Sunday, December 31, 2017

FRESH FROM THE THEATER: Star Wars - The Last Jedi

We have arrived to the last review of 2017! I managed to see the movie just before the year ends and I thought it would be a good finale. Overall I would like to say that for me this was a very tough year and I do not think I will look back at it fondly. I lost someone who was, in 26 years, the most important person in my life and I wish I had realized that a lot sooner. I did not, unfortunately, and the burden of that will live on with me for a long while, I fear. But that loss will also make me stronger, because I'll work harder to hold on to the people that are dearest to me. That having been said, I watched a movie that thought me just that: to let go. It was a wonderful lesson wrapped in an awesome movie, and I will go into the smallest of details as possible to let you all understand what I am talking about. Let us now dive into: [MAJOR SPOILERS COMING!]

Our story continues with the rebels trying to fight relentlessly the First Order, and the latter wishing to crush the rebellion once and for all. But as that goes on, Rey has finally reached Luke, who is unwilling to give up his hatred of himself for having failed Ben Solo during his training. Rey resorts to finding answers to her questions alone, while the rebellion is under continuous attack. Leia is indisposed, Poe is showed aside, and Finn has to find someone who will ensure that the First Order cannot track them anymore. In the end Ben faces his old master who has one more lesson to teach him.

I honestly don't know where to begin. The more I thought about the little details in the movie the more I fell in love with it. I was teary eyed all the way through, for obvious reasons, among them the fact that the movie re-did my favorite scene from Return of the Jedi. But I am getting ahead of myself, so let us go in order. First, Poe Dameron. He has got to be my favorite character. I just adored every little thing he did and his chemistry with Leia was on-spot. There is this endearing scene, where he hoped to be in charge and the whole movie set up how he is going to be the leader of the rebellion. He has the brain of Leia and the charm (and clothes) of Han, actually, which makes him a very likable character. He wishes to do good, he would sacrifice everything in order to win, but he learns the hard way that one cannot always go in guns blazing. He is on his way to becoming a wonderful lead character and I hope that episode IX will make great use of him!
Second is Finn, who might be the only low point of this movie for me. Don't get me wrong, I incredibly enjoyed his story. The fact that there are corners of the universe we never visited before are finally revealed to us, not to mention that his partner in the adventures, Rose, is a wonderful young gal who shows him the horrors of war reach far beyond the conflict of First Order vs. Rebels. The reason I deem it less important is the fact that Finn kind of had the same adventure in the previous movie. He embarked in something unknown to learn a great lesson. I find that he was underused, but that does not take away from the awesomeness of that plot-line, of course. The part of the galaxy that we are shown blew my mind, so yes, no regrets on that account.
Third is, of course, Rey. I just love the fact that there is no longer a balance between good and evil. I ALWAYS hated the idea of 'no feelings', like you are only good if you avoid your emotions and thoughts. Just think of Return of the Jedi, when Luke yells out "NEVER!" and then starts waving around the lightsaber like a deranged maniac... like did that look like a well thought out rational method of attack to you? And if I am talking about Rey I have to add Ben. I loved the fact that he is, in the end, a scared child, the same way Rey is. They both sought someone in their life who will show them the way, who will tell them what to do, but ultimately, they have to choose for themselves. There are no Sith or Jedi. There are people with conflicting feelings who can decide do to right or wrong. They are human. And I love that. I love how there is no logical explanation, there is no definitive line, good and bad have a different meaning and a different understanding.
Ben was easily driven to Snoke because he felt betrayed by Luke. He also felt betrayed by his parents who handed him to this uncle. And then there is Rey, who knew all her life that she is not descendant of a noble bloodline, she is just strong on her own. I f*cking loved that. I just knew it, I told everyone, come on! Not every single Jedi is a descendant of the Skywalker family! And she isn't and I adored that! Going back to Ben, I need to address the shirtless scene: I loved it. Not his body in particular, Adam Driver is a good looking guy alright, I wanted to see more actually, this grandpa pants that they have him wearing is ridiculous... I mean where is the belly button? And while thinking about this I realized why I was so content with it: the movie did not make a sex object of the women. We perceive men very differently when they are on screen naked as opposed to women. Think of slave-Leia... see my point? I think that was a good scene because it was meant to enhance his vulnerability and it did.
Now turning to the old schoolers, Leia was marvelous. I heard they cut out a bunch of her scenes, I am guessing for the next movie, and the way she gave on the mantle to Poe was done formidably. Fisher also wrote most of her lines and I am so happy she did, because nobody else could ever be Leia but her. Toward the end Luke comes to her and tells her that he cannot turn Ben, and I just adored that it was a perfect re-enactment of my favorite scene with them from Return of the Jedi, when he tells her that he will go to Vader. I also loved that Leia can use the force, there were several comic books in the extended universe that dealt with that, so I was happy to see it. [The way I squealed at the torn lightsaber with the crystal in it! Shown in the stand alone two part Clone Wars cartoon!] I have loved Carrie Fisher all my life and if there is a way for her to reach Han and Luke gracefully in the next episode, then I will let her go with a smile and a tear in my eye.
Finally, Luke. Oh boy... where to begin? I adored him. He has that same charm he did when the story was about him, but you can tell this is an old man who has seen his fair share of adventure. He was learned a great deal about the Jedi, the universe, the Force, family... he decided to isolate himself for the same reasons other Jedi did, because that is what is expected of them and yet, these characters are not like others. The world changed and with it the people who are able to wield the force as a weapon. His last graceful act is that of saving his sister and I found that moving. I loved his battle with Kylo Ren because it was reminiscent of Obi-Wan's death and as such I am convinced the Luke will still return and teach Rey the same way he was thought by the ghosts of the great masters. I also adored his interaction with Yoda!

