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. 

RIP Star Wars Hero Chewbacca – Peter Mayhew is Dead

I was born in 1978.  I have never known a world without Peter Mayhew.  Until now.  I have never met the man.  I know very little about him personally.  What I do know is the joy he brought me throughout my life via his portrayal of the beloved Star Wars character Chewbacca.

I read an essay once about a writer taking her young daughter to an art exhibit and the little girl asking, “Who made this?  I have to talk to her.”  The author was pleased her daughter had made the connection between magic in the art and magic in the artist.  And so one must assume that Mayhew had a spark of magic, playfulness, joy, and creativity to be able to embody Han Solo’s furry buddy.

Some actors try to distance themselves from their most popular role (*ahem* Shatner), but from all the pictures I’ve seen on social media in the past day or so, Peter Mayhew truly enjoyed and embraced his association with/as the world’s most famous wookie.  As Luke reminds us in the trailer for episode IX, “No one’s ever really gone.”  We will always have Mayhew’s iconic performances to remember him by.

Yet it’s hard not to feel like the universe is a little less magic now.

First Star Wars Skywalker Trailer Breakdown

I remember seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater at a very young age and falling in love with ewoks. For most of my life, there were only three Star Wars films (and a brilliant Mel Brooks parody of them). And the vague promise that maybe someday George Lucas would make episodes I-III.

In middle school, I walked out of the bathroom at a local movie theater to see a poster for something called Revenge of the Jedi and got super excited. I didn’t realize it was the original title for Return of the Jedi.

It’s mind-blowing to me that soon there will not only be nine Star Wars films (featuring the main storyline) but there will be a conclusion to Anakin, Luke, Leia, and presumably Rey’s stories. After months of speculation and anticipation, the trailer and title for Star Wars Episode IX was finally revealed at Star Wars Celebration.

Here’s a blow by blow of what’s in the trailer:

–The first thing we see is Rey with Luke’s light saber (good catch by Cinemablend) on a desert planet. The last film in a trilogy can sometimes be about returning to where you started. So this may be Jakku or Tatooine.

–We hear Luke in voiceover: “We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.” Great dialogue. So inspiring!

–A title card says: “Every generation has a legend.” Presumably, this is Rey as she is on-screen at the moment and the main protagonist of this trilogy. I love this. Rey is not only a legend in the world of the film, but a legend for a generation of moviegoers.

–Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer races towards Rey as she draws her lightsaber. Rey runs and does a flip, her lightsaber seemingly about to do some major damage to that TIE fighter.

–A title card says: “This Christmas” (The movie comes out December 20.)

–A ship flies over a city near a mountainous location. This is most likely a place we haven’t visited before.

–Kylo Ren takes someone down hard with his lightsaber. I don’t care what anyone says. I think Adam Driver’s a badass.

–A shot of Kylo’s mask being repaired.

–A shot of Finn and Poe on a desert planet, presumably the same one Rey is on. I can’t wait to see these two together again.

–BB-8 with new droid friend D-0.

–Lando Calrissian is back at the controls of the Millennium Falcon and looking as happy to be there as we are to have him there again.

–A title card reads: “The saga comes to an end.” Both a promise and an ominous warning. They are wrapping up this storyline. It will not drag on forever needlessly. But everyone may not make it out of this adventure alive.

–I give up. Take away my nerd card. I don’t know what those vehicles and/or weapons are. Basically, more desert action.

–Poe, Finn, and C-3PO are sailing some kind of ship through the desert and being fired on.

–A ship goes down in flames.

–Someone (Leia?) rubs a rebel alliance medal.

–Leia hugs Rey in the trailer’s most emotional moment.

–Luke (in voiceover) says: “We’ll always be with you.”

–Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, C-3PO, BB-8, and D-0 gaze at the remains of a Death Star. We don’t know if this is the Death Star from episodes IV-VI or a new Death Star.

–In voiceover, Luke says: “No one’s ever really gone.” A comforting sentiment.

–The screen goes black. We hear the wicked laugh of the Emperor/Palpatine. Apparently no one is ever really gone.

