Also known as: Laputa (alternative title) Release Date: August 2nd, 1986 (Japan) Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki Written by: Hayao Miyazaki Music by: Joe Hisaishi Cast: Japanese Language: Mayumi Tanaka, Keiki Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, Minori Terada; English Language: Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill, Andy Dick
Tokuma Shoten, Studio Ghibli, Toei Company, 125 Minutes
“The earth speaks to all of us, and if we listen, we can understand.” – Uncle Pomme
This is the first official Studio Ghibli movie and the studio was off to a tremendous start with this one.
While the same core creative team did Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, two years earlier, this picture took that style and formula and improved upon it.
Where Nausicaä paved the way for Studio Ghibli to be born, it’s this movie that really became the studio’s foundation and allowed for other great animated features to see the light of day and touch the world.
This is just a really fun adventure film that’s family friendly, sweet and kind of cool.
This should go without saying but the art and animation are incredible and pretty damn flawless. This was one of the best looking animated features, up to the point of its release. Ghibli would continue to improve, though, but their later work still doesn’t diminish the visual look of this one.
This may even be a good jumping on point for those who would really like to dive into Studio Ghibli’s oeuvre.
I liked the story here and it was pretty simple, which is all it needed to be. This didn’t need to be overly complex with an overabundance of details that would be unimportant by the end. This, like all Ghibli films, carries a message in its story and its something that is timeless, meaningful and I think that kids can grasp it.
I don’t really want to give too much away with these movies, though, as I want to encourage people to check them out if they haven’t.
Also known as: Kaze no tani no Naushika (original Japanese title) Release Date: March 11th, 1984 (Japan) Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki Written by: Hayao Miyazaki Based on:Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki Music by: Joe Hisaishi Cast: Japanese Language: Sumi Shimamoto, Gorō Naya, Yōji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Iemasa Kayumi; English Language: Alison Lohman, Patrick Stewart, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, Chris Sarandon, Edward James Olmos, Frank Welker, Mark Hamill, Tony Jay
Nibariki, Tokuma Shoten, Hakuhodo, Studio Ghibli (unofficially), 117 Minutes
“Every one of us relies on water from the wells, because mankind has polluted all the lakes and rivers. but do you know why the well water is pure? It’s because the trees of the wastelands purify it! And you plan to burn the trees down? You must not burn down the toxic jungle! You should have left the giant warrior beneath the earth!… Asbel, tell them how the jungle evolved and how the insects are gaurding it so we won’t pollute the earth again. Asbel please!” – Nausicaä
This wasn’t officially a Studio Ghibli film, as that studio didn’t exist yet, but many consider it to be the first and it helped pave the way for that studio’s creation and it becoming the standard barer for what was possible with classic, hand-drawn, 2D animation.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is also the first Studio Ghibli-associated movie that I ever saw. When I fired this up, I didn’t think I had seen it but once certain scenes came on, it flooded back into my memory from childhood. But I’m not sure if I saw this in the theater in the ’80s or if it was on VHS or premium cable. The version I saw would’ve had a different dubbing track than the version that exists now.
Anyway, I absolutely loved this movie from beginning to end. Sure, the story is a bit convoluted and I found some of the details hard to follow, although I am getting older and I partake in edibles in the evening on most nights. So I don’t want to pound too heavily on the plot. Also, some things may be lost in translation, which is common with anime and usually due to how well or poorly the translation and dubbing are.
I felt like the dubbing was pretty damn good, though, and I enjoyed the English voice cast quite a bit. I especially thought that Chris Sarandon’s work really stood out and provided some solid laughs at points, because of how pompous he made his character.
The thing that blew me away, which typically blows people away with Ghibli films, is the animation. It’s just beautiful and smooth and for 1984, I can’t think of any other non-Ghibli movies that looked better.
As I said, this helped pave the way for Studio Ghibli being born. Without this film, we may not have ever gotten all their other iconic work. While I can’t say that this is Hayao Miyazaki’s best feature film, it might very well be his most important.
Also known as: War Wizards (working title) Release Date: January, 1977 (Avoriaz Fantadtic Film Festival – France) Directed by: Ralph Bakshi Written by: Ralph Bakshi Music by: Andrew Belling Cast: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers, Mark Hamill, Susan Tyrrell, Ralph Bakshi (uncredited)
Bakshi Productions, Dong Seo Animation, Twentieth Century Fox, 82 Minutes
“I’m too old for this sort of thing. Just wake me up when the planet’s destroyed.” – Avatar
This is a movie I first saw when I was really young and as a kid, I didn’t really understand it. As an adult, it’s still a pretty bonkers picture but I understand what’s happening in it a bit better.
