No matter how many memes you throw at it or the revisionist history of The Clone Wars series, the prequels were a HUGE mess, an almost unwatchable mess.
The prequels need to be fixed. And that’s what I’m going to do.
A Tale of Two Padawans
You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
What We Have: The relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan is… fraught to say the least. They meet when Anakin is an annoying child and Obi-Wan is a teenager with an unfortunate haircut and by the time Episode II rolls around, Anakin is describing Obi-Wan as “like a father to [him].” Then Episode III overcorrects by trying to sell the “brotherly” angle and a little too hard. It just doesn’t work.
How We’re Fixing It: Make Anakin and Obi-Wan both padawans of Qui-Gon Jinn at the same time. I mean, Qui-Gon was already rebelling hard by taking on Anakin to begin with, having two padawans is just a small step up. Maybe it happens by necessity, with Anakin saving both Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon on Tattoine as a teenager or young twentysomething.
Then, throughout the trilogy, we compare and contrast Obi-Wan and Anakin more closely and on the same level. When Qui-Gon dies (and midway through Episode I this time as an Act 2 turning point), Anakin explodes with rage while Obi-Wan shoves it down and internalizes his grief. They lock horns when Anakin believes Obi-Wan isn’t even grieving at all until the latter finally lashes out with exactly how much he’s hurting.
This moment defines their entire relationship throughout the trilogy and defines them as characters. And it makes the final confrontation sting.
Shut Your Political Pie-Hole
I am the Senate
Emperor Palpatine, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
What We Have: Meandering, hard-to-understand scenes about alien politics that are barely explained. How much power does a senator have? How do their powers coincide with that of local rulers? Is Padmé ever conflicted between her duties as a queen and her duty as a Senator? What role do the Jedi have in government? It was never exactly fully explained.
How We’re Fixing It: Take a look at the original trilogy. How much government fits into it? We see a little – the Grand Moffs (Moves?) discuss dissolving the senate in the first movie, Tattooine is held under martial law, and Darth Vader has to awkwardly answer to middle-management.
That’s exactly how much government should be in the prequels. No trade federation, no senate, no politically radical Jar Jar Binks. We, the audience, do not need to see how the Galactic Senate fell and became the Empire in microscopic minutia.
The movies should focus on only a few things: the fall of Anakin Skywalker, the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan, Anakin’s romance with Padmé, and sweet laser-sword battles.
I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.
Anakin Skywalker Episode II: Attack of the Clones
What We Have: Putting aside wooden acting and a clunky script and sand-hatred, let’s take a look at who Anakin Skywalker is as a person. He goes from gawkish socially awkward teen-slash-twentysomething to a homicidal maniac in movie-seconds. He might be an ace pilot and a genius inventor (somehow), he honestly doesn’t have much of a character and things just seem to happen around him.
How We’re Fixing It: The movies already might possibly imply the vaguest little idea of it, so let’s bring it to the forefront. Anakin is unusually strong in the Force and we’ve seen in the past that the Force can influence the mind of others. While we’d only seen it work on “the weak-minded”, is it that much of a leap to imagine a very, very strong Jedi being able to manipulate the mind of anyone?
Imagine it: Anakin is charming and friendly and seems to have a Mary Poppins-like ability to get what he wants. At first, it’s for the good of others, to help other people and to have a good time. Sometimes it might be a little selfish, he gets the best table for his and Padmé’s dates, he makes sure his speeder is well taken care of at the valet. But slowly, it becomes more horrifying.
Palpatine takes Anakin under his creepy cloak wing and teaches the Jedi that not only does he have this power, but he can control it willingly as opposed to the accidental uses before.
He manipulates government officials. He makes Obi-Wan agree with him. He orders Padmé to stop arguing and to say that she loves him. In fact, he may have been manipulating her into loving him since the beginning.
Over the course of the trilogy, we see the charismatic Ferris Bueller-like character become Jessica Jones‘s Killgrave.
That is how you build a villain. George Lucas, pay attention.
A Love Triangle (But You Know, If It Must Be Done)
What We Have: What we have is an age-old question, “Why in the hey did Padmégo for tiny baby Anakin (awkward) when Ewan McGreggor is RIGHT THERE?!”
How We’re Fixing It: But if we apply the above point of her maybe being Force’d into loving Anakin, we have a good answer. But lest we forget that Padmé is Natalie Portman, one of the most beautiful actresses in our generation.
