The Ewok Adventure: Caravan of Courage

Once upon a time, many months ago, I posted a entry about my experience watching Battle for Endor. Since its been so long since my last entry, I thought I’d pick things up and visit the previous chapter to the Ewok saga – sort of the Attack of the Clones to A New Hope, if you will.

The last time I watched a movie for you, was Last Action Hero which featured Arnold Schwarzenegger doing his Arnold Schwarzeneggingist to portray a human actor, which as we all know, he failed on all fronts. This time I around, I watched a film where the majority of the actors are fuzzy bears with spears (and they say there’s no diversity in Hollywood), all displaying more emotion, and more depth of character.

So lets begin…

I’d imagine the pitch for this made for TV epic began with a producer and a network executive in a office somewhere:

Producer: “So our writers have a couple of storylines they’d like to share with you–“
Executives: One of them better be about Ewoks. Kids love ewoks.”
(Producer furiously starts scribbling notes one of the scripts)
Producer: Yep, got one right here. Its about a ewok and definitely not a jedi on a quest.
Executive: You know whats hot right now? That kid from E.T.
Producer: The boy who played Elliot? Don’t remember his name but I guess we could…
Executive: Sure, get him too if you can get the girl.
Producer: Drew Barrymore?
Executive: Is that her name?

And so on from there.  Basically try to imagine if Cindy and Peter Brady got marooned on Endor, and that one Ewok you remember from Return of the Jedi spent the whole movie flailing around and screwing everything up, you basically have a Caravan of Courage…

Which I can say there is a caravan, but there’s very little courage.  Mr. and Mrs Brady get lost while trying to find their kids, leaving their jobs to the figment of George Lucas’ imagination.

The kids wander into the Ewok village where Cindy, sorry “Cyndal” gets sick, blows their cover and throws the whole village in danger of contracting whatever virus she has but is foreign to them.

It should come as no surprise that this little angel is the best actor in the whole production. She cries real tears, she shows concern at the scene she’s in and she speaks her lines as opposed to shouting them like Peter Brady-Kenobi.

Before all this started, we were introduced to Wicket, aka, the only Ewok you remembered distinctively from Return of the Jedi, sets the precedent for what he’ll be doing for the rest of the movie: Flailing his arms like a mutant panda and screwing everything up. Like this scene where he nearly sends his father (? I think. Relationships among Ewoks aren’t clearly outlined) to a free fall of a death.

In a decision that required no deliberation, no planning and no forthought, the Ewoks decide to help the Brady kids find their parents. Probably because no one wants human kids around with free floating viruses that would no doubt be fatal to a fragile immune system.

Regardless, they head out on their “caravan of courage” which really is just 60 minutes of them wandering all over various landscapes, stumbling into dangerous situations either caused by Wicket or Peter Brady.

Awwwww…..

Look, I realize that Star Wars was ahead of its time with its special effects and there are just some things that you can’t do for television in the early ’80s. Which can be the only explanation for why a monster made of Play-doh comes out and tries to kill everyone.

Apparently it was terrifying, even though you could see the fingerprints on the clay.

 For those of you concerned with your childhood being killed at this point, may I remind you that that time has long past and I’m just here cleaning it up.

Most of this movie is narrated by a burly voiced narrator who reads it the same way one might read a childrens book.

“And so the children walked from dense forest to desert, back to dense forest where something jumped out at them and back into desert where Peter Brady complained the whole time.”

“Peter had a lot of unresolved anger issues which led him to threaten forest creatures with firearms at the drop of a hat. But they pressed on, hoping he would snap out of it.”

Lets go back into the forest, where the childrens’ minds are open just long enough to come face to face with this horrible demon possesed dried apple head.

And Peter Brady kind of sort of uses the “force.” Which he only does once and never does again when bigger things happen. Why? you ask. Its a good question, but it seems the movie quickly said, “Hey, what’s that over there!” which we then did and the movie quickly ran out of the room, jumped into its car and we didn’t hear from it again.

