Also known as: The Return of the Blues Brothers (original script title) Release Date: June 20th, 1980 Directed by: John Landis Written by: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis Music by: various Cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Carrie Fisher, Aretha Franklin, Henry Gibson, John Candy, Kathleen Freeman, Twiggy, Frank Oz, Charles Napier, Steven Spielberg, Steven Williams, Paul Reubens, Chaka Kahn, John Lee Hooker, Steve Lawrence, Jeff Morris, Joe Walsh, Armand Cerami
“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.” – Elwood, “Hit it.” – Jake
This was a favorite comedy of mine, as a kid. It also probably helped develop my love of music, as it exposed me to styles that weren’t simply the standard pop tunes of the day. Given the film’s name, one could assume that this is full of blues music but it also features some soul, jazz, rock and a bit of country and western.
The Blues Brothers also solidified John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as two of the coolest guys working in Hollywood. Sadly, Belushi died two years later but my exposure and love of this movie led me down the path of watching everything Dan Aykroyd did for well over a decade. It also made me appreciate and love the work of director, John Landis.
A movie like this reminds of what movies used to be. It came out in a stupendous era for film and provided audiences with legitimate escapism from the harsh realities of the real world. This didn’t try to preach to you or force fed you some lesson, it was just a hell of a lot of fun, featured incredible music, didn’t take itself too seriously and offered up a tremendous dose of comedy when you didn’t have to worry about offending a small percentage of people that don’t buy anything, anyway.
This reminded me of why I watch so many retro movies and why I don’t really give a shit about new stuff coming out. At least for the most part. I’m am really intrigued by the newest adaptation of Dune, even if it is only going to be relegated to the small screen. But I digress, as I’ve gotten side tracked here. I just thought that it was necessary to explain what sort of feeling and thoughts this movie generated, seeing it in 2021 for the first time in quite awhile.
The Blues Brothers features dozens of great cameos of legitimate musicians essentially playing fictional versions of themselves. Strangely, this works. I think that also has to do with the film jumping around a lot and by putting the bulk of the acting work on Belushi and Aykroyd, who proved that even at their young age, they could certainly carry a motion picture and entertain just about everyone through their brand of comedy and music.
That being said, it also made me miss the really old days of Saturday Night Live. I was born after that show started but I did have access to a lot of those classic episodes growing up thanks to my uncle’s massive VHS library.
Anyway, this is just an energetic, lighthearted movie with soul and personality. It’s the type of picture that brings people together and leaves them all with a smile. I fucking miss movies like this.
I should also get the soundtrack on vinyl because not owning it should be a crime and I’m disappointed in myself for not having it.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: other comedies by John Landis, also those by Ivan Reitman, as well as comedies starring Dan Aykroyd.
Also known as: Austin Powers (working title) Release Date: April 29th, 1997 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Jay Roach Written by: Mike Myers Music by: George S. Clinton Cast: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Fabiana Udenio, Will Ferrell, Joe Son, Paul Dillon, Charles Napier, Elya Baskin, Clint Howard, Tom Arnold (uncredited), Carrie Fisher, Larry Thomas, Burt Bacharach, Michael McDonald, Cindy Margolis, Christian Slater (UK version only), Rob Lowe (scene deleted)
Capella International, Gratitude, Juno Pix, New Line Cinema, 94 Minutes, 68 Minutes (TV cut)
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my underground lair. I have gathered here before me the world’s deadliest assassins, and yet each of you has failed to kill Austin Powers. That makes me angry. And when Dr. Evil gets angry, Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset. And when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset… people die!” – Dr. Evil
I, like most people, was a big fan of this film series when it was current. Weirdly, I hadn’t watched any of these since the third movie, Goldmember, came out in theaters. I had seen the first two at least a half dozen times, however, leading up to that third and final chapter.
Revisiting these now was a lot of fun. Even though I remembered just about everything and knew all the jokes and gags, it still felt like I was seeing it fresh and frankly, it made me nostalgic for a time when you could make movies like these because the world wasn’t so f’n PC and sensitive. If they ever made a fourth film, it would be a neutered and unfunny bitch.
This first film is still a hell of a lot of fun and it’s great, solid escapism. Especially in the early 2020s, as the world is really turning into a big ball of shit. Not having much in the way of real entertainment has also taken its toll on people, so looking back at stuff like this is kind of comforting.
In spite of the adversity nearly everyone has gone through as of late, it’s still hard not being happy watching Mike Myers ham it up as an uglied up, horny, British spy that’s part playboy, part buffoon and somehow still a hero when the odds are against him.
Like the ’90s, as a whole, this movie is crass and low brow. But growing up in that time is why I love that shit and probably why I miss it. Then again, people still knew how to laugh back in 1997.
