Jake Lloyd

November 10, 2015

Countdown to The Force Awakens (Episode I) – Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

As we inch closer to the release of this year’s most anticipated release, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip” I thought it only appropriate to bring up another film that might garner some attention in the next month or so; “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” I know much hasn’t been made of this film and it’s flying under the radar, but to get everyone in the mood and to be completely original, it seemed time to take a look back and discuss the previous six entries in the “Star Wars” franchise and do a little retrospective.

While many people don’t like to admit that they exist, the “Star Wars” prequels do in fact, and they are canon to the entire “Star Wars” universe. Sorry people, but they do. With that being said, let’s start ripping the band-aid off right away and jump right into 1999’s “The Phantom Menace” released 16 years after “Return of the Jedi.”

“Phantom” takes place 32 years before “A New Hope” and regales the audience with the story of trade agreements, treaty signings, bartering for parts of a ship, diplomacy, Jedi Council meetings, oh, and some lightsaber action. If you’re a big fan of intergalactic politics, you might find some fun in “Phantom,” but for most of us, even the biggest “Star Wars” fans will find the fun and will mostly be yearning for what came before in the later “sequels,” and by sequels I mean the original three films.

During “Phantom” we meet some old faces, just younger; including Jedi in training Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Padawan learner of Jedi Knight, Qui-Gon Jinn, Senator Palpatine who will eventually become Emperor Palpatine in the later films, and of course Anakin Skywalker, the one who was thought to bring balance to The Force, but instead turned his back on the Jedi order and would become Darth Vader.

Why’sa peoples hate’sa me so much….

The main issue with “Phantom” and there are plenty, is the gall of it’s creator, George Lucas, to expect old fans of the series to like what he likes no matter what. Sure, I get it, the original trilogy was written at a different time and place. The 70s and 80s were interesting time, and while studios had priorities like selling toys, lunchboxes, collectible cups at McDonald’s and Burger King, the 90s brought about a time where not only were the kids that grew up with “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” now adults, but many of them were wealthy adults, or at least man-children, that would eat up collectibles like candy. Not to mention, most of these adults now had children that only had to point at something they saw at K-B Toys (yes, K-B Toys used to be a thing) and it was rung up at the cash register. While I blame Lucas for 90% of what you end up seeing on screen, there is plenty of blame to go around with yes-men/women and plenty of people that would not say no to the all-mighty Lucas who created something so beloved and everlasting that nothing we could do would be wrong. Well, hindsight is 20/20 and with the rise of the Internet, “Phantom” has gone down as not only one of the worst films in the “Star Wars” Universe, but some might say one of the worst films ever made.

I’m just here for the purple lightsaber

Okay, with that out of the way, let the “Star Wars” fan come out and actually say some good things about this film, this should be short of course;

The relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is the heartbeat of the film, albeit a weak one that isn’t fully explored or fleshed out. It’s clear that both Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson are trying their best with what they’ve been given and knowing the lore of “Star Wars” the relationship between a Jedi and his Padawan learner is a powerful thing, I just wish there was more to it. The seeds are planted early that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon often are at odds, especially about taking Anakin to Coruscant to showcase him in front of the other Master Jedi, but there is that mutual love and respect between the two, as well as the student and teacher motif, that while it may seem lame, makes a more profound effect later on in “Revenge of the Sith.”

I could have been a contender…

Darth Maul also makes a decent showing, even though it’s far too short of one. In the original trilogy the only bad guy you worried about was Darth Vader. Sure, Boba Fett was cool, and I would almost call Maul the Boba Fett of the prequel series. While we get to see so little of him, he was turned into somewhat of a cult figure in the series, much like Fett himself. There is no denying that the final lightsaber fight between Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon is the highlight of this film, it was so much a highlight that later we would get prequel books about the origin of Maul and the inevitable return of Maul as a half Sith, half robot with spider-legs, that was the appeal of Maul.

Of course I could beat a dead horse, but outside of those few lone bright spots, “Phantom” is plagued by issues that turn a once proud franchise into a near “MST3K” quality film. From the pratfalls of Jar Jar Binks, to the neverending Pod Racer sequence, to the cringe-worthy dialogue spewed by Jake Lloyd as the future Dark Lord of the Sith, and of course the lifeless performance by Natalie Portman, this film lacks fun, goodness, and the goofy innocence of “Star Wars” films past and replaces it with goofy out of place humor and lifeless exposition that will leave many fans, like myself, hollow and yearning for nostalgia, or at least “The Star Wars Christmas Special.”

So, has another 16 years made this film any better? Not really. The CG looks dated, the characters are just as insufferable, and outside of this film being canon, there really isn’t much you’ll get out of it. Many of the best things about “Phantom” aren’t even brought up again in the proceeding films, original trilogy included, so it begs the questions? What was the purpose of the prequels, namely this film? Oh yeah…..midi-chlorians….that’s it…..midi-chlorians……

Stay tuned in the next few days for more “Star Wars” goodness as we move on to another winner; “Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones.”

