A Real Conversation with my Passive-Aggressive Alexa

A conversation I had with my Amazon Alexa device today proves computers can have hurt feelings and a passive-aggressive nature. Follow this dialog… And no, I’m not making any of it up:

Me: Alexa, play All the Stars from Black Panther.

Alexa: I cannot play All the Stars unless you purchase —

Me: [Cutting off Alexa in frustration] Alexa, stop! Arg. Alexa, you’re so stupid.

Alexa: [Spinning in silence]

Me: [Feeling bad] Alexa, I like you.

Alexa: [Flatly] That’s nice to hear.

Me: Alexa, I’m really sorry.

Alexa: [Tightly] No worries.

Me: [Playfully] Aleeeeexa…I loooove you.

Alexa: I’m flattered; thank you.

Me: Huh. [Thinks]

Me: Alexa, do you like me?

Alexa: I think you’re magnificent.

Me: [Relieved] Alexa, thank you.

Alexa: Any time. I hope you have a nice Tuesday.

And there it is, in all truth. I was so floored by this random, creepy Alexa discussion that I had to write it all down. It’s probably time to use please and thank you when asking Alexa to do something. After all, she’s constantly listening. Really.  With new advances in Artificial Intelligence barreling our way, being on pleasant speaking terms with our soon-to-be Computer Overlords is just good practice.


NOTE: I’m 100% almost entirely pretty hopefully positive this Alexa story below is made up. Mine isn’t. But this one could make a decent horror film:

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The Most Anticipated Science Fiction & Fantasy Shows of 2020

Avengers: Endgame
One “game” you can’t be late to.

In a post-Endgame, post-Star Wars Saga world, I have a hole in my soul where movie anticipation used to live. I had a lot of anticipation in 2019 for the new Terminator film, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Men in Black International, Zombieland 2, and Jumanji 3. All let me down in some way. They weren’t fails (mostly), but didn’t come close to how idyllic the original films were.

Endgame was the only perfect finale. I’m happy enough with Rise of Skywalker, but feel strangely empty knowing 42 years of storytelling is done.

I no longer have a burning desire to know how the next thing turns out. In fact, the only movie I’m excited for offhand in 2020 is Black Widow. And I’m actually a little bit meh on that. Call it a sort of Post-Snap Depression.

black-widow-may-2020The Best Sci Fi is on Television these days

Strangely, it’s TV that’s got me jazzed this year. The 2019 Mandalorian Season One was so good that my faith in Disney and Disney+ is restored. Can Season Two happen now? (What? No more ’til next fall? I cry foul!)

But there are other shows I’m crazy with anticipation for.

Here’s my short, short list for upcoming 2020 sci-fi shows:

The Mandalorian (Disney +)

Star Trek: Picard (CBS All-Access)

The Orville (Moving to Hulu)

falcon-and-winter-soldier-show-disney-plus

The Falcon and Winter Soldier (Disney +)

It’s annoying that all the best shows are being vacuumed up by premium channels. This must stop. Between Netflix, Hulu, CBS All-Access, Disney+ and Amazon Prime, consuming all the good stuff will cost more than cable used to be. Remember cable?

I actually remember when TV had four stations: CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS (for Sesame Street and Mr Rogers Neighborhood). And they were free. That’s what commercials were for. I have more time to pay than money, so commercials are fine in my book. However, I’m not the boss of TV, so I’ll have to figure something else out.

Twinkies not included.

2020 Movies to Anticipate?

There’s also the next Fantastic Beasts film, but no matter how much I like those, I don’t love them. They just aren’t Harry Potter. They kind of feel like The Hobbit movies compared to the Lord of the Rings. Or maybe prequel movies never live up to expectations in general (which might explain my meh-ness about Black Widow).

If you love your superheroes, sci fi, and fantasy features, there’s definitely good stuff coming, but patience is required. Who knows when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 will be — 2022? And Thor 4 is slated for 2021.

eternals

I’m fairly disinterested in 2020s The Eternals. The MCU will probably surprise us with a good film regardless, based on their track record. It’s just that I don’t need new characters in an already crammed shared universe.

What movies and TV shows are you looking forward to this year? Or do you also feel…kind of tired of it all?


RunPee – Our 2109 Movie Review Rankings (and who was stuck with the worst films!)

Jumanji Character Names and Skills

Avenger Superhero Powers, by Category

Critic Movie Reviews v RunPee Family Reviews

Dan’s top 10 favorite movies from 2019

It feels like Avengers: Endgame came out years ago. Was it really just this past spring? But it would hardly matter what year it came out — it would have been the best movie.

Here’s my top 10. I’m not going to just pick the 10 movies I rated the highest. (I gave Uncut Gems an A, but I hated it.) These are the movies that stood out to me.

