12.30.2015

The Unwatchables of 2015

Another year down, another round of my annual end of year lists. First up, it's time for my traditional list of the utterly unwatchable films of the year. These are the films I would never go out of my way to see, and some you couldn't even pay me to sit through! This year though, either the films are getting better, or my standards of what I'll sit through are getting worse. Truth be told, a couple of these I probably *would* watch if I happened to be bored enough.

 JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS

What on earth is this movie trying to be? One dash throwback to an 80's childhood remake, another speck of Josie and the Pussycats and finally a sprinkle of The Last Mimzy. This concoction seemed to not only repel me, but everyone else in America too as it became the biggest flop of the year. IMDB RATING: 3.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 19%

STRANGE MAGIC

I am one of the few people left on God's green planet who still seem to love George Lucas, but this film looks like a bizarre acid trip into the further most recesses of his crazy mind. Not sure if that's a place that even I want to visit. IMDB RATING: 5.7/10 Rotten Tomatoes rating: 16%

PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 
 

Yes I saw the first one, and as a result I won't touch this with a ten foot pole. Fool me twice would be shame on me. IMDB RATING: 4.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 5%

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER 

This has to be the most bizarre ensemble cast I've ever seen. Poor Michael Caine and Elijah Wood. Have your career's sunk so low you have to stoop to being in a movie with Vin Diesel?? IMDB RATING: 6.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 16%

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: 
THE ROAD CHIP

Gah! Who keeps giving these people money to make these movies?? IMDB RATING: 3.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 16%

MAX 

This looks like a Nicholas Sparks movie with a dog in the main role. No thanks. IMDB RATING: 6.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 36%

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3

Never have I ever touched this series, nor do I ever intend to. Let's hope it really is the FINAL sequence. IMDB RATING: 3.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 19%

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY  
Smutty Twilight fan fiction turned into a big budget movie. What a pitch! IMDB RATING: 4.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 24%

MORTDECAI

Truth be told, I would have watched this. But I didn't want to pay $10 to rent it to see if it would make my worst list. Now I shall just deem it unwatchable since 88% of critics did!  IMDB RATING: 5.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 12%

CHAPPIE

Terrible word of mouth has convinced me to stay far far away from this beast. But, if bored enough maybe I could be persuaded. IMDB RATING: 6.9/10, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 31%

That's all for this time. Am I totally wrong? Have you seen any of these and can vouch for them? Let me know! And come back for more enf of the year lists this week and next.

12.18.2015

The Forced Awakening

With hundreds of reviews written about The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in the biggest franchise of all time, why read mine? No doubt you can find someone's opinion online to match exactly what you want this movie to be, or how you yourself felt about it--nevertheless, here are the thoughts of one girl who fell in love with the series when she was ten years old and has basically been obsessed with it ever since. Because of Star Wars, a passion for filmmaking began that led me to my path in college, and eventually my career as a video editor. Star Wars was a part of me, and I never have shunned it.... even when the world hated it. The prequels were a major part of my formative teenage years, and I was always willing to defend them to the death. A few years ago after studying film criticism and revisiting them, I finally came to admit their flaws...yet they still owned a place in my heart.

And then the news of Episode VII came along. The movie to right all the wrongs of the past. This was the movie to get it right; to bring Star Wars back into the hearts of the people. After a year straight of hype and anticipation, did it finally accomplish what it set out to do? For the mass public who turned against Star Wars and bemoaned how much they hated the prequels, the answer is yes, absolutely. For me? Stunningly to my absolute shock and bewilderment, not at all. To be fair, I had the highest of sky high expectations for this film.... but once the glowing reviews came out, I knew this movie was basically a sure thing. When the crawl came up I was delighted to be seeing a brand new Star Wars film once more, something that after Episode III, I thought would never happen again. Finally watching it at last, I kept waiting for the moment that I would fall in love with this movie...and it just never happened. Instead as I sat there, I felt myself feeling more and more detached. I couldn't shake the feeling that the whole thing was... well, forced.

