Jumanji Character Names and Skills

cast of jumanji 2 and 3
Pretty easy to guess who is who.

Just to get you quickly up to speed, Jumanji 3 will reprise the adult “avatars” from Jumanji 2, although there’s a new twist in the characters who play them. Happily, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black are back.

Here’s a reminder of the Jumanji 2 foursome’s skills, strengths, and deadly weaknesses:

1. Dr. Smolder Bravestone (The Rock)

jumanji 3 the rock
Yeah, yeah. You’re good at everything. We know.

Legendary Adventurer
Explorer
Archaeologist
Hero

Strengths  

Fearless
Strength
Speed
Climbing
Boomerang
Smoldering Intensity (yes, he uses this one the most)

Weaknesses

None known

2. Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan)

jumanji 3 karen gillan
Who isn’t allergic to venom?

Commando
Deadly Dancefighter

Strengths

Dance Fighting (Seriously… Awesome)
Karate
Tai’Chi
Aikido
Nunchucks

Weaknesses

Venom

3. Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart)

kevin hart jumanji
Too bad about that cake.

Zoologist
Expert Weapons Valet (Backpack Man)

Strengths 

Zoology
Weapons Valet
Linguistics

Weaknesses 

Cake (Really!)
Speed
Strength (Strength is his weakness. He doesn’t think that makes sense either. )

4. Professor Shelley Oberon (Jack Black)

jack black jumanji 3
Jack Black playing a young girl in Jumanji 2 was actually awesome.

Renowned Cartographer & Cryptographer

Strengths

Cartography
Archaeology
Paleontology
Geometry

Weaknesses

Heat
Sun
Sand
Endurance

Here’s the scene from Jumanji 2 where the characters discover their strengths and weaknesses — the 3rd film seems to have added a few, if you study the photos above.

Where were the Jumanji house and jungle scenes filmed?

Movie Review – Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle

First View Movie Review – Jumanji (1995)

Who appears in every Star Wars movie?

anthony-daniels-star-wars
The chances of him being in a Star Wars movie is 100%.

Do you know who appears in every Star Wars film?

It used to be easy to answer this: until Solo, R2-D2 and C-3PO were in every film, even if just a short cameo, as in Rogue One. But squeezing them into Solo would have been pure fan-service and narratively unnecessary. We did get a new droid who became part of the navigational unit in the Millennium Falcon. That was cool. But no beloved robotic friends from the past.

So? Want to guess? It’s not Chewbacca, Han, or Lando (in fact, only Chewbacca shows up in  the prequel trilogy — he is around 200, after all). And it’s not Yoda (who is around 900 years old!), although, like Chewie, he manages to hit all three of the trilogy series as a character, albeit a Force Ghost in the latter. I don’t know if we should count Luke and Leia in hitting all  trilogies: they only appear in the conclusion of the prequels as newborns. But while the twins didn’t appear in Solo, Leia has a final moment in Rogue One.

Anyway, none of these characters make an appearance in every Star Wars movie. But someone does.

Then who is it?

This is actually a trick question. No character shows up in every Star Wars movie, but one actor does: Anthony Daniels. Normally he plays our old lovable Goldenrod…but in Solo, Daniels gets to show his face briefly as a human named Tak — a friend of the Wookiee Chewbacca meets on the spice mining planet of Kessel.

Anthony Daniels also plays C-3PO in Ralph Breaks the Internet, which is just awesome, and he gets to interact with more Disney Princesses than just Leia. He’s a protocol droid, after all.

If we’re going to get picky, Daniels plays Threepio everywhere Star Wars abounds: in video games, radio shows, television episodes, and several rides at Disneyland. Daniels even wrote I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story (<-Amazon), an autobiography released on November 5, 2019. (He previously considered using the title Telling the Odds, which I kind of prefer.)

Here’s a last bit of cool trivia: Daniels was the voice of Legolas in the Ralph Bakshi animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (1978).

For an actor without a recognizable face, Anthony Daniels gets around! Will Daniels appear in Rise of Skywalker, the finale to the Star Wars saga? The odds are indeed looking good!

I have a bad feeling about this…

https://runpee.com/obi-wan-kenobi-is-a-lying-liar-who-lies/

 

Star Wars Revealed: Obi-Wan Kenobi is a lying liar who lies

obi-wan kenobi in star wars
Watch his eyes. Old Ben is lying to you right now.

I just finished a rewatch of every Star Wars movie in preparation for Rise of Skywalker, the last Star Wars entry chronicling the extended tribe of Skywalkers. But what happened to the Kenobis? (I still hold out “hope” that Rey is a Kenobi, somehow.)

Well, we do know old Ben became a Force Ghost, although calling that version of him “more powerful than you could possibly imagine” is a real stretch. As RunPee Dan amusingly put it, Kenobi became little more than a Jedi Whisperer.

So it’s not clear in what way he became more powerful, even a little bit. Yoda seemed to stay reasonably powerful (he destroys the Jedi Tree of Knowledge, after all), or at least, he’s still actively in the game. Obi-Wan is simply…gone. So was he lying? Exaggerating? Trying to get Anakin’s goat?

It became clear in my rewatch that Kenobi likes to lie, and does it as easy as breathing. He excuses himself, saying, “I told you the truth, from a certain point of view,”…but really? If he wanted, he could rationalize away any of the “truths we cling to” if they’re too complicated to actually explain.