“So the children and the Ewoks wandered into this cave, and thought it’d be fun to climb this spiderweb. It was kind of dangerous when a spider was dangled down on a string and victoriously swatted away.

But they pressed on and made it to the other side, which they happened to realize led to where their parents were held hostage. They weren’t expecting that.”

I don’t know what this thing is, all we know that it grabbed Mr. and Mrs Brady, stuck them in a tiny cage. I also know it has a disproportionately small mouth that an Ewok couldn’t fit through. But hey, its George Lucas’ universe, we’re just stuck wondering what on earth he’s doing.

 I’m not defending the actions of kidnapping and terror but you have to admit this thing is probably just really lonely and wanted something to take care of. He lives in a cave that’s really hard to get to and hygiene is not a priority. People don’t come around and he’s not getting invited to any book clubs.

In the end, they rescue Mr. and Mrs. Brady, push the monster off a cliff and get one of their own killed. All three of these events were done with very little excitement, and there was some dull surprise at losing their fellow Ewok brother. Cyndal cried a little, but the important lesson  here is that when someone close to you dies in a horribly tragic way (say, falling to their death by rock slide and/or monster) its best to move on as quickly as possible. According to these Ewoks, they just forgot about the entire incident completely…

…and then they wrote a happy song about it. Because it was indeed a caravan chock full of courage (courage being dull surprise as you wander through one someone dangerous incident after the other)

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For Your Consideration: LADY DANGER!


This week’s post, I’ve given the reigns over to my good friend over at First World Failure, who’s shaking up the format a bit and giving us a compilation of movies meant to inspire us to safety…
Summer’s almost over gang, and it’s time to think about “back to school.” For ladies, whether you’re in high school or college, this means a number of things: Deciding which ankle length skirt is your go to first day of school skirt. Buying all the school supplies so you can highlight your notes in three different colors. Trying not to get raped/murdered. Wait…what!?!  
It’s true. The world is a dangerous place, and there was nothing like made for TV movies from the 90s to make us aware of it. High school and college are dangerous places (unless you’re homeschooled), and we’ve put together a wonderful collection of cautionary tales to keep you safe from the prom to the frat party and everywhere in between.  
1.       A Friend to Die Foraka Death of a Cheerleader (1994) – We’ve all been there. Maybe you’re not the prettiest girl in school. Maybe your family doesn’t buy you a new car to drive. Maybe you become obsessed with a popular girl and then try to fly too close to the sun with your wax wings. All Kellie Martin wanted to be was to be one of the popular girls and Tori Spelling just won’t let her. Maybe if Tori was raised to have better manners she wouldn’t be getting the business end of a butcher knife. I think that’s a lesson we can all get behind – don’t be a megabitch who throws around the insult “freak” like it was going out of fashion.  
      Fun Fact: The highest rated TV movie of 1994.
2.    
          Co-ed Call Girl aka Her Deadly Secret (1996) – College is expensive. From meal plans to off campus apartments near the beach, the college experience isn’t something we can buy with savings bonds gifted from Grandma anymore. The first step to enjoying this movie is buying that Tori is poor. The second step is buying that Tori is a “bookish” college student. If anything, she’s “magazine-ish”. Tori just wants a little spending money as a college student, and thanks to a practical joke we find her at a Malibu-based escort service.   
      Casting Gold: Keep your eyes peeled for Barry Watson of 7th Heaven fame and Jeri Ryan of Star Trek: Voyager.  

  No One Would Tell (1996) – This is a great movie that shows what happens when a woman Just. Won’t. Listen. Fred Savage attempts to distance himself from Kevin Arnold and toward “serious actor” by playing an abusive boyfriend. It’s not too much of a leap for the audience, because Fred is the nicest kind of abuser. You know, the kind who makes you want to look the other way while he drags Candace Cameron into the locker room to change into some modest track pants. The title doesn’t lie – literally nobody has a problem with Fred’s anger problems. No one, that is, except for Sally Jessie Raphael who plays a judge and sets everyone straight in the end.

