That new Star Wars trailer looks pretty freaking cool

I have to preface this post by saying I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. Yes, I grew up watching the original films, and they hold a small special place in my heart but there are certainly franchises that I care about more deeply. However, it would be foolish of me not to take a moment to at least acknowledge the new trailer just released for The Last Jedi. It looks pretty freaking badass to me.

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I enjoyed The Force Awakens just like everyone else, but we all know it’s basically just a retelling of A New Hope. I’m not bashing The Force Awakens for being that though. The similarities between the two films served an important purpose. It ignited a nostalgic passion in old fans by reminding us why we love the original films while introducing us to new characters. It also gave new fans a chance to acquaint themselves with the overarching themes and form of the Star Wars franchise. Now that old and new fans are onboard, The Last Jedi has a chance to divert from the past and create something new for the franchise.

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Kylo, baby, what happened to your face? Just kidding, I know

Of course, there are some obvious and unavoidable similarities between The Last Jedi and Empire Strikes Back. Rey is undergoing jedi training on an isolated planet with a reluctant mentor just as Luke did with Yoda, while her friends are off traveling, but the trailer doesn’t focus on those similarities. Like many sequels it feels darker than The Force Awakens. Luke is clearly in a hopeless place and Kylo’s angst seems even greater than before. Plus with the recent passing of Carrie Fisher, the film is going to carry a certain weight that The Force Awakens didn’t have. I’m sure you’ll find me sobbing anytime General Leia is onscreen.

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I’m already crying

There’s not really much I can say about this trailer that a million other more dedicated Star Wars fans haven’t said already, but the trailer did awaken (haha! Get it? Like the force was awakened in Rey. I’m sorry.) an excitement in me that I wasn’t really feeling about this film before. I’m not buying a ticket yet and will probably wait to see the movie until well after its release on December 15th, but consider my interests piqued and my expectations high!

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A Tribute to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead

Today, horror film fans all over the world are weeping at the loss of the great George Romero, myself included. Inventor of the modern day movie zombie, Romero’s first feature length film, Night of the Living Dead (1968), is a classic in the horror genre. You can’t claim to be a horror fan if you’ve never seen Night of the Living Dead. (If you haven’t seen it, luckily it’s available on YouTube for free, so stop whatever you’re doing right now and go watch it. Plus there are spoilers below. Come back here when you’re done. I’ll wait.) I can’t even begin to list all of the reasons this movie is so important, but I’m going to do my best to touch on as many as I can in this post.

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The actors ate roasted ham covered in chocolate sauce so basically just as disgusting as eating human flesh

While zombie movies did exist before Night of the Living Dead was released in 1968, they were mostly depicted as reanimated human corpses, or, as in White Zombie (1932) (which is considered the first zombie movie ever made) as mindless, unthinking human bodies controlled by magic or some other force. Romero was the first to give zombies their cannibalistic appetites, and the first to make their only weakness be destroying the brain. Now, these are standard rules of every zombie movie, in fact these two are the few rules established by Night of the Living Dead that are not broken nowadays. Even though, the word “zombie” is never mentioned in Night of the Living Dead, (“those things” or “ghouls” being the movie’s preferred terminology) fans quickly began to refer to Romero’s undead as zombies, and no zombie film has been the same since.

Romero’s film didn’t just give us zombies in the form that we know them today; Night of the Living Dead also provided future zombie movies with a blueprint for character types. Barbara serves as the helpless traumatized victim, Mr. Cooper as the belligerent and selfish problem causer, and Ben is the capable, coolheaded hero. These characters reappear in film after film, hitting many of the same beats and causing the same problems over and over again. Night of the Living Dead also introduced the terrifying idea of a child zombie murdering and devouring her own parents. Nowadays, we recognize all of these tropes immediately when watching a zombie movie but in 1968 Night of the Living Dead was the first to present them.