I think fans of Ralph Bakshi’s work will greatly enjoy this, as it’s definitely one of his most unique and otherworldly films. It also mixes mediums and experiments with its visual style throughout the movie’s 82 minute duration.
Wizards isn’t just a straight up fantasy epic like you might expect if you’ve only seen Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings adaptation or Fire and Ice. This mixes fantasy and science fiction and it’s a real clash of magic versus technology.
Out of everything I’ve seen from Ralph Bakshi, this is his strangest film but it’s also damn cool and pretty original.
The actual plot could’ve been a bit better and finely tuned but you’re so captivated by the intense and alluring visuals that you find yourself in somewhat of a mesmerized daze. Wizards has a hypnotic quality about it and if you went frame-by-frame, you could be lost, analyzing all the artistic detail for days.
In fact, this has so much detail worked into every panel, I feel like you will just miss most of it, as the film flows pretty quickly from moment-to-moment.
I absolutely love the art in this. I don’t like to throw the word “awesome” around too carelessly because it means “to inspire (or cause) awe”. But this is visually awesome, as I had to pause certain parts to appreciate just the detail of the background illustrations.
Also, seeing this now, it brought me to a realization. Even though I didn’t understand the movie as a kid, it had an artistic impact on me. The reason I say that, is I remember a lot of the art I did in elementary school and my style reflects a lot of the things seen in this film, most specifically the buildings and architecture Baskshi used throughout the story.
The detail and look also reminds me of the architectural design and detail that Dave Sim and Gerhard (more effectively) used in the Cerebus the Aardvark comics.
Wizards is a really neat film. It’s not a great one, as an overall package, but the art, itself, makes watching it a really worthwhile experience.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other Ralph Bakshi animated features, as well as the theatrical animated films of the era.
Original Run: November 19th, 1994 – January 31st, 1998 Created by: John Semper, Bob Richardson, Avi Arad, Stan Lee Directed by: Bob Richardson Written by: John Semper, various Based on:Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko Music by: Kussa Mahchi, Jeremy Sweet, Shuki Levy, Joe Perry, Shuki Levy, Kussa Mahchi, Udi Harpaz Cast: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ed Asner, Jennifer Hale, Roscoe Lee Brown, Mark Hamill, Hank Azaria, Joseph Campanella, Martin Landau, Richard Moll, Don Stark, Dawnn Lewis, Majel Barrett, David Warner, Earl Boen
New World Entertainment Films, Genesis Entertainment, Marvel Enterprises, Fox, 65 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)
After the success of the early ’90s X-Men cartoon on Fox, it was natural for the network to ask for more Marvel properties to adapt for their Saturday morning audience. The Spider-Man series was the longest running and most successful of these animated spinoffs.
While the X-Men show still stands as my favorite of these animated Marvel series, Spider-Man is a very, very close second and nearly as good.
The stories are generally well written and even if they have to take some liberties and alter the plots from the comics. This was due to time constraints and by trying to wedge in the debut of Venom really early in the series, which changes the overall timeline of events in Spider-Man’s life, greatly. Also, the showrunners probably wanted to get as many villains added into the mix, early on, so that each new episode felt fresh.
Spider-Man has a massive rogues gallery and this show utilized the core villains really damn well.
The tone of the cartoon is pretty perfect. Sure, there are cheesy and hokey bits in every episode because this is a kid’s cartoon but it does stay pretty true to the tone and style of the source material. Most importantly, it’s true to the characters and the writers obviously knew the Spider-Man mythos well.
I love this show and it’s still fun to have minimarathons of episodes. Honestly, to me, it’s one of the highlights of Disney+.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: the other animated Marvel television series from the ’90s.
Release Date: December 16th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: J.J. Abrams Written by: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow Based on: characters by George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Harrison Ford (uncredited), Billie Lourd, Greg Grunberg, Dominic Monaghan, Warwick Davis, Denis Lawson, Jeff Garlin, Kevin Smith, James Earl Jones (vocal cameo), Andy Serkis (vocal cameo), Ewan McGregor (vocal cameo), Alec Guinness (vocal cameo), Hayden Christensen (vocal cameo), Ashley Eckstein (vocal cameo), Freddie Prinze Jr. (vocal cameo), Olivia d’Abo (vocal cameo), Frank Oz (vocal cameo), Liam Neeson (vocal cameo), Jennifer Hale (vocal cameo), Samuel L. Jackson (vocal cameo), Angelique Perrin (vocal cameo)
Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm, Bad Robot, 142 Minutes
*There be spoilers here!
