Monthly Archives: February 2016

evolution_17_head_and_shoulders2-500x281

The Indefinsibles: Evolution (2001)

Gabby: So it is my turn with a sci-fi pick, and I went with…

Jeremy: Evolution. David Duchovny and a group of somewhat lovable misfits rush to stop an alien threat that’s evolving as rapidly as the script’s color wheel of rewrites.

Brett: Gabby, let’s start with why you like this movie. What about it struck you?

Gabby: Well for one thing I hadn’t watched it in years. I thought it might be a great dynamic for us. With that and the fact that neither of you had watched it before, if I am correct?

Brett: Not only had I never seen this movie, I knew nothing about it. Seriously, everything I knew about this movie was on the DVD cover. Not the back cover, mind you. The front cover.

Jeremy: I skipped it in theaters because of the reviews. I rented and never finished it – though I didn’t turn it off voluntarily. I can’t remember what happened, but some minor emergency popped up and ate up the rest of the night. I had work in the morning and the video was due back. I just said, “Yeah, I’m good.” Pretty sure I stopped right before the mall scene, which is a shame: it’s the highlight of the movie.

Gabby: I really enjoy that mall scene.

Jeremy: It works because they’re doing something. There are way too many exposition scenes and other dithering about. The movie goes out of its way at times to avoid the aliens. It’s another sign that they probably didn’t know the movie they were making during filming.

Take the elephant in the room, Ghostbusters (another film directed by Ivan Reitman). Bill Murray and company are busting ghosts by, what, the thirty-minute mark? About an hour into Evolution, I threw my hands up in the air in frustration and said, “Oh great, now they’re sitting down for breakfast…”

Brett: I want to start positive. I will say, I didn’t hate it, but I had a hard time keeping hold of it. I felt like the plot was going to dissolve in my hands like spun sugar at any moment. It’s a little frustrating, because I can easily imagine a version of this movie that really clicked and fired on all cylinders.

Jeremy: There were only a few scenes where I actively hated this movie, mostly when Julianne Moore was treated like a redheaded piece of meat. Right about when theatre_of_blood_poster_03_1_t614Orlando Bloom had a surprisingly long and crass rant about Julianne Moore, wanting to shag David Duchovny, I thought I was going to have to go the full Jeremy on this movie. Then, an alien insect flew up Orlando Jones’ ass. And since his character deserved an unwelcome anal intrusion at the time, my feelings turned less hostile, reverting back to ambivalence. By the end, I was like, “They kinda tried.”

Brett: I checked online. This was a straight forward sci-fi movie before a rewrite added jokes to it. In a way, this doesn’t work for the reason Ghostbusters does. In Ghostbusters, the movie is serious. It is only the reactions, or cool lack there of, that makes it funny. The situations are never inherently comical.

In this, too many situations are made comical, and those are the bits that most failed to land. It wouldn’t take much to make Ghostbusters a sci-fi / horror movie. It would take a hell of a lot to make Evolution a serious movie. Even though, you can see the serious movie it once was peeking out in several scenes. That’s what made it so frustrating. I would be getting into it, we’d be driving along just fine, and then they’d plow the car into a snow bank.

The more I think about it, the more parallels I can draw. I could almost do a “this worked in Ghostbusters, and this is why it doesn’t work here.”

Jeremy: I was going to bring up the script rewrites if someone else didn’t. What I’m curious about is whether the jokes also changed through the production. Something clicked for me when I looked at the DVD box art and noticed this: “From the people who brought you Ghostbusters and Road Trip.”

True, Ivan Reitman was involved in both movies. I suspect that, as this was being rewritten into a comedy, it more closely resembled Ghostbusters, Then, someone got cold feet about the budget or how things were going on the set or something, and they started adding more dick and fart jokes, in the hopes of catching the American Pie crowd.

It’s not like you can’t enjoy Ghostbusters and Road Trip, but they’re not exactly chocolate and peanut butter together.

Gabby: The sex and fart jokes are so bad. I just wish the other element of the fun won out. We don’t need that. We can laugh at the scenario. 

Brett: When the leads work, they work. Orlando Jones and David Duchovny both manage to be funny in different ways while still being good looking and charming. I kept seeing the Reitman who made Ghostbusters when they were discovering things together. There were genuinely fun moments, like the three guys in the Jeep after killing the dragon thing in the mall. It’s not a hilarious scene, but you get the idea that they are enjoying being together at that moment.

They’re celebrating, and it feels kind of real.

Jeremy: I should add for our readers that we all watched Ghostbusters together during F This Movie Fest. I’m sure we would’ve compared both films anyway, 600px-EvolutionMossberg500(3)but it’s unavoidable now after watching them so close together. I wish there was a line of dialogue here half as good as the worst joke in Ghostbusters. The only memorable gag I remember is during the mall scene, where Duchovny and company leave the price tags on the shotguns they just appropriated. That’s pretty inspired.

About the mall scene: what is up with the young woman in the changing room who gets snatched by the monster? I was thinking to myself, “What is going on with her? Why is she so angry? Is this a tough mall? Did her backstory about suffering a changing room-related trauma get cut? And most of all, what is this movie’s beef with women?”

Brett: The problem is sort of profound. I don’t get it. I didn’t get the young woman’s whole thing. It’s kind of disappointing. Not just her, obviously. As I said in the live tweet, I felt like we were in another time and place.

Gabby: There is also the problem that another time and place might not even have this. Look at The Thin Man, 1934. Myrna Loy is, as smart, funny and brilliant as William Powell. And they are made greater by each other.

