Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review

peregrine4Man oh man. What has happened to Tim Burton? It has been nearly a decade since he made a film that didn’t make me want to rip my eyes out and yet I still believe in his talent. I know Tim has the ability to be a great storyteller. I’ve seen it in Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands but instead all we seem to get are horrible misfires like Dark Shadows, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Planet of the Apes, Big Eyes, the list goes on….When I saw the trailer for his latest project Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children I got excited. Could this be a redemption film for Tim Burton?

I was so interested in the film I read the book, which I found kind of boring but it had potential to be a better movie. This could be Tim Burton’s X-Men about a school in Wales for children with special abilities. The school is led by a woman named Miss Peregrine who is part bird. That sounds like a great premise for a Tim Burton movie but much like his recent films it is all promise and no execution.

Let me just come out and say it this movie bored me to tears. It felt like it would never end.

The biggest problem with the film is all the exposition. It reminded me of Last Airbender (never a promising start to a sentence) in the way it took magical lore and made it unmagical by explaining everything. Even the final fight is mostly people explaining their motivations and how they are going to get away with it. Kill me now.

peregrin2I haven’t been so bored in a movie since Warcraft. The trailer makes it seem like you are going to spend all this time with all these crazy fun kids. Not so much. Most of the kids you barely see and when you do see them it is more explaining with ever so brief glimpses at their skills (and absolutely no sense of attachment or heart to these mutant kids).

peregrineEva Green looks the part of Miss Peregrine but is left explaining to Jake how loops work and what the wights are (the school is in a loop repeating the same day and there are all these other loops all around the world…). There’s a scene where she shoots a crossbow at a wight and that should be awesome but it’s not because the script won’t allow it to be.

peregrine5I fell asleep for a few minutes at one point which is never a good sign. Asa Butterfield plays Jake who is grieving over his grandfather who dies in a rather horrific way (pretty scary movie for little kids). But he’s completely bland and the screenplay never allows us to connect with him emotionally.

This movie reminded me a bit of the 5th Wave. A premise that should be epic and exciting but instead is just dull and bland. It doesn’t even have Tim Burton’s signature colors or artistry. There is one fun fight with skeletons at the end but even that is interrupted by a scene with a lot of talking. The film is set in Wales so the cinematography feels foggy and muddled, so I didn’t even enjoy it on a visual level (at least a movie like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I hate, has a little bit of cool production design). I guess the only thing that looked kind of cool was when Jake and Ella are underwater and one of her bubbles becomes a helmet for him. That’s all I’ve got.

peregrine7There’s a twist with the villain that is supposed to surprise you but since we have spent no time with this person we don’t care. We also get Judi Dench for about 5 minutes to further explain things.

Everyone feels miscast and bored in the film. Samuel L Jackson has a little bit of a fun but he does a lot of explaining too. It’s just some kind of curse on this movie.

I really hated it. It might seem like I am being harsh but I really was that bored. The movie didn’t say anything to me or have a message I could appreciate or anything. I just kept wondering when it would be over and I could go home.

Overall Grade- D-

DO BETTER TIM!!!!

Lion King Remake

lion-king34As a Disney blogger I feel somewhat compelled to say something about today’s announcement of a Lion King remake. I wish I could say I was surprised but come on guys we all knew this was coming.

So, what do I think about live action Lion King? Well, my feelings on fairytale retellings are mixed at best. Even in books they just aren’t my thing. When it comes to the movies I have loved 2 of them- Pete’s Dragon (which is a remake in name only) and Cinderella (which there are so many versions it’s not really an animated remake). I liked Jungle Book and 101 Dalmatians but didn’t love them like some.

Three of them are awful- Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. They are bad for different reasons but mostly they just aren’t very well made movies, with badly written scripts and boring characters. When this is done to a remake of a classic film it feels insulting because you know that Disney could have done better. They have the better version staring them in the face and they settled for junk (yes, I realize that is strong words but I think those 3 movies are that bad).

As far as my recent outcry over Beauty and the Beast. I have hated everything I’ve seen out of that movie. People ask my opinion and that’s how I feel. Could the movie be great? Sure but things like the new Lumiere and Cogsworth? Peeuw! And then when I heard the director claim the reason to do the remake was they finally had the technology to fully realize the original vision that angered me. That vision was fully realized. If Disney is going to insist upon making these remakes could they please stop downgrading the original in an effort to puff up the new film? Please!

