Getting In The Holiday Spirit #2: Scrooge (or Marley’s Ghost) (dir by Walter Booth)

Yesterday, in order to help some of our readers get into the holiday spirit, I shared a film from 1905.  Well, tonight’s film was made four years before The Night Before Christmas!  Produced by R.W. Paul and directed by Walter Booth, Scrooge (or Marley’s Ghost) was produced in 1901 and it is apparently the oldest known cinematic adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

Of course, when watching, it’s important to remember that this movie was made during the infancy of film.  If it seems primitive, that’s because it is.  However, it’s also a true piece of history and you know how much I love history!

(Also keep in mind that, while this 6-minute film looks surprisingly good for its age, it’s reportedly incomplete.  It also greatly condenses the original story.  Let’s just say that Marley ends up doing a lot more in this film than he does in others.)

From 1901, we present to you Scrooge (Or Maley’s Ghost)!

(Also, a big thank you to the Xmas Flix YouTube channel for featuring so many classic holiday films!)

Remember Suffragette? The Women’s Film Critics Circle Certainly Does!

The Women’s Film Critics Circle have announced their picks for the best of 2015.  After starting out as one of those films that everyone expected to be a major contender, Suffragette has faded somewhat as an awards contender.  However, regardless of what the Academy may or may not do, Suffragette has been embraced by the Women’s Film Critics Circle.

Check out the winners below.  Also, check out all the categories!  Why can’t the Oscars be this much fun?

Best Actor
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Best Actress
Carey Mulligan (Suffragette)

Best Movie about Women

Best Movie by a Woman

Best Young Actress
Brie Larson (Room)

Best Comedic Actress
Amy Schumer (Trainwreck)

Best Woman Storyteller (Screenwriting Award)
Phyllis Nagy (Carol)

Women’s Work / Best Ensemble

Best Foreign Film by or about Women
The Second Mother

Best Theatrically Unreleased Movie by or about Women

Best Female Images in a Movie

Best Male Images in a Movie
Bridge of Spies

Worst Female Images in a Movie
Jurassic World

Worst Male Images in a Movie
Steve Jobs

Best Family Film
Inside Out

Best Documentary by or about Women

Best Female Action Hero
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Best Animated Female
Amy Poehler (Inside Out)

Best Screen Couple
Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay (Room)

Best Equality of the Sexes
Mad Max: Fury Road

Courage in Filmmaking
Sarah Gavron (Suffragette)

Courage in Acting (taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen)
Brie Larson (Room)

Acting and Activism Award
Olivia Wilde

The Invisible Woman Award (performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored)
Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Adrienne Shelly Award (for a film that most passionately opposes violence against women)
He Named Me Malala

Josephine Baker Award (for best expressing the woman of colour experience in America)
What Happened, Miss Simone?

Karen Morley Award (for best exemplifying a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity)

Lifetime Achievement Award
Lily Tomlin

Mommie Dearest Worst Screen Mom of the Year Award
Cate Blanchett (Cinderella)

Spotlight Wins In St. Louis!


You can check out the full nominations of the St. Louis Film Critics by clicking here.  And you can see the winners below!

Best Film of 2015: SPOTLIGHT

Best Director of 2015: TOM MCCARTHY – SPOTLIGHT
Runner Up: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Actress of 2015: BRIE LARSON – ROOM

Best Actor of 2015: Leonardo DiCaprio – THE REVENANT
Runner Up: Ian McKellen – MR. HOLMES

Best Supporting Actress of 2015: Alicia Vikander – EX MACHINA

Best Supporting Actor of 2015: Sylvester Stallone – CREED
Runner Up: Mark Rylance – BRIDGE OF SPIES

Best Cinematography of 2015: EMMANUEL LUBEZKI – THE REVENANT
Runner Up: CAROL

Runner Up: Alex Garland, Ex Machina

Best Adapted Screenplay of 2015: DREW GODDARD: THE MARTIAN
Runner Up: Nick Hornby: Brooklyn


Best Art Direction of 2015: COLIN GIBSON – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Best Visual Effects of 2015: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Runner Up: THE WALK

Best Film Score of 2015: Ennio Morricone – THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Best Film Soundtrack of 2015: ATTICUS ROSS – LOVE AND MERCY

Best Foreign Language Film: GOODNIGHT MOMMY
Runner Up: SON OF SAUL

Best Documentary of 2015: AMY
Runner Up: The Look of Silence

Runner Up: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Best Song: WRITING’S ON THE WALL (Spectre)
Runner Up: SEE YOU AGAIN (Furious 7)

