Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, what have ye done? Taken your beloved franchise and downgraded it you have. This child-like installment had a positive force surrounding it’s premier showing, bringing back humanity’s favorite universe. Phantom Menace takes us to the beginning, to when there was balance in the force, to where we meet a young pod-racing slave, Anakin Skywalker, who contains too much “midichlorian” for his own good. Qui-Gon Jinn, a jedi master, informs young Annie the power he holds, that he is to be taught in the ways of the Jedi and is, in fact, the chosen one. This starts an epic journey across the galaxy of hardship and a dark personage with a sinister agenda.

We don’t just follow Skywalker’s first steps to becoming a Jedi, but we witness the start of a secretly planned, and I must say it is cleverly planned, that shadows this first trilogy. The Trade Federation becomes greedy, taxing resources higher, fueling a war with Naboo. The Republic’s army is weak and rumors of a Sith Lord has spread throughout the galaxy. This starts an unforeseen chain reaction throughout Episodes I, II, and III that only the unsaid mastermind himself could stop if only it didn’t benefit him in the future. The over arching story is subtle in its manifestation where it’s aftermath, the second trilogy, is more straight forward, which all can be described into one word: EPIC.

Another pro for this installment is some of the characters that were created. Like Qui-Gon Jinn who is Obi-Won Kenobi’s master during his young apprenticeship. Qui-Gon, played by Liam Neeson, as one of the best Jedi Knights and masters in Star Wars history. Most notable mention is Darth Maul, possibly the scariest, most badass, and most underused character in the whole universe! This, needlessly to say, ticked me off. Darth Maul has the awesome double sided lightsaber and horns erupting from his black, fire-like face. Oh, and really bad teeth. He had an onscreen presence that would soak up more light than Darth Vader. Although I wouldn’t go as far to say he was more powerful than Vader but definitely had the moves. Now an additional character I thought was rather sloppy and gave a childish aura was Jar-Jar Binks. As a child, myself, I thought he was funny, but now i don’t find him quite amusing as I did before. After recently watching this, I would have preferred his friend, who’s name escapes me, but you can spot him helping Jar-Jar in the Naboo scenes rocking a Fu Man Chu mustache. I would’ve liked to see him have more screen time and Jar-Jar, not erased, but less time so his comedic effort isn’t so overwhelming. And finally the wonderfully played Anakin *cough*. Again, on my first viewing i was about his age and everything was fine. But dear me, his acting would’ve been better in a Disney Channel original. However, let’s not piss this guy off, alright? He’s got enough emotions to deal with…

When Phantom Menace was released in 1999, it was during an era where almost every movie was trying out this wondrous thing that got rid of prosthetics and do this impressive thing called CGI. The CGI usage is strong with this one, and lemme tell you it’s not that impressive. This first edition to the beloved saga could have used a bit more authentic special effects. Although the pod racing scene is definitely one to check out.

I remember my dad purchasing this movie on a double VHS special edition. It had an intro before the film by George Lucas and had a Making of featurette. Good memories. Watching this movie years later and understanding the backstory and noticing the subtleties has given a whole new outlook and understanding on the second renowned trilogy. Although flawed and cringe worthy dialogue moments, this and it’s two sequels are worth watching for it’s in depth story and amazing fight scenes that range from duels to epic battles among the stars.

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A Fish Called Wanda (1988) – IMDb

via A Fish Called Wanda (1988) – IMDb.

A dark comedy with sex, diamonds, foreign accents, and fish. A Fish Called Wanda kicks off with a group of four burglars who steal diamonds from a bank but unknowingly each of them wants to keep the loot for themselves. John Cleese writes this hysterical farce dishing out one-liners, vulgarities, and a clever-wit accompanied by a great story. This is his personally favorite film of his and he also stars as the lawyer who defends one of the suspects. If he’s lucky enough he may get a share of the loot and even the sexiest, most exciting woman he’s ever seen.