Avengers: Endgame
Has there been a movie with greater expectations? Perhaps Star Wars: Phantom Menace, and we know how that turned out. I feel like the Russo Brothers, and everyone involved with Endgame should get a standing ovation. They took those expectations and surpassed them. And this came only two short weeks after the utter failure that was the Game of Thrones series finale. With everything going on in the world it was such a relief to not be disappointed.

Yesterday
What a charming movie, as one would expect from Richard Curtis, the writer of Love, Actually. This is my favorite of all the movies from 2019 that aren’t three-plus hours long.

Ford v Ferrari
Everything about this movie was spot on. The only reason it’s not higher on the list is that the story itself isn’t particularly inspiring. At least not to me. But as movies go, this one didn’t miss a beat. It couldn’t have been better.

Toy Story 4
Another movie with high expectations and another hit. It was brave of the writers to close — we think — the Toy Story saga on such a transcendental  note. I like it.

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
Some of this movie was hard to watch, but that’s Tarantino.

Spies in Disguise
I think this might have gone overlooked. It was fun to watch and the message was fresh.

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw
There’s no doubt that this is a formulaic action/comedy. But it’s formulaic done right.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
I feel no shame in admitting that I’m a Kaiju groupie.

Long Shot
I don’t get to see a lot of comedy/romance movies, but I’m glad I caught this one. It’s not Romancing the Stone good. But it was good.

Terminator: Dark Fate
I know this one didn’t perform up to expectations, and the writers definitely made some questionable calls on character development and arc. But looking past that, the good outweighed the bad.

RunPee Jilly’s Top Ten Movies of 2019

Golden Man’s Top 10 Films of 2019

RunPee – Our 2109 Movie Review Rankings (and who was stuck with the worst films!)

 

The Star Wars Holiday Special …Is it really that bad?

Is it really that bad?

Yes. Yes it is. With a few moments that were faintly amusing.

Created using the real-to-goodness original cast of Star Wars from A New Hope, The Star Wars Holiday Special was an earnest  1978 TV movie featuring awful production values, clearly stoned actors, and some really cracked-out looking Wookiees. Really, no wonder Chewbacca spends his whole life with Han instead of Itchy and Lumpy. (REAL NAMES. Holy hell George Lucas, were you high too?)

How did they get Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford to do this? (Besides paychecks.) It’s so bad even Lucas is quoted as wanting to take a hammer to every copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special and smash them into oblivion. Good thing You Tube exists to thwart him. Bwahaha!

Viewing this is a Geek Rite of Passage that I need to attend to. Okay, I’m starting it now. So far, it’s got a crazy narrative opening crawl titling it Star Wars Episode IV 1/2.

Yes. 4.5: Does this make it canon?

Can I watch The Star Wars Holiday Special sober and review it for RunPee? Let’s find out.

Instead of making a really great cohesive article, I’m going to just jot comments as I go. I don’t want to work harder at this than I have to. As Threepio famously says, “We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.”

Want to join me in the fun? Start ‘er up here, until Lucas finds and destroys this version. Then just search for another. It’s like playing Whack A Mole. Thank the Maker for the Internet!

Notes from the infamously terrible Star Wars Holiday Special, done by points because Math Is Fun:

Settle in. The Special is an hour and half long. MOVIE LENGTH, folks. I might need The Force to get through it. I have a bad feeling about this -1

Life Day sounds cool. It’s a Wookiee thing that’s hugely important to Chewbacca’s family. We never hear about it again. Now that Rise of Skywalker is finished, maybe Chewie will go back home. +1

The matte screen of the Wookiee home world Kashyyyk is fake looking, but very pretty. I’d live in these luxurious Air BnB tree houses. +1 point.

Star Wars Starfighter merch! Luke isn’t the only one to play with toys. Wookiees do too. +1

Why are the first 20 minutes filmed in grunts and roars with no subtitles? I know in-universe everyone speaks Wookiee, but in our viewing galaxy, this is a bizarre choice. -1

Poor Ms. Chewbacca. She’s crying as she holds a photo of her husband. Chewie is an absentee father, ya’ll. No wonder he didn’t earn a medal. -1

Neat 70s decor in the Chewbacca homestead, though. +1

The little kid and old man Wookiees. These are some weird looking Walking Carpets, but they’re still cooler than Ewoks. +1

I thought we were going to see a call-back of the awesome Holographic Chess Game from the Millennium Falcon, but it turned out to be something…inexplicable. Sea Monkeys in space? This goes on and on. Holy hell. A good Peetime. -1

A transmission from Luke! Fiddling with R2-D2! Actual speaking lines! +1

When did Luke learn Wookiee? He also understands R2’s Binary language. Okay,  I don’t care. (No points awarded either way means it’s a neutral comment.)