What if a part of what tears apart Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship is that Obi-Wan is in love with Padmé too? And now that Anakin and Obi-Wan are around the same age, it’s less awkard.
He sees them together and thinks Anakin doesn’t deserve her. He finds out about the Force manipulation and he gets angry.
This is what leads to the final confrontation, THIS breaks them apart. Obi-Wan learns that he too was being manipulated the whole time and that Anakin had knowingly done it.
The finale is a crushing cavalcade of emotion, anger, betrayal, and yes.
In the dark times before HBO/Starz/Showtime/Taco Bell/KFC/NASA told us what everyone looked like, bizarre fantasy book illustrations reigned supreme and this Russian cover for A Game of Thrones from the 90s is beautifully, horribly no exception.
Who even is that in the front? Arya? Joffrey with unfortunately-shaped armor that gives him ladylike curves? Is that supposed to be The Hound? Yoren protecting Arya from the Kingsguard? And who the heck is that ponce with a hat? Is that supposed to be a direwolf beside him because it looks like a husky with a mental deficiency.
Russia, you’re so strange.
2. Eragon – Italy
Apparently, Italy missed the memo that the first book is The Blue One and that it’s the second book, Eldest is The Red One but the confusion is understandable considering the dragon on the cover is name Saphira like sapphire like blue rock.
I’d also just like to point out that in the International Covers Gallery on his website, Christopher Paolini has pictures of his leather-bound copies of the series that look like they belong on your grandma’s bookshelf next to the 1984 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.
I like to call this “Ten Year Old Bilbo Takes a Power Nap” because, I mean, just look at it. Between the nightcap and the youthful, cartoony face beneath it there’s just a lot here that makes no sense, up to and including the battle axe. Sting? More like Smash! Maybe they confused him with Tyrion for a hot minute.
4. The Catcher In The Rye – Arabic
The original cover of The Catcher In The Rye is already kinda out there with its terrifying carousel Pale Horse Of Death thing going on (I still have nightmares of the giant poster in my freshman year English classroom), this one is. Um. It’s there.
Some other covers play up the hat or just go full abstract, but this one… this one looks like the kind of project I’d make in the third grade when we had to design new covers to go with our book reports. It certainly gives Holden Caulfield a reason to be so depressed and obnoxious. Just look at that hairline, you’d be whiny too!
5. Harry Potter – Korea/Japan
No, it’s not technically a cover, but it’s too amusing not to share.
I recently discovered in my adventures in NYC’s Koreatown that Harry Potter is actually split up into smaller, easier-to-carry novella-sized volumes since small books are much more popular there.
While it must be nicer to carry than the massive tree-chunks that were the later books, that means that the entire series is broken up into 23 volumes.
In Japan, there are only 19 books, much more convenient!
Harry Potter and the Alarming Reminder That He’s WAY Too Young To Be Putting His Life In Danger Like This (He Should Be Worrying More About Pokemon Cards Or Something)
Harry Potter and I Have No Idea What Is Happening Here
Harry Potter and Have They Ever Seen A Train Before, That Might Be the Ocarina Of Time?
Harry Potter and The Only Things Still Clean on Laundry Day
Harry Potter and IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE UMBRIDGE THEY DID NOT NEED TO MAKE HER WORSE and Also Why Are There Two Harry’s and Hermione Is Now Part House Elf Now, Cool and Everyone Is Wearing Ravenclaw Colors There’s So Much Wrong With This Help
(For f&@(‘s sake, Finland!)
Harry Potter and I’d Like To Point Out That Snake Has a Face
Anny messed up. Big time. Now she’s stuck with WISR, the most bitter and sarcastic android every programmed. Now they travel the stars, trying to save every robot they can – if they don’t kill each other first!
Read it and Weep is peak DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie, for those who never experienced this magic). It has the best of somewhere-in-Canada-or-California-Suburbia sets, not-bad-but-not-great acting, and a ridiculous concept that could only be dreamt up by a mouse-brained maniac.
In this film, a high-school aged girl, Jamie, “accidentally” publishes her personal diaries (thanks to some dubious direction from Mom) which becomes a mega blockbuster bestseller.