Jeremy: And it’s not just mall girl. During her introduction, Julianne Moore gets her skirt accidentally hiked up so we can see the ’40s pinup undergarments she’s wearing. A little while later, Duchovny’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t mentioned before this scene, shows up mostly to take off her shirt and show off her bra-clad boobs. I should add that Duchovny’s ex is played Sarah Silverman. How can you hire these two extremely talented people and then just treat them like objects?

Brett: Here’s the thing. It’s not just that Julianne Moore is wearing a garter belt and stockings, its that they actually go to the effort of mentioning it in the dialogue. Duchovny’s little outburst at the diner to Sarah Silverman is clearly supposed to be a moment where we’re on his side and women just be cray-zay, yo.

Even though he is clearly being the dick, we’re supposed to be rooting for him.

Gabby: Are we really supposed to be rooting for him? Because I never felt that. He’s asking for his shirts back, in the most uncivil manner. He’s being a dick. I always, just took it for granted maybe, that everyone sees it as him being a dick.

I really hate the way they treat women in this film. There are a lot of things though that ease my problem with that. Firstly, Allison is really smart. julianne_moore_evolution_001She also sticks it to government bullshit. Those guys need Allison for sure. Also, and this is the big one, she is played by Julianne Moore.

Brett: I actually find the three guys oddly charming when they work together. Orlando Jones is a lot more interesting than I had thought he would be.

Gabby: We all love mistfits. We all hate misogyny (I hope). So the misogyny wins. And I end up caring for their team because: a) Julianne Moore b) Allison realizes that the government’s let’s ‘blow the shit up’ idea of a solution is insane. c) The fact that the movie has a go at teasing American political history. This bombing solution has been posed as a solution by these type of world leaders, many times before after all. There might lie a smarter movie, way, way under the bullshit.

Jeremy: Yeah, the weird thing is that, even though they’re a roadblock, the military isn’t portrayed that badly here. It’s another example of the “we’ll find the jokes as we’re going” vibe I get from this movie. The movie has no strong opinion about them. Maybe there’s an anti-authority sentiment here, but not really.

And it’s odd how much the townsfolk fade in and out of the picture. Several of them – Seann William Scott’s boss at the country club, the young woman at the mall – really stand out, because they’re so abrasive. As Ghostbusters proves, Reitman is excellent at making his locations part of the story. Whether hastily removed or added in, I get the impression that the town – largely an upper-class, planned community – was meant to play a larger part.

It’s a fun – if nasty – idea that this small town full of rich, entitled people, who wanted to get away from anything that scared or offended them, gets attacked by all these biological horrors. It reminds of Gremlins in a way. I wish Reitman had committed to that idea… if it was intentional.

Brett: Interesting idea.

Jeremy: I’m also trying to think of another movie where the enemy base/point of origin is discovered by the good guys in the first ten minutes, and they keep kinda going lazily back and forth from it as the story needs. It plays almost like an old Doctor Who story.alan-rickman-as-alexander-dane-in-galaxy

I like that Duchovny and Jones first react to the idea of alien life with curiosity instead of panic. That’s a rare touch. Just to make sure I didn’t miss something, we have no reason to believe this is an alien invasion, right? A meteor with alien goo crashes on Earth by chance, and the evolution of these creatures is basically like space kudzu, right?

Gabby: It is kind of like The Blob (1958) in that way.

Brett: I was thinking, this movie would have been a lot more like Ghostbusters if Seann William Scott had started the movie as the side kick. Make it these two scientists and their kind of meat head buddy who actually gets it right sometimes.

You can actually see how these three would get along as buddies if they’d had more time. We didn’t need to waste all that time before we got them together.

Gabby: I think despite the head and shoulders commercial, the scene where that little fire truck full of misfits try to battle that alien is an example of their gun ho efforts.eT7yA This is a weird way to save the day. It is kind of funny, we kind of like these people. And it’s creative. The film has enough of that stuff for me to warrant the couple of times I have seen it.

Jeremy: I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall during the marketing meeting when Head & Shoulders committed to this movie.

“Sir, someone wants to use our shampoo in their movie. It’s an important plot point, and the movie’s by that guy who did Ghostbusters!”

“How important a plot point? What happens?”

“They put 500 gallons of our shampoo in a fire truck and then shove a hose full of the stuff up a giant alien’s ass. They use our product to kill it!”

“…”

“Well, now that I say it out loud…”

“…”

“Did I mention one of the characters says our shampoo leaves their hair flake-free?”

“Make sure our contract says that line stays in the picture.”

Brett: I think that’s why it hasn’t got any kind of following. 5% stupider and it would be a glorious disaster that we’d go see at midnight. 1894073,gh3XNwHRg5u++DvOXJ+ufHlnzWsUU7JrlaQVZdpgm2Twwac1sjaHn5Y3kTpJ2WZNf5Exy8NzG4LJli4QSnVtMw==But it never really goes off the rails, it never goes completely crazy. Even the shampoo thing has an air of “and then the solution is something crazy… like shampoo or something?” Rather than “And the solution is dandruff shampoo! Because it’s got chemicals in it… you know?”

One is trying to be wacky, and the other doesn’t even fully grasp that normal humans would find this batshit.

Jeremy: We’re getting a little long on words. Final thoughts, everyone?

Brett: I wish this movie was either better written or more badly made. If the movie making was as inept as the script, it could have been dumb fun. If the actors were struggling against impossible odds, it could have been fun. It’s in that uncomfortable area where it’s not good enough to be good, but not bad enough to be dumb fun on a Saturday night.

