Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2017

The many memorable films and TV shows that came out in 2017 proved why the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genre dominated our minds. These modern-day gems stood out thanks to many factors like production values, f/x and acting. But more importantly due to smartly written scripts that allowed these productions to stand out and excel. These are the best films and TV shows of 2017 along with some honorable mentions.

Films

10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Episode 8 of the main Star Wars saga is its most controversial and divisive film. Despite its script and pacing flaws, the film had many merits and took the saga into unexpected directions.

9. TIE: Justice League/Thor: Ragnarok

This year’s final superhero flicks were great in their own ways. Justice League is a true guilty pleasure and wildly underrated. The epic team-up of DC’s greatest heroes was sloppy and erratic but deep down was a lot of fun. Meanwhile, Thor: Ragnarok was the most vibrant and fast-paced Thor film that put the heroic demigod through the wringer and teamed him up with the Hulk.

8. Get Out

Suspenseful and tense, Get Out exposed our current society’s racial fears in a groundbreaking way. The intelligent script kept us guessing about the plot’s many twists, while playing on racial misconceptions.

7. Blade Runner 2049

A brilliantly filmed sequel to the sci-fi masterpiece isn’t quite as good as Ridley Scott’s original, but it comes so close. Astonishing visuals and thoughtful themes stayed with you long after the film was over.

blade runner 2049 poster

6. Coco

Pixar did it again with this original (finally, enough of the sequels!) and beautifully animated tale about a colorful afterlife, family and remembrance that tugged our heartstrings so powerfully.

5. It

One of the best Stephen King adaptations ever is harrowing and downright frightening. But what made It so popular was its young character studies, as well as the performances from the film’s actors, including Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, the clown from hell.

4. War For the Planet of the Apes

This thought-provoking final film in one of the best film trilogies thoroughly examined the haunted and tortured soul of its main character, Caesar, the super intelligent ape. He was an eerily realistic CG and mo-cap creation, who carried the film with his moving personal battle to salvage his soul.

war for planet of the apes poster

3. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

The sequel packed more emotional punches than its heartfelt predecessor. Many characters went through intense personal arcs while the film itself was as charming, funny and thrilling as the first Guardians of the Galaxy.

GOTGV2 poster

2. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Smart, funny and exciting, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an amazing (corny pun intended) film comeback for the world’s greatest superhero. The first Spider-Man film in the MCU expertly captured the essence of Spider-Man, while modernizing the hero for today’s audiences.

spider-man homecoming posters

1. Logan

This masterful deconstruction of the superhero is a poignant and powerful swan song for Hugh Jackman in his role of Wolverine/Logan. More than a superhero film, Logan is also a dystopian, neo Western that displayed many motifs from the both genres to tell this heartwrenching tale of Logan’s final days. The film was so beautifully crafted thanks to career-defining performances by Jackman and Patrick Stewart as the wizened Charles Xavier. Part of the reason why Logan resonated with so many is because of its universal and relatable message about growing old and facing your end. Logan is a fitting finale for Fox’s X-Men Cinematic Universe.

Honorable Mentions: Alien: Covenant, Bright, Downsizing, It Comes At Night, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Kong: Skull Island, The Lego Batman Movie, Life, The Shape of Water, Split, Wonder Woman

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The Greatest Star Wars Hallmark Ornaments

As the mighty Star Wars merchandising/marketing avalanche invades, one of the most common and popular items standing out this holiday season are ornaments! Star Wars and holiday ornaments go hand in hand as a cool and popular way for geeks to revel during the holidays. Ever since Hallmark started producing them during the mid 1990s, they have created the best Star Wars ornaments. From the very first, single ornament released back in 1996 (the Millennium Falcon) the market has exploded with the large variety of Star Wars Hallmark ornaments. These are the best of that Hallmark has created:

Characters/Dioramas

10. Admiral Ackbar (2015): One of the best limited edition Star Wars Hallmark ornaments was devoted to the amphibian Rebel leader. The sculpt was a perfect reproduction of Admiral Ackbar.  