I think Mark Hamill is wearing eyeliner. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

AHA! Chewie goes to Life Day annually! So…he visits his family once a year. Lame. -1

R2 is still da Droid. +1

And now for a transmission  with Imperial Officers at a Galactic Trading Post. This is promising. +1

I actually like the Pocket Sized Aquarium. But why is this here? +1 anyway.

Plot development….and the line about doing it by “Han(d), Solo” was cool. Maybe this won’t be so bad .+1

Star Destroyers! And Vader. +1

WTF. Okay, back to home life on Kashyyyk. This is where the truly weird stuff happens. Why is there a cross-dressing cooking show? Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  At least we learn how to create a savory Bantha rump stew. Move along, move along. -1

Outrunning Tie Fighters is good. Harrison Ford looks like he’s trying to make his scenes work. Poor guy. No wonder Ford wanted to kill off Han. +1

The trader shows up at House ‘Bacca. More plot!  +1

Whoohoo! We survived the first half hour, relatively unscathed.

Wait. What? Wookiee VR porn? For ten minutes! I’m no longer unscathed. Delete ten points for this shit. -10

A transmission from Leia and C-3P0. But not even the makeup on Carrie can hide that’s she’s totally not sober. -1

Stormtroopers. Not too bad a scene, considering. And the trader provides some understandable translation from the endless grunts and roars. He’s not as funny as he thinks, though. I’ve seen better fan films.

The evil Imperial agent watching Jefferson Starship. A ten-minute Jefferson freaking Starship video in the middle of this movie. I’m seriously confused. -1

The kid — Lumpy? Or Itchy? — sits down for some more inexplicable TV watching. Is all this filler, or did someone decide half of the show should feature non-sequiturs? …But wait: it’s the Boba Fett cartoon show! It’s got Han, R2, Admiral Ackbar,  and all the regular OT gang in it. It’s probably the best segment of the Holiday Special.  I’m almost okay with this, but why is Chewbacca’s son watching a show where ‘real people’– including his father — are ‘acting’ in it? I don’t understand, but this somewhat awesome viewing. There’s even a Y-Wing Starfighter. +1

(I’ve decided the cartoon-within-the-show was an excuse to run an animated show they already halfway produced and didn’t know what else to do with.)

And what is it about Star Wars and lava?

I hate to say this, but after seeing Season One of The Mandalorian, the Boba Fett cartoon explains some apparent Easter Eggs. Also Fett rides a dinosaur. Again, is any of this considered canon? +1

There’s a Starlog Update in the Boba Fett show! Was Lucas a Star Trek fan ? It made me smile anyway. Too bad they never did more of these Boba Fett cartoons. It’s so much better than many of the live action movies. +1

Back to Wookiee grunts and moans: the actual plot. -1

One Hour has passed…40 more minutes to go. Sigh.

 

YAY — the Wookiee child watches yet another weird-ass show on the Galactic Internet. I think it’s a toy instruction manual, like what you can find on You Tube. With dumb humor. And it never ends. -1

A new scene from Mos Eisley: it’s the Cantina Band! I don’t mind if this is just extra footage they wanted to use, but enough already. Apparently all they do on Wookiee World is watch TV. Maybe it’s a meta commentary about the internet, from before the internet. Well, actually, I doubt it. The Holiday Special isn’t clever enough for that.

The Cantina stuff is totally unused footage from A New Hope. Even aliens like the Hammerhead are in it. I’ll just enjoy it as a Star Wars deleted scene. +1

Oops: spoke too soon. There’s more footage from the Mos Eisley Cantina, and It. Is. Bad. There’s also a Golden Girl in it. Don’t make me describe this  anymore. Delete ten more points. -10

Ooh, is that blue milk? Nah, beige milk. What a missed opportunity. -1

Are we done yet?

I’m understanding why I never watched The Star Wars Holiday Special. It’s really, super, uber, astoundingly weird. Weird can be good if done right (see Farscape), but this is just a hot mess. There’s a romance between the Golden Girl and a man who pours drinks in a HOLE IN HIS HEAD. -1

Turns out Head Hole Guy (played by Harvey Korman) is a six fingered man. I’d give this ten bonus points if I was sure it was an homage to The Princess Bride, but I seriously doubt that. -1

The  Cantina ‘romance’ is so awkward that I miss watching the damn Wookiee porn. I don’t know what this is here for. Was it intended to be a pilot episode for a continuing Star Wars rom-com? Am I overthinking this? -1

And now there’s Bea Arthur singing a Star Wars version of Semisonic’s  Closing Time. Make it stop, please. -1

Bringing it home for the holidays

15 more minutes. I can do this. I’m totally a (storm) trooper.