Anyway, Myers also plays Dr. Evil, the film’s villain and his greatest character. But Myers also had the benefit of playing off of so many other great actors in this film. It’s this series that really cemented Seth Green as a legitimate talent for me and it also helped me fall in love with the comedic greatness of Mindy Sterling. Plus, Robert Wagner has never been better and that guy is always f’n great!
Additionally, this movie is full of hot babes, most notably the angelic Elizabeth Hurley. We also get Mimi Rogers at her all-time hottest, as well as Fabiana Udenio, a long time favorite babe of mine, and the glorious and sultry Fembots.
Austin Powers wasn’t the first film to parody the James Bond franchise but honestly, it’s probably the best and I say that as someone that adores the Dean Martin Matt Helms quadrilogy.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Austin Powers films and other ’60s styled spy spoofs like the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies and the original Casino Royale.
Release Date: December 16th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: J.J. Abrams Written by: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow Based on: characters by George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Harrison Ford (uncredited), Billie Lourd, Greg Grunberg, Dominic Monaghan, Warwick Davis, Denis Lawson, Jeff Garlin, Kevin Smith, James Earl Jones (vocal cameo), Andy Serkis (vocal cameo), Ewan McGregor (vocal cameo), Alec Guinness (vocal cameo), Hayden Christensen (vocal cameo), Ashley Eckstein (vocal cameo), Freddie Prinze Jr. (vocal cameo), Olivia d’Abo (vocal cameo), Frank Oz (vocal cameo), Liam Neeson (vocal cameo), Jennifer Hale (vocal cameo), Samuel L. Jackson (vocal cameo), Angelique Perrin (vocal cameo)
Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm, Bad Robot, 142 Minutes
*There be spoilers here!
“We had each other. That’s how we won.” – Lando Calrissian
Congratulations, Disney and Lucasfilm. You finally broke me to the point that I didn’t have the urge to see a Star Wars movie in the theater. Nope, I waited on this one because the previous few movies left such a bad taste in my mouth that I didn’t want to sit in a crowded theater with a bunch of normies clapping like seals every time there was a weak attempt at a cameo or minor victory. Also, people have been ruining the theater experience for awhile, so this film had that working against it already.
Now I figured I’d go see it once the buzz calmed down and the theaters cleared out a few weeks later but even then, it just wasn’t worth the trip or the money for me to make the effort.
Well, I finally watched it now that it’s available to rent and because this COVID-19 bullshit has us all trapped in our houses with nothing to do.
Anyway, as much as I anticipated not liking this, it was the best film of the three from the Disney produced Sequel Trilogy. Some of the more angry fans out there may think that’s crazy of me to say but I respect the effort of J.J. Abrams trying to fix the abortion that Rian Johnson created with The Last Jedi, especially with the weak skill set that Abrams has.
Honestly, they should have called this Star Wars: Episode IX – MacGuffins and Mystery Boxes but I guess that would require Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Bob Iger, Disney and Lucasfilm to actually understand humility and that they aren’t the great storytellers that they think they are.
Now this movie had a lot of weird shit that made certain sequences hard to get through. If I’m being honest, there aren’t really any sequences that didn’t have issues. I’ll list out some of my gripes from memory at the end of the main part of this review, as I did for some of my other Disney Star Wars reviews.
If I’m going to talk about what I liked about this film, I guess it’s that it tried really hard to give good fan service. Not so much, soulless, cheap attempts at winning me back but more like an admission that the series fucked up with the previous Rian Johnson stinker and that Abrams felt sorry and embarrassed that his larger vision for this trilogy was skull fucked in the eye by Johnson.
Rian Johnson cared more about his own ego and career than being the trusted custodian of something much larger than himself, which was created by others who were a lot more talented than he will ever be. If that’s harsh, I don’t care. Johnson didn’t care about the responsibility he signed up for, so he can deal with the repercussions of that from the fans who felt betrayed by his piss pigeon performance.
I’m glad that J.J. Abrams kicked Johnson in the nuts though. And his disdain for Johnson’s wreckage was made abundantly clear in the short scene where Luke returns, stops Rey from throwing her lightsaber away and states, “I was wrong.” Then he goes on to tell her what we all needed him to tell her in the previous film. For Luke Skywalker and Mark Hamill’s sake, I’m glad that the character didn’t go out like a weak piece of shit and was somewhat salvaged.
While on the subject of Rey, though, I still don’t understand how she is just simply the best at everything. She has an insanely weak character arc, hasn’t had anywhere near the level of adversity that Luke and Anakin had and you barely see her train at all and then she can barely deal with a fucking tiny laser drone. It’s like these modern filmmakers don’t think beyond what looks cool on the screen in a shot.
Anyway, this movie is a mess, narratively speaking. It’s really two movies wedged into one, as Abrams had to try and course correct while also coming up with a satisfying ending. That being said, he does okay in trying to achieve this but maybe this should have been longer or released as two parts. But I guess he is stuck with the numbering system and being tight within the framework of a trilogy.