Fun Fact: SJR was on fire for acting in 1996, appearing in episodes of Touched by an Angel and Diagnosis Murder. 

4.       She Cried No (1996) – Why Mark-Paul Gosselaar, WHY!?! In an attempt to distance himself from his Saved By The Bell persona who was merely “mischievous”, MPG takes a role as a frat boy rapist (because thanks to Fred Savage, “murderer” was taken). Is there anything that Candace Cameron couldn’t do in 1996? She can’t get MPG convicted in court, but she’ able to put him in his place in math class AND by defaming him on television.  
        I like how this TV movie expands her role of “rape victim” by giving her characteristics such as “good at math” and “amateur detective.”  Amateur detective? YES. She tracks down video footage of MPG being a douchy date rapist and broadcasts it on television. AKA: This movie was also called “Freshman Fall”.
       Fun Fact: Kathleen Rowell, writer of She Cried No, also penned the teen drama favorite “The Outsiders”. 
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THE BABYSITTER (1980)

We’re deviating slightly and going to the treasure trove of ’80s made for TV movies – the kind that would take something you just assumed was safe and then terrified you to no end.  Sort of like what plays on Lifetime at any given moment.

You may ask – “What sets this apart from any of the other things I can find on Lifetime at any minute?”

This:

That’s right.  You’re all about to get Shatner’d.

The plot is right there – Mom’s going to go nuts, and Shatner’s going to venture into undiscovered country – which is being seduced by underaged girls.  Strap in.

Behold Tara, all-American girl. That is, if you’re definition of a all American girl is middle class with a inattentive father and expressing her emotions to a doll. But lets face facts- if a evil babysitter hadn’t infiltrated their way into the house, she may have been on her way to becoming one.

Like most made for TV situations, this family lives near a quaint dock, far from questioning eyes. Just serene upper middle class heaven – the kind of environment where the girl from nowhere doesn’t get questioned and is automatically offered free room and board in exchange for babysitting services.

 

 

Every Star Trek enthusiast (I’ll throw in the TJ Hooker fanset too) know that.

How did you meet your babysitter? Craigslist? Friend referral? Did you almost hit her with your car and feel bad about, and THEN offer her a job? One of these options applies to this movie and therefore the most reliable.

In case you’re wondering, “I don’t know. This family clearly would have been okay had it not been for a crazy babysitter”, let me put it to you. This movie opens with Tara, the 13 year old girl talking to dolls and then trying to steal her parents car.

“Do you always walk in front of passing cars? Your boldness would be a good match for my daughter’s mousiness and budding mental problems. Which she gets from me.”

This horrifyingly bad decision signifies that Mom has some mental instability. Not that the movie caught on.

This movie stops at nothing to show us this family is so incredibly close to domestic perfection.  So close.  As long as no one’s talking, then perfection is achieved

And as this movie cannot stress enough – MOM IS HANGING BY A MENTAL THREAD.

We should probably talk about how Tara dresses like she’s late for her shift at Alice’s Diner while complaining about oatmeal. The fact she never says “Kiss my grits” is the biggest missed opportunity.

 

Let’s talk about the babysitter.  She’s lovely in a 70s made for TV way. She had nothing going on in life but is a fantastic housekeeper and cook and enjoys talking to people from her past when there’s no one in the room. Also, when the camera does one of these tight close ups on her face, you will be treated to the sounds of a creepy moog synthesizer, which represents the tortured state of her mind. Also, she’s single.

It was mentioned that due to the Babysitter’s positive influence, Tara is not watching as much television and is no longer afraid of the outdoors.

HANGING BY A THREAD.

“I think my husband’s having an affair.”

“Do you mind if I take your car and go to a movie?”

“Sure.”

The tension in this film is through the roof.

Now this movie starts getting interesting….the Babysitter tries on a fairly modest looking nightgown and waits for William Shatner to walk in on her.

