Archive | June 2012

Brave


A true Pixar never puts its weapons on the table

Even if the audience really really wants them to.

Pixar has a reputation for creating heartwarming films perfect for movie night with the family, and once again succeed with their newest expedition, Brave. For what it is (a kid’s movie about a princess who learns to be thankful for what she has), Brave is perfection. Its animation unsurprisingly surpasses all previous Pixar titles. The irony of the picture is its failure to live up to its own namesake. The film’s early post-production stage promised a tale much darker than any Pixar story previously told. Some sequences of the movie, such as those featuring a demonic grizzly bear with futile spears and arrows sticking out of its back, are darker than the studio’s go-to bubbly atmosphere, but as a whole, Brave can by no means be considered ‘dark’. Pixar was afraid to produce a movie too far outside of their comfort zone. Brave may not boldly explore any new territory for Pixar, but with a studio of their quality, new ground is not exactly necessary.

Luckily the movie does produce one of the studio’s greatest achievements in character building. Our fearless hero Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald), complete with her signature mane of 1,500 plus intricately animated curls(!), leads the movie to greatness with a triumphant war cry. In the movie’s opening scene, young Merida joins her parents, the unwaveringly strict queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) and her husband slash character foil, doofus King Fergus (Billy Connolly) in a sunny forest clearing on her birthday. Young Merida, as energetic and bouncy as a five year old hopped up on sugar yet as adorable as one settling in for a nap, pounces into the forest after a willow-the-wisp, a flittering blue flame-like spirit fabled to bring whoever follows it to their fate. Merida pursues it in a loop back to the clearing, where her father presents her with a bow and arrows for her birthday gift. The celebration is interrupted by the aforementioned demon bear, the frightful monster Mor’du. Fergus fights the bear off, but not without the loss of his leg.

Years later, Merida is as rebellious as her unmanageable hair. Every day of her life is planned out by Elinor, who reprimands Merida for every unladylike act committed. “A princess does not put her weapon on the table,” was her catchphrase. But it was just her bow! Merida is able to cope with the restrictions until Elinor arranges for her to marry one of three disgusting bumbleheads from far away kingdoms. Furious at the thought of her mother controlling her fate, Merida upstages the three bachelors in an archery challenge, and flees deep into the woods. A wisp leads her to a witch’s shack, where Merida, caught in her emotions, wishes for a spell to change her fate. Unaware of the spell’s consequences, Merida feeds her mother a spell that turns her into a freaking bear!

Merida is a joy to watch, and seeing her mature across her emotional journey makes her that much more sympathetic. One of the best scenes of the film happens near the beginning, when wild Merida has a day off from her princess duties. Let loose in the woods, she releases bullseye after bullseye with her trusty bow (seriously though, what is cinema’s fascination with bow and arrows recently?), scales tall mountains without a blink of an eye, and quenches her thirst from cascading waters. So enjoyable is the princess that the movie’s resilient twinkle fades in the scenes where she is not front and center.

The movie is a story of a mother and daughter’s love for each other, as Merida helps mother bear escape the castle and guides her into the woods to hide. The two rekindle the carefree relationship they had when Merida was a wee child while Merida realizes her mistakes and matures into a brave leader. Like all Pixar movies, it is chock full of heartwarming scenes and adorable characters. I just wish it had focused less on cuteness and more on the dark tale they promised.

What you get with Brave is exactly what you would expect from Pixar; an excellent, heartwarming, visually beautiful kid’s film. It is not Pixar’s greatest achievement, but still stands as a charming and memorable picture. Slight disappointment stems from the fact that this movie could have been something we have never seen from Pixar before, but does an otherwise solid movie really warrant such complaints? Are you willing to pay the price your freedom (seeing this movie) will cost? You probably should be.

3.5/5 stars

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter


 

At least he didn’t sparkle

Then again, nothing did.

Hollywood’s bloodthirsty infatuation with vampires is a trend that shows no sign retiring back to its coffin any time soon. If portrayed successfully enough, vampires can serve as a fascinating metaphor for humankind’s weakness to temptation, can enamor audiences with their seductive charm and superhuman abilities, can be presented as terrifying villains, or any combination of the above. Vampires should never fail to captivate audiences, if done correctly. What’s mystifying about this trend, then, is Hollywood’s apparent inability to create a vampire movie worth seeing. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter follows the path of recent poorly reviewed vampire movies; much like the bloodsuckers they so eagerly endorse, it is dull and lifeless.

The movie is based off the 2010 novel of the same name written by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also wrote the screenplay), and I use ‘based’ in very loose terms. As a child, honest Abe (Benjamin Walker) spent most of his time on the plantation where his parents worked. He interferes when plantation owner Jack Barts (Martin Csokas) unjustly whips his enslaved friend Will (Anthony Mackie), causing his father to quit work on the plantation despite being unable to pay Barts the money he owes. In the dead of night, Barts, a thirsty vampire, sneaks into the Lincoln cabin and bites Abe’s mother (Robin McLeavy) while Abe secretly watches through the floorboards. Beyond any doctor’s aid, his clearly agonized mother dies, and Abe dedicates the rest of his life to destroying vampires to avenge her.