Unfortunately, while we do get to see the main three characters spend some time together, it is hard to buy into their bond, as they spent the first two movies apart. I want to believe in it and I actually like the actors but this is something that needed to be done in every film. This is why people love the trinity of Luke, Leia and Han so much. But for whatever reason, Abrams, Kennedy and Iger don’t understand what worked about previous Star Wars films.
As much as my brain was picking things apart, I still found this to be the most palatable of the Disney Saga films. It’s hard to peg why but I think that Abrams genuinely wanted this to make up for the damage that’s been done and he did put his heart into it. But that also doesn’t mean that he was the right guy for the job way back when they announced him for The Force Awakens. He wasn’t and I had reservations about it back then.
In the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever watch any of these films again. If I do, it won’t be for a very long time. Maybe they’ll work better as a larger body of work but I doubt it with Rian Johnson’s big lame turd sitting smack in the middle of it. Honestly, it’s like a cat jumped on the table, took a shit in the middle of a mediocre pizza and you just decided to eat around it.
Assorted notes and gripes:
Watching the film, I was bombarded with a lot of WTF moments, these are the ones I remember. Maybe I should’ve taken notes.
-The opening crawl, immediately revealing Palpatine’s “resurrection” was cringe and the worst written opening crawl in the franchise.
-Who the fuck is manning all of Palpatine’s Star Destroyers?
-Why would the Star Destroyers break through thick ice to reveal themselves? There are hundreds of them and this seems like it would cause a lot of damage? And they’re already on a very hidden planet to begin with.
-Since Palpatine’s appearance isn’t explained but cloning is implied, am I just to assume that there’s only one Palpatine and not like 364?
-Lightspeed skipping? Really? And they land safely within a different planet’s atmosphere with every skip? Really? I’m no astrophysicist but I’d assume a planet’s atmosphere is a small percentage of a planet’s total structure and that planets themselves take up an insanely small amount of actual space in the universe, as a whole.
-“Hey Rose… you coming on the mission?” “Nah… I’m good, bro!”
-The group goes to outer space Burning Man… really?
-Don’t get me started on the jetpack trooper scene. That’s a clusterfuck of cringe and stupidity.
-I’m alright with the healing power but shouldn’t it drain Rey, even just a little bit. I mean, it fucking kills Kylo like two hours later.
-The Rey v. Kylo’s TIE Fighter scene was absolutely, unequivocally stupid. Just crush that shit with the Force, hoe!
-I guess Abrams views Droids as abused house pets.
-Gurl 1: “Not that you care but I think you’re okay.” Gurl 2: “I care.” Girl power! No lesbian kiss.
-So did C-3PO have red LED lights installed this whole time? Where were they when he was attempting to murder Jedi in Attack of the Clones?
-Rey doesn’t feel Chewie “die” on a ship that’s right in front of her. But then Rey feels that Chewie is alive when he’s much further away.
-Where’s Phasma? Is she really dead now? I thought she was Star Wars‘ version of Kenny from South Park.
-Are the Knights of Ren just laser sword thugs who don’t actually answer to Kylo Ren? Sith in training? Palpatine super soldiers? What the fuck are they?
-How does a billion year-old dagger line up with the wreckage of a Death Star that was built well after the dagger. And how was Rey lined up at the right angle and altitude to make it work? This was just a ripoff of the medallion from The Goonies and it was just stupid.
-I’ve lost count of the number of MacGuffins. I think there were five… maybe six? Is this a G.I. Joe miniseries from 1983? Nah… those were much better written.
-Weak as fuck lightsaber duels. Maybe the weakest in the entire franchise.
-Did Leia die because she called out to Kylo or was that just a perfect timing plot convenience?
-Harrison Ford? Why?
-Luke in 30 seconds was the Luke I wanted in the previous movie.
-Rey in a tiny X-Wing had to navigate through tight, dangerous, moving space corridors to reach the Palpatine planet but the Rebels’ big ass warships simply followed her path? It’s space, can’t they fly around that shit? What about the massive fucking armada of “regular people” that just shows up conveniently to win the war?
-Also, a militia of citizens overthrows a corrupt government by force. When did Hollywood become so blatantly pro-Second Amendment? I kid, Hollywood is just stupid.
-When they’re riding horses on the deck of a Star Destroyer, why doesn’t the ship just turn fucking sideways? It would’ve ended the war. One simple maneuver.
-The teleporting physical objects Force power is another lame plot convenience.
-What’s this random fucking Force Dyad thing? Abrams still thinks he’s making up stories with his toys in the bathtub.
-If Palpatine created Anakin and Anakin created Luke and Leia and Leia created Kylo Ren, all the while Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter, isn’t their attraction kinda incest-y?
-I’d watch a Lando & Chewie in the Falcon movie.
-Why bury the lightsabers? A safe would be more secure.
-Why even take the Skywalker name and why did it take her so long to say it? Maybe because a part of her knew it was wrong to just take their name, their personal shit and Luke’s childhood home. Bitch, you ain’t in the will, that shit all goes to the state!