Here are a few more lies that could possibly be truths if you wave your hands around long enough to Force-wipe the weak-minded:

  • “I don’t seem to remember ever owning a droid.” I guess technically R2 was Padme’s droid. But he and Obi-Wan should be on speaking beeping terms, at least.  They spent YEARS working together in the prequel trilogy. And for that matter, Obi-Wan also worked with C-3PO. But while Threepio had a memory wipe (which excuses him from not remembering his Maker), Artoo was never wiped. They make a point of this. R2 could have told Luke in Binary that…oh, he used to fly with Luke’s mother and that Darth Vader was his DAD, who created Threepio… No, wait. It would have been simpler for Kenobi to say that, and a whole lot more. Watch Obi-Wan’s face as he lies, below. His eyes dart to the side. He chooses his words, as always, very carefully.
  • “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” (Hand-wave, hand-wave.) At least this bald-faced lie has a point. The entire premise of A New Hope rests on it.
  • Vader betrayed and murdered your father: I’m sorry, but no, this doesn’t really wash. I suppose Kenobi didn’t think Luke could handle the truth, but still: no. There’s really no excusing this one, no matter how he dances around points of view. Here’s his lyin’ eyes darting around again.

  • About Luke’s lightsaber: “Your father wanted you to have this, when you were old enough.” Anakin never said or did anything to imply he would pass on his lightsaber to his son. I’m not clear at what point Anakin knew he even HAD living children. And he used that weapon to try to kill Obi-Won, didn’t he? I doubt at any time he said, “If you kill me during our fight, give this lightsaber to my child some day.” If we can assume that the lie is just there to make Luke want to follow him and learn the ways of the Force, that is some pretty expert emotional manipulation by one Mr. Kenobi. (Watch Obi-Wan casually pick up Anakin’s lightsaber as he walks away from newly-quadruple amputee Anakin, who is on fire. Harsh.)

More Lies

  • Kenobi says he’s from a more ‘civilized day’ in the Republic. The prequels make it plain his youthful days with Qui-Gon weren’t like that at all. Maybe all those trade disputes qualify as civilized. And maybe Obi-Wan even lies to himself about the past, the Jedi Order, and his place in creating one of the worst genocidal maniacs in the galaxy.
  • “Your uncle didn’t hold with your father’s ideals.” Everything Kenobi says about Owen and Beru Lars are false. They aren’t even related to Luke. At best, “Uncle” Owen and Anakin are step-brothers who met once. Did Owen and Beru even know Anakin became Darth Vader? From the look they shot Luke when he talked about his father, they seemed in on it. Really, this is clear as mud.
  • Kenobi sends Luke to Yoda, saying Yoda was the Jedi Master who instructed him. This is at least a half-truth, or a quarter-truth. Kenobi was Qui-Gon Jinn’s Padawan. Yoda was only his Master to the extent that Yoda was everyone’s teacher from their Youngling days.  Maybe Kenobi didn’t think the distinction was relevant.
  • “You can’t win, Darth.” Several times Obi-Wan calls Anakin by his Sith title in A New Hope. You may argue that George Lucas hadn’t nailed all those details down yet, or that Ben is simply being insulting. But once it’s written, stick with it. Don’t go changing the rules in your sequels just because it’s inconvenient.
  • Who is this “Ben,” anyway? He’s never called Ben in the prequels. His first name is Obi-Wan. I get that Kenobi was in hiding on Tatooine…but if that’s the case, why keep the surname Kenobi? Why let infant Luke keep the Skywalker last name at all? And why raise him on the same degenerate desert slave planet Anakin lived on? If you start digging around these plot holes, the whole thing collapses.
  • Finally, even his last line was a lie. Kenobi told Yoda: “That boy is our last hope.” Kenobi held Leia in his hands at her birth. He knew there was another Skywalker, and knew exactly where she was and what she was doing on behalf of the Rebellion.  He and Yoda both knew. This is just lazy exposition. Or bad follow-through on behalf of the prequels. Possibly both.
  • Speaking of Leia: when Luke plays the holo-vid of the Princess’ plea to Obi-Wan, that would have been an ideal time to tell him that was his sister. He deserved to know, and it might have saved him from a few illicit fantasies. He used Luke’s obvious attraction as a lure to entice the youth to go with him to Alderaan. Is a lie of omission still a lie?

Did old Ben ever tell the unvarnished truth?

Well, Mos Eisley was a wretched hive of scum and villainy. So chalk one up for the old Jedi Master.

We need an expose on The Life and Lies of Obi-Wan Kenobi to sit on the bookshelf next to the one about Albus Dumbledore. Apparently, lying to young orphans who look to you is all part of The Mentor’s Manual.

But I don’t mind Dumbledore and Obi-Wan being a little shady. That adds complexity. It was hard to get a straight answer out of Gandalf, too. It must be a wizard thing.

She’s actually NOT “far too trusting”:

One final addition. Princess Leia knows all about falsehood. She’s a politician. Watch as Grand Moff Tarkin and Senator Leia Organa trade lies. (Leia’s face at 1:24 is the moment she decides to lie to Tarkin about Dantooine.)

I have a bad feeling about this…

More Powerful Than You Could Possibly Imagine

Shallow – A Star Wars Parody

 

Where were the Jumanji house and jungle scenes filmed?

parrish house jumanji
The beautifully creepy Vreeke/Freak house in Jumanji 2 is alive and well in Georgia.

With Jumanji 3: The Next Level coming out, it’s time to catch up on Jumanji 1 (1995) and Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle (2017). In a nutshell, the game is adaptive for its era, and may or may not be evil. It’s certainly sentient on some level, although we never learn why. Will we learn about that in Jumanji 3?  In the meantime, this is a thing:  Zulu peoples believe in cursed games. In Zulu, the word Jumanji means “many effects.” And that’s all we can go on at this point.