“We had each other. That’s how we won.” – Lando Calrissian
Congratulations, Disney and Lucasfilm. You finally broke me to the point that I didn’t have the urge to see a Star Wars movie in the theater. Nope, I waited on this one because the previous few movies left such a bad taste in my mouth that I didn’t want to sit in a crowded theater with a bunch of normies clapping like seals every time there was a weak attempt at a cameo or minor victory. Also, people have been ruining the theater experience for awhile, so this film had that working against it already.
Now I figured I’d go see it once the buzz calmed down and the theaters cleared out a few weeks later but even then, it just wasn’t worth the trip or the money for me to make the effort.
Well, I finally watched it now that it’s available to rent and because this COVID-19 bullshit has us all trapped in our houses with nothing to do.
Anyway, as much as I anticipated not liking this, it was the best film of the three from the Disney produced Sequel Trilogy. Some of the more angry fans out there may think that’s crazy of me to say but I respect the effort of J.J. Abrams trying to fix the abortion that Rian Johnson created with The Last Jedi, especially with the weak skill set that Abrams has.
Honestly, they should have called this Star Wars: Episode IX – MacGuffins and Mystery Boxes but I guess that would require Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Bob Iger, Disney and Lucasfilm to actually understand humility and that they aren’t the great storytellers that they think they are.
Now this movie had a lot of weird shit that made certain sequences hard to get through. If I’m being honest, there aren’t really any sequences that didn’t have issues. I’ll list out some of my gripes from memory at the end of the main part of this review, as I did for some of my other Disney Star Wars reviews.
If I’m going to talk about what I liked about this film, I guess it’s that it tried really hard to give good fan service. Not so much, soulless, cheap attempts at winning me back but more like an admission that the series fucked up with the previous Rian Johnson stinker and that Abrams felt sorry and embarrassed that his larger vision for this trilogy was skull fucked in the eye by Johnson.
Rian Johnson cared more about his own ego and career than being the trusted custodian of something much larger than himself, which was created by others who were a lot more talented than he will ever be. If that’s harsh, I don’t care. Johnson didn’t care about the responsibility he signed up for, so he can deal with the repercussions of that from the fans who felt betrayed by his piss pigeon performance.
I’m glad that J.J. Abrams kicked Johnson in the nuts though. And his disdain for Johnson’s wreckage was made abundantly clear in the short scene where Luke returns, stops Rey from throwing her lightsaber away and states, “I was wrong.” Then he goes on to tell her what we all needed him to tell her in the previous film. For Luke Skywalker and Mark Hamill’s sake, I’m glad that the character didn’t go out like a weak piece of shit and was somewhat salvaged.
While on the subject of Rey, though, I still don’t understand how she is just simply the best at everything. She has an insanely weak character arc, hasn’t had anywhere near the level of adversity that Luke and Anakin had and you barely see her train at all and then she can barely deal with a fucking tiny laser drone. It’s like these modern filmmakers don’t think beyond what looks cool on the screen in a shot.
Anyway, this movie is a mess, narratively speaking. It’s really two movies wedged into one, as Abrams had to try and course correct while also coming up with a satisfying ending. That being said, he does okay in trying to achieve this but maybe this should have been longer or released as two parts. But I guess he is stuck with the numbering system and being tight within the framework of a trilogy.
Unfortunately, while we do get to see the main three characters spend some time together, it is hard to buy into their bond, as they spent the first two movies apart. I want to believe in it and I actually like the actors but this is something that needed to be done in every film. This is why people love the trinity of Luke, Leia and Han so much. But for whatever reason, Abrams, Kennedy and Iger don’t understand what worked about previous Star Wars films.
As much as my brain was picking things apart, I still found this to be the most palatable of the Disney Saga films. It’s hard to peg why but I think that Abrams genuinely wanted this to make up for the damage that’s been done and he did put his heart into it. But that also doesn’t mean that he was the right guy for the job way back when they announced him for The Force Awakens. He wasn’t and I had reservations about it back then.
In the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever watch any of these films again. If I do, it won’t be for a very long time. Maybe they’ll work better as a larger body of work but I doubt it with Rian Johnson’s big lame turd sitting smack in the middle of it. Honestly, it’s like a cat jumped on the table, took a shit in the middle of a mediocre pizza and you just decided to eat around it.
Assorted notes and gripes:
Watching the film, I was bombarded with a lot of WTF moments, these are the ones I remember. Maybe I should’ve taken notes.
-The opening crawl, immediately revealing Palpatine’s “resurrection” was cringe and the worst written opening crawl in the franchise.
-Who the fuck is manning all of Palpatine’s Star Destroyers?
-Why would the Star Destroyers break through thick ice to reveal themselves? There are hundreds of them and this seems like it would cause a lot of damage? And they’re already on a very hidden planet to begin with.
