Star Wars – Rebels: Complete Season Two

Lucasfilm (2015-2016), Buena Vista Home Entertainment (August 30, 2016), 3 Discs, 484 mins, 16:9 ratio, Dolby Digital 5.1, Rated TV-Y7, Retail: $45.99


The crew of the Ghost is now a part of fledgling rebel movement that is not yet an alliance. Their universe expands as they take on new missions outside their home system, and characters from Clone Wars return to bridge the eras. Ezra continues his Jedi training under Kanan, and Ahsoka prepares herself to face her one-time master.


The Sweatbox Review:

The first season of Rebels was good, but we all knew it had the potential to become so much better. And that’s because we knew it was going to get BIGGER.

At the conclusion of the initial season, the small band of rebels from the planet Lothal found their destiny, joining the larger group of rebel cells that was previously only known to them by rumours and whispered messages. Their shadowy contact, Fulcrum, was revealed to be Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice Ahsoka Tano, who had disappeared near the end of the Clone Wars. With the second season thusly set up, viewers knew the best was yet to come. The planet Lothal still figures in the stories, but no longer is the main base. Now, the Ghost crew runs missions for the larger rebel group, travelling throughout the galaxy and even into uncharted space.


With the larger universe revealed, more locales and dangers are explored; but old characters return as well. Old favorites from Princess Leia to the pirate Hondo— introduced in the Clone Wars TV show— make appearances (as far as I’m concerned, Hondo wonderfully steals every episode he appears in.) The clone ex-Commander Rex joins the fight; and Darth Vader even makes an occasional appearance, complete with voice work by James Earl Jones. The entire season counts down to Ahsoka confirming her worst suspicions about what happened to Anakin Skywalker, and eventually having to face him in the season-ending show-stopping two-parter Twilight Of The Apprentice.


That final battle is set up from the start, in the two-part season opener The Siege Of Lothal, where Darth Vader manipulates events to turn Lothal against the rebels. It is here that Vader and Ahsoka become aware of one another, leading to Vader sending more Inquisitors after the rebels. Those Inquisitors play a large role throughout the rest of the season. Another milestone happens immediately, in The Lost Commanders, as Ahsoka sends the Ghost crew to speak with three retired clones, resulting in another addition to the team during the events of Relics Of The Old Republic. Part of the team encounters those new Inquisitors in Always Two There Are, and here we add to our understanding of the family-themed Inquisitor hierarchy.


Further missions, usually ordered by rebel Commander Sato, serve many purposes: they reveal new information about the pasts of Hera, Zeb, and the droid Chopper; the rebels acquire a new blockade-busting ship; we meet an old friend-turned-foe of Sabine; and the rebels must deal with an Imperial weapon that can pull ships out of hyperspace. The Empire also goes after babies strong in the force, and the Imperial Agent Kallus generally spends his time pursuing the rebels with zeal. Even Kallus is shown to be human, though, when he and Zeb are trapped on a moon together in The Honourable Ones. The rebels conduct numerous raids on fuel supplies over the course of the season, each one more desperate than the last. And of course, there is the episode A Princess On Lothal, where Leia Organa of Alderaan helps the rebels acquire three new ships under the nose of the Empire. (Though surely she is pretty young here, to be flying around the galaxy by herself?)

And, as we get close to the end of the season, we spend an episode in a Jedi temple, and two episodes in a Sith temple. It is in Twilight Of The Apprentice that we get the battle we have been waiting for all season, but it goes well beyond just Ahsoka and Vader. There are more surprises as well, and the events of the final episode of Season Two will allow for no stagnation of plotlines in Season Three. Not only is the season finale a game-changer, it also explores the mythology of Star Wars in a way that the films never have a chance. In so many ways, the TV series (both Clone Wars and Rebels) can be superior to the films in examining and revealing corners of the universe and the pasts of characters that the films never have the time to indulge. And, like Clone Wars, Rebels simply feels like Star Wars in a way the prequels seldom did.


Over the course of twenty-two episodes, the galaxy and its history are revealed in wondrous ways, mostly pertaining to our cast of characters, as we learn more about Zeb’s people, the Sith, space whales, and the fate of Ezra’s parents. The action, though, rarely slows down. All the conflict you want to see in Star Wars happens here. We see Ezra Bridger continue his Jedi training with Kanan, and together they form a formidable Jedi team. Seeing them combine their skills, lightsabres whirling away as they cut through squads of Stormtroopers, is a sight easily worthy of the Star Wars brand. The space battles, too, can be quite exciting.


Lucasfilm wanted this series to show the early days of the forming Rebel Alliance, and also continue to reveal secrets of the Star Wars universe. At the same time, they wished to create a compelling cast that expands and evolves over the course of the show, in interesting and captivating ways. It is hard to imagine any fan thinking that they have missed their mark. This is a pretty great Star Wars show.