Best Scene of 2015: Hugh mauled by grizzly in THE REVENANT
Runner Up: Walk between Twin Towers in THE WALK

Worst film of 2015: “FANTASTIC FOUR
Runner up: “ALOHA”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (dir. by J.J. Abrams) Is the Sequel the Fandom Has Been Waiting For

Star Wars - The Force Awakens

[some minor, very minor spoilers]

When I first began this site on Christmas Eve of 2009 I had to thank the excitement I had for event films after seeing and experiencing James Cameron’s Avatar. It was an experience I hadn’t felt since the days of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, even earlier than that, the original Star Wars trilogy. These were films that fired up one’s imagination, appreciation and love for film as entertainment and art. Some of these films would linger on longer in one’s mind than others, but that first viewing in their initial release would always imprint their effect on each viewer.

When George Lucas announced that he would be returning to that galaxy, far, far away with a trilogy of prequels almost 15 years since the world last saw Return of the Jedi premiere first the first time, the Star Wars fandom were giddy, excited and hyped beyond belief. The Star Wars films and the many spin-offs (novels, comic books, video games, etc.) which came about because of it only whetted the appetites of long-time Star Wars fans for more films detailing the adventures in the scifi universe created by George Lucas.

Yet, the prequels’ effect on these long-time fans would be the direct opposite of the effect the original trilogy had on the fandom. These three prequels (all directed and written by George Lucas himself) would do more than disappoint the fandom. It would create a schism between those who saw the original trilogy as the gateway to their fandom and those younger generation who never saw the original trilogy and had the prequels become their gateway to the fandom. Even to this day there would be some of the younger generation who truly believe that the prequels trump the original three films which began the franchise.

When news came down that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and everything which George Lucas had built and cultivated there was no chance in hell that there wouldn’t be another series of Star Wars despite the disaster which were the prequels. Lo and behold, it didn’t take long for Disney to greenlight the sequel to Return of the Jedi and have it set decades after the events of that film.

So, it is with Star Wars: The Force Awakens that the Star Wars fandom get to see whether their continued faith in the franchise was worth it or if they have been Charlie Brown’d once again and had the ball taken away at the very last second. It’s easy to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great or it was awful. The true answer to whether this film succeeded in what it intended do was a bit more complicated.

Yet, if one was to look for an easy and simple answer then I’m happy to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great. It had it’s moments of logic gap and plot holes, but as an overall finished product the film succeeded in course-correcting the franchise from the nadir it was at with the culmination of the prequels. It wouldn’t have taken much to surpass the very low bar set by those prequels, but The Force Awakens leapfrogged that bar and went even higher.

The film does begin thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi and we find out with the now familiar episode intro crawl that Luke Skywalker has disappeared since those events and the galaxy has remained in turmoil with his absence. The Galactic Empire has been defeated, but in its place a new danger in the form of the genocidal First Order has arisen from the Empire’s remains. Opposing the First Order is a sort of galactic force supported in secret by the New Republic and led by General (not Princess) Leia Organa calling themselves the Resistance. It’s the conflict between these two factions and the search for Luke that forms the narrative base for The Force Awakens.

The film doesn’t linger too long in explaining the events which occurred in that 30-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It doesn’t need it as we’re quickly introduced to the series’ new characters in the form of Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the galaxy, who has been sent on a secret mission by Leia to find the clues as to her brother’s whereabouts. Next in line was Kylo Ren who becomes this film’s analogue to the Darth Vader figure of the original trilogy. Yet, the bulk of the film was told through the eyes of Finn and Rey.  The former is First Order stormtrooper who has seen first-hand what the First Order truly stands for and not for the betterment of the galaxy. The latter is a young woman living life on the desert planet Jakku scavenging the graveyard of starship wreckage from a battle thirty year’s prior.

It’s through Rey and Finn that the audience learns through their adventures upon meeting up with each other on Jakku what has transpired since the Rebellion destroyed the second Death Star and killed Emperor Palpatine. To these two characters, the events from the original trilogy seem to have passed beyond the realm of history and become more like legends and myths to the younger generation. Through a combination of fear and awe, Ren and Finn get introduced to some of the original trilogies main characters (Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and even Admiral Ackbar). These are the stories they’ve been told of growing up come to life right in front of their eyes and their reaction mirrors those of the audience who haven’t seen these characters in anything new and relevant since the end of Return of the Jedi. The reaction alone to seeing Han Solo and Chewbacca alone seemed like the fandom’s collective cheer for the good that has been missing with the franchise for over 30 years now.

