Why J.J. Abrams Returning to Star Wars Is A Good Thing

2 10 2017

J.J._Abrams_by_Gage_Skidmore

Was Star Wars: The Force Awakens really such a copy of A New Hope? And is it possible to write about The Last Jedi without mentioning Porgs? Find out why I’m optimistic about Abram’s return here.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

24 12 2016

rogueone_poster

Five years ago, you could have never told me a Disney standalone Star Wars spinoff movie would be a good thing. That sentence alone would have conjured up images of the wonderfully nightmarish Star Wars Holiday Special. Plot twist: Rogue One delivers a story worthy of the Star Wars universe, and one that can stand right up there with the original trilogy (I’m giving a stink eye to you, prequels). By the way, if you’re new here- the chances of spoilers ahead are high, very high.

rogue-one-cast-group

The Rebels standing in a base, probably built on hope.

While some of the official posters for this movie look like a Celebrate Rebel Diversity Day promo flyer, each one ended up helping make Rogue One memorable (except maybe Forest Whitaker- didn’t really get his character). Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso fantastically anchored the movie with the right amount of grit and heart, and it’s difficult to imagine any other actress filling her role. However, the highlight for me was the darkly sarcastic K-2SO, due to Alan Tudyk’s  timed delivery. Donnie Yen was essentially a blind samurai, which yes, we’ve all seen before, but hey we haven’t seen it in Star Wars! His bro time with Wen Jiang‘s Baze Malbus was great to watch (even their bro deaths), which brings me to the biggest downer. Rogue One‘s all like, “Here’s your new favorite characters! Now they’re all dead. Haha!” This wasn’t really a plot twist (otherwise where were these people later?), but at the same time I’m surprised nobody at all made it out to, I dunno, some far planet to help the Rebellion from there. In the end, it was the right decision.

It was great to get back into the world of the original trilogy- the Rebellion vs. the Empire. We got Mon Motha and Bail Organa, Admiral Ackbar’s extended family, classic Rebel ships, X and Y-Wings, and plenty of screaming Rebel deaths, just like old times. In the absence of any Jedi, the Empire is indeed more formidable, and it was fun to see the plucky Rebels ever-so-barely come out with a (costly) victory. Also, the Death Star eclipsing a sun and nuking a city was terrifyingly epic.

 

rogue-one-xwing-spacebattle

Pew-Pew-Pew-Yaaaay!

 

Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic was memorable, but his character seemed to consistently fail throughout the movie, and didn’t seem that menacing anymore by the end. He didn’t spot Galen’s treachery, he lost the plans, lost the base, even lost the reward for his part in the Death Star creation, and got fried by the Death Star (should this movie just be called “Krennic’s Really Bad Day“?). He also had the cards stacked against him whenever he appeared in scenes next to more iconic Imperial villains such as Vader and Tarkin.

Speaking of Tarkin (how about that segue?), his CGI resurrection has brought mixed feelings among  fans. I for one had no idea he would appear (since Peter Cushing has passed on), so his reveal in the movie was initially a shock, but a happy shock. Grand Moff Tarkin is a notorious villain and is inherently tied to everyone’s memory of the first Death Star. But it was also wildly distracting for me, as the CGI technology (although impressive) took all my focus. Is it, as some people state, disrespectful to bring back an actor from the grave? It wasn’t a perfect replica, but it was far, far better than other posthumous creations I’ve seen, and seemed to be in line with Cushing’s original portrayal. A hologram might have done just as much justice (and in a meta sense felt like a ghost), or they could have gone full prosthetic on a similar actor, but would that have been any more respectful by giving his role to someone else, or would the recast even have been less distracting? I’m not sure.  That said, by all accounts Peter Cushing would have loved to have been in more Star Wars movies (ironically unlike Sir Alec Guiness), so all things considered, we didn’t really answer this question at all.

rogue-one-k2s0-jyn

My favorite character, and the main character.