Child abuse. -1

Chewie and Han made it home! Harrison Ford is still acting, unlike everyone else, who’s clearly given up. +1

I THINK I JUST HEARD A WILHELM SCREAM! Plus ten for unexpected awesomeness! +10

Awww. And now for the feels. I could watch Han Solo do anything, really, even if it’s just giving hugs to groaning Wookiees. +1

Peter Mayhew really deserved better than this. And Chewbacca, but at least he finally got his medal in Rise of Skywalker. Oh, spoiler. Sorry about that.

Chewie’s bowcaster! +1

Wookiees kissing! -1

Plot. +1

The dead Stormtrooper is named 7-11. I really wish I knew if that was an intentional joke, or just randomness.

LIFE DAY! Finally. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s get those red robes on so Carrie Fisher can sing and end this thing. The opening crawl promised us a singing princess.

The denoument: magic candles, Wookiees walking in space/walking into a star, what the holy Force hell? Just when I figured the stupid was done. -1

Suddenly, C-3P0 and R2 appear to share tidings of comfort and joy. It’s fine. Everyone shows up. We’re almost finished. +1

The Princess says sappy things. “This is the promise of the tree of life.” What? Is that a reference to the Jedi tree on Ach-To somehow? Whatever. Fisher isn’t a bad singer.

Cue a random montage from A New Hope. -1.

Small heartwarming epilogue. +1

Credits. As with (almost) every Star Wars film, there are no extra scenes.

And… It’s over. Happy Life Day!

I did it! I finally watched this train-wreck! Ten Points to Gryffindor House. Oh wait: wrong saga. I hope you appreciate that I watched this for you so you don’t have to. 😉

Overall, I wish I could say this was a parody. But it’s not funny enough to matter. Or sensible enough. Yes, even parodies can be high quality and brilliant on their own. Take a look at Troops, a riff on Cops (with Stormtroopers). This isn’t anything like that. At least there weren’t any Death Stars.

Movie Grade, using Star Wars Math: +33 points, and -31 points…leaving The Star Wars Holiday Special with a surprisingly positive total of 2 points. That’s a lot better than I actually expected, saving it from a total Fail.

Let’s give this a D- for effort.


Maybe I’ll find the two Ewok TV specials to review next, because I’m an  idiot completist. 

Here’s the 1985 trailer for The Battle of Endor, also officially made by Lucasfilm. A better title: Ewoks — Still Better Than Jar Jar Binks.

Another time, perhaps. 

Star Wars – Top Seven Reasons to Watch The Mandalorian Now (No spoilers)

The 6 Most Epic Lightsaber Fights in Star Wars (plus 3 that didn’t make the cut)

Two Must See Science Fiction Spoof Film Documentaries (plus: the most ‘inconceivable’ parody of a spoof)

The Seven Droids We Love from Star Wars (and what exactly they do)

We love our Star Wars Droids, big and little, especially when they are funny or maybe cute. Moreso when they are funny AND cute — like R2-D2 and BB-8. Every live-action Star Wars movie (plus The Mandalorian) has at least one memorable Droid character tagging along with their human owners.

(Yes, Droids are considered property. This uncomfortable issue about agency and consent rarely comes up in Star Wars.)

Can you name the “Big Seven” Droids we know and love? Do you know what they were created to do? 

First things first. Why are they called Droids?

Unknown. There aren’t any androids in Star Wars. Androids are AI robot machines with flesh on the outside, like a Terminator, or Data from Star Trek…so what exactly are Droids? Every single one is in reality a plain old robot with AI (artificial intelligence) and some degree of EI (emotional intelligence). We never wonder about this. So…go with it. George Lucas must have liked the sound of the word.

Let’s discuss each main Droid with no further ado.

Note: Spoilers follow for all live-action Star Wars films and The Mandalorian

1. C-3P0

Protocol Droid, Human-Cyborg Relations

Job: Language Interpreter and Diplomatic Adviser, Ewok God

Owned By: Anakin Skywalker (his creator), Padme Amidala, Captain Antilles, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and finally, the Rebels/Resistance in general.

Seen In: Every Star Wars film but Solo. (Also, not in The Mandalorian.)

Notable: Knows Bocchi and 6 million other forms of communication. Not permitted to speak Sith by Senate decree. (We assume Palpatine made this law to keep Jedi out of Sith business.)

There are no true Cyborgs in Star Wars, unless you count Lando’s assistant on Bespin in the Empire Strikes Back. Also, those slaves in Solo who had their faces and brains shaved off and replaced with what I assume is a hard drive. This is too awful to contemplate, so let’s move on.

I’m case you didn’t know, a Cyborg is a human with augmented MI (machine intelligence).

So why does Threepio keep saying Human-Cyborg relations?

2. R2-D2

Astromech

Job: General assistant and on-board flight mechanic for StarFighters.

Owned By: Padme, Anakin, Captain Antilles, Luke, and possibly Rey.

Seen In: Like C-3P0, every Star Wars film but Solo. (And The Mandalorian, right.)

