Rod Hilton saves Star Wars

I linked to this on Twitter this morning, but it’s cool enough (and, dare I say, to the extent that Star Wars can be considered “important,” important enough) to link to here as well, just so it doesn’t vanish into the social networking ether.

Rod Hilton has devised an ingenious viewing order for the complete Star Wars saga. OK, actually not the complete saga, but what could come to be viewed as the definitive saga. He makes a compelling case for shuffling up the order a bit, and for removing The Phantom Menace entirely.

The ultimate sequence he devises is as follows:

  • Episode IV: A New Hope (or, more properly, Star Wars)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

I’ll leave it to Hilton to explain in detail how he arrived at this solution, along with its (mostly) pros and (few, minor) cons. The whole post is definitely worth reading and I look forward to watching the “complete” saga in this order soon.

Yes, I was Hoodwinked Too!

I don’t often write movie reviews here, but then again, I don’t often see the worst movie ever made, and I think the latter may just have happened yesterday.

In my defense, there is one, and only one, reason I went to see Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil yesterday, and that was to allow myself and my family a two-hour reprieve from the oppressive 100-degree heat of Minneapolis in July. It had not occurred to me prior to leaving home that there may be experiences to be had on such a summer day that were far more unpleasant, even if they were air conditioned.

Two minutes into the movie I was already bewildered by the incomprehensible (and unengaging) plot; the uninspired, inappropriate-reference-saturated, rapid-fire, pseudo-witty dialogue; the derivative grab bag of every possible character and trope from popular animated movies, good or bad, of the past decade (including, but not limited to, Shrek, Ice Age, The Incredibles, Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda); and the lazy, stunningly, sub-straight-to-DVD-Barbie-movie bad animation. The only thing this movie had going for it was a fairly decent cast of voice actors, and even then, most of them sounded as if they were recorded at their first table read, half asleep and wholly disinterested.

It got worse from there.

Or maybe it didn’t, as there were at least 2 or 3 moments — brief moments — during the movie where I was mildly entertained, mostly involving Bill Hader and Amy Poehler as Hansel and Gretel. But even they were annoying far more often than not. And they were nowhere near enough to offset the myriad other horrible things wrong with this movie. Perhaps the most disturbing is the movie’s tendency to take every questionable attribute of modern “kids'” movies to its logical extreme, especially the references to films no child should be able to understand. A few throwaway quotes from the likes of Scarface and Terminator (within 10 seconds of each other) is one thing. An entire scene built upon a parody of The Silence of the Lambs, with an Andy Dick-voiced rabbit strapped to a hand truck and locked behind shatterproof glass a la Hannibal Lecter, is inexcusable. And if inappropriate references don’t bother you, don’t worry. There are enough stereotypes here to offend just about anyone.

At this point you may be asking why I chose to see this movie, and why I’d spend money on it. The reason is simple: it was playing at a nearby second-run theater, which only has a single screen. This is what was showing at the time we chose to go, and tickets were only $2 each. That someone might have spent as much as $15 per ticket to see this movie (in 3-D no less, from which we were thankfully spared) sickens and saddens me. I scarcely even knew this movie existed prior to yesterday, and will do what I can to purge it from my memory as soon as this post goes live.

I’m sure far more people read Rotten Tomatoes every day than have visited this blog since its inception, so reiterating its content here is superfluous. Except… I wouldn’t be surprised if more people read this blog than have bothered to check out Hoodwinked Too! on Rotten Tomatoes. And since some of the reviews of this godawful piece of garbage (which, yes, I know, was the result of a lot of hard work… or, at least… work… by a large number of talented people… or, at least… people) provide far more entertainment (in far less time) than the movie itself, I figure they’re worth shining my dim little light upon.

If you’re not familiar with Rotten Tomatoes, it’s essentially a movie review aggregator. It provides each new release with a “Tomatometer” score, representing the percentage of reviewers who’ve given a film a positive rating. Films over 50% get a nice, plump, ripe red tomato. Films under 50% get a nasty green splatter. The site also gives each movie its own page, featuring excerpts from select reviews.

Hoodwinked Too! has one of the lowest Tomatometer scores I’ve ever seen — 12%— which restores just a shred of the respect for humanity I lost at the movie theater yesterday.

