Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Podcast Time: The Good Dinosaur

Pixar produced two original films this year, which is fantastic! Inside Out was definitely one of my favorites of this year. The Good Dinosaur looked beautiful, but the plot revealed in the trailers was very vague and not exactly as alluring as its animation.

I went to an advanced screening in September for The Good Dinosaur, and I personally did not care for it, other than it's breathtaking visuals. Overall, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I found a lot of the themes muddled and bizarre, aside from the fact that the story was kind of a bland hack of so many other family films. 

With my friends at Reel World Theology, we discuss these aspects of The Good Dinosaur that left us with weird vibes, as well as our general love for Pixar films. You can listen to the podcast here:

#083 – The Good Dinosaur and Bad Dads 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Trouble With Trailers - Star Trek Beyond

Yesterday, the trailer for Star Trek Beyond was released. It is a poorly made trailer that had fans in uproar. I personally don't think this reflects the movie itself as much as it reflects the negative changes throughout the industry in recent years.

Trailers have been sucking for several years now. They either reveal too much of the plot and content (Batman vs. Superman), or too little of it (The Good Dinosaur), or are created to appeal to the most generic demographic (The Fast and Furious trailers, or any action-y trailer really). I think this Star Trek trailer falls into the last two categories.

2009 was the year the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek film came to theaters, and it was also the year Disney's Tangled was released. I remember how cringe-inducingly awful the Tangled trailer was. Scored by P!nk (first red flag) and using such phrases as, "She's been grounded...for like ever." *facepalm* Yet, Tangled ended up being one of my top favorite Disney animated films. If I had simply based my expectations on the trailer, I never would have believed that to be possible. This is just one example of many times I've been surprised by a film, for good or bad, because its trailer was not to be trusted.

New aliens...
The trouble with trailers is the three categories, as I mentioned, and usually the third category comes from the mindset of appealing to the lowest common denominator. I know I'm going to sound like a puffed-up snob when I say this, but this Star Trek trailer was fodder for the lowest common denominator, and the studios producing it KNOW that. It's a rude truth to acknowledge, but it's still the truth. Action! Space ships! Aliens! One-liners! *sigh* I know a lot of people complained about the song used too, but it was the song from the first film that played when young Kirk stole the car from his abusive stepfather, so it was surprisingly one of the few choices in the trailer that actually made sense. If you haven't yet seen the trailer you can do so HERE

Regardless of how lame and typical this trailer is, I am still excited for this movie based on the other things the trailer didn't reveal. Firstly, that it was written by a team. Occasionally, that can be a bad thing, but usually if it's a team that loves the material we're in the clear. Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty in the films) is one of the writers this time. Aside from being an incredibly clever man and an already established writer/filmmaker, he LOVES Star Trek and I believe he would do his best to nurture and protect the material. Roberto Orci is a very seasoned and talented television writer and has worked with J.J. Abrams for years. The rest on the team I don't know much of at this point, but there's at least one other seasoned television writer among them.

Poor McCoy~ Though I love them all, he's my fave. ♥ 
The trailer doesn't tell us much, but what I could decipher seems more like the format of the original show. Though the original show was often more bad than good, I loved the format and the character building, especially between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Seeing the new alien peoples, as well as the planet pictured with my beloved Karl Urban (above), there is very much a throwback to the old worlds in the original series. My hope is now that we've established these characters on film, we can treat them in a more episodic sense. Maybe that won't ultimately work for cinema, but it's personally what I've been hoping for from the reboot.

Bottom line, yes, it may be unfortunately directed by the man responsible for bringing Fast and Furious films into the world, but it's okay. J.J. Abrams is still producing, the writers are good and love the material, and the cast is still the amazing cast. They are actually one of my favorite ensembles ever. In addition, they've brought none other than Idris Elba to the table, so that alone has me intrigued. In the wise words of that old ent, Treebeard, "Don't be hasty." We won't know until we see it, so let's just chill.

I love them! ♥
It's getting to the point now where I don't even want to see trailers anymore. I feel like they are becoming their own entity and spoil the film regardless of how much or little they reveal. I know a couple of people who have told me they don't even watch trailers anymore, they just look up the synopsis or movie information online and go off that. For them, it brings back the magic and mystery to the viewing. That may be hard to do in overblown media culture, but it's starting to sound more and more like a good idea.

What do you guys think? Are trailers getting in the way of your viewing experience? Leave me a comment below. I really want to know how people feel about this topic. Thanks!
- Alexis 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

10 Things That DON'T Suck About the Star Wars Prequels

Yes, it is possible! I found 10 things that don't suck about the commonly loathed Star Wars prequels.

Seriously, there is so much hate out there for these movies. When they first came out, I actually really liked them. Granted, I was 14, but even Jar Jar doesn't bother me the way he bothers other people. These days I acknowledge that they aren't good films, but they aren't the worst things ever either. If they had a better writer and director, they would have been amazing. I blame George Lucas for going all "James Cameron" on everything, but that's a tale for another day.

Admittedly, my feelings come from a strong air of nostalgia that will always be there and it softens the blow of how bad they are. I think we need some balance out there with all the searing angst from the Star Wars fandom. Keep in mind this is entirely my opinion, but I think the points are fair in a general sense too. So without further ado...

1. The Musical Scores

John Williams is John Williams. He could score someone taking a poop and it would be a masterpiece. (I suppose in some people's opinions, that's precisely what he did when scoring these films). To this day I consider "Duel of the Fates" and "Across the Stars (Love Theme)" to be two of the most epic and beautiful pieces of music ever composed. The scores to all three films are breathtakingly superb and, if nothing else, we nerds can listen to them and imagine our own version of the prequel storyline.

