Ian Thomas Malone

Monthly Archive: February 2022



February 2022



The Book of Boba Fett never makes the leap from product to art

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Star Wars, TV Reviews

Science fiction often carries its greatest impact through the genre’s ability to invoke a sense of awe and wonder. The cantina scene in the original Star Wars practically changed cinema all its own, a dazzling display of creativity and world-building. Throughout his time at the helm of the franchise, George Lucas placed a heavy emphasis on world-building, to take his audience to places they’ve never seen before.

Disney loves its piles of rocks and sand. As if Tatooine wasn’t enough of a remote desert wasteland, Star Wars threw cheap knockoffs Jakku and Navarro at the audience to switch things up. There’s a certain obvious joke to be made at how Boba Fett saw the show that bears his name co-opted by The Mandalorian, but it was never really his show in the first place. The Book of Boba Fett was always The Book of Tatooine.

Why go to another planet when you can film a whole season using only a sandbox and a green screen? Seven episodes is hardly a long season, but Disney struggled to come up with enough plot for even that amount for its empty shell of a show, choosing instead to give up halfway through in favor of The Mandalorian season 2.5. Apparently that’s life in the streaming era. When things aren’t working, just make episodes of a different show and pretend it’s still The Book of Boba Fett. The whole mess is certainly fitting for a character who had four lines in the original trilogy.

Temuera Morrison can hardly be faulted for an occasionally wooden performance. The Book of Boba Fett never laid out any clear vision for what it wanted Fett to be, a menacing bounty hunter turned morally righteous crime lord. Ming-Na Wen gets even less to work with as Fennec Shand, an alliance seemingly born solely out of the idea that she might be fun for the spin-off.

It’s easy to see the logic. Morrison and Wen have a natural, easy chemistry that was pretty apparent from their first pairing. The premise of the show should have followed suit, staying out of its own way to let two bounty hunters do what they do best. Instead, the gang plot often played second fiddle to Fett’s silly Sarlacc and Tusken Raider flashbacks, dragging down a narrative that never seemed to find its footing. The show even managed to botch introducing a character like Black Krrsantan, popularized in Kieron Gillen’s excellent Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra comics, neutering the wookie in service to absurdly silly Mos Espa politics.

There was something oddly depressing about watching Fett and Mando stand in a wide-open street being shot at during the finale, a fitting metaphor for the state of Star Wars under the Disney regime. Both men could easily use their jet packs to seek more advantageous tactical positions, but they don’t, for no reason at all. Too often, The Book of Boba Fett comes across as the product of a brainstorming session that lasted five minutes, with no critical thought or pushback applied to a single decision.

Disney left its content farm out in Tatooine’s suns for far too long, a wilted mess of a commodity masquerading as a television show. What a sad showing, not just for Star Wars, but for art itself. There is no reason on the planet why this show needed to be this bad.

Boba Fett is not the most interesting character in the world. He barely qualifies as an actual character in the original trilogy, an enigma that lent itself well to stories children play with their action figures. That kind of dynamic could have worked well for The Book of Boba Fett, especially with the Nikto gang and their ridiculous speeder bikes that look like toys from a different playset. You could probably make better Boba Fett stories in a local playground sandbox, which just needs a green screen to complete the Tatooine look.

All blockbuster franchises are products, even the ones that are crafted with love. That’s the problem with The Book of Boba Fett. It never looks like something anyone enjoyed making. Star Wars doesn’t need an artistic mandate, but maybe a little effort would be nice. It’s hard not to feel sad that this abomination exists.



February 2022



Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Written by , Posted in Podcast, Star Wars

Grab your porgs and your blue milk! The Last Jedi is a bit of a polarizing film, to say the least. Rian Johnson brought plenty of fascinating ideas to the sequel trilogy’s middle entry, its best by a mile. Ian talks about what she liked about the film, what she would have changed, and the characterization of Luke Skywalker, diving a bit into Luke’s appearances in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.

Ian’s original 2017 review of the film: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2017/12/the-last-jedi-offers-aimless-entertainment/

Ian’s write up of The Phantom Menace that is mentioned in the episode: https://fansided.com/2019/12/16/star-wars-phantom-menace-best-prequel/




February 2022



Jackass Forever has a lot to teach film franchises about growing up

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

Nostalgia wields more capital in entertainment than ever before. Remakes, reboots, and sequels are concepts that have been around for many decades in Hollywood, but the demands of the content mill hoisted up by the streaming industrial complex force additional burdens on what has always been a fairly risk-averse industry. The question of necessity is irrelevant. Jackass is inevitable.

The beauty of Johnny Knoxville’s world is the way he’s fostered a sense of genuine community within his irreverent band of merry pranksters. More than twenty years have passed since the original Jackass TV series ignited a right-wing culture storm against MTV. Most of the cast wear their age on their faces, except maybe Steve-O, who looks better than ever as he approaches fifty. Jackass has always been more than just the pranks, giving their audience reasons to invest in these characters as people.

Director Jeff Tremaine pulls off an incredible feat in Jackass Forever, a production clearly severely restrained by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no party boy scenes through crowded Tokyo streets, or elaborate stunts designed to bewilder hordes of unsuspecting civilians. Almost all the pranks take place on closed sets, but the production never feels constrained, not when the cast and crew take such joy in every minute of the film’s 96-minute runtime.