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: the other Disney era Star Wars movies.
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
“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.
Release Date: December 9th, 2017 (Los Angeles Premiere) Directed by: Rian Johnson Written by: Rian Johnson Based on: characters created by George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, Frank Oz
Lucasfilm Ltd., Walt Disney, 152 Minutes
*Warning: there will be spoilers!
“When I found you, I saw raw, untamed power… and beyond that, something truly special.” – Supreme Leader Snoke
Well, it’s been two years since Episode VII – The Force Awakens and while I wasn’t a huge fan of that film, I hoped that its derivative nature was just to set things up for a new generation and that this chapter in the franchise would feel wholly original and tread new territory. So does it? And did I leave this film feeling as satisfied as I did with last year’s one off tale Rogue One?
The Last Jedi, for the most part, is pretty humdrum. There are a few things I like but let me run through it all.
To start, we have an okay movie with a shaky story but at least it’s not a rehash of stuff we’ve seen. Rian Johnson pretty much made this film the anti-The Force Awakens, as it doesn’t need to copy what’s been done already. Sure, there are some similarities with other Star Wars plots but nothing on the level of the grand plagiarism that was J.J. Abrams’ film, two years prior. I actually wrote about that at great length in my review about that film.
However, original or not, that doesn’t mean this is automatically great. In fact, it really isn’t.
So other than this story feeling new and fresh, I liked that Luke and Leia were both at the forefront and not just side characters. Being that this was Carrie Fisher’s last outing as Leia, I was happy to see her get to be more pivotal to the overall story in this chapter. Although, the bit where she is floating in space and uses the Force to float back to her damaged ship was damn bizarre. There were other bizarre uses of the Force in the film that kind of irked me too but this one really stood out. It just didn’t fit.
Luke was shit. I didn’t care for this older version of the character so much. I get his reasoning for why he checked out on the universe but the greatest Jedi ever shouldn’t have the emotional maturity of a nihilistic teenager. So what, his nephew lost his shit and Luke feels guilty about it. That doesn’t mean that Kylo Ren can’t be saved and that Luke doesn’t have the responsibility to try and bring him back.
Getting to the mysteries that people were speculating over for two years, I’m glad that they went the route they did. While most of my friends were entertaining every fan theory since The Force Awakens came out, I just assumed Rey and Snoke were both nobodies and their origins weren’t connected to anything significant to the overall narrative. I was right. Still, with Snoke, at least, I’d like some backstory, even if it’s just in a book or a casual mention of his connection to the Dark Side.
Snoke was also a red herring, in that he was just there for misdirection and to be a pseudo-Palpatine. His real purpose was just to be someone powerful for Kylo Ren to wipe out on his quest to rule the galaxy. And I’m glad to see him out of the way so Ren can toss General Hux, the First Order’s ginger Hitler, around like a dime store rag doll.
I did like Kylo Ren’s evolution and how he is still very much effected by things from his past and it’s his mission to annihilate those things while just looking forward. The dynamic between Ren and Rey was good and they have some solid chemistry, which will only add to the struggle of both characters’ growth in the next picture. Ultimately, when these two do have their final showdown, it should be interesting enough thanks to the seeds that were sown in this chapter. But really, this was just about the only real strength that this picture had.
Finn was a waste. His adventure was a waste and ultimately proved to be absolutely pointless. His section of the film could be removed entirely and the overall narrative and fluidity of the movie would have been much better. If they had nothing for Finn to do, they should have left him in his coma. If I were John Boyega, I’d be kind of pissed.
Poe is still here and at least he gets more to do than he did in The Force Awakens but he still doesn’t feel as pivotal to the plot as he could be. I like Oscar Issac a lot and hope that he essentially becomes the Resistance’s lead commander by the next film. He needs to be more like Han Solo in his General Solo role. But he’s not on a great trajectory when all the women constantly emasculate him for… reasons. If I were Oscar Issac, I’d be kind of pissed.
A lot of people also speculated on the returns of other characters but out of all the theories, only the Yoda one came true. He appears for a short bit just to remind Luke about the bigger picture. Sadly, he wasn’t sitting at a ghost table with ghost Kenobi, ghost Anakin and Ghost-Gon Jinn playing poker. I feel like the Yoda scene may have had more impact if the other three ghost Jedi were there too. But at least we get to see Yoda burn the ancient Jedi tree and cackle like a crackhead about it.
So a big part of the story’s premise has to deal with how the First Order are able to track the Resistance through hyperspace jumps, which was impossible before. So Snoke’s command ship and a massive fleet are trailing the Resistance, who are running out of fuel. I’m not super keen on this being the crux of the story’s framework, as it doesn’t work well for a lot of reasons.
