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  • PODCAST: Freakin' Out with Flanagan - Midnight Mass

    Diana and Mike are joined by Bernadette Gorman-White to chat about Mike Flanagan's Midnight Mass. Along the way, they chat about religion, banger church music, the amazing cast of the series and the excitement leading up to the release of The Fall of the House of Usher. This is a great episode, y'all. Listen on....

  • PODCAST: Hot Takes - Sisu

    Mike Burdge and Tim Irwin arrive late to the game but nonetheless stoked to talk about one of the biggest entertaining surprises of 2023, Sisu. Along the way they also chat about the revenge-action flick genre, Mike's new obsession with the film Cobweb and TikTok verbiage. Listen on....

  • Back to School: With Honors

    With the briefest of temperature dips recently, I started to get excited about Fall. Thinking about “back to school” films reminded me of the 1994 film With Honors. The film centers around a group of undergraduate friends/roommates attending Harvard during their final year before graduation. In the movie, Patrick Dempsey is an eccentric Harvard student radio host who owns a rooster (you heard me), and whose father, it is alluded to, is very wealthy. He has an amazing head of curly hair in the film. There’s a young and lovely Moira Kelly and an even lovelier young Brendan Fraser. Josh Hamilton is also there (mostly to whine) as the straight-laced and uptight foil to the rest of his roommates. Hamilton is always amazing in whatever he does (please, watch Eighth Grade) and he deserves a lot more than Hollywood ever gave him. There’s also Joe Pesci (but we’ll get to him a little later). I didn’t remember much else about the plot after all these years. Why did I like this movie so much when it came out? In 1994 I was 13 years old. Honestly, most of what I remembered about the movie was how much I liked Moira Kelly’s haircut at the time and this song by Madonna made for the film: Hollywood led me (and most of America, I think) to believe that Harvard epitomized college. When I think about it, this idea was perpetuated a few years later in ‘97 with the release of Good Will Hunting. I imagined Boston, even with all of its snow, to be a magical place to go to school. Brendan Fraser plays Monty, a serious student of government, wearing a suit and tie, ready to meet with his thesis advisor. His character is a bit “young Republican,” but once surrounded by his roommates and friends, he switches into a goofy or more lovable version of himself. The driving plot point (for Monty at least) is graduating from Harvard “with honors.” Monty is on track to writing an excellent thesis, in line with the beliefs of his favorite professor and thesis advisor. He hopes it will push him to graduate with honors and lead to a successful career and a better life. As often happened in the 90s, his computer crashes and he rushes to make a copy of the only physical paper printout he has of his thesis. While rushing around campus out in the snow, he stumbles, majorly hurting his ankle, and drops the paper copy through a grate that leads to the furnace room of the college library. His friend Courtney (Moira Kelly) helps him sneak into the library where he finds a homeless man (Pesci) living amongst piles of books (think of the episode of The Twilight Zone “Time Enough At Last”), burning pages of Monty’s thesis for warmth. To stop him from burning more pages of his thesis, Monty tries to reason with him. Simon, as Pesci is known in the film, asks for food (a glazed donut) and clean underwear. He says for each thing Monty brings him, he will return one page of his thesis. There were 88 pages; there are only 83 left. Monty ends up calling campus security on the squatter Simon, getting him evicted. The next morning he is left on crutches but with no thesis. They weren’t able to find it among Simon’s belongings. Monty bails Simon out of potential jail time but Simon still has contempt for the kid who got him evicted from his library digs. The lesson Fraser’s Monty needs to learn in the film is that he has spent his college years as “all work and no play.” He doesn’t know how to enjoy his life. In reality, he doesn't know much about life in general. He thinks he knows how to help others and make changes to his government but his thesis is a lot of pessimism regurgitated from his favorite professor’s beliefs. Then he meets Simon. Simon, now really homeless, is a self-made scholar and lover of reading. He tries to impart some wisdom (judgment) onto Monty after calling him a loser earlier. He says Monty tries too hard. “Winners forget they’re in a race. They just love to run.” He shows Monty a glimpse of his thesis, which he has stashed away, and reopens their previous agreement of an exchange of goods and services for pages of said thesis. Simon kind of spends a lot of the early part of the film just following Monty around campus at all times, offering to carry his books with new vigor at their arrangement, while the pissed-off kid uses crutches in the snow. (Sidebar - using crutches any time sucks, but in the snow? Woof.) Pesci is doing sort of a funny (weird) voice for his character the whole movie, and not Goodfellas funny. Monty brings Simon to his house and lets him move into the dead van parked outside in their yard. It was abandoned by one of their old roommates who dropped out of Harvard. Realistically, Monty’s roommates initially have mixed feelings about the decision. Monty assures them it will only be for a few days. He will find a way to convince Simon to give him his entire thesis back. His roommate Everett (Dempsey) is too curious to resist visiting Simon. He brings him a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, explaining that most of Harvard’s students believe Simon is the library ghost of the dead author. The two hit it off and they banter a bit about the dead van in the driveway. Everett bargains with Simon to get the van fixed in exchange for some bottles of wine. That brings me back to the rest of Monty’s housemates: thirteen-year-old me loved Courtney’s (Moira Kelly’s) haircut in this film. Hell, I still love it. Look at it. She IS the 90s. Her character is a bit goofy; she’s “one of the guys” as the only girl roommate and she is a fiercely loyal friend to Monty. She's the dream girl. In the middle of the night, Monty reflects on what Courtney said to him earlier about how cold it is outside and brings Simon a blanket. We can tell Monty is pining for Courtney in the film as she talks to him about getting back together with her ex-boyfriend whom Everett refers to as, “The Face.” Jeff (Josh Hamilton) is superrrr uptight. But his indignance is his armor. When he finally comes clean to Monty, he admits that he has only one page of his thesis done. He’s been lying about it. He is panicked that he will end up dropping out like their other roommate did. I read Roger Ebert’s original 1994 review of the movie and laughed out loud at his description of Monty’s housemates: Eventually, Monty's roommates get in on the act, including Everett (Patrick Dempsey), who pays Simon nine bottles of wine to repair his van, and Courtney (Moira Kelly), who spends a great deal of energy not being in love with Monty. A third roommate, Jeff (Josh Hamilton), plays the obligatory pain in the ass. Initially, Monty tries to bring Simon to the Department of Public Welfare and Social Security to get him signed up for disability benefits but Simon is uncooperative. Simon was a Merchant Marine. He spent years working and paying taxes Monty implores him. He is owed his Social Security! The more time the two spend together the softer both become towards each other. Simon starts to tell Monty more stories about his life, and gradually they start to change Monty’s perspective. Monty thinks he wants to help change the world by working with the government. Simon challenges the beliefs Monty has written about in his thesis more than his Harvard thesis advisor does. They definitely have a Good Will Hunting vibe going a few years before Good Will Hunting came out but Pesci, unfortunately, is no Robin Williams. Simon makes a joke about how much Monty studies and asks, “ Didn’t your father ever play ball with you?” Which seems to hit a nerve. Monty gets tightlipped and tries to change the subject. His father left when he was five, remarried, and had kids with his new wife, effectively ghosting his original family. After they bond a bit, Monty goes out on a limb and takes Simon with him to a lecture by his thesis professor. It’s a little strange how the deal between them becomes sort of 24/7 companionship. If the rest of his campus didn’t see Simon too you could argue that he is a ghost sent to help guide Monty on his journey through life. During the lecture after Monty’s answer is promptly shut down by his professor, Simon challenges the pompous professor, giving with great idealistic purpose, why the constitution is a brilliant thing and he gets applauded by the rest of the students. Outside, Monty finds Simon gasping for breath after his speech but Simon brushes the topic off. Something they have in common. Monty and uptight Jeff have a spat about whether Simon can stay inside on a night that is supposed to be below zero. Jeff accuses Monty of selfishly using Simon and tells him to just bring him to a shelter. When Simon asks if he can come inside, Monty makes a super lame excuse and spends the whole night worrying about Simon freezing to death in the van. The next morning, however, Simon leaves a note saying the deal is off. He is gone. For some reason, Monty is the only one not leaving for Christmas break. He HAS TO WORK ON HIS THESIS. With his cast finally off his ankle, Monty wanders around looking for Simon to no avail. Someone wrapped in a Harvard blanket turns up on his doorstep with the rest of his thesis but it isn't Simon. He delivers a sort of poetic but cryptic message on Simon’s behalf but tells Monty that Simon does not want to see him. Monty goes looking again and finds Simon in bad shape. He’s coughing and can’t catch his breath. He doesn't want to go to the hospital. He tells Monty he breathed in asbestos while in the merchant marines. His lungs quit and they fired him. Monty gives him a house key and puts him up in their old (now gone) roommate’s room. Simon’s days are numbered. His illness is terminal. Finally reunited with his entire old thesis, Monty throws it out and starts anew. Jeff is the first one back from winter break and freaks out when he sees Simon inside their house. However, Simon is now a contributing member of the household. He is collecting Social Security and can actually contribute to the cost of rent and groceries. Now with an official place to live, Simon is thrilled and the house seems happier (except for Jeff). Now when Monty sees Simon it puts a smile on his face rather than a scowl. Simon starts spending more time with each member of the house, gradually winning each student over while telling them stories and sharing common bonds. Except for Jeff. Jeff and Simon finally have words. While attempting to make peace by offering him French toast (a valid move in my opinion), Simon says, “You know why you hate me so much Jeffrey? Because I look the way you feel.” Yikes. But the truth shall set them free. They share a bond of depression and self-loathing. And a love of French toast. Peace has been made. Despite the warmth of a house and regular good meals, Simon starts drafting his own obituary. It turns out he also left his wife and son to join the merchant marines, which greatly upsets Monty. He feels betrayed by this bit of truth about his new father figure. But they still go together to a giant party for Harvard seniors where almost everyone is wearing fancy pajamas. Simon eggs Monty on to tell Courtney how he really feels about her. Monty sees her arguing with her ex-boyfriend (The Face) and she storms outside. Monty goes for it and succeeds. Courtney feels the same way. After finally getting the girl, Monty hears Simon fall in the middle of the night, short of breath. Simon doesn't want to go to the hospital and he doesn’t want to die alone. Simon asks Monty if he lives through the night if he will drive him to see his estranged son just once. Monty agrees. Even though his thesis is due and still unfinished, he and the rest of his housemates take Simon in the van to try to meet his son. After meeting his adult son goes beyond badly, Simon asks them to pull over and he runs off into the woods (presumably to die — like the dog he had as a child that he told Monty about) but Monty brings him back. With Simon back in bed at the house, the students take turns reading pages of Leaves of Grass to him. As far as I know, none of them are English majors (maybe Patrick Dempsey?). At Simon’s funeral, only his four recent housemates attend. He wrote his own obituary which Monty reads aloud to the others. The students graduate (without honors) but they’re happy. Madonna sings the aforementioned banger (“I’ll Remember”) as the film’s credits roll. So, let’s be real, no big lessons are really learned by watching With Honors. It is not as good a film as Good Will Hunting. But it is still kind of an enjoyable rewatch for a 90s teen all these years later. If anything, With Honors will remind you of some truly epic hairstyles of the 90s and encourage you to always back up those computer files. Diana DiMuro Associate Editor Besides watching TV and movies, Diana likes plants, the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school dropout. You can follow her on Instagram @dldimuro and Twitter @DianaDiMuro