While I’d love to delve into the intricacies of the Hallmark movie level filmmaking, fabulously iffy writing, or… whatever it is she’s wearing here:
What I will be reviewing today is the accuracy of how they portray the world writing and publishing.
Sometimes Your Characters Will Talk to You and No, They Don’t Shut Up
One of the main elements of Read It and Weep is that Jamie and her wish-fulfillment character Isabella, or “Is”, are played by sisters Kay and Danielle Panabaker and they snip and sass and argue with each other constantly.
This is basically what a day in the life of a writer is. Getting into real actual out loud fights with these imaginary people until they tell you what they want to say.
Being An Author Is Just a Ton Of Work
Jamie is seen doing book signing after endless book signings, TV appearances, and just a load of parties rife with schmoozing and being friendly to annoying executives.
Being an author these days is a LOT of work. Most authors – even those with “Big Five” publishing houses! – have to do their own promotional work, schedule their own signings, and then are sent on lengthy book tours. Sorry, Jamie. This is just how it goes.
Backlash Is Inevitable
When everyone finds out what Jamie wrote, they are instantly mad at her, harassing her in school, vandalizing her author events, and making her life generally just kind of miserable.
Life protip:Do NOT do this. Do not write about your teachers or your parents or your friends or even places in your hometown. There will always be someone who be upset, and it’s generally pretty uncool. Even if you’re saying nice things, being put up on a pedestal isn’t exactly somewhere you want to be. You can probably sneak in your dog, though. Dogs have no shame when it comes to flattery and can’t write angry tweets with their lack of opposable thumbs.
As You Wish
“Is Saves the World” (the in-universe, megabestseller novel) is wish fulfillment. Any time Is comes across something daunting, dangerous, or something she just doesn’t like, she ZAPs away the problem and all is perfect and fine.
While this may seem unrealistic and short on anything resembling a plot, think about Twilight. Ender’s Game. Ready Player One. Or just about any book you can think of. They’re power fantasies, stories of ordinary people who rose above to become extraordinary. And these stories sell.
Even give the movie itself a think, what is it actually about? A teenage girl getting something every teenage girl dreams about: attention, power, stardom, to be heard. The movie in itself is a power fantasy, and I definitely had high hopes for becoming a blockbuster writer at 14 after this film!
The plot kicks off when a mysterious “they” finds out about Jamie’s contest-winning essay (which turned out to be several hundred pages of her illustrated diaries that somehow also got printed in the school newspaper which I guess kids care about now). The publishing company only gets mentioned once offhandedly and Jamie has a “handler” for her PR events and photoshoots.
In real life, 90% of books are discovered by “querying”, or writing a very specific letter to an agent. If that agent likes your letter, they will request a “partial”, or a part of your manuscript to read, or a “full request” which is the entire thing, and that’s pretty rare.
After that, your book gets shopped around to editors, publishers, and sometimes even other agents in the same house if they have a relationship with a publisher who might be interested.
Honestly, I think that would make a much more interesting story – at least to me. The story of how Jamie’s very personal words get twisted around to be this monster of a “bestseller”, how something “zappy” that caught the hearts and minds of a small town becomes the bland, vanilla, formulaic blah that will end up on the 50% off table at Barnes and Noble within a month.
But maybe I was the only tween who enjoyed rants about the finer points of the Oxford Comma.
Name in the Game
Let’s not forget the fact that Jamie is a minor. She’s 15 or 16 at most. Young enough that she couldn’t sign her own contracts (which is horrifying when you think about it, her parents pretty much signed her up for this harassment and mistreatment by her peers, way to go.)
So the fact that she doesn’t write under a pseudonym or even her initials – which many female authors do to begin with – is baffling.
Sure, the folks of her hometown know exactly who she is and what she’s written, that’s inevitable. But consider that we know for a fact that this is the mid-early days of the internet. Someone could easily Google her name and come up with her phone number and home address.
Sure, it might have taken some convincing to get herself to pick something that’s not Selene Lunesta Maximillion McAllisterCrowley, but it would be worth it. Not using a nom de plume, especially that young, is just asking for trouble.
It Also Has No Plot, Just Saying
Is comes across a big bad monster who is also the big bad cheerleader of her school. Is ZAPs the monster away. Is wins. Is gets the boy. Yay.
If you’ve paid even the smallest modicum of attention to this film, you’ll notice that this is basically the “plot” of the entire book, the Not Oprah interviewing Jamie even says so. (Her meltdown on that show would land her on “Top 10 Celebrity Freakouts” lists for at least a decade to come).