Jeremy: We’re on the same wavelength, Brett. It’s not a hidden gem. It’s barely even a curiosity. And this movie’s treatment of women is something else. I just realized that, whether intentional or unintentional on the part of the filmmakers, this was a thread that ran through all three of our picks this time around. Admittedly, we’re talking about hard-to-defend films, but it’s still a troubling aspect of the sci-fi/fantasy genre that still needs some, well, evolving.

Gabby: You do have to give it to this movie. It is a mess. But, as Jeremy said, they sure try. It’s a lot of fun because they seem so gun ho. Even if that means it doesn’t work. It tries. More effort went into making this than some movies. Maybe ones about carslong-galaxy-quest robots for example.

Jeremy: Thanks for reading, everyone. This was the last movie in our block of sci-fi movies. Next up, each of us will take turns trying to defend a not-so-loved comedy, starting with Young Einstein. Please follow us on Twitter, where we live-tweet every movie before discussing it. See you in two weeks!

fslha3a0c5xtl2aygqhp

Film Favourites: Galaxy Quest (1999)

Jeremy: In between our Indefensibles articles, Gabby and I set aside some time to celebrate Alan Rickman and all the great performances he left us with. Today, we’re talking about one of my favorite movies, Galaxy Quest.

Gabby, do you remember the first time you saw this?

Gabby: I was fairly late to this one unfortunately. I think I came to it about three years ago. And was very sad I hadn’t watched it before. I remember absolutely loving it. There are few films that pulls off what Galaxy Quest does. And boy does it pull off superbly! I immediately wanted to watch it again. I haven’t re-watched it as much as I wanted too. But I think I am going to amend that now. It is a joy to watch every time. How about you?

A side note, as this will be a part love letter to Alan Rickman,galaxy-quest-sigourney-weaver-and-alan-rickman I want to say that ‘By Grabthar’s hammer – what a savings’, is one of the best line readings in the history of line readings.

Jeremy: If there actually are an infinite number of parallel Earths, there is no reality where that line is delivered better. As to my first experience with Galaxy Quest…

I’m about to give you and our readers some ammunition for the next time you think I’m wrong about a movie. You know the whole “I was into something before it was cool” thing? Yeah. I was the exact opposite of that with Galaxy Quest.

After Alan Rickman passed, I read the MTV oral history about its making, and someone mentions how the marketing for it was all wrong. I’m proof of that, because I was, like, the exact target for this movie back in 1999. Every time I saw a poster or ad for it, I shrugged and thought, “Meh, I’ll rent it.” I was on winter break from college with little to do when it was in theaters. If I had wanted to see it, I would’ve seen it.

But wait! There’s more. galaxy-quest-scrn-19Cut to a few months later. I make the two-hour drive to my folks’ house to do laundry and eat real food for the weekend. They had just purchased a DVD player (a big deal at the time), so I rented a few movies for the weekend. My parents were out of town, so I popped in Galaxy Quest and watched it alone on a Friday night.

And I thought it was fine. Not great, not that funny – but charming enough. A short time after that first viewing, I’m back at college and I go over to a friend’s place. They had just started watching Galaxy Quest. I shrugged again and went, “Eh, I’ll give it another go.” This time – somewhere around “Let’s get out of here before one of those things kills Guy!” – everything clicked. In the right environment, with friends who were laughing, enjoying themselves, and getting it, I knew I was watching something special.

Gabby: When delving into Galaxy Quest, there are so many places we could start. From the way they explore fandom, riff with casting or referencing Star Trek. We must bring up the fact they put Buzz Lightyear and Ripley in a Sci-Fi space adventure together. Casting directors can be beautiful people.

Jeremy: You’re right – there are very few films that pull off what Galaxy Quest does, which is being a comedy that’s also exciting or scary or doing whatever films in the genre they’re riffing on are supposed to do. Galaxy Quest is among a very rare class of films like Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride, and Hot Fuzz.

As to the casting, everybody is great in this (including Tim Allen, who I know is a sticking point for some). But Alan Rickman, man… Every delivery, every perfect pause. The man’s timing was utterly brilliant. There’s a visual gag near the beginning where he snatches a photo out of a fan’s hand to sign. It’s a small moment, but everything about it is masterful. galaxy_questAs a student of comedy, it’s like watching the perfect swing in baseball or something. And why am I, of all people, doing a sports analogy? That’s a terrible idea.

One reason I might have bounced off this movie at first glance: it’s basically a riff on ¡Three Amigos! or A Bug’s Life. The difference, though, is that those movies don’t care much about silent movies or the circus once the plot gets going. This movie is all about the tropes of Star Trek – and the mythology that grew around the original show and its cast. Somehow, it’s equally successful at being a deconstruction, gentle satire, and affirmation of Star Trek and its values.

Gabby: Alan Rickman is absolutely perfect and flawless in this film. I would have said the same thing a few months ago and I will say the same thing in a few years. alan-rickman-galaxy-quest That is not something that grief has filtered. The man was just brilliant at the delivery of every line he had. Anything he said could get a laugh or become memorable, because of the way he said it. (We will surely bring up “Turn to page 394…” when we eventually get around to talking about Harry Potter. Who else would make that line remotely interesting, let alone so memorable and great?)

