Movies You Watched in December 2015
Ben Lott
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This is a geeklist to discuss the movies you watch throughout the month of December. Please feel free to post them as you see them, or if you prefer post a summary of all films at the end of the month. Also you can comment and discuss freely as others talk about films they've seen.

Enjoy...

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1. Board Game: Shock Army [Average Rating:6.25 Unranked]
Board Game: Shock Army
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Stripes has some comedy magic, which one might expect from the cast. The real surprise is how many laughs they get from Warren Oates, probably the least comedic actor there. I like these classic tales of a slacker joining the army and somehow bumbling his way to be an unlikely success, and Bill Murray is the perfect actor to fit that role. The physical comedy and the witty dialogue is pretty great. However, it doesn't seem to have enough jokes written to carry the entire run-time. As a result, at a certain point they just start to throw anything against the wall trying to get it to stick. The biggest moment to demonstrate this is an utterly pointless mud wrestling scene. It's as if they were in desperation mode so they said "Just add in some boobs, oh, and John Candy falling all over the place. That'll be funny!" Sadly, it is not. There was no humor in these moments and it completely sidetracks the whole plot. Plus they needed to give a better arc to Bill Murray's character. It would have made him more endearing if he showed just the slightest sign of improvement. I can already anticipate the "Lighten up, Francis" comments this review will get, but believe me for the first 30-45 minutes I was 100% sold on this movie and would have rated it highly. However as it progressed the humor got weaker and the characters didn't change, so I started to check out. It's not a terrible movie, but certainly not one I'd recommend.
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2. Board Game: California Gold [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:9724]
Board Game: California Gold
patrick stevens
United States
Los Angeles
California
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Shadow on the window. 1950's crime drama about these boys who rob and kill an orange rancher in the outskirts of town. His secretary is held prisoner throughout the film.


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3. Video Game: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic [Average Rating:8.27 Overall Rank:30]
Video Game: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Andrew Hodkinson
Canada
Owen Sound
Ontario
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With my wife, I'm watching the two Star Wars trilogies (hexology!?) -- and secretly watching the Disney Rebels series when she's not home to judge me -- in anticipation of the new Star Wars movie this Christmas. I've seen them before, although my wife was spared Episode Three when it came out, so she's quite excited as we're in the middle of it.

I've gotten over the incredibly lame suspenseless story-line and some of the questionably racist and certainly irritating characters and was able to soak in the lush and wonderful backgrounds and settings. Even the first time when I saw it in the theaters, I really loved the 20 minute section on the Clone planet and it even carried over to that planet of flying creatures before hitting the Count Duku Saruman wall. It does remind me of Waterworld in that here is the money and skill to do something great if only a proper script was made.

Since we're in the middle of Episode 3, we are secretly both looking forward to the original series with Luke and Hans Solo and what that will lead to beyond! Fun stuff!
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4. Board Game: War of the Ring [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:118]
Board Game: War of the Ring
Simon Brand
Scotland
Edinburgh
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Die Nibelungen (Parts 1 and 2) - 1924 - Fritz Lang

I've meant to watch these films for a long time, but setting time aside for a 5-hour-long silent film hasn't been too high on my priority list. However, I set the time aside this week and I'm very glad that I did.

The films are based on the epic poem Nibelungenlied, which is also the source of Wagner's Ring cycle. If you have any knowledge of mythological tropes, you can probably imagine some of the contents: man slays dragon, man becomes immortal except for one part of his body, man wins the love of a Queen, treachery, war, death, etc.

Fortunately, the presentation of the tale is far more intriguing and fresh than the tale itself, even after nearly 100 years(!). The production design is just astonishing. The costumes and sets display a rare artistry which was rife in that era in German filmmaking (although Lang himself was Austrian). This is supplemented by a painterly eye for composition, juxtaposing clean, symmetrical rigidity with the chaos of war.

Speaking of war, the battle scenes remain some of the best I've seen regardless of production era. There's something of a visceral impact which is gained from the knowledge that everything was done using practical effects, because that's all they had!