 

Now let’s talk some Darth Vader!  Basically, he was fantastic, and brutal. As in, “I probably shouldn’t be cheering for Vader as he murders the faces off all these heroes, but isn’t this awesome?!” With just two appearances in the movie, they redefined Vader. His massacre moment aside, this is someone who gets cut up and burned on a volcano planet and years later builds a freakin’ castle on it, because he can. Joking aside, I liked the trip back to Mustafar because it gave a glimpse into Vader’s psyche. He either views Mustafar as his true birth place, or he prefers to feed off the anger and emotions it gives him, or both. His character has always kicked butt, but this movie provided a wonderful reminder why he’s the most feared in the galaxy. Gone are our memories of Anakin not liking sand, because “it’s coarse and rough, and gets everywhere.” That said, Vader DIDN’T get out and fight on the Scariff beaches…

My list of drawbacks for the film is quite short. Some of the easter eggs were a little too on the nose, mainly the Ugly Face Duo from the Tatooine cantina, who just happened to be on a different planet across the galaxy at the right time. Also, to put on my nerd glasses, but Darth Vader originally mentions plans being beamed onto Leia’s ship, vs. handed over in the world’s scariest relay game of Pass The Plans Along Before Vader Chokes You To Death (still working on that name). Oh, and CGI Leia was FAR worse-looking than CGI Tarkin. Besides those few things, there were a few cringe-worthy lines that were in the trailer (Jyn’s “I rebel” line) but were removed from the movie, so kudos to you, Disney.

 

rogue-one-darth-vader-krennic

When you barge into the boss’s sauna.

In the end, Rogue One does a better job at setting up the original trilogy than Revenge of the Sith did, and I immediately felt a strong urge to watch A New Hope (I still haven’t, but it was a nice feeling). Disney/Lucasfilm effectively kept this separate from the numbered episodes (no opening crawl, no John Williams, texts over locations), and it paid off by feeling fresh. The creators of this film did a great job of using familiar toys in the Star Wars playground in new ways, giving us a slightly darker, more unique take on their universe- one filled with hope, sorrow, and star dust.





Star Wars- The Force Awakens Review

9 01 2016

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_Awakens_official_poster

It’s now been long time ago in a theater not that far away that I watched the new trilogy in the Star Wars saga begin, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write a review a month later, does it? Thanks to the power of procrastination, this late review is later than I ever thought it would be, but at least no good movie ever gets released in January (looking at you, Dirty Grandpa, The 5th Wave, etc). Also, this seems relevant, because not only did this movie break almost every box office record in the books, but it has achieved enough popularity for hipsters to now dislike it.  Depending which one you ask, it’s either a blatant theft of Episode IV’s plot, or it’s a complete departure from the series that makes no sense.

Like many fans, I was nervous- what if this was the ghost of the prequels rising again to destroy the original characters that everyone loved? What if they killed off a beloved character? Wouldn’t that be a debbie downer?!  But hey, mission accomplished- this film didn’t suck. In fact, in this fanboy’s opinion, The Force Awakens is miles ahead of the cheesy, CGI filled sequels.

star-wars-7-force-awakens-rey-finn

Why? Well for one, the new set of actors/actresses were great (Daisy Ridley as Rey steals the spotlight), and they weren’t instructed to speak in the wooden manner of the prequels. Harrison Ford, stealing every scene? Check. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega bringing us two likable new leads? Check. Adam Driver being a combination of psychotic Sith trainee and hair product model? Check. Carrie Fisher with a voice like she smoked too many death sticks? Uh, check.

The writing was also light years ahead of our past three movies, with the majority of the jokes actually being funny (why was that so hard, prequels?!), although maybe was a little too heavy with joke volume at times. It’s nice to have jokes based on timing and humor instead of Jar Jar dropping the ENTIRE tray of tools (hysterical, right?) or Anakin saying a one-liner so bad your brain melts out your ears. Some of the best moments weren’t even spoken, such as stormtroopers walking the other way from Kylo’s tantrum or Han’s childlike joy using Chewie’s crossbow.

star-wars-7-force-awakens-han-solo-chewbacca-harrison-ford

After the first viewing, my thoughts on the music was that it didn’t fall flat, but I didn’t pick up on any new themes. Since I love John Williams and the memorable music he always brings, this was somewhat disappointing. However, after my second viewing, I couldn’t understand how I missed them all the first time- Rey’s theme, The Resistance’s march, etc., are all welcome additions to this saga’s musical legacy. Hopefully we’ll get some Imperial March or Duel of the Fates successor in the next entry.