This film is wonderfully structured. That visual gag is an example of how thought out the script is. With the mention of both Star Trek and the convention I want to zone in on the fandom culture the film comments on. I think the film both, as you state with gentle satire, pokes fun at but lovingly so, the fans of such Sci-Fi worlds. gq_048BrandonSalutesIt does this with the feel of coming from one of them. Never mean spirited, but always so much fun. The way the main cast, of the show Galaxy Quest, view its fans is very telling. And Alan Rickman’s character arc in the film is quite interesting from this perspective too. When Alex says ‘that stupid line’ to Quellek, it is so touching. Alan’s performance there too is sensational.

Jeremy: The movie says there’s nothing wrong with loving something like Trek and taking some level of guidance from it – but, you know, go outside now and then.

Gabby: Yes, no fandom, however noble, is worth vitamin d deficiency. I say that from experience.

Jeremy: Hey man, outside is scary. That’s why I said “now and then.” Speaking of the script, how brilliant is the clock counting down to “1” gag? Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.

Gabby: They joyfully incorporate the nerds to help them save the day. It must be every Sci-Fi kid’s dream to be involved in something like that. They have a brilliant way of commenting on women in Sci-Fi too, especially with the casting of Sigourney Weaver 10268696_oriand what she brings to the role. As she says to Alex, ‘At least you had a character that people love. My TV guide interview was 6 paragraphs about my boobs and how they fit into my suit no one bothers to ask me about what I do on the show… I repeated the computer’

Jeremy: Yeah, it’s crazy to think that, if you were to make this film now, one of the first studio notes would be, “Can we really make fun of comic-cons like this?”

There are a few performances I want to talk about quickly. First, you’re right: Sigourney Weaver was in a rare position in 1999 as a female actor. She was able to say, “Wouldn’t it be fun to play the eye candy for once?” Until a few years ago, that was a quagmire countless female actors were trying to break free of.

And her character’s still great, even if she purposely gets a little less to do than her male counterparts. Like the rest of the movie, it’s important to remember this is a send-up. Please tell me if I’m wrong, Gabby – but I think the movie really commends all of these characters for showing up and being willing to help.

Back to Rickman. Even though I think the casting is uniformly perfect, there were several parts that had to be absolutely right or the movie would fall apart. Rickman is definitely one of them. The gravitas that he is – and knowing how to turn that gravitas up a single notch into parody – is brilliant.

The other casting choices I’m thinking of are the four aliens who have major speaking parts.galaxy-image I can’t say enough good things about them and how they were directed. This movie would be a disaster without them getting it right – especially Enrico Colantoni as Mathazar. I can think of few other movies where “the people in need” are so endearing.

To me, Quellek’s death feels a little manufactured. I know that’s the point, but it’s an emotional moment, not a gag – so it plays differently. Nit-picks aside, the way Rickman reacts to his death is so moving. It isn’t just about Quellek’s death. It’s this moment where Rickman’s character realizes how much Dr. Lazarus means to people. It’s just… Damn, now I’m thinking of Alan Rickman and Leonard Nimoy and getting a little verklempt.

While I’m on a similar line of thought, how great is Tim Allen in the “We lied…” scene?galaxyquest10611

Gabby: You’re verklempt, I’m verklempt. We’re all verklempt! Talk amongst yourselves… I don’t think I will stop being sad about this for a while. I am really glad we are doing this… Tim Allen really is great in that. He really shines through. The sense of the team coming together is genuinely touching. Particularly on the most recent viewing, watching this with this angle. Well, I have to say I did definitely get misty. I have no shame in that. This film stand the test of time and also I would gladly have it presented to aliens, in the name of peace, as one our ‘historical documents’.

Jeremy: If I were to make a list of my 100 favorite movies, Galaxy Quest would be in the top half – maybe higher. A lot of people say it’s the best Star Trek movie. While I can see where they’re coming from, I think the rest of us can agree that The Wrath of Khan is the greatest movie ever made.

It’s hard to sum up why I love Galaxy Quest so much. I live for comedy and science fiction, galaxy-quest (1)so this is pretty much my dream movie. And yes, I like schmaltz – which it has the perfect amount of. But the most amazing thing is that it still embraces Star Trek’s core message that we can be better than we are now. That’s just so great.

Obi-Wan_VS_Anakin_2

The Indefinsibles: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

[Editor’s Note: There is no right way to enjoy Star Wars – or any movie, for that matter. If you love Revenge of the Sith and the prequels, that’s great. You’re not wrong and we’re happy for you. This, though, is three people’s honest opinions about it, and we hope you have fun reading it. If you disagree, we’d love to have a civil discussion with you in the comments section or on Twitter. As you’re about to find out, at least one of us can’t shut-up about Star Wars. -JDW]

Gabby: With this being the second in our Sci Fi / Fantasy round of Indefinsible movies, we dive into Jeremy’s selection…

Jeremy: Revenge of the Sith. A movie that proves that if inexplicably dying because you lost the will to live actually happened in real life, an entire generation of angry nerds would have suddenly been silenced back in 2005.

Gabby: I found tweeting through this very entertaining.

Jeremy: Yeah, I had a lot fun. Brett won the night with “Draw me like one your Bespin girls.” I‘m a little worried my tweets were a bit obvious. Hopefully, that won’t be the case for my part in this retrospective. 2e320db88e6646b223813f260c90520d

Gabby: Well at least you did not spend half the time going on about Padmé’s hair styles, as I did.

Jeremy: I found your tweets about her hair oddly fascinating. I’m sure we’ll circle around to that soon.

