Take Evasive Action!

Zathura: A Space Adventure is unofficially known as the spiritual sequel of Jumanji. As soon as I saw the first trailer I immediately made the connection. Later on I discovered Zathura and Jumanji were actually written by the same author. I didn’t read that book either, but it’s a much more direct sequel. However, the movie Zathura doesn’t make any reference to Jumanji. Not that they don’t still have a lot in common. They’re still playing a board game where every step you take unleashes something from the game. The biggest difference is that Zathura is a space themed game that unleashes aliens, meteors, robots, and astronauts. Another small difference is how the game doesn’t always unleash something when you move a space. Story wise, Zathura is a bit more family friendly then Jumanji. It follows two brothers (something I can relate to) who find the game and end up playing it in their house. The entire movie and everything that comes out of the game takes place in the house which also ends up in space. Making the movie feel a bit more contained. One of the most notable things about Zathura is that it was the last movie Jon Favreau directed before Iron Man. A before-she-was-famous Kristen Stewart is also in it, delivering a stiff performance (literally) as the brothers sister. While Zathura doesn’t have the same lasting quality that Jumanji has, it’s still an exciting space adventure that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Playing Zathura


A Roll of the Dice

Jumanji is a children’s classic that I remember fondly from my childhood. I was just a baby when it came out, but it was a prominent addition to my VHS collection. I remember watching it multiple times. However, unlike The Polar Express (same author), I never read the book in which it’s based. Not that the book is a word for word retelling or anything. They just incorporate certain images from the book into the movie. The most interesting thing about the story is the concept. Playing a board game where every step you take unleashes something from the game. In this case, Jumanji is a jungle themed game that unleashes animals, deadly plants, natural disasters, and hunters. The weirdest thing about the movie is how it builds a story around the game. A boy and girl from the late 60’s play Jumanji and the boy gets sucked into the game when he unintentionally rolls the dice. 26 years later, an orphaned boy and girl move into the house where everything happened and they end up playing the game. The weirdest thing about this premise is how dark it is. Entire lives are ruined just because of this game. Obviously I never picked up on that stuff as a kid. One of the movie’s biggest highlights is Robin Williams. Jumanji isn’t one of his funniest roles, but he was still the best part of anything he did. The effects and scale of the mayhem is also great, if not dated. The monkey’s are easily one of the worst special effects to come out of the 90’s. Every other animal looks good though. In the end, Jumanji is a fun and unpredictable adventure with enough heart to support its off the wall premise.

Playing Jumanji

28 Year Facelift

Tron Legacy came out 28 years after Tron. Making it one of the longest gaps between a movie and its sequel. When I first heard they were making a sequel to Tron, I was curious. I had limited knowledge about the movie, but I still wanted to see Tron: Legacy. When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able see Tron before Tron: Legacy, I went to see it anyway. I’m not the kind of person who sees a sequel before the original, but I figured the sequel was different enough to where it didn’t matter. Not that I never watched a sequel before an original before. I did it all the time as a kid, but this was the last time I did it when I was older. I wasn’t as lost as I thought I might be. The fact that the movie looks almost nothing like the original helped. Tron: Legacy is about the son of Kevin Flynn. Like his father, he ends up being digitized into the virtual world. It’s there that he searches for his lost father. The visuals are a stunning improvement with an appropriately added dubstep soundtrack. It’s also one of the first movies to prefect de-aging special effects. Jeff Bridges is made to look about 20 years younger. The only problem is the new characters are forgettable and the story is so so. Whether you’ve seen Tron: Legacy before or after the original, it’s definitely style over substance.

Light Cycle race 2.0

Preceded by: Tron

Did Anyone See the Movie Tron…?

Tron may not seem all that impressive by today’s standards, but at the time it was groundbreaking. Tron was made by Disney and revolutionized early 80’s computer generated imagery at the time. They weren’t going for realism, because the entire movie takes place inside a vintage video game. I couldn’t really follow the plot very well (turns out Tron is a supporting character, not the virtual simulation), but my basic understanding is that it has something to do with stopping an evil corporation. The main character Kevin Flynn is digitized into the virtual world and is forced to play games like Light Cycle (a racing game where motorcycles create a dangerous light trail). Even in this modern age where I know I’ve seen better, I’m still impressed by the visuals. Kind of like an old video game that you still love even though its primitive. I can only imagine seeing Tron on the big screen. Although it was difficult for me to get my hands on a copy of the movie. It’s one of the reasons I took so long to see the movie. So I could relate to the Tron joke in the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror VI segment Homer³. Tron is a must watch for anyone who wants to see the first groundbreaking CGI filled movie.

