Category Archives: Movies

Disneyfying-Star Wars Part Two

Ok,

After reading this post by Harry Knowles of AintItCoolNews, I’m feeling a bit less pessimistic about Disney owning Star Wars.

Harry Chimes in on Star Wars

My biggest fear is that they’ll stay the course like Lucas did with the first three films and try to specifically target an 8-to-10-year-old audience.

(Of course, strangely, Lucas says he was targeting that age group, but the plot – what plot there was – really didn’t play to that age group)

The other concern was that Disney would take some of their Disney TV shows and churn out a bunch of kid-friendly shows set in the Star Wars universe. For example, they have a “sitcom” about a bunch of kids studying karate. Take that same show, cast them as padawans, put them in the Star Wars universe, and BAM! – new show!

But…

If Disney takes a more open-minded approach and opens up the Star Wars universe to both family-friendly content and more “grown-up” content, then there could be some potential for some very cool stuff. It’s certainly something Lucas would have never done.

It will be interesting to see regardless.

Disney-fying Star Wars

So, ol’ George has finally admitted defeat…

He’s finally gotten tired of finding new ways to milk more money out of the Star Wars franchise.

So, let’s sell it off to the one corporate entity who is even better than Lucas at licensing the crap out of their creations and putting them on anything and everything…

Disney!!!

Last week’s announcement was shocking enough – that Lucas was selling Lucasfilm to Disney. Then, they also announce that they’re going to kick things off by releasing a new Star Wars movie (Episode 7) in 2015.

Ugh…

I’m dreading what Disney will do with the series. On the one hand, Lucas will only be a “creative consultant” on the new films, and NOT writing or directing the films.

So, there’s a chance they won’t completely suck.

On the other hand… It’s Disney, and I’ve seen enough of the bad television shows that my nieces and nephew watch on the Disney channel to dread what they could do with the series. It seems to me like – because it’s Disney, and they lean heavily towards family-oriented fare – that any darker tones of the story would be limited if not completely filtered out. That means no “Empire” type of movie, and there would definitely not be any execution of “younglings.”

Episode 7 implies that they’re going to pick up the story where things left off at the end of Return of the Jedi (otherwise they could have just said a “7th Star Wars movie”).

The biggest challenge there will be where to pick things up. Will they borrow from the existing canon like the Heir to the Empire books? Did Lucas remember writing rough outlines or notes about the last three films that he keeps saying never existed?

The other problem – The cast. They’ll more than likely have to re-cast the roles of the major characters (Han, Luke, Leia, etc). Hopefully they won’t pull some type of “generations” type of movie (re: Star Trek).

After seeing what Lucas did with the second set of films, I personally would rather they would just let it go.

Or, if they must make a new Star Wars movie, go back to the Old Republic days and make a film with a completely new cast of characters.

Let the story of Luke Skywalker and friends end with Return of the Jedi.

The Dark Knight (Mostly) Rises

(Note: Although I was at one of the marathon Batman screenings on Thursday evening, I didn’t learn about the tragedy in Aurora until late Friday morning.  My deepest sympathies go out to the families of those who lost their lives.)

 

I went into The Dark Knight Rises with medium hopes. I’d hoped it would be a very good movie, and it would be a brilliant ending to a great movie trilogy. I really didn’t expect the movie to complete with The Dark Knight. 

Getting a chance to see The Dark Knight just before the midnight showing did nothing to change my mind. 

Is “Rises” a good movie? Yes, it’s a very good albeit very long movie. For me, though, it could have been better. 

I’m not going into a rant here about what I didn’t like about the story because I don’t want to give away aspects of the movie. Also, this would become a novel instead of a post.

What worked in the movie? 

Christian Bale is still great as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Michael Caine has some great moments as Alfred.

I was actually surprised by Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. I think she did a great job even though I’m not entirely sure why the character was in the movie.

Even with the voice cleanup, there were still moments where I wasn’t entirely sure what Tom Hardy’s Bane was saying. I was pretty “meh” about Bane in the movie. I understood why they picked him as the villain, but I also knew it was very unlikely anyone who played any villain in this movie would surpass Heath Ledger’s legendary Joker in the Dark Knight.