A Fish Called Wanda is a perfectly cast film. Even more so for Kevin Kline who won an Oscar for his performance, which surprised me because you don’t see that happen too often in this genre. It’s a stand out performance you will need to witness for yourself as the loony, don’t-call-me-stupid role, Otto. I can’t help but think if Super Mario was a villain in real life it would be Kevin Kline. I mean, look at how he jumps at the beginning of the movie in the garage when he and Wanda find out the loot has been relocated, reminds me of the older days of 2-D Mario.  Another stand out role is Jamie Lee Curtis who is sexy as ever as the conniving Wanda. She is determined to get her diamonds at any cost even if it means she has to kiss every major role player here (why couldn’t I have been a part of this?). Wanda pretends to be a law student and must get ‘friendly’ with a lawyer, Archie Leach (John Cleese), hoping he could tell her where the diamonds are since he is defending George, the one who relocated the loot. And then there’s the other Monty Python alumni, Michael Palin, as the stuttering K-K-Ken who is an animal lover and possibly has the saddest sub-plot who must kill the only witness: an elderly lady with three dogs. Palin’s father had a stutter so he knew how to transfer his experiences to the film.

Everyone did an excellent job in this funny, funny fare. Cleese wrote a story that is a bit messy but gets flattened out by the end (ba-da-bum-bum). A Fish Called Wanda is a smart, cleverly written movie that has hysterical moments and inside jokes that will leave you laughing so hard your heart beat will race 250-500 beats a minute like the guy in Denmark who died laughing in the theater. Yes, really. A forgotten gem that should be watched to remember how funny a good comedy can be with a smart story line and witty, fun characters. If you decide to watch this with a side of Fish n’ Chips don’t eat the green fish, it’s not ripe yet.

Hell to Eternity (1960) – IMDb

via Hell to Eternity (1960) – IMDb.

Over at my grandfather’s  I’m scanning his book collection which consists of WWII stories and other knowledgeable information on the war. Now he is someone who watches a lot of History Channel or Military Channel and anything in between on WWII to the point my grandma comes in the room and asks him “did Hitler win the war yet?” Among his historical book collection, he pulls out a book titled Saipan by Guy Gabaldon. My grandfather showed me the book was signed by Guy and they even had a few pictures together. I became interested and so I edged my grandpop to tell me more. Certainly, this was an offer he couldn’t refuse, he began to tell me it was about a young man who fought in the pacific and persuaded hundreds of Japanese civilians and soldiers to surrender single handedly. Now that is a great wartime story. After I found out Saipan was made into a full feature length film, knowing me, I located it on Amazon and purchased a copy for my grandfather and I to watch.

To rewind a little, Guy Gabaldon was born in Los Angeles, CA. At an early age he was orphaned and then was raised by a Japanese family who took him in in the 1930s and he even began learning their language and customs. Once 18, he was sent to fight for the U.S. on Saipan in 1944, an island off of Japan. Hell To Eternity starts with build up then the rest is shipped to the islands for the war where marines were getting killed left and right, fortunately Guy knew Japanese and used it to his advantage by communicating with the enemy. This was most helpful when he surprised the Japanese leader and told him to call off the attack or else he, the leader, would be shot. He told Guy that the order was already given, so regardless if he was killed or not the orders would be carried out. Guy takes the general out to call his men off and turn themselves in. Now, if you know Japanese custom, this is dishonorable and you would take your life for your country. The general conveys the message to his troops who are battered and starving and explains to Guy it wasn’t a pretty sight seeing his troops surrender. After hearing their leader’s command they submit and the general takes his life overlooking his several hundred men. Guy Gabaldon courageously turned in 800 hundred Japanese. An amazing, unheard of story I found inspirational and eye opening.

The movie is shot in black and white but the movie moves at a decent pace. Actually, some real WWII footage was used for the landing on the beach. Hell to Eternity is not all that violent but there is blood and many gunshot wounds. Wonderfully shot, the explosions and fight scenes are a great depiction of what happened on Saipan, so no need to worry about boredom. The story, though, is truly the main feat. Everything from seeing Guy’s new found family being sent to an American-Asian camp (who my grandfather even remembers at a young age nice Japanese neighbors being forced to move away) to delivering the unarmed, Japanese soldiers. I found myself relating to this movie, but in a sense of trading and receiving culture. I’ve grown up all over the place and my grandfather is Mexican and I’m Caucasian, and yet we’re very alike. Also, see below picture, right is Guy Gabaldon and left is the actor who portrayed Guy, Jeffrey Hunter. This is like SO Hollywood, getting a white man in Hispanic shoes, no bash though, Jeffrey did a fine job. Culture is everywhere and if we can set everyone’s differences to the side the world would be a more happy place. Family knows no color. I enjoyed this movie and I am happy it’s in my collection already. Do yourself a favor, dig up this classic and give it a watch.

