Documentary Review: Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy (2004)

Also known as: Empire of Dreams (shortened title)
Release Date: September 12th, 2004
Directed by: Kevin Burns, Edith Becker
Written by: Ed Singer
Music by: John Williams
Cast: George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Warwick Davis, Frank Oz, Lawrence Kasdan, John Williams, Joe Johnston, Ralph McQuarrie, Alan Ladd Jr., Irvin Kershner, Steven Spielberg, Walter Cronkite

Prometheus Entertainment, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, A&E, 151 Minutes, 120 Minutes (TV Edit)

Review:

“I think George likes people, I think George is a warm-hearted person, but… he’s a little impatient with the process of acting, of finding something. He thinks that something’s there. “It’s right there, I wrote it down. Do that”. You know, sometimes you can’t just “do that” and make it work.” – Harrison Ford

I can’t believe that it’s been fifteen years since this documentary came out. It was the selling point of getting me to buy the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD though, as I had already owned the movies several times over, in all their incarnations, but wanted to have this documentary to keep and rewatch over the years.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen it but it’s available on Prime Video, as well as Disney+ now.

Seeing this again sparked something in me that I hadn’t felt since Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005. It was that feeling of wonder, excitement and childlike awe. Disney is incapable of generating that sensation in me since they took over the Star Wars franchise and honestly, it’s mostly dead to me.

Empire of Dreams brought me back to where I was though from my childhood and into my twenties when I had a deep love for everything Star Wars. But most importantly, this showed me how much better the original movies were compared to Disney’s schlock and the shoddy prequels.

If Disney tried to make an Empire of Dreams followup about their new trilogy, would anyone care? Well, anyone with actual taste that was alive when the original Star Wars phenomenon was still alive and strong? I mean, how interesting would that documentary even be? And do you really even care about seeing any of the modern Star Wars actors and filmmakers talking about these new movies?

Empire of Dreams does a stupendous job of delving deep into the creation of one of the greatest film franchises of all-time. But seeing it with 2019 eyes, it more importantly shows you just how magical the Star Wars brand once was before Disney retrofitted it for an audience of wine moms and broke social justice warriors who can’t afford to buy the merch in the first place.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the original Star Wars trilogy and other Star Wars documentaries.

Documentary Review: Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen (2004)

Release Date: September 4th, 2004 (Germany)
Directed by: Michael Palm
Written by: Michael Palm
Cast: Edgar G. Ulmer (voice, archive footage), Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Ann Savage, John Saxon, William Schallert, Arianne Ulmer, Tom Weaver, Wim Wenders

Edgar G. Ulmer Preservation Corporation, Mischief Films, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), 77 Minutes

Review:

While I was perusing the offerings on the Criterion Channel, I came across this documentary about filmmaker, Edgar G. Ulmer.

This guy made magic in three of my favorite genres: horror, science fiction and film-noir. I believe that this documentary may actually be included on the Criterion Collection version of Detour.

What’s neat about it is that it features interviews and conversations with a lot of well known directors and actors that worked with or were influenced by Ulmer’s work behind the camera.

This also features his daughter who gives more intimate details on Ulmer, his life, her life as his daughter, as well as talking about her time in front of the camera with her father directing.

I really liked the conversation here between Joe Dante and John Landis. I also enjoyed the parts with John Saxon, Ann Savage, Roger Corman and Wim Wenders.

This was just a solid piece of work that really went through the man’s career with insight from some of the people who were there and others who had their own unique insight.

I couldn’t find a trailer for the documentary, so I put a trailer for Detour below, as it is my favorite Edgar G. Ulmer picture.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about horror, sci-fi and noir filmmakers.