Were this the real world, a developmental editor would have sat her down and showed her a three-act structure chart from ‘go’, if her manuscript even got a partial request to begin with. There’s no way this kind of thing would fly, even in a Middle Grade novel.
Read It And Weep is not a bad movie, just wildly inaccurate. Authors do not end up on TRL, have to put in a lot more work, and “Is Saves The World” probably wouldn’t get very far on its own merits.
But I love this movie. It’s the most mid-00s film ever made (she has a tablet PC with a touch screen, but not her own blog for crispysakes!)
But it has a special place in my nostalgic little heart.
Have you seen this film or watched it after this breakdown? What did you think? Leave me a comment below!
Books vs Movies. Nothing divides the literary community deeper than speculating which mode of media shall reign supreme, an unending war of many bloody battles that begin and shall always end with “I liked the book better”.
But no matter what you believe, some books just can’t be movies.
For one thing, you lose out completely on any third-person impartiality, whether that be backstory, or worldbuilding, or non-cringey flashbacks. They’re meant to be longer forms of entertainment, several hours as opposed to the “few” of film and cramming all of that detail into a tiny chunk of time like a narrative space bag is bound to be problematic.
But studios still try even though they should leave some of these alone.
I know, I know, we’ve heard it before and a thousand other times that these movies were just plain terrible. I won’t delve into the why as so many others before me have. You know exactly what is wrong with this trilogy that should have never been.
But what exactly is it about this book that makes it just so unfit for the silver screen?
Well, for one thing, most of the most “cinematic” stuff happens off the page. The Battle of Five Armies? Was elsewhere. And that’s most of an entire movie right there. The book is also “narrated” in the “voice” of Tolkien, lending a very unique texture and flavor that just can’t be captured on celluloid. On top of all of this, if it feels like the chapters are on the episodic side as opposed to one cohesive story, well, it’s because they are. This book was intended to be a bedtime story, not a million-hours-long epic and shouldn’t be devoured in one sitting.
How To Actually Pull It Off
Make it actually for kids. Seriously. This was never meant to be a gritty PG-13 war epic and as much as I dig the edgification of the media I adore, this one needs to be left the h*ck alone. Let it be goofy, let it be fun, let it be a bouncy adventure with songs and riddles and magic rings.
I’m imagining a really fun animated miniseries something like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network can air between longer shows made by an animator who knows how to have a fun, colorful time.
A Wrinkle In Time
Hate me all you like, Brie Larson, but neither movie of A Wrinkle In Time were very good. Bouncing between melodramatic dreck, PS1 level CGI, and overwrought feel-good moral goop, they both fell on the “unwatchable” side of mediocre.
For one thing, he book falls into a weird place in, well… time. It’s very clearly a period piece – what with how the kids talk – but from a period that makes us think of other things. And having it set mostly in space and in a sleepy town where I guarantee nothing ever changes – believe me, I grew up there – it sort of takes you out of that time period, too.
The book is deeply mired in cerebral thought, contemplating physics and religion and emotion and memory and the price of knowledge. That kind of stuff just doesn’t work on film.
Oh, and most of the science stuff is pretty inacurate now.
How To Actually Pull It Off
For this one? You kind of don’t. Maybe if you really set it in its own time and really sell the 50s Suburbia Hell of Camazotz instead of trying to shove it into “modern day” to make it “relatable” then it could possibly work. If not, then maybe it’s better as a concept album or something.
The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
This movie should have worked. It had Martin Freeman who is an excellent actor who has shamefully popped up earlier on this list. It had Sam Rockwell who went on to make one of the most moving and beautiful movies about space that you should never google before watching. It had Professor Flitwick in a robot costume with the voice of Severus Snape.
Literally what else could you possibly ask for?
But much like Tolkein, Douglas Adams had a strong, musky flavor to his writing and even when you intercut with some prime absurdity, it’s just lost on the viewer if you play everything else around it straight. It’s also a book not meant for any heart-wrenching pathos (at least not for a while), it refuses to fit any of your silly three-act structures, and also it just kinda ends. So it’s hard to wrap a script around.
How To Actually Pull It Off
Give it to Baz Lurhman. Really. This is not a joke here.