Back to facts. Want to know where the most iconic Jumanji scenes were filmed?

Jumanji 1 in Studio and On Location

There’s a few houses in play, but most of the interior set work for the 1995 film was filmed in in British Columbia, at the Bridge Studios in Burnaby, south east of Vancouver. Movie Locations adds these nuggets:

  • Go to Central Square in downtown and visit the brick wall where West Street begins. Here you’ll see the sign for Parrish Shoes, the fictional company that is the namesake of Robin Williams’ character Alan Parrish. The wall had been painted for filming and was left up after production had wrapped.
  • The grown-up Parrish finds the graves of his parents in Mount Caesar Cemetery.
  • The ‘Parrish Shoe Factory’ is North Berwick Woollen Mill10 Canal Street, on the bank of the Great Works River, an historic landmark in North Berwick, south of PortlandMaine, near the New Hampshire border.”

They say the scene with (CGI) animals running down the street was filmed at an intersection near Diefenbaker Park.

jumanji 1 house parrish
The Parrish house in New Hampshire from Jumanji 1.

The Jumanji House (there’s more than one)

  1. The Parrish Mansion from the first film, also known as the Old Parrish Place, was the finest house in Brantford, New Hampshire. Its address is 1356 Jefferson Street. The entire series at this point is focused around Brantford, NH. Why? We don’t know that either.

 

2. The exterior of Alex’s house for the 2017 sequel is located at 1646 Friar Tuck Rd NE, in Atlanta, GA. This is the mansion the kids called “the Freak House.”

Interior Sets in Jumanji 2

The Jumanji 2 sets were filmed in Atlanta, GA. Many films are, these days. What’s so special about Georgia? It’s about tax breaks for the industry. At least it’s not always Hollywood, Hollywood, yada yada.

Here’s a great look at the lush Jumanji 2 locations we can expect to see more of in Jumanji 3:

Jumanji 2 Jungle Locations

I LOVE that Jumanji 2 sent the actors into the game, instead of the game encroaching on Earth as we know it. It seems Jumanji 3 will continue this trend.

The Waterfall jumping scene was filmed at Kawainui Falls, on the big island of Hawaii.

According to the Wikipedia, principal photography for Jumanji 2 began on September 19, 2016, in Honolulu — primarily at the Kualoa Ranch nature reserve.

Islands.com reports Kualoa Ranch is “the “backlot of Hawaii,” adding, “You may recognize the famous Kualoa Mountains from Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates and the Lost television series, just to name a few.”

Jumanji 2 and 3 star Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock, is a man of Polynesian descent. It was meaningful to him to see Jumanji 2 filmed in Hawaii, saying, “On a personal note, it’s such a cool thing for me to bring the production of this movie to Hawaii. The positive ripple effect it has on local businesses and families in terms of creating jobs and additional income makes me very happy. I grew up on the island through hard times and good times, so it means a lot to this local boy.”

If you want to take a Jumanji-themed jungle trek of your own, Hawaii tourist bureaus are happy to help you in great detail.

First View Movie Review – Jumanji (1995)

Movie Review – Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle

 

Star Wars Meets Star Trek – Holdo’s Last Jedi Sacrifice is the Picard Maneuver

star trek picard maneuver
Star Wars director Rian Johnson was clearly a fan of Star Trek.

The coolest move in The Last Jedi depicted Admiral Holdo’s Resistance flagship making a super short hyperspace jump to destroy the First Order’s dreadnought. It’s a great tactic, if suicidal. And it worked.

But if you’re a science fiction nut, you’ve seen this move before.

Star Trek

Remember the Picard Maneuver in Star Trek: The Next Generation? Basically, the jist is to travel something like a Planck Second in warp drive, and then appear back in real space. Planck Units are the shortest measure of time known to man, so I’m going with this.

Jean-Luc Picard was Captain of the Federation Vessel Stargazer at the time. He tricked the attacking Ferengi vessel into thinking there were two Starfleet ships they faced. The Ferengi saw the original ship, and then the Stargazer jumped 30 light seconds right beside them to seem like a second ship, firing as it came out of warp. Very clever. It took a generation for anyone to foil this creative strategy. (Actually, it took Data to come up with a workable defense.)

Star Wars

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Admiral Holdo travels for a light-second between her ship and the First Order’s Dreadnought. She appears out of hyperspace in the middle of the Dreadnought’s location, bisecting the First Order’s flagship in an impressive montage. While only a handful of Resistance members made it out alive from the Salt Planet of Crait, it was still an impressive trick.

The thing is, it seems like an obvious move in both Star Wars and Star Trek universes. No one even has to die: just set your ship on autopilot to hyperjump into the area your enemy occupies. I don’t see how anyone could defend themselves against this move. And it’s odd to think no one’s done this before, in-universe, no matter how cool it looked in action. (And really, it did look super bombad amazing.)

Do you remember the Sovereign’s drone battle against the Guardians of the Galaxy in Volume 2? That was really the way to go. None of her people were in any danger — they basically played a video-game version of seek and destroy. It’s like using drones to wage war, which probably isn’t too far off. So why did Holdo even need to be on the bridge for her attack? The answer: to create an emotional moment in the film.

And that’s just not good enough.

Savvy Viewers

The big problem with Star Wars is that the target audience is pretty smart, and notices every plot hole. With the advent of the internet, sci-fi aficionados can reach out and publicly nit pick every dodgy moment in every Star Wars film.