When he grows older, Lincoln teams up with fellow vampire hunter Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who acts as his mentor in the art of vampire slaying. After years of training, Henry sends Abe to Springfield, Illinois, which was apparently a vampire hotspot back in the 1800s. Lincoln hunts vampires in a spectacle of blood and booby traps while Henry sends word of their whereabouts.

From this point on, the movie’s plot becomes a dishonesty to honest Abe, sharing only vague similarities to the book, an inexplicable misstep on Grahame-Smith’s part. Instructed to avoid forming close bonds with anyone during his hunting career, Abe instantaneously befriends innkeeper Speed (Jimmi Simpson) and pursues a relationship with doughy-eyed damsel Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) after his very second encounter with her in a thudding, uninspired romance. The development of their relationship was borne with cliché stepping stones, most notable when Abe attempts to reveal that he is a vampire hunter, only to have her cutely play along with his ‘joke’. The film version of Mary Todd is a combined portrayal of both Lincoln’s romances in the book, and unfortunately only uses the uninteresting qualities from both.

The reappearance of Will inspires Abe to campaign against slavery, distracting from his mission. The vampires of the south are using slaves as food, eating from a plantation owned by vampire leader Adam (Rufus Sewell) and his sister Vadoma (Erin Wasson). Abe continues to support slave abolishment as his political career escalates to presidency. Lincoln finds that his careers as President and vampire hunter are about to collide as the invincible vampire army Adam and Vadoma have raised gets involved with the Civil War.

The film was directed and co-produced by Timur Bekmambetov along with Tim Burton, who seems to be the greatest advocate against vampire pop culture after the release of this movie paired with his joyless Dark Shadows just a few months ago. What could have been a fun premise was taken too seriously to enjoy, which I expect was Burton’s doing after witnessing the same problem in his other recent vampire movie.

What I was most excited for about this movie was seeing the concept of one of our most famous presidents decapitating vampires in the Civil War and believing it. I wanted to see vampires run amok in the White House and on famous battlegrounds, and I wanted to see Lincoln, donned in his iconic top hat and beard, to rush out and crush some vampire skulls with his handy axe. The film showcased very little of what could have been a fascinating and grisly new angle on one of the most famous events in American history. Walker didn’t even appear in Lincoln’s signature top hat until the very final scene of the film, to which I call blasphemy.

The movie did have its moments, but then again, most movies do. A standout scene, probably the only one worth mentioning, happened when Abe returned to the plantation of his childhood to seek revenge on Bartz. The two duked it out amid a seemingly endless stampede of horses in the dwindling sunlight and a barrage of vicious CGI. This was the sole point in the movie I felt any sort of emotional impact and was completely interested in what was happening on screen. Otherwise, there’s not much cinematic triumph this movie has to offer.

The biggest misstep the crew committed was striving far away from the book’s already solid story. The film noticeably excludes the book’s iconic quote, “Some people are just too interesting to die.” It was probably Grahame-Smith’s smartest move in adapting his book to a script, because the movie was murdered at the box office, presumably due to lack of interest. The movie has a lot of blood sucking, but completely fails to suck a lasting reaction out of its audience. Unfortunately, it just sucks.

2/5 stars

The elusive tortoise!


The elusive tortoise!

“Snow White and the Huntsman tortoise” seems to be a popular topic for my blog, and commenter Sarah Beratio recently requested a picture of it. I couldn’t find it anywhere on the internet, so I went on Youtube and screen capped this from one of the trailers. So here it is, the beloved tortoise!

Rewind Reviews: Star Wars, Episode VI, Return of the Jedi


Today is our final day of journeying across the galaxy. It was a rocky road, but we’re ready to conclude our adventure with Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

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This is the finale to the grand series, and while it wraps up every story arc nicely and throws us a couple more twists before bowing out, for most of the movie I don’t feel like I’m watching the epic conclusion. Luke, Vader, and Sidious are the only parts that feel final and satisfying about the movie. The rest of the movie would have made a fine first or second part of a trilogy, but lacks the feel of a grand ending this series deserves.

The story picks up right where the previous one left off, a first for the series. R2D2 and C3PO arrive at mafia master Jabba the Hutt’s palace, a bizarre extraterrestrial night club where they feed alien dancers to giant monsters for entertainment. C3PO is employed as Jabba’s translator, and watches the strangest music video I have ever seen. I can’t really describe it, so watch it here if you must. Anyway, soon Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and Lando also infiltrate the palace, all disguised. Leia unfreezes Han, but is caught by Jabba and forced to be his underwear-clad I-don’t-want-to-know-what after Jabba fed his other one to the monster. Luke follows the late dancer down into the monster’s chamber, and kills it. Stricken with grief, Jabba sends the group to the desert, where they are to be thrown into a Sarlacc, a giant mouth which will slowly digest them over the course of a thousand years. Luke and the droids outsmart Jabba and escape, feeding Bobba Fett and many of Jabba’s slaves to the Sarlacc in the process. Leia also manages to strangle Jabba to death. I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Yay!”

As promised, Luke returns to Dagobah, only to discover that Yoda is dying. Yoda tells him that he has already mastered his training, and is grieved to hear that Luke discovered the true identity of Darth Vader. Yoda dies, leaving Luke as the only Jedi in the galaxy. Spirit Obi soon shows up, informing Luke that in case he should fail, there is someone else with a bond with the Force as strong as his; his twin sister. Luke realizes he means Leia, which must have sucked because they kissed two times.