-Since Palpatine’s appearance isn’t explained but cloning is implied, am I just to assume that there’s only one Palpatine and not like 364?
-Lightspeed skipping? Really? And they land safely within a different planet’s atmosphere with every skip? Really? I’m no astrophysicist but I’d assume a planet’s atmosphere is a small percentage of a planet’s total structure and that planets themselves take up an insanely small amount of actual space in the universe, as a whole.
-“Hey Rose… you coming on the mission?” “Nah… I’m good, bro!”
-The group goes to outer space Burning Man… really?
-Don’t get me started on the jetpack trooper scene. That’s a clusterfuck of cringe and stupidity.
-I’m alright with the healing power but shouldn’t it drain Rey, even just a little bit. I mean, it fucking kills Kylo like two hours later.
-The Rey v. Kylo’s TIE Fighter scene was absolutely, unequivocally stupid. Just crush that shit with the Force, hoe!
-I guess Abrams views Droids as abused house pets.
-Gurl 1: “Not that you care but I think you’re okay.” Gurl 2: “I care.” Girl power! No lesbian kiss.
-So did C-3PO have red LED lights installed this whole time? Where were they when he was attempting to murder Jedi in Attack of the Clones?
-Rey doesn’t feel Chewie “die” on a ship that’s right in front of her. But then Rey feels that Chewie is alive when he’s much further away.
-Where’s Phasma? Is she really dead now? I thought she was Star Wars‘ version of Kenny from South Park.
-Are the Knights of Ren just laser sword thugs who don’t actually answer to Kylo Ren? Sith in training? Palpatine super soldiers? What the fuck are they?
-How does a billion year-old dagger line up with the wreckage of a Death Star that was built well after the dagger. And how was Rey lined up at the right angle and altitude to make it work? This was just a ripoff of the medallion from The Goonies and it was just stupid.
-I’ve lost count of the number of MacGuffins. I think there were five… maybe six? Is this a G.I. Joe miniseries from 1983? Nah… those were much better written.
-Weak as fuck lightsaber duels. Maybe the weakest in the entire franchise.
-Did Leia die because she called out to Kylo or was that just a perfect timing plot convenience?
-Harrison Ford? Why?
-Luke in 30 seconds was the Luke I wanted in the previous movie.
-Rey in a tiny X-Wing had to navigate through tight, dangerous, moving space corridors to reach the Palpatine planet but the Rebels’ big ass warships simply followed her path? It’s space, can’t they fly around that shit? What about the massive fucking armada of “regular people” that just shows up conveniently to win the war?
-Also, a militia of citizens overthrows a corrupt government by force. When did Hollywood become so blatantly pro-Second Amendment? I kid, Hollywood is just stupid.
-When they’re riding horses on the deck of a Star Destroyer, why doesn’t the ship just turn fucking sideways? It would’ve ended the war. One simple maneuver.
-The teleporting physical objects Force power is another lame plot convenience.
-What’s this random fucking Force Dyad thing? Abrams still thinks he’s making up stories with his toys in the bathtub.
-If Palpatine created Anakin and Anakin created Luke and Leia and Leia created Kylo Ren, all the while Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter, isn’t their attraction kinda incest-y?
-I’d watch a Lando & Chewie in the Falcon movie.
-Why bury the lightsabers? A safe would be more secure.
-Why even take the Skywalker name and why did it take her so long to say it? Maybe because a part of her knew it was wrong to just take their name, their personal shit and Luke’s childhood home. Bitch, you ain’t in the will, that shit all goes to the state!
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: the other Disney era Star Wars movies.
Also known as: Empire of Dreams (shortened title) Release Date: September 12th, 2004 Directed by: Kevin Burns, Edith Becker Written by: Ed Singer Music by: John Williams Cast: George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Warwick Davis, Frank Oz, Lawrence Kasdan, John Williams, Joe Johnston, Ralph McQuarrie, Alan Ladd Jr., Irvin Kershner, Steven Spielberg, Walter Cronkite
“I think George likes people, I think George is a warm-hearted person, but… he’s a little impatient with the process of acting, of finding something. He thinks that something’s there. “It’s right there, I wrote it down. Do that”. You know, sometimes you can’t just “do that” and make it work.” – Harrison Ford
I can’t believe that it’s been fifteen years since this documentary came out. It was the selling point of getting me to buy the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD though, as I had already owned the movies several times over, in all their incarnations, but wanted to have this documentary to keep and rewatch over the years.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen it but it’s available on Prime Video, as well as Disney+ now.