What else is there to say? The movie did three things that made it stand out for me: one, it heard the complaints people had with episode VII. Two, it gave us something of the past and used it to move forward. Three, in certain places it directly spoke to the audience, but I was OK with that.

I've read somewhere that this was a movie about letting go of the past and moving on, for people who do not want to let go of the past and move on... and I find that to be spot on. Is the movie perfect? No. They could have done a lot more with Captain Phasma, Finn could have been used in different ways, Kylo could have shown more body... (hehe), some jokes felt ill-timed (making me feel like I was watching a Marvel movie instead) and although I liked the pacing I would have been completely fine with this being a 2 hour movie like the others. This is all the criticism I can think of and that after three hours of discussion with the other seven people I saw the movie with. I loved Vice Admiral Holdo and her contribution to the fight, I loved how so easily we put Snoke aside, like, no, there is no greater evil, there is no ultimate villain, let that notion go! I loved the creatures, I especially adored the nun-like dinosaurs taking care of the island where Luke lived. I laughed so hard at Chewie's every scene, and teared up when he hugged Leia... I don't think I will ever get tired of that. The music too, oh my god, the music to these movies deserves every award in my opinion. I just... I love this series.

Watch it? Yes. You might like it or you might not. And that is it. There is no real argument here because people will always find something to complain about. Think about this: the original trilogy did not disappear just because the prequel trilogy came out. If you don't like this series, you are in luck, there is plenty of Star Wars out there for you without it. Me, on the other hand, am a fan of this story and I just cannot wait to see where it will lead next!

Until the next item on my list!

_ _ _ _ _

Rey - Daisy Ridley
Finn - John Boyega
Poe Dameron - Oscar Isaac
Kylo Ren - Adam Driver
Leia Organa - Carrie Fisher
Vice Admiral Holdo - Laura Dern
Rose Tico - Kelly Marie Tran
General Hux - Domnhall Gleeson
Chewbacca - Peter Mayhew
C-3PO - Anthony Daniels
Supreme Leader Snoke - Andy Serkis
Luke Skywalker Mark Hamill
Yoda - Frank Oz

Thursday, December 28, 2017

What's Next On My List? Office Christmas Party

I decided to sneak in one last review for 2017 because it is Christmas related and posting it in January or waiting one more year just felt dumb to me... so here is a movie that I really think you should reconsider putting on your movie list!

In order to avoid having to close down the branch, the young director organizes a big Christmas party in the office to impress someone whose business might be able to save them. The party, of course, gets out of hand very quickly, and the young director seems to have lost the business anyway and in his drunk desperation the events of the night unfold very quickly.