Resistance-Star-Wars-7-Force-Awakens_X-Wing.jpg

On that note, basically every part of the movie got better the second time I watched this film. I picked up more details, twists and changes from what seemed at first to be a bit of a rehash of certain storylines. I could set aside years of expectations of what a Star Wars sequel should include, and just enjoy the second viewing. I honestly didn’t realize how much I missed this universe until I was in the middle of experiencing it again. And yes, it was somehow even more sad to see (SPOILER) my favorite character, Han Solo, die, and his lil’ Wookie friend deal with sudden loss. (END SPOILER)

star-wars-7-force-awakens-rey-han_harrison_Ford

Time will tell where this is all going (hopefully someone has this all planned out). Hopefully we’ll have more Mark Hammill in Episode 8. He looked good in this film during his intense staring scene, but I guess we know why Luke wasn’t very prominent in the marketing now, huh? One of my only real disappointments with the movie was how we never (nor ever will) got to see Luke and Han Solo meet again. It just seems like a missed opportunity for a film that seemed to be all about fan service. However, I can say besides that point, this was a genuinely fun ride back into the legend of Star Wars.

Final thoughts:

  • Why do they keep building giant explodable weapons? Why not put eggs in other baskets, too?
  • I like how Kylo Ren story continues the Skywalker saga, but where does the supreme leader fall into this?
  • What if Supreme Leader Snoke was just four feet tall in his real form?
  • Captain Phasma- aka Chrome Trooper- was way underused for the amount of marketing that went into her character. You can’t just look Boba Fett cool, you have to BE Boba Fett cool (fight a little).

star-wars-7-force-awakens-kylo-ren-first-order-phasma





3 Reasons I Miss Midnight Movie Releases

28 04 2015

Well, as any movie fan knows, Marvel is about to take another swim in the ol’ money pool this week with the new The Avengers: Age of Ultron. And, just as I’ve done with other giant movies like The Dark Knight or Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Lucas, I’ll be right there with the rest of the fans on opening night. And, just like any other fan, I’ll find something to complain about. In this case, it’s nothing more than the now commonplace practice of releasing movies an evening early instead of only midnight. Why is this a big deal? Well, if you read the title, you’ll know I’ve got three reasons to rain on the early release’s parade.

Joker and Two-Face

Judge me not, or I’ll ask why you’re being so serious.

1. The Diehard Fans

To some people, people lining up outside a movie theater at 10:30 PM (and who may or may not be in costume) looks weird. I get that. But, imagine you’re so excited for something that you want to watch it as soon as possible, and not only that, but you’ll be surrounded by other fans as crazy as you who think starting a movie at midnight is worth it. You line up, maybe talk to other people dressed as a Slytherin student or Batman villain about their expectations. And then, when the theater’s packed and the movie finally starts, everyone cheers loudly- for a film. But then, once opening scene rolls? Dead silence. Respectful quiet from people who just want to experience the movie the way it’s meant to be. That’s not to say it’s like a morgue the whole time- expect laughter at comedic moments and even applause at the best parts. It’s almost as if you’re at a live play with all the interaction, including (unless you’re Spider-Man 3) applause at the ending credits. Never experienced that before in a theater? Well, you’ve probably never been to the late showing then. Your movie-going world consists of the casual fans.

2. The Casual Fans

If midnight premieres bring out the hardcore fans, 6 o’clock releases bring out the people who wonder when Batman will show up in The Avengers. This is the stereotypical crowd that people love to hate. Screaming babies? Sure, why not bring two! People lighting up the world with their cell phone screens? Check. Throw in that one stain of a human being who successfully stays being loud and obnoxious during the entire show, and you have what I call “the casual crowd.” Instead of a shared experience with your fellow fans, it’s a prime reminder that yes, you do dislike the majority of the human race. The best way to avoid these people is by attending a later showing that only the dedicated will attend.