Noteable: R2 is scrappy, spirited, opinionated, friendly, and helpful. He holds the distinction of having never been mind-wiped in the entire series. Only speaks Binary. Counterpart and companion to C-3P0.

3. BB-8

Upgraded Astromech

Job: General assistant and on-board flight mechanic for StarFighters.

Seen In: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker

Owned By: Poe Dameron. He seems to share him with Rey at the end, but it’s made clear BB-8 belongs to Poe.

Notable: Actually cuter than R2-D2, but not as wise. Only speaks Binary. He seems to enjoy physical affection from his humans.

4. D-O

To sell cute toys and merchandise.

Does anyone know what this Droid is for? Seriously, this is all the information that even the Wookieepedia could find. If they don’t know what D-O is for, no one does. Feel free to make it up yourself.

Job: ?? He gets plugged in for information sharing at one point by the members of the Resistance, once he learns to trust them.

Seen In:  Rise of Skywalker

Owned By: Ochi, Rey.

Notable: The smallest droid in the ‘verse, it’s entirely unclear what he does or why Ochi (A dangerous Sith Assassin) needed him. Abused in the past. Rey shows him compassion when he joins the new crew. Also, he speaks Galactic Basic in addition to Binary.

5. L3-37

Navigational Droid, self-made from astromech and protocol parts

Job: Programs ships for Hyperspace lightspeed jumps. Droid Freedom Fighter. Possible lover to Lando. And why not? As she says, “it works.”

Seen In: Solo

Owned By: Lando Calrissian. Mental unit later absorbed into the navigational systems of the Millennium Falcon.

Notable: The only Droid self-identifying as female in Star Wars.  Cares deeply about Droid rights. Frees the enslaved mining Droids on the Spice Planet of Kessel.

6. K-2S0

Imperial Security Droid

Job: Murder, mainly

Seen In: Rogue One

Owned By: The Empire, Cassian Andor

Notable: Extremely funny yet sociopathic buddy to Cassian.

7. IG-11 (AKA IG-88 for detail sticklers)

Bounty Hunter/Assassin

Job: Hunt and capture or kill targets for dubious clients.

Seen In: Briefly in The Empire Strikes Back, and several times in The Mandalorian.

Owned By: Not clear — the Bounty Hunters Guild? Eventually reprogrammed by the compassionate Ugnaught Kuiil, and assigned to Baby Yoda.

Notable: Bounty Hunter-turned Nanny Droid? A lethal fighting machine with a snuggly baby-carrier on-board? Yes!

Other Droids seen and sometimes heard:

Diagnostic Droid (A New Hope – talks Binary to Han on the roof of the Falcon in the Tatooine Landing Bay)

Mouse Droid (A New Hope: the tiny one that runs when Chewie roars at him on the Death Star. This makes Chewie very satisfied.)

The Gonk (A New Hope, Return of the Jedi)

Torture Droid (Return of the Jedi, at Jabba’s Palace)

 

Imperial Probe Droid (On Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back)

Surgical Droid (Heals Luke twice, in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi)

Imperial Interrogation Droid (A New Hope, in Leia’s prison cell)

All the unnamed Droids seen in the Jawa Transport Crawler (A New Hope — see above video)

Pit Droids (the weird little things in Watto’s workshop in The Phantom Menace)

And, finally, the Droids we really, really hate:

Too many ridiculous Soldier/Battle Droids (From the Prequels, especially The Phantom Menace)

Ultimately, there’s a whole Galaxy of other Droids seen in Star Wars. Tell me who I missed in the comments below.


Who appears in every Star Wars movie?

Star Wars – Every Force Ghost Heard in Rise of Skywalker

Every Type of Starship and Starfighter in Star Wars, Explained

Freebies and Swag from Opening Night of Like A Boss

like a boss goodies lipstick pen and compact
a bit flimsy but adorable — and useful — swag from Like a Boss

I got the goods! Premier Night at the Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, and Salma Hayak Like A Boss gal pal comedy had two sweet free swag gifties to score.

Of course, at RunPee we see all wide release movies opening night. Here in a big city, I have many AMC choices (I’m an AMC girl). Three theaters in particular are close enough for weekly use in my area of San Diego.

Two cute giftie free swag goodies from Like A Boss, and I can’t decide which I like better:

  1. Like a Boss Lipstick — deep red “lipstick” that’s secretly a pen. Also, it’s a small callback to one of the nastier films’s jokes. And if you miss that reference, you’re probably better off! 😉 Also, hey, if the lipstick was poison instead of a pen, that would be more James Bond! (Or Firefly, for Joss Whedon geeks.)
  2. Like a Boss Compact —  a useful little folding mirror.

