Big Trouble in Little China vs. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

I’ve heard it said that 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China was ahead of its time. It introduced American audiences to Asian mysticism and style of filmmaking before they were ready to embrace them in a big-budget action film. With an estimated budget of $25 million, it only earned $11.1 million in the United States. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is often cited as receiving the credit that Big Trouble in Little China deserved. That 2001 film told a fantasy story rooted in Chinese culture, and it had a worldwide gross of $213.5 million on a $17 million budget.

But I would argue that if any film is the natural heir to Big Trouble in Little China, it’s 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. That film left both of the other films in its dust, earning a whopping $654.3 million on a $140 million budget. Continue reading

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What About Bob? What About Chiasmus?

When I get an idea for a Cinematic Chiasmus, I get excited about it because it’s a chance to look at a film in a way that no one has ever done before. A few months ago, the good folks at Latter-day Chiasmus featured one of my Cinematic Chiasmus articles on their Facebook page, and then they asked me to take a look at a certain film to see if it works as a chiasmus. That film is What About Bob?

I had never done anything like that before. I had never tried to analyze a film that I didn’t have a good feeling about. I figured this would be a good example to see if I could actually force this model to work on any film or if it could be objectively shown to fail to work on most films.

I’m going to do something really different this time. Spoiler alert: What About Bob? is not a chiasmus. It has a few parts that match up nicely, but not enough to get anywhere close to a perfect chiasmus structure. And so it winds up looking really weird and disjointed when I try to impose this type of analysis on it. For this reason, I have set up a color coordination for it to show the four ways in which individual scenes match up (or fail to match up):

Green – The two events on both sides of the film match up perfectly.

Red – The event does not correspond with anything else.

Orange – One event matches up with another that’s out of order.

Blue – One event matches up with another that’s on the same side of the chiasmus.

I’ve also included some helpful commentary below many of the points, especially in the first half, to explain my reasoning for my use of the colors and what to expect further on. With all of that said, let’s see how What About Bob? stacks up. Continue reading

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The Dynamic Do-Over

The LEGO Batman Movie looks to be a dynamic do-over for the Dynamic Duo. And thank goodness for that. I loved Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and I certainly don’t mind a dark interpretation of the World’s Greatest Detective. But I don’t think anyone is ever going to make a better solo Batman film than 2008’s The Dark Knight, so it’s time to start thinking outside the box. And if the trailers are any suggestion, it looks like that’s exactly what The LEGO Batman Movie is doing.

It’s giving us the Robin we’ve always wanted. He’s the exact opposite of Batman – colorful, naïve, and goofy. Let’s talk about how we got to this point and why I’m looking forward to a lighthearted Batman film done right. Continue reading

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What Makes My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic a Surprisingly Amazing Show

As a father of several young children, I get exposed to a lot of great entertainment that I never would have watched otherwise. Transformers: Rescue Bots, Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated, and Octonauts are all surprisingly engaging in their own unique ways. But the show that really takes the cake, offering refreshingly complex stories and sound moral lessons, is none other than My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

I know, with a name like that you’d think it would be a complete waste of time. Just a puff of sing-songy nothingness drenched in sunshine and rainbows. But that’s not what this TV show is at all.

It’ll take a while to describe everything that makes My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic work so perfectly, so let’s start hoofing it! Continue reading

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11 Things I’ve Come to Like About Superman III

Superman III is one of those movies that is really hard to pin down. It’s not good, but it’s not terrible, either. I can’t fault it for daring to try something new and be really creative. I liked the movie when I first saw it as a kid, but over the years I heard all sorts of negative things about it, and I came to think that it was a total letdown, especially after the soaring successes of the first two films in the series.

But I recently gave Superman III another chance to win me over, and I was surprised by how much I found myself enjoying it. Here are 11 things I’ve come to like about Superman III that I hadn’t liked about it before. Continue reading

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10 Best Film Trends from the Obama Years

Barack Obama’s second and final term as President of the United States is coming to an end this week, so right now is an appropriate time to talk about the best trends we saw in the realm of films during his tenure. This is an interesting exercise to do with any president in the past century, especially ones who served for eight years and, thus, had a longer amount of time to influence or reflect the overall mood of the country.

Let’s jump right into it and count down the top 10 film trends from the Obama years! Continue reading

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Carrie Fisher vs. Margot Kidder

Carrie Fisher and Margot Kidder have a lot in common. They both played iconic characters in extremely popular movie series in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. They were also diagnosed with bipolar disorder and turned to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to cope with their manic conditions. They both hit rock bottom at one point and were able to channel it into something positive.

Let’s consider how the actresses who brought larger-than-life characters to the big screen in Star Wars and Superman: The Movie handled their roles and dealt with crippling mental illness

First and Best

Margot Kidder's Lois Lane is still the best.Kidder and Fisher made such a huge impression with their iconic roles as Lois Lane and Princess Leia, respectively, there was really nowhere else to go but down from there. They excelled in those roles. In Superman: The Movie, Kidder gave the definitive Lois Lane portrayal that still has not been topped in film or television. She’s a bit scatterbrained but she is also forceful and inquisitive, like a good reporter should be. She’s tough while also easily falling into the role of a damsel in distress for Superman to rescue every so often. She rides the line of being the perfect foil to Superman and Clark Kent while also believably not questioning the fact they could be two different people.