Now, you may be thinking that the man had one amazing perfect movie that was only improved upon by putting Aaron Tevit in it, one movie that had Claire Daines making weird noises, and heahyeahthatotherone….
But here’s the deal. H2G2 has been adapted, re-adapted, re-written, and chopped into stew-sized chunks by its own author. Neil Gaiman wrote a book about it!
This more or less gives any director with the rocks to try complete creative freedom to be as zany and off the wall as theoretically possible and if you don’t think Luhrman’s quick-dollying rapid-cut rave seizure gooey handprint isn’t perfect to stamp upon it, then I don’t know what to tell you.
I heard that. That gasp of utter shock and then the heart-shattering consensus that yeah, these movies weren’t that great.
Many have picked apart the shortcomings of this adaptation, from cutting every plot thread like they’re writing Game of Thrones Season 8 to squashing characters entire personalities and motivations flat like they’re the Whomping Willow, these books have not been treated well.
How To Actually Pull It Off
A part of it does come from the medium, those books were doorstoppers at their smallest, the whole series clocking in at roughly four times as long as War and Peace.
Not only that, but the way movies treat characters is very different than the way books do. Book characters are allowed to be wrong, misguided, even unlikable, and they can stay that way for a decent chunk of time. In movies, that stuff needs to get out of the way very early on – or the exploration of these gray areas needs to be the point of the entire movie which is not the point of a series like Harry Potter. Turning Harry into a lovable goody-goody with a bit of an angsty streak who can do no wrong, Ron into a doofy best friend who’s along for the ride, and Hermione into a naggy know-it-all who never needs to grow past her Smartest In The Room phase does them all a disservice.
My thought is to write it all as one collective whole. The books weren’t written that way and it kinda shows in some barer patches, but this is a chance to smooth it over.
Producers would also need to decide whether each director will be allowed to have a wildly different idea of what Hogwarts and magic and the Wizarding World are like and make their own interpretations or it needs to be handled by one director, one team, one set.
And it should probably be a much longer thing on HBO.
Which book do you think can just never be adapted? Can it be done anyway? Share in the comments!
My own book may or may not be film-worthy, but you can read it anyway! (whether you’re a movie exec or not!)
I’ve been a fan of Steven Universe for a couple of years, for all that I was a late-joiner, hopping on the bandwagon of its technicolor emotions in the hiatus following Season 4.
It was kind of magical thing for me personally because it was something my brother and I bonded over in the depths of a wintry tempest in which we also decided a very chilly beer run was in order.
We watched all the episodes one after another in a marathon of twists and turns and skipping the “boardies” episodes because honestly, how much of the french-fry-themed family can one put up with?
So before I delve into this list of barely-coherent thoughts, I just want to say that I love this show. I adore its warm and cozy vibe, its beautiful message, and the wonderfully terrifically LGBTIA+ overtones. Just in case it seems like I’m tearing this thing apart.
This will have some mild, unavoidable spoilers but I’ll do my best to keep them relatively low.
The Villain Is The Best Part – and Kinda Familiar
I’m not sure when we entered what I like to call “The Age of the Villain”, but between characters like Cersei Lannister and Thanos, we’re seeing a real rise in villains who just steal the show.
The villain of Steven Universe: The Movie is sinister, vengeful, and a genuine threat. They give us some of the most interesting development and also some of the most amazing fight scenes we’ve seen in the show.
Their story and how they handle their development may seem a little familiar, though. It feels like a more nuanced examination of similar themes and situations we’ve seen before, a new look at the same dynamics.
They’re also wicked cool-looking.
The Music Was Just Wonderful
While many reviewers will be talking about the musical numbers and character songs, but those being mind-blowingly amazing is just kind of par for the course.
I just want to take a moment to appreciate the score. It takes a special kind of show to pair a truly apocalyptic event with a smooth chill-hop groove.
The Animation Is Amped Up To Amazing
More fluid, brighter colors, and better effects make the show still recognizable compared to the early episodes, but it’s a noticeable improvement.
Things like hair and liquid seem to have better movement, and the villain’s motions are handled brilliantly.
The hands also look more detailed and cool, which I know is a strange thing to notice but hey.
More Random Goodness:
Steven has a neck now and that’s just great.
The characterization is spot-on.
Garnet wears two wedding bands, and I’m not sure if that was in the show, but it made me so happy to see (again).