That's not to say it doesn't have it's moments, nor that it doesn't show promise for where the series has yet to go (if they dare to deviate from the formula that is.) Prior to seeing the movie, I concluded that I would love the movie despite the trepidatious reviews of some critics, as long as the following three things happened. 1. I wanted to feel that there was a reason for this movie to exist, as Return of the Jedi already ended the series so perfectly. 2. I needed to love the characters.  3. I wanted to have fun.

Without getting into specifics, let me address how the movie measured up against my demands.  Earlier in the year I had read interviews by JJ Abrams where he mentions him and Lawrence Kasdan "trying to come up with the story." Watching The Force Awakens, it's incredibly clear that they were making this up as they went along, and when in doubt, recycled. Lucas's grand storytelling arcs are gone, and in their place is a pale imitation. As such, the story feels incredibly disjointed from the story threads of the other six films, other than reshashing several elements that worked in the past. Lines about trash compactors didn't get me giddy, they were just too easy. Everything was. The Force Awakens is not an organic or natural progression to the story of George Lucas's Star Wars that I knew and loved... instead, it's basically calculated fan fiction without a pulse.

Onto the characters. BB-8 was the breakthrough star of the film. I absolutely loved him and would have loved if he had been utilized even more. I thought John Boyega was fantastic as Finn and Oscar Isaac as Poe was great as well, but needed far more screentime. Daisy Ridley did well, but wasn't given quite enough personality as I wanted. She still somehow comes off as a blank canvas by the time the film ends. As for the old... Harrison is now grumpy ol' Han, but does most of the heavy lifting, while the other two members of the original trilogy trio get considerably less to do. And goodness gracious, couldn't they have tried to tone down Carrie Fisher's voice at all? She looked the best she could, but chainsmoker Leia wasn't exactly what I envisioned

As to whether or not I generally had fun? My reaction to The Force Awakens is undoubtedly the result of hype mixed with YEARS of hearing how terrible the prequels are. Because of these endless debates with haters, I can tell you the flaws those movies have by heart (and admit to them,) but I can also tell you the strengths that everyone conveniently forgets. In seeing a film so lovingly fawned over as The Force Awakens in "finally giving the world the Star Wars movie people deserve," I can't help but think "this is what you wanted the whole time? A remake?" Hurl all the insults you want at the prequels, but their stories were their own and they connected to the story of the original trilogy in a natural way, yet a different way. They didn't try to be the originals and everyone hated them for it. Their republic was night and day different than the Empire in IV, V and VI. But people hated that. So now we get more of the same. While The Force Awakens is technically a better made film Episode I, II or III (there are no poo jokes, barrage of CGI, silly dialogue or monotone delivery of said dialogue here) its obviousness at its reveals, and its over-reliance on what worked before rob it of all its integrity. It has, in a sense become "marvellized": bland, crowd pleasing, and like an episode of a tv series that has no meaningful arcs. My precious franchise has turned to the darkside. It's more machine now than man. Twisted and evil. But at least it will please the fans right? Because that's all that matters anymore. Just not this one.

With all that incredibly harsh ranting aside, I can't in my heart of hearts give this a negative grade. As I said, on a technical level this film gets a lot right, and in time, with my expectations out of the way it may grow fonder to me. But at this moment in time, I can't help but feel that the story of The Force Awakens is an incredible disappointment. A far more interesting and perhaps less obvious movie exists within the backstory of the film, so I can only hope that future installments explore that more and take bigger risks...but with the bosses in charge I can really only expect safe bets from here on out. And lucky for the huge majority reading this, that's probably just up your alley. EMILY RATING: 7.5/10

Addendum: I saw the movie again on Saturday, and enjoyed it much much more without the expectations that this was the second coming of Star Wars in the way. It still has some flaws that I cannot overlook, but I would in fact give it a half grade higher now and go with 8/10

For more of that initial reaction, check out my appearance on Baconsale below. Spoiler alert: I channel my whiney Skywalker to harp on a lot of things.

12.04.2015

Naughty or Nice?

