Two People Living in Different Times Linked By an EVIL Secret. “Dead Air” reviewed! (Freestyle Digital Media / Digital Screener)

As a single parent of two teenage girls, William stows away the painful memories of the death of wife some two years ago.  When rummaging through boxed away belongings, he stumbles upon an old ham radio and a diary that once was his late father’s, who tragically was killed during William’s youth.  Psychiatric sessions aim to resolute a traumatic event from the past William can’t seem to recall and has plagued him over the decades and well into adulthood, but all his problems converge when he befriends another amateur radio user, a woman, that simmers a progression of unraveling his past rooted by an unfathomable secret the woman holds that will collide William’s past and present to alter his future. 

Not to be confused with the 2009 same titled film of bio-terrorism turned zombie horde starring “The Devil’s Reject’s” Bill Moseley or mixed up with 2000’s “Frequency” where Dennis Quaid’s character phenomenally reconnects with his deceased firefighter father over an old ham radio, Kevin Hicks’ “Dead Air” also shears linear time by embracing supernatural elements over the air waves of an archaic means of communication and though flesh eating maniacs don’t ravage the world, another terrible humanoid race in the Nazi’s are brought to the proverbial table.  Nazis, traumatic past, jumbled paranormal radio transmissions, clandestine spies – Kevin Hicks directs a multifaceted suspense mystery thriller penned by wife, Vicki Hicks, marking yet another notch in their collaboration history that includes a strong history of horror-thriller credits from 2010, such as “Paranormal Proof,” “Behind the Door,” and last years “Doppel.”  The husband and wife combo produce the “Dead Air” under their homegrown production company, Chinimble Lore.

However, Kevin and Vicki Hicks do a little more than just be a presence behind the camera, they’re also in front of the camera, co-starring across each other as the principle leads who never come face-to-face as they interact solely by tuning into the radio frequency of the ham radio.  Their respective roles of William and Eva douse “Dead Air” with plenty of cover-your-base exposition in building a long distance friendship that turns sour when truths are revealed by supernatural circumstances.  Before the pinnacle reveal, a stitch in time ripe to be altered, Hicks has to be a widowed husband and father of two teenage girls while parallelly secretly dealing with an unidentified trauma from his past.  The trauma doesn’t peak through in Hicks’ performance as William goes about his day either emotionally comforting his temperament diverse daughters with the loss of their mother or always sitting in front of the ham radio eager to speak with a newfound chat buddy, the adversely taut Eva.  Vicki Hicks shelters in place as the paranoid agoraphobic, though not yet understanding what that term means just yet, as the cagey Eva and Hicks cements Eva’s covert dealings with suspicious eyes and a cryptic gait that tells us she’s chin deep into counter intelligence.  “Dead Air” focuses nearly exclusively on the William and Eva radio hour, but minor characters are sprinkled for support traction with Luca Iacovetti, Chris Xaver, Ryan C. Mitchell, and real life sisters playing sisters on screen and co-producer Mark Skodzinsky’s daughters, Madison Skodzinsky and Mackenzie Skodzinsky. 

As far as indie films go, Chinimble Lore is well versed in the expense saving concept providing “Dead Air” with limited locations of about three or four primary small and conventionally decorated indoor sets, low-key in the little-to-no high-dollar, high-concept action, and having the filmmakers step into the shoes of the principle characters of William and Eva. Don’t expect “Dead Air” to be knocking socks off with mind blowing choreographed sequences or any type of painstaking visual or practical special effects in a story concentrated script constructed to be a fable filled with second chances and righting the wrongs through unexplained phenomena; yet, when blindly vehement to correct the past, the unintended butterfly effect could also take away what’s precious to you. Vicki Hick’s script meets that cautious tale bar, but doesn’t exceed the darn thing as the mystery element, William’s insights into who Eva’s true self and calling and how he’s supposed to stop her despite living decades a part, to which the film could only express verbally instead of plastering a veneer to show, can be quickly solved in “Dead Air’s” blueprints of foreseeable plot points. One thing that teased the imagination and should have been explored further is William’s psychiatrist performing hypnotherapy to unearth his trauma, but then opens the Pandora’s box of well, why the hell didn’t the psychiatrist try this in the first place?!? William notes spending $40 an hour on therapy sessions and we see him sit in at least 3 times with dialogue extending that to a higher number. Either William’s psychiatrist is a hornswoggling swindler or a daft healthcare worker with poor practice management. Either way, team Hicks, between their repertoire of directing, screenwriting, and acting, can’t smooth out the film’s rough patches enough to be an original twisty thriller backdropped with an ethereal external force communicating from beyond the grave to save more than one soul, leaving “Dead Air” radio silent.