If you can find the time, I'd highly recommend watching these films. Maybe don't start with them if you are not familiar with silent cinema, but they're a great stop if you already are.
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5. Board Game: Across the Pacific [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:9546]
Board Game: Across the Pacific
Stephen Roney
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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It is not often that I come across a Bogart movie that I don't think I have seen, especially from the forties. This one was made when Warner Bros realized they hadn't purchased the characters in Maltese Falcon, so could not do a sequel, so they used the same actors and made this. The source material and original screenplay were set around a sabotage at Pearl Harbor, but when Pearl Harbor happened, they rewrote it to an attack on the Panama Canal.

The film opens with Bogart being court-martialed in late 1941 and eventually finding his way onto a Japanese freighter, where he meets Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor. Greenstreet is interested in Bogart's knowledge of the Canal Zone and agrees to pay him for information. Bogart finds himself attracted to Mary Astor again (an attraction that I don't fully understand).

After the initial setup, the movie plays more like a romantic comedy than a spy thriller until they reach Panama well after the mid-point of the movie. The tone still feels pretty light even then until the final climactic scenes.

There is some quite stereotypical portrayals of the Japanese (primarily by Chinese actors due to Japanese internment), but nothing quite approaching the Mickey Rooney portrayal in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". I was actually expecting it to be worse, given the warning given by the TV hosts and the fact that it was filmed during WWII.

Certainly not Bogart's best work, but also far from his worst.
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6. Board Game: James Bond 007 [Average Rating:5.57 Overall Rank:16086]
Board Game: James Bond 007
Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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We went out to see the new James Bond movie last night. Pretty but boring. Also once of the worst theater audiences I've been subjected to in a while. I imagine I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't have to listen to the chatty slobs who brought a grocery bag filled with chips and booze the whole time.
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7. Board Game: Harpoon, The Real Whale Hunt Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Harpoon, The Real Whale Hunt Game
Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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I went to a preview screening of the new Ron Howard/Chris Hemsworth movie, In the Heart of the Sea last night. I had not heard much about it and have not read the book, but I like Howard, Moby Dick, and nautical themes well enough that I thought it would be worth a shot. First of all, before I go into frothy mouthed raving, I think this movie will have its fans. It's competently acted and shot and the whales are pretty neat. Also, I did not realize I was going to a 3-D presentation of the film. I cannot stand 3-D and cannot understand why anybody watches movies this way. It is supposedly the preferred way to view spectacle rich films but it removes the expansive feeling I enjoy from a "big" movie and condenses it into a small, frequently blurry field of vision. I realize this is a losing battle for me, but 3-D is ugly and spoils films.

So without the ability to enjoy this big dumb movie for what it is, I was left with shallow characters and a plot nearly devoid of any kind of suspense. Hemsworth's 1st Mate Chase is proud and competent and his untested Captain, Pollard (Benjamin Walker), seems to make fatal decisions just to spite him for some reason. The monster whale that defends the other whales by destroying their ship takes a turn as a vengeful antagonist. After the crew has been adrift for weeks, it was hard not to laugh when Chase looks grimly out at sea and proclaims "He's been following us the whole time!" It reminded me a little of Jaws 4.
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8. Board Game: Carl Hubbell's "Strike Three" Baseball [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Carl Hubbell's "Strike Three" Baseball
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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I've always been a fan of well-made spoofs and farcical comedies, and I've often held up the Naked Gun series as a shining example of how good this genre used to be. Sure enough this movie gets me laughing more than anything manufactured by the Wayans' brothers. I must admit, though, that the first 2 acts of the movie struggle at times to keep a consistent level of comedy. There are moments where the jokes fall flat, and it sometimes struggles to recover quickly because they keep working through those ineffective jokes. However, when the 3rd act hits, this is easily one of the funniest movies I know. From the second they arrive at the baseball game I am just in tears with laughter, and it does not stop until the credits roll. In fact, I actually had to remind myself there were some slower parts of the movie as soon as I was done watching, because I'm on such a high from that whole final sequence. I'll also quickly address the one reservation some people bring up with these movies: "Isn't it weird/hard to watch these films with O.J. Simpson in them as a cop, considering what we all assume he did?" It could be, however, since his character (Nordberg) is constantly getting the crap kicked out of him in these movies, it kind of works. In fact one could even consider it somewhat cathartic to watch him get shot, punched, and dropped so frequently. Overall, I think the first Naked Gun movie is by far the best, and despite some slower moments that struggle with humor, it ends with a big bang that is seldom matched by other spoof movies including its own sequels.
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9. Board Game: Drunk Sloppoly [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Drunk Sloppoly
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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In the past few months I have watched my first 2 silent films, and both were directed by and starred one of the all-time greats of silent cinema. That allowed me to make some snap judgments based on the singular work I've seen from each of them. While Buster Keaton impressed me tremendously with his eye for shot selection and stunt work in The General, Charlie Chaplin seems to have a much stronger eye for comedic staging and story-telling in City Lights. I was so amazed at how much I was laughing at a film with some of the classic gags I've already seen copied by countless other film-makers in the future. Clearly the imitators never proved to be quite as effective at this stuff as Chaplin, who did it first. I also loved how detailed this story was, and yet I followed it all the way through without much dialogue at all. In fact I was so interested in the story and connected to the characters that my eyes actually started to well up at the end. I'm surprised to say it, but I genuinely loved this movie. There were a few gags that got a little tedious because they dragged on a bit longer and were more repetitive than they needed to be, but in a strange way, sometimes the repetition ended up making me laugh more. I'll admit that, since it's silent, I'm less likely to watch it again in the future. However I'm absolutely delighted that I've seen City Lights, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
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10. Board Game: Lords of Scotland [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1681]
Board Game: Lords of Scotland
Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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Went to another advance screening tonight, Macbeth, presented in fabulous two dimensions! In a sort of inverse of my last post, I loved this movie but I understand it will have a somewhat limited appeal. It's very quiet, very grim, and the Shakespearian language is spoken through Scottish accents which could prove tough to follow (I certainly had trouble at times). If you think that those things might not bother you, I'd recommend it.