I did not hear anything about this movie and as such I did not have high expectations. But oh lord... I laughed so hard I can't even tell you. Above everything, this movie had no disgusting toilet jokes that would put me off... I hate those, I am not even going to apologize, humor can be so sophisticated and subtle and worth your while and I cannot laugh at someone shitting themselves or unjustified puking! It's not funny! And you know what? I am almost certain that this is the reason why the movie did not do great: it was advertised for those who enjoy these kind of dumb jokes and then they saw something much more sophisticated and the ratings went down. Dumb people have a problem understanding good jokes, is all I am saying, and I am being this mean because I honestly don't get why this movie was not received well, since the writing was just one of many good things.
I will not even detail the awesome actors who were part of the project, but let me focus on what sold this movie for me: the characters and the plot. The actors tells us everything we need to know through acting. There is no big exposition speech, there is no need to spell things out for us, those who care for each other will tell you with their eyes and they do. We find out that the owner of this branch died and his children are fighting and they are doing so because they want to succeed. In the end they realize that it was their father who instigated this rivalry and they should rely on each other. More than one person finds love, and it is not in your face, just hints in the background. Even if the office itself gets almost incredibly destroyed, they do in the end come up with something that might save everybody's job. I did not need over the top jokes, just characters who are relatable and funny and they were. 100%.

This movie was a super pleasant surprise and I will definitely tell everyone to go see it, because it is smart and witty with likable characters and it did bring me more Christmas cheer than I thought it would and that alone makes it a good movie! So do go and check it out.

I am currently under the weather, but I have one review planned for this year, and if everything goes well I'll be able to go to the cinema and see it and write my review quick, if not, this was it and I wish you all a happy new year!

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ _ 

Josh ParkerJason Bateman
Tracey HughesOlivia Munn
Clay Vanstone - T.J. Miller
Carol VanstoneJennifer Aniston
Trina - Jillian Bell
Mary Kate McKinnon
Allison Vanessa Bayer

Monday, December 25, 2017

5 Of The Worst Christmas Movies I Have Ever Seen

Well here it is, Christmas of 2017, that means that there is only a week left of this year, and I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to the next year. These are not in any particular order, they are just utter sh*t and that is way I wanted to talk about them!

Disclaimer: I want to tell you right off the bat that will not see any ABC or Hallmark Christmas movie on this list. Why? First, because every other 'bad Xmas movies list' specifically focuses on those. The reason for that is that we already do not expect high quality, I mean if one channel has to come up with 25 movies each year, they are running low on ideas... but what does surprise me about those is that some are exceptionally wonderful! I have written about those in a separate entry, if you'd like to read them, you'll find them here:

Let me now crack down these terrible movies, advising you to stay clear of them all! Beware, this list was made especially because I have been missing this awful movies from other ones and I think people should be warned! Enjoy the 2017 Christmas entry with all the hatred in my heart :)

A Perfect Day (2006)

That is a candy cane filled with lies. There is absolutely zero Christmassy about this movie. The main character becomes a famous writer and he almost cheats on his wife and he is supposed to learn the lesson that his family is more important which is the biggest crap they could come up with... look, there is a difference between a workaholic and a man who finally reached success. Let us begin by saying that he is probably the one paying for all the Christmas presents they don't get because this isn't a Christmas movie... second, it might just teach you that you should not get crazy with fame, which is a good lesson, but it never goes that far. He is never in over his head, he is just working. He never forgets his family, see, he cannot in the end cheat. He loses his way... maybe, not really. This movie is stupid as hell and there is this magical old guy who I assume was there for the moral lesson, but this was completely lost on me. Not only not a Christmas movie, but also a sh*tty movie.

Unaccompanied Minors (2006)

I did not finish this movie. I just did not. It was about 20 or 30 minutes in and my sister and I looked at each other and that was it. It is kids being kids who don't need to parents with the 'adults' being the enemies and I just... we have seen this story three hundred times already and the gimmick did not become more entertaining or, let's say, smart. The kids will win, we will laugh at the dumb evil adults, hahaha, there is ZERO christmassy about the feeling of the movie or how these kids behave and that just drove me nuts. I get the airport part, I get the difficulty of being a child of divorce, I understand that the holidays are a hard time for a lot of people. These I get and the idea in itself is not bad, but the execution... if after 20 minutes I don't care about any of these kids, then you have a bad script.

Jack Frost (1998)

Oh god... this scarred me as a child. Hear this, the father is a musician who turns into a snowman, because he neglected his kid and wife and he has to learn his lesson. Okay, not as bad as it seems, except he DIES. He F*CKING melts! He learns the lesson only to never be able to make things right. WHAT IS THAT POINT THEN?? What is the big moral message here, 'hey, life sucks?' or 'oh you thought you had it bad?. This guy dies in a car accident and he gets to comeback to, uhm, I dunno, not let his family grieve? Move on? Accept their losses and be stronger without this man, who, was basically more absent than present? Here is my problem with him becoming father of the year in retrospect: HE IS STILL DEAD. Giving him a piece of who he could have been will only make it worse! Here kid, have a peak at the life I never gave you, you already missed it, now you can be assured that you'll never have it! Merry Christmas! ... f*ck this movie.

Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger (2012)

Or really any continuation to this story... The original Nativity was a delightful little movie with Martin Freeman playing a teacher who is helped by his children to regain his Christmas spirit. He is also helped by a very optimistic and somewhat childish adult, Mr Poppy, who is at the same time very caring of the children (read my review of the movie here!). The problem is that Mr Poppy was a bit weird, but in a lovable sense. I did not want to set him on fire or feel awkward about his lack of social skills. The other movies decided to remake the story and then made him dumber, and dumber... he is not borderline retarded and that is not fun. There is nothing fun about someone who needs to be treated differently and instead we put him in social situations where we can laugh at him. Why? Who thought this was a good idea? I cannot laugh, I do NOT feel the Christmas spirit and I am constantly feeling awkward. Awful sequel.

The Family Stone (2005)

... I f*cking hate this movie. I hate it so much that I want to buy every single copy and set it on fire. Just burn. Die. Cease to exist please... Okay, so this guy brings home his girlfriend, okay? Who has issues, nothing major, just OCD and neatness, okay? And what happens is that the whole family laughs at her. I am not kidding, their idea of being open to the girl their son/brother is in love with is to laugh at the awkward person she is. The sisters are rude as hell, for no real reason (I am going to be mean and assume they have no sex life, because the level of intelligence this movie has showcased would make that assumption accurate), and then the mom is dying. Oh yes, she is so close to dying that she does so the next morning, not ever having told her kids about her condition. I mean, merry Christmas I guess. And if it wasn't an already awkward story, the mom and the dad have sex, which I assumed everybody heard based on the montage scene, and THEN she dies. Oh and the guy leaves her awkward girlfriend for another girl, BUT THAT'S OKAY, because the girlfriend falls in love with his brother instead. This is all I remember and even this I wish I could erase from my head. This is not normal. This is not how normal people behave. American families might be more messed, and yes, occasionally you do have parents who are unable to tell their children if they are sick, I get that, but the whole set up of the family is just unhealthy. So much so that I would rather assume a family like this does NOT celebrate Christmas together. That would have made more sense. You do not shit on your brother's wife-to-be, and then you do not steal her away because you are more compatible... NO. God I hate this moooovie!!!!!

Which ones do you hate? Let me know in the comments below!

Until the next item on my list!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

What's Next On My List? Anastasia

A childhood favorite, I was terribly scared of it for years and years... and actually there still are parts of that I skip, but... if it wasn't worth the goosebumps I wouldn't re-watch it as often as I do. And yes, this too is a Christmas movie to me.

Story centered around the legend of the lost Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. The Duchess is presumably lost when Rasputin, a trusted friend of the family who was then thrown out of the palace and forbidden to return. He decides to take his revenge and on the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty he decides to take every single Romanov with him to the grave. Unsure as to why he cannot rest in peace, he finds out that his mission was unsuccessful as one Romanov is still alive, none other than Anastasia.

Of course this is an alternate reality, the true story is engulfed in mystery, but the happy ending that the cartoon gave unfortunately never occurred. But... you watch this cartoon and you fall in love. It belongs to the golden age of Don Bluth movies, with beautiful animation and wonderful music. It is one song in particular that makes this a Christmas movie for me, and that "Once Upon A December", sang by Anastasia when she wanders into the royal palace. Miles and miles of snow cover Russia, and Anya, an orphan girl is kicked out of the orphanage as she has come of age, she sets out for St. Petersburg. There she is lost in the ruins of the royal palace, feeling at home but unsure as to where that feeling came from. Here she is discovered by Dimitri while she sings, a young con-artist who wishes to get the reward from the Dowager Empress Marie for finding his lost granddaughter.
To Dimitri's surprise he found the true Anastasia, suffering from amnesia after a blow to the head when she lost her grandmother who was fleeing from the country. They travel together to Paris, and during their adventure fall in love. She wished to find a family for years, and she found that with Dimitri, her future finally surpasses the past. 
Needless to say, there is nothing romantic about winter in Russia... but snow alone is very inviting to me. I adore the winter, actually, I love something about every single season. And you know each time I re-watch it I end up liking it more and more. It is a scary movie but it is also very funny. Finally the soundtrack is one of the best for Bluth movies.

