Monday, May 4, 2015


What can be said of this film that hasn't been said before? Nothing. Red Letter Media has that covered . Their analysis of STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE is the end all of any review about the film. What I wanna do is basically talk about what Star Wars means to me, thoughts leading up to the first prequel, and what I thought after.

Believe it or not, but there was once a time when Star Wars was considered retro. It's true, I was there! It was the year 1995. The trilogy was remastered in THX and fans started to get nostalgic. For gamers and collectible geeks like myself, there was a CCG Star Wars card game that was all the rage for awhile. Young filmmaker Kevin Smith inserted clever anecdotes and jokes about the beloved trilogy into his early films. It was a great time to be a Star Wars fan!

In 1997 the greatest thing happened, or so we thought? The greatest trilogy of them all was coming back to the big screen! This was huge. Advanced tickets sold out super fast, and this fan had to wait until the next weekend to see STAR WARS on the big screen. As we all know, these re-releases were special editions with added special effects, new scenes, and Boba Fett. Kwel!

It's now common law for any Star Wars fan to face palm at the very mention of the special editions and countless updates given to them. But in 1997, I did not care because I got to see STAR WARS on the big screen!

It wasn't until the release of STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE on video and the umpteenth VHS box set release of the original trilogy, where fans started to really see the downside to the alterations.

But lets back it up a bit to the theatrical release of STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE. The buzz for this movie was insane! Everybody was talking about it, and marketing was everywhere. I think there was even Episode I batteries! The film itself isn't very good, but I wouldn't trade this moment of fan hype for the world.

It's been several years now and I still remember day like it was yesterday. The day I bought advanced tickets for the first Star Wars film in 16 years. It was an experience I will never forget and never ever do again. I must have shown up to Springfield 8 at about 6am or 8am to purchase my advance tickets. Much to my surprise the front steps to the theater had been transformed into a campground. Tents and sleeping bags were everywhere.

I was shocked and a little intimidated so I left thinking that I wasn't prepared. After breakfast I drove back to the theater and got in line. By then the tents and sleeping bags had been put away. And for the next several hours everybody that was in line was talking about Star Wars and how much the films and legacy of the franchise meant to them.

What happened next was real annoying. The box office opened for the first matinée but unlike today we had to wait until 4pm (or something close to that) to get advanced tickets. I don't remember the details, but things worked very very differently back in the day. I wanna say that even ordering tickets online wasn't a thing yet?

So it's the afternoon and I still have a final at OTC to take later that day. But before that, I got to see THE MUMMY (1999) at half price for standing in line for hours and hours. However, was my whole day waiting in line going to be in vain because of some college final? Luck would have it that my dad was already off work or had the day off. The phone call was made and I was already prepared for the worst. Kids, never underestimate how cool your parents are! If this was for any other movie I'd be up a creek, but dad understood Star Wars.

So my final is done and I'm heading back to the theater thinking that my dad will have my advanced tickets in hand waiting for my return. Nope. Everybody is still waiting, and the line has doubled from the looks of it. After it was all said and done, I think it was 4pm that I finally got my advanced tickets. Was it worth the wait?

Yes and no, but mainly yes. The day of the midnight showing was a communal gathering of Star Wars fans that I will never forget. I ran into old friends and even made new ones. It was a great time to be a fan. That alone makes getting advanced tickets worth it, and I would do it again. The reason that I kinda feel that advanced tickets wasn't worth it is obviously moot but still one aspect of the experience annoyed the crap out of me. And that reason is, I saw the film again the very next day with my best friend early in the morning with no muss and no fuss.

Once STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE hit VHS, that's when fans started to discover that the movie wasn't very good. For years, almost a decade even, I was a huge George Lucas apologist. My excuse always being that he is a unconventional filmmaker. And that Jar Jar is for the kids so just quit your bellyaching. I always found the Trade Federation Droids and actor Jake Lloyd more annoying than everyones favorite Gungan.

Then one day my opinion changed. Someone on Facebook directed me to the light. If I remember correctly an old high school friend sent me a link to a video review of Episode I, but it just wasn't a review, it was an analysis of why the film is terrible.