So, the Lion King…the first obvious difference between it and these other films is no humans. It is basically an animated film but because it is photo-realistic it is perceived as live action. And they could use motion capture to get eye movements and other facial expressions on the lions.

I have no interest in this project at all. Does that mean it couldn’t be good? Of course not but I’m not excited or anticipating it in any way. I’m open to them being good or bad but don’t expect me to be eagerly anticipating any of these remakes.

I’m not in general opposed to remakes. I just don’t like bad movies and for a long time these remakes were terrifically bad movies.

There are a few spots where the Lion King could be improved on such as the intro to Can You Feel the Love Tonight, which I’m sure will happen as this will be a dark and grittier version like in Jungle Book. I’m not sure I need a dark and gritty version but whatever…

I don’t know what else to say. There’s a difference between totally writing something off and being expected to be excited about it. For some reason I was expected to be excited about a teaser trailer for Beauty and the Beast that was shots of the set and some music but everyone expects me to be full of wrath at this announcement.

I don’t hate the remakes as some form of protest. I genuinely look at the films/promotional images and either like them or don’t like them. It’s as simple as that. I actually liked the Jungle Book trailers so it’s not just some knee jerk, hate everything reaction from me. So far everything out of Beauty and the Beast I haven’t liked and have frankly been surprised that other people were so accepting of them. I mean Lumiere and Cogsworth you can’t see their faces! And the new Belle dress…Ee gads. It’s like they are actively trying to make her ugly. Don’t even get me started on Mrs Potts…

If I had it my way these remakes would take the Pete’s Dragon approach. Take indie directors with bold artistic approaches, small budgets and lots of heart. However, these big loud bloated films seem to be the typical Disney choice. Shrug. Too bad.

I guess my only real question will be if they use the music or not? Most of the films have not used the music (Jungle Book I didn’t really care for the music in it. We will see on Beauty and the Beast…). Also, will they bring the original voice cast back? Who knows?

When it comes down to it I wish they weren’t making any of them but am open to them being good movies. I guess that’s all I have to say.

More ramblings on my youtube channel

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Review

middle-schoolIt might surprise you to hear it but I think the pre-teen demographic is one of the  most underserved at the movies, especially with live action films.  There are lots of films made for younger and lots made for older but rarely is something really made with them in mind. The last good film for that demographic was Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.While today’s film, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, isn’t as good, it has entertaining elements for its target demographic including humor, heart and fun animated sequences.

Based on the novel by James Patterson, Middle School focuses on a kid named Rafe (Griffin Gluck) who is starting at a new school under rule of Principal Dwight (Andy Daly). Rafe has lost a loved one in his life and is grieving, which has caused him to move around from school to school. Principal Dwight makes it clear to Rafe on the first day of class that he is living under a new regime with a strict rulebook. Rafe is a creative kid and finds these rules frustrating and unfair. Principal Dwight is also focused more on standardized testing than on actual learning.middle-school3When Principal Dwight destroys Rafe’s artbook filled with sketches Rafe and a friend seek revenge through a series of pranks that go from silly (dying the principal’s hair brought me back to Home Alone) to creative (a post-it note display is completely impossible for him to do in one night but very pretty). I think kids will get a big kick out of these kind of pranks and the actors pull off the physical comedy well.

middle-school2There was a surprising amount of heart in Middle School particularly with the family grieving over the loss of their loved one. I admit I teared up in a few moments. Lauren Graham is wonderful as usual as Rafe’s mother. I think kids will really be able to relate to what the family is going through which to me make it better than a pure slapstick film.

middle-school6The animation segments are also really cool. I wish there were even a few more of them but they pop off the screen and feel like a doodle come to life. It was a creative touch I didn’t expect from this kind of movie. It kind of reminded me of the claymation in Better Off Dead.

middle-school5Where the movie falters is in a plotline with Rob Riggle- a comedian I have never liked. He plays Rafe’s Mom’s fiance and is named ‘The Bear’ and is animated as an obese bear in several segments. He is right out of any ‘I’m sending these brats to boarding school” (literally) that we’ve seen in a million other movies. There is absolutely no reason to believe Mom and Bear would be together or that she would put up with him and it really dragged the movie down.