You better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout, I'm telling you why. No Santa Claus is not coming to town... instead it's his bizarro German counterpart Krampus, who spreads holiday dread and misery as opposed to holiday cheer. There aren't many Christmas horror films out there...not to mention many Christmas horror comedies (save Gremlins), so director Michael Dougherty (best known for Trick 'R Treat, the horror indie that celebrates everything Halloween) takes it upon himself to bring the dark legend of Krampus to life. Mixing so many genres can often have the Nightmare Before Christmas effect, in making the viewer feel unsure of when to actually watch the feature in question, and thus finding themselves never watching it. Krampus though, for better or worse (depending on the viewer's opinion) boldly declares itself a Christmas film, and might just be that first and foremost.

The holiday horror comedy stage is set right from the get-go, as the credits show us the joys and terrors of the holiday season in the form of mass consumerism. We are introduced to one family who is celebrating Christmas on the surface, but they've all seemed to have forgotten the true meaning behind the holiday. After a particularly tense family dinner, a young boy named Max tears up his Christmas list of wishes for his family, believing that Christmas miracles no longer exist. As a result of this act of non-faith, the demon Krampus and his followers are summoned to teach this family a thing or to about appreciating Christmas... in a darker way than the usual ghost of Christmas past, present, or future usually goes about things.



The setup of the film is great. Krampus could easily seem cliched in the typical holiday family beginning, but Dougherty manages to transport you into this family's Christmas seamlessly enough that you get caught up in all the drama. The intrigue and mystery of what will happen next carry you along incredibly well, until midway through the film when it starts to be a little frustrating that the characters are acting too smart for the usual horror film scenarios. The middle portion of the movie I did find myself wondering when the good stuff was gonna start. But once the film does starts rolling, it's a real ride! Vague spoiler alert (highlight to read) The ending might seem a cop-out to some, but as it IS a holiday movie, I was much more forgiving... (end potential spoiler) That said, me and my pal Kent totally interpreted the ending in completely different ways, so it's anyone's guess as to what REALLY happened. The fact that such different interpretations occurred regarding the ending is honestly wonderful for such a film.

Krampus treads lightly on a very delicate line; it easily could all go wrong at any moment...and somehow it doesn't. Dougherty balances the act of being a horror film, a comedy, and a Christmas movie in a way that not many movies would dare attempt. Some might not think he pulls it off, but I thought Krampus handled all genres in such a way that they even manage to complement one another. The horror elements don't feel out of place in this dark Christmas fable, and neither does the comedy when things get downright ridiculous. Besides the Dougherty's directing, Krampus might not have been able to pull off this feat if it weren't for its solid cast. Toni Collette and Adam Scott are pretty much likable in anything, and David Koechner, if given the right material, can really shine. The young cast and all the supporting players are all good too. No one is given a ton of depth here, but everyone manages to shine and have a good time. They take the film completely seriously so you don't have to. Krampus plays things so straight which is bound to throw people off who are wishing for more horror or more comedy. But if you go along with it, it's a fun ride. EMILY RATING: 8/10

11.25.2015

With Arms Wide Open

Every now and then, I will admit that I have some pop-cultural blind spots. One of these blind spots happens to be the Rocky franchise--but that's not to say that I didn't have my fair amount of exposure to it. All three of my brothers happen to be huge Rocky fans, but as someone who never really dug sports movies, I'd promptly leave the room whenever they watched the series. So when I had a chance to see an advanced screening, I knew who I was taking...and who I needed to help me write my review. So today, I present a different take on my usual review: a he said, he said, he said, she said review.  Before I begin, though, let me briefly introduce my co-reviewers. Sean is my older brother who is closest to me in age. Being only 2 years ahead of me, he is man of few words but when he speaks, he is oft full of wisdom. Clayton is my oldest brother, and the man who I believe is responsible for all the brothers' love of Rocky, as well as the belief that Rocky is an actual American hero. Kent stands in proxy of my middle brother Nephi; friend of Clayton and the entire family, he too is a Rocky enthusiast. Oh and he has his own movie site too called Showtime Showdown you can visit HERE. Instead of reading four reviews, I decided to break up our thoughts on Creed by answering some questions about it.



Is Creed its own movie? Or is it Rocky 7?