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Duane Jones as Ben a BAMF

In addition to creating these long-lasting tropes, Romero’s film is also one the first horror films to cast a black actor as the lead and hero of the film. While Romero always maintained that Duane Jones was cast as Ben because he gave the best audition, it’s impossible to ignore the implications of such a choice in 1968 when black actors were rarely cast in lead roles, especially in films with an otherwise all-white cast. Not only is Ben a black lead character, he also outlives every other character hiding out in the farmhouse, which as horror fans know is remarkable in itself for any black character in a horror film. Unfortunately, Ben doesn’t survive the movie, but his death is shockingly poignant.

After surviving the night by fighting off zombies and narrowly avoiding death by human error, Ben comes up from the cellar in the morning just as a group of local militiamen come through sweeping the area and disposing of the ghouls. Without even checking to see if there are any survivors in the house, one man raises his gun and shoots Ben directly in the head, assuming he is one of the reanimated corpses. It’s a harrowing and unsettling final scene. To think that Ben survived such a terrible night only to be killed just as the undead crisis was ending is heartbreaking. It’s not at all uncommon for the hero to die in horror films, but I’ve always found Ben’s death to be quite upsetting, as it seems so easily avoidable. Undoubtedly this ending was powerful back in 1968 but it’s taken on a new significance in light of recent similar tragic incidences in real life when a white man with a gun immediately assume that a black man is a threat without hesitation. Romero may have never intended to make a horror film with such a biting racial commentary, but it exists nonetheless and it is just becoming more relevant.

Without Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the zombie films of today would not exist. There would be no The Walking Dead, no World War Z, no Resident Evil, no 28 Days Later. While the merits of those series are debatable, without Romero we also wouldn’t have horror films with biting social and racial commentary like Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). So although it will be difficult to go on living in a world without George A. Romero, at least we still have his films to provide inspiration to future filmmakers.

RIP George. We’ll miss you.

they're coming to get you barbara

Name a more iconic line

Happy Independence Day Day!

Happy Independence Day, America!

I like to celebrate holidays by watching movies, so you know the same thing I do every other day of the year. In honor of today’s festivities I watched a July 4th favorite of mine, Independence Day (1996). If you’ve seen it, you already know that this movie has everything you could ever want in a summer blockbuster: aliens, explosions, the corniest one-liners. There is no other day of the year more appropriate for this movie, so I hope that while you eat your hamburgers and hotdogs you’ll sit down to watch this American classic. If you still need some convincing, here’s a list of reasons why I absolutely love this movie.

  • It’s hilariously convenient that a global alien invasion happens over the 4th of July weekend.
  • It’s extra hilarious that even though this is a global invasion, there are three spaceships over three different U.S. cities, and the film is mostly only concerned with what happens in the United States.
  • R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World” plays in one of the opening scenes.
  • Jeff Goldblum.
  • Every time Harvey Fierstein yells “David!”
  • When David rides his bike through the office while everyone is in full panic mode, and he stops to chastise someone for not recycling a soda can.
  • I don’t think Randy Quaid is even acting in this movie. Russell is just Randy Quaid if Quaid believed aliens abducted him.
  • Miguel saving his sister from almost having sex with that asshole Joey from 10 Things I Hate About You.
  • The aliens come here just to destroy our monuments.white house
  • I live in LA and had to google what building the spaceship is directly above because LA just doesn’t have recognizable skyscrapers.
  • Will Smith punches an alien (not for the last time either) and says, “Welcome to Earth”
  • Every single one of Will Smith’s one-liners
    close encounter
    • “Elvis has left the building!”
    • “I have got to get me one of these!”
    • “No, you did NOT shoot that green shit at me!”
  • Was crazy Quaid right all along? Was he actually abducted by aliens? I think so.
  • Area 51 is real and the president didn’t even know.
  • Will Smith dragging an alien through the desert.
  • Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation almost unrecognizable as the mad scientist who has clearly been held against his will in Area 51 for who knows how many years.
  • The speech that President Bill Pullman gives at the end of the movie is better than any speech the current president has ever given.