Caddyshack (1980) – IMDb

via Caddyshack (1980) – IMDb.

A movie that ages like fine wine. Released in 1980, Caddyshack wasn’t warmly accepted by critics and audience alike saying it was too crass and had no class, I say nay, this movie was ahead of it’s time and people couldn’t see the big laughs presented. The laughs come fast at knock out speed with full attitude. Caddyshack is nothing but zany, silly humor that is both witty and dumb and will none the less end in laughter.
At first, you may think “oh, this is too much and old fashioned, I’m not going to like it” but don’t quit so early, the movie has just begun! I didn’t even catch all the laughs the first time round, or the second; some laughs I found more rewarding once I knew some of the history of the movie. I’ll give credit to the whole crew for all the booz and drugs done off camera. A lot of talent is to be had here, you have three SNL guys and a veteran actor. Ted Knight plays a veteran judge and is very old fashioned. He has with him his wife and the sexy granddaughter who likes to have fun and can palm read. As for the SNL crew they deliver if not all the laughs. Chevy Chase as a cool womanizer who is heading through life kind of aimlessly. His acting is hilarious under his calm demeanor. Rodney Dangerfield delivers the most energy and is the most obnoxious golfer to be around, but only if you don’t know how to party; his delivery on one-liners are stellar and will have you rolling on the floor. And finally, you have Bill Murray, the man who pretty much rewrote his whole script and played such a goofy character trying to kill a golfer, sorry gofer, who has been tunneling all over the golfing premises. I loved every minute Bill was on screen. From the story he tells when he met the Daila Lama to the Cinderella story are just priceless.  What made that even cooler was having Bill and Chevy on the same screen together. It’s a small bit but it’s funny despite the two having quarrel at the time. They were two legends from SNL taking drags from homemade grass and swigs of alcohol, just a beauty on screen.
There are just too many lines to remember, so many scenes to replay in your mind and laugh, thanks to the editing. This is due to the movie length being cut down from like a three hour film to just 98 minutes. Makes me curious as to what was cut out. With all the drinking to the side, there must have been a lot of ad-libbing. And with a comfortable atmosphere anything can happen, thanks to the director, Harold Ramis (Groundhog) who was very level headed and always had a smile on his face. Sad to hear his recent passing but always made movies that had laughter.
Hold the phone, Caddyshack delivers such great comedic performances I forgot to mention there is a storyline, Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) is an upcoming caddy trying to earn a scholarship by winning the caddy tournament. This simple storyline is just teased through a good portion of the movie, being overshadowed by the comedic performances, the conclusion swings everything nicely together in one hole.
I have re-watched Caddyshack many times and I find more reasons to watch it one more. This movie will grow with you the more you watch it, you get it’s humor and laugh at something you didn’t notice before. It’s great to watch with friends or just to relax for a laugh after a long day. You don’t want to miss out on this comedy classic.

Judge Smails: You know, you should play with Dr. Beeper and myself. I mean, he’s been club champion for three years running and I’m no slouch myself.

Ty Webb: Don’t sell yourself short Judge, you’re a tremendous slouch.

The Babadook (2014) – IMDb

via The Babadook (2014) – IMDb.