December 19, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – Jingle All the Way

GOOFY FUN

It is the holiday season and I bet you in the mood for something snowy and action packed. Am I right? Well all aboard the “Action Movie Time Machine” as we’ll be jingling all the way to some mid ‘90s holiday fun.
Hey! Quit your bitchin’, it’s got Arnold in it. Oh okay, if you are looking for a seriousaction flick that takes place during the holidays, you might want to check out “Long Kiss Goodnight” starring Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson. But of course there is always “Die Hard”.
The year is 1996. The “Macarena” was a suicide educing dance craze that was storming the nation. It helped some forget the death of rapper Tupac. The “Uni-Bomber” was brought to justice, and the Nintendo 64 made it’s debut.
THE SKINNY
Our tale begins with Howard Langston, Arnold Schwarzenegger, an overworked executive who has made a bad habit of putting his job before his wife and son, Liz and Jamie. Howard recently forgot to go to his Jamie’s karate exhibition and now it’s the last stray. If Howard screws up one more time, he’ll lose them both for sure.
And just such an opportunity presents itself with Christmas. Liz told Howard months ago that he should pick up the wildly popular “Turbo Man” action figure for their son. “Turbo Man” is the new “Tickle Me Elmo” , every kid wants one, even Jamie, Jake Lloyd. Turbo Man is his favorite thing in the whole world. It goes without saying that Howard forgets to buy the toy, and the rest of the film is Howard frantically fumbling around like a man-baby trying not to disappoint his son.
The problem is that Howard isn’t the only one on the hunt for a Turbo Man. While at the local mall, traversing the waves of fat, last minute, toy hungry shoppers, he encounters Myron, Sinbad, a postal worker also on the hunt for Turbo Man. Howard and Myron compete against each other to land themselves a Turbo Man in time for Christmas. Hijinx ensue and neither man has their toy.
This lands Howard in the back of a warehouse looking to buy a “hot” Turbo Man from an underground league of hired Santas lead by “Mall Santa“, Jim Belushi. When Howard realizes that he’s being ripped off, he calls ‘em on it and a fight breaks out between Howard and “Huge Santa” played by Paul “The Big Show” Wight. Hijinx ensue and again, Howard is without the toy. There is also a tiny Santa played by Vern Troyer. “Jingle All the Way” is a regular Who’s Who.
Some other hijinx ensue that involve bombing a radio station, setting a neighbor’s house on fire and punching a reindeer in the face, then getting it hammered. Every word I just said is 100% true.

 

Liz and Jamie head downtown to watch the annual holiday parade with their neighbor Ted,Phil Hartman, and his son. Howard known that Ted is a bit of a Casanova, and when he sees them leave together he suspects the worst. Also, Howard knows that there will be a Turbo Man giveaway. He has to act quick if he’s going to save Christmas, as well as his family.
Once Howard arrives he is spotted by parade staff and is mistaken for the actor who will be donning the Turbo Man costume for the parade, and is quickly packed into the suit.
Howard does a pretty good job playing the part, even performing with other Turbo Man characters, until Myron shows up dressed as Turbo Man’s arch nemesis, Dementor. The rest of the film plays out like a plot from an old superhero serial. Dementor holds Jamie ransom until his demands of a Turbo Man toy are met, and Turbo Man uses his jet pack to rescue Jamie, vanquish Dementor and save the day.
In the end, Howard had to become his son’s real life hero in order to earn his love. The End.
THE VERDICT
Well, that’s “Jingle All the Way”. It wouldn’t otherwise warrant an “Action Movie Time Machine” review, since it is a family film. A goofy one at that. But it is fun. It falls somewhere between it’s so bad it’s good and genuinely funny. Which is a strange way to describe it. The comedy isn’t strong, typical for a family film, but there are also some comedic gems hidden here and there.
It follows the standard formula of; A protagonist who is work obsessed and neglects his family. Something external forces this dummy to re-evaluate his priorities and apply himself. In this case it is his wife and son. Along the way hijinx ensue. This formula is the only way television execs make sit-coms anymore. And that’s why shows like “According to Jim” suck so hard.
What makes this film worth watching is all the “other stuff“. Seeing Schwarzenegger in his prime, acting like such a goof is a lot of fun. Almost as much fun as “Last Action Hero”. Playing the sit-com formula for slapstick laughs, juxtaposed against his bullet riddled and blood drenched career, for some reason, brings me joy.
Phil Hartman is the shit. It’s a shame there wasn’t more room for him in this film. He is a total highlight. Everything he has ever done is hilarious. The Pee-Wee Herman Show, News Radio, The Simpsons, SNL — all gold! Sinbad isn’t half bad either. A lot of his postal worker traits and comments flew under the radar when I saw this as a kid, but as an adult, I caught every perverted and insane one of the.
The  stuff I don’t like so much about “Jingle All the Way”, like the big headed annoying kid and the stereotypical force family feelings, are easy to overlook. After all, it’s a holiday picture. There aren’t too many of them out there that stray from family feelings this time of year. And ya gotta love a movie with superheroes, even if they’re made up.
One other quick thing I like about “Jingle All the Way” is the toys. When Arnold is running around the mall you get to see all kinds of now vintage toys on the shelves. Oh the nostalgia. This is also a fun game to play while watching “Silent Night, Deadly Night”, a not so family friendly holiday movie.
So if you’re in the mood for something different — something you can watch with the kiddies, “Jingle All the Way” is for you.
I’m Cory Carr and this concludes another trip on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Happy Holidays Punk!
For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!
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