I seriously could go on forever. This movie is a ridiculous and amazing summer blockbuster that should be immediately added to your 4th of July watch list. If nothing on this list convinces you of that, then tell me in the comments what movie I should be watching today instead!

Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

alien

My Favorite Fathers in Film

For Mother’s Day, I gave you a list of some of the worst mothers on television, but this week in honor of Father’s Day, I’m going in a slightly different direction. Below you’ll find a list of some of my favorite fathers in film! Notice here that I just said favorite (not best) because few parents are perfect, even fictional ones, but the men on this list embody some characteristics that all of the best fathers have, including my own.

Mac MacGuff from Juno (2007)

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Best dadvice ever

Played by the ever-delightful J.K. Simmons, Mac MacGuff is the father of titular pregnant teen, Juno. Few fathers would be able to keep their cool like Mac does when his daughter sits him down to confess that she’s pregnant. He doesn’t yell at Juno or send her to her room. He doesn’t demand she get an abortion or force her into a teenage marriage. Instead when Juno tells him that she intends to give the baby up for adoption, he listens to her and agrees to support her decision. He even goes with her to meet the adoptive parents. Of course he isn’t pleased with Juno’s situation, he even wonders if it’s his fault that she’s ended up in this position, but regardless he continues to love and support his daughter. He offers her advice and guidance without trying to control her thoughts or actions because he understands that his daughter is an individual person in charge of her own life.

Daniel Hillard from Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

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I’ve mentioned before that I really love cross-dressing movies, and this won’t be the last time I mention it either because I love when traditional gender lines are blurred. Mrs. Doubtfire is one of my favorite cross-dressing movies for a myriad of reasons but one of those reasons is the strong sincere love that Daniel Hillard has for his children. I can’t imagine that most men out there are willing to go to the lengths that Daniel goes to just to have a few more hours with his kids. Not only does Daniel learn to apply prosthetics and put on makeup, he also puts in extra hours learning how to cook and clean so that his disguise is more convincing. Through this process, he also learns how to be a better father than he was before the divorce. He stops being the cool, fun dad and starts being a real parent. The fact that he had to pretend to be a woman to learn to be a better parent is a topic for another blog post.

Henry Jones from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Jones-boys

An accurate representation of me talking to my dad

Henry Jones is far from a perfect father, but then Indiana Jones isn’t always the greatest son either. I love Henry Jones because he is everything that dads are in real life. He is stubborn and annoying and critical of Indiana, but as they go on their adventure finding treasure and fighting Nazis, it’s easy to see that Henry and Indiana love each other. Plus it’s so fun to see them share their passion for archeology and adventure together. Through all of their differences and petty arguments the Jones men still love each other, which is apparent when Indiana risks everything just to save his father’s life at the end of the movie.

Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation series

clark griswold

Clark’s skill as a parent is certainly questionable, and he’s not necessarily a great role model for children or adults. However, when there are so many movies and TV shows that depict fathers as doing everything in their power to avoid their families, it’s so nice to see a man who so badly wants to give his family the perfect vacation. Of course everything goes wrong, and Clark is responsible for quite a few of those mishaps, but still every Vacation movie ends with the Griswold family happily together as a unit. Plus he definitely gives his kids vacations they’ll never forget.

None of these dads are perfect, but the best parts of them are characteristics that all great fathers have. They’re loving, passionate, and they respect their children, which is really all that matters to kids, and that’s what makes them my favorite fathers in film. There are so many more that I could’ve included on this list. Tell me your favorite movie dads in the comments!

Wonder Woman is the hero I’ve been waiting for

Of course I’m writing about Wonder Woman this week. How could I not? It’s the movie that everyone is talking about right now and for good reasons. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the theater yesterday afternoon to see this movie because there really isn’t another film like this. Sure, back in the early 2000s we had Catwoman (2004) and Elektra (2005), which were both female lead superhero movies, but they’re both terrible and came long before superhero movies began to dominate the box office every summer. So many people went to see Wonder Woman this weekend and left thinking they had just seen a great movie (the best DC movie since The Dark Knight in my opinion), but they may not realize the significance of this movie. It’s incredibly important for so many reasons, and I’m excited to see what this film’s success might lead to for women characters and women filmmakers.