Freestyle Digital Media sends signals from the dead with Kevin Hicks’ “Dead Air” available now on Video-On-Demand across North American digital HD, satellite and cable VOD through platforms Including streaming services iTunes, Amazon Video, and Vudu and cable services Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox.  The 91 minute runtime could have been cut to a leaner 70 to 75 minutes to not only dilute the impact of a dialogue-saturated narrative but also trim a forced subplot of William’s cancer-struck wife that doesn’t quite enact the depth to William’s background that it was intended to do.  Presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, cinematography by Kyle Carr is digitally clean with a blanketed combination of hard and soft lighting in a rather warm glowing color palette of yellow, red, and jade, but the camera work and shots are standard in technique, not offering much in the way of style since most of the shots hover on medium closeups of William and Eva chit-chatting over the radio.  The light rock tracks composed by Kevin Hicks and performed by the versatile music man Lonnie Parks are sprinkled in to engage a sense of passing time correlated with the storyline events, but the soundtrack’s genre tone sounds like a transistor radio out of place of a story built on a ham radio’s static and garbled messages and would have been more poignant with more of Parks’ mellow-brooding engineered score.  The digital screener was not accompanied with any bonus features and there were no bonus scenes during or after the credits.  Part of “Dead Air’s” demise is the fact that “Frequency” established an already familiar foundation over 20 years ago with nearly the same plot studded with star power and a large pocketed budget, but the story’s engaging enough with supernatural radio waves and the clandestine ties to Nazi spies to keep a progressive interest despite our good hunch on the climax and the finale. 

Rent or Own “Dead Air” digitally on Amazon Video by Clicking the Poster!

When The Waters Rush In, It’s the EVIL in Your Head That’ll Kill You. “Relentless” reviewed! (Terror Films / Digital Screener)

Jennifer Benson’s life is a storybook fairytale that’s embraced by her close sister, exalted by a sweet, kind husband, and excited with the news of an upcoming baby. Yet, all good things come to an end and in Jennifer’s case, in a devastating tragedy when everything and everyone she held close to her heart is unexpectedly wiped away within a single year. Physically injured and suffering from depression, Jennifer withdraws from family and friends inside an empty house, sinking lower into despondency, and letting bills and the house upkeep slip through the seemingly insignificant cracks. Jennifer eventually decides climb up a little out of her rut by cleaning up and letting go of some sentimental materials that leave painful memories by storing them in the unfinished basement, but when the basement door jams and won’t open, Jennifer finds herself trapped in a subterranean state with a large thunderstorm dumping rain that’s seeping from the basement walls, plumbing, and the ground. As the torrential rain continues to fall, the water level continues to rise with no way out.

Get ready to hold your breath in Barry Andersson’s agog of metaphorical poignant survival, “Relentless.” The filling of the fish tank mender is the director’s first and only release of 2020, following his 2019 releases of the historical drama, “The Lumber Baron,” and a 1940’s set sleep deficient thriller, “The Soviet Sleep Experiment.” Andersson continues to tell stories of intricately varied human responses as the filmmaker pens “Relentless” surrounded by themes of reactionary and recovery paths toward death with the film echoing more so with Andersson’s introductory “The Lumbar Baron” on a much smaller scale in terms of cast and setting. The story is set in or near Minnesota, a Midwest state prone to some of the United States worst flash flooding hit areas, and Andersson crafts his creative juices with that in mind to mold a symbolic cognitive descension stemmed by escapism inside creature comforts. Deodand Entertainment and Andersson’s filmic workshop company, Mogo Media, designate as the production companies.