Let’s start with why I picked this. I have some minor nitpicks with The Force Awakens, but I’m crazy in love with it and how it recaptures the spirit of the original trilogy. With it fresh in our minds, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the last real Star Wars movie that came before it.

Gabby: I am interested in your first viewing Jeremy, what was that like for you? Was it a growing affection, or was it there from the onset?

Jeremy: Overall, I walked out of my midnight show in 2005 pleased. That’s not to say I embraced the film completely. After the first two prequels, I went into Revenge of the Sith with this attitude: there will be parts I like, and parts I don’t. I’m going to enjoy the parts I like and refrain from bitching too much about the rest so my wife still views me as a viable sexual partner. That’s the same attitude I have about these movies today.

I don’t speak for all Star Wars fans, but I remember a bit more excitement for Episode III compared to Episode II. revengeofthesith1-large The basic details of Obi-Wan and Anakin’s duel, where Anakin “fell into a molten pit”, had been around since the Return of the Jedi novelization way back in 1983. You can’t overstate how much fans, even the jaded ones, were looking forward to seeing the events that led to Darth Vader and the Empire.

And in some of the broad strokes, Lucas delivers on giving us the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker. The broadest strokes, mind you!

Gabby: I really must say upfront I have not seen the prequels a great many times. I think this was my third viewing of Sith. I may have watched the other two twice. The Phantom Menace, though, was watched quite a few years ago now.

Sith felt like a really bad B-movie with no fun, bar Ewan. I tried to get into the spirit of watching a B-movie as we went a long. But I would have appreciated something more. I think what doesn’t work is Anakin. Hayden Christensen is a real plank of wood in this film. It would have been great if someone with a bit of an edge could play him. Like… Michael Fassbender. Who is always amazing.

Jeremy: Mmm… Fassbender. I have trouble seeing it, but oh yeah, he would’ve been a better choice. It feels like Lucas cast both Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen because they looked a bit like Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher – which is, like, the worst way to cast people.

Speaking of blocks of wood, do you think Samuel L.Psycho-1960-Martin-Balsam-Mrs-Bates Jackson felt dead inside while making this movie?

Brett: I have always said it’s a mark of Lucas as a director that he could make Samuel L. Jackson boring.

Gabby: I agree, Brett! It is astonishing how he managed that with Sam Jackson. Jeremy, it was so sad seeing him like that. I can imagine him being like, “Yay, Star Wars, oh wait this is…’

Jeremy: Right there with you, Gabby. And Brett, what are your initial thoughts about the movie?

Brett: Okay, due to one thing and another, I only just finished Sith… and now I have to be the Jeremy of this one. I really don’t like Revenge of the Sith. Outside of a couple of scenes, it just does not work for me. So much of it falls flat, the story was not set up or executed properly, and the movie’s effects are just a mess.

Jeremy: Don’t worry – be the Jeremy all you like. I’m OK with that.

Brett: The writing was so clumsy.star-wars-3-revenge-of-the-sith-sc I didn’t think the concepts and storyline were set up enough. When things eventually happen, they carry no weight. It’s always been the weakest of the three prequels to me.

Gabby: When you start talking about the world in which is set up in the prequels, I get lost. Because the base line for a different universe isn’t there like the originals. Therefore, I am just not interested. It all goes over my head.

Jeremy: It’s amazing that a few lines from Peter Cushing about the senate being dissolved in A New Hope have more weight than three films where you actually spend time at the friggin’ senate.

Gabby: Amen!

Jeremy: You’re not alone, Brett, in thinking this is the weakest of the three. For a long time, I thought each prequel was better than the last, as the series grew darker and began to connect with the original movies. A few years ago, popular opinion shifted to Clones being the worst – which I also agree with now. With every passing year, it seems like people gradually dislike Sith more and more. It’s weird to think that a lot of folks vote The Phantom Menace as being the best of the worst.

And regarding the film’s script, Tom Stoppard supposedly did some rewritesdad3aa8a3ff4572c50372d4d6a40815d. I can hear it in a few places, but so many of the line deliveries are garbage. They’re like the spoonful of urine that makes the medicine not go down.

Let’s start with Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side. What works? What doesn’t?

Brett: That he suddenly seems convinced the Jedi were trying to take over while Palpatine is actually taking over is a problem. And he seems to go from killing Mace in a moment of distress to killing… ugh, that term… younglings, in cold blood in realtime. So, what, two minutes?

Once he gets to Mustafar he seems to have settled into the role. The fight between Obi and Annie is properly tragic.

Jeremy: I appreciate the first half of the fight, before the CG overkill of lava surfing and whatnot. That moment on the bridge where they grapple each other, the lava erupts, and John Williams’ music swells is undeniably powerful. A lot of people don’t like “I have the high ground!” But it works for me. Anakin loses because he can’t control himself. That feels right.

Gabby: John Williams is a genius. Let’s all take a moment to pause and appreciate that…

You may proceed.

Jeremy: I want to get to “younglings” before this over. Brett and I share a lot of frustrations about Anakin falling for the whole “the Jedi are taking over” thing. It’s funny that you mentioned it, Brett, because it really stuck out at me on this viewing.

The three of us are still getting to know each other. I’m assuming both of you are casual Star Wars fans… unlike me, the semi-lapsed Star Wars fanatic, who used to devour any media that had the Star Wars logo on it – books, comics, video games.

Brett: I haven’t played all the games or read all the books. I read some comics and played a few games, though. I didn’t get a lot of the expanded universe stuff. I only really have what’s on the screen to go by.