Luke rejoins the Rebel Alliance as they head off to Endor, home of the shield station of the brand new Death Star Vader is constructing. Endor is inhabited by warrior teddy bears (half the size and intelligence of other warrior teddy bear Chewbacca) called Ewok, who inexplicably revere C3PO as a god. The rebels use this to their advantage and make them fight. Luke tells Leia about her relation to him and Darth Vader, and she’s like, “Okay.” Luke flies to the Death Star to confront Vader one final time, convinced there is still good in his father.

The rebels and Ewok fight stormtroopers on very cool hovercraft racers. Led by Han, they fight to destroy the Death Star’s shields. R2D2 explodes (don’t worry, he’ll be back, the droids are invincible) and Han, Leia, and C3PO find themselves cornered by a deadly stormtrooper walker… controlled by Chewbacca! Get out of there, Chewy, you really gave Leia a scare! He gave all of us one. Meanwhile, Lando borrows the Millennium Falcon after promising he would return it to Han without a scratch on it. He leads the rebel fleet to the Death Star.

Sidious tries to convince Luke to join the Dark side, but Luke has better morals than his father. Luke regains his Lightsaber and enters a duel with Vader while Sidious gleefully watches. Luke severs Vader’s hand, making this the fourth hand severed in the series and Vader’s third. Realizing that Sidious plans to use him as his next Sith apprentice, Luke refuses to kill his father. Sidious electrocutes him with his blue lightning, which is too much for Vader to handle. He lost his mother, he lost Padme, he was not going to lose his son. In a stunning betrayal, Vader tackles his Sith master and throws him down a hole, like one would toss garbage into a Dumpster. Redeemed and human once more, Anakin emerges from inside Vader to ask Luke to remove his mask. Anakin has become pale, bald, and lumpy, and requests that Luke tell Leia, who he has discovered is his daughter, that there was good inside of him. Luke attempts to escape the soon-to-explode Death Star with his father, but he dies before they can escape. Lando manages a direct hit to the Death Star’s core, destroying it.

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Back on Endor, Han confronts Leia about her relationship with Luke, but it turns out they’re siblings so Leia is all his. The rebels celebrate with the Ewok that night as they respectfully burn Anakin’s body. At the party Luke sees the spirits of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and the once again young, redeemed, and digitally remastered Anakin. It is a happy ending for all (except Jabba and Sidious, and Bobba, but they didn’t really deserve one anyway) and balance is restored to the Force once and for all. So ends our tale!

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The bad:

As I mentioned earlier, I really didn’t feel like I was watching the finale to an epic movie series. There was too much Ewok! I guess those things are kinda cute, but I’m reluctant to acknowledge them as galaxy saving heroes after their absence for five whole movies! Every scene on Endor dragged because the Ewok were given too much screen time. I wouldn’t have minded it as much if the final battle had taken place on a planet we had seen before, say Tattooine or Hoth or even something from the new trilogy like Naboo or Mustafar. How awesome would it have been if it took place in the crumbling ruins of what was once the beautiful Coruscant? For me, Endor and the Ewok were too little, too late.

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I also hated Jabba’s horrible pet that squealed with delight every time something violent happened. I’m disappointed Leia didn’t strangle that thing with her chains instead. I’ll probably have nightmares about it tonight.

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What makes this a worthy addition to Star Wars:

Ignoring Endor and everything on it, it was an epic climax to the series. Luke verses Vader verses Sidious was an unpredictable twist that led to the redemption of Annie dearest and to the satisfying death of hideous Sidious. Hand severing seems to be a reoccurring motif in this series, and ended up leading to the galaxy’s cleansing. Lucas capped off his series with the most satisfying battle yet, and now that I’m thinking about it, this might be the best battle of the series. It certainly had the best story elements.

And with that, our epic journey has reached a close! Hope you had as much fun reading as I had writing. My blog is 3 views away from 800, so I’m hoping this will be enough to crack that goal!

Look out for my reviews of Brave (yay!) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (ugh) sometime next week!

Rewind Reviews: Star Wars, Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back


Today we continue to rebel against The Man in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

 

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This is the film responsible for most of the series’ iconic moments. It cemented Star Wars‘ position as one of the best film series of all time. In my opinion, it is by far the best of the original trilogy, especially the unforgettable ending.

 

The rebels have relocated to the icy world of Hoth. While on patrol, Luke gets kidnapped by a a Woompa (read: Yeti). He uses the Force to escape, but gets caught in a blizzard on his way back to the rebel base. He sees a vision of the late Obi-Wan telling him to fly to Dagobah to train under Yoda. Han, who was about to abandon the rebels once again, rescues Luke from the cold and brings him back to the base. The Republic discovers the rebels’ location, and sends giant mammoth-like robots known as AT-AT Walkers to attack. Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C3PO escape in the Millennium Falcon but are forced to hide in a dangerous asteroid field when they are pursued. Luke and R2D2 head to the swamp planet of Dagobah, where they crash land and get the ship caught in a marsh.