Film Review: Seed of Chucky (2004)

Also known as: Child’s Play 5, Son of Chucky, Bride of Chucky 2 (working titles)
Release Date: November 12th, 2004
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Redman, Billy Boyd, Hannah Spearritt, Steve Lawton, John Waters

Rogue Pictures, David Kirschner Productions, Castel Film Romania, 87 Minutes, 88 Minutes (unrated)

Review:

“Christ! Enough about your mother! I killed that bitch twenty years ago and she still won’t shut up!” – Chucky

Whenever this movie comes up in conversation, everyone I talk to seems to hate it. Granted, when it came out, the trailer didn’t make me want to see it and I put it off for nearly ten years. However, once I did give the film a chance, I liked it near the same level that I liked its predecessor: Bride of Chucky.

I understand why this entry into the long running movie series gets a lot of hate but I think that is because people try to view it in the same way that they looked at the original trilogy of films, as a serious slasher with some colorful and funny one-liners from the killer doll.

The big difference is that this needs to be viewed as a comedy. Sure, a dark, twisted, fucked up comedy but this takes the increase in comedy from Bride of Chucky and magnifies it a lot more. Now I understand why that would upset some hardcore slasher purists but this is really the 1966 Batman of the franchise and I mean that as lovingly as possible.

Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly are absolutely dynamite in this. It honestly feels like Dourif was ad-libbing the whole thing. I know that’s not really possible, unless he was controlling Chucky’s animatronics while voice acting but this has a similar feel to it as improv comedy. Plus, Chucky’s never been funnier and the jokes are just constant.

The real star of the film is Billy Boyd, though. He plays the offspring of Chuck and Tiff and isn’t sure about his/her gender, his/her life and his/her place in all of the madness that surrounds his/her parents. I guess a lot of people disliked this character severely and he/she’s sort of been pushed out of the film series since this picture but I’d still like to see him/her reappear or at least get a mention as to what his/her whereabouts are.

After typing that politically correct paragraph, I came to the realization that Don Mancini and the Child’s Play franchise were more socially progressive than Twitter by at least a decade.

Anyway, I still prefer the original three films to anything that came after but this reinvents the franchise quite a bit and honestly, it needed some reinvention. While Bride of Chucky accomplished that already, Seed of Chucky pushed the bar further.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: all the Child’s Play movies except the 2019 reboot.

Documentary Review: Shadowing the Third Man (2004)

Release Date: October 11th, 2004
Directed by: Frederick Baker
Written by: Frederick Baker
Cast: John Hurt (narrator)

Media Europe, NHK, BBC, 95 Minutes

Review:

The Third Man is a movie that I discovered fairly recently but it instantly became one of my favorites. I couldn’t get enough of it, honestly, and I watched it three times over the course of a month.

So when I came across this documentary about the film, I had to check it out. This is streaming on the Criterion Channel for those of you interested in watching it.

This goes into great depth about the film, looking at how it was made, as well as being a love letter to Vienna and the iconic locations where the film was shot.

What’s really cool about this, is that it shows you the same locations in Vienna now, in modern times. Not much has changed in these locations but it’s really neat seeing them in full color, compared to the shots of the film.

This documentary is narrated by the great John Hurt and he adds a certain bit of eloquence to the presentation, as he guides the viewer through this film’s genesis, it’s execution and the impact it had after its release.

Another great thing about this film is that it shows interviews with most of the key people involved in the film. The stuff featuring Orson Welles is compelling stuff.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The Third Man and any Carol Reed or Orson Welles film.

Film Review: Blade: Trinity (2004)

Also known as: Blade III (working title)
Release Date: December 7th, 2004 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: David S. Goyer
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Music by: Ramin Djawadi, Rza
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds, Parker Posey, Dominic Purcell, Triple H, Natasha Lyonne, John Michael Higgins, James Remar, Patton Oswalt, Christopher Heyerdahl

Marvel Enterprises, Shawn Danielle Productions Ltd., Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, New Line Cinema, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[licking one of Hannibal’s wounds] You’re tasting a little bland, lover. Are you getting enough fatty acids in your diet? Have you tried lake trout? Mackerel?” – Danica Talos, “How about you take a sugar-frosted fuck off the end of my dick?” – Hannibal King, “And how about everyone here not saying the word “dick” anymore? It provokes my envy.” – Danica Talos

Well, revisiting Blade II wasn’t fun but at least this one was a bit better, in my opinion, even if the consensus doesn’t agree with me.

