The Christmas Chronicles (Dir: Clay Kaytis), Review by Case Wright


Netflix is known for taking risks and “The Christmas Chronicles” is no exception. There are six felonies in this film: 2 Grand Theft Autos, a kidnapping, money laundering, attempted murder, and whatever they did to that partridge in the pear tree.  Yet, it worked! I will admit that I am of the Y-Generation and Kurt Russell remains forever cool in my book, but this movie had some good story writing, great acting from veterans like Kurt Russell and Stevie Van Zandt, but great performances by up and comers Judah Lewis (The Babysitter) and Darby Camp (Big Little Lies) as well.

Clay Kaytis had his directorial debut with this film.  He is famous for being an animator for a panoply of films that you have taken your daughters to see: Frozen, Tangled, and Mulan…etc.  Clay was a pretty good choice considering the amount of animation that is in this film.  Honestly, it was a family movie that would have been a HUGE box office draw.

The film begins with a series of home movies featuring a classic nuclear family enjoying Christmas over the years…until 2017.  We learn that the father was a fireman who lost his life saving a family, leaving his family grieving and without the spirit of Christmas.  The mom is now taking extra shifts as a nurse, the daughter is REALLY into Santa, and the son is now a no-kidding degenerate car thief.  There are enough dark scenes in this film to classify it as Film Noir.

The family is trying to live as best they can and the daughter Kate is trying to reconnect with the memory of her late father by watching old home movies.  In one of the films, she sees a mystery arm delivering a package.  She convinces her brother that it could be Santa in the film and they decide to set a trap for him…..and IT WORKS!!! Not only do they catch Santa on film, they stow away onto his sleigh and cause Santa to crash.  He loses his sleigh, reindeer, bag of toys, and his magic hat.  The main ticking clock for the film is that Santa needs to get his presents delivered before christmas is up or christmas spirit will tick down to zero and it will be like the Hills Have Eyes or something.  The rest of the film is spent helping Santa retrieve these lost items and busting Santa out of jail to prevent the After Times.

And yes, Santa ends up in jail, charged with multiple felonies, and does a pretty amazing blues number with the E Street Band.  Yes, the E Street Band.  I know that a lot of this movie is starting to sound like a Christmas fever dream, but it works and my 7 and 9 year old girls were riveted and didn’t hurt each other for the duration of the film.  Thank you, Clay Kaytis…THANK YOU!

I would recommend this film and for you to subscribe to Netflix.  Otherwise, how will you understand half of my reviews?!!!!!

Merry Christmas!

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Through The Mirror, Review by Case Wright


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Happy Horrorthon!!! We are back in the eeeeeeeeevil Star Trek universe! Why is it evil? Obviously, it’s because they have beards and follow strict capitalist principles with a healthy dose of militarism.

Before I get into the story, I want to write that David and Scott Tipton do a good job of not having the mirror universe characters seeing themselves as villains.  This may seem obvious, but it’s actually very common – especially in comics.  For example, Stan Lee once had Magneto lead a group of mutants with the moniker of Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  I get that the X-Men thought they were evil, but why would Magneto?

This volume: Through the Mirror brings our Mirror Universe to the Next Generation universe our youth for supplies and plunder.  Bearded Picard is faced with blockades from rival species in his universe and needs materiel and plunder to fuel his war machine in order to bring the Terran Empire back to its former glory before Emperor Spock made them go all drum-circle kumbaya…bleh.

My main complaint with the Volume Two is actually in the first installment.  It opens with Worf investigating the theft of precious minerals from a mining colony in the “good universe”.  He sees the thief and nearly catches him.  This is a recurring issue with volume 2; the story should be only from the perspective of the mirror universe characters.  There is simply too much of the “good universe”.  They also have the “Good Universe” find an Andorian Ship that has been attacked by Evil Picard after the fact.  WHY?  Show us the Evil Planning, Show us the Pirate Picard attack, Show us why they believe they are justified.  We bought the book; therefore, we are invested in these anti-heroes.   The story could be great if we just get to bathe in their villany.  Don’t judge them.  This is their code.  This is their society.  They don’t see themselves as evil and neither should we.  We can only judge them as evil if they violate their own code of morality not ours.  This isn’t our universe.  The good universe should be treated like MSG a little is … ok… too much and you vomit.