Wonder Woman as a character has existed for 76 years. Let me say that again. She has existed as a superhero since 1941, and she is just now getting the big screen blockbuster treatment. For comparison Iron Man and Spider-Man have only been around since the 60s, and Deadpool’s only been on the scene since ’91, yet they all got their origin movies before her. Even if the movie were terrible, Wonder Woman would still be significant just because it exists. There is no other movie with a superhero female lead that isn’t an offshoot of an originally male superhero series. Like I said before, we’ve had Catwoman, Elektra, and even a Supergirl movie in the 80’s, but all of these characters only exist because Batman, Daredevil, and Superman existed first. They are side characters that got their own spin-off, but Wonder Woman is her own character upon which her own franchise can be built.

Plus, Wonder Woman is a true superhero in every sense of the word, but the most significant to me is her super-strength. Catwoman, Black Widow, and countless other female superheroes often don’t possess this defining characteristic of superheroism. Wonder Woman is literally stronger than every man she comes into contact with, and it was so powerful to see her up there on that big screen smashing buildings and throwing men around like they were paper people. When she rises up out of the trenches in her first big battle scene, literally entering “No Man’s Land,” I nearly cried real tears. I’ve never seen a female character do this is in a movie before. As she deflected every bullet that flew at her and brought down bad guys with her Lasso of Truth, she gained ground and took on an entire army by herself, while her male sidekicks followed behind her.

out of the trenches

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The scene that made me weep with joy

Wonder Woman is also unlike many recent superheroes in that she is optimistic, idealistic, and caring. She doesn’t possess the arrogance of Iron Man or the brooding cynicism of Batman. She’s a hopeful superhero, which is something desperately needed in the world right now. She fights for truth, justice, and love, not out of vengeance or some sort of obligatory duty. She fights for the world to be the utopia that she grew up in where people support and love one another. If this is what female characters can bring to rejuvenate the superhero genre, then I am here for that.

Aside from Wonder Woman’s place as one of the first films with a female superhero lead, it’s also making waves in other ways. If you’ve been on the Internet at all today, then I’m sure you’ve heard that Wonder Woman broke the US box office record for a female directed movie. Surpassing the previous record set by Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey, Wonder Woman made $100.5 million in the US this weekend, and $223 million worldwide. If you’re not obsessed with film and television like I am, you might be wondering why this is such a big deal. Luckily, I’m here to tell you why it matters.

Hollywood cares about one thing and one thing alone. Money. This is especially true of big studio productions like Wonder Woman. The amount of money that a picture makes is the only thing that really matters to studio executives, and those executives are the ones who decide which movies get made and who makes them. Most of these executives are men, and most directors of big budget movies are men. In fact, the Directors Guild of America’s Diversity Report found that in 2013 and 2014 women accounted for only 6.4% of film directors. That number drops to just 3.1% for films that earned more than $10 million at the box office. Worse still is the fact that minority female directors make up just 1.3% of directors in those years.

Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman, was able to achieve something that few women rarely do because they are rarely given the chance. She directed a film with an estimated budget of $150 million and her movie made all of that back in its first weekend. Jenkins directed just one other feature film before Wonder Woman, Monster (2003) with Charlize Theron starring as notorious serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and most of her directing work was in television. Hopefully, she is just the first of many women who will no longer be looked over as directors simply because they haven’t been given the opportunity to prove themselves.

