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SALT LAKE CITY — It’s still winter, and it’s still cold. Where I live there is still snow on the ground. Being that I’m a California kid, I do not enjoy driving on that white, slippery substance. Thus, I will spend my weekend enjoying some quality time wrapped up in a blanket, having slapped a bag of popcorn in the microwave for a fix of flicks. For those cold nights, here is a list of some great trilogies to span those precious hours with (or without) the kids.
This trilogy is, in my opinion, the greatest in the history of film. George Lucas has revolutionized the way we look at movies. For those who were around at the time, just close your eyes and imagine yourself transported back to May 25, 1977. How did you feel as Princess Leia’s Tantive IV screamed across the screen, firing at the even bigger Imperial Star Destroyer pursuing her? How did you feel as you were immersed in alien life at Mos Eisley’s most famous cantina or tearing down the Death Star’s trench desperately trying to reach the thermal exhaust port?
That’s only the first movie. Revel in cinema’s most shocking discovery at the end of "The Empire Strikes Back" and a thrilling final battle at the end of "Return of the Jedi." John Williams’ magnificent score will transport you into that galaxy far, far away. If the kids have yet to experience these films, place them in front of the screen and do not let them up until the end of the Ewok celebration.
P.S. Han definitely shot first.
As the dust settles after the premier of "The Hobbit," whether or not we were let down, we can take comfort in the knowledge that its sister films are pure, lovable and good for the soul. These films took the world by storm when "Fellowship" was released in 2001. Director Peter Jackson gambled when he shot all three films simultaneously; what if the first had been a box-office bomb? It ended up being a hit and so did the second and third movies.
Based off of J.R.R. Tolkien’s immortal books, the Rings trilogy offers us a glimpse into the lives of many different creatures; hobbits, men, elves, dwarves and countless others. It teaches us that good can triumph over evil, even when it seems that all is lost. It teaches us that, in the words of Galadriel, “even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” The trilogy’s combined 30 Oscar nominations and 17 wins are astounding.
The third film, "Return of the King," won all 11 Oscars for which it was nominated, tying "Ben-Hur" and "Titanic" for the record while becoming the first fantasy film in history to win the Oscar for Best Picture. These may be more violent for the kiddies than "Star Wars," but they are excellent.
P.S. We can also take comfort in the knowledge that, being busy with Hobbit stuff, Peter Jackson probably won’t be redoing the Rings films, taking away Gimli’s ax and replacing it with walkie-talkies (I’m looking at you, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas).
One cannot argue that having played both Han Solo and Indiana Jones does not make Harrison Ford one of the coolest guys on the face of the Earth. During the latter parts of the original Star Wars trilogy, we were given another film with which to whet our appetite. "Raiders" hit us as hard as that terrifying boulder and left us wanting more Nazi-killing action after the credits rolled.
Although "The Temple of Doom" veered away from villainous Germans, it was still chalk full of scenes featuring Indy kickin’ butt with his loveable sidekick, Short Round (Data from "The Goonies”).
"The Last Crusade" is my personal favorite; Indy runs into Hitler himself in a rather comical scene, and Sean Connery plays Indy’s father, Henry Jones Sr. John Williams, composer extraordinaire and favorite of director Steven Spielberg, gave us one of the most memorable theme songs of all time. When it’s cued up, that image of the whip and fedora comes to mind and we are ready for adventure.
Be warned, that even though the first two come with a PG rating, the rules for movie ratings were different in the early 1980s and should really be PG-13. Nevertheless, if you watch it with kids, you won’t be able to stop them (or yourself, for that matter) from grabbing whatever can be used as a whip and attempting to swing from one piece of furniture to the next.
P.S. There was a fourth film, but don’t bother.
One cannot help but laugh when one thinks of the dreadful "Batman" films of the 1990s. The Caped Crusader’s legacy was so tarnished that many had written him off. However, 2005’s "Batman Begins" gave us a new view of the superhero that we were able to cling onto. He wasn’t just some billionaire who decided to strap on a cape one night. He was deeply affected by the death of his parents and the injustice and corruption he saw in Gotham and wanted to become a symbol to rally the people to do good, letting us know that “anyone could be Batman.”
To say that its sequel, "The Dark Knight," was a success would be an understatement. Highlighted by Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as The Joker, this is one of the greatest movies of all time. Last year’s "The Dark Knight Rises" wrapped up the series nicely for us, as Tom Hardy’s Bane, physical and calculating, nearly destroyed Gotham entirely. Director Christopher Nolan’s vision for the series is unparalleled, and his skill as a director and writer is incredible, considering he was able to do "The Prestige" and "Inception" in between the three "Batman" films. Maybe not quite a children’s series, but it’s one for the ages.
P.S. Who would win, The Joker or Bane?
I thought I would include one for the kids. I remember putting "Toy Story" into the VCR so many times as a kid that I’m sure my parents began to roll their eyes. I even remember when the Happy Meal toys at McDonald’s were fiercely popular. Disney and Pixar struck animated gold when this hit theaters back in 1995, being Pixar’s first film and the first film to be completely computer-animated. Buzz Lightyear and Woodys’ journey from rivals to friends is one of the best in cinematic history.
Its sequels, "Toy Story 2" and "Toy Story 3," defied the industry’s curse for subpar sequels, arguably getting better each time. In fact, the third installment grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide, becoming the highest grossing animated film of all time. It was even nominated for best picture at the 2011 Academy Awards. Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” was nominated for the Oscar for best original song, and his song “We Belong Together” won the award. Overall, this series is beloved for people of all ages. If the kids haven’t seen these yet, then they haven’t really been kids.
P.S. I dare you not to get a little choked up at the end of the third installment.
Those are my five picks for these cold nights. Go grab a pizza and get watchin’!
Daniel Stevens is preparing to graduate with a B.A. in Spanish from Weber State University in April 2013. He is happily married and enjoys film and sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.