“Relentless” indurates around being a one woman show with Rachel Weber spearheading the subject of crippled and downcast Jennifer Benson. Weber, whose worked briefly with Barry Andersson in “The Soviet Sleep Experiment,” has to operate Jennifer animatedly in a near voiceless, tacit role to simulate one alone with their thoughts and emotions. Only flashbacks limn with dialogue present the state of Jennifer’s woebegone mind as she goes from despair to reluctant acceptance by reopening the wound of concealed painful memories. Weber fulfills every inch of empty space with a tinge sorrow in some way, shape, or form but doesn’t quite convey the impact well enough to fortitude a presence. Weber’s post-flashback expressions deflect the corpus theme with no real tell of how Jennifer actually feels as she stands over a box full of memorabilia of what should be inducing whether a pensive sadness or vitalizing inspiration as she goes through an unbalanced reel of memories that include bedroom book snuggles with her sister at young age or survival life lessons with her father to up at the moment of what was supposed to be a joyous baby shower occasion that turns unexpectedly into tragic point in her life. Though the story acutely restricts the camera on Weber, the unfolding flashbacks ultimately tell the story from the past that includes stint performances from Charles Hubbell (“The Bitch That Cried Wolf”), Anna Hickey, Bea Hannahan, and Presley Grams.

“Relentless” has thought-provoking messages splayed up, down, and all around it’s encased four-walled theme of, literally, drowning in your own self pity and digging yourself out of a hole of depression. The water that gushes into the air tight unfinished basement represents the rising fathoms of depression that initially trickle in harmlessly enough, but the longer the despair drips go unchecked, as noted when Jennifer reaches out to nobody up on the top floors of her house and would rather recap wedding photos in the first act, the more intense the cascades can become when your submerged in from head to toe. Along Jennifer’s rather stagnant perilous journey, sitting on top of work benches as a hapless invalid and rummaging through miscellaneous items, she opens and goes through various storage boxes of her past that she carefully tries to keep dry by continuously moving the boxes out from the low-lying waters. Each box evokes a single memory from her past fashioned in an unchronological order and stews in a melting pot of stirred emotions that work backwards from melancholy to hope to, eventually, in my opinion, an inescapable suicide. My subjective take on Barry Andersson’s open-ended culmination is purely speculative as Jennifer’s struggles for survival may all be for naught, even in the evidence of the character leaving behind a note for storm survivors, or whomever, to collect staggering into what could be Jennifer’s tomb strongly suggests that particular path. That’s what admirable about intense thrillers, such as “Relentless,” that teases an unwritten coda for those to survive and tell the rest of the story, woven with their own personal singularities, but Andersson’s film, heavy in metaphors, lacks spirited vitality in a somber stroll through what’s innately a human fear: death.

Basements continue to retain their bad rap in the traditional horror sense as well as in Terror Films’ release of Barry Andersson’s survive-or-die succumbing to mopery in “Relentless,” distributed digitally across multiple platforms. Rigorous self preservation might be watered down, but the stagecraft and production design is top shelf quality with a simple set of a well dressed dank and bare basement where streams of water rush into from the barred awning windows and waterlogged plumbing. The basement in itself is a character of misfortune, a cell of rehabilitation, and is just simply effective in a cinematic sense without seeming overly menacingly but rather like every other basement in the world. With the digital screener, there were no bonus material included nor any bonus scenes during or after the credits. Don’t expect a nonstop nail-biter that aims to fill your lungs with asphyxia inhaled water; instead, sympathy or empathy will play significantly in “Relentless'” success with an aggregating flurry of thoughts generator in a post-traumatic vicissitude.

“Relentless” included with Prime Video and available for purchase!

EVIL Doesn’t Joke Around. “Let’s Scare Julie” reviewed! (Shout Studios! / Digital Screener)


After the sudden passing of her father, Emma stays with her cousin, Taylor, along with her aunt and drunkard uncle. Taylor pressures Emma to be part of her prank habitual group of friends, trying to convince Emma how this is how things will be from now on while also trying to be a compassionate shoulder to her reserved cousin. With Taylor’s uncle passed on the sofa downstairs and her mother flying in from out of town, an impromptu sleepover encourages the group of girls to connive a break-and-entering prank to scare a new neighbor, a teenage girl named Julie, across the street. Emma half-heartedly participates by producing a way into the house, allowing her cousin and her heedless new friends onward on their scaring scheme, but when only two of the four girls return, the prank has turned terribly wrong as an urban legend about the house across the street might actually be true.