  • PODCAST: Story Screen Reports - More Strike Talk and Goodbye, Mario

    Want to help striking actors and writers? Donate to the Entertainment Community Fund Story Screen Reports is our team REACTING to the top 5 film, television and entertainment news stories of the month. Join us as we dissect and comb through everything from upcoming releases to studio drama. On this episode, Tim Irwin joins Robby to chat about more updates on the Writers and Actors Strikes, the voice of Mario saying his final Wa-hoo, and everybody's favorite sweet, sweet boy saying some very sweet, sweet things about his Dune franchise. You can find those stories, and the sourced articles, linked below. Eat the rich. 1. Walt Disney Pictures VFX Workers move to unionize Written by Jazz Tangcay at Variety 2. WGA: Studios’ Contract Offer is Neither Nothing, Nor Nearly Enough’ Written by Jeremy Fuster at The Wrap 3. AMC Reaches a Deal With SAG-AFTRA To Resume Production Written by Linda Codega (They/Them) at Gizmodo 4. Charles Martinet transitions to Mario Ambassador and steps down from voicing the plumber Story by Nintendo of America 5. Denis Villeneuve Teases Possible Dune: Part Three Based on Dune Messiah Written by Ben Travis at EMPIRE Dune Messiah Wikipedia page (optional reading) Listen on....

  • PODCAST: Hot Takes - Showing Up

    Mike Burdge and Diana DiMuro discuss Kelly Reichardt's latest contemplation on life, friendship, art and loneliness, Showing Up, starring teen-heartthrobs Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, André Benjamin, A. Pigeon, Ricky and Judd Hirsch. Along the way they chat about their opinions on past Reichardt projects, the similarities this film shares with aspects of First Cow and Michelle Williams' ability to go big or keep it low. Listen on....