Gabby: I think I am the least into the Star Wars fandom of the three of us. I love the original trilogy. They are pure gems. Force Awakens is amazing and would happily see that a few hundred times. I think I made my brother into a bigger Star Wars fan than I am. I bought him the original trilogy for him when he was maybe 6, and he got totally hooked. He knows way more about the Star Wars mythology than I do now.

Jeremy: You are to be commended for that, Gabby. And that’s what I thought – neither of you consumed the prequel media that was designed to fill in the mortar that Lucas forgot to put between the bricks. Then let me ask this: how do you feel about Yoda and the Jedi Council in this movie? And how do you think Lucas wants us to feel about them?

Brett: I think Lucas was trying to show the Jedi as an arrogant group on the wain. I think he manages that, but it could have been a little more on the screen.

Gabby: The Jedi Council thing seems an attempt to go more political. What would you think if there was actual effort involved there? I think there could be something to it. A dynamic that would have made the transition to the dark side more understandable, for instance.

Jeremy: I’m happy to hear that comes across. I know fans are still annoyed by Yoda’s “mourn them not, miss them not” speech. 001They think Yoda’s being a cold-hearted dick, but that’s exactly what Lucas wants you to think. That’s a ballsy move on his part, especially with such a beloved character.

Gabby: I liked that Yoda mourn line. I think it shows some fire, on Lucas’ part by risking Yoda coming across as an arse but attempting to give him that edge. At least that was a little bit of a character dynamic.

Jeremy: You’re completely right, Gabby. We should’ve clearly understood that the Jedi were part of the Republic’s decline. We needed to see Anakin witnessing something that legitimately shook his faith in the Council and be on his side when it happened. Or maybe, the Council discovers Padmé’s pregnancy and wants to take their children away. Instead, the central conflict is that he’s an overly emotional peg trying to fit into a stoic monk hole.

And, uh, on that note, let’s move on. Besides Gabby’s fascination with Padmé’s hair, what does everyone think of Natalie Portman and how Padmé is written?

Brett: She’s basically written out. What little story they shot for her was cut out of the movie. Beyond that, she only exists to be a flower vase of Anakin’s fear.

Jeremy: I’m on the fence about her subplot not being included in the final cut. tumblr_m9fmmpxusa1r6wi9so1_1280For those who don’t know, Padmé joins a group of senators who, like the Jedi, have their doubts about Palpatine letting go of his emergency powers after the war. Most of these senators end up forming the Rebellion.

I kinda wish it was left in, because I enjoy how Padmé and Anakin are on different branches of the government, and Palpatine is driving a wedge between them, politically and personally. Plus – and forgive my crudeness – Padmé would not come off as being barefoot and pregnant.

Gabby: I didn’t expect to find her hair the most compelling part of this movie. I was deeply fascinated by it. It is just the weirdest thing. It is like they got Cyndi Lauper’s space baby as the hairdresser.picrevengeofsith12

So here is the thing. This character has nothing. So what is Natalie Portman supposed to do with that? Apparently, she is radiating love. Everything seems based off Anakin’s emotions and actions. Which we don’t really see either. Like Brett says, a flower vase.

However she isn’t really even given that. That character could be far more interesting in a film where she is pregnant with the two heroes of the beloved originals. I did like that scene though when she comes to Anakin, right before the final duel. Ewan MacGregor comes in and he thinks she has betrayed her. Despite the thinly way this is written, there is still substance there. It has a dynamic and it is involving, even emotionally. For me anyway.

I think they all seemed more involved in that scene. As there was more there. The film does have a few moments like that.Star-Wars-movies-Episode-III

Jeremy: Yeah, the last half-hour has several legitimately stirring moments – especially the way Lucas cuts back and forth between the birth of the twins and the birth of Darth Vader. These scenes are why Sith is my favorite of the prequels.

Alright, we’re running a little longer than usual with this one. There are two things I’d like to do before we finish this. First, please allow me to get some quick fanboy grievances off my chest, which I’d be happy to chat about in the comments section. Here goes:

1) Why not put Temuera Morrison in a real clone trooper costume? Why the pointless, distracting CGI?

2) General Grievous is the worst – especially knowing that Lucas already had a perfectly good Christopher Lee lying around. Anakin’s fall happened at the right time in the movie, but it should have come from murdering Dooku in cold blood.

3) Dooku? Dooku? I mean, it’s no Kit Fisto – but come on, George…

4) “Younglings.” Did Lucas come up with this name because he decided to pull his punches regarding Anakin’s actions. Guess what? Anakin kills a bunch of children. If you’re going to go there, own it.

5) And last and most offensive of all: 1812_14_screenshotPadmé dying because she lost the will to live. Shouldn’t Anakin be directly responsible for her death? What a last-minute cop out this feels like. I’m disappointed that Padmé’s presence in this movie was marginalized for time, but I’m truly angry that her entire character arc – and what she represents as the one major female character in the prequels – became marginalized thanks to this movie. I believe this was unintentional on Lucas’ part, but it doesn’t stop it from being there. Thank God for Rey and the new trilogy.

With that off my chest, let’s end this retrospective on a positive note. I’d love to hear three things you both liked about Revenge of the Sith. And while I will accept “Ewan McGregor”, “Ewan McGregor”, and “Ewan McGregor” as an answer, I’d love to hear anything else you have to offer.

Brett: Okay, three things. 1) Daisy Ridley is as cute as a whole box of buttons. 2) Harrison Ford didn’t phone it in. 3) Like 80% of the movie...  Wrong Star Wars.