This means the writers have to improve their game. Special effects have improved over the decades since 1977, when A New Hope premiered, and now the writing needs to step up too. It’s not like we aren’t going to notice these things. We’re savvy. And we’re less forgiving.

The Rise of Skywalker comes out in two weeks, and we, the fans, are holding our collective breath, hoping that it simply won’t suck. Some even hope it will be good. After all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Endgame did wonderfully, concluding a 20+ movie series in spectacular fashion. Is it asking too much to want Star Wars to end on a good note? Are we allowed to have nice things?

I’m not complaining about the Holdo/Picard Maneuver. It was a great visual, and made us understand that sometimes you should trust your leaders. Or to trust the leader your leader trusted. While I think everything would have gone better if Holdo simply told Poe what was going on, it was still a sweet, sweet visual.

But now we’re stuck with a couple dozen resistance followers adrift in a cold, indifferent universe. The moral here is probably to tell your subordinates you have a plan; a good plan even. But I don’t hold Poe’s failures against him. Star Trek shows a skilled set of trained StarFleet officers on their starships, with a firm chain of command. Star Wars shows a ragtag bunch of rebels fighting in whatever they could cobble together, doing whatever they could to survive against the First Order.

It should have been the Ackbar Maneuver

One thing I don’t understand is why they needed to bring in Laura Dern for an extended cameo. Admiral Ackbar was right there in the movie. We knew him; we trusted him, and his sacrifice would have been much more deeply felt to Star Wars fans. If I could ask Rian Johnson one thing, it would be why he didn’t use Ackbar in this scene.

Someone made a fan edit that easily replaces Ackbar in the sacrificial seat:

Lastly, I’ll note that I enjoyed the use of silence in space during the ensuing explosion. You can’t hear anything in space, so this was an appreciative nod to that. What’s more interesting is how audiences reacted to the silence…movie theaters actually had to post signs up that the silence was intentional. It does seem random (nothing else in Star Wars is soundless), but it really underlined the gravity of the moment.

Back to Picard

There’s another Picard Maneuver, and I’d be remiss not mentioning it — the infamous shirt tug. Here’s an impressive collection of these moments, reminding me why the internet is so awesome:

Shallow – A Star Wars Parody

I never get tired of Star Wars parodies. Do you? I am mean, really, Star Wars is beyond iconic.

Here’s a good one for you. Lots of cool little nods to the movies. Notice the green milk. Luke sure loves his colorful lactose. Green, blue…all good.

Seriously, this song is just fabulous. I think I like it better than the original in A Star is Born.  Enjoy!

TROOPS – A Star Wars Parody Does COPS

Undercover Boss – A Star Wars Parody on SNL

I have a bad feeling about this…

What is the best all-time series franchise?

harry-potter sorcerers stone
It started well and kept getting better. Congratulations, Harry!

So many movie franchises, so little time. While it’s easy for producers to add yet another movie to any long-running series, it’s not so easy to have every one of them qualify as good, quality films. And in some series, all are decent, but none are outstanding. How to decide who gets the top spot for film series narratives where everything is both above average and don’t contain a clunker?

Definition: What’s a movie franchise?

We figure anything beyond a trilogy counts as a true series. Also, I’m looking at stories with an element — any element — of cannon material.

We fudged a few times here. Riddick only makes four films by including Dark Fury, an animated but CANNON inclusion to the series. The Matrix (at least through now, since a 4th movie has been recently announced, but hasn’t been filmed) has an entire cannon series of Animatrix anime. We’re going to take a leap and include those.

So, we’ve decided we have to draw a line somewhere, since linear story-telling material in so many series are all over the map.

Here we go: Soft Reboots are included…Hard Reboots are not. In other words, if the series nods to any previous incarnations and characters, that’s a Soft Reboot (ie – the Kelvin Timeline in Star Trek that refers to our Classic Timeline and has Old Spock and New Spock as continuous characters), but Hard Reboots are out (removing something like Evil Dead from the equation, for example, since the new version goes back to the beginning and erases the entire previous trilogy).

James Bond films are tough that way, and might be based on who was Bond when. Probably. We’re mulling over whether each Bond series has any connective tissue to the last. But clearly with each Batman version, it’s a Hard Reboot from the ones that follow. Which makes detangling DC an issue.

Note: We can’t say we’ve covered every series out there, especially those in the horror genre, which can malinger like old laundry. We see a lot of movies, but aren’t superheroes here. Let me know what I left out in the comment section below. 

Interesting “leading” actors note:

Vin Diesel, Harrison Ford, The Arnold, and Sylvester Stallone each have two entire lead role franchises on this list. Wow! We could possibly, maybe, conceivably, say so do Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, but those are “starring” roles in large ensemble films, instead of clear leads.

What do you think? We aren’t sure where to draw the line on this, so feel free to chime in to the comments with your opinions. We realize people can get worked up about their favorite movie series, and we want to hear all about it!

So, let’s get to it. Here are the franchises we’re looking at, and our personal, very opinionated comments as we go.

