Jack Will Hate Them All

Jack Will Hate Them All

Most of the favorites I’ve mentioned so far have to do with books. It’s true, I started this exercise to help me hone in on the things I really love in the craftsmanship of other’s work to help improve my own. But there’s a whole world of other story expressions out there and studying TV shows and movies can be just as useful for improving novel writing, especially since body language is much more visible. To that end, I’ve decided to take a time out from books and turn my attention to movies.

I’m dedicating this post to my friend Jack, because his taste in entertainment is so wildly different from mine, he’ll probably consider reading this akin to torture. Sorry Jack. ;)

Because I hope you’ll want to enjoy them, this post is spoiler light.

5. Stargate (the original)
The plot:
In the 70’s, an archeologist uncovered a strange ring in the Egyptian desert buried beneath a stone carving no one can translate.

Fast forward to modern day; a linguist (not an archeologist, fans of the show) by the name of Daniel Jackson is giving a presentation to an empty room about how the pyramids predate human history. Why? Because of the language found in and around the structures. When the presentation fails miserably he ends up in the rain with everything he owns in a duffel bag and nowhere to go. That’s when he meets Cathrine, the daughter of the aforementioned archeologist. She offers him a job translating the language carved into the strange cover-stone her father found when she was a girl.

Of course it turns out it’s not a language at all. It’s a series of constellations. Once Daniel Jackson makes the leap, the military shows him the object which rested below the cover-stone and reveals that it is a worm-hole device capable of connecting them with a planet on the other side of the known universe (not within the same galaxy, fans of the show). To everyone’s dismay, despite their success in connecting the planets via wormhole, no one can step through to the other side as they’ll have no way of getting back.

“No problem!” says Doctor Jackson, “I can totally translate the tablet on the other side which will get us home!” and thus does the military embark on a journey that takes them to the other side of the known universe, where they meet Egyptians and an alien who fancies himself a God.

Why I love it: The first time I saw this movie, it was sheer fluke. I was hanging out home alone on a Friday night. I liked to leave the sci-fi channel on in the background even if I wasn’t doing anything in case anything good popped up and because I liked the noise. I’m a bit of a sci-fi junky and in my youth I remember a dearth of really interesting sci-fi when Star Trek wasn’t on. Stargate looked like some dumb, budget 80’s title (I found out later it was made in the 90’s) but I had nothing else to do so I watched it. And am I ever glad I did!

I’m not sure exactly what it is about the plot that drew me into this movie, but it was plot all the way. Things start out slow, but turn out to be worth the wait. The first half of the movie is low on action and explosions, unlike most action movies today. Instead it relies on intelligent discourse to draw you in. I like the fact that it draws on Egyptian mythology and brings the Egyptian civilization back from the dead. I’m somewhat bias in that case because I love Egyptian mythology (that’s probably what got me to keep watching long enough to fall in love). I liked that, for once, it wasn’t the army man with his gun that solved the problem, but the geeky guy with the big glasses, allergies, and aptitude for reading. And I liked the romantic sub-plot, but we’ve already established I’m a sap for a good love story.

Over all, the effects were decent for their time, though they’re somewhat dated now. The setting was obviously interesting enough to bear further exploration because it spawned ten seasons of TV directly related to the characters and story of the movie, five seasons of another show indirectly related to the movie and yet a third series even more distantly related to the movie but still based on its lore.

Trailer

Favorite scene: There can be only one!

4. The Prestige
The plot:
Two rival magicians; one recently deceased, the other on trial for his murder. From his prison cell, the second magician reads the journal of his former nemesis and we follow the story of his history. Interestingly enough, this story includes reading the imprisoned magician’s diary and reacting to it along the way.

The two were once friends, apprenticed to the same magician, learning the tricks of the trade, each hoping to becoming a successful magician himself one day. A horrible accident in the early years leaves both men rivals, each trying to lure larger crowds to their shows either by developing new tricks or stealing the secrets of the other, and all the while you slide closer to answering the mystery of the first magician’s death.

Why I love it: This is one of those movies where it’s never the same after you’ve watched it once. The next time you watch it, it’s like a whole new movie. Every time you watch it, you notice something you didn’t before, and you start looking for new things because you wonder how deep the details go.

It’s not just the plot that’s well executed in this movie though. Everything was well done, from the atmosphere to the writing to the costumes. There’s an underground culture here that’s interesting to explore. There’s a thin line between true magic and illusion, a scientific grey area that makes everything just plausible enough to be believable. I was hooked from the opening speech, honestly.

Trailer

Favorite scene: The scene that hooked me.

3. Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan
The plot:
It’s Admiral James T. Kirk’s birthday. He’s getting old and he feels it. He isn’t a starship captain anymore; he’s getting ready to turn the reigns over to a new generation. In the midst of their training exercises, however, a strange incident crops up. Someone is after Genesis, a project which one of Kirk’s old *cough* friends is working on. Unbeknownst to Kirk, the man behind it all is the infamous Khan, once stranded by Kirk on a dying planet, now out for revenge.

Why I love it: For me, Wrath of Khan is the ultimate incarnation of Star Trek. It most accurately portrays how I imagine life in the Federation. You have your centers of civilization on planets, your science space-stations, and Star Fleet running errands back and forth in the space between. In the midst of that are three of the most well written, lovable characters ever to appear on TV and their struggle to help maintain that way of life and protect it from imminent threat.