Is This Thing Loaded?

Every episode gets a Rebels Recon featurette, lasting several minutes each. Lucasfilm special correspondent Andi Guiterrez spends time with the Rebels creators, especially executive producer Dave Filoni and Star Wars Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo, who discuss each episode and its relationship to the Star Wars canon. A real, live action Chopper also gets his own comedy bits that are actually pretty amusing. These Recon segments are not to be missed.


Connecting The Galaxy: Rebels Season 2 (3:30) shares information on numerous “Easter Eggs” to be found in the Rebels episodes, like a shout-out to designer Ralph McQuarrie. Also explored are various connections to other Star Wars films and TV episodes. Even the most ardent fan will likely be surprised once or twice here.


There is one extra that is a Blu-ray exclusive, From Apprentice To Adversary: Vader Vs. Ahsoka (6:08). Filoni discusses his wishes for this confrontation, really dating all the way back to Ahsoka’s creation for Clone Wars. He says much of what you might expect, but there is some nice development art shown as he speaks.


The first disc also sports a trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Case Study:

The Blu-ray case has facing discs, with two discs stacked on one side and just one on the other, which will drive some collectors crazy, and confuse others. Inserts are included for Disney Movie Rewards and Disney Movie Club. The cover slip is nicely embossed.


Ink And Paint:

This show looks great on Blu-ray, shown in the 16:9 TV ratio in which it was assumedly produced. While the visuals never challenge encoding like they would for a live action film, the Blu-ray delivers all the details present nicely, and with an absolute minimum of issues. What little noise or banding likely comes from the original source.


Scratch Tracks:

We have complained enough about the Star Wars TV shows only getting lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. It is what it is. But yes, the show, though it does have some nice sound effects, does not deliver the audio rush one might hope for. We also get French and German in 5.1, and for some reason the Spanish track only gets Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish, as well as English captions.


Final Cut:

We do have new Star Wars feature films at last, but the cartoons need not be seen as an inferior product. The graphics may be a little simpler, and there is a bit more emphasis on humor, but all the excitement of Star Wars is present in Rebels. In fact, a TV series can do so much more in terms of character development and can explore a multitude of facets of the galaxy and its history, making Rebels extremely satisfying. With solid specs (even if the audio is not as awesome as it could be), and the addition of great bonus features that place each episode in proper perspective, this is a great set of episodes for any Star Wars fan.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?


How Kubo was brought to glorious life

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The BFG stomping home in December

Disney has just announced that their critically praised The BFG will be arriving on store shelves in December. A full press release follows…

BURBANK, Calif., Sept. 23, 2016 — This month, the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl, beloved children’s author of family favorites like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Matilda” and Dahl’s personal favorite, “The BFG,” as well as World Dream Day, an annual event honoring “the dreamer, visionary and innovator in all of us.” It seems a fitting time to announce the in-home release of “The BFG,” Disney’s fantasy adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, on Dec. 6 on Digital HD, Blu-ray, Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD and On-Demand.

As dreamers around the globe gear up for Sunday’s World Dream Day, an annual holiday honoring “the dreamer, visionary and innovator in all of us,” it seems a fitting time to announce the in-home release of “The BFG,” Disney’s fantasy adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring a dream-collecting Big Friendly Giant. This heartwarming tale for the whole family arrives home for the holidays on Dec. 6 on Digital HD, Blu-ray, Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD and On-Demand.

“The BFG” unites the talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg – to bring to life the classic tale of a courageous little girl named Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) and a gentle and charming Big Friendly Giant (Oscar-winner Mark Rylance) who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Spielberg employs a new, hybrid style of filmmaking blending live-action and performance-capture techniques, resulting in genuine, heartfelt performances and super-photorealistic animation.

Families and fans will be swept away by this spectacular adventure and delight in extensive bonus features, including a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The BFG” hosted by Ruby Barnhill and featuring Steven Spielberg; a charming, all-new short; a fun and whimsical tutorial on the Big Friendly Giant’s unique language of Gobblefunk; a touching tribute to screenwriter Melissa Mathison (“E.T. the Extraterrestrial,” “The Black Stallion”); and more.

Spielberg’s directorial debut with The Walt Disney Studios was a labor of love, as he’s been a fan of Dahl’s for years. In fact, he read “The BFG” to his own children when they were younger. According to Spielberg, “It’s a story about friendship; it’s a story about loyalty and protecting your friends; and it’s a story that shows that even a little girl can help a big giant solve his biggest problems.” “The BFG” is a Golden Phizzwizard* come true for Spielberg, Dahl fans and audiences around the world.