Steven has his natural voice! Finally! You could hear his poor VA cracking in later seasons and it’s so nice to hear him not trying to sound 12.
Holy wow is some of this just utterly surreal. I’m getting residual flashbacks to when I owned Yellow Submarine on VHS.
The Ending Just Sort Of… Happens
Not to spoil too heavily, but the resolution to everything just sort of shows up and it’s over just like that.
Who knew that healing millennia-long scars was just 30 seconds of harmonizing away?
The Solution To the Great Big Problem is Kinda Iffy
The villain’s actions are a little easily undone thanks to a pretty major flaw that probably shouldn’t logically exist.
The solution to Steven’s particular problem kinda made no sense to me and still makes very little after having it explained to me.
There’s a New Fusion And I Literally Screamed At My TV When I Saw It
No spoilers, but it gave me complicated feelings.
Steven Universe: The Movie was excellent and definitely worth watching, although like many story arcs in this show, don’t expect much by way of follow-through.
The music is catchy and lovely, the characters show some amazing development, and the villain was the best part on top of it all.
Did you like Steven Universe: The Movie? Leave a comment below – but please avoid spoilers!
The concept album, either the best or worst idea a band can have. Instead of making a movie, staging a play, or making a short-run miniseries on HBO, the story is told entirely through the album’s music. But for all the scrutiny these works get, no one seems to want to discuss how good their story is.
So I sat down with some of the classics of the medium, and not anything that has been seriously expanded upon: no albums that have been turned into a full stage show, a novel, or movie, I wanted to judge them purely on their music. They also had to be albums with a full narrative, not just songs with a loosely shared plot thread or story aspect. I also refrained from looking up anything about them and their stories until I had listened through it at least once to get a good first impression.
Here’s what I found:
The Music: For years, people told me to listen to this thing and boy howdy does it rock. Rip-roaring prog sound full of high-pitched Geddy Lee screams (we’ll get to him later) with some epic guitar solos. Yes.
The Story: The story, however, I’m much less okay with. In fact it made me angry. Really angry. First, it sells itself as some kind of revolutionary prophetic-by-way-of-nothing-ever-really-changes cynicism, it quickly drops anything clever in favor of some great big thing about the dangers of heroin (put the spoon down, kids!) and some good old fashioned misogyny.
Because when it comes right down to it, after everything Sister Mary gives up for Nikki, up to and including her life, all he can think about is what she does for him. What she has to offer him. A woman who he’d like us to believe he cares quite a bit about dies rather tragically and all he can think of is ‘Who will clean up my room for me now?’ and ‘who’s gonna make my dinner?’. No thank you.
The Music: More of a “Very Long Concept Track With Multiple Movements Because We’re Pretentious Like That” than a full album, but any list that doesn’t mention this masterpiece is incomplete and there are over 2,112 reasons why. From epic guitar battles between screaming electric and melodious acoustic and Geddy Lee in his prime upper range, this one cannot be missed.
The Story: While yet another “rock music is banned, this is censorship, power to the people” story, this one’s probably the most well done. It features a protagonist of simple origins almost anyone can relate unwittingly trapped near-mythical Orphic tale where one can instantaneously tune and play a guitar without YouTube tutorials fighting against a religious oligarchy that controls the everything – and this one’s pagan-flavored for once!
There’s a beautiful Shakespearean-style soliloquy that weirdly gets interrupted by aliens but that’s okay because- DOES THAT SAY ‘AYN RAND’.
Okay. I have it on good authority that Neal Peart gets over this and really regrets the name drop but holy wow is that a thing to to overlook.
You’re lucky I love you, Rush.
The Music: Mentioned previously here on the November O’Malley blog, Deltron was Gorillaz before Gorillaz, more electronic and space-y than its trip-hoppy successor. Many of you may recognize some of these tracks from Tony Hawk games as well as a few other sports-oriented things, but unfortunately this cosmic compilation has been largely forgotten.
The Story: While the music may be cool and smooth, don’t let it fool you: the story is downright hilarious.
The tale of some everyman beaten down by The Man who won’t let music be free (notice a pattern yet?), the titular Deltron has to fight his way through his fascist, commercialized society and lead a revolution through a series of world-shattering rap battles, culminating in one last showdown with the Galactic Rhyme Federation Champion. Yeah. Tell me that isn’t the best thing you’ve ever heard.
