In some long-running TV series, especially science-fiction (and doubly so for the multiple incarnations of Star Trek), there is a phenomenon to explain the inevitable lapses in continuity, which is called “retroactive continuity” or “retcon.” This is either canonical (invented by the writers in later episodes) or non-canonical (invented by the fans), and usually they fall down on some logical level.
One of the more famous fan-based retcons tries to explain why James Bond has been played by multiple actors and appears to have aged forwards and backwards since 1962. According to this theory, “James Bond” is just a cover identity, which multiple double-oh agents have assumed over the years. The films On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me, and For Your Eyes Only render this nonsensical, and the Daniel Craig movies have rendered the whole thing moot.
Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so.
Back in 2006, when Blu-ray players and discs first appeared in stores, Sony distributed a demo reel for stores to play showing how fan-damn-tacular movies looked in the new format. This included scenes from Lawrence of Arabia, a Sony property via Columbia Pictures, implying the film would be among the first released. For the next six years, film buffs waited with increasing impatience for Sony to make good on that promise.
I, for one, am tickled that they waited so long. The Blu-ray edition released in November, based on a meticulous 4K restoration, is simply amazing. The last time the movie looked this good to my eyes was back in 1989, and I was watching it projected in 70mm at the old Cinedome theaters in Orange, CA.
This is less of a Pixar movie distributed by Disney than it is a Disney movie with animation by Pixar. The sumptuous visual experience we expect from a Pixar movie is more than up to our expectations, but as a story, Brave trods the familiar ground of more traditional Disney animation rather than the uncharted territories of WALL-E, Up, or The Incredibles. Unlike previous Pixar efforts, this is one for the kids and not as entertaining for the grown-ups in the room.
The wrap-up to the first trilogy (chronologically, not narratively) should have served as a warning of the pain we were to endure upon the release of the prequels twenty years later. All of the flaws that dogged episodes I through III were visible in Episode VI for anyone who cared to look.
Of course, back then we simply assumed that it was George Lucas unable to top the success of The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe he hired the wrong director in Richard Marquand or, as we have often seen in the case of movie trilogies, the filmmakers can’t always write an ending that lives up to the promise of what’s gone before.
The course of action I’d suggest is a course of action I can’t suggest.
The Hunt for Red October is still the gold standard for film adaptations of Tom Clancy novels, but this third installment, the second with Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, is only second by a narrow margin and widely superior to the previous Patriot Games and the subsequent Sum of All Fears.
Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder.
While the 1977 original may have launched the Star Wars phenomenon, I would make the case that this film was responsible for creating the enduring franchise. Had The Empire Strikes Back fallen flat on its face, had it not been, in many eyes, a superior film to the original (or equal in quality at the very worst), there would have been no special editions, no prequels, no Disney sale, and no one would be talking about whether J. J. Abrams wants to direct a seventh film.
I think the strength of this film lies in one simple fact. This is Darth Vader’s movie, more than any other in the franchise. Continue reading →
For moviegoers, the Marvel Comics universe has been hard to avoid these past few years. We’ve been treated to the excellent (Spider-Man 1 and 2), the pretty damn good (Iron Man), a nice try (The Incredible Hulk), and the god-awful (the Fantastic Four movies). Captain America: The First Avenger slides comfortably into Iron Man territory.
As comic book film-making goes, Captain America is everything it needs to be, with a likeable hero, the right tone, nice retro touches, and a straightforward story, briskly told. Continue reading →
While shooting Taken, Liam Neeson thought this movie would be a straight-to-video actioner, but he was getting paid to work in Paris, so it was a fair trade under the circumstances. Based on the crudest outline of the plot, it’s easy to see where he would make that mistake.
What makes this movie work, and elevated it to the cinematic first team, was an emotionally valid setup and an actor with the chops for the important father/daughter dynamic, and who can still credibly bring off the physical requirements the action scenes.
Luke's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.
Looking back on it from more than 30 years, it’s hard to imagine a time when Star Wars did not permeate our culture. It informs both our popular arts as well as high-level policy debate during the Cold War. It rewrote the rules of summer movies only two years after Jaws wrote them in the first place. This one movie took merchandising from a tidy little sideline to a stratospheric cash cow for Hollywood.
In short, a little movie made for less than $10 million, of which the studio thought so little that they willingly parted with all the ancillary rights that studios normally hang on to until hell freezes over, ended up being the greatest single act of creative destruction in the history of the business since The Jazz Singer. After Star Wars, the artistically ambitious films that were a hallmark of the early-to-mid-seventies were shuffled off to the independent filmmakers, while Hollywood became a factory for blockbusters.
At this juncture, it’s pointless to review this movie like I would a “normal” film, other than to offer my conjecture on why this little movie worked like no other movie before it and few since. And yes, I’m calling it Star Wars, not Episode IV or A New Hope. The movie that hit theaters in 1977 was called Star Wars, so that is the name of the movie.
Bringing Chris Nolan’s Bat-Trilogy to a satisfying conclusion, The Dark Knight Rises is probably not everyone’s idea of a comic book movie, but if it’s not yours, then you’re missing out. It may tell a complicated story and take its sweet time in the process, but it doesn’t waste that time in any way. For this last film, Nolan uses the canvas of the Batman universe to weave an epic tale, planting the comic book notions of good and evil in something that feels like the real world.
The Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are enjoying a bit of renaissance at the moment, with modern takes on the character on television on both sides of the pond. This take, however, based on novel by Nicholas Meyer, is modernization of a different sort, inserting contemporary concerns into a thoroughly traditional Holmes story.
If I didn’t already know this was based on an existing graphic novel, I might have assumed that the title was a leftover “working” title, and no one could be bothered to come up with anything better when the film was completed. Despite the major-league production values and the marquee value of Indiana Jones and James Bond in the cast, this is a forgettable pot-boiler that does proper service to only one half of its title.
A nameless stranger (Daniel Craig) wakes up with no memory of who he is, a wound in his side, and a large and strangely unremovable metal bracelet on one wrist. He reaches the nearest town, where people recognize him as Jake Lonergan, notorious stagecoach robber. Awkward.