Light Cycle race

Followed by: Tron: Legacy

Extra Disgusting

Osmosis Jones is disgusting, but some how still watchable. Like some many movies from my childhood, my exposure to Osmosis Jones came from a VHS preview. The very idea of the movie disgusted me too much for me to even consider watching it. Gross out humor just doesn’t work for me. Maybe in small doses, but not in an entire movie. If I did see the movie when I was younger, I don’t remember it. However, I did watch it two separate times in high school. Which made me realize the movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Osmosis Jones is part live-action part animation. All the animation takes place inside Bill Murphy’s body. With all the Bill Murphy stuff being in live-action. Chris Rock plays a “white” blood cell police officer who partners with a cold pill. They have to stop a virus who threatens to kill the body they inhabit. The animated stuff is the best stuff. The animation is good and the humor isn’t too gross. The live-action stuff on the other hand is terrible. Every kind of gross out humor you can think of is on display. You can tell it was directed by the Farrelly brothers. Which makes Osmosis Jones feel off balance as a comedy. I’m still not sure if I like the movie or not, but it could have been worse.

Ozzy (white blood cell) and Drix (cold pill)

Just like the Cereal

Although Marlon Brando never officially reprised his role of Vito Corleone, he did play a very similar character in The Freshman. In the very likely chance that you’ve never heard of The Freshman, its a comedy that stars Matthew Broderick. He plays a film studying college freshman who gets tangled up with the mafia. Marlon Brando himself plays Carmine Sabatini, a parody of the famous godfather. There’s actually a running gag pointing out the very obvious similarities. It’s good to know an actor of his caliber still had a sense of humor about his work. It’s not a parody movie though. Matthew Broderick’s character Clark Kellogg is actually helping the mob boss by wrangling up rare and endangered animals, because rich people want to eat them. Which makes the movie feel very original and quite funny. Surprisingly, The Freshman came out in the exact same year as The Godfather Part III. I’m not sure if that was planned or not, but The Freshman got a far better critical reception. Even though most people don’t even remember it exists. Now that you do know The Freshman exists, I recommend judging it for yourself.

Carmine (left) and Clark (right) expose a secret

Just When I thought I was Out… They Pull Me Back in

The Godfather Part III is the third movie in the Godfather trilogy. Which is all it will every be remembered for. It came out 16 years after The Godfather Part II and at that point, it seemed kind of pointless. The biggest disappointment is how much of a black mark it leaves on the trilogies legacy. In fact, director Francis Ford Coppola and author Mario Puzo didn’t even want the movie to be called The Godfather Part III. They wanted the title to be The Death of Michael Corleone, but the studio knew they couldn’t market the movie well that way. Even though that title is a much better reflection of the material. As they put it, The Godfather Part III is more of a 3 hour epilogue. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II have only a one year gap between them and they feel more like a complete story. How are you going to recreate the success, acclaim, style, themes, and overall story that made those movies so great? Well this is the tragic tale (both literally and figuratively) of The Godfather Part III

Michael Corleone returns to the family business

The Godfather Part III is about Michael Corleone in his older years. When he retires from the organized crime business, but gets pulled back in again. He’s no longer married to Kay and his son Anthony and daughter Mary are now grown up. The central conflicts revolve around fictionalized real life events. The Godfather Part III manages to successfully recreate the cinematography, themes of family, and fine direction that made the other movies so great. Returning stars like Al Pacino and Diane Keaton even managed to give performances that were just as good as before. It was also nominated for Best Picture just like the first two movies. Making it the first trilogy to do that. With 17 (7 of them Oscars) award nominations overall. It didn’t win a single good award, because The Godfather Part III didn’t deserve any of them. The only awards it won were 2 Razzie awards for Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star Sophia Coppola. I didn’t think it was possible that one bad performance could ruin an entire movie, but it does. Sophia Coppola is horrible in the role of Mary Corleone. She was only cast because she’s the directors daughter. Which was no reason to assume she could act. Her father is a great director, wouldn’t it be obvious that she’d be a great director too. Her performance is wooden, bland, and takes you out of the moment every time she’s on screen. The movie would have been much better if they just went with their first choice of Winona Ryder. It’s too bad, because The Godfather Part III could have made the Godfather trilogy the greatest movie trilogy of all time.

Michael’s daughter Mary Corleone

Preceded by: The Godfather Part II

I Know it was You Fredo, You Broke My Heart

The Godfather Part II was almost an unspeakable idea when it first came out. How do you make a sequel to an already near perfect movie? The answer, make it a nonlinear story that’s part sequel/ part prequel. Although people had mixed thoughts initially, The Godfather Part II has since been considered to be one of the greatest movie sequels of all time. A sequel to a movie that’s already considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time. That’s no small feat. To make a sequel for an already acclaimed movie that matches and some would argue, tops the original. Without making a sequel that’s just copying what made the first so good. No, The Godfather Part II is about as different a movie as you can get. But just like the original, its earned a place in movie history. With more complex storytelling, new iconic moments, lines of dialogue, and a deeper understanding of characters we’ve met before. The Godfather Part II continues the saga in a way that feels like a perfect companion piece or even a great stand alone picture…