Back to the story, Pirate Picard lures the good enterprise into a trap, hoping to seize it.  They fail, but they failed too much.  It should’ve been more of a draw with a push to the evil universe. Scott and David – the evil guys are your heroes.  They need to win at least a bit.  You can have a close game, but don’t have them get their ass kicked because it makes it too much of a Good Next Gen story.  The other knock is that they left Evil Barclay behind, dragging us back unnecessarily into the good universe.  You are thwarting them waaaaay too much.

It’s time for Evil Picard to kick some ass, but it in a good way.  Is it just for wealth for Pirate Picard?  I don’t think so.  In this universe, the Terrans see themselves as Superior like the British or Roman Empire.  Therefore, when the Klingons and Cardassians took back a lot of the Empire they likely took many Human captives as slaves.  This must be disgustingly unacceptable to Pirate Picard or any Terran Empire member.  Have them liberate a planet, rescuing Human captives.  From their perspective, they are not only NOT EVIL, but good because they are reasserting rightful human dominance to their universe.   If you have to, make some propaganda posters with Pirate Picard.  Make it personal for Pirate Picard.  Maybe Picard’s brother joined the fleet and was captured?  Make it personal! Go for it!  Have Pirate Picard risk it all: mutiny, the ship, the Terran Empire to liberate and rescue his brother and nephew Robert.  It would be epic!!!!! You have an unending depth that you can give Pirate Picard.  Give him his version of humanity.

This volume was ok, but they are not fulfilling some great story potential here.   This could be a great way to reboot the series.  Just remember: They Don’t Consider Themselves Evil.

 

Creeped Out, S1E1, Marti, Review by Case Wright


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Creeped Out is a Netflix release that really isn’t.  I have noticed that Netflix will call something an original series even though they just bought the rights.  This show was originally produced by CBBC, explaining why the second episode has very hard to understand British accents.  I checked Bruce McDonald’s IMDB and yes…he’s english and wrote for the Eastenders.  Eastenders or EastEnders (sp?) is show that I believe is about poor people in London or something…I’m not investigating anymore than that.

I watched the first episode Marti with my girls (7,9).  They were quite scared by the opening and one other scene that I will get to later.  The show is a lot like the 90s show The Outer Limits.  It has a lot of spooky and technology themes that teach a morality or cautionary tale.  I was primed to like this show because I loved the Outer Limits and one of the writers is really nice: Melinda Snodgrass (follow her on twitter).

The story opens with Kim.  Kim is a pretty girl in high school who none of the boys pay attention to because that actually happens in real life.  She has nerdy friend that also is a pariah for no particular reason.  Kim is forced to hang out with her loser friend and pine for a boy who looks like Justin Bieber.  She gets a new phone and pays for it somehow.  This phone is indestructible and self-aware.

The phone’s AI calls himself Marti.  Marti is really really creepy.  He works autonomously to make Kim popular and succeeds.  Kim gets the attention of the cool kids, including Bieber.  Just when Bieber is about to go out with her, in true Lifetime MOW fashion, Marti reveals himself to be a jealous psycho boyfriend.  He threatens to destroy Kim’s new found popularity unless she agrees to be only his.  YIKES.  When Kim gets fed up, she tries to destroy the phone, it doesn’t work.  Kim tries to call customer service and a woman answer who slowly takes Marti’s side.  Then, the voice switched to Marti’s voice and my daughters both screamed.  They didn’t understand why fully it was so scary, but I finished the show alone.

Marti blackmails Kim to take him to the prom and she agrees.  It’s really creepy.  She eventually defeats Marti, but he destroys her popularity.  She entombs Marti in cement, but then considers releasing him six months later because she really liked being popular.

The show had a real Outer Limits vibe and played upon human weakness and need to be loved.  There’s always been the morality tale of giving up your soul for fame, but this is more basic.  Kim wants to be loved and our technology has never made us more isolated from real love.  Marti’s popularity is twitter popularity: fake.  Marti gave her multiple friendships that were ended as quickly as they began like muting or blocking someone.  On the other hand, Kim’s nerdy friend took the good with the bad and continued to love Kim.  It spoke to dependence and isolation because of technology and our total dependence upon instant love.