What do you do when your kid asks you if you want to die? Especially if it’s coming from your son who no one wants to be around with. Even you start wishing your boy was normal. The Babadook is a very well written boogeyman tale that delves into your psyche and hits the dark corners of your mind and emotions you wouldn’t expect it to do at first sight. Firstly, you have a single mother, Amelia, played wonderfully by Essie Davis (where’s the nomination?) who works at a retirement home and takes good care of her seven year old son. She is in need of help, mostly due to the absence of the affectionate touch from a man in her life and sleep depravity. Someone give this woman some chocolate and a day off. Amelia lost her husband on the day of the birth of her child, Samuel. Samuel is a troubled kid who fancies magic and plays with his imagination. But when is it ever imagination? He takes up arms in defense from this dark force and, like his father, speaks his mind, talking about the monster where ever he goes, even scaring kids his age. The crazy talk is heightened to a new level when Amelia says Samuel can choose a story to read before bedtime, of all stories he chooses The Babadook. The words and the pop-up pictures are no less than unsettling and peculiar. Where did this book come from? Like the film itself, the book is draped in black and grey, paling colors making it feel ghostly and depressing. She says to choose another book but Samuel wants to keep reading the story he has chosen. From here, the weird begins to escalate. Amelia even rips up the book and tosses it. But after three heavy knocks at the door, the book returns at her door step. She turns for help from her sister, Claire, but she wants nothing to do with her, especially Amelia’s son who talks about a monster and unintentionally hurts Claire’s daughter. Good going. More sleepless nights occur, more encounters with the boogeyman. Amelia looks to the police to report someone stalking her and her son, but she knows they would write her off as crazy. The stress level starts to wear down on Amelia and you see it, you even start to experience it. My head felt toyed. Is this real or is she just experiencing a nightmare? She begins to mistreat the boy (oops, I said it) like her psyche takes a sinister turn. It’s something you wouldn’t hear her say or see her do, it’s just not her, not what a mother would do.

The story is similar to the likes of Insidious and many other scary movies involving a troubled kid and a dark spirit who wants to house your body. What makes this different though is it’s approach. Even though there are some good creepified moments, this movie isn’t all that terrifying. It was more psychological than expected and focused on family values. There’s a lot of build up, too, which made it more of a drama. The ending leaves you a bit unsatisfied seeing that the first 3/4 of the movie promised a strong conclusion. You will be scratching your head. Have you figured it out?
I plan on adding this film to my collection. The Babadook will hook you in to it’s dark atmospheric tale. The build up helps you understand Amelia and Samuel’s situation which is why you care and makes moments more stressful. The mother even becomes scary at a point, but I recommend you watch this just to see how The Babadook stands out from other horror gems. By the way, if you hear three knocks, don’t let it in.

It Follows (2014) – IMDb

via It Follows (2014) – IMDb.

Having heard about this movie last year gave me interest. I didn’t know anything about the movie and I kept it that way; I just knew I had to see it. Come 2015 and it’s granted a wide theatrical release. My moment has come, so I grab a few dollars and head over to my nearest theater where it was about half full (at the time everyone was watching Furious 7). The movie will make a larger effect once it hits home, but probably not so well in theaters. Director David Robert Mitchell has quite a movie on his hands, one that will disturb and terrorize the viewer.
It Follows begins with an anonymous teenager who is in the middle of being ‘followed’. She rushes to her car and makes it to the beach. She sits, waiting in the headlights on the shore expecting her follower to appear at any moment. Next scene she’s all mangled up which shocks the viewer and lets you know what you’re in for. That scene is quite disturbing, but doesn’t end there. The movie has more to offer. The story is about a young girl, Jay, who goes out with this guy, who her friends approve of. We eventually figure out the mysterious stud’s motive: he wants sex. But sex holds a darker secret, he wants to pass on an evil entity so It will stop following him. Douche. He does explain to our misfortunate protagonist that all she has to do is have sex with someone else and pass it onto the next guy. Jay is cute though so it should be easy right? It comes with a catch, you can still see the entity but once it gets a hold of it’s victim and kills them, it will start going back down the line of the previous victims to whoever started the whole thing.
Now, anytime It is present, those are the moments you feel the terror and despair. It’s in it’s presence, the slow but dedicated walk to it’s target like it’s confident it will get you, and it will torment and kill you. The entity takes many forms, strangers or close acquaintances, and not always is it the center of the frame. Sometimes you can catch it walking in the background, still making it’s steady pace, but when the entity is in focus, terror reigns. That is one thing I love about this film is that Mitchell directs every scene as it is. Like when the entity breaks through the kitchen window and walks toward Jay…just disturbing. I felt her fear. There is something artful about It Follows and I like it.  The scares are slowly built up and the jumps come fast.
The film would be much less if it wasn’t for the music. The music is like John Carpenter and 80s synthesizers which gives the movie a creepy vibe. Like the sizzling scare factor, the acting is restraint, only when you are involved in the terror sequences is when the acting begins to jump up. Many sequences also seem random, so there’s a feeling of chilling vulnerability.
I read a review saying the girl with the glasses, Yara, was unneeded, come to think of it, she really didn’t do much. Especially at the end when the action picks up and her leg gets shot. Great now you’re fighting something you can’t see with a limp. I did have some other problems with a couple parts. ( no real spoilers) When Paul uses a chair to hit the entity he does hit it and It throws him out of the way, or when he shoots It in the head and blood fills the pool – is this ‘entity’ supposed to have some kind of invisible body? Also, some scenes felt like they didn’t need to be there or dragged for a bit. There’s a sum of audience out there that don’t like slow movies and this has a couple of slow pace moments. I’m not bothered by slowness, cause I kinda am, but this is just a fore warning.
To be honest, I don’t like the buzz around the movie saying “It Follows is the scariest movie in a decade”. First of all, calm down, this movie had some really good bits and also subtle, but I wouldn’t hail it as the best. I think it’s better then many teen screams that have come out but this feels a little more adult oriented. I say give it some time, let the film sink into the American horror backdrop fabric, step back and see it for what it is. In time, I do think It Follows could be a cult classic. It does, however, deliver the terror and shock. It’s up there with Teeth and Contracted and in a way, is better than it’s sexual horror cousins.
All in all, this is a good movie. The entertainment is there and sure to satisfy your thirst for a scare. I’m wondering if there will be a sequel, just curious where it would go. Not saying it’s a necessity though, It Follows can hold it’s own. I recommend this for horror fans and paranoid people. *evil laugh*