  • PODCAST: Overdrinkers - The Insidious Franchise

    Mike Burdge is joined by Diana DiMuro to cover the five films currently in the Insidious franchise, including the most recent return to the Lambert family, Insidious: The Red Door. Topics covered include the loops and connections between the five films, Leigh Whannell's directorial debut and Patrick Wilson's strange career. Listen on....

  • Against Greatness: Searching for Bobby Fischer at 30

    This is going to be one of those film articles where I jump straight into talking about the ending, so consider yourself warned if you haven’t gotten around to seeing Searching for Bobby Fischer at some point in the last 30 years. I’ve long thought of this as my favorite sports movie, even if it is debatable whether chess should actually be classified as a sport. Either way, Searching for Bobby Fischer is unambiguously formatted like a sports movie. We get all the hallmarks of the genre: montages, mentors, winning streaks, losing streaks, rivalries, a crisis of confidence going into the final act, an inspirational pep talk, and finally, a climactic contest between two well-matched opponents. This film, however, because it is specifically about youth chess, has an unexpected relationship towards winning and losing that I find fascinating for the genre. The film walks a fine line between wanting to provide a typical sports movie catharsis displaying some kind of final victory, and trying not to push an agenda on the kids depicted in the film that winning should ever be thought of as the only measure of success. Most of the early portion of the film is working towards establishing two points: first, that our young protagonist, Josh Waitkin (Max Pomeranc), has a preternatural intuition for the game of chess, and second, that he will have to push himself incredibly hard if he wants to develop that aptitude into something on par with the very best players his age. Towards the end of the film we get increasing emphasis on the idea that chess is a game and, particularly for kids, is supposed to be fun. There’s a clear tension here, and how well the film works for you, particularly its ending, may strongly depend on how well you think it navigates these opposing ideas. The film’s story builds towards the final match of the 1986 National Primary Championship, where Josh Waitzkin faces off against a kid who has been set up to be something of a nemesis for him: Jonathan Poe. The character of Jonathan is interesting in that he’s younger than Josh and he’s presented like a pint-sized Ivan Drago. He’s been trained to be a very serious-minded chess machine, pulled out of grade school by his father so that he could focus on chess full-time. This sounds like a Hollywood invention, but it isn’t. Jonathan is actually based on Josh’s real-life opponent for this tournament, Jeff Sarwar, who would go on to win the under-10 World Championship that same year. A very important context here though is that, not too long after the events depicted in this film, and in part due to the notoriety that Jeff’s success brought him and his unconventional family, he and his sister would be taken into protective custody by the Children’s Aid Society of Ontario, because of their father’s abusive behavior towards them. There’s an untold cautionary tale here about what it can look like when a parent’s only interest in their child is vicarious glory. Both Jonathan Poe and Jeff Sarwar are meant to offer a contrast to where Josh is at by the end of the film. While Josh isn’t depicted as being pushed in quite the same way that Jonathan and Jeff are, he does feel pressure from his sportswriter father, Fred (Joe Mantegna), who doesn’t do much to hide that he is happiest with Josh when he wins. From his chess teacher, Bruce Pandolfini (Ben Kingsley), Josh feels a constant pressure to always be learning the neverending minutia of the game, so he can one day fulfill his highest potential. Part of the crisis that Josh ends up experiencing heading towards the final tournament is because all of this pushing does actually work. Through his hard work and training, Josh has continued to improve as a player, but he’s now gotten to the point where he’s so highly rated that he’s the runaway favorite to win any match he plays against the kids in his age group. There’s no joy in winning for him anymore because it’s what’s expected of him. All that’s left for him is a fear of losing and letting down his dad and Bruce. And, for a time, that fear turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Part of how Josh breaks out of his funk comes when his mother (Joan Allen) starts pushing back against what his father and Bruce have been asking of him. She starts pushing them to let Josh go back to playing speed games of chess for fun against the men in the park, like Vinny (Lawrence Fishburn), even if it might mean risking picking up some bad chess habits. And, maybe most importantly for Josh’s well-being, the family decides to go on a chess-free vacation right before the tournament to give Josh a chance to relax and just be a kid for a while. This works, too. Taking this kind of step back is just what Josh needs, and he does ultimately win the tournament. That’s not the film’s ending, though. The story continues after Josh’s win, watching him comforting a friend who was also playing in the tournament but lost a key match earlier on. The film never loses sight of it still being a children’s chess tournament, and that for Josh to have his happy ending, every other kid competing has to have their heart broken. It is heartwarming to see Josh be able to empathize with his friend, but, the more you look at it, the clearer it becomes that this isn’t the kind of unambiguous happy ending you expect to get from most sports films. Part of what woke me up to the more bittersweet notes of this ending was learning more about the rest of the lives of the people in this story. The film, and the book it was based on, is called Searching for Bobby Fischer for at least two reasons. First, and most obviously, because of how chess parents and chess teachers obsess over whether their kids might follow in Fischer’s footsteps to become the next great American chess player. But, second, it also refers to people quite literally searching for the reclusive Fisher. As we learn in the opening narration from Josh, Bobby Fischer went into seclusion after winning the 1972 World Chess Championship against Boris Spassky. Josh describes how erratic Fischer’s behavior was leading up to the tournament. Fischer complained about just about every single arrangement related to the match. He insulted what he saw as the backwardness of Iceland, where the tournament was taking place. And he frequently spoke unkindly about the people of Iceland. Most dramatically, Bobby was also constantly threatening to blow off the match altogether. When Fred Waitzkin wrote the book this film is based on, Fischer had been living in seclusion for well over a decade. In what must have seemed like a bit of happy synergy for the film, in 1992, around the time the film was in production, Fischer emerged from hiding to play Spassky in a 20th-anniversary rematch of their 1972 contest. The match caused a bit of a sensation only for Fischer to mostly disappear from view again after handily winning the rematch. Perhaps a less happy revelation for the legacy of the film, though, is learning about Fischer’s pathological paranoia and virulent antisemitism. While Fischer had once seemed to just be the colorful enfant terrible of the chess world, the more we learn about him, the more unstable he appears to have been. Shortly before he died in Iceland in 2008, he was recognizable out in the street by his rotten teeth, after having had all of his fillings removed to avoid radio signals being sent to his brain by the Russians and Americans. He ultimately died of kidney failure caused by a bladder infection he didn’t trust any doctor to treat. The film is called Searching for Bobby Fischer, but aside from Bobby’s chess prowess, he wasn’t remotely someone any parent should want their child to emulate. In fact, looking beyond Bobby to all of the other characters involved, it’s not entirely clear that any parent should really want their child to pursue something like competitive chess. What’s more clear in the book is that Fred Waitzkin pursued competitive chess when he was younger, having caught chess fever along with the rest of America around the time of that Fischer-Spassky World Championship. Fred bought chess books and memorized openings, only to discover how far behind his nascent ability was compared to people who had already been playing their entire lives. He abandoned playing himself, but he’s honest in the book that part of him pushing Josh was to see his own dream fulfilled by his son. Something hinted at in the movie is Bruce Pandolfini’s aversion to tournament play, but what’s made much more clear in the book is that the reason he doesn’t play in competitions anymore is because of what he feared publicly losing might cost his reputation professionally as a chess teacher, writer, and commentator. His fear was very much the same one that Josh would have to overcome heading into the finals. Vinny, who is based on a real person, but also stands in for all the men who played with and mentored Josh in Washington Square Park, is still an active competitive player when we meet him, but what’s abundantly clear in the book is that his isn’t meant to be any kind of life for Josh to want to mimic. It’s never said straight out whether or not Vinny is homeless, but it is strongly implied, which is true for a lot of the players in the park. In the book, we meet master-level players that have been ruined for anything else in life by their obsession with chess, and now spend their nights sleeping in the park under their chess tables all year round. Funnily enough, you know who else doesn’t play competitive chess anymore? Josh Waitzkin. At the time this film was made, the real Josh was about 16 years old. You can see him playing chess at the table next to the film’s Josh toward the end of the movie when he returns to play speed chess with Vinny. By this point, real-life Josh was an international chess master who had won the National Junior High Championship, the High School Championship, and the U.S. Junior Championship. At the point when we see him in his blink-and-you-’ll-miss-it cameo, Josh Waitzkin was someone for whom you could make a credible argument that he was well along the path to becoming the next Fischer. However, just a few years later, he completely gave up playing chess competitively, shortly after he started college. Josh just couldn’t maintain his affection for the game, or for what the game asks of people for them to keep developing as a player. This is the thing I’ve now come to find to be the most fascinating about Searching for Bobby Fischer. At the end of the film, we got the sports movie happy ending of Josh winning the final match, but the impact of that win, his agreeing not to push himself so hard, and his decision to be more ok with just being a kid, looks like the seed of him eventually leaving the game altogether. The film celebrates Josh’s win, but in the final shot of him comforting his friend that lost, we also get something of the idea that maybe we shouldn’t be doing this to kids. So, I’ve come to learn that this is my hot take about Searching for Bobby Fischer: It is a great youth sports movie, but one that also manages to suggest that maybe we would be better off just letting kids be kids. For Josh Waitzkin, his happy ending doesn’t really come from winning that final match, but rather, from when he starts to let go of the idea that he has to win all of the time, and when he stops trying to be the next Bobby Fischer. Damian Masterson Staff Writer Damian is an endothermic vertebrate with a large four-chambered heart residing in Kerhonkson, NY with his wife and two children. His dream Jeopardy categories would be: They Might Be Giants, Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, 18th and 19th-Century Ethical Theory, Moral Psychology, Caffeine, Gummy Candies, and Episode-by-Episode podcasts about TV shows that have been off the air for at least 10 years.