Seeing this again sparked something in me that I hadn’t felt since Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005. It was that feeling of wonder, excitement and childlike awe. Disney is incapable of generating that sensation in me since they took over the Star Wars franchise and honestly, it’s mostly dead to me.
Empire of Dreams brought me back to where I was though from my childhood and into my twenties when I had a deep love for everything Star Wars. But most importantly, this showed me how much better the original movies were compared to Disney’s schlock and the shoddy prequels.
If Disney tried to make an Empire of Dreams followup about their new trilogy, would anyone care? Well, anyone with actual taste that was alive when the original Star Wars phenomenon was still alive and strong? I mean, how interesting would that documentary even be? And do you really even care about seeing any of the modern Star Wars actors and filmmakers talking about these new movies?
Empire of Dreams does a stupendous job of delving deep into the creation of one of the greatest film franchises of all-time. But seeing it with 2019 eyes, it more importantly shows you just how magical the Star Wars brand once was before Disney retrofitted it for an audience of wine moms and broke social justice warriors who can’t afford to buy the merch in the first place.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the original Star Wars trilogy and other Star Wars documentaries.
Release Date: June 18th, 2019 (Paris premiere) Directed by: Lars Klevberg Written by: Tyler Burton Smith Based on:Child’s Play by Don Mancini Music by: Bear McCreary Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, Mark Hamill (voice), Tim Matheson
Orion Pictures, BRON Creative, Creative Wealth Media Finance, KatzSmith Productions, United Artists, 90 Minutes
“[about to stab and mutilate Shane] This is for Tupac.” – Chucky
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have much urge to see this. I didn’t want or need a Child’s Play remake and in fact, I want the franchise to carry on with Brad Dourif as Chucky and Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany wherever Don Mancini wants to use her character. I certainly didn’t want a reboot that misses most of the point of the original film and really could’ve just taken its original ideas and made a movie where this new doll wasn’t Chucky.
After seeing the film, I don’t hate it but I also don’t really like it. It just kind of exists in this weird alternate timeline limbo in my head. The films with Dourif’s Chucky will always be my Child’s Play movies.
Sure, bringing in Mark Hamill as the new voice of Chucky was definitely a great move by the producers, as his voice work is almost always tremendous but it doesn’t make up for the lack of Dourif and the unique personality that he brings to the role. It’s like the remake for A Nightmare On Elm Street. I absolutely love Jackie Earle Haley as an actor but anyone else other than Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger is almost criminal.
It’s not just the change of voice that’s the problem though, it’s the whole “modern take” on the Chucky doll.
In the original film series, Chucky was a human serial killer that used a voodoo spell to hide his soul in a doll in order to evade death. His plan was to then transfer his soul into that of a child to start life over again, as a serial killer in a new, little kid body. I mean, that shit’s terrifying.
In this remake, Chucky is just a robot doll, no soul. He becomes a killer because a disgruntled employee in a Vietnamese factory removed the safety protocols from the Chucky doll’s A.I. chip. Really, that’s it.
I guess the scary thing is that Chucky is basically Siri in the form of a doll, as he can tap into the A.I. of every smart device made by the same Apple-like or Google-like company that manufactured him. So Chucky can control TVs, lights, cameras, automated Uber cars and all types of other shit. While that is actually a cool idea to explore, why did a neat concept like this have to be altered and crammed into a Child’s Play reboot, as opposed to just being its own, fairly original film?
Getting back to the A.I. chip thing, no manufacturer would have individuals manually put safety protocols into a chip. The chips themselves would be manufactured the way they needed to be before some Vietnamese dudes in an assembly line even touched them. The A.I. program would be copied directly to the chip at the point of the chip’s manufacture, as opposed to the doll’s manufacture.
Also, this movie must exist in the future, as we aren’t using automated robot cars as Ubers yet.
Additionally, Chucky seems to be motivated by his emotions, as he wants to be Andy’s BFF but Andy eventually rejects him after the murder spree begins. Are there real emotions there? Is it simply Chucky’s programming that makes him just simulate emotional responses? I’d probably go with the latter but even then, shouldn’t he be trying to win Andy over instead of plotting and executing the sort of revenge that will make Andy hate him? Sure, his safety protocols are gone but what does that have to do with logic?
But the core of what Chucky is, is also why this doesn’t work for me. I knew that the original Chucky was an evil human being that wanted to steal the body of a child at any cost. New Chucky is just a broken iPhone that can walk around and carry a knife. There’s no actual connection to it emotionally because it is just a broken object and not an actual force of true evil.
The film also seems to miss the point about Andy being a kid that is sort of isolated. While he starts out that way in this movie, he quickly makes friends and has a whole posse that he runs around with. In the original, Andy’s attachment to Chucky seemed more real and organic because he was a really lonely kid and because Chucky was actually a human being that knew how to pull Andy’s emotional strings.