 

Luke meets a spastic green imp who tries to devour his lunch and chase him away from the swamp. Luke soon learns that he is Yoda, the last Jedi master living. Luke quickly strengthens his relationship with the Force and becomes a powerful Jedi. However, he is still unable to lift his ship from the marsh, and balks when he encounters a vision of Vader with his own face hidden beneath the mask.

 

Han and Leia put aside their bickering and begin an epic romance inside a giant worm’s mouth. Oh yeah, by the way, they’re in a giant worm’s mouth. They barely escape the giant worm’s mouth and fly off to Bespin, the awesome City in the Clouds. However, they are followed by Vader’s new pal, bounty hunter Bobba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch), the son of Jango who hopes to capture Han and return him to mafia master slug Jabba the Hutt. Han is reunited with old friend Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) who welcomes him and his crew to the city.

 

Luke senses Han and Leia are in trouble and flees Dagobah with R2D2 before his training is finished, despite Yoda and spirit Obi’s objections. Luke promises he will return when Han and Leia are safe. On Bespin, Lando turns Han and company over to Vader and Bobba, revealing that they arrived just before the Falcon did. Vader plans to use them as bait to lure Luke to Bespin. Vader thinks it would be cool to freeze Luke in suspended animation, but is worried his neat new machine won’t work, so he tests it with Han. As Han is bravely lowered in, Leia exclaims, “I love you!” But this was old news to Han, and he is soon frozen in a block of carbonite. Bobba departs Bespin, bringing Han’s frozen body to Jabba.

 

Lando successfully double crosses Vader and releases Leia, Chewbacca, and a shattered C3PO from the stormtroopers’ control. Luke and R2D2 arrive on Bespin while everyone fights for their freedom and Luke and engages Vader in a Lightsaber duel. Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, and the droids escape on the Falcon. After shattering a window, Luke and Vader are sucked into Bespin’s central air shaft. Vader chops off Luke’s Lightsaber hand and corners him over a seemingly endless fall. In one of cinema’s most famous moments, Vader hisses, “Luke… I am your father.” Vader also tries to sway Luke to the Dark side. Luke shrieks like a teenage girl whose parents didn’t let her go to Prom and jumps. Vader watches quietly.

 

Luke crashes through the tunnel, and ends up dangling above the clouds. He sends a desperate mental text message to Leia, who receives it and turns the Falcon around. Luke drops down into the ship, and R2D2 manages to repair the broken hyperdrive just in time to allow the ship to zoom away at the speed of light. Medical droids build Luke a new, highly realistic hand. Luke, Leia, and the droids gaze out the window at space, mentally preparing to rescue Han from Jabba.

 

The bad:

Once again, not much is wrong with this movie, so it’s hard to think of something to kvetch about. After much consideration, I remembered something that seems off.

 

 

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This is Anakin’s hand when it was severed back in Episode II. It is noticeably robotic. Now this is Luke’s hand.

 

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It is noticeably not robotic. I mean I get that Episode V takes place years after Episode II. But in a galaxy where technology seems to have aged backwards over time, how did body reparation advance so seamlessly? Consistency issues! Actually it’s more like reverse consistency issues IDK. #nitpicking

 

Why this is a worthy addition to Star Wars:

 

Most notably, the ending. I know I said that my favorite scene was the factory scene back in Episode II, but know that I’m thinking about it, “I am your father” is probably better. Star Wars had already established itself as a visual masterpiece, but this scene solidified the story as one of cinema’s best as well.

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The entire movie is amazing, though, particularly this exchange:

 

-Han is being lowered into Vader’s carbonite toy-

 

Leia: I love you! ❤

 

Han: I know.

 

Is Episode V your favorite? It probably is! What would you do if Darth Vader said he was your father? Would you stuff your freezing friend into a dead tauntaun to keep him warm? And how many relationships have you started (or ended) in a giant worm’s mouth?

Rewind Reviews: Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope


Yesterday’s break was meant to symbolize the fifteen-some year gap in between Episode III and IV, and the huge shift of cast, characters, plot line, and everything else that’s different between the two trilogies.

 

Today we rise from the ashes of Mustafar and begin anew with Episode IV: A New Hope.

 

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I can hear the original trilogy purists sighing in relief. For the past few days I’ve had an image in my mind of an old guy reading my posts and being like, “FEH, new Star Wars.

 

This is the movie that actually started it all. Back in the the 1970s, this movie was the Avatar of special effects. Filming intergalactic space battles and introducing hundreds of new alien species was a huge breakthrough in the world of cinema, thanks to George Lucas.

 

Normally I would say that Episode IV begins fifteen or so years after Episode III, but it feels weird saying that. So it begins with ambitious juvenile Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) living with his aunt and uncle on the desolate planet of Tattooine. The galaxy is overrun by the cruel Galactic Empire, who seek to build a weapon strong enough to destroy entire planets. Luke is going through his vicious teenage years, and longs to break free of Tattooine and explore the rest of the world, er, galaxy. However, Uncle Owen (Phil Brown) forbids his departure, using the excuse, “You need to stay and help harvest the crops.” Surprisingly mundane for a movie like this, but I guess it makes sense.