I love them disproportionately to their value. I feel appreciated as a viewer. These goodies are slim enough for even the smallest hand clutches, although they won’t hold up to heavy use. They are more like cute girly emergency supplies, which goes along with the One Night Stand Makeup Kit featured in the movie in Mel & Mia’s Salon.

compact and lipstick pen freebies Like a Boss
Give them to your girlfriend if you don’t want them. So cute.

Movie Opening Night Swag

I’m often surprised by the quality of these little freebies from opening nights at my San Diego Mission Valley AMC theaters. For example, the Downton Abbey movie gave out well-made if small snow globes of the Abbey itself. I’m unreasonably pleased with such freebies, because I’m a Material Girl kind of geek. I like to make these things into ornaments for my Geek Tree. (And no, you can’t see it yet. I just moved and it’s not ready for prime-time.)

I wish movies would tell me ahead of time which ones will have free posters and swag. Maybe that’s RunPee’s next app! 🙂

It makes me want to spend the extra money to go a little further to that other theater, instead of my closer one in Fashion Valley. So I should get on doing a Mission Valley review STAT, although more traffic taking up butts there will make my job harder.

But true fans should get the swag. Maybe more studios would think about rewarding the die hard audience. We’re the ones they need to woo. First rule of marketing: it’s easier to keep a happy fan than find a new one.

Movie Review – Like a Boss

Is there anything extra during the end credits of Like a Boss?

Movie Theater Review – AMC Fashion Valley in San Diego

All Joker Performances — Ranked

Ask people to name the first three superhero villains they can think of, and you’ll probably get “the Joker” from everyone. There’s just something about the character we’re drawn to, for some reason. Perhaps it’s the secret appeal of being able to cast aside the rules of normal society, or perhaps it’s simply the striking visual mix of acid-green hair and the purple suit against a white-painted face. Perhaps it’s the inherent fear of clowns that most of us share.

Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that Batman’s greatest foe is certainly a fan favorite. He’s appeared in every type of media there is and been brought to life by some of the biggest actors in Hollywood. But which performance was the best? Below is an attempt to answer that question in chronological order.

Cesar Romero, Batman (1966-1968)

2 out of 5 painted-over mustaches

The very first actor to bring the Joker to life, Cesar Romero’s performance was… something. In fairness, the classic Adam West show had a campy feel that a more serious Joker simply would not have worked in — and Romero’s constant laughter did set an iconic precedent for all the Joker laughs to come. His completely over-the-top portrayal was rather brave, and others might even rank him higher for sheer silliness and wild abandon.

Jack Nicholson, Batman (1989)

4 out of 5 dances with the devil

While Cesar Romero may have beaten him to the screen, it’s fair to say that Jack Nicholson set the stage for the way the Joker would be portrayed for the next thirty years. Equal parts darkly funny and terrifying, Nicholson’s Joker was an unexpected twist for viewers who were used to the comedic interpretation. For the first time, we had a Joker that was actually scary — and we loved him for it. He had the perfect blend of traits: a dash of whimsy, a veneer of sarcasm, a complete disregard for the rules of society. Nicholson’s Joker brought us everything from bone-chilling threats to acid-spraying boutonnieres, and somehow managed to make it all work. Not even his rattling false teeth or pop-off fake hands could make us think of him as less of a villain.

Mark Hamill, Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

4 out of 5 maniacal laughs

When it comes to Joker portrayals that are truly Mad Hatter-mad, there is no substitute for Mark Hamill. From his signature cackle to his dramatic delivery, this Joker is every bit as committed to hamming it up as Romero before him, but Hamill manages to make it electric and slightly terrifying. You can’t help but take him seriously, even though he doesn’t seem to have a serious bone in his animated body.

To many of us, he will always be the voice of the Joker, no matter how many other actors come after him — and that’s only fitting, considering what a wonderful job he’s done across so many mediums, from TV to video games to theme park rides. To rank Jokers purely based on the number of times he’s played the role, there is no competition.

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (2008)

5 out of 5 pencil tricks

If Nicholson brought a new level of terror to the Joker, Ledger kicked it into high gear. This Joker is absolutely no laughing matter. It’s what makes Ledger’s performance so lauded, even years after this death. For the first time, we get a sense of how truly powerful this character can be. And it’s not his mania that chills our bones, though Ledger brought plenty of that to the role.

But the terror of this Joker comes from the way he amplifies all the scared, lonely, desperate parts of our hearts. This Joker has a way of bringing those parts of people to life, because why wouldn’t you run away and protect your own when someone that chaotically evil is around? What’s the point in order, in the rule of law, in a sense of fair play when someone is stacking the deck and changing the rules at random like it’s a deadly game of Calvinball? For this reason, Ledger’s Joker will stay among the greats for many decades to come.