Being an Aubrey Plaza fan, I did want to give the film an honest shot because she was in it and I’d like to think that she wouldn’t have done the film if the script was shit. While I enjoy her in this, as I do almost every role she’s played, it’s not enough to salvage the whole picture.
But I also thought that the majority of the cast was solid, despite the film being a mess.
Now the picture did give us some good horror kills with standard slasher level gore but none of the kills were great or anything all that original, except the death by robot Uber but even then, Chucky had to crawl into the car to finish the job.
Honestly, the only thing I truly thought was promising about the film was the concept of a corrupted A.I. turning a doll into a killer that could use your own devices and technology against you. The concept was ruined by having it forced into a pointless reboot instead of being its own fully realized idea that could’ve stood up proudly. But what we got was a kernel of an idea propped up by a now bastardized franchise that was once beloved.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: the original, superior films.
Also known as: John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned (complete title) Release Date: April 28th, 1995 Directed by: John Carpenter Written by: David Himmelstein, John Carpenter (uncredited) Based on:The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham Music by: John Carpenter, Dave Davies Cast: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré, Meredith Salenger, Mark Hamill, Thomas Dekker, Lindsey Haun, Peter Jason, Buck Flower
Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes
“Let’s cut to the chase here… it has become an interest to national science that we carefully research and monitor their developing powers. I ask for another year’s grant.” – Dr. Susan Verner
I loved Carpenter’s work in the ’70s, ’80s and some of the ’90s stuff. When this came out back in 1995, it didn’t resonate with me in the right way. It wasn’t terrible but I didn’t like it and didn’t have much urge to watch it again. But that was over twenty years ago, this was streaming on Starz and I felt like I’d give it a watch because I at least knew I wouldn’t hate it.
To my surprise, I like this more now, in 2018, than I did in 1995.
It’s just eerie as shit but creepy kids usually hit that note, even though creepy kid horror has been done to death at this point. I guess what kind of intrigued me about this picture, is that I didn’t remember why the creepy kids came to be so the mystery of that was fresh to me. However, it’s not fully explained in this and that’s fine. I like that this doesn’t spell everything out for you.
My biggest issue with it though, is that I came up with about a half dozen ways to take out these psychotic little shits. The movie made them come off as nearly invincible and too cunning to defeat. The easiest way to probably deal with them would to be to stealthily set the barn on fire and to have multiple people in the bushes picking them off when they ran out in the confusion. But you could also set traps, use grenades, flamethrowers, all sorts of awesome shit. They’re only a threat if they can focus on your mind and then take over your body. Don’t give them a second to even try, wipe them out.
Anyway, what I’m saying is that the kids are definitely creepy and powerful but beating them wouldn’t require one man walking into the lion’s den, trying to stall them with a conversation, having a mind battle and then letting a bomb with a timer (set way too long) eventually go off.
Other than all that, this is a fun movie. It’s a bit slow at times but it had more of a classic Hitchcock feel to it than standard Carpenter fair. And maybe that’s because this is a remake of an old school horror film from 1960. It sort of pulls you back to the narrative style of those pictures. Plus, the cinematography reminded me a lot of The Birds, especially the simple shots of the kids creepily walking around the small coastal town.
One thing I loved about this film was Kirstie Alley. She was kind of badass and has never been cooler than she was here. Also, this brought her together with Christopher Reeve (Superman), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Michael Paré (Tom Cody from Streets of Fire). Being that Alley was once Saavik from the Star Trek films made this a fairly cool mix of talent. Also, the other female lead was Linda Kozlowski, who was in all those Crocodile Dundee movies.
Another question though, is why did these kids dress the same and have the same haircuts. Did they demand this look until their parents caved? Did these alien demon children really care about their appearance?
I admit, it makes them creepier but it’s strange when you think about it. “Mommy, I want boring grey dress and hair like Joey Lawrence from Gimme A Break!” “Oh, okay… but all those weirdo kids you like dress like that, already. Don’t you want to wear this cool Ren & Stimpy shirt and a Zubaz backpack? Show them lame asses some style?” “No, mommy! I squishes your brain! Dress me like church lady!”
Anyway. This is better than my memory of it. Still, nowhere near Carpenter’s best but definitely better than most of his work after this.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: Other Carpenter films: In the Mouth of Madness, Prince of Darkness and The Fog.
Release Date: December 9th, 2017 (Los Angeles Premiere) Directed by: Rian Johnson Written by: Rian Johnson Based on: characters created by George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, Frank Oz
Lucasfilm Ltd., Walt Disney, 152 Minutes
*Warning: there will be spoilers!