 

Elsewhere, rebel Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) has stolen plans for the weapon of mass destruction (perhaps the plans Dooku protected at the end of Episode II?) and is being pursued by hundreds of clone, er, stormtroopers and Darth Vader (now played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones). Leia records an SOS on R2D2, who is inexplicably present on the ship with C3PO, before being recaptured. The droids narrowly escape, and after crash landing, separating due to irreconcilable differences, being captured by tiny hooded figures known as Jawa, and ultimately being reunited, they both end up in the possession of the Skywalker family. Luke discovers Leia’s message, which leads him to crazy old wizard Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (now old, wise, and played by Alec Guiness), who apparently lives in the desert. Obi teaches Luke about the ways of the Force, and tells him his father was a powerful Jedi slayed by Vader himself. Tracking R2D2, stormtroopers arrive in Tattooine and kill Luke’s aunt and uncle, leaving him no choice but to flee with the droids and Obi in hopes of rescuing Leia.

 

But there’s a problem – they have no ship! Not to worry, for scruffy (“Who you callin’ scruffy?”) on-the-run outlaw Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his deadly living teddy bear Chewbacca (Peter Matthew, voiced by Sasquatch in a blender) are desperate enough for money to pay back enormous slug/mafia leader Jabba the Hutt that they decide to agree to Obi’s request. Han flies clunky ship the Millennium Falcon to Leia’s home planet Alderaan, which has been blown up to test the Death Star. Falcon is captured by the Death Star, but Han manages to hide everyone in the ship’s hidden compartments used for smuggling.

 

With the droids in the Death Star’s command center, Luke, Han, and Chewbacca search for Leia while Obi seeks one last duel with his old apprentice Vader. Leia is found and rescued, though there is immediate friction between the Princess and Han. The four end up in a hellish trash compactor with some sort of tentacled living creature living below the water and walls that slowly close in to squoosh them. R2D2 ends the chaos with his(?) impeccable skills. Obi and Vader enter their final Lightsaber duel, this time with much less lava, and Obi sacrifices himself to create a distraction long enough for the Falcon to escape.

 

Leia guides Han to the rebels’ hidden base, where they formulate a plan to destroy the Death Star. Having collected his promised reward, Han leaves, despite Luke’s and Leia’s disapproving glances. A fleet of rebel ships fly out, but most are killed in the assault. Luke, pursued by Vader, is one of the very few who have avoided exploding so far, and is moving in to the Death Star’s weak point. Han undergoes a change of heart and redirects the Falcon to the Death Star, exploding Vader’s TIE ship just in time. Luke explodes the Death Star just before it unleashes its deadly power on the rebel base, and the surviving rebels escape. Luke and Han are awarded for their valor and bravery, and everyone happily poses for the camera.

 

The bad:

Technically there is nothing about this movie I can call “bad.” So right now I’m confused as to why I have this movie ranked as my fourth favorite out of the six movies. (I only have actual gripes with Episodes I and VI, though.) I suppose it’s because, though no fault of the film, that this is the earliest installment, and therefore most limited in its cinematic achievements. The jump in special effects and imagery in between Episodes IV and V is very noticeable. To kids born in my generation and after (Generation Cinematically Spoiled) the movie’s technology might not be enough to grab out short attention spans and hold it as, say, Inception‘s would. But once again, I am not blaming the movie for this.

 

Why this is a worthy addition of Star Wars:

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Um, hello. This is the movie that started everything. The unforgettable music. The iconic ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’ tagline. The scrolling yellow text in the very beginning explaining the complex backstory.

 

It invented Jedi, dozens of imaginative aliens, Lightsabers, droids, stormtroopers, Darth Vader, outer space ship fights, “May the Force be with you”… I could go on. You get the point. It’s one of the most original and trailblazing films of all time. Lest we forget the epic story it began, one that could rival and beat most book series.

 

Are you satisfied, purists? Isn’t it cool to relive the original trilogy after watching Vader and Obi grow up in the newer trilogy? Are you as mystified as I was that C3PO would be so willing to part ways with R2D2 after all they’ve been through? Please leave a comment, rate, like, etc. 🙂

 

Rewind Reviews: Star Wars, Episode III, Revenge of the Sith


Early again today! I’m so bad at this.

Today we will fight through the Clone Wars in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

 

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Despite its two predecessors not receiving glowing reviews, Episode III was well received, even earning a higher approval rate than Episode VI on RottenTomatoes. I can see why most fans agree it is the best of the second trilogy. It is by far the darkest of the entire series and contains some of the best battles. I would say it is my second favorite, behind Episode II.

 

 

The entire galaxy is rampaged by the Clone Wars. Chancellor Palpatine has been kidnapped by Count Dooku and General Grievous (voiced by Matthew Wood), the malevolent, spidery part-human part-robot cyborg in charge of all battle droids. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and R2D2 infiltrate Dooku’s ship to save the Chancellor. The mission faces multiple detours, but they eventually find Palpatine. Anakin fights Dooku once more, having much improved from their last encounter. When he has Dooku defeated, Palpatine tempts Anakin to use the dark side of the Force and kill Dooku, despite breaking the Jedi code. Torn, Anakin chops off his head. Everyone escapes to Coruscant, where they are uninjured despite a bumpy landing.

 

Padme reveals to Anakin she is pregnant, which will greatly complicate Anakin’s impending Jedi status once it is discovered he secretly married her. Much like the visions he had of his mother in the previous film, Anakin starts to foresee Padme dying during childbirth.