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The only other film version of Macbeth I've seen is Kurosawa's Throne of Blood and it seemed to me that this film heavily referenced that one (it's been 20 years or so, though). Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) has a definite samurai-like appearance when he's in his armor. Also, he wears war paint which reminded me of Mifune's stage makeup at times. The final showdown could be right out of a Kurosawa or Lone Wolf & Cub movie with stylized swordplay and great gouts of blood. For all of the seeming Japanese influence, the rest of it has an almost Scandinavian feel. The expansive, bleak exterior shots of Scotland loom over the tragic proceedings of murder and madness. The score is sparse and the dialogue spoken in harsh whispers. I thought it was great, my wife thought it was good, and the people next to me walked out. So there you go.

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11. Board Game: Pre-Historic Marshmallow [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Pre-Historic Marshmallow
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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When I was young and my friend got Ghostbusters on VHS, he tried to show it to me at a sleepover...I did not sleep for 3 nights. Yes, I was a sheltered wuss, but I never liked anything scary and this was just too much for me. Based on my childhood I probably would have ranked this as one of the worst movies of all time, so I thought it would be smart to revisit the movie as a somewhat desensitized adult and see if I could finally appreciate it for the humor intended. Bill Murray is pure genius as you might expect. I laughed at pretty much every single one of his scenes. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis are also good as the more "nerdy" partners who have a real passion that makes up for Venkman's cynical attitude. Whenever they were having fun with this movie I was having fun watching. There's a lot of humorous bits that work extremely well. I think where I struggle is any moment they shift away from the 3 big stars of the movie. The character of Dana Barrett is completely bland and unremarkable, which may work for the story, but it doesn't make her scenes very engaging. Even Rick Moranis popping in as an annoying neighbor doesn't really give these moments the spark I enjoy in the rest of the film. As a comedy I found Ghostbusters surprisingly fun, but any time it decided to be a horror movie I was completely uninterested. Still I can see where the universal praise comes from, and I won't be so afraid to watch it from now on.
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12. Board Game: Energy Crisis Game [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Energy Crisis Game
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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The second Naked Gun movie was basically more of the same. It never quite matches the comedic magic of the best sequences in the first movie, but it does have a few flashes of comedic gold. I think I was just expecting a little more. I did laugh on and off through the film, but it seemed to be more chuckles rather than big uncontrollable laughter which I get from the first film. I can't really blame it on the plot, because the story is so pointless in spoof movies, really the entire thing lives and dies on the comedy. Let's make it clear that, fans of the first movie should definitely watch this one as well. While I wasn't as impressed, it delivers more fun with the same characters and really wraps up their stories even better than the first movie did. The addition of Robert Goulet as a villainous presence was great, and I also loved Richard Griffiths. Probably the best scenes in the movie are when you get to see Griffiths getting beat up mercilessly by Leslie Nielsen. There's really not much more to say. It's a fine comedy, and one I think will satisfy the fans. However it doesn't have anything startlingly original or interesting to rise above its predecessor. Basically, if you like these movies then watch it, and if you don't then don't.
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13. Board Game: The Oscars Movie Trivia Game [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Board Game: The Oscars Movie Trivia Game
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Long Time No See