SEAN SAYS: I would call it a soft reboot of the Rocky franchise.

CLAYTON SAYS: I think Creed managed to keep a good balance of being its own movie and still incorporating enough Rocky to tie it to the franchise. It would have been very easy to drift too far to one side. But the filmmakers pulled it off nicely.

KENT SAYS: Just as Adonis Johnson wants to be successful on his own merits and not by the legacy of his father, Creed cannot help but rely on the successful franchise that preceded it. In every way, it is Rocky VII.

EMILY SAYS: It felt like a mix of both. As someone not overly familiar with the series I didn't feel too lost. I didn't always get all the inside jokes, but it was easy enough to go along with.


Is Creed a worthy sequel to the Rocky series? Does it tarnish its legacy in any way?

SEAN SAYS: It is a worthy sequel. It doesn't tarnish its legacy, but it does tarnish Apollo's legacy!

CLAYTON SAYS: Creed does nothing but enhance the Rocky franchise legacy. Here's the thing, Rocky V was awful, and Rocky Balboa was only good because Rocky V was awful. So it's not like the legacy hasn't already taken a few hits. Even though it had a few over the top moments, this was a fun movie.

KENT SAYS: In 1990, the Rocky franchise was tarnished almost beyond repair. Somehow, it took a mediocre premise about a video game fight, 16 years later, to restore an ounce of former glory. So yeah, the series could only get better from there

EMILY SAYS: It seems like one! It's filled with just the right amount of nostalgia, as it gives loving nods but doesn't over-rely on them.


Hoes does Creed compare to the rest of the movies in the series? Where does it fall in your own personal rankings of the films?

SEAN SAYS:
 I'd rank it somewhere in the middle. I liked it better than Rocky V, Rocky II, and Rocky Balboa.

CLAYTON SAYS: I think everyone would just assume Rocky V never happened, so no competition there. The whole reason Rocky Balboa was made was to get rid of the bad taste Rocky V left. The problem was the idea of a boxer coming out of retirement in his 60's to fight the heavyweight champion of the world is hard to swallow. Creed's storyline is much more believable in that regard. I would put it on par with Rocky II, which was solid even though it had its own warts. The original was truly a great movie, Rocky III introduced Mr. T and Rocky IV ended the Cold War, so it was never getting ahead of any of those.

KENT SAYS: Rocky
Rocky IV: The End of the Cold War
Rocky III: Pity the Fool
Rocky VII: Creed
Rocky Balboa
Rocky II: Rematch
I want to say I'm missing one, but it's blocked from my memory.


EMILY SAYS: Uh.....well....um, I don't remember too many of them so I guess near the top!


How does Michael B. Jordan fare as a successor to Rocky? Is he worthy to play the son of Apollo Creed?

SEAN SAYS: He did a fine job.

CLAYTON SAYS: I liked Michael B. Jordan well enough, but he didn't really do a whole lot to blow me away. He was very likable, which would honestly be one of my biggest problems with the movie. I think he should have had a bit more of an edge. They introduced the character as someone who was in and out of youth homes and juvenile detention facilities as a kid before being taken in by Apollo's wife. Yet, when he is older he seems very polite and well adjusted. But that's probably just me being nit picky.

KENT SAYS: Coming off of Fantastic Four, Michael B. Jordan is the underdog this movie needs.
He doesn't have the natural charisma that oozes from Carl Weathers. I'm 90% sure that Gatorade has a flavor called "Carl Weathers Charisma."

EMILY SAYS: Michael B. Jordan was incredibly likable and...very beautiful to look at.


Putting aside all the Rocky nostalgia, how does Creed manage on its own as a sports movie? 

SEAN SAYS: It's difficult for me to separate it from being a Rocky movie, but I think people not familiar with Rocky movies may enjoy it purely as a sports movie.

CLAYTON SAYS: Creed was a very good sports movie. The fighting scenes were believable and very well choreographed. Maybe the most realistic boxing scenes in any Rocky movie. Sports movies can often times be very cliche, and while this film isn't completely free of that, it does enough to keep you interested.