Which he does….

The spiral of destruction is in full force. The head of the house, William Shatner is a man of action. He was the Captain of the Enterprise and yelled at people to do his bidding….

 

…but in this case he stares at her and speaks in whispered tones for her to get out.

Naturally, she doesn’t, but she does say, “Fine. I’ll put it back.”

She comes back to him the next day with these words of comfort, “You had sex with your wife last night, didn’t you?”

No one plays it more mild than Shatner.  They don’t call it Shatnering for nothing.

“Whatever you do, stay bland.”

This kid let all of his emotions show through – even the ones where he was casually enjoying a boat ride with a sexy babysitter.

Know where it got him?

His only crime was loving too much. By loving I mean, sort of hitting on the Babysitter during a casual boat ride and saying, “Hey, can I see you later?”
William Shatner stays bland at all costs.
 “You take me to your parties, and if I want to drink, I’ll drink! Because you love your job too much!”
 “Shut up about my job! She loves me in more ways than you’ll ever understand!”

We get a small glimpse of his emotional threshold when she accuses him of being to judgey. Then he springs to action. Kind of. His face muscles still remain slightly rested.

 

“Hey Mom – I think the babysitter is doing a lousy job of taking care of the house. Should we fire her? Plus, why are you drinking at 9am in your slip?”

“Hello? Am I alone in here?”

Poor Tara. She’s one more traumatic incident short of becoming her own manipulative babysitter.

When the Babysitter REALLY snaps, we are treated to a all out monologue, one that I suspect was used in an audition. It has everything – a tragic backstory about being a foster child, the desire for love and belonging, and she throws in a little, “No one understands me”. Its amazing – so much so that she snaps, espescially when talking about all those other families she murdered.

The bland arms of William Shatner cannot save her from herself. Drastic measures are taken…

She goes on a murderous rampage for Tara who cleverly hid herself in a room with glass windows.

It all comes crashing down – the friendly neighborhood police take a break from cracking the case of missing bicycles and issuing citations for dogs without licenses and take the Babysitter away. Presumably to sit in jail and clean and cook for the inmates there, where she’ll convince them all that they’re alcoholics that should just give up on life all together.

On second thought, this is TV. She’ll get out and prey on a TV family, hopefully starring Heather Locklear.

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Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)

A long time ago, in a TV far, far away….

If you’re anything like me, and I know I am, Star Wars holds a very deep personal and loving space in your heart (all Jar Jar and JJ Abrams jokes aside). Maybe you also felt a disturbance in the Force when it was announced that the new Star Wars movies would ignore the canon previously established in the number of books and graphic novels that have been released.  True, that may very well spell distaster, but when it comes to Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, perhaps its best if the new canon just pretends this never happened to begin with.

Before we begin, its only fair to point out, that you can either watch this movie through Netflix or on YouTube. However, if you want your own copy, its a little pricey…

When you think about it, YouTube is a real bargain.

So begins our long journey into sci-fi mediocrity…

I watched this – and not entirely sure what the plot was, but I’ll give you my impression. A sweet cherubic child witnesses the brutal murder of her parents by way of demonic extras from the Lord of the Rings set. Since she is all alone in the world, a Ewok takes her along a random trip through danger and pointless travels, all to watch Wilfred Brimley uncomfortably walk through scenes and climb up ladders. Also, there’s a power source that the forces of evil want, although we’re not sure why.

I understand that special effects for TV weren’t quite up to calibur that they are now, but the special effects of this look like a still background setting with pictures of mythical animals taped on it.

In true Lucas-ian style, we are given characters that are meant to be cute and therefore, “funny”. However, as I discovered, there was very little difference in the upsetting scale between those characters and the ones meant to represent the evil side.

Case in point….

Evil. Sure – I get it.

DEAR GOD, DON’T LOOK INTO ITS EYES! Get that kid away from that thing!

Just back away slowly from the Demon Squirrel – he only wants you for your soul….