The thing is we don’t need another villain at home. Principal Dwight is more than enough to keep things going. If you think about Ferris Beuller’s Day Off his parents are kind of a non-entity and it is better that way. Edward Rooney is more than enough of an antagonist for the film to work. Andy Daly also has enough charm as Principal Dwight that he can stand on his own.

Middle School_CBSFilms_FrankMasi_2015_17411.RAFI also wish it was just a little bit funnier.  There was nothing that made me laugh as hard as the DMV scene in Alexander and the Terrible Day. As it is it feels like the humor you get in a Disney Channel TV show, which isn’t bad just not hilarious.

middle-school7I have a feeling critics will focus too much on the flaws of this film, so it may have a low RT score. Trust me. If you have a child in the target demographic, don’t pay attention to that.  Take them. I really think they will like it. If you don’t than it is probably a pass and maybe catch it on cable or streaming later on.

It could be better but it still was a decent example of this type of formula film. Plus, the heart and creative touches made it an engaging watch.

Overall Grade- B-  (If any of you see it, let me know what you think)

Stranger Things Series Review

stranger-things2I realized I haven’t posted in nearly a week. Sorry about that!! Make sure you are subscribed to my youtube channel where I do family movie nights (just posted review of Land Before Time) and weekly Disney Canon reviews (just did review of Fantasia 2000). Part of the reason I didn’t post anything for 6 days is there wasn’t any movies I was interested in seeing beyond Magnificent 7 and Storks which I already reviewed. But I also was kept away from the theater, busily  finally catching up on the new hit Netflix miniseries Stranger Things! I thought I would share with you guys some of my thoughts. Spoiler free of course.

So Stranger Things is a creation of the Duffer Brothers and directed by Shawn Levy of Night at the Museum fame (big step up for him!). Pulling from the style and lore of 80s television and movies (particularly Stephen Spielberg and Stephen King) Stranger Things tells an absorbing story with compelling characters and fantastic atmosphere.

stranger-things3Stranger Things is about a woman named Joyce (Winona Ryder) who’s son Will ends up missing. Like so many movies it is set in a small town in Indiana (go Hoosiers!) and Will is friends with a group of boys that he likes to play Dungeon and Dragons with. These boys try to find Will and they find a mysterious girl named Eleven. There is also a sheriff looking into the disappearance and teenage girl named Nancy who’s friend Barb also is lost. Nancy has relationship drama with a boy named Steve and Will’s brother Jonathan, who is creepy but likable. stranger-things-smallerThe best thing about Stranger Things is the cast. I particularly loved the kid actors. They are completely adorable but also believable as real kids. They spoke like real kids and had conflict and supported each other in realistic ways. When Lucas gets mad at Mike over Eleven it feels completely believable.

stranger-things6Millie Bobby Brown is also sensational as Eleven. She is mysterious and weird but not in the ‘creepy child from horror movie’ kind of way. You feel deeply sorry for her and much like Mike quickly want to protect her. It always seems like she is a hair away from bursting into tears but then she throws vans into the air. That mixture of strength and vulnerability really works.

stranger-things4That is also true for the teenagers who aren’t just one note bad/good guys.  While I liked their storylines less than the kids they still did a good job. I like that Jonathan was kind of creepy and weird and Nancy wasn’t just a damsel in distress. They could have given Barb a better storyline but you can’t have everything for every character I suppose. They were just different enough to keep you guessing.

stranger-things10Winona Ryder is fantastic as Joyce who is paranoid and crazy but is she…I don’t think she completely knows for most of the show, which makes her a compelling character. She’s a grieving frantic mother but also warm and sympathetic when she needs to be. It’s also refreshing that she isn’t given a love interest to cling on to in the show. She must be strong for herself and her family but she’s a mess at times as well. A great character!

stranger-things19David Harbour is also terrific as Sheriff Jim Hopper. He’s used to nothing big ever happening in the small town but with Will missing he faces one obstacle after another. Then Barb is gone and other strange things happen. He also has a tragedy in his past which makes him more than just the typical macho cop.