Here are some of my favorite comments from the reviewers:

Full of manic momentum and nattering, witless word play, the movie has all the charm of a mudslide.
–Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

This is precisely what I was thinking, if not so eloquently, during the opening scenes.

Remember the first “Hoodwinked,” five years ago? Remember how it ended with the promise of a sequel? Remember how many times you’ve wondered when-oh-when-will-it-finally-come? Me neither.
–Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

I honestly don’t remember ever seeing any promotion whatsoever for either of these movies, and could have gone on happily ever after (to carry over the fairy tale theme) believing they didn’t exist.

Parents should take their children to “Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil,” if only because kids are never too young to learn the important and liberating skill of walking out of a movie and demanding a refund.
–Kyle Smith, New York Post

Why didn’t I think of that?

Somewhere during the first 30 minutes I actually felt my soul shrivel up and die. Trust me, you’ve had more entertaining colonoscopies.
–Jeff Meyers, Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

No comment.

Movie review: Star Trek

Star TrekTo say that I was excited to see the new Star Trek movie is an understatement. I first mentioned it here back in November.

So it should be no surprise that I went to see it on opening night, and I was not disappointed. The reviews are consistently superlative, and I agree. As someone who’s been a lifelong fan, albeit a somewhat tepid one, one who has approached the films in the series (my God, is this really the eleventh one?) with a degree of caution and/or passive disinterest (I’m not even sure I’ve seen all of the later ones), I know the characters well. I know the clichés and conventions (though I’ve never been to a convention — that’s not what I’m talking about). I know the difference between “Trekkie” and “Trekker” though I would not describe myself as either.

And then there’s the director, J.J. Abrams. I’ve heard good things about him, but believe it or not I’ve never watched a single episode of one of his TV shows, nor have I seen any of his movies. I’m not even sure what movies he’s done. Cloverfield, right? Anything else? (Yes, I know I could just check IMDb, but I’m trying to make a point.)

In short, while by all outward appearances I should be a hardcore fanboy for this, I’m not so much, really. And with that said, I can tell you I thoroughly enjoyed this movie (well, except maybe for the last few minutes), and that I think it will be equally appealing to both the serious Star Trek fan (Trekker, if you please) and to the summer blockbuster action-adventure watcher looking for a little over two hours of genuine quality entertainment. Perhaps the only people this movie will not appeal to are hardcore sci-fi aficionados who do not already like Star Trek. Though set in the future, and drenched in stunning futuristic visual effects, the movie is fairly light on the “sci.”

What it’s not light on, though, is intense action, an engaging story, great acting, and a near-perfect balance of plot, adventure and humor. It manages to be simultaneously reverent and irreverent towards the original series, in a way that reminds us that Gene Roddenberry’s ’60s version was both smart and silly, clever and clichéd, boldly original and drinking-game-worthy predictable.

Minor spoiler alert: if you want to be totally surprised when you see it, stop reading here.

The casting is first-rate. The actors have managed to evoke their original counterparts while simultaneously fully inhabiting the characters and making them their own. Chris Pine, in particular, is excellent as James T. Kirk. He’s probably doomed never to be as memorable or iconic as William Shatner, but he’s a lot more believable as the brash, reckless, brilliant, defiant soon-to-be captain of the USS Enterprise. I was less impressed with Zachary Quinto’s take on Spock, but that’s perhaps a bit unfair: in the context of this story, Spock is supposed to be somewhat abrasive and unlikable. The scene stealers, though, are definitely Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Pegg as Scotty. I am hoping for some sequels if for no other reason than to see more of these two.

I could go on for pages about the details of the story, but I’ll let you see it for yourself. Suffice to say, time travel and alternate realities are involved, and I think that particular plot device was handled in a completely novel way. All of the requisite Star Trek tropes are here: Bones saying “Dammit, I’m a doctor not a…”; Scotty saying “I’m givin’ ‘er all she can take!”; Chekov’s ridiculously over-the-top accent; and of course, the two most essential elements of Star Trek: Kirk making out with a green-skinned woman, and an anonymous “red shirt” dying on an away mission.

A true Trekker wouldn’t have it any other way.