You know what video I speak of. The popular Plinkett reviews from Red Letter Media. Their video made me realize just how boring the film is and how it's riddled with plot holes and things that just don't make sense in regards to the original trilogy. And just how un-Star Wars it was! Foolish me, all these years I just figured Lucas was on a whole other level when it came to writing and directing.*

A Star Wars film (or any film for that matter) should not be a chore to sit through. And for me the first two prequel movies are just that, a chore. Episode III has it's fair share of problems but at least I still consider that one entertaining enough to re watch. But anytime I try and watch one of the prequels, I opt for the original trilogy instead.

Do yourself a favor and watch the original trilogy today! May The 4th Be With You!

* Insert joke here.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


The question on everybody's mind is if AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is better than MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS? The answer is yes. However, nothing will ever top the first time Joss Whedon brought together all the MCU in one film. Not only bring them all together but make it work. And boy did he make it work.

Much like how a comic book opens with a splash page (a action panel that typically takes up two pages), AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON wastes no time and kicks things off with a traveling action sequence reminiscent of the NYC battle at the end of the first film. With all our heroes working together. Such a beautiful way to start the movie.

Even though this is only the second film, The Avengers coordinate like a well oiled machine. It's as if there have been some missions we haven't seen?

This time around The Avengers are called upon to retrieve Loki's staff which is now in the hands of Hydra. During the mission our heroes run into two new meta-humans, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff who are brother and sister. Under control by Hydra the siblings make the mission difficult for The Avengers. Especially Wanda and her psychic ability to make people see things that aren't really there.

During the raid of Baron Von Strucker's secret Hydra base, Iron Man/Tony Stark obtains Loki's staff. It is at this moment when Wanda gives him a glimpse of the future. In this future all Earth's Mightiest Heroes are dead. Is this a mind trick or are we seeing a possible outcome from the Infinity Wars? Like I said it's only a glimpse and once it's over, the mission at hand is successful.

Back at Avenger HQ Stark thinks about the future and decides it is time for Ultron, his artificial intelligence peacekeeping program. Something goes wrong and Ultron becomes self aware and comes to the conclusion that the only way to keep earth safe is to wipe out the human race. Thus putting The Avengers up to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance.

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON might be my favorite comic book movie. For a long time that title has belonged to SUPERMAN (1978). Still to this day I consider it the 'godfather' of comic book movies. I've learned over the years on what makes that movie great. We all know Superman is going to win. He's Superman! But what makes that film compelling are the stakes involved in it. He can't be in two places at once so he has to decide which missile to try and stop first.

In my opinion Joss does the same thing in his film. Obviously The Avengers will stop Ultron and save the world. But at what cost? And will our heroes be the same afterwards? Not to spoil anything but by the end we have an Avengers 2.0 team and a fan favorite who seems to have had enough.

I should also mention that the film is hilarious. This thing has Joss Whedon written all over it! It's kinda sad that he won't be returning for the third installment. But he has been an excellent architect for the MCU and I hope he'll at least stick around as a creative consultant.

Avoiding explaining what my favorite scenes and fights were I'll just tell you what I liked. First and foremost the look of the film. There is a lot of TLC in the detail of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Right down to the giant 'A' atop Avengers Tower. And it's true, Vision steals the show! Probably the best introduction of a character in the MCU thus far. There was much rejoicing then immediate shock and awe in the theater during his appearance. I cannot wait to see how Vision plays into the next film!

Now for something that has little to do with special effects. Two of my favorite scenes were pure character interaction. The beginning of the movie has great a party scene. And I am a sucker for party scenes. Ever since watching DAZED AND CONFUSED, the hang-out genre has been one of my favorites. The camaraderie of them all gathered around trying to lift Thor's hammer is a scene worthy of admission price alone.

My second favorite character moment was when the team had to go regroup at Hawkeye's farm. A nice break from all the action. And it was nice to see a glimpse of Clint Barton's personal life. It's cool that Joss is giving more screen time to characters like Hawkeye, who we really only see in the Avengers films.

If I had to pick a fault with the film, I'd say it was the relationship with Banner and Romanoff. It felt way too forced in my opinion. It's convincing, just a tad tacked on. Another issue I have is major spoiler-ish because it has to do with the death of a character. Yes, it wouldn't be a true Joss Whedon movie if a character didn't die. I just think that this time around the suits at Marvel Studios and Disney stepped in and made some changes.

My final thoughts are easily summed up as I think the MCU is at a point now to where it'll be extremely unlikely that I'll be disappointed between now and AVENGERS:INFINITY WAR -PART I & II. After that it's anybody's guess?

But for now, Make Mine Marvel!