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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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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The Apple (1980)

Usually I like to approach my films to current events, time of year or what’s currently playing at your local cineplex. Given that this is a flashy 80s musical extravaganza with a board to the head message, it dawned on me that there are somethings that are just fitting for any moment in life. And so, I sat down with The Apple.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I give you a taste…

I think we can all agree that 1994 was a grim year for music. This movie was a warning and we all ignored it. This is how Ace of Base happens.

Should you need a quick recap of the plot, here it is, courtesy of Wikipedia…..

Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart), two youths from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada, travel to America to take part in the 1994 Worldvision Song Festival. Despite being the most talented performers, they are beaten by BIM (Boogalow International Music) and its leader, Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal), who use underhanded tactics to secure a victory. The duo are approached by Mr. Boogalow to sign to his music label, but soon discover the darker side of the music industry. Bibi is caught up in the wild lifestyle BIM offers, while Alphie risks his life to free her from the company’s evil clutches. He eventually convinces her to run away with him and the pair live as hippies for a year (and produce a child) before being tracked down by Mr. Boogalow who insists Bibi owes him ten million dollars. However, the two are saved by the Rapture, and all good souls are taken away by Mr. Topps (aka God).

Yes, you read the last part of that correctly. Having gotten down by the music business, the Rapture comes and everything is right with the world.

Frankly, there is not one thing wrong with this film. There, I said it and I’d say it again.

 Don’t let this movie fool you. It may tell you that these two fresh faced young’ens are from Canada and that they’re visiting New York, but there’s nothing but interior shots of Germany. The film takes your imagination and takes liberties. But you will thank it for it later.

Nope, not Germany. America. When in doubt, tell yourself, its America.

I don’t know much about the music industry. I’ve read the memoirs, seen the interviews and listened to crappy albums made by artists who were just trying to fill out the last of their record contracts (I’m not going to name names, I’ll just say that one example rhymed with R.E.M.)

Here’s what I do know, and its mostly thanks to this movie. Your magical folk music may stir up the masses, but if you let a record company dress you in red leather, theres just no boundaries of where you’ll go.

Meet your new boss, kids. He’s going to tell you when your single isn’t “radio friendly”.

Not gonna lie…their “corporate disco” is actually better than their folky entry into the world.

Plus, I really want her silver jumpsuit.

Which looks even better on a man. People in the fashion industry are failing by not convincing the Middle America man of today that this is a acceptable and practical look for the man on the go.

I’m going to intersect here, that this movie had an amazing musical number which involved Old Testament theology and a catchy dance tune that commanded the cast members to dance. No film has dared to attempt this and none will ever reach the heights that this did.

She’s taking a bite of an apple, folks. I dare you to find a better way of teaching the origins to sin to a congregation.

So how far does this symbolism take us?
The head of the label…could it be…SATAN?

Well played, movie. Well played.

Frankly, I think this movie is a little confused on the message. Yes, Satan is bad. And the general train of logic would dictate that if he gives a thumbs up to something, its a red flag that you should stay away from it. However, the music is catchy, there’s glitter everywhere, the choreography is just a treat for all the senses – and then the movie makes you feel bad for wanting to do a DIY musical extravaganza in your apartment.

Also a musical orgy happened. It was incredibly catchy.

“If you really wanted a path of righteousness, you’d come organize a folk fest in the park with me.”
“Disco’s not gonna last forever! Satan is lying to you and doesn’t want you to know about Coldplay!”
Remember back in 1994 where you couldn’t hang out in a park without a record label paid security guard busting your chops? 
God, as usual, saves the day, which means you are free to hold Coachella at your local neighborhood park.
And in case you doubted me….
The Rapture does happen and takes the shape of a Buick Skylark. The music is actually pretty good although you can’t really dance to it. Well, you can, just save your disco moves for another party.
So, The Apple. I learned that people just really want folk music. Or did I miss something?

For Your Consideration: Temptation (2013)

Everytime, I keep stumbling on random weird movies that Netflix suggests to me, I get excited and put it at the top of my list. And then one of my friend’s says, “Hey, did you know Tyler Perry’s Temptation” is available for streaming?”

So apologies to 1980s Deathstalker classic , but I can’t pass up the opportunity to delve into this.

 

Oh, this guy will have his day. I promise.

Before we go on, I’d like to point out that unless you’re Tolkien or writing something that’s so epic in scale, not to mention good, then you have license to have a long and pointless title. Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor does not have any of these factors going for it. Therefore, this movie will simply be known as Temptation.

The story involves a girl named Judith who dreams of being a marriage counselor, yet cheats on her husband with a guy who’s claim to fame is being “the third biggest social media inventor since Facebook.”

You heard that right. The third biggest since Facebook. So after Twitter, then MySpace, you can find this guy.