 

Obi-Wan travels to planet Utapau to kill Grievous, who has an army set up there. Jedi Knights Yoda and Mace Windu (Samuel Jackson) tell Anakin to spy on Palpatine, who they believe may be associated with the Sith, yet still deny Anakin the rank of master Jedi. Furious, Anakin begins to despise the Jedi council while growing closer to Palpatine. Learning of his concern for Padme, Palpatine tempts Anakin to join the dark side of the Force, claiming it will give him the power to save her. Anakin turns Palpatine in to Windu, who instantly goes to arrest him. Palpatine reveals his Sith powers in a duel with Windu, electrocuting him nearly to death. However, Windu soon corners him. With the help of Anakin, Palpatine kills Windu and takes Anakin as his Sith apprentice, deeming him Darth Vader.

 

Obi manages to kill Grievous just before Palpatine announces Order 66 all across the galaxy, turning all clone troopers against their Jedi friends. Jedi after Jedi fall to the troopers and Anakin, and soon Obi-Wan and Yoda are the only two who remain. Palpatine (really named Sidious) brings Anakin to the lava-soaked planet of Mustafar to kill Nute Gunray, the last high-ranking official of the Separatist movement. Obi-Wan and Yoda learn of Palpatine’s betrayal and Anakin’s cross to the dark side, and go their separate ways to kill them both.

 

Padme and C3PO flee to Mustafar to confront Anakin about the rumors, unknowingly taking Obi with them. Realizing his cross to the dark side is true, Padme begs Anakin to return to the ways of the Jedi, saying he’s gone down a path she can’t follow. Suspecting Padme brought Obi to Mustafar to kill him, Anakin strangles her into unconsciousness with the Force. Apprentice verses master, Anakin and Obi duel across exploding factories, rivers of lava, and sinking debris in what is the series’ most iconic non-Luke Skywalker battle. Claiming higher ground, Obi tries to warn Anakin not to jump. Of course Anakin ignores him, and Obi has no choice but to sever off all of his limbs, besides his already-robotic hand.

 

“You were the Chosen One!” Obi bellows. “It is said that you would bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”

 

Unable to kill Anakin himself, Obi leaves to rescue Padme. Sidious, after an epic battle with Yoda in the courtroom of Coruscant, soon arrives and saves Anakin before he slips into the lava. Giving him a body constructed almost entirely out of wires and robotic limbs, Darth Vader rises for the first time, inhales, and exhales. Vader’s first thought is to ask about Padme. Sidious says that Anakin killed her when he strangled her. Enraged and heartbroken, and losing his last connection to humanity, Vader uses the Force to destroy the room.

 

Meanwhile, Padme delivers a boy and a girl, named Luke and Leia, before dying during childbirth. Obi decides that for their safety, they should be separated. Leia is sent to Alderaan, while Luke is delivered to Shmi’s new family on Tattooine. Yoda decides to go into hiding on the swamp planet of Dagobah. Obi takes Luke to Tattooine, but never leaves the planet, intending to watch over him until he is fully grown.

 

 

The bad:

I have no gripes with this movie. While not bad in the sense of the word, I still hate watching the montage of all the Jedi getting killed in creative ways by their squad of clone troopers. The first time I saw it in theaters, I was shocked it was actually in the movie. Even though the majority of the Jedi never even said a line in the film or were shown doing anything besides waving their Lightsabers, it was still depressing to see all Jedi being wiped out.

 

And even though we knew he was doomed from the very second he appeared on screen as a young slave, it was still saddening to watch Anakin’s gradual loss of humanity and eventual betrayal. I’m a huge fan of the Obi-Anakin-Padme trifecta. It was heartbreaking to watch it end on such a tragic note. So I have no actual complaints about the film, I’m just sad about the characters I’ve grown attached to.

 

(Also have to mention that the acting, while not Oscar winning, was much improved over its two predecessors. McGregor especially. Portman and Christensen were still stiff from time to time, but overall win Most Improved.)

 

Why this is a worthy addition to Star Wars:

Because it gives another layer to Darth Vader we haven’t seen before. The story of Darth Vader has always been a complicated one, but the newer trilogy, particularly this one, show how easy it was for Vader to get caught up in his emotions and manipulated to the dark side. He was a truly promising Jedi.

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I’d also like to introduce my good friend Boga. This feathery bird reptile thing makes cool noises and helps Obi-Wan track down Grievous. If not for Boga, his awesome shade of green, and his alpha superiority, Obi-Wan would be nothing.

 

Also, the lava battle. Best battle scene ever! We always knew the original trilogy was amounting to a battle between Obi and Anakin, and this battle did not disappoint. Mustafar is an awesome planet, too. Definitely the high point for CGI in the series.

 

How did you feel about Episode III? Do all of you original trilogy purists like to pretend it doesn’t exist? Would you have targeted Jar Jar as your first victim the second Order 66 was proclaimed? How did you feel about Chewbacca’s pointless but kinda entertaining cameo? No new post tomorrow! Sorry, I’m horrible.  