The original Star Trek was always character-centric. I think that’s why it’s touched the lives of so many people and why the show thrives even today, even in a new incarnation. Because the heart of those characters remains. People care about their struggles and their triumphs. And while Wrath of Khan has all the action and suspense the original Star Trek movie lacks, it’s still, at its heart, a character piece. It’s a story of trust and betrayal, of regret, of youth, age, wisdom and the relentlessness of the human spirit.

It’s also the first in a chain of three movies, and arguably the best of the three.

Trailer

Favorite scene: You had to see this coming

2. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
The plot:
Short version: Pirates!

Long version: A young boy drifts way from the remains of what was obviously a pirate raid. He’s rescued by a British ship on the way to a colony and he’s wearing a strange medallion around his neck.

Fast forward several years and the boy is now a man. And a blacksmith. And totally in love with the hot governor’s daughter but she’s probably going to end up marrying someone more worthy of her rank. Except that pirates attack and kidnap her because of the medallion she stole from the boy the day they found him. Luckily Captain Jack Sparrow is in town and promises the blacksmith, Will, he can help him discover the truth about his father and rescue the lovely damsel all in one fell swoop, as long as Will is willing to break him out of prison.

Why I love it: Captain Jack Sparrow. Do I really have to say more?

Well I will anyway, just to be fair. I love Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack. It’s so rare that an actor really becomes the character, but you don’t see Depp when you watch this movie, there’s only Jack. From the way he talks to the way he moves, everything about the character is just captivating and interesting.

The plot is great too. Again, it draws on a real world mythology that’s totally plausible for the era in which the story is set and manages not to go overboard with it the way a few of the sequels did.

Trailer

Favorite scene: I actually really love those two guys.

1. Howl’s Moving Castle
The plot:
Sophie is a hat maker, content to be alone with her work until the day she meets the handsome stranger who takes her on a stroll through the air. When she returns home, she’s accosted by the Witch of the Waste, who lays a curse on Sophie which makes her old. Unable to face her family after witnessing the effects of her curse, Sophie instead runs away to the Wastes where she discovers Howl’s moving castle. Once the demon who maintains the castle lets her inside, her life is changed forever.

Why I love it: I can’t think of a single thing about this movie I dislike. Like many Miyazaki films, it has overtones of environmentalism and pacifism, but they’re woven into the tale well enough that they’re not bothersome. It’s a love story, but that too seems to be woven so subtly that it isn’t all about the romance. This too is a character-centric piece. Each character is unique from the dog, to the demon in the fireplace. The world is as interesting as the characters, the story is complex and this movie makes me cry every time. All I can say is: watch it so you can experience the magic that is this movie for yourself.

Trailer

Favorite scene: Sorry for the low quality, this was the best I could find. The scene even gets funnier after that!

This is where I usually end these entries, but this week I’ve included a bonus. The list of my favorite movies tends to change once a week, depending on my mood or what I’ve most recently watched. I love so many and it’s much easier to repeat movies than it is to re-read books. In any case, here are some movies that were very close to making this list, but got edged out by a hair or two by one of the above.

The Lion King Trailer Favorite Scene

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Trailer Favorite Scene

The Illusionist Trailer Favorite Scene

And last but by no means least Inception Trailer Favorite Scene

5 Replies to “Jack Will Hate Them All”

  1. I love all of those movies bar the last one which I actually never heard of! (I must be sitting in the cheap seats I missed that one! lol I am a huge movie fan which makes matters worse! lol) anyhow great piece. I am particulatly fond of The Prestige. Such a great movie far better than The Illusionist. As to Star Trek my favorite from the classic movie series is The Search for Spock! ( I am a trekkie and have been to conventions and did the whole dressing up thing too! )
    I love Stargate the movie too and I do find that the tv series Stargate SG1 was outstanding. I thnk out of the whole movie I remember Kurt the most.
    The Pirate of the Carribean is such a fun movie! I really think Johnny Depp is actually Jack Sparrow playing Johnny Depp!Hee hee! I like a good costume romp and this one fits the bill. Now I suddenly have the theme of the movie playing in my head!
    Great post Megan!
    Thank you for this as you have without knowing it given me an idea for my next blog entry! Great blog! :)

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I can’t wait to see your list! :D

      As for “Howl’s Moving Castle” I can see how you might have missed it. It’s originally a Japanese film, brought to the US by Disney (They have an arrangement with Miyazaki to translate his films so long as they don’t make too many changes). It’s a cartoon, so that might cause many people to skip over it, and I don’t know if it ever hit theaters over here (think it went straight to DVD). But it’s an amazing movie. Especially if you like romance stories like I do :D It just narrowly missed my favorite love stories list.

  2. “Prestige” & “Howl” look interesting–they’re the only ones I haven’t seen. I like the others, too. But now you’ll know how corny I am–my favorite movie since I was a little kid has always been “The Sound of Music.” :) I’m a Trekkie, too, but I think my favorite movie is “The Voyage Home” with the whales. My son urged me to watch the new Star Trek (I resisted, but you know how resistance is futile-ha!) and I was surprised I actually liked it. I really like your thoughtful (and entertaining) posts, Megan!

    1. Thank you! :) I’m glad you enjoy them!

      I highly, highly recommend both “Prestige” and “Howl’s Moving Castle”. Especially Howl if you like whimsical or have a soft spot for a good romance (as we’ve established I do ^^;; ). I was resistant to the new Star Trek too but ended up liking it. I felt like they dealt with it well; they didn’t discount or undo all the things that happened in the original. I liked that (not your typical reboot). I’m also a huge fan of “The Sound of Music”! :D I’ve got to get it on DVD (I only have the VHS and my VCR is dead x.x). I too grew up on that movie :) That and “The Wizard of Oz.”

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