Could “The Force Awakens” be the GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME??

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Let’s all be perfectly clear – The Force Awakens is NOT just for Star Wars fans. It’s not just for geeks or sci-fi buffs. The Force Awakens is a genuine love letter to anyone who loves the movies and has a soul.

That said, let me back up.

2015 has brought us some of the greatest movies in years. From Mad Max to Jurassic World, I can’t remember when we had such a solid lineup of films.

I recently decided that this summer’s Inside Out was the greatest film ever made, dethroning The King’s Speech from the coveted spot in my heart. And then, just a few short months later, the “Best Movie of All Time” seat is challenged yet again with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

Few will argue with me that the movie was absolutely mind-blowing and fewer would argue that it was just really, really, really damn good.

But am I jumping the gun by saying it could possibly be the greatest movie of all time?? Do I just need to get a grip and wait for the hype to pass? Am I forgetting greats such as The Return of the King or the emotional surprise that was Toy Story 3? 

I don’t think so.

Even if it’s not your favorite film ever, I don’t think I’m far off the mark by asserting it’s the greatest film of all time. Here’s why:

1. The High Expectation

J.J. Abrams and everyone that worked on this movie had something going against them that no movie crew has ever had to deal with ever. Three generations of movie goers with impossibly high expectations and demands. I’m talking about a significant population rate of people who have been deeply wounded by the release of the previous trilogy. So not only was the audience-base expecting a good Star Wars film, but they expected their pain to be remedied. The reviews and audience reaction shows that Abrams and co. has indeed gone beyond wowing everyone and bandaging up our wounds, but they cut an incision in Star Wars fans and precisely and deliberately removed the cancer that was George Lucas’ prequels. Order has now been restored in the galaxy.

2. Big Risk; Little Effects

The Force Awakens team went against the Hollywood grain by going back to set pieces and costumes and minimizing on CGI effects. They replaced the needless cartoons with something of importance and substance: Story. And a damn good one to boot!

3. Emotions Run High

The writers knew who our favorite character(s) would be going in, and they punched us in the gut, and pulverized our hearts. One review on Rotten Tomatoes said it perfectly: “The Best Disappointing Movie Ever.” There were some high risks in some major decisions as well, but it was all carried out so deftly, so perfectly, so cleanly that audiences will love J.J. Abrams for stabbing them in the heart and leaving them for dead. Folks, this Star Wars film made me cry! That’s never happened to me in George Lucas’ galaxy. It’s also by far the funniest film in the franchise, which only heightens the experience.

I might try to come up with more reasons why this could be the greatest film ever made. But so far, that’s what I’ve got.

Share your thoughts! Come on, you know you want to talk about it and spoilers are allowed in the comments! Go!

Everything Episode VII Got Right

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Just got out of a viewing of The Force Awakens. I was going to title this post “Everything Episode VII Got Wrong” and then leave the entire post blank, but I didn’t want people sitting at their computer pressing the reload button repeatedly.

First off, Episode VII turned this mediocre Star Wars fan into a fanatic.

Here’s everything J.J. Abrams did right with the newest Star Wars installment:

1. The special effects were minimal

Thank you Abrams, Disney, and anyone else behind the making of this masterpiece, for realizing that story trumps special effects. They did away with the overt CGI and filmed it on sets and used costumes for, I’d say, about 70% of the movie. Any other CGI, I didn’t notice it.

2. Played the drama up 

It’s dramatic. There’s twits and turns and unexpected deaths, and they’re hard-hitting. It’s as though Abrams decided, “If we’re gonna hit the audience, we need to hit them hard … and where it hurts the most.” And it is a satisfying and resonating pain.

3. Old-Style Star Wars

It wasn’t filled with new gimmicks and gadgetry (though there are some new twists on old weapons). It was the old Tie-fighters and Millennium Falcon, and storm troopers, and everything else that makes Star Wars Star Wars. It was Star Wars to the core. The Star Wars people know and love.

Guys, I can go on and on, but it’s getting real late here and I’ve got to get up early to go to work. If you’re skeptical, don’t just take my word for it: Listen to virtually everyone who sees this film and watch their eyes light up and hear their hearts racing as they try to explain the glory of this movie.

Whoever says “Movies are dead” is wrong. We just have to wait for the right ones to bounce along every now and then, and this one not only bounces, but crushes with full force.

No pun intended.

“Something Move Me”

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but comedy is dying. People, for the most part, are bored with high explosives and fast action. It’s all been done before, more or less.