Fer reals though… Okay, so Palpatine explains what the power of the dark side actually is. The one time he makes it about an empty idea of power, that scene works. Both of them are being real actors, they’re giving real performances and they’re actually talking about something. The movie thinks it’s being clever talking around things and quipping, but that scene actually gives you an idea of how this young Jedi could be seduced.chst

Jeremy: It’s a terrific scene, yeah.

Brett: The movie still looks pretty, even if I don’t think it comes to much. Aaaaand….. Ewan McGregor?

Jeremy: I’ll allow it.

Gabby: To end on a positive note there are some elements I like in this film. They are Ewan, the Yoda line, the scene before the battle we talked of, and of course the endlessly fascinating hair choices by Padmé.

Here’s my three. First – and I know it’s obvious – Ewan McGregor. Simply put, he’s one of the best things to ever happen to Star Wars. McGregor does solid work in all the prequels, and he’s especially good here. If the prequels actually enrich anything about the original films, it’s the character of Obi-Wan. Much of that is on McGregor.

Two, even if it’s underdeveloped, I’m fascinated by the arrogance and obliviousness of the Jedi Council. Of course, you don’t want to see them get wiped out, but it’s obvious their time has passed. It’s an unexpected but welcome addition to the Star Wars mythology.

Three, Anakin’s descent into darkness is Greek Tragedy 101, but it does the job. His visions come to pass because he comprises his principles to avoid them. It’s one of the most classic of classic plots for a reason, folks.

So, yeah, that’s Revenge of the Sith.

Brett: It wasn’t very good in theaters, and I didn’t think it was good now. I don’t hate it, but I really don’t like it much.

Jeremy: It’s a mess. There are, though, enough good things in it to keep me coming back. (Christ, I sound like Padmé at the end of this freakin’ movie.) At its best, you can see flashes of the scrappy, primal storyteller Lucas once was. Maybe it comes down to this: it’s a Star Wars movie and I love Star Wars. As terrible as these movies are in places, I’d rather have them than not. And thank God again for The Force Awakens…

christine

Horror Reels: Christine (1983)

Albert: My particular history with Christine is this: I read the book in 6th grade, in the midst of a full-blown Stephen King obsession. I won’t go too greatly into that, as this is about the John Carpenter film (and really, I expect to go on enough about Carpenter and don’t need to exacerbate things by adding another hero of mine too strongly into the mix), but it was perhaps the 3rd or 4th King book I ever read. I didn’t understand ALL of it (as was the case with most of the King books I was reading between the age of 10-12) but I sure got enough of it for the book to make quite an impact. I loved it immediately, as the underlying bits concerning what growing up does to friendship and relationships — be they familial or romantic — may have been pitched a bit outside my age range but I was getting there. I may not have been in high school, but those feelings and situations were beginning to become a larger and more important aspect of my life. In some ways, that book prepared me for things to come — good and bad.

I said all that to say this: reading that book made me hunt the movie adaptation DOWN like it owed me money. maxresdefaultSeeing the John Carpenter version was one of the first lessons I had in the art of adaptation; it was clearly not the book, but the heart of it was there. Christine in the movie may not have been haunted by the ghost of a horrible man with an unending fury, but she was born with it inside of her. Mallory Knox can sing all she wants about being “born bad” but she knew half as much about that as Christine did…after all, she was bad to the bone, or so George Thorogood would have us believe (and I do). Watching the film version, I understood that the book would always be the book and the movie would always be the movie; even if they were telling the same story, they were telling it in different ways. I kinda dug that. Realizing that the different mediums were just that, and had to be, was a big step in how I consumed, absorbed, and understood how stories were told. So having that bolt of lighting strike when I wasn’t even a teenager yet, that was a big step. One of the first I ever took in that direction, and I’m glad it was Christine I took the ride in.

As far as people’s reactions to it, I admit I’ve always been rather nonplussed as to the whole “it’s soulless; Carpenter’s heart obviously isn’t in it because he was just a director for hire” — something we previously discussed in our conversation on Starman, and it makes about as much sense to me here as it did there. Which is to say, not at all. It’s a remarkably effective movie, and yes — one has to get over what seems to be a ludicrous premise (a haunted car) that I don’t really find all that ludicrous. If you can handle a story with ghosts or hauntings or the like, you can handle Christine. Why a haunted car is any more ridiculous than a haunted house is beyond me; if you were a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic who couldn’t deal with ANYTHING regarding the supernatural without scoffing, it wouldn’t be “better” if it was a house. It’d simply be stupid. Thankfully, for those of us horror-loving folk, it’s just a cool idea that Stephen King told well in prose that Carpenter and his team then told through cinema. christine-1983-movie-wallpaperWhich they did superbly, I feel. It’s not a perfect film, but it works on the level it is intended to (sometimes even more than that), and considering how many flicks are unable to pull that off, I give John Carpenter and company all the credit they deserve. It wouldn’t be in my Top 5 Carpenter films, but I bet it’d crack my Top 10.

I think in recent years, people who were disappointed that it never reached the bar set by The Thing or Halloween or Big Trouble In Little China (really, just fill in your favorite JC flick) have, upon revisiting the film, have had a similar reaction to the one I find people having with Starman today. Which is that while, no — it isn’t one of his classic films — it’s a very solid film and an entertainment that is more than worth your time. John-Stockwell-christineI actually know a couple people who count Christine among their FAVORITE horror movies of all time, period. It spoke to them somehow, or simply scared the living shit out of them…how you gonna argue with that?