  • The Fugitive Turns 30

    Featuring the Brave Smart Sad Man and the Poet Laureate of Law Enforcement It’s the 30th anniversary of The Fugitive y’all, and this is one of my favorite action films of all time. Let's talk about what makes it work so well, shall we? For a film from the early 90s based on a television series from the 1960s, the tension of the story and our investment in its characters holds up very well over time, largely due to the stellar performances by Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones that carry the film. Harrison Ford had made a name for himself as an actor in the 70s and 80s playing swashbuckling wise-cracking action heroes in the first three Star Wars films and the Indiana Jones franchise. However, in 1985, he took on a more serious role as a tormented detective in the crime thriller Witness, revealing a darker, more somber screen persona (that by all accounts seems to be closer to his real-life introverted nature). The Fugitive is a near-perfect melding of his strengths as an action film star and the more complicated turmoil that he showed in his role in Witness. In The Fugitive, his portrayal as Dr. Richard Kimble, wrongly accused of murdering his wife and on the run from the law, is a tour de force of heroic bravado with a deep, lingering undercurrent of sadness. Tommy Lee Jones gives a sublime performance as Kimble’s foil, Deputy US Marshall Sam Gerard, basically providing the genesis for every Jones role as a law enforcement official going forward (especially Agent K in the Men in Black franchise). The moment where he instructs his team to leave no stone unturned in the manhunt for Kimble rattled off in a no-nonsense-rapid-fire play on the word “house,” delivered in his honeyed Texan drawl, is pure poetry in the very best way: "All right, listen up, ladies and gentlemen, our fugitive has been on the run for ninety minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground, barring injuries, is 4 miles per hour. That gives us a radius of six miles. What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive's name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him." Action movies rarely get nominated for acting Oscars, let alone win them, but Jones won Best Supporting Actor for playing Sam Gerard, and even if you know nothing of this film except for the “warehouse farmhouse henhouse outhouse doghouse” speech you’ll understand why. Go find that scene on YouTube and bask in the wonder of Jones’ charismatic brilliance. Several years ago I hit upon a theory about the formula for the platonic ideal of a crowd-pleasing summer action film when I was being bombarded nonstop with commercials advertising the Dwayne Johnson inane good time of a movie Skyscraper. As I put it then: There is a skyscraper on fire. There is a man who must save his family from the skyscraper on fire. Will he succeed???!!! This beautiful 3 sentence plot simplicity is the very foundation of The Fugitive, which is without question a more serious film than Skyscraper but is just as much of a bang-bang shoot 'em-up action movie: There is an innocent man convicted of murdering his wife. This innocent man must escape law enforcement and find the real killer. Will he succeed???!!! I suppose, ultimately, what I’m saying with all this is that at first glance, The Fugitive isn’t a terribly deep film. The good guy survives, the bad guy gets caught, and the cops acknowledge they had it wrong and fix things. That said, for all of The Fugitive’s rigid adherence to the platonic ideal of the summer action movie, it’s a heavier film than it seems. Jones’s portrayal of Gerard as he evolves from being single-mindedly focused on capturing Kimble to slowly coming to believe in his innocence and changing the direction of the investigation is completely believable - not an about-face contrivance, plot for plot’s sake, but a real journey of a man realizing he needs to question his initial instincts about the crime he’s been tasked with solving. But it’s Ford’s portrayal of Kimble that gets under my skin every time, and it’s because even as he is vindicated in the end, it’s hard to be happy for him as we see, in his exhausted, chiseled, hollow face and his clipped, morose tone of voice, how he will be living with complicated grief for the rest of his life due to the trauma of how he lost his wife and how he nearly lost his freedom as a result of the loss of his wife. I think it’s this mode - the brave, smart, sad man who fights against all odds to save the day (you can also see this in his portrayal as President James Marshall in Air Force One*) - that is far more of Ford’s sweet spot as a performer than the rollicking-good-time bad boy with a secret heart of gold who saves the day (like Han Solo or Indiana Jones). Indeed, you can see hints of the Harrison Ford Brave Smart Sad Man in his recent portrayal as the soulful therapist Paul on Apple TV’s Shrinking, even though his heroics on that show are on a much smaller scale (protecting his protegee Jimmy from his self-destructive tendencies, playing therapist/uncle to Jimmy’s daughter Alice, trying to repair his relationship with his estranged daughter Meg). Ford has such a commanding screen presence no matter what he is doing, and as much as I enjoy him being the good-time bad boy playing Han or Indy, it’s the quieter, more somber version of Ford who really can deliver an emotional gut punch in the best way, even in the middle of a bang-bang shoot ’em up summer action flick. If you need a dose of good, vintage 90s action fun, check out (or revisit) The Fugitive, but keep in mind that you may finish the film feeling more melancholy than triumphant. With Ford and Jones taking you on this crazy ride, I promise you it’s well worth it. *also known as MY FAVORITE HARRISON FORD MOVIE OF ALL TIME but that’s a whole other article… Reeya Banerjee Staff Writer Reeya is a musician and writer based in New York's Capital District. Her debut album, “The Way Up,” was released on January 27, 2022. She can frequently be seen in her car on the NYS Thruway cursing traffic on her way to the Hudson Valley for band rehearsals or to Brooklyn for recording sessions. In her other life, she works as a staff accountant for a management company that oversees veterinary practices nationwide, enjoys watching Law & Order SVU returns while eating gummy bears, and has a film degree from Vassar College that she does not use.

