demand of star power and intense action inside a rapturous package overflowing to the brim with too much content and too little substance.

Complete the Saga! Amazon has “The Rise of Skywalker” on Blu-ray+Digital!