Rewind Reviews: Star Wars, Episode II, Attack of the Clones


I was going to try to post these at 8PM each day, to coincide with my blog’s random PST time setting, but I had to post this early today. Ugh. #BloggerProblems

Today, we continue our journey through the galaxy with Episode II: Attack of the Clones

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Controversial opinion alert: This one is far and away my favorite of the series. Where as adults grew up seeing Episodes IV-V in theaters, I grew up seeing I-III in theaters, so of course I am biased towards the newer three. In my opinion it has the best story elements in the series, rivaled only by the endings of Episodes III and V.

Attack of the Clones begins ten years after the events of Phantom Menace. Ex-Jedi Knight Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is organizing an army to resist the Republic. A fully grown Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) returns to the planet Coruscant, the Washington DC of Star Wars, with his master Obi-Wan to guard the queen-turned-politician Padme. Anakin is anxious to be reunited with Padme after never getting over his childhood crush of her, even after ten years of separation. He and Obi-Wan are called into action after an assassin tries to poison her with two enormous, skin-crawling centipede creatures. After a chase scene showcasing the amazing Coruscant city complete with its hovercraft transportation system, Obi-Wan travels to the hidden planet of Kamino to investigate the assassin’s boss further while Anakin and R2D2 escort Padme to her home planet of Naboo to keep her company.

Finally finding Kamino, Obi is greeted by serene, emotionless aliens who show him an army of clones they’ve been creating to help assist the Republic in these times of growing peril. These creepy aliens are using bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) as a ‘genetic template’ for the clones. Suspecting that Jango was the one who tried to kill Padme, Obi pursues him and his son Boba (Daniel Logan) to Geonosis, a planet inhabited by human/winged insect alien hybrids. Obi is captured by Dooku, who tries to sway him to the Dark side.

Meanwhile, in a depressingly cliché montage, Anakin and Padme fall in love on Naboo, despite romance being forbidden for Jedi. However, Anakin soon starts having dreamss of his mother, Shmi, in great pain. Ignoring Obi’s orders to stay on Naboo, Anakin, Padme, and R2D2 fly to Anakin’s childhood home on Tattooine. There, Anakin learns that Shmi has remarried before being captured by a tribe of Tusken Raiders. (Gosh, I hate Tusken Raiders.) Anakin finds his mother just in time. In her dying breath, she says her life is complete now that she has seen her son fully grown, and falls limp in his arms. Driven by hatred, Anakin violently kills every last Tusken Raider, including the defenseless women and children. We see the first glimpse of Anakin’s dark side.

Receiving word of Obi’s capture, Anakin, Padme, R2D2 and Anakin’s now complete droid C3PO rush to Geonosis to save him. In what is undoubtedly the best scene of the movie, and probably my personal favorite of the series, the four get caught on a conveyor belt in a secret droid-producing factory, and must dodge lava blasts, lethal machinery, and more giant insects/humans on their way to rescue Obi-Wan. R2D2 is the only one to escape, as C3PO swaps bodies with a battle droid and Anakin and Padme find themselves captured by Dooku.

Dooku chains the star crossed lovers and Obi-Wan to three separate poles in a giant Colosseum-style arena, and unleashes three deadly creatures to come and devour them for the insects’ amusement. However, things soon turn in to all out war once the Jedi Knights come to save them, and Dooku unleashes his army of battle droids. It looks like the end of the Jedi until wise green puff ball/Jedi master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) arrives, leading scores of clone troopers into battle.

Anakin and Obi-Wan pursue Dooku to a large cavern, where blueprints for a weapon of mass destruction are hidden. Dooku defeats Obi-Wan and severs Anakin’s right arm off. Yoda arrives just in time to save them and challenge Dooku to a Lightsaber duel, which the count escapes. Dooku reports back to his Sith master, Darth Sidious, who congratulates him on throwing the galaxy into war. The remaining Jedi knights bravely prepare for the fights ahead while Chancellor Palpatine takes control of the clone troopers. Anakin gets a robotic arm replacement, and holds a secret wedding on Naboo for himself and Padme. C3PO and R2D2 are the only ones who know.

The bad:

Once again, the acting sucked. Christensen makes a pretty emotionless Anakin, despite a few rare moments of believable acting. Portman still seemed lifeless as Padme, and combined with Christensen, the romance was one of the most cliché and unremarkable in recent film history. I personally love the idea Lucas set up for these two, but the acting let him, and everyone else, down.

Despite this being my favorite of the series, it seemed to contain the least amount of memorable moments or quotes. Each of the original trilogy was stuffed with legendary quotes and iconic scenes, and this installment was an unfortunate let down in that department. Perhaps the script needed more refinement to fit in at least one quote worthy of repetition outside Star Wars discussion.

Why this is a worthy addition to Star Wars:

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The story. I love love love love love the story. Even if it was weakly portrayed, what Lucas did for this series by going back and showing us Vader’s rise to the dark side was genius. In my opinion, it tells the best story of the series.

I am also in love with the action scenes. As I mentioned before, I think the factory scene is an all-time best for the series. I also loved every minute of the film since entering the Colosseum, which is probably the last quarter of the film. I’ll always remember the thrill I got seeing the three deadly creatures unleashed upon Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padme for the first time in theaters. It may be nostalgia blinding me, because I have toys of two of the creatures I always used to play with as a child – OH NO THEY’RE ATTACKING!! 