9. A Deadly Duel (2009): Despite the disrespect the prequels get, one thing everyone enjoyed was the climatic duel where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi battled Darth Maul. This ornament perfectly captured that thrilling moment in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

8. Luke Skywalker and Yoda (2006): This dual character ornament is the ideal blending of two characters since it represented Luke’s Jedi training on Dagobah and Yoda’s iconic teachable moments.

7. Chewbacca (1999): Everyone’s favorite Wookiee was one of the best solo character ornaments and fits perfectly on a Christmas tree. After all, Chewbacca’s from an arboreal world.

6. Han Solo to the Rescue (2012): This Star Wars Hallmark ornament of Han Solo in his cold weather gear atop a tauntaun just looks perfect hanging from a Christmas tree or even on your desk.

5. An Epic Vision, a Star Wars Celebration (2015): The best limited edition Star Wars Hallmark ornament is also one of the rarest and a true treasure. The sculpts eerily recreate Ralph McQuarrie’s famous pre-production art for the first Star Wars film.

4. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi (2005): Colorful and striking with flaring lava plumes, this ornament is a superb recreation of the epic final battle between the Jedi and his former apprentice. Features powerful dialogue and clashing lighsaber sounds.

3. Darth Vader (1997): The first Darth Vader ornament is still the best one. Lord Vader stands imposingly on a lit base with his glowing red lightsaber. It doesn’t get any better though future ornaments like the Rise of Lord Vader (2014) and the Darth Vader Peekbuster came close.

2. Yoda Peekbuster (2014): Hallmark first launched this motion sensor ornament in 2012 with a Darth Vader Peekbuster. The concept is simple, you walk by and the ornament would talk to you, warning you away from the presents. The Yoda Peekbuster is superior because the little green Jedi Master better captures the spirit of the holidays and can be thought of as an honorary elf.

1. The Adventure Begins (2007): This one is a bit of a cheat since it features a spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, but it’s a terrific diorama. It depicts the moment the Falcon departs from the Mos Eisley spaceport on Tatooine as it whisks off our Rebel heroes on a grand adventure that changes the galaxy. Not only does the Millennium Falcon’s engines light up, but John Williams’ legendary Star Wars theme blares from this ornament, which is a superb touch.

Ships/Vehicles

10. Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter (1999): This is a rather neat Star Wars ornament, with its best feature being the lit-up cockpit that reveals Darth Vader’s silhouette.

9. The Battle of Naboo (2001): This is the best miniature Star Wars ornament which features the Trade Federation’s starship flanked by tiny Naboo and vulture droid fighters. It was a novel concept for Hallmark and portended to greater Star Wars ornaments.

8.  The Death Star (2017): Incredibly, it’s the first time we’ve gotten a full-size ornament of the original Death Star. And it is wildly impressive thanks to sounds and lights that accurately depict the infamous battle station.

7. Slave I (2011): Boba Fett’s weird vertical spaceship gets some love from Hallmark with this ornament. As always, Hallmark went the extra step to faithfully recreate the look and sounds of the bounty hunter spaceship.

6. Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi Starfighter (2005): One of the best ships seen in the prequel films was well crafted by Hallmark. Striking due to its design and yellow coloring, the Jedi Starfighter is clearly one of the most underrated Star Wars Hallmark ornaments.

5. T-70 X-Wing Fighter (2016): Poe Dameron’s eye-catching X-Wing fighter with its distinctive black color sets this ornament apart from other X-Wing ornaments. If it lit up like the others it would have rated higher on this list.

4 Star Destroyer (2004): The last Star Wars Hallmark ornament that plugged into a Christmas tree socket depicts the famous opening moment in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope as the imposing Star Destroyer captures the tiny Rebel blockade runner.