  • Pee-wee Forever

    This headline doesn’t make sense to me: “Paul Reubens, best known as Pee-wee Herman, dead at the age of 70, after a private 6-year battle with cancer.” Paul Reubens, 70? Impossible. How can that eternal man-child have grown so old when I wasn’t looking? How can he still feel like my peer, while almost being the same age as my father? A private 6-year battle with cancer? How could someone so important to so many people be sick for that long and not get the victory lap he deserves while he was still with us? And Pee-wee Herman dead? Paul Reubens, maybe, but Pee-wee? Incomprehensible. I have been thrilled and surprised by the scale of affection people have been sharing for Reubens and his work. He has always been important to me and the people I knew, but, 7 years removed from the last direct-to-streaming Pee-wee movie, I was unprepared for how culturally relevant he remains. What I share with more people than I realized is that I can chart the most formative years of my life by Paul Reubens’ career. I was born the same year as that first HBO special that broke Pee-wee into the mainstream. The Pee-wee Herman Show was a filmed stage performance of the show that Paul developed at the Groundlings Theater & School after he was passed over for the 6th season of Saturday Night Live. I remember seeing the special in reruns as a very young kid, presumably in between episodes of Fraggle Rock, and it stuck with me. I surely didn’t understand most of what I was seeing and hearing; but, because the show was riffing on the structure of a kids' show, there was enough to hold my young attention, and I still remember the lo-fi ending where Pee-wee gets his wish to fly and says he’s the luckiest boy in the world. For as rude and oddly adult as the character was at that point, that moment still landed for little kid me. Chronologically, Paul was able to move from the success of his stage show and TV special toward getting a deal with Warner Brothers Studios to make a Pee-wee movie, but that isn’t what I saw next. Long before I saw Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, I was a fan of his children’s show, the adaptation of his stage show: Pee-wee’s Playhouse. As great as that first Pee-wee movie is, Playhouse is how I best remember the character. Similar to what Jim Henson did with The Muppet Show, Paul and his team found a way to preserve much of the anarchic energy from the stage show that appealed to adults, while creating a show that was more inclusive for a children’s audience. Though overtly much more of a kids' show than The Muppet Show ever was, or wanted to be, Pee-wee’s Playhouse held just as much appeal for audiences of all ages. Looking back, you can particularly see how much both the stage show and children’s show would go on to become major influences for children’s cartoons for decades to come. Right from their opening credits, you can see how much a show like SpongeBob SquarePants aggressively borrowed from Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure didn’t have quite the same influence on me that it had on others, because it’s what I came to last with the character, but, it was kind of the perfect capstone for me, radically expanding what the character of Pee-wee could be by taking him out into the world. To invoke Jim Henson and The Muppets again, this isn’t that dissimilar from what happened with the jump from The Muppet Show to The Muppet Movie. The trajectories of The Muppets and Pee-wee were different, but they touched a lot of the same bases along the way. We mentioned above how Pee-wee was born from Paul being passed over for Saturday Night Live. A critical step towards the development of The Muppet Show was Jim Henson and his creation, The Land of Gorch, flaming out on the first season of SNL because the writers didn’t know what to do with characters that were meant to be for adults while looking like they were for kids. A place where Paul and Jim’s trajectories differed is that Jim began in children’s television and spent most of his career trying to get out of that box so he could pursue more avant-garde interests. Paul Reubens started out working in sketch comedy, performing in front of hip adult audiences, before making Big Adventure, one of the more “out there” mainstream films of the 80s, but ultimately, settled into a long run in children’s television. Both Paul and Jim were also notably much more than just their most famous creations. Jim eventually got to branch out from The Muppets to make films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth before his passing in 1990. Also in 1990, after Pee-wee’s Playhouse went off the air, Reubens reinvented himself in the 90s and 2000s as a character actor and in-demand voice artist. Despite some very high-profile speed bumps to his career, Reubens was a major part of projects like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mystery Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more. Now, I don’t really want to go too far comparing Jim Henson and Paul Reubens because the mountain of differences between the two of them surely outpaces their similarities, but these coincidental resemblances do help underscore for me a comparison that I do want to dig in on; that, as creations, The Muppets and Pee-wee Herman are of comparable importance and resonance. When I said at the beginning that the idea of Pee-wee Herman being dead was something incomprehensible to me, this is what I had in mind. Despite Paul Reubens’ obviously inseparable relationship with the character, Pee-wee feels like an inviolable part of the fabric of pop culture. The death of Pee-wee Herman feels as impossible to me as the death of Kermit the Frog did after Jim Henson passed. That thought has led me to realize that I would love nothing more than to see further stories with Pee-wee even if Paul can’t be with us to see them. He left behind a number of unmade Pee-wee scripts before finally getting 2016’s Pee-wee’s Big Holiday made. He even approached Johnny Depp around 2009 about the possibility of playing Pee-wee in a film Paul was trying to convince Tim Burton to direct. The idea of someone else playing Pee-wee doesn’t seem that absurd to me considering that the ending of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is Pee-wee giddily watching someone else play him in the movie of the story we had just finished watching. I suspect nothing like this will ever happen, though. It’s a shame because of how much I love Pee-wee as a character and the kind of stories you could tell with him. From all the various iterations over the years, we can see that he can be quite childlike and quite dark; he can be quite sweet and quite rude; he can be bold, imaginative, and entirely his own person. Pee-wee just exudes an infectious enthusiasm, delight, and a childish joy that doesn’t let up. Something indomitable. Like with The Muppets, Pee-wee can both be identifiably himself and yet, plugged into almost any story. I would happily watch a “Pee-wee’s Christmas Carol,” or “Pee-wee Treasure Island.” For all these reasons, I would love nothing more than to see creatives come up with fun things to do with a character like Pee-wee Herman, but at the same time, looking at the rather lackluster results of what has been attempted since Jim Henson’s passing, also maybe I don’t. I think I want these things, but maybe they would all just be a proxy for the thing I really want; to get to experience a performer like Paul Reubens imbue a character like Pee-wee with all of those qualities again. And that might also be impossible. Paul was something special, both on screen and in life, and, however much I don’t want to believe it, it’s probable that we’ll never see his like again. Damian Masterson Staff Writer Damian is an endothermic vertebrate with a large four-chambered heart residing in Kerhonkson, NY with his wife and two children. His dream Jeopardy categories would be: They Might Be Giants, Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, 18th and 19th-Century Ethical Theory, Moral Psychology, Caffeine, Gummy Candies, and Episode-by-Episode podcasts about TV shows that have been off the air for at least 10 years.