But let’s be honest, this is also pretty much a total turkey unworthy of being a sequel to the first film.

What’s kind of baffling is that this installment has the best cast out of all three films. I mean, there is a lot of talent on the roster but what we got was a movie that has given most of these actors something to scrub off of their resume.

For instance, Parker Posey is a dynamite actress. In fact, she may be mostly known as an indie darling but she’s one of the best actresses of the past twenty-five years. She has range, she delivers and it’s hard to think of anything else that sees her performance be anywhere near as cringe as it is here. But I don’t blame Posey, I blame the atrocious script and poor direction of David S. Goyer.

So speaking on that, I have to point out how bad the dialogue is in this picture. It’s heinously bad. So bad, in fact, that it almost makes the dialogue in the first Blade come off as Shakespearean. It’s worse than the dialogue in Blade II, which was also shit. But I guess it’s kind of surprising, considering that Goyer wrote all three films. But maybe it’s worse here because he took over the directing duties and thus, didn’t have a more talented director that was able to work around terribly written lines and find a way to salvage them. Maybe Goyer kept a tighter leash on his actors than Guillermo del Toro or Stephen Norrington.

I mean, even Ryan Reynolds who is one of the most charming and funny actors of his generation, stumbled through his clunky and unfunny lines, trying to make them work but failing at delivering anything other than unfunny edgy boi humor that sounds like it was written by a middle schooler trying so hard to impress his older brother’s high school friends.

Don’t even get me started on Triple H’s performance but regardless of how convincing he is as a wrestler, his heel game is weak as hell here and I actually had to subtract some cool points from him when I saw this in 2004.

This chapter also lacks a real story and it isn’t even sure which character it wants to make the big bad of the movie. Dominic Purcell plays Drake, who is really just Dracula, but he comes off as the lamest Dracula in the last twenty years of film history. But Purcell is another guy that’s cool and pretty capable of putting in a good performance if given the right direction.

Ultimately, this is a film entirely bogged down by poor performances, bad writing and sloppy direction.

However, the story is better and more clever than the previous film. This had elements that could have saved it and turned this into something great. The opening in the desert and then the first action sequence were all well done and set the stage for what could have been a really solid picture but everything becomes a mess after that.

I also liked the idea of Blade finding a team to work with but the film fucks all that up by having Limp Bizkit Dracula killing just about all of them off except for Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel.

Now I really liked Biel in this, even if fighting vampires while jiving to your iPod seems incredibly careless. She gives a better performance than this weak script should have allowed and maybe Goyer was more lenient on letting her alter her performance, as she’s pretty hot and this was only the second time he directed.

Other great performers were all pretty much wasted and were forgettable. In fact, I forgot that James Remar, John Michael Higgins, Christopher Heyerdahl, Patton Oswalt and Natasha Lyonne were even in this.

In the end, this had the ability to be something much better but it suffered for all the reasons I’ve already bitched about. I liked that this wasn’t over stylized like del Toro’s Blade II and that it had a more interesting story that put Blade up against Dracula but the film’s execution snuffed out the possibility of something solid.

And while it seems as if I’m bashing Goyer, he would improve. But his best work has always come when he’s worked under a much more talented director than himself. Christopher Nolan, for instance. But he’s still put out some shitty scripts and unfortunately, the shit outweighs the gold.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Blade movies.

Film Review: Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

Also known as: Ginger Snaps 3, Ginger Snaps: The Prequel (working titles), Licantropia (Italy)
Release Date: July 10th, 2004 (Canada – Fantasia Film Festival)
Directed by: Grant Harvey
Written by: Stephen Massicotte, Christina Ray
Based on: characters by Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Alex Khaskin
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fletcher

49 Films, Combustion, Lionsgate, 94 Minutes

Review:

“The air is bloody…” – Ginger

Well, here we are, the end of this trilogy. I haven’t really enjoyed it even though I liked the first film like twenty years ago and I thought that the first sequel was a wee bit better for being straight up horror and not a puberty metaphor.