The Force Awakens is not a perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Like mentioned earlier, the film does suffer from some gaps in story logic and plot holes. As with most J.J. Abrams directed films he had a hand in writing the script and one could see where he sacrificed coherent storytelling beats for something that just pushed the story along the path he wanted the film to take. For those who have been steeped in Star Wars lore and backstory, this would be easily explained as the Force nudging, guiding and, if all else fails, pushing the characters onto the right path, but for the casual viewers it would come off as story beats of convenience.

As a story to bring back the faithful and lure in those still uninitiated to the franchise The Force Awakens straddles the line between nostalgia and trying to bring in something new to the proceedings.

Let’s begin with the former and just say it now that The Force Awakens does follow some major story beats directly from A New Hope (to a smaller effect from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi). One could almost say that this film was a sort of soft reboot of the original trilogy with how it lifted ideas from them and through some writing and directing recombination come up with something new, but still very familiar for hardcore and non-fans alike.

Does this decision to lean heavily on the original trilogy for ideas hurt the film? For some it might be a bit too distracting to recognize too many callbacks to those earlier films, but for most it’s a reminder of what the prequels lacked and that’s the sense of adventure and fun. There was never anything fun about the prequels. The Force Awakens brings it all back and for most viewers this is the course-correction the series has needed since the last images from Revenge of the Sith faded away from the silver-screen.

Even the new characters introduced in this latest film were an amalgamation of the main characters from the original trilogy. Where Abrams and Kasdan changed this up a bit was to go beyond just creating new analogues for the classic characters of Leia, Han, Luke, Chewie and R2D2. They opted to take all the qualities fans loved about those characters and mixed them all up to be used in the roles of Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren and BB8.

As the standout character in the film, Rey (played by find of the year Daisy Ridley) would bring back memories of not just the young and hopeful Luke from the original trilogy, but also some personal traits of Leia and Han. The same goes for Finn who at times reminded us of Han’s roguish charm to Luke’s naivete of his role in the larger world he has finally witnessed for the very first time. For the half-empty crowd this might look as lazy character development, but those who see the film with the half-full mindset would easily latch onto these new characters. Characters who now take on the responsibility of moving the franchise beyond the nostalgia of the original trilogy and erasure of the disappointment of the prequels to new adventures with the next two films.

So, is Star Wars: The Force Awakens worth returning back to the franchise after the prequels or is it too much of a rehash of the original three films? The answer to that is a definite yes despite some of it’s flaws. For some the very flaws some have pointed out (too many callbacks, sort of a reboot, etc.) was what made the film a fun time to be had. It’s a return to the comfort zone the fandom missed with the prequels.

Will the next two films in this new trilogy follow suit and just rely too much on nostalgia to continue trying to satisfy it’s massive audience? Or will Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow (director of Episode VIII and Episode IX, respectively) move into new territory with minimal callbacks to those earlier films? We as an audience will have to wait til 2017 and 2019 to find out. Until then enjoy what Abrams and Lucasfilm has accomplished with The Force Awakens. A film which has reinvigorated a film franchise that has seem some major lows, but one which also happens to be one hell of a fun ride from start to finish on it’s own merits.

P.S.: Some controversy has arisen since the film’s release concerning the character played by Daisy Ridley. Some have been very vocal about calling her Rey character as a sort of knee-jerk reaction to the accusation that the Star Wars films have lacked for a strong female lead. An argument that’s as misguided and misinformed as that of the films being whitewashed. The films in the franchise have always had strong female characters. The accusation that Rey as a character in The Force Awakens is such a “Mary Sue” (a female character written and created to be the best at everything, no flaws) ignore the details in the character’s development.

What’s sadder is that some of the very people (film critics and writers) who in the past have complained that major films (especially blockbusters) have been lacking in very strong female characters have been the very same who see Rey as a negative and a character too good. This despite the character following in the very same footsteps in how her predecessors have been written (Luke, Han, Anakin). It’s an argument that is sure to bring heated debate among fans and detractors, but one that takes away from the performance of Daisy Ridley who should be one of the many breakout stars to come out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Attack Of The Clones : “Star Odyssey”

Trash Film Guru


By 1979, Italian director Alfonso Brescia (or “Al Bradly,” as the credits would have it) was an old hat at doing cheap, quick Star Wars knock-offs — but it wasn’t until this, his fourth foray (in two years!) into the sub-genre one could argue he actually created (along with his financiers at Nais Film), that he decided to blatantly clone as many of George Lucas’ characters as he possibly could. His previous attempts at replicating the Star Wars “magic” on roughly 1/100,000th the budget had essentially been confused and nonsensical space operas that bore little to no resemblance to film that “inspired” them, but with Star Odyssey (or Sette Uomini D’Oro Nello Spazio as it was known on its home soil — English-speaking territories also saw it released under the alternate titles of Captive PlanetSpace Odyssey  and, believe it or not, Metallica) he was going for as…