  • PODCAST: Story Screen Reports - Strike Talk

    Want to help striking actors and writers? Donate to the Entertainment Community Fund Story Screen Reports is our team REACTING to the top 5 film, television and entertainment news stories of the month. Join us as we dissect and comb through everything from upcoming releases to studio drama. On this episode, Mike Burdge hops on to get absolutely pissed off about the current WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Seriously. They both get very, very mad. You can find those stories, and the sourced articles, linked below. Eat the rich. 1. Hollywood Studios’ WGA Strike Endgame Is To Let Writers Go Broke Before Resuming Talks In Fall Written by Dominic Patten at Deadline 2. Disney CEO Bob Iger Says Writers and Actors Are Not Being ‘Realistic’ With Strikes: “It’s Very Disturbing to me” Written by Ellise Shafer at Variety 3. The Top Hollywood Exec Made $498 Million in The Last 5 Years- 384 Times as Much as The Average Writer Written by Jennifer Liu at CNBC 4. A writer for FX's 'The Bear' went to the Writers Guild of America Awards with a negative bank account balance and won for Best Comedy Series. He's now applying for jobs at movie theaters as writers prepare to go on strike. Written by Lloyd Lee at Insider on April 29th 2023 5. Mattel Execs on Next Hollywood Moves: ‘Barney’, ‘Polly Pocket’ and ‘Barbie Sequels’ Written by Elizabeth Wagmeister at Variety Listen on....

  • Toss A Coin To Who, What Now?

