Today is the birthday of the late, great, Carrie Fisher.
I could extoll the virtues of this all around badass, writer, icon, and mental health warrior. But I will let her speak for herself.
Happy Birthday, wherever you are.
Movies and/or television shows that are based on comic books have been part of our modern entertainment era for decades. What is important is the balance between the source material and the enjoyment of the audience.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released into theaters a few weeks ago. Based on the comic book of the same name, we are initially introduced to twenty something Shaun (Simu Liu). Living in San Francisco, he and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) earn their living parking cars. Reality intervenes when Shaun’s ancient warlord father Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) send his goons to bring his son back to China. On the plane, Shaun tells Katy that his real name is Shang-Chi and the truth about his family. Meeting up with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), they have to come together to defeat their father and prevent an even greater disaster from occurring.
I loved this movie. Though I have no knowledge of the narrative or the character arcs within the books themselves, I can say with certainty that the film adaption is superb. I loved the balance of the comedy and the action. The female characters who surround Shang are not sitting in the background, waiting to be rescued. They are as important to the action as the male characters. The one role that stood out to me was Xu Wenwu. He is akin to Anakin Skywalker in that his intentions are good, but his actions are not exactly on the up and up.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently in theaters.
When we go, we want to know that our legacies and our families are settled for the future. But there can be a point in which this desire overwhelms our relationships and makes us forget what is important.
The 2010 film, Little Fockers, is the third movie in the Meet the Parents trilogy. After the chaos of Meet the Parents (2000) and Meet the Fockers (2004), Greg and Pam Focker (Ben Stiller and Teri Polo) have settled down into a happy life as spouses and parents. All is right with Pam’s father Jack (Robert De Niro). Before the entire family comes into town to celebrate the birthday of Greg and Pam’s twins, Jack finds out that Greg has a side gig working for a pharmaceutical company due to finance issues. Once more, Greg has to prove himself to his father-in-law that not only is he worthy, but will be able to lead the family one day.
A final movie in a film trilogy or series is supposed to once and for all, tie up the loose ends while maintaining the magic that brought audiences into the theaters. Unlike Return of the Jedi or Avengers: Endgame, which were both able to keep the narrative going and fans engaged, Little Fockers falls flat on its face. The jokes that elicited laughs in the first two movies are empty shells of what they once were. While the chemistry still exists between the actors, the honest truth is that this film illustrates once more why sequels have a bad name.
Do I recommend it? Not really.
The 2018 movie, Ophelia is a feminist re-write of Hamlet. The title character is not the mad prince, but his love interest, Ophelia (Daisy Ridley). Raised as an unofficial daughter of Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), she is one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting. As with the play, Ophelia and Hamlet (George McKay) fall in love while his uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) usurps his dead brother’s throne and marries his widow. As the political turmoil and and the danger grows tenfold, she must choose between the man she loves and finding a way to survive.
Ridley is fantastic in the role, proving she can play other characters besides Rey. As is Watts, who also expands her role beyond the confines of the source material. The problem is that the promise of the drama is just that. While I would give it an A for effort, I am glad that I saw it on Netflix rather than pay money to see it in the theaters.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Ophelia is available for streaming on Netflix.
The 2001 film, American Pie 2, is the sequel to the 1999 film, American Pie. Jim (Jason Biggs) and crew have just finished their first year of college. Renting a beach house for the summer, they plan a end of summer party that will last forever in their memories. Along the way, shenanigans will ensue and a few lessons will be learned.
First of all, the fact that this film is twenty years old is mind-blowing. I feels like yesterday when I saw in the theater. This is The Empire Strikes Back of the franchise. It is raunchiest and funniest of the three original movies. It is also a love letter to that time in our lives when we are growing, but it is not felt until we can see it in hindsight.
My favorite scene, though it wouldn’t fly today if it was released, is the scene with the “lesbians“.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
A good biography does much more than provide the basic facts found on any general internet search. It introduces the reader to the real person that is sometimes hidden behind history and the PR machine.
In 2019, Sheila Weller published Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge. The biography tells the story of the late and beloved actress, writer, and mental health advocate. Born to Hollywood royalty Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, her early years were not all sunshine and roses. Her most famous role was that of Princess Leia in the Star Wars movie franchise. Like her off-screen counterpart, Leia was a bad-ass, smart mouthed woman who did not conform to the idea of what a woman (and a princess) should be. She also lived with bipolar disorder and addiction, demons that stayed with her until the very end.
I loved this book. As much as I knew about Ms. Fisher before I read it, I learned even more. She was intelligent, incredibly funny, smartass, loyal to those she loved, and vulnerable. What made this one special was that it showed her humanity. It is a complete picture of a woman who has inspired generations of fans, women, and those living with mental illness to not be afraid of being who they are.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Movie sequels have a tenuous reputation. Some live up to the expectations setup by their predecessor. Others fail miserably. But there are a handful that more than succeed. On that list is The Empire Strikes Back.
From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back was published last fall. 40 writers tell the stories of background characters whose perspectives and histories were not seen on film. They are from all across the galaxy and creatures, both human and non-human, of every sort. Through their eyes, the world that this beloved film exists on expands in new and unexpected ways.
I loved this book. It was a Star Wars fan and fanfiction lover’s dream. The authors clearly know and love the franchise. There is no detail that is missed, it is a complete and wonderful deep dive into what I believe to be the best movie in the entire saga. I will warn however, that this book is not for newbie or virgin members of the fanbase. To truly understand and enjoy the book, the preferable reader is one who is well versed in the overall narrative and mythology.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
When the first Star Wars movie, Episode 4: A New Hope premiered in 1977, there was just one prominent woman: Princess Leia (the late Carrie Fisher). Over the last 44 years, the Star Wars universe grew in ways that I guess was unexpected in the late 1970’s. That growth includes a group of female characters who are just as badass and important to the narrative as Leia was then and still is today.
In 2018, Amy Ratcliffe published Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy. This book tells the stories of a variety of female characters that are not always obvious to the fanbase. While some of the obvious names on the list other than Leia are Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), it contains what can only be described as a conclusive inventory of women within that world.
Ratcliffe leaves no stone unturned when it came to the women who are profiled in the book. Sith, Jedi, human, non-human, etc, are all given the spotlight. The artwork is beautiful and worth framing by itself.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
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