The Imitation Game (2014) – IMDb

via The Imitation Game (2014) – IMDb.

This new preview clip of The Imitation Game, the upcoming biography ...

Upon watching The Imitation Game I found myself liking the movie very much. A man named Alan Turing is a bit of an awkward person who was not popular in school. He is a genius and not at all normal. Alan didn’t succeed at making friends, however, where he was unsuccessful his mind and bold honesty will take him far. Actually only until he was 41, sadly, besides that he left his footprint in history. And that ladies and gents was Christopher. Mr.Turing was hired by the secret British service for his brain to solve the enigma and help win the war, with a hand full of other crossword enthusiasts and mathematicians. He left us with a sort of digital brain that will later lead to more important research. This contraption he made was named Christopher, a machine that could decode. This machine’s purpose was to crack Hitler’s enigma which was, at the time, said to be unbreakable. The codes were hidden Nazi plans and if the codes are cracked, Britain not only would save lives but would have a better chance of winning the war.

Whenever I watch a movie that has one small line: Based on True Events or along that matter, I can’t help but look at it like a dog listening to a high pitch sound. Is Hollywood serious about this or are they trying to make another dollar by attracting the masses by entertainment? Unfortunately, that is part of the case. After watching the entertaining Imitation Game, I looked up some reviews, a lot were like me who enjoyed the movie but others were heavy on how frustratingly inaccurate it let itself become. Apparently, the  Polish created the first enigma in the 1930s and then the Germans took it and made their own improvements. Alan Turing didn’t work on his machine alone but had help by others, plus people who were part of the decoding team weren’t even acknowledged in the movie. Among other hiccups, the other reviewers detailed it better but it doesn’t hurt to do a little research (if only Hollywood did). Does Hollywood believe there are no other historians out there who would crack their movie and find their lies? There are facts in history that be found by a click of a button or whipping out your phone. Hollywood likes to remember history a certain way which sacrifices historical accuracy for entertainment (Pearl Harbor). I think it’s funny how some historical fiction gets more history right than a movie based on an actual event.

Regardless of the history, although important, this is a good flick. I must mention the writing first, which is smart and very fun. There was a lot of word jugglery that made sense for each person and will leave you chuckling at perfect moments throughout the story. “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” The movie touches upon many subjects: Machines, Man, Secrets, Lies, Truths, and what makes us think differently. Some subject matter went deeper than expected, like accepting the people who are not ‘normal.’ The performances weren’t hail worthy, except maybe Benedict Cumberbatch, but they all succeeded what they set out to do. Matthew Goode’s (Watchman)  character, a womanizer, stood out to me as a calm, cool person who you had earn his respect before he accepted you. But as cast in all, they all had good chemistry. 

The Imitation Game is worth a watch for it’s entertainment value, and a couple historical nods. With a brisk pace and a high prduction, you can find yourself in enjoyment. And most importantly, stay different my friends.