Watch it? Absolutely. It might do the Christmas magic for you as it does to me, but it is an outstanding cartoon with a great story. Plenty of action and you might even spare a few tears while watching it.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Anastasia - Meg Ryan
Dimitri - John Cusack
Vladimir - Kelsey Grammer
Rasputin - Christopher Lloyd
Bartok - Hank Azaria
Young Anastasia - Kirsten Dunst
The Dowager Empress Marie - Angela Lansbury

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What's Next On My List? Billy Elliot

Well, I don't have to tell you why this movie is awesome, actually, I think this might be one of the most useless reviews I will ever write :D but I wanted to include it because to me it is a Christmas movie... And as to why you'll see in a minute:

A young boy from a miner family discovers that he has talent for ballet and wishes to pursue it. However, his father and his brother are caught up in the fight against the low wages they receive as miners and do not think of Billy's future as a priority. When Billy's father Jackie realizes that he has a potential to be much more than he ever could have been he steps up for him.

First of all, my sister showed me this movie in December, I am certain that we already had the decorations up in the apartment, which just added to the feeling. Second, there is a Christmas scene in it, which might be the saddest scene in movie history, but it is followed by snow and it is around Christmas that his father realizes how much his son is worth. The musical version of the movie, which has added to the popularity of it, has given a much larger role to the holiday season. In it the whole town has a Christmas party at the community center and Jackie has a song as well as the ensemble, and it is one of my favorite Christmas songs actually. The musical was written by Elton John, and the song is "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher". Third, and final reason, is that most of my favorite Christmas movies are not really centered around the holiday season, it is simply a part of the story and the fact that it is not the center of attention makes it that much more important. The holidays are always cause for debate in the family and not everyone is a fan... but it is still part of everyone's year. The fact is that there is enough to get me invested, to see different sides, to see different families and to learn about different stories. In this movie winter is not a long period but it stands out in my opinion. I love the scene where Jackie realizes his son's potential and I love it when Billy and his best friend build a snowman. For him Christmas without his mom is especially hard but they still manage to pull through.

Watch it? I don't know why I'm asking, I'm sure you have already seen it. And if you need convincing then do watch the musical as well! It was one of the best directed shows I have seen on stage in 26 years and I say that having seen over at least thirty. Good music, good actors and a great story.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Billy - Jamie Bell
Mrs. Wilkinson - Julie Walters
Grandma Jean Heywood
Tony Jamie Draven
Jackie Gary Lewis
Michael - Stuart Wells

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What's Next On My List? Balto

As December has rolled in I am thinking about writing about movies that make me feel Christmassy, although they are not considered as such by others. Now, a lot to cover here, but first I wanted to talk about a favorite of mine from my childhood.

An outcast, Balto, lives on the outskirts of the town on Nome, Alaska, where most dogs look down on him for being half-wolf. For this reason he is not allowed near humans either, but that does not stop him. He has feelings for a husky girl, Jenna, and when her owner Rosy falls sick with the other children in town he is determined to help.

This is of course a romanticized version the story that inspired this movie. Balto was a Siberian husky and sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nenana, Alaska, by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease. The serum was transported by many, not just the team led by Balto, and actually many were offended that he was the only one receiving attention. When the other dogs were awarded for their part in the adventure Balto was not invited. (You can read up on it here!) His story is the basis for many other children's stories, out of which this cartoon might be the most famous as it has two more sequels.
Now, the snow and the setting and the story... all of is makes it Christmassy to me. The fact that there is a miracle in it just makes it that much more seasonal! Snow in general just makes it feel like Christmas to me, it might be just my thing, but I am sure others find it so too. I adored this cartoon as a child, an outcast who becomes a hero... when you grow up feeling that you might not fit in then you are sure to fall in love with this adorable half-breed. My favorite is his best friend, Boris, a Russian goose who has some of the best one-liners out there. Their friendship is very moving. Yes, I have cried several times whilst watching it. On top of that there are two polar bears that can't swim but love hugs and cuddles and I relate to them on an emotional level!

Watch it? I do recommend it whole-heartedly. It teaches a lot of good lessons and it is a good reason to look up real life heroes. It is a wild and very adult adventure but with no real losses or tragedies (compared to a Disney movie, for example). It also has an outstanding soundtrack!

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Balto - Kevin Bacon
Steele - Jim Cummings
Jenna - Bridget Fonda
Boris - Bob Hoskins
Luk and Muk - Phil Collins