Sure, she’s evil – but at the same token, she’s far less threatening than anyone else in this movie (the Precious Moments figure of a main character not withstanding) but I also get the feeling she was super helpful that time I shopped the clearance sale at Bath and Body Works.

The only reason I posted this screenshot is because I was secretly hoping this toucan/pteredactyl unholy union would end up being a a more central part of the movie.  It wasn’t. Also disappointing was the fact it didn’t eat the Ewok with its big goofy mouth.

Meanwhile, in a picturesque cabin in the woods….

Wilfred Brimley takes a moment to heft himself out of his chair and not talk about diabetes. He’s curmudgeonly and has no place for others in his life….or his oatmeal infused heart.

Did I say curmudgeonly? Don’t let the whittled flute fool you – there’s a scene where he kicks out the most precious child alive to starve and/or get eaten by a hastily  thrown together special effect.

“Being alone isn’t so bad…I grew a beard just so I’d have someone to talk to.”

Our bland little heroine is tricked by the song of a beautiful princess and a magic white horse.  Maybe our more cynical age would make this an eye rolling moment, but I’ll tell you this.  Had this happened to me, I would have totally fallen for it.

…and it turns out to be the evil witch, who kidnaps the little girl and makes off for a super evil castle that has no light, no plumbing, and no real floor plan.

It should be noted that  no one on Endor is teaching kids the whole “Stranger danger” lesson.

This is what the bad guys are after. After watching this movie, I have just as many answers for what it is, then had I just looked at a picture.

Meanwhile, the Ewok, a Demon Squirrel and Wilfred Brimley go to rescue the kid and use dialogue that narrates everything we’re seeing.

“Oh look, water.”

End scene.

 

Here’s one thing that this movie felt was none of our business: our villains (i.e. Night Manager of Bath and Body Works and the rejects from Lord of the Rings) don’t really have a clear objective.  They have a glowy lantern thing, they don’t know how to work it.  They kidnap a five year old expecting her to know how to work it. So the Manager and the little girl are thrown in prison until they figure what they’re doing.

Remember the trash compactor scene from Episode IV? Its like that but if you take away the action, or the urgency or the motivation, or even the interest to find out what happens next.

Meanwhile Wilfred Brimley lumbers from scene to scene – trust me, they weren’t paying him enough to run.

There’s a weird game of poker being played that’s meant as a “comedy” scene.

I can’t stare at these face and be moved towards laughter.  Its just not going to happen. You didn’t see Peter Jackson pulling this.

And just in case you were concerned that they only shot this movie in someone’s basement or someone’s backyard, here’s a shot of Ewoks running next to a very realistic painting of a castle.

Also a evil horsemen and his evil horse who may not have been informed that they are in a made for TV Ewoks movie and not an actual Star Wars movie.

The villains of this are understandably perturbed that there trip back home was but a small detour and here they are back again battling low rent Teddy Ruxpins.

Also annoyed is Wilfred Brimley, who’s fisherman’s hat says he had a fishing trip lined up, but was called back to set at the last minute.

“I had fish to catch and oatmeal to eat.  They didn’t pull this crap on Cocoon II.”

“I demand to lounge for the rest of the movie. This getting up business is for you young folks.”

KILL THEM WITH FIRE.

The battle ends with the villains being burned to a crisp by a Eddie Bauer camping lantern and Wilfred Brimley and child boarding a spaceship. Where are they going? None of our business.

Perhaps to another galaxy far, far away in a painting a long time ago.

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FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: Beverly Hills Madam (1986)

 

 

 

 

 

Folks, there’s nothing more than I enjoy than over the top 80’s grandeur that fits neatly in a TV screen, which Beverly Hills Madam has in spades.Champagne in chilled decanturs! Bejeweled shoulder pads! Floor length furs! Sheer white nylons!

So put on your best fluffy slipper pumps and strap in.