Carrie Fisher knocked it out of the park as Princess Leia in Star Wars.Fisher’s Princess Leia perfectly captures the spirit of the original Star Wars film. At first, she seems like a classic royal damsel in distress, but as soon as she starts mouthing off to Darth Vader we know she’s not some submissive lamb going to the slaughter. She’s got an attitude, and she’s not afraid to exert her authority. She’s still vulnerable and afraid, such as during the scene with the syringe-wielding droid. But she’s also resourceful and brave, such as during the prison escape. It’s impossible to think of anyone else embodying all of those qualities so effortlessly as Fisher.

Strong Seconds

Margot Kidder is even more romantic in Superman II.The second films in the Superman and Star Wars series introduced quite a bit more romance, and the female leads certainly rose to the occasion. In Superman II, Kidder’s Lois has serious suspicions about Clark being Superman, and when he finally confirms her suspicions he can’t hold back anything else from her. He lays it all out for her and the two make love after he gives up his superpowers to be with her. She also gets to see him at his lowest point, getting beaten up and humiliated by a bully before rising from the ashes and returning to greatness with his powers restored. The ending is a bit of a copout, making her forget everything she had learned in the film. But it’s still a wonderfully acted scene and a fantastic role.

Carrie Fisher had an even more dramatic role to play in The Empire Strikes Back.The Empire Strikes Back sees Fisher’s Leia slowly but surely fall for the charms of the smooth-talking Han Solo. She fights and fights her feelings, but she can’t help falling in love with him. She gets to see the aftermath of Han’s suffering at the hands of Darth Vader. And then she has to say goodbye to Han in one of the best scenes in the film as he’s lowered into the Carbon Freezing Chamber. The film ends with her in suspense about whether or not she’ll ever be able to see her love again.

Third Wheel

Margot Kidder is barely in Superman III.The three big takeaways from the actresses’ third appearances in their respective series are bikinis, off-screen action, and love triangles. Lois shows up for just a few minutes at the start of Superman III to flaunt a skimpy red bikini top as she announces she’s going on vacation to Bermuda. At the very end of the film, she shows up just one more time bragging about her adventures in the Caribbean and what a great story they’re going to make. She also discovers that Clark’s high school sweetheart, Lana Lang, is now working at the Daily Planet, setting up a love triangle.

Princess Leia gets into a more exposed costume in Return of the Jedi.Leia has quite a bit more screen time in Return of the Jedi than Lois did in her third outing. She gets captured by Jabba the Hutt and is forced to wear a gold bikini for the rest of the first act. Later, she befriends an Ewok on Endor and we don’t see her for some time until she’s already tamed an entire village of Ewoks. She must have had quite an adventure off screen to win the trust of all of those cute, furry creatures. At the very end of the film, she tells a jealous Han that Luke is her brother, resolving that particular love triangle.

May the Fourth Be with Youth

Margot Kidder looks much worse for the wear in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.There’s no shame in getting old. No one stays young and beautiful forever, and actors and actresses live and die by their looks. That’s a big component of how they get roles. So saying that it was a bit of a shock seeing Kidder and Fisher in their most iconic roles the fourth time isn’t meant to disparage them. They both looked noticeably older and weary. Kidder returned in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace just four years after her previous appearance in Superman III. But she looked considerably worse for the wear. She lacks the old spunk of the Lois we knew and loved in the first two films, and she just looked tired and old.

Leia is back, older and wiser, in Star Wars The Force Awakens.Fisher certainly had a better excuse for the change in her looks between films. It had been 32 years since her last appearance as Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi when she showed up once more in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She has a matronly quality, but there’s no disguising she doesn’t have the same chemistry she once had with costar Harrison Ford. She looks sad and vulnerable in most of her scenes.

Hitting Rock Bottom

And now I’m going to veer into the more personal and tragic sides of these women’s lives. In 1996, Margot Kidder had been working on her autobiography for three years when her computer got infected with a virus. All of her work on her book was lost. Driven into a manic state, she ran away from her home and was found in someone’s yard four days later. She had to receive psychiatric treatment, but it looks like that helped her through that dark period in her life because she hasn’t suffered a repeat of that mental breakdown since.

In 1985, Carrie Fisher had been struggling for months to go cold turkey off her increasingly dangerous drug use. But one day she accidentally overdosed on a number of legal drugs, such as sleeping pills and prescription medication, and had to go to the hospital. She thankfully survived that ordeal and wound up turning it into a positive experience by incorporating it into her semi-autobiographical book Postcards from the Edge.

Down to Earth

Margot Kidder is alive and well, even though we don’t see much from her in Hollywood. It was always a pleasure to see her show up as a guest star on various Superman-related shows, such as Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Smallville. But other than that, she’s just not the star she once was for such a brief moment.

Carrie Fisher has had a somewhat higher-profile career after Star Wars, including a recurring role in Family Guy, appearances in lesser-known Tom Hanks films like The Man with the Red Shoe and The ‘burbs, and, of course, an absolutely hilarious cameo as a family therapist in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. She also became a solid writer, polishing all sorts of movie and TV scripts over the years. Her death will add an extra dose of poignancy to the upcoming Star Wars Episode VIII. It’s nice to see both of these actresses come to terms with the roles that made them famous, even as they overcomplicated their already-challenging lives.

I don’t envy any actor or actress. Their lives must be unbearably stressful, always worrying about what audiences will think of them and whether their next film will be a hit or a career-ending flop. Add in bipolar disorder, depression, and drugs, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Margot Kidder and Carrie Fisher got to soar to the stars and be stars, but in the end they had to come back down to Earth. I’m glad they overcame their drug addictions and seem to have found some kind of peace late in life.

This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.

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