–And finally, that beauty of a title: The Rise of Skywalker. Doesn’t it give you chills? There are several theories as to what the title means. Some think a new order of Jedis will be dubbed Skywalkers. I’m with those who are hoping Rey’s heritage will be retconned and she’ll be revealed to be a true Skywalker.

Be sure to use the RunPee app so you won’t miss an essential moment of Episode IX or any other movie you care about. We’ve got Peetimes for Captain Marvel, Shazam!, and Avengers: Endgame. And we’ll have Peetimes for all the summer blockbusters like John Wick 3, Toy Story 4, Child’s Play (more Mark Hamill!), Spider-Man: Far From Home and more. You can also follow us on Twitter @RunPee for the latest movie news.

Why The Last Jedi Sucked

star wars the last jedi
Stop screwing around. I want my Star Wars back.

Did you like Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Are you still on the fence? I don’t think anyone would say it doesn’t look pretty. It looks expensive, and on the surface seems like it belongs in the Star Wars galaxy (the one that is long ago and far away).

It’s got a few great set-pieces (Porg Island, Salt Planet, Rey and Ren tag-teaming it).

And it has a whole lot of sound and fury, signifying a whole lot of nothing. (Rey is who? Snoke is who? Why do we spend so much time on the casino planet? Admiral Holdo and hotshot pilot Poe: Mutiny? What? Why? …And, of course, we have the Deconstruction of Luke Skywalker — [shakes head, sadly].)

Here’s a detailed analysis of why The Last Jedi failed. (“You have failed me for the last time, Admiral.”) Take a look and tell me what you think:

An interesting video. However, I still love The Force Awakens, and think The Last Jedi is better than any of the prequels.

(Man, those prequels suck.)

But yeah, you could fly a Corellian Cruiser through the plot holes of TLJ. I blame Rian Johnson. JJ Abrams handed him a good set-up, but Rian blew it, on so so soooo many levels. I can only “hope” (get it, haha?) that the last movie will course correct these failures. Do it, JJ. Give us what we want.

Let’s wrap up this Skywalker Saga. I’ll be waiting right here.

I have a bad feeling about this…

Never tell me the odds!
There’s a 100% chance someone will have a bad feeling about this.

In the far away and long ago galaxy of Star Wars, everyone’s a prophet. Who hasn’t said they have a bad feeling about something? Well, except that one time Han said he had a good feeling. It’s the franchise’s longest-running gag, at least through the 10th film of Solo, A Star Wars Story.

Here’s a definitive list of who and when a Star Wars character said “I have a bad feeling about this,” or “I have a very bad feeling,” or even “A really bad feeling,” listed in film production order (with Luke Skywalker getting bonus points for being the first to say it ):

  1. A New Hope – Said twice! First with Luke Skywalker, when the Millennium Falcon approaches the Death Star, and then Han Solo, in the trash compactor.
  2. The Empire Strikes Back – Princess Leia, on the asteroid with the Mynocks.
  3. Return of the Jedi – C-3PO to Artoo Detoo, approaching Jabba’s palace.
  4. The Phantom Menace – Obi-Won Kenobi’s first line in the film, to Qui-gon Jinn.
  5. Attack of the Clones – Anakin Skywalker in the gladiator ring on Geonosis.
  6. Revenge of the Sith – Obi-Won to Anakin, in their starfighters.
  7. The Force Awakens – Han, realizing the deadly rathtars have been set loose on his ship.
  8. Rogue One – K-SO2 to Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor in the elevator scene (although he gets cut off at the end).
  9. The Last Jedi – This one is special and I had to look it up to be sure, but BB-8 says it to Po Dameron, in binary. Director Rian Johnson confirms this. Notice that droids get the bad feeling line three times. (Who knew droids could feel?)
  10. Solo – This one stands out by having the inverse line, spoken by a young Han. In an aside to Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Falcon, he says, “I’ve got a really good feeling about this.” Go with it, Han! Things are going to get a lot worse, soon enough.

So, there it is. EVERY Star Wars movie has a variation on this portent of doom. Next time you pull a re-watch, keep your ears open for the iconic quote.