Hey, remember when Anna Nicole Smith was a thing, and people knew who Phil Donahue was? Well, watching this movie is a real time capsule back to that point in history. While the other movies in this franchise have a slightly more timeless feel to them, this one is fully embracing the era it was made. Basically the story picks up right where the last one left off, and the opening sequence itself is kind of hilarious, but its all downhill from there. The jokes lose all attempts at cleverness and subtlety. Instead they just bang you over your head with the humor. Of course, like any movie with Leslie Nielsen in the lead, and the Zucker brothers helping to write, it has select scenes or moments that are funny. I certainly didn't HATE the last chapter in this series, but it was pretty lazy and didn't have any spark of the spoof magic that I like to see in my Naked Gun movies. Even the story was terribly constructed, which shouldn't matter but it was kind of distracting when you watched it jump from one sequence to the next without any solid logic to that transition. The final straw was the 3rd act which fit the movie's subtitle "The Final Insult." It seems they tried to recreate the magic of the baseball scene in the first movie by having Frank go undercover at an event with a big audience and screw everything up. However it just isn't all that funny! This isn't even mentioning just how painful it is to watch Anna Nicole Smith attempt to act. Even though the movie makers didn't leave this franchise at 2 films, I'd highly recommend anyone who decides to watch them quit after the first 2 and forget this one exists. While it's not terrible, it's really not good enough to bother wasting your time.
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14. Board Game: Where's Wally? The Game [Average Rating:4.67 Unranked]
Board Game: Where's Wally? The Game
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Long Time No See


There was a time in my life when I would have claimed this as one of my favorite comedies of all time. I have always liked the Griswolds and laughed heartily at Clark's never-ending struggle for a happy family vacation. However, now that I've grown up and started to really appreciate the struggles of attaining happiness, I had a slightly harder time laughing at this movie. In fact, I've grown to hate movies where everything goes wrong for the nice-guy protagonist, and so even a beloved movie like this feels a bit tainted by my disillusionment. Don't get me wrong, there are moments of pure comedic brilliance in this movie, and I have to admit the climax at the end is just amazing. It's kind of remarkable how, despite the fact that the events depicted are so ridiculous, Vacation still manages to reflect the real struggles of taking a family trip. Chevy Chase is perfect in the lead role because he can make a likable character go completely insane, and yet you still kind of feel sympathy for him. All the supporting cast is great including the best versions of Rusty and Audrey. I like National Lampoon's Vacation, and for most people you probably can get a good amount of laughs out of watching it. Also it serves as a good warning for anyone who thinks taking the family on a long road trip is no big deal. The only reason I was disappointed watching it this time is that I didn't LOVE it as much as I once did.
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15. Video Game: Ultimate Mind Games [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Stephen Roney
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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Inside Out


I give it three stars, but I feel that may even be generous - a letting myself be swayed a little by other ratings I have seen. While there is lots of good stuff in it, it really didn't do that much for me. I certainly wouldn't show it to any of my grandchildren (the oldest is almost five), not that that is a requirement. I think a kid would need to be 8 or 9 before they could have a chance of understanding it, and even then, I am not sure they would really appreciate it.