The monetary and critical success of Wonder Woman this weekend may finally be the signal that Hollywood needs to begin trusting women directors with big budget movies. I saw this movie on a Sunday afternoon and the theater was packed. Women are making up 52% of the audience going to see Wonder Woman, which just proves what I already know, people want to see stories about women made by women. The proof is there in the numbers, so maybe I can finally stop shouting out my window, “HEY HOLLYWOOD! WE WANT MORE MOVIES ABOUT WOMEN. THEY WILL MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE!”

When I left the movie theater on Sunday, I felt so empowered by Wonder Woman’s strength and her heart. I’ve never seen a movie like this one before, and I can only imagine what it would’ve been like to see this movie when I was a young girl. I sincerely hope that the success of this film means that changes are coming in big budget blockbuster movies, both on-screen and behind the scenes. But progress is slow, and we often regress. Here’s hoping Wonder Woman is strong enough to finally break through that glass ceiling.

Is it really that bad? Elaine May’s Ishtar

This week I’m writing the first post of what will be on ongoing series where I watch the worst of the worst movies so that you don’t have to! For the first entry into this series, I’m tackling Elaine May’s final foray into directing, Ishtar (1987). Frequently cited on critics’ worst films lists, Roger Ebert described Ishtar as “a truly dreadful film, a lifeless, massive, lumbering exercise in failed comedy,” but is it really that bad? The short answer is no, it’s really not the worst movie ever made, but the longer answer requires a bit of background on the film’s origins.

Before she became a writer and director, May got her start in the 1950s as part of an improvisational comedy duo with Mike Nichols. In the 70s, May transitioned to directing, and after completing two comedies and one crime drama, Warren Beatty decided to help her produce a movie. Unfortunately, nearly from the start, problems plagued Ishtar. The real life political strife in the Middle East caused issues with filming. The desert climate affected May’s health poorly and exacerbated the disagreements over creative differences between May, Beatty, and co-star Dustin Hoffman.

The budget for the film ballooned, ultimately reaching around $51 million, and the studio lost faith in it. Leaks about May’s poor attitude and all the other difficulties of production appeared in the press long before anyone had a chance to see the film, so that when it finally premiered it only made $4 million in its first weekend.

Disregarding the film’s troubled start; does the film itself truly deserve all the hate? Ishtar stars Beatty and Hoffman as unsuccessful songwriting partners, Lyle Rogers and Chuck Clark, who accidentally become enmeshed in political espionage after accepting a gig in Morocco. Sure, the premise is ridiculous, but that’s true of a large number of classic comedies. Some critics say the film doesn’t work because Beatty and Hoffman were cast against type with Beatty playing the bumbling doofus and Hoffman as the suave charmer, but I don’t see this as a detriment at all. Beatty and Hoffman both play their roles with such devotion and sincerity, and watching the film today when they’re not quite the giant stars they were then removes those preconceptions.

Beatty and Hoffman are at their best in the early parts of Ishtar when the characters are just struggling songwriters in New York getting to know one another. These scenes, and really all of Ishtar, are classic cringe comedy. The songs of Rogers and Clark are so bad they’re good. Cringe comedy can be seen all over the current television schedule (think The Office for example), but was not quite as popular when Ishtar premiered. This likely attributes to its status as a bad movie. If you don’t enjoy comedy that makes you wince with embarrassment, you’re not going to like Ishtar.

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Check out the song “Dangerous Business.” You won’t be sorry, or you will be because it’s very bad.

As the film goes on the plot unravels quite a bit as the two men accidentally come to possess a map wanted by rebels and the CIA. The film ends with a small firefight in the desert between Rogers and Clark and the United States CIA. The guys make a deal with the CIA and agree to surrender the map in exchange for a record deal. The movie ends just as it begins, with Rogers and Clark performing one of their songs. These are the parts of Ishtar that I could watch over and over. Seeing Hoffman and Beatty sing intentionally terrible songs with utter conviction is truly comedic brilliance.

Ultimately, Ishtar does not deserve to be called the worst movie ever made. It’s not the worst. It’s not the best either, but as I saw at the New Beverly Theater on Monday night, it clearly has a devoted audience that loves it for the mess it is. And there’s certainly no other film like it.