3. Imperial AT-AT and Rebel Snowspeeder (2006): It can be argued that this is more of a diorama but the walker is so prominent it belongs in this category. The walker stands on a snowy base as a tiny Rebel snowspeeder is buzzes around its metal legs. The battle sounds nicely complement this ornament.2. X-Wing Starfighter (2017): This huge ornament improves upon the original X-Wing ornament that came out in 1998. Like the original it lights up but now has sounds and better detailing. This pricey ornament is part of a set that includes Vader’s TIE fighter and the Death Star. When put together the three of them recreate moments from A New Hope with sounds..1. Millennium Falcon (1996): The best Star Wars ship ornament just happens to be the very first one released by Hallmark in 1996. It’s one of the older ornament models that plugs into a Christmas tree’s light socket, but just look at the detailing. The Millennium Falcon looks so real with its dark grey hull, engine and cockpit lighting; this beauty has weight and heft. Thankfully, next year Hallmark will produce a newer version of the ship that made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs.

Walderman Rivera

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Is A Polarizing, Mixed Bag In The Star Wars Saga

This review for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is coming later than usual because I wanted to think about the film I saw on opening weekend before plunging ahead with words about its merits…and faults.

The first part of this review will be spoiler free and talk about the latest Star Wars film in general terms. The second half will discuss in more details my impressions, which will go into spoiler territory.

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi continues the saga of the universal struggle between good and evil in a distant galaxy. It takes place shortly after the last film where fledgling Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley), finds the long-lost Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a distant planet called Ahch-To. She wants to be trained and enlist Skywalker’s help in the struggle against the First Order, the despotic government that rose from the ashes of the Galactic Empire.

Meanwhile the ragtag group she belongs to, the Resistance, is in dire straits and on the run from the First Order. Its leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis), and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), are determined to wipe out the pesky Resistance once and for all and destroy Skywalker, who is the film’s titular character. This largely sums up the plot of Star Wars: The Last Jedi without giving anything away.

The eighth film in the main Star Wars trilogies is a mixed bag. There are so many powerful moments and unpredictable developments. These will resonate not only with fans, but with the overall saga. Admittedly, this film borrows elements from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but only superficially. Certain expected narrative beats never occur and the film left me guessing as to what would happen next. The unpredictable nature of the latest Star Wars film will leave viewers unsure about the fate of characters, which creates genuine tension. We genuinely wonder if certain characters will survive by the end of the film. The film also takes time to examine the Force, the mystical energy wielded by the Jedi and the bad guys. Unlike those stupid midichlorians, the Force in this film rightfully returns to its metaphysical roots as the film explores its nuances. For the eighth film in a franchise to be this unpredictable and out of the box is a testament to the skills of writer and director Rian Johnson.

Unfortunately, there are too many flaws in logic and gaping plot holes that cannot be waved away with a Jedi mind trick. As skilled as he is, Johnson failed to think through the plot. Too often, we keep asking “why did so and so do that? Why don’t they just do this and be done?” This is a problem Johnson displayed with his acclaimed (and overrated IMO) film Looper, where cool concepts were undone by flaws in narrative logic. Honestly, this makes me wonder about the quality of the new trilogy he will oversee.

Just as crippling is the film’s pace. It starts with a blast, but meanders in the middle and feels uneven, though the final 45 minutes are terrifically nail biting. Certain characters fly off on meaningless quests in scenes that could have used another pass in the editing room. Other characters are given well-rounded and satisfying arcs that allow them to grow and change. Others should have not appeared at all.

No matter where one stands with it, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a very polarizing film. It is unlike previous Star Wars films, which will disappoint many fans. On the other hand, story and character wise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi strikes bold new directions that anyone would have to admit bring new and much-needed wrinkles to the Star Wars saga.

Alright, this is the final warning for anyone who has not seen Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and does not want to be spoiled.

 

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Disney Buys Fox And Becomes An Entertainment Supergiant

We’ve all been expecting this for weeks with all the gossip and innuendo. Some salivated over the idea of an expanded Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), others feared the rise of a modern-day monopoly. Regardless of opinion, the Walt Disney Company has bought a significant portion of 21st Century Fox and in the process, regained the film rights to several Marvel Comics properties and now own several other intellectual properties. This is truly staggering news and a legitimate cause for celebration and concern.