  • Aliens — Pure disaster from 2 onward. What not to do. ARGHHHH. So much original goodness, so, so wasted. After the first and the sequel, which ROCKED, we can’t recommend anything else. And they keep on trying…to no avail.
  • Terminator —  None actually suck, but it’s very uneven. A good effort. Also, with all the timelines, working out what is a Soft Reboot vs Hard Reboot is problematic. This would have been worth consideration as a winner, especially with the new Dark Fate offering, if Genisys wasn’t so damned dumb.
  • Predator —  All of them are rather good, if you don’t throw the Aliens vs Predators into the mix. That 2nd AvP is one of the worst movies I have ever sat through. And, to be honest, I don’t like Predator 2 much at all either, except for the fun spaceship ending. It felt like a gangster film and was not very sci fi. Bummer.
  • Resident Evil — Jeez. Past the first, are any good? There are six live action films to date, and a few animated ones. Did you realize six movies even happened? I remember really liking the first one a whole lot, with the brand new Alice and Raccoon City. Then the Resident Evils seemed to blend into a massive zombie mess, and can’t recall anything important, except for a cool scene with a motorcycle crashing through a church stained glass window. Which movie was that? I sure don’t know. Oh, wait, and didn’t one film have the remnants of humanity in Alaska? I really tried to keep up…
  • Harry Potter — Most consistently above par as a series. Each one is great-to-excellent. Probably the All_Over_Series Champion for this article’s purposes. So far, the Fantastic Beasts films are pulling it down a little, but not by much. None of these suck. The first two are juvenile….because the intention is that the audience will grow up with the series.  And the juvenile ones even knock my socks off, by introducing a magical ambiance and the firm foundation of a wizarding wish fulfillment fantasy. You know you want to get an acceptance letter to Hogwarts too. Don’t deny it. 😉
  • Twilight — Oooo boy. Best case: they are consistent…consistently bland. Next…
  • Star Wars. Yikes. It’s really too bad how uneven this series is. Even if you love the prequels, you’ll argue about the new films. No one agrees here with any of this. It’s really too bad. How did this happen?
  • Star Trek / original and Abrams — More yikes. Do you prefer Kirk or Picard? And which Kirk do you prefer? It doesn’t really matter, since each series has some great highs and some low, low, lows. Somehow, each movie manages to keep the continuity going (the Kelvin Timeline of JJ Abrams is a borderline Soft Reboot because of the alternate timeline including Old Spock). But the classic Kirk stories have their greats (Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home) and their losers (The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier). And the Patrick Stewart efforts are also up and down (Great: First Contact, Awful: Nemesis). I’m not going to argue about Nu-Trek. The big issue: no matter how you slice it, none of the parts of the series are consistent enough to come close to winning this prize. Sorry, Trek fans.
  • Indiana Jones — Sigh. Yep, uneven…I doubt I need to elaborate. Honestly, I only love the original. The rest are good-to-poor in execution. And it’s not Harrison Ford’s fault. I don’t know what happened with such a great premise.
  • MCU — Sooooo close to perfection. None are bad. The Hulk isn’t exactly good (it gets by with a ‘fair’). We think after the Harry Potter series, this is the Runner-Up Winner in terms of being consistently excellent. One could say the MCU should win by default, however, since after a WHOPPING 23 films, they are almost uniformly excellent. Should we allow one ‘fair’ Hulk film to drag this amazing feat down? (This Hulk was definitely better than the Ang Lee Hulk, which is frankly unwatchable). Seriously, none of these films are bad. But not all of them rank as good. This is a toughie. Also, Agents of SHIELD, Peggy Carter, and a few other one-offs with good material count as cannon. (Not sure if Thor’s adventures with his roommate Darryl count, but I don’t see why not. It’s even a trilogy in itself!)
  • X-Men/Wolverine/Deadpool — Part of the fun here is even the characters don’t know what is or isn’t cannon. Personally, I think this is an example of Marvel working out the bugs in making a contiguous franchise. Even their most recent X-Men movie this summer shows how awfully bad things can get when the writing isn’t planned well. I’m as confused as Wade Wilson when it comes to the X-Men.
  • DCEU — OH DEAR GODS. I’m going to just disqualify the DC universe until they figure out what the heck they’re doing. Some of it is cannon. Some are quite enjoyable (for me: only Wonder Woman and Shazam). Some of the DC films are hard reboots and some are soft reboots, and some suck no matter how you slice them.  Even after the successful new Joker film, I think they still don’t know what they’re doing. I hope James Gunn’s Suicide Squad 2 will be great, but even that is supposed to be a soft reboot. Will Birds of Prey fit in? Do we even care?
  • LOTR/Hobbit — It’s really too bad about that last Hobbit film. Our trips to Middle Earth could have swept all the wins. Battle of Five Armies was just awful. Damn.
  • Lego Movies — These are almost all pretty good. But the Ninjago one isn’t worthwhile. Sorry, Lego fans. Alllmost. It’s too bad. The other three are excellent. One clunker ruins the score.
  • Men In Black — Only the original is GREAT. The other three are…fine. Even the new one is…no better than fine. My personal ranking is 1, 3, 4, and then 2. Pass.
  • Toy Story —  Quite good as a series. 2 is kind of a clunker and brings the series down, which is too bad. This is almost a winner.
  • Shrek — Do you know there are four Shrek films out there? Me neither. And that boots this off the list. Sorry, Mike Myers. Were the last direct-to-video? I have no idea where this went.