However, the film sort of just ignores the already established physics of Star Wars hyperdrive travel. In this film, the travel feels way to quick and convenient. While this hasn’t been all that consistent in other movies, comics and books over the years, it just feels sloppily handled here. Also, the First Order’s device that tracks the Resistance looks like a giant Flux Capacitor.
There are two really fun showdowns here. One is when Kylo Ren takes Rey to Snoke. The other is when Luke shows up to stand between the First Order and the Resistance. Both were pretty unique confrontations and weren’t just simple lightsaber battles. Johnson did a decent job in writing those sequences in a way that made them different. And each one comes with a good curveball or two. The moment where Luke, all alone, stands before the First Order’s might is pretty friggin’ chilling. But then Luke is just a Force apparition and the coolness of that moment is like air seeping out of a balloon: deflated.
One thing that may create confusion is that half the time characters say “Resistance” and the other half they say “Rebels” or “Rebellion”. They still use the Rebellion logo, so why did they change to the Resistance in the first place and really, why the hell isn’t the First Order just called the Empire? That’s like admitting defeat. Just say, “Screw you, Rebels! We’re the Empire! We’re still here! You didn’t kill us with your teddy bear friends!”
I know that I am being nitpicky about some stuff but ultimately, the film has major problems.
Unfortunately, J.J. Abrams is returning to direct the still unnamed Episode IX, the final chapter of this trilogy. I really hope that his tendency to borrow entire movies is behind him and that he takes cues from… I don’t know… anything other than past Star Wars movies. No more superweapons! At least not for a really long time.
The more I think about and reflect on this film, the more I dislike it. It just has so many problems and really, it feels like the magic of Star Wars died a long time ago. Maybe it was gone when the prequels came out and I couldn’t accept it but at least those films had imagination. The Disney films rely too much on what has been established and are just cheap and nearly soulless attempts at trying to replicate the magic of the originals. I never thought that Star Wars would let me down as massively as the live-action Transformers movies did but Disney has made it so that Star Wars doesn’t feel special anymore. And frankly, I’m losing interest in this franchise that, at one point, was the biggest pop culture thing in my life.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: The other Disney Star Wars films.
Release Date: February 17th, 1989 Directed by: Joe Dante Written by: Dana Olsen Music by: Jerry Goldsmith Cast: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Rick Ducommun, Corey Feldman, Wendy Schaal, Henry Gibson, Brother Theodore, Courtney Gains, Dick Miller, Robert Picardo, Nicky Katt, Billy Jacoby (voice)
“[finds a femur] Ray, there’s no doubt anymore. This is real. Your neighbors are murdering people. They’re chopping them up. They’re burying them in their backyard. Ray… this is Walter.” – Art Wiengartner
The ‘Burbs is a rare dark comedy that hits all the right notes. Joe Dante was the perfect person to direct the script and the film was also perfectly cast.
While Tom Hanks was already building a name for himself and was a really good comedic performer that could handle more serious or dramatic material, it was this picture that really cemented his status, at least for me.
Hanks wowed people with a dramatic turn in Nothing In Common and even though The ‘Burbs doesn’t get as serious as that film, Hanks could flip the switch from comedy to serious on a dime, which he did here flawlessly. This and Big, which came out just a year prior, are the two films that made me a Tom Hanks fan. Following this up with the underappreciated Joe Versus the Volcano was also a great move by Hanks.
The cast is rounded out by Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Corey Feldman and Canadian comedian Rick Ducommun – a guy that probably should have had more prominent roles like this. The Klopek family, who were the focal point of suburban curiosity, were played by Henry Gibson – who is always fun, Brother Theodore – who was tailor made for this film, as well as Courtney Gains, who creeped out audiences a few years prior in Children of the Corn. You also get to see a young Nicky Katt, before he would become more recognized in his work with director Richard Linklater. Joe Dante also dips into the well of his regulars and gives us cameos by the great Dick Miller and the awesome Robert Picardo.
Mundane suburban life is at the center of the movie, as it follows three very bored suburban men and their wariness over the strange new neighbors who moved onto their street: the Klopeks. As the story progresses, they suspect the Klopeks are murderers. The plot escalates to the point that they can’t resist the temptation of digging up the Klopek’s yard and breaking into their house when they leave one day.
The film is highly comedic but is also a mystery and a thriller with a touch of horror added in. It is a pretty awesome mix and Dante worked his magic to great results.
It is also a highly stylized picture but in a subtle way. It was filmed on the Universal backlot and utilized some of the houses seen in famous sitcoms and other films. In fact, the house that Hanks lives in was used a few years earlier in another Hanks film, Dragnet. The generic suburban look makes it so that this neighborhood could be any neighborhood but it also has a sort of fantasy feel to it. It’s grounded in reality but it skews reality.
The ‘Burbs is solid, through and through. While it has gotten more popular over time, it wasn’t a critical success in 1989. When I first saw it, most of the kids I talked to hadn’t seen it. As I got older and time rolled on, I found more and more people that loved the film after discovering it on video or cable. Still, it surprisingly only has a 49 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
While not explicitly horror, this is a film I have to pop on almost annually around Halloween.