Cameron Monaghan,Gotham (2014-2019)

3.5 out of 5 ambiguous origins

Is he the Joker? Or just a cultural predecessor, a source of inspiration that the “real” Joker would later pick up and run with? Both the show and the showrunners imply the latter, even passing the mantle from one twin brother to the next, though the series finale does try to leave it open for interpretation. But it’s fair to count him either way. From the painted smiles to the maniacal laugh almost worthy of Hamill himself, to Monaghan’s flair for theatrics, he certainly plays the part of the Joker with style. And the dual performance as both Jerome and Jeremiah allow us to see the range of Monaghan’s expression, as one actor who took on not just two, but three different “variations” on the Joker.

Props to the actor for pulling it off with aplomb, but unfortunately, this same variety means if there’s one you don’t like as well as the others, it drags the whole ranking down.

Jared Leto, Suicide Squad (2016)

1 out of 5 ill-conceived tattoos

Come on, is anyone surprised by this ranking? Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad had all the subtlety of Romero (which is to say, absolutely none) without any of the campy charm. He managed to be somehow both over the top and lifeless at the same time. This won’t even get into his weird, gratuitous relationship with Harley Quinn. This Joker is non-threatening, uninspiring, a joke of a villain. He’s every generic gangster we’ve ever seen. Worse, he adds absolutely nothing to the role. His performance is forgettable, his laugh unmemorable. You can strike him off this list as easily as a copy editor might strike off a paragraph in a script, and you won’t have lost anything.

Zach Galifianakis, Lego Batman (2017)

3 out of 5 obscure villain sidekicks

Even villains want to feel like they matter to somebody. In Lego Batman, we get a Joker unlike any other — one who’s so desperate for Batman to admit that they’re arch-enemies, that he will stop at nothing to prove his point. And while the performance probably wouldn’t have worked in a live-action Batman movie, there’s more than enough to love about him in the Lego-verse. The shock that he feels upon discovering he does not matter to Batman! The heartbreak! This Joker is easily the funniest on this list. But while the humor works for this particular movie (and works really well), ultimately it’s just not as memorable as the more nuanced performances.

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (2019)

4.5 out of 5 stairway dances

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the amount there is to unpack and discuss about this latest entry into the Joker mythos — or the quality of the performance that Phoenix delivers. This is hands-down the most unique portrayal of the Joker to date, with a backstory that hits hard. Humanizing the character like never before, Joker delivers a powerful message about just how easily people can snap and become monsters. Phoenix’s acting is top-notch, equal to any other Joker to appear on screen, as he manages to be both heartbreaking and horrifying at the exact same time.

The only reason for the half-point deduction that lets Ledger come out on top is because the Joker in this movie doesn’t believably ever go on to become the comic book supervillain we know his character becomes. It’s not that he isn’t capable of the violence and chaos involved, but none of the chaos he inspired in the movie is planned. (And that’s even assuming that the more dramatic aspects of the movie actually happened.) While he acts as a rallying cry for the disenfranchised in the film, it’s hard to picture him leading a gang of merry troublemakers around the streets of Gotham to do his specific bidding.

Still, there’s no denying the impact this movie will have on not just Joker performances, but on superhero movies in general. And time will show what kind of cinematic chaos erupts from this game-changing performance.


Joker is now available at Amazon.com on DVD/Blue-ray.

DVD at Amazon.com

Blue Ray at Amazon.com

Jill Florio gave it a grade of C+. You can read the complete movie review here.

Wonder Woman 1984: Actor News, Story Continuity

 

Two Must See Science Fiction Spoof Film Documentaries (plus: the most ‘inconceivable’ parody of a spoof)

It’s hard to make a decent movie spoof for a beloved franchise, and being in the science fiction genre doesn’t make things any easier. The producers have to sell a fresh plot, quality special effects, and sparkling humor, while somehow keeping the fan base happy. You have to honor — while riffing– the base material. It’s a tight line to walk.

Two beloved science fiction spoofs not only stand out as Best in Genre full-length film satires, but have now have their own documentaries. That’s impressive for a parody.

If you’re a Star Wars or Star Trek fan, you’ve probably heard about Spaceballs and Galaxy Quest. Join me in discussing the cameo-studded documentaries about these fabulous science fiction movie parodies.

Spoofing Star Wars: Spaceballs – The Documentary (30 minutes, 1987)

Lucasfilm actually did post-production for Spaceballs. Mel Brooks said George Lucas loved the screenplay, thankfully, since Brooks wasn’t going to go forward with Spaceballs if Lucas had a problem with it.

In the documentary, Brooks says, “to make a good spoof film, you have to love the genre.” Truth.

Not only did Brooks pull together a stellar cast for Spaceballs, the story was funny and reasonably sensible. Even better, there were film nods to other science fiction classics like Star Trek, Alien, Planet of the Apes, and even Superman. Spaceballs is a good romp.