3. Event Vs. Activity

However, at the end of the night, haven’t you watched the same movie? Yes, but you sure haven’t had the same experience. When movies open at 5:30 on a Thursday night, you’ve watched a movie. When you used to only have a midnight showing, you’ve gone to a premiere. There may be costumes and giveaways, but mostly it’s just a shared celebrational event. And I’m pretty sure those times are gone forever. Are we really going to wait till midnight when everyone else is watching at 5:30? What’s the point? Studios certainly aren’t going to go back to a more honest opening “weekend” at the cost of early profits. I’ll definitely be more ready for work the next morning. At the end of the day, I just hope Hulk’s smashing is loud enough to drown out the crying infants this Thursday evening.





100% Accurate Movie Predictions for 2015

4 01 2015

Well it’s that time of the year again, where I make shockingly-on-point predictions about upcoming cinematic offerings. These have all been carefully selected using Google and an impossibly low level of effort. Are we in for a treat this year, or a big, steaming pile of sequels?

 

Tak3n

Stop taking his blasted stuff!

January 9- Taken 3

Haha! That last question was a joke! Get ready for the third Taken movie- hot on the heels of the first mediocre sequel. So, what gets taken this time, besides Liam Neeson’s soul? Well it turns out the only thing taken this time (SPOILER ALERT) is Bryan Mill’s wife- permanently. Yep, remember those happy endings, where he saves his family and reunites with his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen)? Well, to quote the studios, “Forget that junk, let’s have Neeson get framed for her murder!” Meanwhile, the CIA, FBI and police all try to hunt down our hero.

Prediction: It’s Liam Neeson kicking butt, so you can bet this will at least enjoy mild success for a weekend or two. Word of mouth will ultimately kill it, because some people will miss the whole American-beating-up-foreigners aspect.

 

mila_kunis

I see we’re trying the Matrix outfits again.

Feb 6- Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is found on Earth by Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered action hero, who tells her she’s important (because of confusing reasons or something) and will “alter the balance of the cosmos” (I swear that’s a quote from the official description). Also, Jupiter Jones is a terrible name.

Prediction: The promos say “From the Creators of the Matrix Trilogy,” which isn’t the best reference, but honestly have the Wachowski siblings come out with anything else that’s worth mentioning? If all people mercifully remember is the first Matrix movie, and nothing else about the other two, you may get some tickets from an audience that’s willing to forgive Mila Kunis for her awful witch in Oz the Great and Powerful.

 

Feb 13- Fifty Shades of Grey

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this article, you are already an educated and discerning individual who doesn’t need my sarcasm to know a bad movie.

Prediction: Some will say this embarrassing pimple of a film didn’t go far enough, and others too far. Either way, let’s have a moment of silence for all the poor bro’s who will get forced into the theater by their emotionally-unstable significant others.

 

Kevin James

Wow! April looks awful!

April 17- Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Paul Blart (Kevin James) continues his cautionary tale for washed-up comedians in the sequel to the critically-acclaimed Mall Cop. I sure hope there’s some fat jokes in this one!

Prediction: Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy will be jealous they weren’t involved. The positive side is you can instantly de-friend anyone on Facebook who mentions this film in a positive light.

 

Avengers_teaser

*Spider-Man not included.

May 1- The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and the rest of the Avengers reassemble to further build their retirement funds. Expect awkward conversations about why they didn’t assemble to help out on Thor 2, where the universe practically imploded, or why not even one of them called to check up on Captain America after his near-death experience. Also count on Captain Cameo (Stan Lee) making an appearance.

Prediction: Hah, you don’t need a blog to tell you that this movie will create a shower of gold bars over Marvel Studios, and will push them full steam into their next 75 comic book movies.

May 15- Pitch Perfect 2

Because the ladies need something to watch while their guy friends watch Avengers the third weekend in a row.

Prediction: See above.

 

Comic-Con

Because Disney World was closed.

June 12- Jurassic World

Imagine a world where citizens are willing to pay to see dinosaurs up-close again, even after one or two disastrous encounters where lives were lost. Imagine this awful business plan is again picked up by well-meaning but ultimately profit-driven people in suits who know that the jaded public will fall for anything. Are the story writers being intentionally ironic with us?

Prediction: Obviously this isn’t going to be better than the original, so the most I can hope for this is gentle critics and lowered expectations from fans. Because profits…find a way.