13 Scenes from Star Wars you won’t have missed if you had RunPee

Ranking The Star Wars Films

Movie Rewatch Review – Solo (A Star Wars Story)

More Powerful Than You Could Possibly Imagine

 

Movie Rewatch Review – Solo (A Star Wars Story)

Han shot first.
He’s got a really good feeling about this.

I don’t know why so many Star Wars fans have a problem with Solo. All I can think of is that it was released too close to The Last Jedi, which really incited the fan base. Otherwise, [pullquote]I can’t imagine why this excellent film was panned. I loved it, and I’m not sure yet where I’d rank Solo, but in the top four or five of the Star Wars films, at least.[/pullquote] (Okay, I added my ranking on the link above. Feel free to disagree and tell me why I’m wrong, in the comments below.)

I recently re-watched Solo on the seat back of my cross country Delta flight, and I was delighted. It’s definitely better the second (or third, or fourth) time around, and what’s nice about the seat-back thing is that I could pause it and rewatch the little random and funny moments to my heart’s content. I paused it a lot: watching joyful references to previous Star Wars movies, and I laughed out loud several times (probably annoying my seatmates).

What was so great about Solo? It was a rousing adventure with several great villains, lovely set pieces, and a likable cast. We’re introduced to a young, wet-behind-the-ears Han, who’s still idealistic and dreams big. [pullquote position=”right”]Over the course of the film we start to see his trademark cynicism kick in, culminating with Han definitively shooting first. But he’s so sweet and baby-faced here, and so willing to be a hero. [/pullquote]It’s a nice contrast, and I can see why he both felt frustrated by and protective of the young Luke Skywalker — it reminded him of himself, back in the day.

The new Han actor is a special find, and I’m thrilled with his performance. Harrison Ford gushed over him (and Ford is a normally taciturn man), and told him — when Alden Ehrenreich was cast — to make Han his own. I think Ehrenreich walked a good line between an homage to “old Han” and a gentler, fresher version. It worked for me. Plus, he had great chemistry with the new Chewie, and most of the laughs came from their early friendship (the rest of the laughs came from Lando, but I’ll get to that in a moment). The scene where Han and Chewie shower together, especially, is really cute. (Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.) Chewbacca has always been a grounding force for Han, operating as a sort of conscience for the experienced smuggler he becomes.

The ensemble sparkled, unlike the problems inherent in the characters of Rogue One (come on, admit it). Q’ira is a complex love interest, and adorable to boot. Her story arc is sensible, sad, and intriguing. Woody Harrelson’s Becket made for a great conflicted mentor, kind of like a less reliable version of his Hunger Games Heymitch character, if that’s even possible. [pullquote]Paul Bettany’s villain is outstanding, period — he’s amusing, personable, complicated, and very, very frightening.[/pullquote]

Which brings me to Donald Glover’s Lando. Dear God, the perfection. He effortlessly stole every scene he was in. I[pullquote position=”right”] could view an entire movie of Lando playing Sabaac, or trying on just capes, and be entertained. [/pullquote]Can our next Star Wars Story feature him? Please?

Lastly, the Millennium Falcon was a big character in Solo. She’s always been a fast ship — when she worked — but that’s because of Han’s special modifications over the years. Here we see the Falcon as a brand-new, squeaky clean ship, with all the bells and whistles and wet bars and cape closets. It’s amazing to be presented with a white-walled interior after all the grungy years.

The ensemble absolutely clicked, and I’m left wondering, again, why people didn’t like this movie. Maybe it was the coaxial heist plot, which wasn’t all that exciting. Coaxium, hyperfuel, whatever: it’s just a MacGuffin to hang the narrative on. [pullquote]Solo is a small-stakes story, which is just fine after so many retread Death Star plots. It doesn’t always have to be about saving the universe to be a great movie.[/pullquote]

Lastly, I wanted to make a note about the muchly-heralded escape from the Maw in 12 parsecs (nice correlation to the old Extended Universe novels, BTW). It’s not the most exciting element of the film, and doesn’t feature Han doing anything particularly skilled. As RunPee Dan said in his review, “It’s a group effort.” I have no issues with that, since Han said “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.” The ship. Not that he’s the big bad pilot that did it. His off hand comment allows for what actually happened, instead of being a misleading boast. Han has many flaws, but he’s never one to mislead others.