Ok. I will say this. I swear I’ve seen that mask of Bane’s from somewhere before.

Try to sit through the entire 2 hours and 45 minutes without wanting Bane to say “Luke, I am your father.” 

For me, there were more than a few holes in the story. There were a few “Wait, what?” moments as well, and I think they could have been more daring at the ending (but wasn’t surprised they didn’t go there).

There was also one name uttered near the very end that made me cringe. 

Then again, I’m a reader of the Batman comics and I’m more familiar with how things played out in the comics. There were some bad points in the comics, too, but overall, it was a very good series.

My verdict? Go see it. It’s a very good movie that wraps up the trilogy decently, just not brilliantly. 

 

Han Shot First (aka The Madness of King George)

Last week, there was a great disturbance in the geek world. Millions of voices suddenly cried out in anguish, and were silenced.

George Lucas had done it again.

Continuing his revisionist history of his own films, Lucas announced last week that he had always intended that Greedo shot first in that pivotal scene between Han Solo and the bounty hunter in the original Star Wars.

Star Wars fans everywhere, of course, went ballistic. I saw a number of stories that came out over the next couple of days showing “proof” that no, no, Lucas was wrong. Han shot first.

Honestly, though, this has been brewing since the “Special Edition” came out in the late 90s. It’s even spawned a couple of “Han Shot First” t-shirts.

Most Star Wars fans have seen the clips. The original version of the movie clearly shows Han shooting first. Lucas, not happy with this, tried to tweak it in the “Special Edition” of Star Wars in the 90s. The updated version shows Greedo shooting first, with a badly edited image of Solo jerking his head to the side, then returning fire.

But in the end, why does it matter?

Yes, it takes away some of the initial “unscrupulous” tones that defines Han Solo in those first scenes. Those of us who have seen and/or own the original movies can enjoy the movie the way we remember it. At least, we can enjoy it until Lucas seeks and destroys every last copy of the original movie.

But, in the end, Han Solo is still a smuggler, and he’s still a mercenary. Even with the scene altered in the Special Editions, the story of Han Solo over the course of the three movies is unchanged. He’s still a scoundrel in the beginning. He’s still a hero in the end. He still gets the girl in the end.

Give the man credit. The original Star Wars movies created a universe that captured and continues to capture the imagination of millions over the last 30 plus years. The universe spawned six movies, numerous video games (including the current big MMORPG – The Old Republic), a cartoon series, and dozens of books.

I have no idea why Lucas continues to tweak the original movies and is now content to sit back and lash out at his fans over the universe that he created.  It sucks that he seems to feel the need to change what’s already been done. It makes me think of Michelangelo taking a look at his statue of David and deciding the statue “really need some pants.”

As we all have seen, the second trilogy of movies were simply not the same. Lucas had full control over these movies, and there was simply no one there to provide any opposing viewpoints to any aspect of the story.

I could go into detail, but I think there’s a set of videos that cover it very well.

You have to get over the serial killer “it puts the lotion in the basket” voice of the narrator, but the epic Phantom Menace review along with his equally long reviews of the sequels by RedLetterMedia are worth watching. He picks apart the movies in great detail.

Red Letter Media – The Phantom Menace Review – Part 1

Warning: There are seven parts to this review, roughly 70 minutes total.

Even better, if Lucas tampering with Star Was wasn’t bad enough, Red Letter Media has an equally great review about the last Indiana Jones film.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Review

Even if you have to sit down and watch these videos one part at a time, they’re great to watch. If you’ve ever wanted to learn something about writing a story, these videos go into great detail about what’s wrong with the story in all of these movies.

The best news about Lucas that Star Wars fans can find solace in is that he’s talking about retiring from making movies altogether. Since fans continue to bash the last three movies (Episodes 1-3), he’s not going to bother to make the last trilogy (Episodes 7-9).

I think most Star Wars fans can live with that.

 

Iron Man trailer

While I admit, there’s still a halfway decent chance that the overall movie may end up sucking, this trailer is pretty cool.

