Lady Liberty

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Ghostbusters II was a pretty lame movie, but it’s hard to argue with the film’s choice of the Statue of Liberty as the symbol angry New Yorkers could rally around. It’s such a wonderful, and apt, symbol of America that even a silhouette view is enough to make you feel good about our country and its meaning for the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free..

It’s Why He’s Han Solo

Harrison Ford is 71 years old.  In June, his ankle was broken by a door on the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s ship.

There’s some bittersweet humor in Ford’s injury, because in the original Star Wars trilogy the Millennium Falcon was viewed by everyone except Han Solo as a piece of intergalactic junk.  There was always a question about whether the light drive or the shields would work, and Solo and Chewbacca and R2D2 spent hours working on the ship and trying to tie down some loose circuit or faulty system.  The fact that a malfunctioning door in the Millennium Falcon broke the ankle of the actor who plays Han Solo therefore is ironic indeed.

But here’s the thing:  Ford is back on the set after only two months, and filming has resumed.  Ford was recently seen on the red carpet at some event and was walking without a limp or any assistance.

Speaking as a 50-something guy who is still somewhat gimpy after toe surgery six months ago, I’m stunned at what Ford has done.  For a 71-year-old guy to bounce back so quickly from a broken ankle is nothing short of amazing.  It just shows why Harrison Ford was the perfect Han Solo — and also the perfect Indiana Jones, for that matter.

The new Star Wars movie, featuring all three of the actors who created the iconic characters of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker, is set for release on December 18, 2015.  Mark your calendars!

 

Keeping Track Of Uncle Mack

10502429_944538671533_2387090454819837848_nFacebook obviously has its faults, but it’s got one huge virtue — it makes it so much easier to keep track of what your friends and family members are doing.  Take Uncle Mack, for example.  What’s the lawyer/saxophonist/actor/occasional Webner House contributor in the family up to?  It turns out he’s been working on a film called The Orangeburg Massacre.  Calhoun ‘da Creator’ Cornwell is the motivating force behind the movie, and his Facebook page has lots of information about it, including the photo above in which Uncle Mack is prominently featured.  A trailer for the film is due in the near future, and I’ll post it when I see it.

The Orangeburg Massacre is the name given to the incident in which South Carolina Highway Patrolmen opened fire on students at South Carolina State College, who had been protesting in an effort to achieve desegregation of a bowling alley.  Three African-American students were killed and and 27 people were wounded in the shooting, which occurred on February 8, 1968 — more than three years before the much more well known Kent State shootings.  Does anyone doubt that the relative notoriety of the two incidents has at least some relationship to the race of the students who were victims?  It is wonderful that a film is being made about the Orangeburg Massacre, 45 years later.

Some people retire and do nothing except work on their tans and frequent Early Bird specials at local restaurants; others use their newfound free time to explore new interests and expand their horizons.  Uncle Mack is squarely in the latter camp, and I think what he is doing is pretty cool. I don’t know anything about the movie or his role, but I am proud of his willingness to tackle it and, we can hope, contribute to greater awareness of a shameful, racist chapter in American history.

Goodbye To Robin

News outlets are reporting that Robin Williams has died, of an apparent suicide.  The actor and comedian, who was only 63, evidently had been battling severe depression.

Williams became a big star on the TV show Mork and Mindy, and over the next four decades he had a busy career in stand-up comedy, in movies, and as the voice for animated characters.  Although many lauded his movie roles, both comic and serious, I always thought that Williams’ true medium was in his stand-up routines — his riff on Scotland and golf, below, is a classic — and he was absolutely brilliant as the voice and motivating spirit behind the manic genie in Disney’s Aladdin.

We tend to idolize Hollywood stars, musicians, and other cultural figures, and think that because they are rich and successful they must have wonderful lives.  Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case — they are human like the rest of us, and they also often wrestle with their inner demons.  It’s tragic that someone like Robin Williams, who brought joy and laughter to millions, had to struggle with his own issues of depression, and it’s sadder still that he apparently lost that battle.  Although we no doubt will hear about how the world has lost a titanic talent over the next few days, the real loss is that experienced by Williams’ family, who now have a gigantic hole in their lives that can never be filled.