“When I found you, I saw raw, untamed power… and beyond that, something truly special.” – Supreme Leader Snoke
Well, it’s been two years since Episode VII – The Force Awakens and while I wasn’t a huge fan of that film, I hoped that its derivative nature was just to set things up for a new generation and that this chapter in the franchise would feel wholly original and tread new territory. So does it? And did I leave this film feeling as satisfied as I did with last year’s one off tale Rogue One?
The Last Jedi, for the most part, is pretty humdrum. There are a few things I like but let me run through it all.
To start, we have an okay movie with a shaky story but at least it’s not a rehash of stuff we’ve seen. Rian Johnson pretty much made this film the anti-The Force Awakens, as it doesn’t need to copy what’s been done already. Sure, there are some similarities with other Star Wars plots but nothing on the level of the grand plagiarism that was J.J. Abrams’ film, two years prior. I actually wrote about that at great length in my review about that film.
However, original or not, that doesn’t mean this is automatically great. In fact, it really isn’t.
So other than this story feeling new and fresh, I liked that Luke and Leia were both at the forefront and not just side characters. Being that this was Carrie Fisher’s last outing as Leia, I was happy to see her get to be more pivotal to the overall story in this chapter. Although, the bit where she is floating in space and uses the Force to float back to her damaged ship was damn bizarre. There were other bizarre uses of the Force in the film that kind of irked me too but this one really stood out. It just didn’t fit.
Luke was shit. I didn’t care for this older version of the character so much. I get his reasoning for why he checked out on the universe but the greatest Jedi ever shouldn’t have the emotional maturity of a nihilistic teenager. So what, his nephew lost his shit and Luke feels guilty about it. That doesn’t mean that Kylo Ren can’t be saved and that Luke doesn’t have the responsibility to try and bring him back.
Getting to the mysteries that people were speculating over for two years, I’m glad that they went the route they did. While most of my friends were entertaining every fan theory since The Force Awakens came out, I just assumed Rey and Snoke were both nobodies and their origins weren’t connected to anything significant to the overall narrative. I was right. Still, with Snoke, at least, I’d like some backstory, even if it’s just in a book or a casual mention of his connection to the Dark Side.
Snoke was also a red herring, in that he was just there for misdirection and to be a pseudo-Palpatine. His real purpose was just to be someone powerful for Kylo Ren to wipe out on his quest to rule the galaxy. And I’m glad to see him out of the way so Ren can toss General Hux, the First Order’s ginger Hitler, around like a dime store rag doll.
I did like Kylo Ren’s evolution and how he is still very much effected by things from his past and it’s his mission to annihilate those things while just looking forward. The dynamic between Ren and Rey was good and they have some solid chemistry, which will only add to the struggle of both characters’ growth in the next picture. Ultimately, when these two do have their final showdown, it should be interesting enough thanks to the seeds that were sown in this chapter. But really, this was just about the only real strength that this picture had.
Finn was a waste. His adventure was a waste and ultimately proved to be absolutely pointless. His section of the film could be removed entirely and the overall narrative and fluidity of the movie would have been much better. If they had nothing for Finn to do, they should have left him in his coma. If I were John Boyega, I’d be kind of pissed.
Poe is still here and at least he gets more to do than he did in The Force Awakens but he still doesn’t feel as pivotal to the plot as he could be. I like Oscar Issac a lot and hope that he essentially becomes the Resistance’s lead commander by the next film. He needs to be more like Han Solo in his General Solo role. But he’s not on a great trajectory when all the women constantly emasculate him for… reasons. If I were Oscar Issac, I’d be kind of pissed.
A lot of people also speculated on the returns of other characters but out of all the theories, only the Yoda one came true. He appears for a short bit just to remind Luke about the bigger picture. Sadly, he wasn’t sitting at a ghost table with ghost Kenobi, ghost Anakin and Ghost-Gon Jinn playing poker. I feel like the Yoda scene may have had more impact if the other three ghost Jedi were there too. But at least we get to see Yoda burn the ancient Jedi tree and cackle like a crackhead about it.
So a big part of the story’s premise has to deal with how the First Order are able to track the Resistance through hyperspace jumps, which was impossible before. So Snoke’s command ship and a massive fleet are trailing the Resistance, who are running out of fuel. I’m not super keen on this being the crux of the story’s framework, as it doesn’t work well for a lot of reasons.
However, the film sort of just ignores the already established physics of Star Wars hyperdrive travel. In this film, the travel feels way to quick and convenient. While this hasn’t been all that consistent in other movies, comics and books over the years, it just feels sloppily handled here. Also, the First Order’s device that tracks the Resistance looks like a giant Flux Capacitor.