Iron Man Trailer

It shows us a couple of things:

  • Robert Downey Jr. is perfect as Tony Stark.
  • The final Iron Man suit looks pretty cool.
  • They got the “perfect” track for the trailer – and hopefully will be used in the movie.

Not familiar with Iron Man? Well, imagine taking Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), and instead of spending a lifetime of learning fighting skills, forensics, detective work, etc, and have him build a super suit to use while fighting crime. Yeah, the origin is a bit different, but you still end up with a normal guy using a high tech suit to fight the bad guys.

Course, Marvel, years ago, came up with a story line where Stark was an alcoholic and lost everything to the disease. This is why Marvel characters, as a general of thumb (with the exception of Batman) will always be better than DC characters. Marvel likes to mess with the lives of their characters.

Anyway, take a look at the trailer. It’s pretty spiffy.

X-Men 3: The Last Dump

No, that’s not a typo in the title, that sums up my feelings about X-Men 3. If you’re just looking for a decent summer blockbuster/action flick, then you may enjoy it. But, if you are a fan of the comic book, then you’ll be better off sitting at home and watching the first two movies on DVD.

The movie has a lot of issues, the primary one being what story to focus on. For some reason that I don’t pretend to understand, the rumor has long been that this X-Men movie would be the last. Why on earth any studio would let go of a franchise that they could easily milk for another 10 or so movies (and since there are 20-something Bond movies, 9-10 Star Trek movies, and 6 Star Wars movies, its not unheard of) — especially considering any script writer for the series has 40 or so years of comic books to draw from — boggles my mind. Maybe they wanted to end on a high note?

Maybe they should wait till X-Men 4 for that…

A couple of significant events happened between X-2 and X-3 that I think had a major impact. 1) Bryan Singer, the creative force behind the first two movies, jumped ship to work on another comic book movie — Superman. 2) Singer is replaced with Brett Rattner, who did the Rush Hour movies. 3) A new X-comic came out in 2005 by Joss Whedon ( of Buffy the Vampire and Firefly/Serenity fame ) with a very compelling story about a cure for the mutant gene.

There are enough X-Men storylines, including Whedon’s, that would make a great movie and potentially be an excellent way to end the movie series. Singer hinted at the end of X-2 that we might see the Phoenix saga.

For those of you playing at home, the Phoenix saga centers around Jean Grey/Marvel Girl. She has the combined powers of telekinesis and telepathy, and is one of the most powerful mutants ever. Followng the classic concept of power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Jean Grey is seduced/deceived by a villan, which inadvertantly unlocks her true potential. She goes nuts, and turns evil, and her teammates have to stop her.

There are a couple of variations from the original story, but in the end of the original, she pays for her crimes with her life.

Anyway, I digress. The Phoenix saga is regarded as one of the best X-Men storylines in its history. So, it would have been a great story to do in X-3.

But, somewhere along the line, someone decided that if one of these stories are great, then if we combine three of them together in the same movie, it’d be absolutely spectacular!!! Lets mix the mutant gene story with Phoenix, and oh yeah, let’s have Magneto threaten mankind again. That would make an uber story that would make the fanboys thrilled to see all three stories in the same movie.

At least, in theory…

The reality is that X-3 becomes a movie that bounces back and forth between three separate stories, making it feel disjointed. It also feels as if they primary focus is the grand battle at the end, and everything leading up to it is simply there to throw enough of a back story in front of you before moving you along to the next stop on the express train to the end of the movie.

The movie has some good action sequences, and it does introduce us to some more of the main X-Men. Kelsey Grammer is an excellent choice as Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast, and the girl that plays Kitty Pryde doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but she looks exactly like her comic book counterpart.

There are a lot of ‘deaths’ in the movie, a couple are not surprising, but the others are. One of the characters is killed off simply to show us that another character has ‘gone bad.’

But the mixture of the stories never really takes hold. The movie follows one story for a while, then swtiches to the next, then goes to the third. In the end, two of the stories are wrapped up, and then the movie goes into ‘oh yeah’ mode, remembering at the last minute that there’s still this other issue to resolve.