However, this one has a few good spots in it but it is mostly a really dull drudge to get through.

Most of the film is just Ginger and Brigitte wearing Colonial Era cloaks and moping around reminding us that they’re insufferable goth teen cliches. But this isn’t the same Ginger and Brigitte. No, this is somehow a prequel and they’re different characters but whatever. None of that makes sense and this is all a bad idea used to milk this into a franchise that no one wanted other than twelve year-old goth girls and the Canadian film industry.

Anyway, this tries to take itself seriously but it fails. It forgets that it is supposed to have a bit of cheese but it only has bad, unintentional cheese and doesn’t try to emulate what makes the good teen/twentysomething werewolf movies, well… good. There needs to be some humor and characters that you care for, so that the transformation to monsters actually makes the audience care. Look at An American Werewolf In London for a good example of what I’m talking about.

The Ginger Snaps film series is just an ugly, moody bitch. It’s an angsty teen without a sense of humor, doing its damnedest just to piss off mom and dad because “…like the suburbs suck and shit”. This film takes the worse parts about the original and just dumps them into the Canadian wilderness of the 1810s.

Also, the acting seems to have gotten worse.

Now as far as the cool bits, there is a scene at the end where werewolf Ginger opens the gates to the fort and a hoard of werewolves walk in to eat the inhabitants. It looks good, the effects are better than they were in the first two films and you finally get to see multiple werewolves onscreen at the same time. Now the faces of the monsters aren’t very good but overall, I can see that they actually put the budget into the effects. But I guess that’s why they had to film this in a big cabin, fronting as a fort, in some Canadian state park somewhere in the woods.

I don’t know, man. This was boring, tough to get through and it made sure that I’ll probably never rewatch one of these movies again.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Ginger Snaps movies.

Film Review: Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)

Release Date: January 30th, 2004 (Canada)
Directed by: Brett Sullivan
Written by: Megan Martin
Based on: characters by Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Kurt Swinghammer
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Tatiana Maslany, Eric Johnson, Janet Kidder, Brendan Fletcher

Copperheart Entertainment, Lionsgate, 94 Minutes

Review:

“So this is home, huh, Ghost?… Kind of has the Manson family charm.” – Tyler

I guess this isn’t as beloved as the original film but I actually enjoy this one more.

It’s not bogged down by puberty issues or teen drama, it’s just a straight up horror movie with a really good, dark twist to the story.

The main stars from the first film return but this is focused on Emily Perkins’ Bridgette, as Katharine Isabelle’s Ginger is still dead and just haunts Bridgette as her conscience in the form of a ghost. The rest of the cast is made up of people that work in or are patients of an asylum.

When this story starts, Bridgette is still infected with werewolf blood as the cure from the first movie doesn’t really work. So Bridgette is basically an addict, taking the faulty cure in an effort to prevent the werewolf blood from fully taking over her. But as time goes on, her body becomes more and more immune to her medicine. In the asylum, her “drugs” are taken away from her, so its only a matter of time before she becomes a monster.

I like the setting and vibe of this film more than the original. It felt raw, grittier and it exists to scare its audience, as opposed to using the horror film medium as an analogy for girl’s getting their period.

Plus, I thought that the effects here were better and the film obscured the monster for the most part, as opposed to a big reveal that didn’t payoff due to the cheapness of the budget.

Additionally, I liked the concept of turning Bridgette into a junkie, still possessed by her sister’s overbearing spirit while also throwing in another werewolf and another type of monster altogether.

Ginger Snaps 2 is not a great film but it’s a better horror movie than the first one and it doesn’t beat around the bush. It gives you horror violence from the outset and you actually feel organic danger in this chapter of the trilogy.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Ginger Snaps movies.