To be clear, Disney has only purchased (for $52.4 billion) the film division, 20th Century Fox, the Fox TV shows, assorted channels like FX and National Geographic, and other divisions of Fox. These include Sky and a majority share of the Hulu streaming service, while Fox will retain its sports and news divisions.

MCU fans may feel that the biggest prize of the purchase has been the film rights to the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool, but those are just fringe benefits. Disney would have regained those rights even if Fox was sold to another party. Instead, Disney wants to have a significant film library for its coming streaming service and the Fox properties will provide that. In addition to the missing Marvel properties, Disney now owns several franchises and intellectual properties, which include: Planet of the Apes, Alien, Avatar, Titanic, Ice Age, and The Simpsons. Some of these IPs are a strange fit for Disney since the company is renowned for its family-friendly fare, but more adult offerings are not unheard of for the entertainment giant. Disney once owned Miramax, which produced mature films during its time with Disney. Also, Disney CEO, Bob Iger, assured fans that their Marvel films will explore R-rated offerings, which means that Deadpool should be safe for now.

But will Disney produce hard R-rated fare like the Alien films? They might, but it is possible that they may just sell the IPs to another studio to help recoup some of the mammoth cost of the sale. Other IPs like Avatar and Planet of the Apes should fit well with Disney. After all, Avatar has a heavy presence as a themed land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Planet of the Apes is an obvious addition to the same park.

Bob Iger also announced today the fate of the X-Men films. It was speculated before the sale was finalized that the X-Men films might remain in their own separate continuity or relegated to TV shows for the streaming service. Instead, Iger said that the X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four will be integrated into an expanded MCU from Marvel Studios. The Fantastic Four are an easy addition to the popular cinematic universe and their inclusion is to be celebrated because Fox’s attempts at Fantastic Four films have been terrible. However, the X-Men are a different matter. For the most part, the films worked and adding them to the MCU may make that cinematic universe too crowded. Their addition could take attention away from lesser-known Marvel properties that could have seen their day in the sun. Films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange and Ant-Man may not have been possible if Marvel Studios owned the X-Men back then. Will the big purchase mean that these kinds of films won’t be made in favor for the new mutants on the block? It is hard to imagine Marvel Studios releasing three films per year as it now does and a mutant film or two. This will certainly create superhero fatigue. Plus, how good will the MCU X-Men films be? Will they be hard hitting and successfully tackle the mature themes of bigotry that the current films do?

Right now, Marvel Studios has the task of recasting the X-Men, including Wolverine, and Hugh Jackman has stated that he will not return to the role. Luckily, the film studio has had a good streak when it comes to casting their superheroes. On the other hand, expect the current X-Men film universe to end. This does not mean that upcoming films like Deadpool 2, The New Mutants and X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be canceled. Those films are complete and will be released as planned. But a sequel to The New Mutants is unlikely and the “Dark Phoenix” story may be a fitting conclusion to the films. Another thing to consider is that the X-Men films, for better or worse, are associated with director Bryan Singer, who’s had problems lately with allegations of sexual abuse and unprofessional conduct on film sets. Ending the X-Men films and starting over fresh is Disney’s best option, with the sole survivor being the Merc With a Mouth. He may have a thin connection to the MCU like the Marvel TV properties do and be the snarky commentator of the film universe.

When the dust clears, Disney will have a monumental job of integrating all these properties and divisions into its entertainment empire. Will it be too much for them? Possibly. As mentioned before, it may be best for Disney to sell off some of its IPs or divisions or simply shut them down for the time being. Another thing to consider is will all this disperse the company and dilute it? Iger and his executives may believe they can handle, but they may have bitten off more than they can chew. We will not know for a while.