I decided to watch through all the previous Star Wars films before going to see The Force Awakens next week. I reviewed the prequel trilogy already and now it is time for my two cents on the original trilogy.
These were the first three films. Two of them came out when I was too young to know anything about film but I do remember my experience seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater when I was four. It is actually the first movie I remember seeing on the big screen and I absolutely loved it. Of course, I had already seen A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back and thus, developed a lifelong obsession with everything Star Wars.
But now I am older, I’m a bit jaded and I experienced everything wrong with the evolution of this beloved franchise. So how would I feel about each of these films, after having not seen them as one unified body of work for several years?
Well, let me address each one individually.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977):
Release Date: May 25th, 1977 Directed by: George Lucas Written by: George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones
Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 121 Minutes
“I have a very bad feeling about this.” – Luke Skywalker
The first Star Wars film ever released was A New Hope, which was simply known as Star Wars at the time. It was also the only film in the original trilogy to be directed by George Lucas. That is probably why the quality of this trilogy was much better.
This is the smallest feeling film of the Star Wars franchise. It really only takes place on two worlds and one of those worlds is shown only briefly. The rest of the film takes place in space. However, they don’t even leave the first planet for like an hour, which is pretty crazy for a Star Wars film.
This movie also moves the slowest. Not that it is dull or boring but there is more time given to storytelling and character building than any other Star Wars film after this. The interactions between Luke Skywalker and the old Obi-Wan Kenobi are the most intimate in the entire franchise.
The addition of Han Solo and Chewbacca, and later Princess Leia, to the team feels organic and natural and everyone works well with each other. The cast and their camaraderie between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy is night and day. The strength of their bond only gets better with each installment in this trilogy.
Now this is my least favorite of the original three films. There is just one mediocre lightsaber battle with strange effects, that even after the special editions were released, doesn’t match up with the effects of all the other lightsaber battles.
This film is more about understanding the Force and the mythos of Star Wars, where all the other films just go full action.
But despite a few flaws, that aren’t really worth mentioning, it still plays wonderfully today.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.
Star Wars: Episode V – Empire Strikes Back (1980):
Release Date: May 17th, 1980 (Washington D.C.) Directed by: Irvin Kershner Written by: George Lucas, Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan Music by: John Williams Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, James Earl Jones, Clive Revill (original version), Ian McDiarmid (Special Edition)
Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 124 Minutes
“I have a bad feeling about this.” – Princess Leia
This movie seems to be the favorite amongst most Star Wars fans. It isn’t my favorite but it is damned good.
I will say that this is the best chapter, as a film, out of all six movies. It is almost a masterpiece. The acting is superb, the tone is magnificent and the big twist in the plot is Earth-shattering if you are not prepared for it. My young mind back in the day nearly exploded.
In this film, you understand the motivations of the characters better. The universe gets much larger, the story gets much darker and our heroes are pitted against odds that seem insurmountable. The stakes are much higher and there is a great sense of loss, doom and gloom before it is all over.
You are introduced to the awesome ice planet Hoth, the characters of Yoda, Lando, the Emperor and Boba Fett (if you don’t count his brief cameo in the special edition version of A New Hope). You also get a glimpse at all the other cool bounty hunters, Vader’s Super Star Destroyer, Snow Troopers and the AT-ATs.
This film acts as a perfect second act, setting up the big climax and solidifying your love of the story and the characters within.
Empire Strikes Back is to space operas what The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was to westerns.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983):
Release Date: May 25th, 1983 Directed by: Richard Marquand Written by: George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan Music by: John Williams Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Ian McDiarmid, Alec Guinness, Warwick Davis, James Earl Jones, Phil Fondacaro
Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 131 Minutes
“Artoo, I have a bad feeling about this.” – C-3PO
While I don’t consider this as good and as perfect of a film as Empire Strikes Back, it is still my favorite in the series. The reason being, is it is the most fun and is the largest of the three films. Sure, people hate the Ewoks but I don’t. Wookiees would’ve certainly been cooler than Ewoks in the big final battle but they are like a bunch of James Deans when compared to the Gungans of the prequel trilogy.
This film has my favorite sequence out of any Star Wars chapter and that is the mental chess game played between the Emperor, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. It also has the greatest space battle in the history of cinema. Not to mention that the unfinished skeletal Death Star looks a lot cooler than the complete one from A New Hope.
The first part of this film, dealing with the heroes banding together to rescue the once selfish Han Solo, goes to show how far they have all come and what true friendship means. It was a great lesson to learn as a kid and this is probably the best example of it from my childhood. Plus, Jabba the Hutt and his minions were one of the coolest things in the entire trilogy.
Return of the Jedi is one of the funnest pictures in film history. It is the happy ending you want but still comes at a great price.