It also puts to bed the problem with parsecs being a measurement of space and not time. It worked for me, mostly…but [pullquote position=”right”]I won’t lie and say the Kessel Run sequence doesn’t make for a great Peetime. [/pullquote]The Maw’s effects weren’t up to the standards of Star Wars, and the space dwelling monster was just plain atrocious. I prefer the asteroid-based space slug from Empire, if we have to have an impossible creature feature. 😉

While there were a lot of super fun nods to the original trilogy, I have to say my favorite was Han saying, “I have a good feeling about this.” I found it cute, and it made me smile. I think I need to make a list of every character in the rest of the series intoning, “I have a bad feeling about this.” (UPDATE: I DID IT HERE.) Which, yeah, bad things happened indeed, but it was a pleasure to see a Star Wars film where people were kind of having fun, for once.

Movie Review – Solo: A Star Wars Story

I have a bad feeling about this…

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Movie Review – The Last Jedi

Best Movie MacGuffins Explained

Star Wars is loaded with MacGuffins. Can you name them all?

A MacGuffin is any object that drives the plot and motivates the characters in a movie. You might have seen the name “MacGuffins” over bar bistros in the lobbies of many AMC theaters. That’s an industry in-joke.[pullquote] It sounds like the name of an Irish pub, but it’s really a nod to a long standing film tradition, coined by Alfred Hitchcock himself, for an object that’s an excuse to make characters do things, have a quest for, and usually fight over.[/pullquote]

MacGuffins can be almost anything, but the point is, it is a “thing.” Sometimes a MacGuffin can be a person-as-thing, but that’s a bit more rare. Another crucial point about MacGuffins — they’re usually quite fungible. [pullquote position=”right”]It really doesn’t matter what the thing is, so long as the characters spend their narrative trying to get it (or, in some cases, lose it). [/pullquote]

Here are some well-known movie MacGuffins that you probably never thought about: 