Michael Corleone becomes the new Don

The Godfather Part II is first and foremost, a sequel. After the events of The Godfather, Michael Corleone became the new Don of his families organized crime business. When it comes to the family business, Michael is not his father. He deals with new problems like an attempt on his (and his family’s) life and court investigations. Until everything he’s worked to maintain is nearly destroyed. That’s when the iconic “kiss of death” scene and line “I know it was you Fredo” comes in. Al Pacino wanted his role to be bigger than it was in the first movie. Thinking it would increase his chances of winning an Oscar (it didn’t, but it’s still a great performance). While Michael’s continued story gets the most screen time, a lot of the movie is also a prequel. Following a young Vito Corleone as he immigrated from Sicily to America, starts a family, seeks revenge, and eventually becoming the godfather. This part of the movie is told entirely in Sicilian. Making it feel more like a foreign film within an American film. Much like the movie itself, Robert De Niro manages to match a performance that was already made great by Marlon Brando. So much so, that he won Best Actor for his performance. Making it the only time in Oscar history where two actors won for playing the same character. The Godfather Part II is also historic for being the first sequel to win Best Picture. To date, the only original and sequel to both win Best Picture. Unlike the first movie though, The Godfather Part II won twice as many Oscars. Francis Ford Coppola got a second chance to win Best Director (which he did) and it won for Best Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, and Original Dramatic Score. The Godfather Part II is a rare sequel that recreates, reinvents, and reevaluates what a movie sequel can be.

Young Vito Corleone

Preceded by: The Godfather & Followed by The Godfather Part III

I’m Gonna Make Him an Offer He Can’t Refuse

The Godfather is by many considered to be the greatest movie of all time. With it being part of what most would consider the greatest trilogy of all time. Not just that, The Godfather is also the best gangster movie, best Marlon Brando performance, and best Francis Ford Coppola directed movie too. Needless to say, The Godfather has earned a place in movie history. As with most movies of this caliber, I’ve known known about The Godfather for many many years before I finally watched it. It’s one of those movies thats been parodied, referenced, and reenacted by a countless number of movies and or TV shows. Even family friendly material won’t pass up a chance to imitate The Godfather. Which is why Rugrats was my first exposure to the movie. What is it about organized crime that seems to offer some of our best storytelling? Is it themes of family, loyalty, crime, or the very real subject matter that they explore. Especially the “hits” that are cold and quietly realistic. Whatever the reason, The Godfather has it all and then some…


Hagen (left) has a word with Don Vito Corleone (right)

The Godfather is based on a book written by Mario Puzo. It’s directed by Francis Ford Coppola and stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and a whole lot of other big names. Marlon Brando plays the titular godfather. Vito Corleone is the Don who oversees mafia business including gambling and bootlegging. As godfather, most people come to him asking for favors due to his generous nature. Marlon Brando’s performance is as iconic as it is phenomenal. Although most of the film’s focus is spent on his four children Sonny, Fredo, Connie, and of course Michael. As well as his adopted lawyer son Tom Hagen. Michael was kept away from the family business, because his father wanted him to have a respectable career. So he joined the military and marries a non-Italian, but one tragic loss after another is not enough to keep Michael from eventually becoming what he was never meant to be. The Godfather tells a 3 hour story with fine detail and layered characters. With many iconic scenes and lines of dialogue. Scenes such as meeting the godfather for the first time, the horse’s head scene, Sonny beating a wife beater, the many assassination attempts, and the final shot of the movie. Lines such as “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” and “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” The movie’s muted orange color palette makes it stand out in a way that makes it instantly recognisable. However accidental it might be, the oranges are a great bit of symbolism. As great as The Godfather is, it might surprise you to know that it only won three Oscars (with one being refused). Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay are its true wins. While Marlon Brando won Best Actor, but he refused to accept it due to some kind of Native American issue (look it up). It was nominated for 7 other awards though (although one of them was revoked). In any case, The Godfather is still one of the greatest, most iconic, well remembered organized crime movies of all time.

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”

Followed by: The Godfather Part II

I Want Some More

Oliver! was for a long time, the last musical to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards (until Chicago in 2002). It’s also the first and only officially G rated movie to win in that category. Like I’ve mentioned two times before, I saw this movie in my Middle School music class. 7th grade I watched West Side Story, 8th grade I watched Amadeus, and 6th grade (you guessed it) I watched Oliver!. Oliver! didn’t stand out to me as much as the others. Maybe because of how tame it was. As Best Picture winners go, Oliver! is pretty family friendly. Most people know the story of the orphan named Oliver Twist. He worked hard labor and ate gruel until one day when he did what no one else did. He asked for more. Oliver is an OK protagonist, but the supporting characters are the ones who really shine. Oliver actually doesn’t even have much dialogue and his singing is dubbed by a professional female singer. Specifically the underground pickpocketing group he meets. The songs are also very good. Notably “Food, Glorious Food,” as it’s the most well known song from the movie. The songs are the main reason the movie is nearly 3 hours long. Oliver! will be best remembered for its innocence and for being one of the last of an era that defined Hollywood at the time.

“Please sir, I want some more”