    A who’s who of The Witcher: Season 3 - Volume 1 WARNING: Contains spoilers for The Witcher (Netflix series). Season 3 - Volume 2 of The Witcher starring Henry Cavill (for now 😢) as monster hunter Geralt of Rivia is about to drop on Netflix. Cavill as the laconic, growling, white-haired Geralt is by far my favorite (everyone’s favorite?) part of the series. Coming up in second place is Anya Chalotra as the mage Yennefer of Vengerberg. The purple-eyed witch packs a lot of sass and went through several moral quandaries in Season 2. After saving the other mages at the battle of Sodden Hill, she lost her magic. Season 2 saw Yennefer struggle to get her Chaos back, even having her consider giving Ciri to a demon that feeds on pain, but ultimately, Yen knew it was wrong and sacrificed herself to keep Ciri safe. Season 3 - Volume 1 begins with Geralt and Yennefer romantically on the outs (Geralt still harbors a grudge), but they are united in their mission to protect and teach the third member of their found family, the series’ ultimate MacGuffin: Ciri, (played by Freya Allan) aka Princess Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, Geralt’s “Child Surprise,” the Elves’ “Child of Elder Blood,” “The Lion Cub of Cintra”... the list of names goes on. After learning to fight and hunt monsters amongst the witchers last season, Ciri must now try to learn to control the massive magical power she contains within herself before it potentially destroys everyone around her. Cliff’s notes version: Ciri is powerful but she’s also an angsty teenager. Despite Yennefer as her tutor, mastering magic does not come easy to her. As our three main characters travel nomadically to avoid Ciri’s capture, Yennefer and Geralt slowly rebuild their trust and rekindle their love through daily letters passed back and forth like notes between crushes during middle school. Ciri gets a chance to grow attached to these two new parental figures in her life after losing her actual family (more on this later), BUT, just when things seem to be going well, they are again discovered and forced to flee. Geralt departs on a mission to find (and kill) the sorcerer Rience who is after Ciri (he’s the burned-face fire mage from last season who keeps snapping flame from his fingers). Yennefer decides that she must ask her fellow mages to help protect and train Ciri but she’s not exactly welcome back at her witchy alma mater, Aretuza Academy (like the girl’s school equivalent of Hogwarts). Ciri starts to have more and more scary visions that she cannot control and would rather stay with Geralt. The separation of the group makes Ciri act like a bratty, well, teenager. Beyond the plot of “Everybody Wants Ciri,” there’s still A LOT GOING ON during the first half of Season 3. For viewers who have not read the books by Andrzej Sapkowski (ahem, me, I’m sorry), there are so many characters packed into these first five episodes that keeping up with who’s who and all of their simultaneous plotlines can be, well, confusing. To help clarify things a bit before Season 3 - Volume 2 drops on July 27th, when we get our final installment of Cavill as Geralt (I know, I’m unhappy about it, too), let’s take a look at the beefy cast of characters in Season 3 - Volume 1 of The Witcher and try to get a better understanding of what the heck is going on before we dive into Volume 2. Jaskier the Bard (Joe Batey) I loved Jaskier in the first two seasons of The Witcher but what have they done to my beloved bard in Season 3? I get that time has passed and Jaskier is older (somewhat wiser?). In Season 3 - Volume 1 he continues to be protective of his found family while still loving the limelight, but why give our beautiful babe such a long stringy hairdo and worn pasty expression? It’s like The Witcher traveled back to the 90s era of fashion when it was preferable to look like you were exhausted and malnourished all of the time. The same can be said for Ciri and Yennefer this season, but their wigs are way less distracting to the plot than Jaskier’s locks. While he is often given the task of being a “manny” to Ciri, his other secret role is negotiating her protection (unbeknownst to Geralt and Yennefer) with the kingdom of Redania. This leads us to a delicious new character. Prince Radovid of Redania (Hugh Skinner) It took me a minute to recognize the actor Hugh Skinner under all his furs and long hair. Skinner played the delightfully milquetoast boyfriend Harry in Season 1 of Fleabag. In Season 3 - Volume 1 of The Witcher, it’s Skinner’s time to shine. As Prince Radovid, brother of the King of Redania, Skinner again plays someone who is smarter than he appears. He may look like a medieval party boi, but Radovid is highly observant of the relationships of those around him. He often drops bits of information into conversations nonchalantly that make it seem like it was by accident (seem is the operative word here). He also presumably has a deep appreciation for our beloved bard, Jaskier. Their flirtation builds steadily as Radovid tries to gain Jaskier’s trust and convince him that bringing Ciri to Redania is the “least crappy” plan out there. In Season 3 Episode 5, we finally get the steamy (albeit quick) pay-off of Jaskier and Radovid’s toying banter; the two finally make out while Jaskier is on watch duty for Ciri while Geralt and Yennefer attend a witchy party. But is Radovid really there just to see Jaskier? Or is he providing Jaskier with a distraction so someone from Redania can try to kidnap the sleeping Ciri? Will we get to see more hot man-on-man action in The Witcher Season 3 - Volume 2? Let’s hope. Triss Merigold (Anna Shaffer) Triss is a mage known for her talents in botany and healing - who was more of a main character in Season 2 - when she chilled out as the only adult lady among the community of hunky witchers (and Ciri) living at Kaer Morhen. The kind red-haired mage tried to help train Ciri in magic but later began to fear her potential power. In Season 3 - Volume 1, Triss has returned to Aretuza to help train new students and she seems to be the only one worried about the young female novices who have recently gone missing from the school. Lydia (Aisha Fabienne Ross) So we talked about Rience (fire boi) already, Lydia is sort of the intermediary between him and the mysterious big bad villain that hired him. Ciri has both Elven and human blood. More importantly, she has Elder Blood and is believed to be a descendant of Lara Dorren, a powerful Elf sorceress. Lara was supposed to be the ultimate weapon of the Elves against the humans and marry another Elf, but instead, she married a human mage who advocated for the peaceful coexistence of humans and Elves. Last season, Papa Witcher, aka Vesemir (played by Kim Bodnia) tried to use some of Ciri’s blood to recreate the elixir used to create new witchers through the painful mutation process known as the “Trial of the Grasses.” At the end of Season 2, Rience (fire boi) steals the vial of this witcher potion to gain a sample of Ciri’s blood, making it easier for him to track her down in the future no matter where she goes. When Lydia gets her hands on the vial, she makes the mistake of sampling the punch AND IT BURNS HALF OF HER FACE OFF. In Season 3 - Volume 1, Lydia uses her magic to conceal her deformity but she can no longer speak out loud. She can only communicate telepathically. She is missing for most of Season 3 - Volume 1 but pops back up in Episode 5 at the witchy peace party being held at Aretuza. Sigismund Dijkstra (Graham McTavish) and Philippa Eilhart (Cassie Clare) Dijkstra looks kind of like what I imagine happens when a bodybuilder gets older and is still pretty swole, but now they like to wear capes and fancy lil’ frilly neck pieces and whatnot, as one does. In Season 3 - Volume 1, Dijkstra is established as the head spy of Redania. He deals in intelligence and dark favors to gain what he wants, and what he wants is for Ciri to marry King Vizimir (Ed Birch) of Redania, going so far as to murder the King’s current wife to get her out of the way. If Dijkstra can get Ciri to swear allegiance to Redania, they would also have full authority to claim the kingdom of Cintra. Redania would be the top dog essentially. He tries to appeal to Geralt to bring Ciri to Redania for protection but gets shut down fairly quickly. Helping him along with his mission to make Redania the most powerful kingdom in the Continent is mage Philippa Eilhart (who is often seen transformed into an owl). She frequently communicates with other kingdoms (like with the young Elf Dara who is pretending to be allegiant to Nilfgaard as a spy) in an effort to get a leg up for Redania. She also seems to view both the King of Redania and his brother, Prince Radovid, as dipshits. In the finale of Season 3 - Volume 1, Philippa appeals to Yennefer that there are traitors at Aretuza already working with Nilfgaard and that she previously tried to convince Tissaia not to ally with Vilgefortz. She claims the Brotherhood is a “sinking ship” with no place in the future of the Continent. She points out the sad, now mute mage Lydia as being “heartsick,” and willing to follow her love anywhere, even if it leads to her own death. The last shot we see of Lydia is as she passes Geralt at the party, wearing dangling earrings made out of the same red protective stone as Aretuza headmistress