We open on a marriage counselor’s office, that resembles more of a high school principal or a legal office…

I guess if you want couples to point fingers and hash out their issues, you should make your environment as uncomfortable and sterile as possible.

The counselor starts up the story, “Let me tell you about my sister Judith…” so right away, we’re going to be in flashback mode. And immediately, I suspect Judith is the oneactually telling the story.

Soaccording to the flashback narration, Judith and her husband have known each other a long time. They’ve done lots of things together – like wearing khaki colors and riding buses.

We’re told that there’s a love for the ages….

They come from humble roots where happiness is in its truest long sleeved form.

According to the flashback, Judith and Brice make the transition from small town to Washington DC where she dreams of being a marriage counselor and he dreams of working in a small privately owned pharmacy.  Which everyone knows that DC is the epicenter for both careers.  He gets what he wants but she has to settle for working for Vanessa Williams, aka The Millionaire Matchmaker (aka NOT Patti Stanger).

Also, its time to talk about Kim Kardashian’s acting skills. Not that it deserves to be desconstructed…

“Degrees on the wall aren’t worth as much as labels on the back…”

Now say that line with no emotion, possible no understanding of the words and with the most nasal tone possible and now you can experience the Kim Kardashian Thespian Method.

Put them all together in a room, with the third most important social media inventor. Who isn’t being tempted?!?!?

Judith comes home to her very loving, very sympathetic, and the man who has known her since she was 12 after three weeks of living here and decides to be dissatisfied.

However, when Social Media Guy tends to a foot injury, temptation starts to happen.

This scene happened when her husband decides to try to romance his wife, naked and with a guitar.

I imagine the flashback narration to the crying couple went like this…

“So, Judith’s husband took off his clothes and lip synched to a song.  He put on a cowboy hat and had oiled up his chest to make it more appealing in the dim lighting of their low rent apartment.”

We need to address what the husband’s been doing during the day. He works at a small pharmacy and despite the fact he’s known his wife since he was 11, he has forgotten when her birthday is.

He wears sweaters and they have one customer…

..who is Brandi and she’s hiding a terrible secret. At least that’s the conclusion we’re told by the way of her wearing hoodies and dispensing wise-beyond-her-years advice.

His boss is a kindly sassy woman who recommends and freely hands out Valium, making her possibly the worst pharmacist ever, but a beloved resource to Washington DC.

Is it enough though? Not when the Third Most Important After Zuckerberg Inventor is taking you on a private jet to New Orleans.

He shoots, he scores.

Know what’s awkward? Bringing home your new boyfriend to meet your mom…and your husband.

“After she cheated on her husband, Social Media Inventor took her on a shopping spree, where she carefully picked out an outfit that would impress Kim Kardashian,” said the movie’s flashback narrator.

“How does this have to do with my husband’s inability to listen to me?” Wife Who Needs Counseling.

The real sin with these characters is that no one has the ability to put two and two together.  Judith feels that getting out of her boyfriend’s car in front of her house still counts as being covert, while her husband watches and is still surprised when he finds out his wife is cheating on him.

“Judith and the Social Media Inventor of the Ages had sex in a steamy tub with overly loud R&B music that was not added properly during post production,” – possible flashback narration dialogue.

During this very ham handed scene, we realize that Judith’s boyfriend is actually SATAN (after all, his home is ghoulish and has flames, right?) Someone should probably inform the extras in this scene.

“So Judith was sandwiched in on a tiny couch next to the flames of hell, sucking down some kind of alchohol while a blonde lady looked on….”

Meanwhile, Brice goes to Brandy’s apartment and makes his move.  She backs away and says, “I have AIDS.”

Nothing will kill the mood more than that statement.

She also informs him that she was with the same Social Media Inventor (aka Satan) and therefore now has AIDS (by the way, SPOILER ALERT). So they do the logical thing….

“Quick! To the Capitol!”

“Or wherever wealthy social media inventors live!”

Brice charges up to him while Satan is sleeping…

…and throws them both out of an indoor window.

And then we switch back to present day, where Wife is left with this reaction.

“And that’s why you don’t cheat on your husband. Our time is up.”

The final scene in this mess of preachy nonsense is our intrepid marriage counselor hobbling to her local pharmacy.

Getting her medication from this familiar face as we discover it was Judith all along.

“Hey there! Here to pick up your AIDS medicine?”

“Have you met my perfect wife and son that I moved on from you with?”

And then Judith walks away and the movie makes us just watch her go as the scene…peters…out.

Overall, some very important lessons were had from watching Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confession of a Local Pharmacist’s Wife Who Contracts HIV. I learned that to never forget a spouse’s birthday, don’t ask Kim Kardashian to talk and whatever you do, don’t pick up your prescriptions from your ex-husband that you cheated on.