Kilroy Was Here
The Music: Remember when I said that a concept album can be the worst thing a band can do? This is one that literally killed the band that birthed it into the world. Gone were the “Renegades” and “Blue Collar Men”, we now do opera. With costumes. Racist costumes. (Don’t believe me? Look really close at those ‘roboto’ faces and then remember all the lines about Japan. YEAH.)
The Story: “Kilroy Was Here” was a mess. Named inexplicably for some WWII-era graffiti we’d already gotten over by the time the 80s rolled around, it stars Richard Orin Charles Kilroy which, you guessed it, spells R.O.C.K. I’m sure you can guess where this tale is going.
It goes nowhere, they basically forget they had a plot going until maybe the end and then they reprise another song that had nothing to do with the story as the final track.
This album broke Styx’s streak of multi-platinum hits. They made a full-on short film for “Mr. Roboto”. They tried to make it a real theater… thing. A part of music history died for this album and it wasn’t even close to worth it. Kore wa koko de chikau kotobadesu, Mr. Roboto.
Rating: 1 (it’s only barely a concept album)
Those Who Didn’t Make the List:
“Seven and the Ragged Tiger” – Duran Duran (Has some rad music videos but is only a concept album if – in the words of my mother, a lifelong Duranie – you consider “cocaine as a concept”)
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” – The Beatles (Ditto, but with LSD among other things.)
“Hotel California” – The Eagles (It’s really just that one song and while you can turn off the song any time you like, but it will never leave your brain)
“Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross” and “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death” – Christopher Lee (Way better than any history book but you already know the ending)
What’s your favorite concept album? What do you plan on listening to next? Share in the comments!
Ready for more amazing adventures and booty-kicking stories? Check THIS out!
WARNING: Contains minor-to-moderate spoilers for Endgame below the fold! Please go watch this movie first!
2012 was an odd year, and stranger still is it to look back on it as a “happier” time, or at least a more hopeful one. There was an apocalypse looming, but we all ignored it (save for a few particularly devoted loonies and disaster movie directors), we had a clown vying for the White House, but the worst thing he ever said about women was having “binders full” of them, and findings from the terrifying death machine smashing atoms together (or whatever that thing was supposed to do) finally came to light, but it was no world-ending Batman villain plan. (I mean, probably)
And lo and behold, in the midst of all the chaos and drama and apocalyptic prophecies, we finally, truly had a superhero movie that didn’t suck. It was my freshman year of college, a warm, breezy night when my friends and I pulled into the local theater not far from campus just as the clock was about to chime 12, our midnight release tickets in hand. We spotted people we knew – it seemed like everyone who was a nerdy someone at our school was crammed into that one IMAX theater – and collapsed into our seats, hopeful but unsure of the cinematic experience that was to unfold before us. What we least expected was a sound error over the first few minutes that made everyone’s voices all high-pitched and squeaky, with the first mousey lines coming from Samuel L. himself.
We exited the theater on a high note, our hearts soaring with hope and optimism, our mouths salivating with dreams of schwarma in the morning.
It was an action-packed film, it was clever, it was witty, it was funny. The writing was snappy, the fights were well-coordinated, and just about every character got their time to shine. Sure, we lost some good men along the way, but they were remembered and they were Avenged. The sacrifice of Phil Coulson may have wrenched at hearts, but it didn’t jerk any tears, and while the heroes got beaten up and bruised, they lived to fight another day as a team, as a family, and as the protectors of the planet. They weren’t subjected to visceral beatdowns and in-your-face brutality. They fell down, but they stood up again. They lost hope, but it was found. They were not broken. They did not bleed.
And the monsters back then were faceless nogoodniks with mean alien mugs, and no name beside their collective species of unchained “evil”. But now, the monsters are even more frightening. Now the monsters are people, people who look like us and talk like us and understand exactly what they’re doing besides just breaking things because they’re there. Our monsters have complex emotions, premeditated thoughts and plans, with goals and dreams and lives and loved ones. Our monsters have a face and have names. It was long before disturbing allegations were flung at our real-life heroes and before the worst of them turned out to be true. We had yet to paste together the collage of hurt and pain under the banner #MeToo and before we realized our monsters were real.