KENT SAYS: It has everything an inspirational sports movie requires - an underdog, a pep talk from the love interest, music montages and a coach that no one can understand.

EMILY SAYS: I think so! As someone who's not overly familiar with the series (and who happens not to be a big fan of sports movies) I thought it worked incredibly well for its genre.


Is this a good bridge to continue the series with a different protagonist?

SEAN SAYS: Yes I'd say so.

CLAYTON SAYS: I'm not gonna lie, I'd be fine with them not making any more movies in the franchise. I'm sure they will, but I don't think it is necessary. What more are they going to do with these characters? I think further sequels would just result in Creed having the same story arch's that Rocky went through in other movies. But hey, I will still watch them. So I guess that's why they keep getting made.

KENT SAYS: Just as long as he eventually fights Rocky's son and in due course trains under disgraced boxer, Ivan Drago. 

EMILY SAYS: I think it is. I'd be interested in seeing where his story goes.


Do you recommend Creed to everyone or just Rocky fans? 

SEAN SAYS: I'd recommend it to any Rocky fans or fans of sports movies. SEAN RATING: 8/10

CLAYTON SAYS: Everyone should see Creed. Rocky fans and non-Rocky fans. Old and young. Male and female. Christians, Muslims and Atheists alike! CLAYTON RATING: 8.5/10

KENT SAYS: If you haven't seen the Rocky movies, Creed may feel original. If you have seen them, this is pure comfort food. KENT RATING: 8/10

EMILY SAYS: I think if I enjoyed this movie, probably anyone can! EMILY RATING: 8/10

And there you have it! Four for four, we all enjoyed Creed. And now you don't have to just take *MY* word for it.

11.20.2015

Hungry No More

After four movies, "The Girl on Fire's" flame has finally been extinguished with the grand finale of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. After last year's completely lackluster Part 1 (review HERE,) I went into Part 2 totally ready for this franchise to end. I didn't expect to derive much pleasure out of the film's proceedings, so my expectations were really low, if not nonexistent. Turns out, because of avoiding so much advertising and not caring one way or another how good the movie would be, I ended up enjoying Part 2 MUCH more than I anticipated. That's not to say though that the movie is without its flaws, it has quite a few. But those flaws are far more forgiving this time around than the last. Mostly because stuff actually happens this time.

Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 left off, as Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen struggles to understand what's happened to her friend and on-again/off-again boy toy Peeta. She holds one man responsible for turning her beloved into a rage-filled psychopath, and that's Donald Sutherland's President Scroob Snow. Despite orders from President Coin of the Rebel Alliance played by Julianne Moore (that's what they call it right? They just blatantly use all the Star Wars terminology right?) to stay put, Katniss takes it upon herself to sneak into the city and assassinate President Snow for the good of mankind. But before she can get to his mansion, she'll first have to beat all the booby traps that await her within the Capitol's walls. Luckily, she's got her two beaus and some other rebel soldiers to accompany her. The second half of the movie basically plays out like a much grander scale version of Duck Tales: The Movie.

While the film moves along briskly and entertainingly enough, the filmmakers make the mistake of putting too much focus on Katniss's love life, while failing to emphasize other moments that should have had more weight. Unfortunately for everyone besides fangirls, concentrating on the love triangle just isn't that interesting. A couple of important deaths are really glossed over, but at least Peeta and Gale can find the time to have a heart to heart on which one of them Katniss is going to pick right?  Lawrence is tasked with carrying the film while most of her talented supporting cast are sidelined to glorified cameos. Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and Jena Malone who were all great in the previous movies only really get a couple scenes a piece to make their mark. Much of the film is very bleak, but at least things are *happening* this time around. In fact, the most unfortunate thing about this movie is the fact that its story was ever split in half. Catching Fire easily remains the best out of the series, but had Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2 been combined as the book intended, this absolutely could have been the strongest entry. As it is, the series ends with little fanfare, and the scene they tack on at the end to act as the Harry Potter-eque epilogue is kind of atrocious.