Actress extraordinaire Faye Dunaway IS the Beverly Hills Madam and she runs a tight ship. She employs the blonde from Bosom Buddies, Flash Gordon’s girlfriend and…wait for it…Robin Givens.  Time to enjoy that chilled Shasta soda.

We’ll not only watch and see the trials of running a top Beverly Hills escort service, but we’ll also see the career trajectories of these girls.  One’s got the seniority, one’s fresh off the wagon, one’s in school and one’s black.  This movie has layers.

We open on Lil Cummins. She’s fierce, she goes shopping, she wears color coordinated separates.

She has lunch with her most experienced show pony, who’s come with some bad news. She’s getting married and out of the game.  I immediately recognized her

 

from one of my all time favorite movies….

Dale Arden from Flash Gordon? After he conquered Mongo, did they realize it just wasn’t going to work out? Is that why she works for Faye Dunaway?

Meanwhile this fresh faced kid has just come to LA. She’s lost and upset. So naturally….

Faye Dunaway’s recruitment skills are amazing. She’ll happily take you to the Sunset Strip and give you an aggressive sales pitch at the same time.

Seriously, its impossible to walk down the streets of LA WITHOUT being offered a job.

Meanwhile, we have Robin Givens being scoped out…

Its stressed that the Beverly Hills Madam does lots of background checking before handing her girls off to them. You have to – there’s a lot of creeps out there.

Any second thoughts?

Eh – he’s probably fine.

Let’s say you’ve been in the high class prostitution industry for awhile and you meet someone in high class society…

A slight occupational hazard is your fiancee introducing you to someone you’ve already slept with.

“Look, in the six weeks that we’ve known each other and gotten engaged, she would have surely said something!”

Weirdly, I think LEGO Friends makes this exact same playset.

Yep.

Robin Givens isn’t just a high class prostitute. She’s got DREAMS.

Also, I like this arty shot of us looking in a reflective mirror at a girl who doesn’t know that despite her potential for greater things, it just ain’t gonna happen.

Meanwhile in the City of High Class Failure, Flash Gordon’s girlfriend deals with life’s disappointments by seducing a delivery guy from a liquor store.

Since when do liquor stores do deliveries? What kind of magical time was the 80s anyway?

Faye Dunaway’s idea of a job orientation is to send her to Captain Kangaroo lookalike for personal evaluation. This movie found itself a new bottom in the Creepster Basement.

Flash Gordon’s girlfriend comes to beg for her job back despite being broken hearted and a budding alcoholic. Thankfully, Faye is in a good mood and happened to be rehearsing for her role in On Golden Pond.

She’s ready to go back to work. I know she is, because she keeps a liquor bottle next to her makeup.

Its makeover montage time!

She doesn’t know it but Julia Roberts is taking notes on this performance. The notes being “Make any face but this.”

Wait, one of the girls is pregnant?Who saw that coming?!?!?

Also, I didn’t know the dress code of the 80s prostitute was “Second Grade Teacher.”

The new girl has her first job – some father hired her for his son who just turned 18.

Aaaaaaaand this movie just went down in the Creepster Basement and discovered another flight of stairs going even further down.

If you had asked me to describe a Beverly Hills madam’s bedroom, I would have never guessed something out of a JC Penney catalog. So many frills and plaid.

“Wait a second – I’m having sex for money?!?!? But that’s just cheap and degrading! Why didn’t anyone tell me!”

“What? A guy who is using me for my body might not treat me well? Well, this is just unexpected!”

Flash Gordon’s girlfriend comes back with a vengeance and wrestles power away from Faye Dunaway becoming the new Beverly Hills Madam. The last thing we see is her answering the phone and booking girls that she doesn’t have, given that the ones on staff have all quit over creative differences, gotten pregnant or murdered.

Faye just stared into the mirror and saw her career sliding away…quietly into the night as if her Oscar nomination never happened.

“My sister? My daughter? How did it go again?”

Beverly Hills Madam – thank you for teaching me on how to live and love again.