There are two really fun showdowns here. One is when Kylo Ren takes Rey to Snoke. The other is when Luke shows up to stand between the First Order and the Resistance. Both were pretty unique confrontations and weren’t just simple lightsaber battles. Johnson did a decent job in writing those sequences in a way that made them different. And each one comes with a good curveball or two. The moment where Luke, all alone, stands before the First Order’s might is pretty friggin’ chilling. But then Luke is just a Force apparition and the coolness of that moment is like air seeping out of a balloon: deflated.
One thing that may create confusion is that half the time characters say “Resistance” and the other half they say “Rebels” or “Rebellion”. They still use the Rebellion logo, so why did they change to the Resistance in the first place and really, why the hell isn’t the First Order just called the Empire? That’s like admitting defeat. Just say, “Screw you, Rebels! We’re the Empire! We’re still here! You didn’t kill us with your teddy bear friends!”
I know that I am being nitpicky about some stuff but ultimately, the film has major problems.
Unfortunately, J.J. Abrams is returning to direct the still unnamed Episode IX, the final chapter of this trilogy. I really hope that his tendency to borrow entire movies is behind him and that he takes cues from… I don’t know… anything other than past Star Wars movies. No more superweapons! At least not for a really long time.
The more I think about and reflect on this film, the more I dislike it. It just has so many problems and really, it feels like the magic of Star Wars died a long time ago. Maybe it was gone when the prequels came out and I couldn’t accept it but at least those films had imagination. The Disney films rely too much on what has been established and are just cheap and nearly soulless attempts at trying to replicate the magic of the originals. I never thought that Star Wars would let me down as massively as the live-action Transformers movies did but Disney has made it so that Star Wars doesn’t feel special anymore. And frankly, I’m losing interest in this franchise that, at one point, was the biggest pop culture thing in my life.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: The other Disney Star Wars films.
Also known as: The Adventures of Batman & Robin, The New Batman Adventures (relaunched direct sequel series) Original Run: September 5th, 1992 – September 15th, 1995 (original series run), September 13th, 1997 – January 16th, 1999 (sequel series run) Created by: Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski Directed by: Kevin Altieri, Kent Butterworth, Boyd Kirkland, Frank Paur, Eric Radomski, Dan Riba, Dick Sebast, Bruce Timm Written by: Laren Bright, Alan Burnett, Sean Catherine Derek, Paul Dini, Steve Perry, Michael Reaves, Randy Rogel, Brynne Stephens Based on:Batman by Bob Kane Music by: Danny Elfman (theme), various Cast: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Bob Hastings, Robert Costanzo, Loren Lester, Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin
DC Comics, Warner Bros., Fox, 109 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)
*Written in 2014. Also covers the sequel series, which is more or less now considered the final season of the show.
I’ve been revisiting this series lately, as it has been a long time since I’ve watched it in its entirety. Also, I wanted to do a list for this site that counts down the top fifty episodes of the series. That post will come in the near future.
In my estimation, this is probably the greatest animated series of all-time. Many will argue against that but I can’t think of any other that was as entertaining, epic, stylish, consistent, engaging or that had the quality of this series. There were a few hiccups with episodes drawn by lesser quality animation studios but those houses were quickly let go, as the show’s producers felt a necessity to maintain the show’s otherwise impeccable quality.
Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski created a unique world for Batman to play in and Paul Dini (who later went on to write amazing Batman comics) created some amazing scripts. In fact, their legacy and the influence of this show will live on forever, as many of the characters and situations created for the show, went on to live in the comic books.
Without this show, we would not have Harley Quinn, Renee Montoya and the awesome origin of Mr. Freeze, which was so awesome that it propelled him to being the greatest villain in this series and lead to him being featured as the main protagonist in the second animated film based off of this series.
Batman: The Animated Series was also innovative in the way that they produced it visually. As opposed to the industry standard of designing large set pieces and landscapes by coloring in white paper, they instead used light colors painted over black backgrounds. It provided this show with a dark atmosphere but not in a dreary way; it was more of an inviting film-noir style with very complimentary and carefully chosen colors added in.
The voice actors in this series were top notch. Mark Hamill, who was typecast after playing the iconic Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy, was given a second life when he was cast to voice the Joker. Kevin Conroy was equally as good as Batman. Both men actually continued to voice these characters for years after this show went off the air. In fact, both voiced these characters as recently as the Arkham video game series and some of the animated movies.
For an American produced animated series, this show is about as perfect as you can get. There are very few shows that can maintain a level of quality this high for over 100 episodes.
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