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Okay, this is my attempt at fear. You’re judging. The one I did for Cabin in the Woods was better, I know. But it was hard balancing them and trying to get into character. You do it then.

 

I know that, as far as Star Wars movies go, Attack of the Clones is pretty unpopular. Do you strongly disagree with everything I just said? Prove me wrong in the comments! I’ll never change my opinion, though. You have been warned.

Rewind Reviews: Star Wars Episode I, The Phantom Menace


Rewind Reviews: Star Wars

 

Since I won’t be seeing any new movies this week, I decided to go back and rewatch some of my favorite movies and write about them. I decided to begin with what is possibly the most famous movie series of all time, the lovably bizarre Star Wars. If you aren’t a fan of this series…. “THEN YOU ARE LOST.

 

I will post a brief summary/review on one of the six movies per day. I’ll follow the Episode numbers in sequential order, not by time of release.

 

They don’t count as spoilers if they’ve been around for more than a decade, but if you haven’t yet seen any of the films and wish to not be spoiled, the exit is over there.

 

Today we start with Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

 

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This is where it all began… kind of. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, thousands of planets were inhabited by humans and droids, mixed with strange species only a creative visionary genius like George Lucas could imagine. Of all these living creatures, human and not-human alike, few individuals are gifted with a strong connection to ‘the Force’, which is basically unseen power that allows these individuals, known as Jedi, to move objects with their minds, sense trouble elsewhere or in the near future, and brainwash weaker minded beings, among other handy tricks. Armed with highly futuristic swords known as Lightsabers, the Jedi live to protect the galaxy from evil.

 

Our vast story begins on planet Naboo, governed by Queen Amidala (supposedly Keira Knightley). Naboo is suffering from a trade embargo due to disagreements with the Trade Federation. Jedi knight Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson) and the soon to be wise, but currently young and inexperienced apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) attempt to negotiate with the federation’s Viceroy, Nute Gunray (Silas Carson), but the responding onslaught of battle droids (Lucas’ replacement for clone troopers) makes it clear it’s not up for discussion. Caught in the fray is Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks (a prehistoric duck/human with the rare ability to annoy audiences out of their minds) who is fortunately (read: unfortunately) saved by Qui-Gon and brought along on their journey.

 

Along with Queen Amidala, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan rescue several of her handmaids, the most adventurous and vocal one of which is named Padme (Natalie Portman). They are forced to land on desert planet Tattooine after their ship suffers damage. Quin-Gon, Jar Jar, Padme, and infamous droid R2D2 meet a child slave named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who quickly takes a shining to Padme. Qui-Gon is shocked by the amount of Force present in Anakin, and suspects he may be the “Chosen One” destined to bring balance to the Force. Anakin wins his freedom in an extremely deadly pod race (basically the closest Star Wars ever got to Nascar) and leaves behind his home, his self-invented droid C3PO, and his beloved mother Shmi (Pernilla August) to become Jedi apprentice to Qui-Gon. However, the group is now being pursued by Dark Lord Sidious’ horrifying, horn-headed apprentice Darth Maul (Ray Park, voiced by Peter Serafinowicz) and his double-sided Lightsaber.

 

Getting no help from Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), Padme, who now reveals herself as the real Queen Amidala (Knightley had been a decoy) leads an army of Gungan against the Trade Federation. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan find themselves pitted in a death match against Maul, who is able to bring down Qui-Gon before being chopped in half by Obi-Wan. In his dying breath, Qui-Gon requests that Obi train Anakin in the ways of the Jedi, despite Obi’s wariness of the boy. With Senator Palpatine rising to Supreme Chancellor status and Obi-Wan being deemed Jedi knight, the Jedi are set on red alert about the return of the Sith, and the movie ends headed into what could be a grim future.

 

The bad:

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Frankly, this is the weakest installment of the series. The movie wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for the insufferable Jar Jar Binks. Meesa has no idea what da George Lucas be thinkin, givin him so much of da scweentime. Meesa be thinkin dat if Jar Jar been havin da much smaller role, da movie be bein much better dan it be. What, yousa be annoyed even weadin dis pawagwaph in heesa voice? How wuuude!

 

The acting felt out of place in this one, as though Neeson, Portman, and McGregor were uncomfortable running around wacky costumes, wielding Lightsabers. No one had more right to complain than Knightley, however, after she suffered through several of Amidala’s Lady Gaga-esque wardrobe choices. No one.

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What makes this movie a worthy addition of Star Wars:

Definitely the pod race. Pitted against the despicable, chicken-head eating alien Sebulba, Anakin dodged stalagmites, maneuvered through terrifyingly tight trenches, and withstood bullets from idiotic Tuskan Raiders. Even though the outcome of the race was obvious, and even though I had seen it multiple times before, the scene was still nail-bitingly suspenseful from beginning to end.

 

I’m probably in the minority here, but I love the battle droids. I see them more as comic relief than actual enemies due to their pathetically fragile designs and occasional sassy remarks. These droids were just placeholders for the clone troopers, anyway, and Lucas did manage to make them threatening in later installment by giving them updated designs.

 

How would you rank Episode I in your own Star Wars rankings? Is yousa be agreein with meesa about da Jar Jar? Duh. Please comment your own thoughts!


Aaaaaaand my hype intensifies!