Color has drained from our screens year after year as the humor becomes more biting and caustic. Sacrifices come at higher and higher costs, and the heroes aren’t always the good guys. And the good guys don’t always win.
It seems like over the past seven years, we’ve come up against crisis after endless crisis, losing more of ourselves with every step and the coming days and decades are hard to imagine much brighter.
But no matter what, there’s one thing that seems to be certain:
The Avengers will always be fighting alongside us.
Rogue One is an odd entry in the Star Wars franchise. Even at their darkest moments, the originals and even the prequels always had the bad guys losing, the good guys winning, and as soon as the John Williams score began to blare over the closing credits, you felt somewhat good about yourself.
In this film, it really shows the realities of war, the people left behind, the families torn apart. Instead of the shiny Tantive IV hallways and the dramatic chasms of the Death Star, we see the raw and the real. Chipping paint, dust and dirt, a more “lived in” universe.
It might be one of my favorite Wars movies and probably the best written of the novels I made myself read, although after the disastrous Empire novelization, just about anything looked good.
One of the bigger changes for the book, however, was that they upped the tragedy hardcore. They wanted to bludgeon any reader unfortunate enough to think this might have a happy ending with the most unrelenting sorrow they could conjure.
When Jyn gets brought into Saw – her foster father’s – hideaway, she starts asking questions about friends and comrades she’d left behind, only to be told they were all dead.
The thing about Big Destruction in action movies is that you kind of don’t think about it. No one looks at a Michael Bay movie and thinks, “Wow, those poor people!”
So when the Death Star blows up Jedha, I thought “Wow, that’s sad. And a cool explosion. Look, it goes all the way down to the mantle of the planet! That’s kinda rad!” But Rogue One the novelization pulls no punches. Four pages are spent describing the people in the city, their daily lives, their wants and hopes and dreams and then exactly how painful and brutal their deaths were. This includes STORM TROOPERS that got left behind.
In the film, Jyn finally finds her father and ekes out a fragment of a conversation as he lays dying and he tells her he regrets everything, how he loved her, how there was so much he still wanted to do with her. It’s tragic, it’s sad, it’s brutal.
But the book makes it so much worse. His last words are:
“Someone has to destroy it”
This is a significant change. It means that even this was taken away from Jyn by the Empire, by the war. She’s already lost her freedom, her foster father, her everything and now she doesn’t even have one final memory of her dad to call her own.
So with all this death and tragedy, the audience should skew older, right?
FOR THE LITTLEST TINIEST BABIES THIS IS REAL.
Because, you know, it’s Star Wars! Pew-pew blasters, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Power of the Force, yay! And it’s PG-13, just like all the superhero movies, so it must be fine, right? RIGHT? This is certainly not the movie where our “hero” begins by shooting an innocent and unnarmed man in the back because he can’t deal with complications.
Even as I sit here writing this article, I haven’t cracked this book open out of fear of what I’ll find inside. Don’t say I that I don’t love you, readers.
The first thing I noticed is that the whole book is printed with this “gritty”, “grungy” pattern, which is kind of bizarre. Also, the font is weird and looks like it was chosen specifically to take up more page space.
They are fully okay with talking about death and dying but when major characters start dropping, they start dishing out some wacky euphemisms like “he was gone”, “they joined the Force”, and “his mind went black” or they gloss it over completely with heavy implications. “The last thing he heard was the grenade’s boom”.
It also dealt more in the physical side of what the characters go through, as opposed to the official novelization that goes DEEP into each and every character’s mindsets.
They also cut out the entire part where Darth Vader starts slicing some fools, which even the toughest critics said was the coolest part of the movie.
I just have to wonder, though, who was this written for? There’s too much violence for it to be a Middle-Grade novel (for ages 8-12), it’s kept firmly in the PG-13 range. But it glosses over and cuts out just enough that anyone older than that who was looking for an easy read would be disappointed and patronized. It’s a strange, strange in between and for a movie like this, probably shouldn’t exist.
What other movies would make awful junior novels? Which of the Star Wars books are your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
It should come as no shock to you folks that I’m a massive fan, I own a House Baratheon keychain (Stags Represent!), I’ve watched it all half a dozen times minimum, and in college I wrote a paper on the series (Got a B-, thankyouverymuch).
While this deviates a bit from my usual writing schtick, this beautifully crafted show deserves a spotlight, especially considering it’s one of the best-written shows in our generation.