 

“How It Ends” A Netflix Film Reviewed By Case Wright – Some Spoilers


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How It Ends is a horror/thriller from Netflix and if you don’t watch, Netflix will probably make you.  The story begins with Will, an up and coming lawyer who is seeing the ultrasound of his soon to be son with beloved Samantha. Will is sweet, but the least manly man to ever unmanly.  He’s wound tight, nervous, and hyper-insecure.  Will needs to get Sam’s father Tom (Forest Whitaker) to give his blessing so Will and Sam can wed.  Will flies from the greatest city on Earth- Seattle to a totally ok City of Chicago to see Tom.

We meet Tom and his wife.  Tom is everything Sam is not.  Tom was a career Marine, manly, confident, and determined.  During the dinner, Tom does everything, but say to Will- You are a wimpy worthless un-man. Tom’s response is both whiny and defensive.  It’s just all kinds of awful.  Then, the power goes out nationwide with F-22s buzzing around Chicago AND all communications are down as well nationwide.  Tom asks if Will rise to the occasion and road trip to Seattle to find/rescue Sam.

I know, I know… this sounds like Taken et al, but it’s not.  It becomes a Father (in-Law) and Son survival story and we watch Will become a Man.  They leave in Tom’s Cadillac and hit the road to Seattle.  Immediately, they find that they cannot stay on the main roads to get there because rednecks try to steal their car at the first rest stop and then an escaped convict tries to murder them.  This is within the first half hour of this very action packed show and we still don’t know what caused the catastrophe.  We get hints, but it’s not Aliens …. I don’t think.  Frankly, I’m still not totally sure of all of the details of the disaster even now.

They decide to stay off the main roads and team up with a teen who has mechanical skills.  Along the way, people are trying to murder them for gas and supplies.  The teen that goes with them becomes part of Will and Tom tribe for a short time and has to kill to protect her new tribe.  Unfortunately, this is too much for the teenager to accept and she abandons Will and Tom to find her way forward alone.  It’s a very accurate depiction of societal breakdown.  During Katrina, towns setup armed checkpoints to prevent looting and mayhem.  I had friends in Mississippi during Katrina and they did exactly that.  They needed to shut ingress and egress from their communities to survive and they did so.  The communities acted like a tribe would.

Will has to learn how to shoot, drive and shoot, do a chest-tube, read people, give up trust, and murder.  We watch him change from a spineless nerd to a confident leader who will readily kill to protect his tribe.  During Will’s transformation, the tribal bond between Will and Tom becomes as strong as steel.   It’s a story that gets to the very foundation of what family does and what it means to be part of a tribe.  The moment the lights go out, we will go from Facebook likes to being real tribal humans again.

When Will gets to Seattle, it’s heartbreaking.  Seattle is totally destroyed….sniff.  It just gets you. Even the Clink…The Home of my Beloved Seahawks is gone.  THE PAIN, THE PAIN!  It’s like 2015 all over again! Will’s beloved is gone, but she left a note for her coordinates.  Therefore, Will has to go back on the road to find her and save her from whomever.

Will finds Sam with a neighbor Randy who is at his mountain lodge getaway.  Randy is the epitome of our current society. He is a wealthy-techie-know-it-all-socially-awkward-creep who thinks that all of his thoughts are facts.  He believes that in this new society he will continue to be on top and he tries to take Sam as his own.  Not so fast, the world has changed- sorry the power was down forever so no more facebook updates for you.  Life has reverted back to a tribe-based system and Randy is left behind literally into dust.

I would recommend this film because it has tremendous suspense and dares to show us what we’ve lost trading our friendships for likes and retweets.  You never really know what caused the disaster because that is not the story.  The story is about the immediate reemergence of tribal life and how it enables people to determine rapidly who is a friend and who is a foe.  In essence, the film challenges us to see a possible positive to this new reality.  People are closer and snakes like Randy are easily identified and remedied for the good of the tribe.  We still survive, but we have to do it as human beings.

 

Confessions of a TV Addict #9: The Amazing Sci-Fi Worlds of Irwin Allen Pt. 2


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Last week, I did an overview of producer Irwin Allen’s first two sci-fi shows, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and LOST IN SPACE. Today, Allen’s final shows in the quartet, THE TIME TUNNEL and LAND OF THE GIANTS! 