Yes, it wasn't like anything else, and some of the concepts were presented in an interesting way, but really not my kind of movie.
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16. Board Game: Citrusopoly [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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From gallery of MplsMatt


Having a lazy Sunday and getting the chance to watch some movies. I had heard about Tangerine due to it being shot entirely using iphones, but I didn't really know much about the plot. It turns out it's a day in the life snapshot focusing primarily on two transgender prostitutes in Los Angeles. It's a really handsome looking movie and I wouldn't have guessed it was shot using phones if I hadn't already known. The acting seems a little amateurish but that kind of lends some authenticity to it as well. Also, it takes place on Christmas eve day, so now I have a new holiday movie recommendation. It's actually very funny in parts though it has a pervasive melancholy considering the subject matter. I thought it was pretty entertaining and would say it's worth your 90 minutes if you have netflix streaming. Be advised it deals very explicitly with prostitution and drug use.
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17. Board Game: Debate This! [Average Rating:6.14 Unranked]
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Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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I was very tempted to see Best of Enemies when it was in theaters but never made it out so I was very pleased to see it pop up on netflix. Very engaging portrait of both Gore Vidal and Bill Buckley and their infamous debates that were part of ABC's coverage of the 1968 Republican and Democratic conventions. The story is largely told by the surviving friends and associates of both men and I think shows them both to be passionate about their role in spreading cultural ideals. Also it showcases how sort of new and different this kind of news programming was at the time. I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it if you have any interest in the subject matter. I should probably read one of Vidal's books at some point.

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18. Board Game: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Thrush Ray-Gun Affair [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Thrush Ray-Gun Affair
Atnier Rodriguez
United States
Monroe
Connecticut
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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

I can't fully rate it because I didn't finish it.

We grew sleepy and tired halfway in and I didn't have enough interest to pick it back up the day after, so I just returned it to Redbox.

The story and characters simply weren't making much sense, as the movie was more interested in providing a fun Cold War era spy adventure thing rather than a cohesive, realistic story.

Since I didn't buy the reason for why these two radically different spies had to work together, everything else after the initial chase fell apart for me. It didn't help that they were just being silly rather than serious, with the American spy constantly shadowing the Russian one when they were both undercover and supposed to not arise any suspicion of working together.

It's a shame, because I like both actors and Alicia Vikander, but it failed to connect with me. I can handle silly in spy stuff if done with a certain style that still manages to hold everything together within that universe, such as "Kingsman", but this one was way below in the fun department.

If you enjoyed it, good for you, but I was underwhelmed and bored.
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19. Board Game: Star Wars Lightsaber Dueling [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:11921]
Board Game: Star Wars Lightsaber Dueling
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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New to Me


My sincere promise that this first paragraph will be completely spoiler-free, I'd like to focus strictly on my overall impressions first. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I always hope for a good new story set in that galaxy far, far away. I have grown to hate the prequels, though, so I was simultaneously excited and nervous when it came to The Force Awakens. Luckily, I don't feel I was let down. The movie is definitely a love letter to the original trilogy, bringing back familiar characters and themes. But what I found truly great about the movie wasn't just the return of the people I love, it was the introduction of several new characters that are all engaging and have a depth that is only hinted at in the film. You know they nailed the characters when I walk out just wanting to know even more about them. The effects were mostly well done, the sound and music all felt perfect, and I think the story was not bad. The movie wasn't perfect, though. There was some editing that could have tightened it up a bit (the movie was just a tad longer than necessary,) and some of the CGI effects were not great. Yet I'm willing to forgive and forget minor flaws when it comes to Star Wars. I genuinely can't wait to see The Force Awakens again, and hope to see it at least 3 times in theaters, because the experience was that good.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
The returning cast: Leia was kind of inconsequential in the film, which was OK with me because I felt her speech pattern wasn't normal. I'm not sure what Carrie Fisher was doing, but she doesn't sound that weird in real life interviews, so I couldn't figure out why it looked so awkward when she showed up here. Anthony Daniels' voice also seemed strange as C-3PO, like it had been overly processed by the sound guys, but it wasn't bad. I can't wait for Mark Hamill to get a real opportunity to shine in the next Episode, he looks like he has really become the Obi-Wan of this new series. But the real star out of the classic actors was Harrison Ford, and he did not disappoint. Despite all the years that have passed, he still totally knows how to play Han Solo. His interaction with Chewbacca was very similar to what we saw in the original trilogy, and he pulls off some of the most emotional scenes in the film with great skill. It was nice to see that classic character just as we know and love him, but also dealing with some deep emotional scars.