 

Jai Arnold Schwarzenegger

Terminator heads hate sunny fields.

July 1- Terminator: Genisys

It’s a new Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and a new Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke)…with an aging Terminator robot (Aging Arnold Schwarzenegger) in an alternate timeline. Apparently Terminators actually age now. They probably will have a crazy shootout scene in the Terminator Retirement Home, with all the other time-traveling robot assassins who couldn’t take out one dude.  At least the misspelled title will drive my OCD friends crazy.

Prediction: Arnold hasn’t been the biggest draw lately, and this is a tired series that should have gone to bed a couple of decades ago. They’ll probably draw a profit, but we won’t be telling our grandchildren about where we were when we first saw Terminator: Genisys.

 

Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence

(Cue whistling)

Nov 20 – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

It’s the second part of a sequel to a sequel, based on the least popular book of The Hunger Games trilogy. Even with all that cynicism, you and I will probably be in the ticket line opening weekend.

Prediction: If I remember correctly, Part I didn’t do as well in theaters, partly because of the extra fluff inserted to make the book into two movies. However, it’s the last entry of the movie series, so it’ll draw in enough profit to finance a giant party in The Capitol.

Star Wars

Admit it. You just stopped breathing for a moment.

December 18 – Star Wars: Episode VII

Like a jilted lover who doesn’t know any better, the nerd in everyone will return to the Star Wars universe this winter. Our favorite characters are now 30 years older, but there will be no Jar Jar Binks or whiny pre-Vader. Could this be the movie that finally brings balance to the Lucas? Or is it a trap?

Prediction: It’s probably a trap. But a very effective trap that will take all our money.





Why The Star Wars Holiday Special Represents All That Is Wrong

25 12 2012

Yes, The Star Wars Holiday Special is a real movie, and I know it sounds cheesy, but trust me it’s like getting thrown into a wood chipper in super-slow motion. It’s so bad George Lucas said if he had enough time, he would destroy every physical VHS (yes) with a hammer. It’s so bad that there’s not a single legal copy of it. It’s so bad that it played once on TV, and never again. It’s so bad Carrie Fisher says she turns it on at her parties when it’s time for people to leave. Why? Well, let me show you.

1. Commercialism

So, the real kicker of this little-known gem is that the poster for it doesn’t really look that bad (unless you read the plot description in the top right).

Star Wars Christmas Poster

IT’S A TRAP.

It’s complete commercialism. It’s a “holiday” special. About “Life Day.” “Starring” actors who probably have a combined total of fifteen minutes in the movie, and it’s pretty much a full-length movie. Not to mention the only action scene was literally footage ripped from A New Hope. The rest? Why, it’s a bunch of 15 minute segments, like a variety show from the 70’s, if a variety show means acid party. There is no plot, and the songs/segments/sketches are completely nonsensical and slowly get more horrible as they draw out, resembling the feel of getting food poisoned.

2. Humanity’s low point.

And then the movie starts. We watch a little snot of a Wookie argue for fifteen real-time minutes about chores, I think. It’s hard to tell because the whole freaking scene is in Wookie roars, WITH NO SUBTITLES. Chewie’s not even in the scene. By the time Grandpa Wookie (I think his name was Itchy, no joke) straps on his virtual goggles for a pleasure movie, I knew exactly what those saps in The Ring  felt like when the ghost kid crawls out of the TV.

Holiday Wookies

Horror.

3. The Death of Art

Take a look at this still from the movie’s cartoon segment. Take a long, hard look at it.

Star Wars Christmas Cartoon

What have they DONE to Han Solo?!

Now imagine seeing thousands of these images pieced together into a bizarre, reality-questioning drug trip of a cartoon.

Star Wars Scary Luke

Here’s another pic. You’re welcome.

Why does Han Solo look like Mick Jagger? Why do Luke Skywalker’s eyes violate your soul whenever they’re open? Why does Boba Fett ride a dinosaur (okay that’s actually kind of cool). I could add more examples of the complete artless core of this movie, but the cartoon segment does it all for me in just two shots.