I think you can get an idea from this trailer the tone and atmosphere of the show. It is so well done. I was completely absorbed and watched it in 4 hour batches so set aside time if you do watch it. Also the music by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon is perfect.

The cool thing is I don’t think Stranger Things is just nostalgia porn. It pays heavy homages to past properties but it is its own story with compelling characters. On its own it is as good as anything it is paying homage to and in some cases better. I think you will all love it.

As far as content there are some scares and bloody moments but nothing too bad. If you can handle a movie like Gremlins or The Burbs you will be fine. There is a little bit of language and one scene of sensuality. I would rate it pg13.

Overall Grade- A+ if it was a movie it would be in my top 10 for sure, maybe top 5

3 Magnificent 7s

mag7-2On Monday I had the chance to go to a screening of the Magnificent Seven. This is a remake of a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Seven Samurai. I had been planning to see the previous films before this new film but the opportunity presented itself so I took the unorthodox approach of seeing the newest film first. Now I have seen all 3 films and can let you know what I thought of all things Magnificent Seven. Maybe I could call it the Magnificent 21 and make it a triple feature?

Let’s start with Seven Samurai:

seventh-samSeven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa is a truly epic film. At 3 1/2 hours it is intimidating and long but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In Japanese with subtitles it is not for the faint at heart filmgoer who isn’t willing to work for their movie.

It tells the story we will see in all of these films. It’s a village that is being manipulated by bandits who are stealing their harvest The villagers decide to hire samurai to protect the village led by Kambei, a ronin who is bitter at his own servitude in his life. Then there are 6 others- Sichiroji, Katusushiro, Heihachi, Kyuzo, Gorobei, and Kikuchiyo.  All 7 have their own story arcs and personalities.

Where the other 2 films treat the bonding with the village as more after-thoughts that is the main story behind Seven Samurai. The villagers don’t trust the Samurai as there is a stiff class divide between the farmers and the samurai. Katsushiro faces particular struggles as he becomes involved with Shino, a farmers daughter.

You have to think of Seven Samurai more like you are binge watching a show on Netflix. It is episodic but in a good way. Nobody could endure any of the pieces for 3 hours whether battles, class struggle, romance or preparation for the bandits; however, together it all works as an amazing film. The acting is first rate and the cinematography is stunning from Kurosawa. There’s about 30 minutes that are completely in the rain, which is amazing to look at.  I found myself getting very involved with the people especially in the last hour and half.

Seven Samurai is definitely the best out of the 3 films because of its scope and characters but it is probably the least rewatchable and digestible, so it depends on what you are in the mood for.

Overall Grade A+

Next up Magnificent 7 (1960)

the-original-magnificent-sevenThe samurai has been turned into the cowboy, which makes sense given their similar place in American folklore. In this version a Mexican village is raided by bandits who threaten to return and take their harvest. The villagers meet Chris Adams played by Yul Brynner who they hire to protect their town from the bandits. He gets 6 of his buddies to help because he feels sorry for the people.

Horst Bucholz, Brad Dexter, Charlese Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and Steve McQueen make up the rest of the Magnificent 7 and they begin to help the town be ready for the bandits to return. Each of the 7 have different insecurities and weaknesses but they do their best to train the people. In one nice moment the men realize they are eating all the food in the village so they decide to share it with the town. There is a real sense of bonding with the Mexican people and getting to know them.

Horst Bucholz’s Chico has a larger role than I was expecting- falling in love with local Petra and acting as a spy in the bandits camp. Chico find out they are nearly as desperate for food as the villagers. The two groups fight it out and it works because you have gotten to know the men like Chico and Steve McQueen’s Vin Tanner.

All of the performers are top notch in this film, which is part of the reason it works. There is nobody like Yul Brynner as far as I’m concerned and he is great here like always. You completely buy him being the leader for both the people and the 6 other men.

Some of the Mexicans can be caricatures that made me a little uncomfortable but over all an entertaining film with engaging action and performances.

Overall Grade- B

seventh-samurai2In our latest version we have director Antoine Fuqua taking a crack at the Magnificent 7 story. This version follows the 1960 film pretty closely but it amps up the violence at every turn. This new take won’t be for everyone but I found there was entertainment to be had.