  • Despicable Me + Minions — A fairly even series, I’ll grant it that, and a lot of fun. Not one is a clunker. But if Despicable Me wins this contest, I may have to eat someone, like a random Grip or Best Boy or Foley Artist…please, don’t make me do this. Cute, cute, cute. But seriously amazing storytelling? This might be a runner up. Seriously, for being a silly premise, this is kind of a winner. Banana!
  • The Matrix — The first movie redefined action movies. On the DVD box set there’s an option to watch the movie while three movie critics (yes, movie critics) commentate on the movie — how brave of the directors! One of the critics commented: “I realized while watching this movie that I was witnessing a watershed moment.” Then the other two movies came out — Reloaded and Revolutions — a few years later, to less than critical acclaim. As a huge Matrix fan, I didn’t know what to think, but upon rewatching, and rewatching, I understand that the story couldn’t have been better. Even the universally panned Burly Brawl fight scene in Revolutions served an important plot point than few people understand. (There’s a reason the fight went on, and on, and on.) Between Reloaded and Revolutions, we had the collection of animations –in the Animatrix. While it’s probably only appealing to uber-fans, the stories are all entertaining and are artfully done. Well worth watching, and they help fill in much of the back story, and even introduce a character who later shows up in Revolutions.
  • Riddick — All are good. Two are great. But having only half be amazing isn’t enough to win the franchise prize.
  • The Monster U/Godzilla — This series is ongoing, so the jury is still out until we see King Kong vs Godzilla. So far, the series is enjoyable, but far from great. I remember thinking during the first Godzilla movie that there wasn’t nearly enough Godzilla. Mostly, watching any of these movies just makes me crave watching Pacific Rim again.
  • Mission Impossible — Most of these mush together in my head. I can recall it around the stunts…as in, “This is the one where Tom Cruise does a Halo Jump.” Some of these are really very good, and some (early on, mainly) are mediocre.
  • Fast & Furious/H&S — None of these are bad, but it’s a pretty uneven series. Like with Mission Impossible, it gets better as it goes, and I remember them by stunts (“This is the one Vin Diesel flew a car between skyscapers in Abu Dhabi…”).
  • Rocky/Creed — The first movie was pretty amazing, and I don’t usually like fight plots. But then each following film focused more on fighting and less on story. Things got mediocre fast, even with the Creed films bolstering the narrative.
  • Rambo — I hate to say this, but I’ve never watched a single Rambo film. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.
  • Jaws — HA!  The first two have some decent continuity and are worth viewing…but then things dwindle fast. Do you know how many Jaws movies there are? (Hint: officially, 4. But with the ‘bad shark franchise’ being so fat and happy, you’d think there were more.)
  • Bond — Very uneven, if you look at all the Bonds in all the years. Some Bonds are more consistent than others. But since each one is a Hard Reboot, this makes it hard to grade. I don’t think any new Bond character acknowledges a prior Bond storyline. But I might be wrong. If you have some thoughts, share them in the comment section. I’d love to know if any Bonds refer to prior incarnations.
  • Die Hard — Did  you realize there are five films in this series? Poor John McClane, running barefoot through glass shards every Christmas. So to speak. I love him and the original film, but  this series is still too wobbly to win the Ultimate Franchise award. A+ plus for the original. then thing get mediocre quickly.
  • Mad Max — With Fury Road, this is 4 films and thus enters our competitive list. And I hate to say this….but I have NOT seen Fury Road. (Man, I know. I suck.) Even so, I think this is a consistent series, and each one is worth a watch. But they aren’t AMAZING, no matter how you slice it. So it’s not a win, not compared to Harry Potter.
  • Hunger Games — Decently consistent, but the 3rd is sort of lame and drags the series down. It’s too bad — this really could have been a contender. All it takes is one bad movie…
  • Transformers — Let’s face it:  that any single one of these movies is watchable is a win. The best I can say about any of the Transformer movies is that they make great films to play in the background for cleaning the house.
  • Halloween — There are 11 movies in this series. The most recent brought Jamie Lee Curtis back in a true sequel (and Soft Reboot) that continues where the first film left off, discarding the rest. Thankfully. This is how to do a follow-up, and it performed very well at the box office. There are two more films on the pike to continue this narrative.
  • Jurassic Park — The original is an A+ film and Lost World was a pretty good sequel. Then we got the abyssal Jurassic III, which should be taken out behind the shed and shot. It’s that bad. It took a long time to revive the series with Jurassic World, and the 4th movie is quite charming — a great relief for dino-philes like me. The 5th film is good, not very good or great, but certainly isn’t a dog like HP 3. It’s too bad 3 happened at all: JP could have been contender. JP 3 is THAT BAD.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean — Although there are four movies in this series, the only one to be taken seriously is the first. While the original was ground-breaking and fresh, everything that followed seemed like a live-action cartoon. FAIL.
  • National Lampoon’s Vacation – All, at least in the 5 films, (American Vacation, European Vacation, Xmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation and Vacation) are watchable. None are above a B grade, however. Just because all are watchable doesn’t mean any are great.
  • The Bourne movies – There are 5 of these! But the quality is up and down. Bummer.
  • Saw, Chucky, The Conjuring Universe – I’m just not a horror fan. I’ve seen exactly zero of these films, so I can’t comment on them. We’re hoping RunPee Sis, our resident horror fan, will make her own franchise list. I do have the sense that all have a very uneven quality. Feel free to tell me what you think in the comment section below.