2. The Costume Design

The costume design of the prequels is pillared by remarkable detail and distinction, with inspirations accumulated from across continents and time periods. I love every piece of Padme Amidala's wardrobe in all three films, even the gaudy pieces, simply because they're so exquisite and unique. Her wardrobe alone was a major cornerstone of the films. I love how she has a distinctly different wardrobe in Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Then, in Revenge of the Sith, her wardrobe is a combination of her style in the two previous films. Very clever!

3. Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan Kenobi

Ah, my heart still flutters a little. I remember all too well that early teenage crushing when I saw Phantom Menace in theaters. I always loved his character in the original trilogy, but adorable Ewan McGregor definitely added something deeper to his makeup. By far the best performance in the prequel trilogy, Ewan really captured the essence of the character. If nothing else, I can watch the prequels for him alone and feel totally satisfied. He is Obi Wan.

4. Darth Maul

Dude is bad ass, end of story. Sadly, poorly developed and reduced to being Darth Sidious's muscle. However, Darth Maul is easily one of the most memorable things in the entire Star Wars universe. His costume design was the perfect mix of terror and elegance. I'll be the first to admit I still  get chills when "Duel of the Fates" begins playing and he slowly removes his hood before revealing our very first glimpse of a double light saber. *nerd-drool*

Still, besides looking cool and having legit combat skills, Darth Maul reminds me of the original Sith Lords of the Old Republic era of Star Wars which, at this point, is really only in books and video games. The Old Republic is my favorite time period in the Star Wars universe. I hope one day we'll get to see more of what it was like on the silver screen. 

5. The Lightsaber Battles

Off-shooting from Darth Maul, this list wouldn't be complete without discussing the immense transformation of the lightsaber battles from the original trilogy to the prequels.

The light saber battle in Phantom Menace is still thrilling 16 years later. If you can tolerate no other scenes in the prequels, I hope you can at least appreciate the choreography of the duels throughout. I remember sitting in my theater seat and realizing this was game-changing. The light saber battles in the old films were okay for their day, but otherwise kind of slow and awkward at times. Except for Return of the Jedi... Luke killed it.

Even though they may have been overblown in moments, the battles in the prequels were the showstoppers. The arena scene is the best part of Attack of the Clones, and Obi-Wan and Anakin's duel in Revenge of the Sith is what people waited decades to see. Though many things about the films were lacking and disappointing, I would say wholeheartedly the battles do not go in that category.

6. Mace Windu (and his purple lightsaber!)

Samuel L. Jackson as a Jedi... What else can I say? I loved the character and wish we had gotten more of him in the films. However, the Star Wars novel Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover is all about Mace Windu and it is awesome. Recommended reading!

7. Christopher Lee

(Explanation omitted because... duh).

8. General Grievous

Again, another woefully underdeveloped villain. Still, Grievous is a very intriguing character. We know little about him, but that he is a cyborg. I've been told they delve into his character more in the Clone Wars animated series and that we learn he was once a reptilian-type alien from the planet Kalee. He also has a fantastic, unusual concept design, reminiscent of Japanese anime, and it provides a creative contrast with the rest of the characters and droids. Though I will admit, the whole four lightsabers thing is a bit much.

9.  The quick glimpses into Luke and Leia's origins...

Though he played a minor role in Clones and Sith, I loved that we got to meet Bail Organa. The honest politician, and the man who would raise Princess Leia. I feel like a broken record, but yet another character that was barely heard over the loud and overly complicated plot. We know he served as Senator of Alderaan in the final years of the Galactic Republic married to a queen, who also gladly adopted the secret daughter of Anakin Skywalker.

It also would have been cool to see more of Alderaan, the place Leia calls home... before her real father blows it up in A New Hope, anyway.

We didn't get to see much of Owen and Beru either, but they were one of the biggest throwbacks to the original triology. Oh, that twin sunset... I never thought about it until recently, but the twin suns were very symbolic. Luke always felt out of place, like there was something else he was supposed to be doing. When he watches the double sunset in A New Hope, you get the sense of loss and seeking. Little did we know he would have his own twin and a second life to live beyond Tatooine.

I have to laugh because I always thought it was funny Leia got to grow up a princess on beautiful Alderaan living the cushy life, and Luke got the shaft by being sent to a moisture farm in the desert. Still, I guess the trade off is that he was with his closest thing to real family.

P.S. Joel Edgerton is awesome. And look how far he's come since this movie!

10. These posters...  

I have vivid memories of seeing the episode one poster for the first time and brimming with excitement. The idea of seeing Darth Vader's story and getting to know what led him down his path. I used to have that one hanging in my room back in the day. Ah, memories...

Additionally, before I knew how awful Attack of the Clones would be (the worst of the three films, in my opinion), I was absolutely in love with the second poster. I remember the tagline really hitting me. The films didn't ultimately stand up to the anticipation, but that doesn't change the memory of the posters for me. They're all fantastic pieces of marketing that got this nerd girl ready to hit the hyperdrive.

Last but not least, I wanted to share that I got to record two "minisode" podcasts for Reel World Theology's Star Wars series. It was a blast! I discuss some of the things I brought up in the post, but also dig deeper to other people's reactions. I did episodes 1 and 2, but be sure to check out all 6 minisodes on their website. Click the links below:

Only 17 days until episode 7 comes to cinemas! Have a great week, and may the force be with you...