A good day to quit while they were ahead was the day they wrapped production on Live Free or Die Hard. This is one too many times drinking from a very dry well.
Abolishing slavery by constitutional provisions settles the fate for all coming time. Not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come.
Daniel Day Lewis has received so much attention for his incomparable performance as Abraham Lincoln that we have somewhat ignored the other master stroke of this film. Rather than try to forge a sweeping biography of 16th president, something better suited to a television miniseries, director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner have chosen to focus on one critical interval late in his presidency, to show the full weight of his political genius brought to bear on the most critical issue of that presidency.
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.
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
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.
When I first saw Avatar in the theaters, I experienced it the way it was supposed to be seen, in full-blown IMAX 3D. Seen that way, it was a visual and aural experience unlike any I’d had before or since in the movie theater. James Cameron had eschewed the usual 3-D gimmickry of objects seeming to fly over the audience’s heads, and used the tools at his disposal to create an all-encompassing fantasy environment that seemed real enough to touch.
Some people even reported feelings of depression after the movie because they preferred the alternate reality of the movie to their own. While I think such people were already in need of serious therapy and possible medication, I can understand how this movie, more than any other, would be the one to inspire that kind of “separation anxiety.”
As a visual spectacle, this film has thrown down an intimidating gauntlet that will be hard to top for the sheer exhilaration factor. Even “King of the World” Cameron himself might be feeling a little performance anxiety as he prepares Avatar 2, because even he might be hard-pressed to top his own creation.
But, about that story…
Combine a completely unnecessary remake of a 1950s science-fiction classic with a starring role for Keanu Reeves and you have a recipe for nothing to get excited about. In that respect, the 2008 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still does not disappoint. It unsuccessfully tries to hide its narrative emptiness behind a noisy CGI light show and half-hearted lip service to a ripped-from-the-headlines current-events subject.
Over the years, the words “Directed by Jon De Bont” and “Starring Keanu Reeves” have not always been recipes for awesomeness (Reeves does get points for Point Break, of course), but I guess accidents can happen. Of all the films built on the Die Hard blueprint, Speed is pretty much the only one that didn’t suck even a little.
Back in the eighties, there were a lot of films (and television shows) that tried to cash in on the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Who would have thought that this breezy trifle, written years before Raiders, would come closer to capturing the spirit of the original film than Spielberg’s sequel of the very same year?
I can’t believe we’re paying to see something we get on TV for free! If you ask me, everybody in this theater is a giant sucker!
By this point, with nineteen years worth of episodes under its belt, the need for a feature length version of The Simpsons seems like a dubious proposition at best. If you really need to see ninety minutes of America’s favorite yellow-skinned losers, there are probably at least that many reruns on Fox’s associated networks that you either haven’t seen yet or don’t remember that you’ve seen. I have the same problem with Law and Order repeats on TNT.
I’m not much of a comic book aficionado, so I’m not certain where the Fantastic Four fit in the pantheon-slash-food-chain of super heroes. I guess the fact that I’m aware of them means they’re pretty popular. As a film franchise, however, they are strictly bush league. Continue reading
Think of this movie like a long, slightly boring lecture in history class, only with explosions. This attempt to do for the attack on Pearl Harbor what The Longest Day did for the D-Day invasion of Normandy succeeds on so many technical levels that it’s a shame that it fails to engage the audience emotionally in its subject matter.
\However, while it was initially a failure at the box office, I wonder if the film ultimately managed to recoup its budget through royalties from licensing pieces of the film as stock footage. It’s hard to find a movie about World War II in the Pacific over the next twenty or thirty years that doesn’t reuse at least a few shots from Tora! Tora! Tora!