For what has been a very uneven series, this installment definitely ends the series on more of a high than a low--even if it's kind of a depressing high. Now if only we didn't have to deal with all the repercussions of the mega-success of this franchise with all the other Young Adult series adaptations we have yet to sit through (and their inevitable Part Two conclusions.) Sigh. EMILY RATING: 7/10

11.17.2015

Patience, You Must Have

December 17th just can't arrive quickly enough. Exactly one month stands between the world and the first brand new Star Wars movie in ten years. If you're looking for some distractions to help pass the time between now and its glorious arrival while simultaneously keeping the force ever present in your mind, you've come to the right place. Below are 15 suggestions of various Star Wars related media you can choose to fill your time with by viewing throughout the next month. Before we begin our list though, I must give a word of caution: not all of these Star Wars related offerings are created equal. While all of these selections can help transport you to a galaxy far far away, just know that you should only embark on some if you're *really* desperate.


Spaceballs.Mel Brooks' parody of the original trilogy as well as other adventure films of its era, is both a loving nod to the Star Wars universe and an enjoyable comedy in its own right. The adventures of Dark Helmet, Lone Starr, Barf, Dot Matrix and Princess Vespa remain one of my absolute favorite imitations of all of Star Wars lore. There are so many solid bits and it never fails to make me chuckle. Spaceballs is available to rent on most online streaming platforms.


Fanboys The plot of Fanboys might sound eerily familiar if you've paid any attention to the news recently. A lifelong fan of Star Wars has been diagnosed with cancer so he makes it his life goal to see the newest Star Wars film at all costs before he passes. The difference between this fictious tale and that of real life Daniel Fleetwood, is that this story is set in 1998 with the then upcoming release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. That and the characters in the film don't exactly politely ask the filmmakers for a screening, rather he and his friends decide to take it upon themselves to travel across the country, sneak into George Lucas's house aka Skywalker Ranch, and steal a cut of the film. Fanboys is admittedly uneven as it was tinkered with by studio interference during its entire production, but there are enough loving homages for Star Wars fans to make it worth their while. Fanboys is available to stream on Google Play.


The Family Guy Trilogy: Blue Harvest, Something, Something, Something Dark Side, and It's a TrapThree separate episodes of Family Guy retell each of the original Star Wars trilogy episodes. A New Hope is tackled in the season 6 episode Blue Harvest, Empire Strikes Back came along in season 8 in the form of Something, Something, Something, Darkside,  and the parody saga was concluded with Return of the Jedi episode called It's A Trap. If you're a fan of Family Guy and Star Wars, this is a match made in heaven. If you only like Star Wars, there's still enough to appreciate here while wading through the typical Family Guy humor. Seeing each film directly redone in a condensed animated comedy version is kind of cool to see and definitely a good refresher to help get ready for The Force Awakens. The Family Guy Trilogy boxset is available on Amazon, or you can stream it there too.


Star Wars Robot Chicken: Episodes I, II & III. Like Family GuyThree complete Robot Chicken episodes were dedicated entirely to Star Wars. The difference here is that these episodes are broken up into smaller sketches and celebrate the saga as a whole. They somehow take George Lucas's characters and make them their own in the world of Robot Chicken.The Emperor and Boba Fett in particular, get pretty hilarious takes on their characters. If you really know and love Star Wars, these episodes are for you. The humor is a little sharper than in Family Guy and you just get the feeling that die-hards especially will appreciate the inside jokes and nods here. You can find every Star Wars Robot Chicken sketch on YouTube.



Star Wars: Clone Wars. If you want to learn more about the Clone Wars that Alec Guinness's Obi-Wan Kenobi alluded to in A New Hope, then briefly glimpsed in prequel Episodes II & III you've got a few options at your disposal. First, you can check out the hand-drawn animated series that aired on the Cartoon Network in between the release of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. There are only 20 episodes at 15 minutes each and they can easily be found on YouTube. Next you can watch the 2008 film and the series it launched. The digital animation series lasted seven seasons and was very positively received, especially with people that wanted some of the characters of the Prequel Trilogy to be a little more, shall we say fleshed out. The 2008 movie and series are both on Netflix, while you can find the hand drawn series on YouTube.