The original nine cast members are down two, following the 2011 death of Ryan Dunn and the more recent dismissal of Bam Margera, who makes a brief appearance in the film. Newcomers Jasper Dolphin, Sean “Poopies” McInerney, Zach Holmes, Rachel Wolfson, and Eric Manaka blend in perfectly with the chemistry of the original crew. The narrative isn’t too concerned with passing the baton, not when Knoxville and Tremaine take such pleasure in torturing Ehren McGhehey, Dave England, and Jason “Wee Man” Acuña through more than a few stunts you’d think would have been pawned off on the rookies.

Jackass Forever harnesses the spirit of the franchise with its eyes set squarely on the present. More than a few major franchises should take note of the way Tremaine and Knoxville navigate their own lore. Chris Pontius at one point notes that the older guys have paid their dues, but all frat houses need to put on a show to get people to come to the party. The Jackass crew keep innovating, refusing to rest on the laurels of nostalgia they’ve crafted over the past twenty years.

There’s a certain beauty in the way that Jackass blends the old with the new. You can theoretically put just about anyone up on a chair to get punched in the nuts by MMA legend Francis Ngannou, but the laughs hit harder from a place of comradery. It might feel a little weird to think of the Jackass crew as a family, but that’s the spirit of the home that Dickhouse Productions built. It feels good to see these guys again, knowing that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Time is catching up to Knoxville and the crew. The mishaps are a bit harder to watch, knowing the mileage that the performers have put on their bodies. More than a decade removed from Jackass 3D, Tremaine understood the necessity of new faces to help recapture the franchise’s spirit that helped define popular culture in the post-9/11 era. You can play around with nostalgia without being stuck in the past. Jackass Forever proves how much gas this series has left in the tank, even as many of the performers would be wise to cut down on hospital visits at their ages.



February 2022



Law & Order hasn’t changed a bit

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

Streaming television barely existed when the original Law & Order wrapped up its first run in 2010. For all the ways the TV landscape has changed in the past twelve years, the broadcast networks have still largely carried on with business as usual. NBC deprived Law & Order of the chance to surpass Gunsmoke as the longest-running live-action series of all time, a milestone later toppled by its own spinoff, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Longevity has become quite common on network television, with many shows within reach of a record that held for more than four decades.

Crime procedurals, a genre older than television itself, remain network television’s bread and butter. Whatever threats streaming posed to lucrative syndication packages haven’t exactly stifled their population, an abundant modern landscape that owes much to Dick Wolf and the format he perfected. Law & Order returns to a television world that’s largely still defined by its legacy.

There have been dozens of reboots, revivals, and sequel series over the past few years, an industry increasingly looking to nostalgia rather than innovation. The rigidity of Law & Order’s format hardly allows the show to spend much time looking inward at its own zeitgeist, not when investigation and prosecution have to share the same single episode. There simply isn’t time for the kind of existential introspection other shows like And Just Like That are forced to confront.

Dick Wolf assembled a pretty impressive cast for his revival. Longtime TV veterans Camryn Manheim, Hugh Dancy, and Jeffrey Donovan join L&O veterans Sam Waterston and Anthony Anderson. The main cast is rounded out by Odelya Halevi, the sole relative unknown performer, an unusual dynamic for a series with a format so recognizable that it’s hardly in need of star power.

There is much to enjoy in seeing so many TV stars play within the rigid confines of Law & Order’s meticulous structure. The pacing is a bit off, particularly with the detectives, whose scenes feel quite rushed. The original L&O has never cared much for character development, especially compared to SVU or entries in Wolf’s related Chicago franchise, putting strain on efforts to define Donovan’s Detective Frank Cosgrove as a shady cop willing to skirt professional lines to nail a suspect.

Efforts to comment on police brutality and racial injustice largely land with a thud. No one should be surprised that Law & Order remains unabashedly pro-cop, albeit from a position of increased self-awareness. The awkward balancing act between the blue line and the show’s penchant for “ripped from the headlines” social issues is most apparent through Anderson and Donovan’s awkward chemistry, the latter channeling his Burn Notice flair a bit too often when everyone else seems to have understood the assignment.

Dancy is the real standout of the twenty-first season. As ADA Nolan Price, Dancy has a bit more space to explore the philosophy of justice than the detectives, a far meatier role than what’s tolerated for Manheim, Anderson, and Donovan. Waterston predictably hasn’t lost a beat as McCoy, enjoying the backseat role of DA that he assumed in the original one’s final few years.

Resisting evolution at all costs, Law & Order’s top-notch cast gives viewers more than enough reason to tune in for the revival. It is the exact same show it’s always been, perhaps armed with too impressive an arsenal of performers for a bare-boned procedural. The actors bring their A-game in service to largely one-dimensional characters.

The show nailed its one mandatory objective for a revival. This feels exactly like old-school Law & Order. The cast is way more stacked than it needs to be, but that’s also part of the beauty. TV doesn’t need more Law & Order the same way it doesn’t need more seasons of SVU, NCIS, Grey’s Anatomy, or any other show that’s gone on way too long. Necessity doesn’t factor into this equation.

It’s not perfect, but it is very fun. Law & Order reminds its viewers of the simple pleasure of sitting down in front of your TV for an hour of predictable, satisfying entertainment. There are better shows out there, but there’s a reason L&O airs a billion times a day. Like a perfect black dress, Dick Wolf reminds us that classic never goes out of style.



February 2022



Transgender Storytime: Breakups

Written by , Posted in Blog, Podcast

We’re back! ITM talks about some personal news that rocked her post-Rankin/Bass holiday festivities. Breakups are terrible. Transgender people can go through much of our lives thinking we’re unlovable, which certainly does not reflect reality. ITM offers some reflections that might be useful for trans or cis people in similar boats. There’s always a new adventure on the horizon, as long as you keep throwing yourself out there.

Episode image is a picture taken two days after the bombshell news.