Tissaia’s own bracelet. Artorius (Terence Maynard) Actor Terence Maynard is a treasure but his character, Artorius, is mostly annoying. He is the uncle of mage Fringilla and he sits on the chapter of magicians from various kingdoms called “The Brotherhood of Sorcerers.” He’s sort of like a conservative uncle who is usually a naysayer most of the time but occasionally comes around when needed. Artorius is friends with the grumpy racist mage, Stregobor, and they used to rule the Brotherhood but got demoted after they opted to do nothing and let Cintra be attacked by Nilfgaard and burned to the ground. Istredd (Royce Pierreson) Istredd is rocking some sensitive poet-length hair in Season 3 - Volume 1, and after his attempts to learn more about Ciri and her connection to the monoliths (giant mystical stone structures that are pathways to different realms), he has also returned to Aretuza to find an ancient Elven text that gives its holder the ability to travel through space and time. He believes Stregobor has stolen it and he and Triss believe he has been using it to create dark portals to try to kill Yennefer among other misdeeds. They intend to find the book and finally get Stregobor to pay for all of the crap he has done to others. Despite the potential competition he poses for Yennefer’s affection, Istredd helps Geralt create a distraction so Yennefer can slip away to break into Stregobor’s room. Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen) Stregobor has been a baddie of The Witcher since Season 1. I had an even harder time recognizing the actor who plays him (Lars Mikkelsen) under all of his fake beard and eyebrow pieces than I did actor Hugh Skinner. Brother to the beloved Mads, Lars Mikkelsen is about to be seen as the live-action embodiment of the animated character he voiced: Grand Admiral Thrawn, in the new Disney+ series Ahsoka. In The Witcher, Stregobor’s kind of like a white supremacist. He calls Geralt “Butcher,” and claims he is “saving the Continent, rooting out the deadly creatures that threaten us all.” He hates the Elves and refers to any humans with Elven blood as “dirty” or a “monster.” It’s partly why he hates Yennefer (who is part Elf). Geralt believes Stregobor has been conducting experiments on the abducted half-Elven students from Aretuza, essentially creating a “Human Centipede” type situation that Geralt had to kill. Both Geralt and Yennefer fear that Stregobor has dark plans for Ciri, but after Yennefer breaks into his wardrobe and finds lists of names and creepy mementos from the novice mages who disappeared, Stregobor seems completely surprised. He finds the claims that he has conducted experiments of mind control on these students absurd and when Istredd finds the ancient “Book of Monoliths” hidden deeper inside his wardrobe, Stregobor seems to not know what it is. Hmm… Tissaia (MyAnna Buring) Initially, Tissaia and the other mages feared Ciri will someday destroy all humans and thus, must be destroyed herself. She’s also on the outs with Yennefer despite her affection for her and her belief that Yennefer was the best student she ever taught. Yennefer appeals to Tissaia to allow her and Ciri to come to Aretuza to actually help Ciri control her powers. Yennefer implores the mages of the North to work together and show that they are a united front. In the final episode of Season 3 - Volume 1 our headmistress of Aretuza Academy (and only lady rep on DA BROTHERHOOD) decides that Stregobor should be held accountable and stand trial for the serious claims against him made by Triss, Yennefer, and Istredd (that he has been experimenting on students and stolen an ancient Elven text for personal gain). Her boyfriend and fellow sorcerer Vilgefortz agrees and Stregobor is taken away. She tells Istredd that she will hide the ancient “Book of Monoliths” to keep it safe, so it won’t fall into the wrong hands, again. Before she walks off, she accidentally drops her fancy bracelet that her BF Vilgefortz gave her that is supposed to “keep her safe.” Uh oh… Francesca (Mecia Simson) Francesca is an Elven mage. In Season 2, she worked hard with human mage Fringilla to support Nilfgaard, believing that the Elves would be protected by Fringilla and they could live in peace with their human protectors. All that changed after her newborn baby was murdered to prevent the Elves from leaving to start a new community elsewhere. In Season 3 Volume -1, Francesca is PISSED (rightfully so), and looking to kill humans and fight her way to finding Ciri in hopes of gaining the supposed savior of the Elves, the “Child of Elder Blood,” with the ability to destroy all humans. Fringilla (Mimi Ndiweni) My only complaint about Mimi Ndiweni is that there is not enough Fringilla in Season 3 - Volume 1. I am hoping Volume 2 rectifies this. After serving “The White Flame” aka Emhyr, the Emperor of Nilfgaard for all of Season 2, Season 3 - Volume 1 finds Fringilla now a betrayed prisoner, forced to taste-test potentially poisoned wine for her captor. Through the process, she becomes kind of an alcoholic. Eventually, she poses as a dead body in order to escape, so she can find a bar and get drunk until she finds a boat… Cahir (Eamon Farren) In Season 2, Cahir was captured by mages, brought to Aretuza and tortured, then sentenced to death. To prove her alliance with Aretuza, Yennefer was tasked with killing him, but ultimately, she spared his life and let him escape. Once the leader of Nilfgaard’s army, Cahir has also fallen from grace in the eyes of “The White Flame.” He now tries to prove his continued loyalty to Nilfgaard daily but is still mistreated. He eventually betrays and murders one of the only Elves who seems to value him and believes they can support Nilfgaard together: Gallatin (played by Robbie Amell of Upload fame). Cahir has become a bit of a kicked dog in Season 3 - Volume 1, and he keeps returning to his master looking for acceptance. What his master really wants though, is to find Ciri. Emperor Emhyr var Emreis (Bart Edwards) Emhyr is the big bad in the shadows; he is: “The White Flame,” Emperor of Nilfgaard, and also, Duny, the human daddy of Ciri, who once suffered under a curse that made him look like a big hedgehog man. Ciri thinks both of her parents have been dead since she was a toddler. Emhyr is determined to find Ciri but has kept the fact that he is alive hidden for a long time while he conquers more and more of the Continent. One can only imagine his motives for finding his daughter are less than altruistic. Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu) Vilgefortz is the smooth-operator sorcerer boyfriend of Tissaia who seems to be too good to be true. That’s because he is friends. After Artorius was ousted as leader of the Brotherhood, he and Tissaia became the new leaders. Despite her struggle to trust others, Tissaia seems to have fallen for Vilgefortz who claims to have been changed by his love for Tissaia. He gives her a bracelet as a gift, made of red stones that are supposed to “keep her safe.” At the gathering of mages at Aretuza, Vilgefortz raises a glass to toast “peace among the mages of the North” and claims he and Tissaia have hope for cooperation in the future. He seems sincere. Is he? Earlier in the evening, Geralt encountered Vilgefortz standing before his “favorite painting” that shows the first use of magic by the founder of the Brotherhood - showing “outcasts uniting under a common banner.” He talks to Geralt about his childhood as an orphan who was misused and mistreated but later became a sorcerer. He hints at the “battle to come,” and implores Geralt to join the side of the Brotherhood to protect both Ciri and Yennefer. He vaguely threatens that if Geralt remains neutral he will always have enemies after him. When Yennefer explains that the red stones in Tissaia’s bracelet are “scarlet ammonite,” rumored to protect loved ones, Geralt says that the stone can only be found in the mines of Redania. Uh ohhhhhhh…. …which is where Geralt also found all of those kidnapped novice lady mages locked inside a spooky castle. Yennefer remembers that the mountain in the painting that Vilgefortz admires is also the same location she was brought to by the cursed portal she entered when she almost fell off a cliff to her death after her arrival. Perhaps Stregobor wasn't the villain they were looking for, after all, it was smooth-talking, eyeliner-wearing Vilgefortz all along. After spending the night with Yennefer at the end of Season 3 - Volume 1, Geralt leaves their room to investigate, hears screams, and encounters Dijkstra who holds a knife to his throat and scolds him that he “should have chosen a side.” Uhhhhhhhhhh ohhhhhhhhhhh……. …to be continued in Season 3 - Volume 2 of The Witcher airing July 27, 2023, on Netflix. Diana DiMuro Associate Editor Besides watching TV and movies, Diana likes plants, the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school dropout. You can follow her on Instagram @dldimuro and Twitter @DianaDiMuro

  • PODCAST: Hot Takes - Barbie

    Bernadette is joined by Sophia Acquisto to say, "Hi Barbie!!" Throughout the ep, they discuss their own personal Barbie histories, the genius marketing of the Barbie team, the cultural touchstone that is Barbenheimer, and (of course) what they thought of the actual movie. Listen on....

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