Star Wars: Rebels. After making the Clone Wars animated series, Lucasfilm brought Star Wars: Rebels into the world. Taking place after the events of Episode III, Rebels focuses on all fresh faces. If you haven't checked this out, now is as good a time as any! The four seasons are available to stream on Amazon.

The Star Wars Holiday Special. For the casual fan of Star Wars, they usually remain blissfully unaware of The Holiday Special's existence. And for good reason. George Lucas did almost everything in his power to bury this abomination, and if it weren't for the Internet, he might have succeeded. Every now and again, I like to show bits and pieces of this to those such casual fans and blow their minds that this tv movie actually happened. The Star Wars Holiday Special was aired in 1978 hoping to capitalize off the success of the original Star Wars. The story (if we can claim there was one,) centers around Chewbacca's family as they await his return for the Galaxy's Christmas equivalent holiday known as Life Day. It's like Planes, Trains & Automobiles meets Star Wars! Oh and also some horrible 1970's variety show that should have never seen the light of day. Let's just say you've got to have a REALLY strong constitution to actually watch this. There are moments in this that will leave you absolutely stupefied at the absurdity. If you're brave enough, you can find The Holiday Special on YouTube.

Ewok Adventures: The Caravan of Courage & The Battle of Endor. Fortunately, this is definitely not as awful to watch as The Holiday Special, however, these films are almost just as unwatchable. Still, they've got that Star Wars look and feel, so if you need another way to be transported to the galaxy this is it. Just know that it's not gonna be a smooth ride, and in fact many of the things that happen in both movies will have you scratching your head and thinking "this would never happen in the Star Wars galaxy." Some things are better left in the memory of your youth, and this might be one of them. But if you're desperate for some time fillers, I'll let you make that call. Both of these made for tv films can be found on YouTube.


Droids, Ewoks. Did you know there were two animated series in the 80's about Star Wars? One was called Droids and was about the adventures of R2 and Threepio before the events of A New Hope. The other was called Ewoks and was about the life of the ewoks before they met the rebels in Return of the Jedi. If you, like me were unaware of this fact, you can watch the entire series of both on YouTube. Like the Ewoks films, this nostalgia might be a big time waster, but there's only one way to find out right?

Hardware Wars. This parody short of the original Star Wars is oh so 70's. There's nothing of real substance here but silliness, that said-- if you want to see one of the first caricatures of the famous characters and events of A New Hope it's kind of a fun watch. I mostly enjoy their version of Luke Skywalker and his ridiculous catchphrases. Hardware Wars can be found on YouTube.

Thumb Wars. Before Family Guy and Robot Chicken, the story of Star Wars was also told by...a bunch of thumbs. Creepy little thumbs with weird faces to be exact. This half-hour short often walks the line between silly fun and just being stupid, but if you're going to be a completist on all the versions of Star Wars give it a look. It has a couple clever moments. The full Thumb Wars movie can be found on YouTube.



George Lucas in Love, George Lucas Strikes Back. Now let's celebrate the man behind the galaxy himself: George Lucas. George Lucas in Love is an 8 minute short that explores what could have possibly inspired George to dream up the world of Star Wars. This is a fun and adept telling of what George might have been like in college and what things he drew from to create his classic story. On a similar note, George Lucas Strikes Back is a hilarious interpretation of where that genius might have went during the prequels. Both are absolutely worth watching for fans and available on YouTube.


Star TrekSuper 8,  Star Trek: Into Darkness. Refreshing up on JJ Abram's most enjoyable sci-fi hits is a surefire way to feel that the latest installment of the beloved saga is in good hands. Watching Star Trek along with its sequel can give a sense of how he previously reinvented and rejuvenated a blockbuster franchise. Revisiting Super 8 helps build confidence of the love and reverence he feels to the filmmakers that came before him and their work. As these are all recent releases, they should all be pretty easy to find via any streaming service.