Breaking out from helming television documentaries and into the genre feature realm is filmmaker Jud Cremata debuting with his written and directed bloodcurdling slumber party, “Let’s Scare Julie,” premiering on in home theaters on digital and VOD come October 2nd, 2020. Starting off Halloween with an innovative filming structure and a good ole fashion horror tale, Cremata never eases on the reins of terror from nearly a single, continuous take of his mischievous teenage girls meet malevolent ghost story that occurs over a single night, condensed further to a time frame that’s almost parallel to the film’s runtime. Formerly known as “Let’s Scare Julie to Death,” the Santa Clara filmed, real time hijinks gone awry spook show is the first horror production from the Los Angeles and Moscow based Blitz Films in association with “Becky’s” Buffalo 8 Productions. Jud Cremata and Marc Wolloff produce the feature alongside Blitz Films’ Eryl Cochran and Nick Sarkisov.

Comprised with a small cast of new talent, “Let’s Scare Julie” focuses around a group of five teenage girls and one elementary grade school girl concentrated more so around a life rebounding Emma played by Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, making her introduction into feature length films. What makes this a phenomenal role and performance for Johnson is the fact that the young actress has to maintain in-character for the entire length of the film with the camera rarely parting away from her in every moment of the nearly continuous take and she has to adjust her dynamics with a variety volume of characters ranging in temperament from meek, to obnoxious, to terrifying, to drunk, and to the perpetuance of adolescence behavior from her protective, yet peer pressuring cousin Taylor (Isabel May), the obnoxious goof Madison (“Ladyworld’s” Odessa A’zion), the unassertive duddy Paige (Jessica Sarah Flaum), and the confident showoff Jess (“Unearth’s” Brooke Sorenson). Individually, the characters are well developed, hinting more towards unravelling their true selves with each progressive moment their on screen, but not overly enough to have each figured out and that leaves their hopeful futures in ruin, offering more substance to their potential demise. Rounding out “Let’s Scare Julie” cast is Dakota Baccelli, Blake Robbins (“Rubber,” “Martyrs”), and Valorie Hubbard (“Resident Evil: Extinction”) as the evil spirit, Ms. Durer.

Uncomplicated with less fancy footwork adorned, “Let’s Scare Julie” is all about the story and less about the effects hoopla usually associated with vindictive phantasma creepers, especially ones like Ms. Durer who like to seep into her victim’s personal bubble using voodoo black magic dolls while wearing nothing more than her dirty nightgown and scathing glare on her face. The simplicity of the movie is almost refreshing in the inherent campiness of the anecdotal urban legend spieled by the girl living next to the house of ill repute, but one thing about the story that irks me is the marketing of “Let’s Scare Julie” being shot in one continuous take; yet, there are a few edits that not necessarily cut to a different scene, but rather just jump seconds of a frame and continue the moment. Whether the edit’s intent was because of timing, reducing frames in a scene to meet a certain runtime, or to give the actors a slight break, the expectation wasn’t fully met when the handful of edits are slipped in condemning that anticipated single take to just a still impressive compilation of long takes. Chuck Ozea’s maneuvering cinematography seamlessly tells the tale without so much of a hiccup as the veteran music video DP choreographs somewhat of a dance around Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson to capture her slow simmer into terror. “Let’s Scare Julie” does more with less as a round about ghost story, building up suspense above the guise of guilt-riddled themes without placing the perspective in the middle of the supernatural action.

Sometimes, pranks backfire and, in this case, this prank is to die for in the Shout Studios distributed “Let’s Scare Julie,” scaring up into home theaters on Digital and On Demand at the beginning of Halloween season on October 2, 2020. Being a brand new film, there were no psychical media specs to report nor would there would be any A/V if specs were available since this review copy is a digital screener of the film. As a digitally recorded production in this day and age, expect the found footage-like video and sound as faultless as expected, but the quality will be determined by your internet connection and streaming platforms. There were no bonus material with the screener nor were there any additional scenes during or after the credits. Five teens’ prank spree ends on a dark and stormy night of terror where urban legend trounces cruelty over shenanigans in the crafty and solid shiver-inducing “Let’s Scare Julie.”

Pre-order “Let’s Scare Julie” on Prime Video.

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!

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!