Realy, what they should have done was forget about only doing three movies. They should have spent this one doing the Phoenix saga, and then use X-4 to cover the mutant ‘cure’ story. Both would have made excellent movies in their own right.

Instead, we get the mess that is X-Men: the Last Stand. I’d blame it on Rattner, but I don’t think he did a bad job with the movie. The movie was in trouble long before he got on board.

But, it’s clear that the movie was created by someone who wasn’t a fan.

To me, it’s the most challenging thing about making a comic book movie, and why some of them work while others not.

Spider-Man (1 & 2 & probably 3), X-Men (1 & 2) and Batman Begins were all excellent movies because the directors behind the movies were all fans of the comics. They work dilligently to preserve these characters when they make the leap from the comic book page to the screen.

All of the other movies don’t work for any number of reasons, but one of the main ones has to do with directors having no background or personal interest in the characters. Just look at some of the other comic book movies — Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Elektra, Hellboy, Hulk, Constantine, etc.

Maybe the studio will change its mind and do an X-4. I’d hate to see the series end with this one.

Harry Potter is my Homeboy?

FYI,

In case you haven’t heard, the newest Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire trailer can be found here:

Goblet of Fire trailer

I saw this today, and the trailer looks great! What really bugged me wasn’t the trailer, but it was the title of the column next to the trailer; the one entitled “Harry’s Homies.”

Harry's Homies

Oh come on now people! While time will tell whether or not Harry Potter will go down in history as classic literature, calling Harry’s friends his “homies” makes as much sense as putting a story out there about Lord of the Rings and refering to the Fellowship of the Ring as “Frodo’s Homies.”

Dictionary.com lists the following synonyms for “friend”:

acquaintance, ally, alter ego, amigo, associate, bedfellow, blocker, boon companion, bosom buddy, brother, buddy, chum, classmate, cohort, colleague, companion, compatriot, comrade, confrere, consort, countryman, cousin, crony, familiar, fellow, intimate, kissing cousin, little brother, main man, main squeeze, mate, other self, pal, partner, playmate, roommate, schoolmate, sidekick, sister, soul mate, spare, well-wisher

Ok, maybe “soul mate” doesn’t really fit in, but still, there are plenty of other words to use. I know someone was trying to be really clever and trendy by using “homie,” but if they really wanted to be clever, why not use British slang like “mate” or something? Rowling uses a lot of British slang in the UK versions of the book.

What’s next? Will Harry walk into the Gryffindor common room in the Goblet of Fire movie and say “wassup?”

Why isn’t ‘42′ the answer to the question ‘Why do people find “Napoleon Dynamite” so funny?’

Because, in my mind, “42” makes about as much sense as any other answer to that question…

I put “Napoleon Dynamite” in my Blockbuster movie queue thinking I might as well see it to see what all the fuss was about. Critics and “kids” love it. My first warning sign should have been the MTV logo at the beginning. To be fair, MTV has co-produced a couple of decent movies. “The Perfect Score” was a decent flick, even though it had a shade of “Breakfast Club” to it.

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Revenge of the Sith — It didn’t suck…

If you were not one of the loyal (or crazy) Star Wars fans that managed to catch the movie at 12:01 this morning or sometime today, I am here to tell you that it was actually pretty good.

The title of this post I borrowed from Scott Kurtz of PVP who’s quick post about the movie was “it didn’t suck.”

I’ve seen it twice today, and I plan to try catch it at a DLP theater before too long.

What was good about it? This was the first of the new movies that felt like it could be on the same shelf with the original trilogy. If you don’t believe me, go watch Episode 1 before you see Sith, just to remind yourself about a) the story and b) just how bad Episode 1 was.

I don’t want to give much away about the story. I think Lucas handled the transformation of Anakin to Vader very well. The scenes where the emperor is finally revealed and all of his well laid plans are executed are some of the best and most tragic scenes ever seen in the Star Wars saga. The beginning and the end of the movie flow very well, keeping everyone engrossed in the action.

In fact, I was surprised to see how one scene in the trailers actually fit into the movie. I was worried about the scene in the trailer where Obi-Wan screams ‘You were the chosen one.’ It really bugged me for some reason, but after seeing it in the context of the completed film, it worked very well.

Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid appear to be the most comfortable and appear to be having the most fun with their characters ( Obi Wan and Palpatine, respectively).

Oh, and Jar Jar (I will give this one away) doesn’t die, but he a) never speaks and b) is now only an extra that shows up in a couple of group shots. So, that’s a big plus.

Is the movie perfect? Of course not. It seems like the movie drags on in the middle while you wait for all of the pieces to fall into place. Once there, the pace is non-stop until nearly the end of the movie.

There is one confrontation that ends in a pretty lame way. And, as before, any scene with Anakin and Padme is pretty painful to watch. However, some of the scenes involving those two are a little better than the last film. I know Natalie Portman is an amazing actress. I’ve never seen Hayden Christiansen in anything else, so I’m not sure about him. I just don’t know why Lucas can’t get these scenes right.

And, although it’s cool to see the Vader suit again, it just feels out of place in this film. It’s primarily because the ‘older’ technology feels more advanced than anything in the original movies. It’s like showing us the light high tech armor that U.S. soldiers wear today and then trying to convince us that a guy in full plate mail is ‘newer’ technology.

One of the new characters, General Grievous, simply shows up. Plus, Lucas tries to convey everything that happened in the time between Episode II and III in the opening text of the film. If you want to learn more about the Clone Wars, you’ll have to pick up the Clone Wars animated series on DVD. You’d have to wait to catch the 3rd season on DVD or catch it in reruns on Cartoon Network. The 3rd season is probably the one to watch because it covers the events immediately before Episode III. In fact, the last episode of Clone Wars ends right where Episode III begins, which I thought was a nice way to integrate the two.

Overall, the movie is really good. The special effects continue to be more and more amazing. After seeing this one, it makes you wish Lucas could go back and spend some quality time with Episodes I & II and ‘fix’ them instead of trying to tweak the original trilogy again. After seeing Episode III, you can tell that Lucas had this one pretty well thought out, and that the other two movies only exist to set up the events for this one.

What about the nostalgia factor? What about the other movies ( 7, 8 & 9 )? This has been a journey that has taken 28 years to complete. We’ve waited that long to finally see how Anakin becomes Vader, the rise of the Empire, and the fall of the Jedi.

The saga has been part of Lucas’ life for at least that long. In this day and age, it’s hard to comprehend doing anything for 28 years ( hell, most marriages these days don’t last that long ). So, I really don’t blame Lucas for wanting to get away from it.

Sure, to a certain extent, it would be cool to see 7, 8 & 9 made, just because it would be an amazing cinematic feat that would not likely ever be repeated. But, at the same time, there are so many books out there already that cover what happens after Return of the Jedi that maybe there’s no point to making the movies.

It’s a little sad to see the last Star Wars movie, and I hope that Lucas will reconsider making the last three. At the very least, maybe he’ll turn then over to someone he trusts ( rumors have mentioned Spielberg doing them).

But, if this is truly the final one, then I think Episode III was a great way to end it.

Episode III: A Lost Hope

Sadly, this trailer might be better than the actual movie…

Star Wars Trailer

After seeing the last two Star Wars movies, I’m not optimistic that this one will be much better. In spite of the fact that the Clone Wars happen, Vader is born, and a lot of Jedi are supposed to die, I worry that somehow Lucas is going to try to spin a happy ending out of all of this.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Star Wars is a great fictional concept, and I think Lucas is amazing at creating these worlds. He just has a problem with telling the story.

There are rumors, as usual, going around that Lucas may actually let the next three movies get made. He isn’t interested in doing them, but he might turn them over to the right person.

To me, the ‘dream team’ for that job would be to get Joss Whedon to write the screenplays and let Spielberg direct them. Whedon is the main creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” and I think he would breathe some life into the Star Wars characters.

If you’re not convinced that Spielberg could do great things with Star Wars, then go rent The Terminal. To me, this was a movie with a very very weak concept, but somehow Spielberg managed to make it into a decent flick. I think he’s also made one or two other pretty decent movies…. : )