The new cast: I could talk about the entire cast, but let's focus on the Top 4. Oscar Isaac pulls off one of the most miraculous tricks by making Poe a character I loved within only 5 minutes of screen-time. When I suspected he was dead after his early scenes, I was so disappointed, but his return gives me hope that he will get even more to do in the upcoming films. John Boyega was also charming, but in a different way. The crush that Finn had on Rey was so fun, and it was nice to kind of see it all playing out based on his actions instead of clunky dialogue. I also think Finn is a refreshing new character we haven't seen before, and I liked that he was kind of a coward, but his sense of honor was so strong that he couldn't resist helping when he saw his friends in trouble. Kylo Ren is perhaps the most intriguing new character. His struggle to resist the Light side was a fascinating twist, and I loved how he just felt like a spoiled brat who throws tantrums when he can't get his way. I also liked that his appearance defies the intimidating nature of his character once that mask comes off, because he kind of looks goofy and that flies in the face of our expectations. But the whole conversation has to end with Daisy Ridley. Her performance as Rey was nuanced, it was intense, and in any one scene she displayed more character than the entire trilogy of prequels combined. It took me very little time to care about her and to root for her to succeed. The best scene of the film for me was the interrogation between Kilo Ren and Rey, because they both were doing next to nothing physically or verbally, but you could read all that was happening in their facial expressions.

The problems: I had 2 big issues with this film that kept me from lifting it up and exalting it as being on par with the original trilogy. And, no, one of them is not that they duplicated so many of the story points from the original trilogy, I didn't mind that at all. The first problem I have is that the movie felt a bit long. Now I want as much Star Wars as the next guy, but there were a couple of scenes that I felt were struggling to move the plot forward, and they could have been cut or even replaced by more relevant material. The most egregious of these was the entire gang face-off and squid alien attack on Han Solo's ship. It did nothing for the story, it didn't help build the characters, and it bleeds over into my second issue with the movie. I think I'm just not built right to accept CGI creatures. Machinery, and inanimate objects tend to be perfect when rendered in a computer so I totally love the space battles and stuff like that. Yet I still don't think even the best CGI companies can pull off convincing living creatures. They always look artificial, and I have this involuntary reaction of thinking "well, I know that's not really there." Maz Kanata is probably the most frustrating example, because there's really no reason she needs to be CGI. A puppet or person in costume could have pulled off the role just as well, and would have blended into the practical-effect style of the rest of this film.

The positives: Pretty much everything else in this movie worked for me. I greatly appreciated the return of actual humor to the series. I laughed a lot, but it never felt overly jokey either. BB-8 was a great call-back to why we loved R2D2 and C3PO, because he was cute without being cloying or overly childish. The lightsaber fights were simply magical, because Abrams understood that our emotional investment in the fight was more important than the choreography of the fight. I loved how intense and raw the battle seemed, and how each person kind of had their own style with the blade. That final fight between Kilo, Finn, and Rey was so amazing. I liked that they didn't spend a ton of time explaining the politics that were going on, or getting bogged down in the minutiae of who the different organizations were, they just kept it simple (Resistance=good and First Order=bad). Finally I have to compliment the film because, despite my complaints about the CGI, it was rather limited which allowed the movie to feel real instead of entirely manufactured.

Final opinions: Upon further reflection I feel like The Force Awakens nestles nicely below the original trilogy but well above the prequels. I desperately need to watch it again, and hope to soon (probably checking it out in 3-D this time.) But I think they did a nice job setting up a new group of characters in the same world as the ones we love. I hope that they will now take them on new adventures, breaking new ground and respecting the original films without needing to duplicate them any more. I do have concern about the spin-off movies in the even calendar years, because I think prequel/origin stuff is not necessary, but I hope the odd calendar year "Episodes" will keep this level of quality. The only worry I have, which already started here with the C3PO red arm, is that they will alienate people who have no desire to watch/read expanded universe stuff. I shouldn't have to read a comic book to understand what is going on in the movie I'm watching, and they shouldn't break in the middle of the story to make a reference to some TV cartoon I'm not watching either. If they can eliminate that in the future, I'll be completely on board.
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20. Board Game: Snow Ball Fight!! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Snow Ball Fight!!
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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FIRST SNOW

My wife and I are Guy Pearce fans, so we end up watching some of his more obscure films too. Like this one, First Snow. Pearce stars as a slick salesman Jimmy who becomes discombobulated when a psychic (JK Simmons) tells him some disturbing things about his near future. Things go from there, propelled in part by Jimmy realizing his ex-friend/partner Vince has been release from prison; his girlfriend (Piper Perabo) and workmates are disturbed.