Gabby: I agree with the haunted house idea!

I love the way they use the car for many different purposes. The car is the haunted house in a much more confined space but it also explores other ideas. It is Arnie’s passion project. A project to work towards, to feel rewarded by. His way of connecting to something, as he is an outcast, a nerd. I think many people watching this movie can relate to this. Horror fans, movie fans. We have found a connection in movies that can be boarding on obsession.

How do you think the idea of obsession plays into the film?

Do you think there is a connect with the car being female in comparison with some people’s assumption that it is masculine or male to become absorbed with cars?

Albert: That’s a great point, how they use the car for various purposes at different points in the film; I think it kinda plays into the whole sense of falling in love and that person — or thing, in this case — fulfills every need you have and plays every role you desire from them. Christine provides Arnie with a sense of self he didn’t get anywhere else, and the confidence to be the person he believes he wants to be. That may not be the person he NEEDS to be, but as he is still a teenager yet, Arnie (like many of us at that age) has trouble differentiating between the two. In other times, as we see, she is his protector and his agent of revenge on those who have hurt him and threatened his relationship with her.

I think that would be where the theme of obsession reaching a point where it almost becomes possession comes in: you find something that makes you happy, helps you (or so it seems) to reach a place of self-actualization…and before you know it, that something takes precedence over all other aspects of your life. MMDCHRI EC002It’s the most important; that you know for sure. But importance is one thing whereas obsession can very easily turn unhealthy. Most people, when speaking of another, rarely say, “Oh, they’re obsessed with ______” and mean it as a positive. That’s because it rarely is, or stays that way anyway. Clearly, Christine did not stay a good thing for Arnie long. I always felt a certain aspect of the tragedy inherent in the story is that Leigh could have done for him what Christine did, just without the loss of friendships, familial relationships, and the overall copious amounts of violent death. The irony is, Christine is what gave him the confidence to approach Leigh in the first place (it’s safe to say that’s what we’re assumed to understand, I think) so she wasn’t ever fated to be what he needed. Another layer of sadness in what is, at its heart, quite a heartbreaking story.

In regards to the car being a “she” and why/how that would have a different impact on Arnie as opposed to, say, Leigh’s parents buying it for her or something, I think it comes back to that point in our maturation as adults. Sure, there’s plenty of grown men thrashing in the throes of a particularly robust mid-life crisis who go out, blow their kid’s college money on a slick set of wheels and maybe become attached to it in a way that isn’t exactly an uplifting, feel-good episode of your favorite heartwarming TV show. Christine-1983-2What I think Christine gets right is what that feels like as a young person, learning what it is to make your way in this world. She’s an anchor for Arnie, as vehicles are for many young men. Your first car is a tall, looming signpost on the road to adulthood for most people, but it certainly does seem to have bright blinking lights and neon when you’re a teenage boy. Arnie, I think, saw something that wasn’t just uglier than he was, as he said, but something that he could love unconditionally while believing he felt the same from it, never understanding that the car was capable of doing precisely that. Falling in love with a car is safer when you’re a loser; it’s virtually impossible to be rejected by it. As he said to Dennis in the first ten minutes of the movie in regards to sex, “You need a girl for that.” Well, maybe he can’t fuck Christine (I’m aware that, properly inspired, he could but I choose not to think much about it) but she IS female in his view. His car is a girl, and she loves him. One who’ll stay right by his side and will never leave him. She’ll never laugh at him or hurt his feelings or neglect him or lie to him. She’ll never cheat on him or betray his trust. She’ll kill for him.

I’m pretty sure most young dudes who think of their cars as girls, while having that reinforce their burgeoning masculinity in some way, don’t need that sort of negative attention in order to figure themselves out. Then again, some do. Luckily, here in the real world, cars don’t have minds of their own and certainly aren’t homicidal (as far as we know, that is).

I think all of that — which provides a strong subtext to play off of the surface pleasures of the film, another layer of the onion that is good storytelling — is certainly present but not obnoxiously so. Film and TelevisionAfter all, this IS a film about a car that is simply and inherently evil that drives around killing folks. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, say I. In my humble opinion, John Carpenter (armed with his signature classical elegance and style) told the story with a strong understanding of the value of restraint in such a picture. Not to mention the strong performances he got out of most of his cast (I’d say Alexandra Paul as Leigh probably fares the least well, but she’s more than serviceable and hardly sinks the film in any case).

Would you say that Carpenter — especially considering he was simply a director taking a job here — connected with the material in an effective enough way to overcome the assumption that he was going through the motions and produced an impersonal film? Or that the performances were strong enough to carry such material?

Gabby: I think that Carpenter is still on his game here. You can tell it is his film. You see the links with his other films. The masterful use of investment in characters and the build of suspense. Not being afraid of slowing down and taking in the atmosphere. I think this is why Christine still makes a great horror movie. The performances are grounded by Keith Gordon’s. It really is his movie. And the car itself. Wow what a car! I think it would also not work as much if we weren’t invested in his performance and had a bit of car envy going on!

Albert: I’ve rambled MORE than enough about this, IMG_20160203_054706but the bottom line is this: Christine is a great Stephen King adaptation, a strong entry in John Carpenter’s career of winners, and most importantly, a damn fine horror movie.

It’s got the look. It’s got the sound. It has the style…not unlike Christine herself, I feel. If you haven’t seen it, take a trip in this sleek ride into darkness. You won’t regret it.