Instead of a group of bandits this time we get an evil capitalist named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Unlike the 1960 version where the bandit’s men were starving, Bogue just wants power and more land. It’s the classic big bad greedy man. He was a real snooze fest in the movie to be honest.

But to open the film Bogue burns the church to the ground and murders Haley Bennett’s husband for standing up to him. She finds Denzel Washington’s Sam Chisolm and hires him to fight against Bogue and his army. Chisolm then gathers together his crew of 6 and they begin to train the town to defend themselves.

I really liked this cast. Denzel Washington is a movie star and he shines with swagger and charisma. Chris Pratt is great. Ethan Hawke is grizzled and weary. Vincent D’Onofrio is fantastic. I loved how diverse the cast was with Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeir all playing unique roles with a lot of heart to them.

The thing that separates this film from the other two is the violence. I can’t believe it is a PG-13. There are probably 200+ men that are killed in various ways throughout the movie. We see stabbings, shootings, arrow kills, explosions, the list goes on and on. The last act of the movie is as kinetic and crazy a fight scene as anything I’ve ever seen.

I guess you either think stuff like that is fun or you don’t. I kind of did believe it or not. Plus, the stars sell it 100%. The stuff with Bogue is pretty lame and it does drag in the middle and the characters are more rote than in the other 2 versions. They are pretty much excuses for the violent action so it depends on whether you like that kind of thing or not.

Also nice to hear a lovely last score from the late James Horner.

Overall Grade- B-

Also, A Bug’s Life is definitely based on this mythology, which evidently everyone already knows but me! Learn something new every day!

Have you seen any of these films and what do you think?

Here is my youtube video

Storks Review

storks-baby

storks10Today I got to see the new animated film Storks, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by it. Going into I was honestly confused by the trailers as to the tone and even who the lead character is going to be. I’m not sure how they could have better marketed the film but I can definitely say the movie is better than any of the trailers.

Storks is practically a one-man show with director Nicholas Stoller also writing and producing. His background is in live action comedies like Neighbors and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The only family fare he has written is The Muppets. You can see this live action mature background in the humor of Storks but it is not tawdry or adult in a negative way. In some ways it felt like a Simpsons episode with dry, sarcastic kind of humor mixed with physical slapstick.

storks4

The setup is storks have stopped delivering babies to deliver packages instead. But one day a stow-away human named Tulip accidentally creates a baby which she and a stork named Junior must than deliver to its parents.

storks11The family of said baby is also featured with a workaholic Mom and Dad and their son named Nathan. One thing I loved is that the movie has these parents learn their lesson early. The Dad agrees to play with Nathan and he ends up having a blast. Then the Mom joins in. I thought that was kind of creative rather than the tired busy parent learns to love their kids moral at the end of the movie.

storks8The jokes come often with the same joke getting milked repeatedly which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I’d say about 80% of the jokes land and I was amused by the film. A particular favorite joke involves the wolves linking arms to form a car, plane and even suspension bridge.

There is also a really nice heart to the movie with a message of alternative and different families and everyone gathering together to raise children. Also it was nice to see the end message is that nothing is really greater than raising a family.

storks6The babies are also completely adorable and I also loved Tulip’s hair. I had major hair envy!

The colors in the film are bright and vibrant. The animation looks good but there is nothing in this film that I will remember in 10 years. Something about it feels a little slight and forgettable.

That said, I still enjoyed it and think it is better than The Secret Life of Pets. I personally would put it beneath Finding Dory and Kung fu Panda 3 because I think both had stronger animation and sold their messages better, but I still enjoyed Storks very much.

Aside from a few boring scenes, my other major criticism is all the male characters sounded the same to me. Particularly in scenes with the wolves I thought it was all the same voice actor and it seemed like they were all trying to copy Lego Batman. They needed to pick more distinct vocal talent.

Also a little of the Pigeon Toady goes a long way. Sometimes he worked and other times I found him pretty annoying.

Other than that, I had fun with it. I think most families will go and have a good time.

Overall Grade- B

Here is my youtube review. I am so close to 1000 subs. If you aren’t subscribed you should be. I create daily content I think you will enjoy! Thank you!