I don’t pretend to cover every series. I’m not that awesome. But from this list here, it’s clear who wins, and who just misses the cut.

Winner: Harry Potter (even including the 2 Fantastic Beasts films), with 10 films of good to ‘fantastic’ quality that all easily make the ‘film classics’ list. Congrats to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Newt!

Runner Up: The Marvel Cinematic Universe. I really want to give this series the win. It’s hard to have 23 movies (plus two cannon TV shows and several one-shots) all be amazing. And it’s not fair to have Hulk (and maybe Thor 2) drag the entire thing down. When they did Hulk they really didn’t have the MCU formula worked out — that was the same year as the original Iron Man, which was a long shot at best. But you know what? It created an empire that almost nothing could compete with. It’s just soooo close. MCU, we love you 3,000.

Honorable Mention: The Matrix. A lot of people just do not like the sequels, and haven’t even seen the Animatrix Collection. In fact, the sequels spawned some serious vitriol when they came out. But if you watch them now, 20 years later, and forget “all you know, and think you know”, you’ll actually enjoy what the directors have accomplished. This cinematic experience is really very deep, and the quality can’t be argued against. We only hope the previously announced four-quel will add to the story (unlike the new Men In Black: International).

Honorable Mention 2: Believe it of not, Despicable Me/Minions is right up there, and more consistent than the otherwise beloved Toy Story series. I’m shocked too.

Do you agree or hate my assessments? Comment below. I promise I’ll respond with respect. This is what makes films fun. 

Never Surrender – A Galaxy Quest Retrospective

galaxy quest documentary never surrender
Never give up. Never surrender.

I just smiled my ass off for 95 minutes. And you will too, if you’ve loved Galaxy Quest since it premiered in 1999. I’ve been telling everyone in earshot for decades that Galaxy Quest is one of the best “Star Trek” movies ever made. It was kind of fun to hear this exact sentiment expressed in Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary, which played for one night at my AMC theater, to a packed and happy room.

If you’re a fan of The Orville and you haven’t seen Galaxy Quest, that’s a legit sin. On the other hand, if you decide to watch it now, you’re in for a special treat. In fact, I’d bet good money Seth McFarlane is a GQ fan. He’s managed to walk the narrative line between Galaxy Quest comedy and epic cannon Trek for two beloved Orville seasons already, with a third on the way.

As I said, the theater room for Never Surrender was packed with fans for the one-night engagement. People cheered, clapped, laughed, and shouted out popular lines from GQ. In fact, we clapped like Thermians. And if you remember what a Thermian is, you just might be a geek. 🙂

Nice touches in Never Surrender

Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) and Brent Spiner (Data) are interviewed and showed a lot of enthusiasm for Galaxy Quest. That’s a bit of awesome. I hope you aren’t wondering who Wesley and Data are: I’m certainly not going to tell you. If you appreciated Galaxy Quest, you’re probably familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Ooops, I just gave it away.) Spiner even reported that Patrick [Stewart] said, “I love this film.”

BTW, Spiner does a pretty good Captain Picard impression.

It was also lovely (and sad) to see Alan Rickman behind the scenes. Apparently he was a lot of fun to work with. And since I had just watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood right before Never Surrender, I got to watch Enrico Colantoni in two movies in one day. I do like his work.

In another coincidence, the night before I watched an episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, where Herc is in a  labyrinth full of elaborate and deadly traps (season 2 episode 3: What’s In A Name). One scene is INCREDIBLY reminiscent of the “Who builds these things?” scene in Galaxy Quest, where the heroes have to pass a chamber full of gigantic metal posts bashing together. Again, if you’re a fan, you know this scene. I enjoyed seeing Hercules making a blatant homage.

And seriously, good point. Someone should make a list of all the vast, unexplained abysses in Star Wars movies, and weird dangerous chambers full of deadly grinding gears — one even made it into Guardians of the Galaxy, which the documentary revealed was partly inspired by Galaxy Quest.

How Galaxy Quest could have been

One thing I never knew: GQ was originally written as an R rated film. They had to remove some scenes and redub some lines to get it down the PG rating the studio wanted. In fact, in the aforementioned “Who builds these?” scene, Sigourney Weaver’s character said “F*ck this”….which was dubbed as “Screw this,” but you can see that her mouth is actually forming the original line. It’s funny either way.

Did you know genre favorite Harold Ramis was originally slated to direct Galaxy Quest? I’d have loved to see his version, but can’t complain with what we got.

It was also interesting to hear the extensive laundry list of A-level actors who turned down the captain’s role, eventually landed by Tim Allen. He was never anyone’s first choice apparently, but Allen did a wonderful near-Shatner portrayal.

The whole cast really clicked, and instead of being a cheap spoof movie, GQ became a real science fiction film with only gentle parody that offended exactly no one. It takes the storytelling a step above and beyond Mel Brooks’ silly Star Wars spoof Spaceballs. (Which I also enjoy, on a different level.)

I don’t think anyone dislikes Galaxy Quest. When Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary comes out on streaming platforms, give it a watch…and by Grabthar’s Hammer, you shall be avenged!

Don’t deny it. You know you choked up during this scene:

Documentary Grade: A-

Star Trek Characters We Will Probably See Again

Sir Patrick Stewart Back as the Beloved Jean-Luc Picard in New Star Trek

Star Trek 4 Movie News Updates

 

 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Will Make You Feel Loved Again

mr fred rogers neighborhood trolley
Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks) and Trolley.

I just came out from viewing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. And this is funny: last night I watched the award-winning 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor. I like being a sort of completist.

Bear this in mind: I don’t like documentaries.

I can’t think of another documentary I’d watch on purpose if’s not about science fiction (for example, later tonight I’m watching the Galaxy Quest retrospective <— see, that’s sci-fi).

But the Fred Rogers documentary is really something special. Partly riding on nostalgia, and partly posited as a wish fulfillment for adults who don’t like who they’ve become, knowing Mr. Rogers loved everybody makes all the difference. And “everybody” includes me. And YOU.

I cried like a baby during the documentary to be reminded that someone likes me. Just exactly the way I am.

So I was excited to catch Tom Hanks’ dramatized version of Fred Rogers. What did I walk away with? A complicated set of feelings.