It’s immensely unfortunate that it killed May’s directing career, considering there are countless male directors who helmed larger flops than hers, and they are still given a second chance. She once said, “If all of the people who hate Ishtar had seen it, I would be a rich woman today.” If you haven’t seen this movie, I have to recommend that you do. I can’t promise that you’ll love it, but it’s funnier than many people would lead you to believe. Its reputation alone earned it a spot in film history and should earn it a spot on your watch list.

Five Shows I’m Excited to See Next Season

It’s that most exciting time of year when we all find out if our favorite TV shows are being renewed or canceled. It’s like Christmas in May, if Christmas means sometimes your favorite toys get ripped away from you. So this week, I’m going to talk about all the shows I’m excited to see returning, and one new one that I’m looking forward to.

Bob’s Burgers

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There wasn’t much fear that beloved animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers wouldn’t be returning in the fall, but that doesn’t make me any less excited. There isn’t another family on television as loving and supportive as the Belchers. The three Belcher kids are some of the strangest children, but their parents never try to change or control their behavior. Instead, they encourage them and love them despite their quirks, which makes the kids incredibly confident. It’s quite refreshing to see a teenage girl like Tina Belcher who exudes confidence even when she clearly isn’t the most popular girl in school. I’m always excited for the return of this show, and that won’t change this fall when it returns for its eighth season.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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I became obsessed with this show just as the second season ended this spring after getting multiple recommendations from friends. The title of the show had always kept me away from finding out more about it, but I was wrong to avoid it for so long. This show has everything I love in it; complex female characters, feminism, and musical numbers. It follows the story of Rebecca Bunch, a high-powered lawyer, who leaves her life in New York behind to follow her ex-boyfriend to West Covina, California. I am endlessly impressed by the writers’ ability to create two to three original songs for every episode. Songs that are actually good and fun to listen to even out of context. (Remember when Glee tried to do original songs? It was terrible.) The season two finale left me with a lot of questions, and I can’t wait to get some answers and see where they take the show in season three.

The Last Man on Earth

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I absolutely love this strange quirky show, and I was genuinely worried it wouldn’t be renewed for a fourth season. Luckily, though, it’s weirdness gets continues in the fall. The Last Man on Earth follows the story of Phil Miller two years after a deadly virus killed almost all life on earth. If you’re watching other shows about the end of the world right now, just stop and watch this one instead. I think it’s the best show about post-apocalyptic America on TV right now. Even though Last Man is a comedy, they regularly tackle serious situations that would be a real problem if most humans on earth died. In season two, one character suffers appendicitis and since there are no doctors in the small group of survivors, another member of the group has to perform surgery on him. It’s a truly harrowing moment in a show that also frequently features a grown man lying in a margarita pool.

margarita pool

Roseanne

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I’m not sure how I feel about all of these revival shows that keep popping up, but this is the first one I’ve been genuinely excited about. Roseanne is a classic TV sitcom that pushed boundaries when it first aired. It’ll definitely be interesting to see what the show is like in 2018. What challenges will the working class family face in the 21st century? I’m also curious about how the show will explain away the notorious events of the original series finale. I think this will be one show reboot you won’t want to miss.

Law and Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders - Season 1

I am so here for this. With the incredible success of recent shows based on real life crimes, like The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, it makes sense that the long-running procedural police drama franchise, Law and Order, would jump on the true crime train. Edie Falco stars as Leslie Abramson, attorney for the Menendez brothers who were convicted of murdering their parents in 1996. While the Menendez murders are relatively well known, they aren’t quite as infamous as the O.J. trial, so the show may not get quite as much attention. However, I’m excited to see Law and Order’s take on the true crime drama, and I hope this isn’t the first miniseries they produce.

Well, that’s it. These are the shows I’m excited to see in the upcoming 2017-2018 season. What shows are you excited to see returning in the fall? Shout them out in the comments!