Moana and Trolls Trailer Reviews

So today and yesterday we had 2 new trailers drop for Fall animated films, and I thought I would give you my quick thoughts. Let’s start with the trailer I’m most excited about for Disney’s Moana:

I personally don’t know how you walk away from this trailer and not be excited. Moana seems like a great well-rounded character. I love her character design and that she looks like a normal young lady. However, she is not the cliched warrior woman although clearly with that spear she can be fierce. I also love the way she stands up to Maui in the boat! The film looks like such an epic adventure with battles, sea travels, diving into the realm of monsters that all looked awesome.

It also looks very funny without being too modern and cheeky. The music sounds great. The visuals look breathtaking. I can’t wait!!!

On a less enthusiastic note. Let’s talk about the new Trolls trailer:

I’m not going to parse words I hate this trailer. I hate the way it is hiding behind the voice talent. I really don’t care who is voicing your characters. Don’t sell me on them. Sell me on the characters they are voicing. It shows a lack of confidence on your film if you are leaning so hard on the vocal talent.

I hate how much of the story it gives away. I hate how saccharine the story looks and it all feels so boring and bland. It’s not good when the main quote from your film is “this is a story about happiness”. How profound…

On the plus side, Trolls looks like it will entertain small children and the color palate is very appealing. The original song is catchy but the jukebox songs I’m not sold on.

I hate to say it but I’m getting Strange Magic vibes from this trailer…
I’m really bummed to because I really liked the 2nd trailer. Hopefully the movie will surprise me and be great like Kung fu Panda 3 or Lego Movie that also had trailers I hated.

What do you think of these trailers? Do they sell you on the films? Do you agree with my takes?

Ranking Star Trek Movies

star-trek-collage-thumbnail

Hey guys! So I have done it! I have finished watching and podcasting about all the Star Trek movies. Including Galaxy Quest and our ranking episode that’s 15 podcasts! My friend Tom joined me for these podcasts and it has been so much fun to jump out of my comfort zone and try something new. I’ve been impressed with the variety to the Star Trek movies. Sure not all of them are great but so is the case with any franchise, but they do shake it up quite a bit. There is action, adventure, sci-fi, horror elements, goofy comedy and everything in between.

Star Trek Podcasts

We had some technical difficulties with audio in some of the early podcasts but we hit our stride eventually. I think you will really enjoy them.

Today to conclude the series we did our rankings of the 14 films we watched and I thought I would share it with you guys. I would love to hear your rankings in the comments section.

14. Star Trek: The Final Frontier- William Shatner’s one and only time directing and it is a mess. Garish, sloppy and boring it just doesn’t work

13. Star Trek Nemesis- An intriguing idea of a Captain Picard clone becomes extremely forgettable and with a rape subplot it doesn’t feel like Star Trek

12. Star Trek: the Motion Picture- An attempt to homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey but it doesn’t have the sense of mystery about Kubrick’s film. Long self indulgent shots of the ship exemplify the film for me. I found it extremely boring and I didn’t get into the film like 2001

11. Star Trek Insurrection- The idea of relocating a people is an interesting dynamic along with some strange looking villain people with stretched faces. You also get some humor with the crew getting twitterpated. The villain played by F. Murray Abraham is very bad and it is just very forgettable

10. Star Trek Generations- Best parts of the film are when Picard and Kirk see the lives they could have lived and have to make the choice to return to reality and face their foes. However, we don’t get as much of the two of them as I would like and the production design feels cheap

9. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home- I know this is a favorite of most fans and I do see the value to it. It has nice moments but is a little too silly for me to fully embrace. Scenes like when they are running away from the hospital feel inspired by a 3 Stooges skit more than Star Trek

8. Star Trek: Into Darkness- Benedict Cumberbatch is mesmerizing as Khan and the action is very entertaining. However, the attempts to copy Wrath of Khan I could do without. They feel wedged in and unnecessary.

7. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock- Woefully underrated film with an emotional arc for Kirk as he sees his son killed by the klingons and is mourning the loss of Spock. Some strange elements and Christopher Lloyd is a little over the top but it feels cinematic and fun.

6. Galaxy Quest- Hilarious comedy where particularly Alan Rickman shines as Alexander Dane the serious actor on the Star Trek-like show. Very well written and well made it takes on fandoms and Star Trek without being mean about it.