4. Regret and Repressed Memories

Of course, this whole movie IS a repressed memory of regret, but it’s also made of smaller repressed memories and regret, like how a living thing is made of smaller living things called cells. Each “skit” or “segment” of this patchwork of horrors is its own self-contained hell. Whether it’s a painfully unfunny comedy routine featuring a malfunctioning android, or this racist, cross-dressing abomination, if you’re not weeping on the floor as the end credits roll, you’ve already become a soulless husk.

Star Wars Holiday Special Freak

Yes, the creeper man is drinking out of a hole on his head. Moving on.

5. Logic Destroyed

Logic was destroyed the exact moment a TV exec read through the script, saw the designs, and said, “Yeah, this looks good. Let’s put it on our channel!” Logic died the first time anyone ever decided to mix a 70’s variety show with Star Wars. Innocence crumbled the moment we first heard the haunting phrase “Stir, Whip! Stir Whip!”

Stir Whip

Pictured: Not a good idea.

6.  Life is Meaningless

This isn’t expressed in the movie directly, it more describes the general feeling each person finds themselves with as the movie ends. That’s why you should never, I repeat, never, watch this monstrosity alone. Always see it with friends, and then never again.

Star Wars Holiday wookie kid

Haha oh yes! Fear will FIND you!

Now go hug your loved ones, because it’s Christmas.

Edit: Forgot the best part! Check out the climatic scene where Carrie Fisher totally sings the Star Wars song. And then they travel to the…sun? Anyway, all the Wookies march right in with their red robes.





One Fanboy’s Reaction to Disney’s Star Wars

1 11 2012
NOOOOOO

Short version of this article.

 

Tuesday’s news that Disney now owns Lucasfilm, and thus Star Wars, came charging out of nowhere like a stampeding Bantha. Everything’s up for grabs now, and a new trilogy is in the works. But is this a victory for the light or the dark side?

 

George Lucas and Mickey

Before Tuesday, this would have been a Photoshop.

 

At first, I was all like, “Don’t touch my childhood! What if they ruin the original trilogy and make disappointing movies…oh, wait. Never mind.”  Let’s be serious, what’s the worst that can happen? Star Wars completely sells itself out? Bad dialogue? Jar Jar? C’mon, it’s all been done, and I really don’t see Disney possibly letting down fans any more than George Lucas arguably did. Expectations are incredibly low, especially with Mickey Mouse piloting the Death Star.

Let’s not forget Disney’s idea of a “space epic.”

 

However, I’m not sure anything Disney comes out with could even gain the same  “wow” effect level, even with Star Wars fans. Ignore all other factors besides story- director, actors, cinematography-everything. There’s only so many routes they can take.

Perhaps the most dominant theory is a Return of the Jedi sequel trilogy, (the new movie’s already referred to as “Episode VII”) and this is even hinted at by Mark Hammill. But here’s a problem! Carrie Fisher, Mark Hammill, Harrison Ford, and very much Carrie Fisher are all old. Ford still does movies, and Hammill does Joker voicework, and Fisher is doing… (cricket noises). My point is, it’s been a while, and even though some works go into the years after ROTJ that feature an older Luke, Leia, and Han, I’m not sure that’s what fans want, and less want a movie with digitally-younger actors (hello, Tron!). Not to mention every one of those stories eventually turn into the same plotlines of the original trilogy (sith take over, new killer space weapon, the fall and redemption of Skywalkers), so it’d be a strange case of deja-vu.

The other option would be the (bloated) expanded universe of Star Wars, told through such non-canon media as comics, cartoons, books, video games, and the prequel trilogy (ha!). I admit, there’s vast potential here, but at the end of the day, it’ll be hard to put it on the same level as the two trilogies, which for all their problems tell a single epic dealing with the Skywalkers, and the absence of Vader or Obi-Wan or Luke would be a giant zit on whatever polished story they conceive. That’s at least what it would be to anyone who hasn’t been exposed to anything but the movies.So, at the end of the day, I gotta admit the idea of a new trilogy is exciting, but there’s a lot of gas in this burrito. Unless, of course, they follow my fail-proof idea- make the “new trilogy” a reboot of the three prequels. And Maul lasts all three movies. And kills Jar Jar Binks. Violently.

 

Jar Jar Killed by Darth Maul

Here’s one suggestion.