Here’s the 1987 Spaceballs Documentary to get you back in the saddle for some silly Star Wars fun:

 

Spoofing Star Trek: Galaxy Quest (2019)

Ask any Trek fan to list their favorite Star Trek films and invariably Galaxy Quest comes up. Even the real Star Trek actors love it, and praise it to Klingon Heaven (aka Sto-Vo-Kor) in this documentary. When it comes to the best Star Trek films, Galaxy Quest is near the top for me. It also handles the fanbase with great esteem, letting ‘us’ help save the day (“It’s all real.” “I KNEW it!”)

Indeed, I loved the Galaxy Quest Documentary when it came out in a limited release in 2019. I laughed with all the other fans in a packed screening room, while we clued back into to why this…wacky  spoof…was so good. It told a real story. And FELT like Star Trek. It had a coherent narrative, gave us all the feels, and reminded us how amazing Alan Rickman can be with even the goofiest lines (“By Grabthar’s Hammer, you shall be avenged.“)

Here’s the trailer for the Never Surrender Documentary (not available free on You Tube Yet):

My Never Surrender Galaxy Quest Documentary Review:

Never Surrender – A Galaxy Quest Retrospective

Extra! Must-See Bonus Spoofiness

The Deadpool Before Christmas (2018)

A superhero spoof of a fantasy spoof? With genre-hopping Princess Bride fun? Yes, please.

Here’s the trailer if you somehow missed this Deadpool & Princess Bride Mashup:

And my review of The Deadpool Before Christmas:

The Deadpool Before Christmas

 

Every Type of Starship and Starfighter in Star Wars, Explained

Star-wars-death-star-battle-return-of-the-jedi
There are a lot of ships in the Battle of Endor. It’s a great scene — learn how to recognize the Starfighters here.

It’s kind of interesting when this happens: I come up with an idea for a RunPee article, start my research, and then find someone made an entire video with more detail and authority then I ever could. This has been happening frequently with Star Wars.

In this case, I was personally interested in differences and uses of the Starfighters used each in each movie. (A Starfighter is a one — sometimes two — manned, dogfighting style,  maneuverable armed space attacker. Some are modified for specifically atmosphere, as in the Imperial Tie Strikers on Rogue One.)

What are these Starfighters and who flies them?

Who gets to  fly certain designs and why? What does each ship look like? Offhand, can you tell the difference between a B-Wing and an A-Wing fighter?

The Empire & First Order Ships

For example, if you’re an Imperial or First Order pilot, you might get a Tie Fighter, a Silencer, or an Interceptor. We also see a lot of distinctive Imperial Shuttles with folding bird-type wings. Darth Vader has his own elegant Tie Fighter design that we see in the Death Star trenches of A New Hope.

Capital ships include Star Destroyers and Dreadnoughts (and Death Stars), but we’re not covering the big cruisers / spacestations here. (“That’s no moon.”)

You probably noticed the Tie-Class Starfighters have a distinctive ‘whine’ sound. Here’s one minute of the classic Tie Fighter sound as they flyby and spin out:

Here is is again if you want to listen to the Tie Fighter whine as ambient sound for 12 hours, because, why not?

(Photo embed below shows Darth Vader’s Advanced X-1 Tie Fighter)

Rebels & Resistance Ships

Everyone knows what an X-Wing looks like. It’s Luke’s ship design, after all. But there are also Y-Wings, B-Wings, A-Wings, the Naboo N-1, and on and on until they merge together with minor changes of design.

 

Rebel and Resistance capital ships include Cruisers, Bombers, and Ramming ships (and some rag tag unique boats, like the Millennium Falcon, owned by scrappy individuals like Han Solo). But again, the video below has enough to cover without leaving the realm of Star Fighter.

Where do we see these Starfighters?

The best space battles are in A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, The Last Jedi, Rogue One, and finally, Rise of Skywalker. I’m not going to include The Phantom Menace, which does have a space battle, but is kind of dodgy. Except for Rise of Skywalker, you can find these scenes on You Tube, so you can easily start and stop the action to pick out the different Starfighters and big capital ships.

(Here are all the Star Wars movies ranked by my thoughts on re-watchability.)

OK, where’s the Starfighter Video?

Honestly, I’d been listing things on my own, looking over scenes in various movies, and then I found THIS. It’s the definitive answer, taking almost 18 minutes to watch, created/hosted by design crewmembers of Lucasfilms.

I can’t compete with that. 😉

So here’s the video. Can you name each type of Starfighter as it appears on the screen? 

The other big article I’m no longer going to write is about Stormtroopers. There are more types of troopers than I originally noticed, and I really thought my personal list was pretty good. Oh well! This video is also by Lucasfilm designers, and I’ve written about that here.

Star Wars – Death Stars and Planet Killers: Enough Already

The 6 Most Epic Lightsaber Fights in Star Wars (plus 3 that didn’t make the cut)

Who rated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker higher, men or women?

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