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark — this whole flick is about finding the Ark, protecting the Ark, using the Ark, and finding a safe place to store it. I’m not sure an FBI warehouse is the safest place, but it’s probably as good as keeping it under the sands of Tanis. Note that for all Indy’s efforts,  nothing he does actually helps the cause in the end. He’s just lucky he knew enough not to die from it. And as we saw in the subsequent Indiana Jones films, there’s always some kind of MacGuffin driving the plot, including the Holy Grail. This is a case-book example of MacGuffins in action. (And yes, the holy grail in Monty Python’s Holy Grail counts too.)
  • Titanic – The Heart of the Ocean. Awwww.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of The Black Pearl – the last coin of the cursed gold qualifies, and so does Will Turner himself. I think each film in this increasingly bizarre series centers in a MacGuffin of some sort.
  • Most of the Mission Impossible series has a MacGuffin driving the plot, which really is just an excuse to see Tom Cruise pulling off his own wild stunts.
  • The Necronomicon in Army of Darkness qualifies in a super fun way. Have you seen this movie? (Go find it. Bruce Campbell is the best B actor in the business.)
  • A Fish Called Wanda has the bag of money, and a whole lot of tomfoolery involved in getting it, including an actual fish named Wanda. (Haven’t seen this? It’s one of the world’s funniest movies and stands up to the test of time.)
  • The Project Genesis in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. But you knew this, right? Even the whales in The Voyage Home count.
  • Unobtainium is kind of a jokey name, but certainly qualifies as a MacGuffin in Avatar. The natives of Pandora need it to survive, and the invading humans want it. They also kind of get it. Bummer.  It all works out in the end, mostly.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe is all about MacGuffins. You could make a case for each of the current 20 films having some kind of MacGuffin. Most of them have to do with Infinity Stones, and who has them, and who tries to protect them from Thanos (or Ronan, or Loki, or the bad guy in Dr. Strange, or that dark Elf in Thor 2). Remember the stones go by all kinds of names, like the Orb, the Aether, the Tesseract, and so on. But it’s not always about the stones: Vulture just wanted alien technology. The Iron Man trilogy was about arc reactor tech. Killmonger wanted the power of Vibranium. Thor sought a replacement for his hammer, so Stormbreaker was the latest MacGuffin. Ant Man is about Quantum Tech and Pym Particles. Name me one MCU movie NOT about a MacGuffin, and you’ll win ten points to your Hogwarts House.
  • Speaking of Harry Potter, I don’t think a single entry in the 8 movie pantheon is MacGuffin-free. Look at the Sorcerer/Philosopher’s stone, the Tri-Wizard cup, the orb of prophecy, the Horcrux search, the quest for the Sword of Gryffindor, and the Deathly Hallows. Since Harry turned out to be a horcrux himself, he qualifies as a personified MacGuffin.
  • Like with the Sword of Gryffindor, swords are common themes to base a quest around. Look at the King Arthur movies: we even have two swords! The sword in the stone is one, and the one the Lady of the Lake tossed at Arthur. (“You can’t expect to wield supreme power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!” <— recognize this quote? If you’re a true cinephile, you should.)
  • The Lord of Rings is a great exception to the ideal of questing FOR an object. In this case, the fellowship is about destroying something: the One Ring of Power. It’s a self-proclaimed fool’s quest, but somehow, the good guys win. (Although not without great cost along the way.)
  • The Lord of the Rings does the sword thing too, with the shards of Narsil being forged as a great flaming weapon, to be reforged and wielded only by a descendant of Isildur. So we can check that box too.
  • In the Hobbit, it’s the Arkenstone.
  • The Wizard of Oz has the Ruby Slippers.
  • In the various incarnations of Dune, the Sandworms are an unusual MacGuffin, which, like Harry Potter, are also in the form of a living being. The spice itself is a HUGE MacGuffin — without it, space travel would simply cease. And this relates right back to the Sandworms. Lost yet? Ignore David Lunch and the SciFi versions; re-read the novel. I hear there will be yet another filmatic attempt at Dune soon…so we can hope it’s the definitive version.
  • In a less fantasy mode, we’ve got Pulp Fiction. What exactly was in the magically glowing briefcase? Was it Marcellus Wallus’ soul, as many fans speculated? We never find out, although it actually doesn’t matter in the end.
  • Fantastic Beasts also featured a magical suitcase that all characters sought. In this film, however, we definitely saw what was in there.
  • Star Wars is usually about MacGuffins, which are often force-users (ie – people). In Solo, look at how Coaxium drives the plot. The Millennium Falcon  qualifies too. In The Force Awakens, Luke himself is the MacGuffin (and so is his lightsaber). A New Hope and Rogue One have the stolen Death Star data tapes. Star Wars is loaded with MacGuffins, including R2D2 himself. Once you start noticing these, you can’t stop. (Kind of like eating Pringles.)
  • The Maltese Falcon – an obvious one, from a classic-era film. Hmmm, also Rosebud in Citizen Cane.
  • All heist, thriller, and caper movies are about finding a thing. Often a tech thing, and sometimes just money — as in Die Hard. I dare you to name a caper that isn’t about acquiring something. Look at the Ocean’s films for a start. Everyone’s after something, and the whole plot hinges around that thing.
  • Apollo 13 and even First Man are about similar MacGuffins, be they the moon itself, or just finding a way to get home from said moon.
  • Are you a Buffy fan? Remember her Axe of Power? MacGuffin. The entire series is loaded with MacGuffins, including Buffy herself.
  • In the X-Files, aliens from space qualify as MacGuffins. And I’m not sure this was ever resolved. At least Scully learned to believe. 😉

Clearly, this is an ongoing list. I can’t sit here all day naming every flick with a MacGuffin. But feel free, absolutely, to name your favorites in the comments. It’s good geeky fun!

MacGuffins Bars at AMC Theaters

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Undercover Boss – A Star Wars Parody on SNL

Matt, the Radar Tech. Any resemblance to Kylo Ren is absolutely intentional.

Saturday Night Live has a lot of misses in these latter years of heyday’s past, but when they hit a home run, there’s still good to be found. One of my favorite SNL sketches has Adam Driver reprising his Star Wars role of Kylo Ren, the commander of Starkiller Base (from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), going undercover with the impressive title of  Matt, the technician.

Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base takes only a few moments to watch, but it’s got some great laughs. Driver really pokes fun at tantrum throwing force user Ben Solo/Kylo Ren.

I never get tired of Star Wars parodies, and usually their production values and humor are high on the watchable scale. It’s amusing to see Kylo Ren taking abuse from no-nonsense tech superiors (“I need my muffin, MATT!”), and trying to bond with the officers in the mess hall (“I’m sorry I killed your son”). Did he succeed in fooling anyone? Did he learn anything at all?

In a word, no. But Driver is a great sport, and gleefully throws the less attractive qualities of Ren into the part. Ren’s clearly got some self-esteem issues yet to work out. I’m going to say this sketch is now part of my head-canon.

You like it? What do you think of the character of Kylo Ren? Big Bad? Or Big Baby?


More, on RunPee.com:

TROOPS – A Star Wars Parody Does COPS

TROOPS – A Star Wars Parody Does COPS

TROOPS is filmed live, on location. All suspects are guilty. Period.

I adore the Star Wars parody TROOPS,  featuring a cool and funny blend of the 80s television reality show COPS, with Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s got 10 minutes of cinematic-level goodness and is great fun. I’m super impressed with the visual quality of this tiny film. It looks like Star Wars! It even feels like Star Wars.

Storywise, it’s also clever, presenting a  behind the scenes look at how some Extremely Competent Stormtroopers try locate the Empire’s missing droids…and then exactly what went down  at the Lars residence on Tatooine. (Remember Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru? Remember how we saw their charred corpses? Now you’ll know what happened. This version is now cannon to me.)

Owen and Beru play a nice part in the latter half of the video, although it doesn’t show them in the most flattering light. But then, the show COPS pretty much depicted humanity at their nadir, so it fits in perfectly.  And I loved the first Stormtrooper in this short.  He really thinks he’s the good guy here, bringing peace and order to the galaxy (with blasters).

I never watched COPS when it was on the air (I don’t like watching other people’s misery), but I really love COPS parodies, to a fault. There’s a few of them out there. I think TROOPS might not be the single funniest one, but it might be the most spot-on, and does fill in a gap in the Star Wars narrative  —  one you never knew existed. Remember that most of the SW saga plays from a certain point of view…

What do you think of TROOPS? Did you ever see the original show COPS? Are we showing our age here? 🙂

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More, on RunPee.com: 

Undercover Boss – A Star Wars Parody on SNL

More Powerful Than You Could Possibly Imagine

Remember in A New Hope when Obi Wan said to Vader, “Strike me down and I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”? As it turned out, Obi Wan didn’t become all powerful. He didn’t do much more than become the Jedi Whisperer. (Let go, Luke. Trust your feelings.)

Now that Luke has faded to the Force (after the events at the end of The Last Jedi) it appears he might be the all-powerful one. Or maybe he was the all powerful one. It’s all conjecture at this point, but here’s what we know think we know.

The Express reported that leaks for the upcoming Episode IX (December 20, 2019) indicate that Luke has the power to force choke a Star Destroyer. The question is, does this happen in the past, and we see it as a flashback (The only thing JJ Abrams loves more than lens flare is flashbacks)? Or does it happen in the timeline of Episode IX now that Luke is truly with the Force?

What is it with the Star Wars universe and sand?

There is evidence that this is a flashback  based on the book Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Legends of Luke Skywalker, which is part of the official Star Wars canon. One of the stories takes place shortly after the end of Return of the Jedi on Jakku — Rey’s old stomping grounds. A crew member aboard a Star Destroyer recalls seeing a hologram of Luke reach out. Shortly afterward, the ship crashed into Jakku. It’s implied the abandoned Star Destroyer we saw in The Force Awakens, the one that Rey frequently scavenged, was brought down by Luke nearly three decades earlier.

What’s clear: Disney and Abrams need to unite the fractured fanbase that’s disappointed with how impotent Luke has been portrayed thus far. Right now we’re left sifting through the sands, like an archaeologist looking for clues from the bones of long dead animals, trying to figure out where the story is going, and where it came from.