Bonus features include**:


· Bringing “The BFG” to Life – Ruby Barnhill (Sophie) hosts a phizz-whizzing journey through the making of “The BFG.” This behind-the-scenes documentary details the film’s progression through interviews with Roald Dahl’s daughter Lucy Dahl, screenwriter Melissa Mathison, executive producers Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Kristie Macosko Krieger, and numerous members of the talented cast and crew.

· The Big Friendly Giant and Me – Sophie wasn’t the first “bean” in Giant Country—many illustrations were created as if drawn by a little boy who was there long before Sophie. This charming, in-world short will bring the drawings to life with animation and narration, recounting the friendship and the dreams shared between the boy and the Big Friendly Giant.

· Gobblefunk: The Wonderful Words of The BFG – A whoopsey-splunkers tutorial on the meaning of the gloriumptious gobblefunk in “The BFG.”

· Giants 101 – Jemaine Clement (Fleshlumpeater) and Bill Hader (Bloodbottler) introduce us to the loathsome giants in “The BFG,” along with movement choreographer/motion capture performer Terry Notary, who collaborated with the actors and Director Steven Spielberg prior to filming to develop their movements and character traits.

· Melissa Mathison: A Tribute – An homage to Melissa Mathison, the extraordinary, Oscar®-nominated screenwriter of “The BFG” and “E.T.,” whose talent and heart were as immense as the giants in “The BFG.”


· John Williams: Scoring A Dream – A journey through the film’s concept art and memorable moments, interwoven with the sights and sounds of legendary composer John William’s scoring session.


· Gobblefunk: The Wonderful Words of The BFG and Melissa Mathison: A Tribute

Disney and Amblin Entertainment, in association with Walden Media, present the fantasy adventure film “The BFG,” the first-ever motion picture adaptation of Roald Dahl’s resonant tale of childhood, the magic of dreams and the extraordinary friendship between a young girl and a big friendly giant. Directed by three-time Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg, the film reunites the director with his Oscar®-nominated collaborator on “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” Melissa Mathison, who adapted the children’s author’s timeless adventure for the big screen. “The BFG” is produced by Spielberg, p.g.a., Frank Marshall, p.g.a., and Sam Mercer, p.g.a., with Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Michael Siegel serving as executive producers.

The film stars three-time Tony Award®, two-time Olivier Award and Oscar® winner Mark Rylance as the Big Friendly Giant; newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, the orphan who befriends him and is swept into a world of rampaging giants; Penelope Wilton as The Queen; Jemaine Clement as Fleshlumpeater, the most fearsome giant from Giant Country; Rebecca Hall as Mary, The Queen’s handmaid; Rafe Spall as Mr. Tibbs, The Queen’s butler; and Bill Hader as Bloodbottler, another unruly giant from Giant Country.

The creative team is comprised of some of Spielberg’s longtime collaborators, including: two-time Oscar®-winning director of photography Janusz Kaminski; two-time Oscar-winning production designer Rick Carter; three time Oscar-winning editor Michael Kahn, A.C.E.; and Oscar-nominated costume designer Joanna Johnston, with legendary five-time Oscar winner John Williams composing his 24th score for a Spielberg-directed film.

Joining them is two-time Oscar® winner Robert Stromberg as production designer and four-time Oscar winner Joe Letteri from Weta Digital, the visual effects company founded by Peter Jackson, as senior visual effects supervisor.


Product SKUs: Digital HD/SD, Blu-ray Superset (Blu-ray+DVD+Digital Copy), Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD and Video On-Demand SD/HD

Feature Run Time: Approximately 117 minutes

Rating: PG in U.S., PG in CE, and G in CF

Aspect Ratio: Blu-ray Feature Film = 1080p High Definition / Widescreen 2.39:1

DVD Feature Film = Widescreen 2.39:1

Audio: Blu-ray = English 7.1 DTS-HDMA & 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks

DVD = English, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio

Languages/Subtitles: Blu-ray = English SDH, Spanish and French

DVD = English SDH, Spanish and French






Paige O’Hara, Mark Henn talk the legacy of Beauty & the Beast

Storks opens

Warner Animation Group’s Storks opens today, in 3,922 theatres according to Box Office Mojo. The film is getting mixed reviews from the critics, garnering a 56% at Rotten Tomatoes. The Wall Street Journal says. “The whole movie seems to be on fast-forward, with crushingly brainless dialogue, hollow imagery and no way of slowing down the febrile action or making sense of the chaotic plot”, while counters, “Zippy and zany, cute and cuddly, Storks manages to balance wild humor with winning heart — for the most part”. BOM projects a second place finish for the weekend with $31.7 million.


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