It's pretty decent, but nothing particularly memorable.

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21. Board Game: Second that Emotion [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Second that Emotion
Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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Finally got around to watching Inside Out last night. I like animated films and have been generally pleased with Pixar's output, but haven't been in a big hurry to see their latest picture. Something about the character design struck me as odd and it continued to do so throughout the movie. The movie itself was fine. Good performances by all involved and I particularly enjoyed their foray into "abstract thought." There is one scene in the movie that affected me much more than I would have expected, but otherwise I was kind of checked out. Good, but not Pixar's strongest effort by a wide margin.

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22. Board Game: Dune [Average Rating:5.75 Overall Rank:12202]
Board Game: Dune
Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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I've been meaning to watch Jodorowsky's Dune since I first read about it. As a fan of Jodorowsky and many of the other people involved with that project, it was sure to be a winner. I realized that I could watch it for free if I signed up for a trial week of Starz, so I fired it up last night. It was really terrific.

From gallery of MplsMatt


Told largely from the principals (esp. Jodorowsky himself) it is the story of a recklessly imaginative film project that could have been transcendent or possibly a massive failure. Though, I believe, had it failed it still would have been a spectacular failure. Jodorowsky secured an executive producer on the strength of El Topo and The Holy Mountain. He wrote a script and then created storyboards for the entire thing with the help of Moebius (Jean Giraud). They found the very green Dan O'Bannon to be their special effects guy and artists like Chris Foss and H.R. Giger to help with art direction. They had the likes of David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvador freaking Dali signed on to act. Then they went to Hollywood to secure the funding, and the rest is history.

They make a great argument that even though Jodorowsky's Dune was never made, the echoes of the creative efforts behind the film can be seen throughout films that followed. Also Jodorowsky and Moebius were able to collaborate in comic books and pursued some of the same metaphysical ideas. I can't help but wonder what the world would be like if this story, this Dune had been the first breakout science fiction/fantasy movie back in 1975. A movie that was intentionally subversive, intentionally prophetic, intentionally noncommercial. Either way, this film stands as kind of a love letter to those elements of science fiction that are still exciting to me.
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23. Board Game: Cannon Ball [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Cannon Ball
Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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In near complete philosophical contrast, I also watched Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. Cannon films was a company taken over by two filmmakers from Israel that produced heaps of mostly cheap schlock with the occasional "hit." These are the guys that kept the Deathwish series alive, brought us Delta Force, and the Masters of the Universe movie. They produced tons of skin flicks, action movies, and horror pictures and they often did it by pre-selling the international rights to movies that did not yet exist! They would sign a deal, put a poster together and use the cash from the international rights and distribution to make the movie. The crazy thing is that unlike some of the other indies, these guys had every intention of making it big in Hollywood. They courted big stars and well regarded directors. They paid Stallone 12 million to star in Over the Top when that kind of payday was unheard of.

I thought this movie was a ton of fun to watch. I grew up on a lot of these films and there are a handful that I would still champion to this day. The only major criticism that I had was that Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus don't appear in the film. Of course, they refused to appear in the movie because they had started production on their own documentary on the same subject

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24. Board Game: Mystery Date [Average Rating:4.63 Overall Rank:18812]
Board Game: Mystery Date
Stephen Roney
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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The Santa Clause


While everyone else goes off to watch Star Wars, we have been watching some of our Christmas movies.

Scott Calvin is having a disastrous Christmas Eve at home with his young son, when Santa Claus falls off the roof and disappears. Scott puts on the coat, delivers the presents with his son, and now HE is Santa Claus. The movie follows his transformation and conversion to the idea, along with the issues raised by ex-wife Wendy Crewson and her psychiatrist husband Judge Reinhold.

The special effects hold up reasonably well for a 21 year old movie and the story is well done. By far the best of the three Santa Clause movies.
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25. Board Game: Clue [Average Rating:5.67 Overall Rank:8550]
Board Game: Clue
Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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We watched Clue last night. I've seen it several times before and I've always liked it. It's pretty lowbrow as far as comedy goes, but the cast is so good that I find myself cracking up at their lame jokes and pratfalls. I do have to wonder why on earth Lee Ving was cast as Mr. Boddy. He's not a great actor and he's in the movie a lot more than I remembered.
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