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Sci-Fi TV Review: Spicy City Ep. 1: “Love Is a Download” (1997, dir. John Kafka)


Back in the 90s when I was a kid I would occasionally be up late watching whatever was on cable. Sometimes it was one of those late night cable movies I review and other times it was some adult themed show I wasn’t going to see on network television. In this case there was a very short lived animated series called Spicy City on HBO that was created by Ralph Bakshi of American Pop and Fritz The Cat fame. Each episode would have a character named Raven, voiced by Michelle Phillips, who would introduce us to some story that took place in it’s cartoon film noir Blade Runner type future. I thought I would revisit this show for the fun of it.


This episode opens up as a severely overweight man with a robotic arm is thrown out of the bar Raven is at. She goes into a side room where there are some booths that allow you jack into a virtual world. She enters it, and we enter the story.


This is our main character (I say that cause I really didn’t pick up his name in the episode) who enters the virtual world and because they are only working with about a half hour here, he immediately meets a girl that he falls for.


But before this goes anywhere, there’s a knock on her door and she leaves the virtual world. This is when we are introduced to Alice (Mary Mara) and her scuzzbucket boyfriend Jake (John Hostetter).


She’s hot and sad while he’s a sleaze and would love it if he could get rid of the “bitch inside”, but keep the body. Alice and our hero meet up again briefly that way they can tell us how the episode is going to end. He mentions he has something called a “brain scan” so that she never has to leave the virtual world.


Jake decides to visit the best virtual investigator around, which happens to be our hero. He says his wife died recently, but a virtual avatar she made to keep him company while he is on the net won’t leave him alone. He wants her deleted. He warns Jake that could kill someone if they are real, but a little money flashed his way gets him jacked in.


Of course Jake’s avatar is a shark. In no time they run across Alice, and Jake reveals his true colors. They jack out and Jake takes the software that can be used to delete Alice. Now he has to go back in to try and stop her from being killed, but Jake is already getting to work on destroying her soul.



They wind up in a place where the virtual world deletes unneeded things. He keeps begging her to jack out, but she won’t because she doesn’t want to go back. She ends up on the conveyor belt to death as she screams for help.


Jake shows up and sends both him and our hero to a boxing ring. Jake proceeds to beat the crap out of him. That is until he gets a little love boost…


After stopping Jake in the ring, he returns to the belt, decompresses her, and they fall to their death/deletion..sort of. Jake comes in and finds that “the bitch is gone, but the party’s still on.” Well, sort of.


She crumbles into a pile of dust. Don’t worry about Jake cause he just calls up some other girl to use. Meanwhile, the brain scan our hero turned on at the last minute worked and to borrow from Brazil: Love Conquers All.


Then we cut back to Raven next to the guy she went inside with.


Well, it’s nice to know that Raven and this random guy were going at it while we were being told the story of two people who killed themselves to be together. A story that when they are seconds away from falling to their deletion still manages to get me choked up. I’m very weird about what things will and won’t make me emotional. Apparently, the first episode of Spicy City does it for me.

Artist Profile: Howard V. Brown (1878 — 1945)

Educated at the Chicago Art Institute, illustrator Howard V. Brown is considered, along with Leo Morey, Frank R. Paul, and H.W. Wesson, to be one of the big four science fiction illustrators of the 1930s.  Over the course of his long and prolific career, Brown did covers for such magazines as Scientific American, Astounding Stories, and Thrilling Wonders.  His work continues to inspire science fiction illustrators to this day.


Reinventing Dickens: CAROL FOR ANOTHER CHRISTMAS (Telsun Foundation 1964)

cracked rear viewer


You’d think with a cast featuring Sterling Hayden, Ben Gazzara, Peter Sellers, Eva Marie Saint, Robert Shaw, and other notables, a script by Rod Serling, score by Henry Mancini, and direction from Oscar winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz that CAROL FOR ANOTHER CHRISTMAS was a long-lost big screen spectacular, right? Wrong. It’s actually a made-for-TV movie produced by the Telsun Foundation, Telsun being Television Series for the United Nations. That’s right, the UN (funded in part by the Xerox Corporation) once produced a series of television specials with big name artists in an attempt to promote brotherhood and world peace (or to create a New World Order, depending on which way you lean in the political spectrum).


The first entry was a take on Charles Dickens’ classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Sterling Hayden starred as Daniel Grudge, filling in for Scrooge. Grudge is a wealthy industrialist whose son was killed in World War II , and who…

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