5. Star Trek (2009)- Very entertaining reboot with a whole new timeline. Great casting and action with a nice character arc for Kirk. I thought Zachary Quinto was a little flat as Spock (he grew on me) and the villain is very forgettable but still very engaging film.

4. Star Trek Beyond- Might be recency bias but I loved the way this film split off into little groups so you got to spend time with the crew in a way no other Star Trek film I’ve seen. The script was funny and it felt like a group of friends working together. I also loved the addition of Jaylah. The climax with the Beastie Boys is admittedly silly but I thought still entertaining.

3. Star Trek: First Contact- Basically a zombie movie in Star Trek. The borgs are a great alien spieces that is menacing and intimidating. The quest to stop events on earth are compelling and the acting is top notch. You get nice emotion from Lilly and Picard in particular.

2. Star Trek IV: Undiscovered Country- Probably the most entertaining Star Trek film. It has it all including a dinner scene where they quote Shakespeare that I loved. Christopher Plummer is in this and is fantastic. The trial of Kirk gives us some of his most emotional moments where he admits his anger over those who killed his son. It’s well made and we get a lovely sign off (literally) for this original series crew.

1.Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan- It’s a bit of a cliche for this to be my favorite but the guts they have to kill off Spock is what puts it over the edge. The scene where Spock sacrifices himself for the good of his friends is emotional and Shatner and Nimoy are so good in it. Also Khan is a tremendous villain and the rivalry between him and Kirk is great. It’s scary at times with horror elements like the bug going into Chekhov’s ear. When it came down to it I feel this is the most memorable of all 14 films and the most gutsy.

So there you have it. What would be your ranking? If you haven’t seen any of the Star Trek movies give at least Wrath of Khan a shot or maybe the new reboots. You just might be surprised. And if not Star Trek I challenge you to go out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Dip your toe in an unfamiliar genre. I have found when I do I am a better for the experiment!

Live long and prosper!

Blind Spot 9: 400 Blows

400-blows2This month for my blind spot series I finally watched the seminal french new wave film The 400 Blows. Directed by the great Francouis Truffaut I had long heard about this movie but had never seen it. Now that I have I can see why it is such a classic.

The 400 Blows is about a little boy named Antoine who is growing up in the 1950s Paris. His parents don’t care for him and at best placate and put up with him. His teacher at school is constantly scolding him and he is out of place in the world.

In many ways Antoine reminds me of Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, which was published in 1951. The 400 Blows came out in 1959. However, I prefer Antoine to Holden because his observations are mostly made through quiet staring at those around him where Holden’s dialogue becomes obnoxious.

400-blows3Some people will hate the 400 Blows because not a ton happens in the story. It’s really about this character and how the world seems to not be made for him. No matter what he does the world seems to scold him.

The cinematography by Henri Decaë is gorgeous and 400 Blows is great to watch just on a technical level. Each shot gives you a piercing look at Antoine’s loneliness. Most of the shots are made beneath Antoine and look up to him again showcasing his isolation both mentally and physically. There are many other unique shots and perspectives Truffaut uses to create tone and tell the story.

We also see Antoine escaping (literally one time from a fire) to the movies, which for movie lovers has significance. It’s really the only positive thing in his life for most of the film.

400-blows5There is definitely a feeling that Antoine never has been allowed to be a child. His parents are harsh including his Mother expecting him to hide her secrets from everyone. His teacher openly hates him and even with his friend they are basically adults not children.

Evidently Truffaut was commenting on the state of the juvenile treatment centers of the era, which is interesting because they are a footnote to the movie. But in a way it makes sense because the whole movie leads up to his placement there and how Antoine never really was given a fair shake. The movie does not manipulate the viewer with sentimentality or emotional sequences. It merely shows Antoine’s life and how the world has failed him.

400-blows-5In some ways I feel a little outside my skill-set to review a film like 400 Blows. The film-making techniques used are clearly masterful in ways only a cinematographer or technician could articulate, but I certainly can tell it is a beautiful and striking film. I recommend reading Roger Ebert’s ‘Great Movies’ review where he talks about Truffaut’s back story, the freeze frames and other camera work used in the film. http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-400-blows-1959

If you like Catcher in the Rye and those types of stories or love to watch beautiful camera-work I think you’ve got to see The 400 Blows. It’s a classic for a reason!

Overall Grade- A+