Attack the Block, Inside Llewyn Davis, Ex Machina. One of the best ways to get really excited for The Force Awakens is by acquainting yourself with its new cast. Attack the Block is a great way to meet John Boyega in action and to get excited about what he can bring to the role. In Inside Llewyn Davis you can spend some time with both Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver (albeit in more of a bit part for Driver.) And with Ex-Machina you can spend even more time with Isaac, while also seeing the acting chops of Domnhall Gleeson. JJ assembled himself a fine cast, and getting yourself excited for what they bring to The Force Awakens will invariably happen if you watch some of their prior work.


Star Wars Saga. OBVIOUSLY the best and most thorough way to prepare yourself for the new movie is to watch the entire series again. Or at the very least just the old trilogy. Either way, by brushing up you'll once again become one with the force and entirely ready to take on a new story set in a galaxy far, far away.

Whatever you do to get yourself ready, now is the time to do it! So go forth, and may the force be with you!

11.16.2015

Paris, Je T'aime

Paris is a city most dear to my heart. Five years ago, as a student traveling abroad, I lived right in the heart of the city for some of the best months of my life. Riding the subways, eating the delectable food, admiring the stunning architecture--every moment spent there became a most treasured memory. Learning of the terrorist attacks that took place there on Friday was absolutely horrifying. A grief for the city and the people I loved struck me deeply, so I turned to solace where I often go: film. Through the art of film, Paris has been immortalized in a way that is perhaps more beautiful than any other city (possibly only equaled by New York City.) To remember and honor this city as it truly is, I wanted to share my five favorite films about Paris.

Amélie

Seeing the world through the eyes of our heroine, Amélie, in the film of the same name is an absolute delight. She sees beauty and opportunity in every moment, and through her, the audience sees the streets of Montmarte light up with potential. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet injects his film with vibrancy and color. The Paris he creates through his heroine's eyes is enchanting and full of good. For Amélie, her life is a chance to help others, and improve their lives for the better. Amélie is a gorgeous slice of Parisian life; a must for Francophiles and lovers of cinema alike.

Ratatouille

Without a doubt, one of the BEST things about Paris is the food. From the savory to the sweet, the cuisine you eat in Paris will undoubtedly be among the tastiest you will ever eat. The filmmakers behind Ratatouille undoubtedly knew this fact, and I'm convinced created an entire movie to celebrate it. The film is consistently charming, clever and chuckle-worthy, and in my opinion, one of Pixar's finest. As a movie that glorifies both Paris and its fabulous cuisine, it can't be beat.

Moulin Rouge

A movie that celebrates the virtues of truth, beauty, freedom, and above all, love probably couldn't have taken place in any other city. Paris is a perfect match for the ideals of both this movie and its wide-eyed protagonist. Baz Luhrmann's version of Paris is a magical and dazzling place where true love can conquer all. He paints the past Paris as almost a fairy tale kingdom--where the Cinderellas happen to be courtesans, and the stepmothers are evil dukes. While the "happily ever afters" here might actually end in sadness, the real celebration is of the beauty we're all capable of coming upon during our lives.
Before Sunset

Paris serves as the backdrop for a deeply intense personal conversation between former lovers Jesse and Celine in Richard Linklater's sequel to Before Sunrise. Killing time before a flight, the two explore the city while catching up on the events that have occurred since their last encounter. In each of Linklater's Before films the city becomes a character, and Sunset's Paris is no different. There's no better city in the world to encourage affection and intimacy than Paris, and naturally, it serves to bring the characters closer. The city of love tends to do that in both real life and the world of cinema!

Midnight in Paris

No one has captured the beauty of Paris quite like Woody Allen did in Midnight in Paris. The first four minutes of the film are nothing but loving portraits of the city. Some moments are still, full of solitude, while others portray the bustling busyness of any big city. No matter the moment--whether it's when we see Paris in those first four minutes or any other time throughout the entire film, the city is glistening. This is, without a doubt, Woody Allen's love letter to Paris. Allen depicts the city the way those who love the city see it and remember it: shining like a diamond.

The city of light may have gone dark for a day, but its spirit will never be dimmed. Whether in movies, or in life Paris will always be the pinnacle of beauty and grace.

PS, I'm gonna be writing articles at The News Hub as well! So check out my article there if you want to see it look all shiny and pretty!