The most disturbing aspect of the mega purchase is the explosive growth of Disney. They now have their expansive tentacles in many parts of our lives and our entertainment. Under normal circumstances, this sale may have been opposed by the government, but that is unlikely these days. This may take years, but perhaps the company may be forced to get rid of many properties and divisions before they assume too great a control over our entertainment venue.

There are so many details that are unknown to the general public and we won’t know for some time. Until then all we can do is wait and keep an eye on new developments, which will be covered here as they happen.

To think it all started with a mouse.

José Soto

Quentin Tarantino’s F!*#@ing Star Trek

One entertainment news item that came out of left field lately has been about a new Star Trek movie. What was unusual about the news is that famed director and writer Quentin Tarantino pitched an idea for a new Star Trek film and might direct it. Today, Deadline reported that Tarantino will be heavily involved and part of his deal with Paramount Pictures and J.J. Abrams, who runs the movie series, is that the film be rated R. The shocker is that the film studio and Abrams agreed to this.

OK this is really out there for Star Trek and reflects the state of the franchise. This development will certainly upset fans clamoring for a return to traditional Star Trek. Already, many of these purists are up in arms over the radical departure taken by Star Trek: Discovery such as featuring a black, female lead, a potentially evil starship captain, and an openly gay couple. There was a mini-meltdown in the Internet over one episode where F-bombs were dropped in one scene. As shocking as it was to hear on Star Trek, it certainly was an attention grabber. Now imagine countless F-bombs and other types of swearing from the stars of a new Star Trek film.

Aside from foul language, an R-rated Star Trek film will revel in violence and possibly sex or nudity. All this is fine for most of us who can handle it, but is this the right direction for Star Trek? The franchise is noted for pushing the envelope but by exploring themes and making observations about our current society. And Star Trek: Discovery has been pushing the envelope in showcasing more adult fare such as the cursing, brief nudity and it is violent. It’s no wonder that the show is behind the pay premium wall of the CBS All Access streaming service. Actually there are stronger reasons for this, namely wanting to milk Star Trek fans, but that is for another post.

But why go this route? The answer is that Star Trek has to experiment and try new things. The franchise has been showing its age lately and something needed to be done to shake things up. Of course, this runs the risk of alienating die-hard Trek fans, but it seems as if there are not enough of them to support the franchise. As proof of this notion, Paramount will point to the disappointing box office of Star Trek Beyond. That film, which was the best of the rebooted films, was more of a traditional Star Trek, but it did not have legs. Meanwhile, Star Trek: Discovery has created some buzz with its edgier stories even though the series, as a whole, wildly deviates from the Star Trek formula.

Already, the news of Quentin Tarantino’s involvement is generating a lot of needed attention for Star Trek and that has the potential to pay off. Tarantino is a top-tier director, who is often nominated for Oscars, plus, he is a big Star Trek fan, unlike J.J. Abrams. On top of that, the frontrunner to write the film’s script is Mark L. Smith, who penned the acclaimed film The Revenant. These are reasons to be optimistic. Other genre films have recently gone into the R-rated club to great success like Logan or Deadpool. So perhaps fans are ready for an edgier Star Trek.

But there is also cause for concern. Zack Snyder and others at Warner Bros. tried presenting a darker and edgier DC Cinematic Universe but that did not work out well for those films. Many fans outright rejected the gritter takes on Superman and others, while the latest effort, Justice League, has not turned out to be the blockbuster. Many critics complained about how dark and dreary the films were since they are used to bright colors and lighter themes from superhero films. This same problem could befall an R-rated Star Trek film.

No matter what, a Star Trek film by Quentin Tarantino will be controversial and bold and it will alienate many fans much worse than the Abrams reboots have done. However, they could be better received. Just remember that Tarantino is an avowed fan, so as Seth MacFarlane does with The Orville, he may show the proper reverence and respect to the material. At this point, the franchise (and Paramount) has to take a chance and boldly go where no Star Trek has gone before.

Lewis T. Grove