It is the near-perfect ending of a near-perfect trilogy.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.
*Since the second Disney Star Wars film comes out this week, I figured I’d post my review of last year’s The Force Awakens. This is taken from my previous blog.
Release Date: December 14th, 2015 (Los Angeles Premiere) Directed by: J.J. Abrams Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt Based on: characters created by George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie, Greg Grunberg, Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig, Pip Torrens, Frank Oz (archive recording)
Lucasfilm Ltd., Bad Robot Productions, Walt Disney, 136 Minutes
“I got a bad feeling about this.” – Han Solo
And here we are! The seventh episode of the Star Wars saga has now arrived! I have seen it! You have probably seen it! And we now know whether or not it was worth the wait, the hype and unrelenting adoration for generations to come!
So did it live up to the hype? Short answer: no. But what could live up to hype that strong? So was it better than the prequels? Yes and no but I will describe why, as I write.
It isn’t as good as the Original Trilogy and that is okay. It is still a nice addition to the overall saga despite its flaws. But I guess you just can’t keep capturing lightning in a bottle.
The problem with this film is that it is very derivative. In fact, it is basically borrowing a bunch of plot points and elements from the same saga it is a part of. This film is a rehash of A New Hope with elements of Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, the Knights of the Old Republic video game series and the Expanded Universe nine part book series Legacy of the Force.
Now I knew that this film was going to look to stories in the EU for inspiration but I didn’t know that it was essentially going to be a remake of A New Hope – extended with new stuff thrown in.
So how is it a rehash of A New Hope?
Well, a hero puts a message in a droid that needs to be delivered to the Resistance (the modern Rebellion). That hero is captured by a black clad Sith lord (or Sith wannabe, I’m not sure). The droid roams a desert planet and meets a stranger that helps it go further on its quest. The hero captured by the Sith is then rescued from the First Order’s (the modern Empire) big Star Destroyer. A new hero meets the desert stranger and they escape the desert planet in the Millennium Falcon. There is an evil General that is a prettier version of Grand Moff Tarkin. Starkiller Base (a bigger, badder version of the Death Star) blows up several planets (not just one). Some half hour filler stuff happens in a cantina full of weird aliens. Sith dude talks to a dude that is pretty much the new version of the Emperor. The heroes then end up at the Resistance base that looks reminiscent of the Rebellion base planet from A New Hope. They decide to destroy Starkiller Base. There is some father/son stuff. Han Solo has to lower the planetary shields so Starkiller Base can be attacked. X-Wings attack the base and fly through its trenches. Big explosion. Ships fly away. People holding hands. No medals handed out though. And Luke Skywalker is hanging out in Ireland and probably doesn’t even have cable. Okay, the Ireland part is new.
Wow, there are actually a lot more similarities than I thought before writing that quick recap.
The best thing that this film has going for it, is that the actors were good and the returning heroes from the Original Trilogy made an impact in the scenes where they showed up. But truthfully, this movie relied too heavily on incorporating everything it could from the Original Trilogy while ignoring the Prequel Trilogy. Furthermore, it didn’t really offer up much of anything new.
Say what you will about the quality of the Prequel Trilogy but at least George Lucas gave us a different story in every chapter. Each film, good or bad, was still something new. There were new imaginative worlds, cool alien species, cool ships, all types of new stuff to look at and experience. This film just wasn’t new and exciting. It was an amalgamation of all the good stuff that came before while trying to make you forget about the bad stuff. That isn’t always a good formula though. It certainly doesn’t work here. Additionally, the rehash of the good stuff isn’t done as well as it was the first time. So what’s the point, then?
The worlds were too similar to worlds we’ve seen already. The ships and vehicles were about the same as the old ones but with new paint schemes. It’s just all been done before and done better.
This film suffers from lazy storytelling and it lacks the imagination of George Lucas. Yes, his imagination was questionable, at times, but again, each installment of his Star Wars was something fresh. And it was his imagination that drove all of us to love the franchise in the first place.
I’m disappointed in J.J. Abrams because he claims to be a huge Star Wars fan and credits it for his journey into filmmaking. He dropped the ball but I don’t really think he’s ever had it and ran with it anyway. His first Star Trek film was also a rehash of sorts of A New Hope. His second Star Trek was a rehash of the original second Star Trek. His kid/alien movie Super 8 was a rehash of E.T. Hell, Lost was the most original thing he did but the last few seasons were awful.
This movie is the antithesis of the Prequel Trilogy. While that might seem great, it is its antithesis in a bad way. It just repackages everything we know and barely gives us anything new to sink our teeth into. If I want the Original Trilogy, I will watch the Original Trilogy. But then again, there are some people that just want the same shit over and over again and if that is you, you will love this movie. It doesn’t try to expand on anything like the Prequels did and it keeps imagination in a safe, tight jar.
This is the least ambitious Star Wars film that has ever been made. It played it safe, it was completely predictable and it didn’t present anything of value to excite you for its upcoming sequels.