No Good Summer Movies

Jaws was released on June 1, 1975.  Taut, believable, and  brilliantly acted, telling the story of a gigantic great white shark that terrorized a resort town and then coldly set out to kill the men who were hunting it, Jaws was perfect fare for the summer.  Anyone who saw it in a theater with a big screen, with the iconic “dun-dun, dun-dun” music playing and letting you know to prepare yourself for the awful carnage that was going to begin at any moment, will never forget it and always feel a thrill when they think of it.

Summer used to be the big season for movies.  You could relax in air-conditioned comfort, enjoy the movie, and practice the hinge move on your girlfriend in a darkened room.  And Hollywood always seemed to deliver at least one great movie that ran throughout the summer.  Whether it was Jaws, the original Star Wars movies, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, or Animal House, every year there was at least one can’t miss movie that everyone was talking about.  Watch any of those films, or the other summer blockbusters that you remember, and you’ll see well-made films that stand the test of time.

Last weekend Kish and I decided a trip to the movies was a good idea, so we checked the roster at the nearby multiplex.  Another Transformers movie.  Another X-Men movie.  A silly comedy, Tammy.  A remake of a TV series, 22 Jump Street, that we never watched in the first place.  Edge of TomorrowThink Like A Man Too.  And others, equally forgettable.  And this weekend, the big premiere is of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — another remake, one that the previews indicate is full of computer-generated scenes of rampaging apes.  We yawned and decided to pass — and we’re not alone.  With these lame offerings, is anyone really surprised that Hollywood receipts are way down this summer?

In the past, Hollywood at least seemed to make an effort to deliver summer movies that were new and exciting, well-written, well-acted, and well-made.  Now, it offers a steady diet of remakes and movies that rely heavily on formulas and special effects, explosions, and groin shot humor.  If Jaws were released this summer, it would stand out among this tired and uninspired fare like LeBron James at a junior high school game.

C’mon, Hollywood.  At least try!

The Underrated We’re The Millers

I first saw We’re The Millers when I was on a long flight and it was one of the movie options.  I’d heard of the film, but that was about it.

I watched the movie rather than read my book, and to my delight it was hysterical.  In fact, I’d say it was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years.  It’s a comedy, so it’s silly and implausible, but it really delivered some big laughs as I endured the long flight.  The movie, which stars Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and Will Poulter tells the improbable tale of a desperate small-time drug dealer who recruits an ersatz family to pose as a boring all-American family on an RV trip to help him get a huge delivery of marijuana over the U.S.-Mexican border.

When you watch a movie on an airplane, a little punch-drunk from traveling, you always wonder whether it’s as good as your on-board reaction indicates.  So, when We’re The Millers showed up on HBO, it was with trepidation that I decided to watch it again — and I was glad to see that it was as clever and humorous as I thought.

I’m betting that We’re The Millers is one of those movies that becomes an under-the-radar icon — much like Office Space, which also featured Jennifer Aniston.  It’s chock full of memorable scenes and painfully accurate takes on modern life, the kind of movie that you quote to your friends to make a point.  The haircut scene, in which the Jason Sudeikis character describes the kind of haircut he wants, is itself worth the price of a DVD rental.  Watch it on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

Reimagining Star Wars

When we last saw Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, they were on a forest moon, celebrating the death of the Emperor and the downfall of the Empire, surrounded by happy Ewoks and the ghosts of Yoda, Darth Vader, and Obi Wan Kenobi.

Next year, they’ll be back.  The new installment of Star Wars begins filming in a few weeks, and all of the original cast members, including Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, as well as the actors who played Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO, will be back.  They’ll be joined by some new folks as well as the actor who plays the distasteful boyfriend character on Girls, who apparently will be a villain.  Obviously, the story will take place years after the end of Return of the Jedi.

When George Lucas decided to make The Phantom Menace, he was taking a risk in reinvigorating a beloved and colossally popular movie franchise — but the risk involved in reintroducing the familiar characters from the original Star Wars movies in this latest feature is even greater.  What has happened to Han and Leia?  Did they get married and have kids, or did something happen to keep them apart?  Do any of the characters die?  Whatever happens, people will be second-guessing the story, and the fact that this new film won’t be directed by George Lucas is just going to increase the scrutiny.

I loved the original Star Wars films and fondly remember watching the first movie at the old University Flick theatre next to the Ohio State campus and then going back to see it again and again.  I’m looking forward to being reintroduced to some of the most iconic movie characters of all time, but I’m warning new director J.J. Abrams — handle with care.