First off, Hanks was just lovely in the part. At times he sounded a little more like southerner Forrest Gump than Fred Rogers, but the actor freely admitted he never intended to mimic Rogers. He wanted to capture the essence. And in that, I believed him.

When he talked to the camera and told me he liked me, I felt liked. I felt accepted and appreciated. And ultimately, though the film was ostensibly about a jaded reporter and his dysfunctional family — which would normally bore me silly — the message of loving acceptance came shining bright, shining through. The message was sincere and sorely needed in this era of intolerance and hate-mongering.

This is timely. This is needful.

What I didn’t like

I wanted more Fred Rogers. More Tom Hanks. He felt sidelined in his own movie. 75% of the film focuses on Lloyd Vogel (a sort of real, sort of fictional character). Way too much time was spent with Lloyd, his wife, his father, and various family members (the baby was super cute, though). I wasn’t caught up in the ‘reporter angle’. And I’ve been a reporter myself, although in my case that didn’t cause rifts in my family. This is a story ostensibly about Mr. Fred Rogers. I was expecting Lloyd’s tale to be a side-plot.

I realize the movie had to ramp up the drama to be a box office success, but what I didn’t expect was that meant taking the spotlight off Mr. Rogers and his fantasy neighborhood. I am deeply grateful I watched the documentary first, to reacquaint me with Trolley, Picture Picture, King Friday the XIII, and of course Daniel Tiger, since the Tom Hanks film didn’t go there enough.  Those too few segments taking place on Fred Rogers’ show were weirdly positioned as a dreamscape. And now it seems I must find those old PBS episodes to feel loved and cherished again.

31 seasons of loving acceptance, crossing several generations

The best moment on Neighborhood was — of all things — on a New York subway. Fred Rogers, recognizable TV star and all,  loved taking the Subway. In one scene, people in the subway car gave him the side eye at first, wondering if this was actually Rogers himself. Quickly deciding he was, everyone  (including two hardened NYC beat cops) sang his famous Won’t You Be My Neighbor song out loud to honor him.  I’ve read this actually happened.

You could see Hanks channeling the joy and gratitude of this beautiful experience. Rogers touched so many, in several generations.

Do you realize the show ran for a mind boggling 31 seasons? How many mothers, fathers, and children grew up hearing his message of tolerance and self-forgiveness? Grew up realizing we are not broken, and are all deserving of unconditional love? That we are liked for who we are.

Did anyone tell you this lately?  Do you tell this to the people YOU love?

As I said above, I didn’t care for the focus on the reporter and his family. I realize part of this was based on a real-life experience, but it was just your basic family drama, seen a gazillion times before. Yawn. I’m glad Lloyd learned what heroism really is, but it was all so telegraphed. Yes, he forgives his father. His family comes to realize familial love and ends up happier.

But could we get back to the Kingdom of Make Believe now?

Full Disclosure:

It hurt to see Lloyd’s relationship with his dying father. It hit a little too close to home. My father has a disease that steals him from me day by day. He was always my hero, and now he’s a shell of a person who needs more care than my mother and I can handle. I wish I had Mr. Rogers around to tell me how to handle the difficult emotions this brings up.

Sorry. Maybe that’s too much to share. But, as Mr. Rogers makes a point of telling us in this film, being open, honest, and accepting of things like death is one of our greatest challenges. What he says, actually (and this is deeply hopeful), is that “anything mentionable is handle-able.”

I hope so. As Mulder would say, ” I want to believe.”

And yes, I did cry at the end. I was moved by this singular, loving, kind man. I’m a sucker. I just wished there was more Fred Rogers in it.

Noteworthy observation:

I wouldn’t have noticed this if I didn’t just watch the documentary, but Joanne Rogers (Mr. Roger’s real life wife) makes a brief cameo in the food diner scene. I almost expected her to say, “I’ll have what she’s having,” but that’s another background story for a different type of movie.

Movie Grade: B+

 

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

Movie Review – Knives Out

 

Movie Review - Knives OutKnives Out is an absolutely delightful mystery about some really horrible people. The stellar ensemble cast works wonders together and Rian Johnson’s tale doesn’t cheat — the clues are all there. And even if you figure out WhoDunnit before the end, you’ll still be thrilled at the fun you’re having along the way.

Knives Out is clever, amusing, and really sings best when it showcases the awful members of Harlan’s dysfunctional extended family.

Chris Evans, in particular, seems to relish playing a jerk after all those years as Captain America. And Daniel Craig is just this side of ridiculous as a Kentucky Fried Detective. (You know he’s loving this. Not a hint of Bond to be seen.) Jamie Lee Curtis chews her nasty dialog with glee, and even Don Johnson (yes, that Don Johnson) is a lot of fun. Everyone brought their best game. I have a feeling a lot of actors wanted to get in on this film, which writer/director Rian Johnson apparently spent a decade trying to make happen.

While parts of the movie recall this year’s Ready or Not (with another amusingly abusive family and murder most foul), Knives Out also bring to mind the classic mystery comedies Clue (from the 80s) and Murder By Death (from the 70s). Note that all four of these films feature lush, iconic, and mildly creepy mansions.

And now I want to collect daggers and make my own Game of Thrones-style seating area. Really. That is some demented shit. I loved this movie and suspect you will too.

Grade: A-

About The Peetimes: This was very difficult to get Peetimes for, as there are a lot of characters whose names kind of flit by, and it’s hard to tell what will or won’t be a clue later. I have 3 Peetimes, nicely spaced out, that won’t leave you lost. I Recommend the final one.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Knives Out. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material
Genres: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Top 5 Whodunnits in Film

Movie Review – Ready or Not