The most important thing that The Force Awakens lacked, was fun. It had humor here and there but the film wasn’t a joyous experience, overall.
You see, in the Original Trilogy, Luke was our eyes and ears into a new world. He was excited and dying for adventure. Rey, this film’s equivalent to Luke, was pretty much sad and just yearning to go back to her boring shitty life, not craving adventure and actually running from it until destiny forced her to confront it.
In fact, the film was too much like Rey in that it was dark, brooding and pretty bland tonally.
The thing is, I may be coming off as harsh, but I wanted to like this movie. I have been a die hard Star Wars fan since the time of the Original Trilogy. I do like this film enough to watch it again and it is more enjoyable than the Prequels, even if it is less original, but I can’t honestly say that I like it. But I also don’t dislike it. I just happen to find myself in some weird state of limbo since leaving the theater an hour ago.
-The cinematography was weird in places and didn’t match up with the style of the previous six films.
-Abrams also talked about how he was going with more practical effects but there was still an overabundance of CGI.
-After all the hype about how bad ass and cool Captain Phasma was supposed to be, she was a non-event in this movie. She wasn’t even necessary to the plot in any way. But Abrams also needed his Boba Fett. But if he is digging up all the old actors and old plots for nostalgia sake, he could’ve just thrown Boba Fett in the movie.
-Abrams also borrows from the character of Yoda in making a tiny orange female alien that is a thousand years old. She knows the Force but is no Jedi but that doesn’t stop her from mentoring Rey, the Jedi to be. I bet in a future film, it is revealed that she had an association with Yoda.
-Snoke is this film’s Palpatine. For some reason his hologram is a giant sitting on a giant throne. Maybe he will be that big in the flesh but it just came off as weird and that throne room was a bit too much for a place he doesn’t actually sit in. I also suspect that he may be Darth Plagueis.
-I know that the Empire (now First Order) were based off of the Nazis but General Hux’s Hitler-like speech was a bit much.
-Starkiller Base (the new Death Star) is really irritating. It is technically impossible to build something like that in a planet’s surface without having an insane amount of volcanic activity. Also, it sucks power from its sun until it drains out. If that actually happened, the environment on the planet would freeze over, it wouldn’t just turn dark and snow more. And if the base can travel like the Death Star, the environment would alter so much that nothing could live on the planet. Also, the solar energy sucking thing was taken from the Star Forge superweapon in the original Knights of the Old Republic game. Plus, pulling energy like that into a planet’s atmosphere would incinerate everything.
-Finn is clumsy as hell but somehow can hold his ground against a force trained baddie. Also, it wasn’t established that he was a Jedi and therefore it bothers me that he even uses a lightsaber, not to mention that I doubt his Stormtrooper training came with fencing lessons. Also, he left the First Order because he didn’t want to kill strangers (admirable) but he had no qualms blasting his Stormtrooper brothers to bits when escaping with Poe. They are just brainwashed people like he was.
-What’s with the Stormtrooper with the anti-lightsaber weapon? Do they all have those and if so, why? There is only one Jedi in the galaxy. That’s like every cop on the street carrying a bazooka because you never know when a tank may roll into town.
-C-3PO and R2-D2 are barely in the film which misses the whole point of their characters. They are to be the observers of everything and the chroniclers of the Skywalker family saga. R2-D2 was asleep for the first two hours and ten minutes of this movie. And why did Luke leave R2-D2 behind? That was cruel.
-Han’s death was the best scene in the film. Not because I wanted to see Han die but the exchange between him and Kylo Ren was great. For only seeing these two share one scene, you could feel their love and their pain.
-Speaking of Ren, he has certain powers that seem to be greater than Darth Vader but yet he can’t build a lightsaber that isn’t crap? And yes, it still looks stupid. But it isn’t as stupid as Starkiller Base. Plus, he is a total emo bitch and nowhere near as menacing or threatening as any Sith lord before him. But his shuttle is pretty damn cool.
-Rey can’t take off in the Millennium Falcon without trashing everything in sight but she can fly it through a crashed Star Destroyer two minutes later.
-Why couldn’t Chewie drop Rey off at the top of the mountain?
-Even though the Force is what makes destiny happen, things in this film just seem too convenient. Even more convenient than all the other films. This goes back to my earlier point about lazy storytelling.
-Seeing an old planet from a previous film would’ve been nice. Jakku could’ve just been Tatooine, really.
-There should’ve been more of Poe Dameron.
-There was a complete lack of emotion and no feeling of devastation after Starkiller Base’s attack of mass destruction. It was soulless, cheap and irritating like the end of Man of Steel.
-I liked most of these new characters but I’m not completely sold on Ren.
-Rey and Finn’s relationship was a million times less painful to watch than Anakin and Padme’s.
-Leia is fucking great.
-I hope the galaxy expands out more in the next film.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: The Disney Star Wars movies.