Where Allen’s LOST IN SPACE was juvenile fantasy, his next series THE TIME TUNNEL (ABC, 1966-67) took a more serious tone. Scientists Dr. Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert ) and Dr. Tony Newman (James Darren), working on the top-secret government Project Tic-Toc, become “lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages… (and) tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time” (at least according to the opening narration!). Project director Lt. Gen. Kirk (Whit Bissell ), ‘electrobiologist’ Dr. Ann McGregor (Lee Meriwether), and electronic genius Dr. Raymond Swain (John Zaremba) track the pair through those “infinite corridors” and try to assist in navigating them…

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Confessions of a TV Addict #8: The Amazing Sci-Fi Worlds of Irwin Allen Pt. 1


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Irwin Allen  (1916-1991) wore many different hats during his long career: magazine editor, gossip columnist, documentarian, producer, director. He helped usher in the Age of the Disaster Movie with such 70’s hits as THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO, but before that he was best known as the producer of a quartet of sci-fi series from the Swingin’ 60’s. From 1964 to 1970 he had at least one sci-fi show airing in prime time… during the 1966-67 season, he had three, all complete with cheezy-looking monsters, campy humor, stock footage, guest stars (some on their way up… some down!), special effects by Oscar winner L.B. Abbott, and music by John Williams (who later scored a little thing called STAR WARS )! Here’s a look at the Amazing Sci-Fi Worlds of Irwin Allen:

Allen’s first foray into sci-fi TV was VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (ABC, 1964-68), based…

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Solo: A Star Wars Story, A review with the spoilers that you deserve! By Case Wright


 

GO SEE THIS MOVIE! I don’t remember when Star Wars came out, but I do remember when Empire did and I loved it.  Yes, there were some deeper themes to these movies, but at their heart they were fun like a beach read.  We, the fans, have made these films into something they never were serious think pieces.  I just saw a youtube video where a guy was trying to describe the “correct” routes Han would have to take through the Kessel Run. Give it a rest!

This movie did what the last 6 have failed to do: Entertain.  Rogue One was a melancholy piece of trash about sending an email on a vhs tape.  BORING.  The rest are mind-numbingly painful experiences that are determined to take themselves so seriously that I have had more fun reviewing license agreements for my latest Turbo Tax software.  I really don’t care about Rey or the Ugly Gloomy Kid Kylo Ren who failed to get any of Han’s good looks.  If I were Han, I would have called up Maury Povich about that kid.

This movie did what it was supposed to do first: entertain.  It’s like the other movies never bothered to put that basic principle into the writers’ room.  Ron Howard really did a great job with the film and Alden Ehrenreich really succeeded in capturing a pre-cynical, but still cocky Han.  It could be that I also liked this story because Han reminds me the most of myself: edgy, cocky, wise-cracking, iconoclast, with devastating good looks.

The story even opens uniquely without any moody sad bullshit. Instead, it opens with some text, the title card, and Han driving away fast and furious, and a bit bloodied.  There’s no everyone’s perfect and noble blah blah blah.  Within 30 minutes, you are transported to a high-stakes futuristic train robbery that if it had a couple tumbleweeds and player piano, it would have been a great Western.

Han begins his quest because he loses his love Emilia Clarke.  Han between you and me: you gotta lock that down.  Other than Emilia, everyone else in the universe is gross and scaly even pretty people make ugly kids (see above) there must be radiation in this galaxy far far away or some such shit.  Han figures that if he does enough smuggling and heists he’ll get enough cash, to buy a ship and get Emilia Clarke out of the hellhole from whence she came. It doesn’t quite work out the way he plans, but you see a great character arc as Han become more cynical and savvy as the rogue we will eventually love.

As he is going on his big heist, we watch his friendship develop with Chewy, Lando, and most of all the Millenium Falcon which comes across as a character herself.  Most of the critics who have done middling reviews seem to focus on the box office, but unless you’re a shareholder of Newscorp or an accountant at 20th Century fox, why do you care?!  Another bizarre critique is that it’s too fun or not melancholy enough as Rogue One.  Okay, I have solution for the people who don’t think this amazingly well-done feature isn’t sad enough for them:  Go see this film, then shortly thereafter do a search for political twitter and then click show threads or just look up one of your hollywood heroes and count the indictments.