So what do people crave? What do people long for? I have a theory. I think people are in dire search of something moving.

Butch Walker sings:

 

You loved the preview but hate the movie.
You scream at the screen, "Something move me!"
before you start to fade away.

 

When we read about the monstrously enormous success of Pixar’s Inside Out, the biggest compliments are that it’s extremely moving and quite possibly the saddest Disney/Pixar movie ever. (Could it really be sadder than Toy Story 3?!?!?) And people love that.

Heck, I watched it just the other night because I needed a good cry.

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is hugely popular in teen reading circles because it is quite possibly the saddest teen book ever written. (I’m attempting to out-do him in an upcoming teen book I’m working on. He’ll be eating his heart out.)

Why is this so? Why are the most emotionally-destructive books and movies so immensely popular with people? Why do we turn on songs like Ed Sheeran’s “All of the Stars” or Michael John Montgomery’s “The Girl” just to cry? (That latter example was the highest rated radio song at the time it was released.)

What’s wrong with us?

Well, my theory goes like this. We’re all zombies. For most of us, life is mundane. We get up, brush our teeth, go to a job where we spend most of the time pretending we weren’t at, go home, maybe watch a rerun of Friends on Netflix, and go to sleep.

Life is dull. We don’t go to enough funerals. So our souls kind of harden a little because we’re just swimming in this wet cement that’s holding us captive to a whole lot of nothing. To go biblical on you, Ecclesiastes even says it’s better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting (or a party).

And so we go see The Good Dinosaur to be stirred in a neglected place in our heart. And apparently the new Star Wars movie has quite a heartbeat to it that’s inclined to rejuvenate a lot of people. Even The Hunger Games has an incredibly bittersweet ending that even Sarabeth has a hard time accepting – yet she still rereads those books on a regular basis.

So go and be moved. Don’t be ashamed of your need to open up the waterworks every once in a while. I think those are gates we (especially us men) feel like we need to keep bared. Watch something sad and have a good cry. The feeling afterward is quite refreshing.

Check out my post on what I think are the saddest movies of all time (it’s updated!!).

A Love Letter to Pixar

Okay. This is a total geek-out post that I just can’t hold in any longer.

After Inside Out totally and completely rocked my inner world and forced me to rearrange my mental furniture, I decided that Pixar Animation Studios had reached the peak of perfection. And suddenly, I didn’t care if they had another major success or not, because in my mind, their work was done. 

But the geniuses in Emeryville are just getting started, apparently. With the release of The Good Dinosaur on Thanksgiving, I thought I’d write out a little ode to show my love – and thanks. 

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John, Andrew, Brad, Pete, Ed, Darla, and many many more names that encompass the greatest company ever built: Thank you.

Thank you for your courage to tell the truth in your movies. The format of your stories are kid-friendly, but the themes and messages are largely for the intellectuals, the deep thinkers, the workers, the dreamers.

You inspire the rest of us to take risks. You create role models for our kids to look up to and admire. You change the world by inspiring us to live better; to sacrifice; to explore; to not just survive, but to live!

When will other companies learn? You’ve put out several books on how to do business, how to tell stories, how to make a lasting impression. Where are the followers?

I’m one.

When I write, I constantly ask myself, “Does this live up to Pixar’s standards? … Would this live up to Brad’s or John’s expectations?”

I write to “Wow” you.

I have never visited Pixar Studios, nor met anyone from Pixar (top of my bucket list just below getting plugs), but I imagine I work for Pixar. I imagine that the people at Pixar will read every book I write. And perhaps one day they will and they’ll see talent…or at the very least, potential.

Pixar team, it’s because of each one of you I wake up each morning and dare to not give up on my dreams of becoming a bestselling author (and maybe one day writer for Pixar). To the artists who labor day in and day out on a monster’s hair flow, or the scales on a fish – your job is not to have your work noticed. Well, you are noticed, and appreciated.

You inspire me to grow old with my wife, to focus on creating joyful memories for my kids, to keep my friends close.

You make movies that matter – movies that last – and often, movies that change our perspective or even our lives.

Thank you for the thousand-and-twelf rewrites.

Thank you for changing course at the last minute.

Thank you for not accepting mediocre and always shooting for better. And then even better than that.

Thank you for the shorts that bring no financial gain to you whatsoever.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. From my family, thank you. From my grown-up corkers whom I will eventually convince that they’re missing out on something great, thank you on their behalf that there’s something great to be found.

Hopefully I’ll get to visit soon and wander the halls and eat your cereal and pose with the Lego Woody and Buzz. Maybe one day my kids will meet one of you and when they do, I’ll tell them, “You just shook hands with a world-changer.”

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My Review of the Disney Short Films Collection

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As for many Disney fans, it was a delight to see that Disney was finally putting their short films together in one collection. We initially bought it to play in the car for the kids during our sixteen-hour drive to Florida we were supposed to take next week. But that trip got postponed because one of our dachshunds hurt her back and might need surgery. So she’s on bedrest for two weeks and we’ll stay home with her.

Lorenzo_(film)_posterAnyway, Sarabeth and I watched the short films collection and we have mixed feelings. Mostly because of the one entitled Lorenzo, where the self-indulgent cat with the demon-possessed tail tries to kill him.

Okay, honestly, I loved it, because it was totally morbid and the charcoal artwork was astounding to look at.

There’s one called The Little Matchstick Girl, which I loved because it made me blubber a little bit. (No one, anywhere, said that animation had to be for kids!)

The only thing I have to complain about with this collection is that it does not includeMV5BMTY1NTI2OTA2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwOTQ4Mjg5._V1_SX214_AL_ Runaway Brain – remember that Mickey Mouse short that was featured before Tall Tale back in the mid-90’s?

But my ultimate favorite animated short of all time is Paperman. Every time I watch that one, it gives me chills. I can only hope they make a full-length feature doing what that movie does by combining 2d animation and computer generated imaging. Feast is a very close second to being just as amazing.

Have you purchased your copy of this awesome collection of Disney shorts? Which ones are your favorites?

What in the World is Wrong?

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“Let’s give this a try – it’s got a great premise,” I said, as I pulled up our DVR recording.

“And this is the movie American Sniper lost to?” Sarabeth asked.

“Yeah. It better be one heck of a movie.”

Needless to say, our expectations were set high for Birdman since it won best picture at the last Academy Awards.

We had watched American Sniper last week and were both extremely moved (I think that word is a gross understatement). I have never had so much respect for our troops before watching it. I want Chris Kyle’s book for Christmas and I’ll be getting his wife’s book for Sarabeth.

And then we watched Birdman. It had all the ingredients going for it – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, bm_spanish_online_1sht1fantasy/reality, award-winning… but in all honesty, it just plain stunk. It stunk so bad we agreed to turn it off twenty-five minutes into it. I felt like the whole thing was just a pity party we were forced into because this has-been actor was no longer in the spotlight.

Honestly, I kept tuning out. The dialogue was bland and middle-school-esk. The plot was hard to get involved with, and I just can’t connect with/feel sympathy for a character who had it all. He’s lived his high life and reached his pinnacle. I don’t want to watch him wallow in his self-pity when I’m still trying to reach my own pinnacle in life.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy ended up either a) getting a second big break but not finding fulfillment in it or b) killing himself because he felt unappreciated out of his prime.

But I’ll never know, nor do I really care to.

In this house, American Sniper was the worthy movie of the year. I may love the genre Birdman falls under, but the deliverance was lame and petty. I typically do not like modern war movies (don’t get me started on Hurt Locker), but this one, American Sniper, is the Saving Private Ryan of the war in the Middle East.

I think it’s our patriotic duty to watch it and pay homage to a true American hero.

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Why Inside Out is the Perfect Father’s Day Movie

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Alright, hopefully you’ve all seen Jurassic World by this point, because obviously, that’s the movie to take your dads to with there being dinosaurs and explosions and all that fun stuff. And the hype is true – it really is almost as good as the original!

But if you’re looking for something else now that that’s over, you might want to consider taking him to a very different kind of movie – a family movie.

This is not your typical “kids” or family movie – Inside Out redefines the family genre in every way. It also does for storytelling what Toy Story did for the animation movie industry. This is a movie with a lot of brains – and heart. If your dad is cool like me, then he will be anxious to see Pixar’s latest installment anyway.

So why is Inside Out a good Father’s Day movie? Why would I suggest a movie that primarily focuses on the inner workings of an adolescent girl?

tumblr_nl2dpdR8eW1un8fiuo1_400Because this movie will give your dad an idea about what’s going on inside his kids’ heads, and it will most assuredly remind him of when he himself was a kid, filled with innocence and wonder and goofiness.

And yes, this movie is ridiculously sad, but never once does it get sappy. No, you won’t find any Full House corniness here. All the emotions are as honest and real as they can be.

This movie is a gift to every person on the planet, especially to fathers and their children. And I can almost guarantee that by the end of the movie, your dad will give you a big, weepy hug.

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