2005

December 1, 2015

Countdown to the Force Awakens (Episode III) – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Exiting “Attack of the Clones” you might feel a little woozy and maybe even feel a little lost, and think to yourself, “is there any hope?” Well, as much as people might disagree with me, this entry in the “Star Wars” film universe if not only one of my favorites, but also one of the better shot, directed, and acting in the series as well. Let’s not stand on ceremony, let’s commence with 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith.”

“Sith” begins in the middle of a giant space battle with both Anakin Skywalker, now a full Jedi Knight, and his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, hunting down General Grevious, the leader of the Droid Army who has kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine. After a daring rescue, Kenobi and Skywalker are met with a heroes welcome back on Coruscant.

The plot thickens as Anakin and Padme reunite and she reveals to him that she is pregnant, however visions of Padme dying during childbirth haunt Anakin who first seeks counsel with Jedi Master Yoda, and later with Palpatine who regales Skywalker with stories of the Dark Side of The Force and and Sith Lord named Darth Plagueis.

There is also worry within the Jedi ranks as Chancellor Palpatine looks to expand his power within the Senate. Many are worried they will need to remove the Chancellor after the Clone Wars has come to an end. Master Jedi Mace Windu and the Council decide that Anakin should keep tabs on Palpatine, who agrees with their plan, but remains conflicted on his loyalty to the Jedi, his friendship to Palpatine, and his worry for Padme.

As Kenobi dispatches of General Grievous on the planet Utapau, meanwhile on Coruscant, Palpatine reveals his true identity to Anakin as the Sith Lord, Dark Sidious, who promises that he can help Anakin save Padme.

After reporting his findings to Windu, a task force of Jedi, led by Windu, look to take Palpatine into custody and re-establish order. Arriving just in time, Skywalker tries to talk Windu into sparing the life of Palpatine, but before Windu can land the killing blow, Anakin cuts off Windu’s hand and allows Palpatine to land his own killing blow. Having saved the life of Palpatine, Skywalker pledges himself to the Chancellor and becomes his newest apprentice; Darth Vader.

It’s all downhill from here, as Jedi are wiped out with “Order 66,” Anakin kills what remains of the Trade Federation, and Obi-Wan and Anakin duel on the fiery planet of Mustafar. The 3rd act moves quick and ties up all loose ends and leads right into what we all know as “The Original Trilogy.”

THE BIG…..NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

As much as people give shit to the prequels, this is by far the strongest of the three, and for me at least, my 2nd favorite film in the series. I love the way the tension builds and seeing the descent into darkness for Anakin Skywalker as he finally turns to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader is a highlight of just not these films, but the franchise as a whole.

There certainly seem to be things that George Lucas learned from his previous mistakes in Episode I and II, including;

1. Keeping the love story almost completely out. While we still know that Anakin and Padme love each other and they are about to have kids, that story is told with less dialogue, which helps moves the action along.

2. He let’s the actors act this time. While Natalie Portman was pretty much a disaster in this film, a select few actually improved the material they were given, namely Ewan McGregor and albeit some silly faces, Ian McDiarmid, gives a creepy performance as the manipulator of all the events in the prequels. And let me not forget Christopher Lee, who is, well, Christopher Lee.

3. I buy Hayden Christensen this time. Hey, I mean he’s acting isn’t the best, but it’s head and shoulders much better than his performance in “Attack of the Clones” and his scowling is in full effect as the Dark Lord of the Sith.

SILLY FACE…..ACTIVATE

All in all, there isn’t much I can tear apart in this film aside from some atrocious acting and of course the SFX porn that became a staple in the prequels, but honestly, “Revenge of the Sith” is entirely watchable and all together enjoyable. As someone who’s favorite in the franchise is “The Empire Strikes Back” this film does a great job of painting scenes that are full of darkness and impending doom, which for me, is when the series is at it’s best; dark and gloomy, with just enough light where you think there is hope; and that hope in the darkness for these prequels has to be “Revenge.”

Coming up next in Part IV will we go back in time, but fast-forwarding ahead about 20 years in “Star Wars” time with “A New Hope,” May the Force Be With You.

December 6, 2012

Happy Holidays: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

SLEEPER

Robert Downey Jr. is one of the most iconic actors working in film today.  He has solidified himself in the role of Tony Stark the same way Christopher Reeves did with Clark Kent.  But that wasn’t the expectation at first.  Jon Favreau had to fight with Marvel to get Downey Jr. in the role that put their studio on the map.  Whether it was because of drug problems, legal problems, or relevancy problems, Downey Jr. was a hard sell.  However, Favreau fought for him anyway.  Why?  I like to think Favreau stumbled upon the 2005 SLEEPER Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  A film that was the catalyst for Downey Jr.’s reemergence, but also excellent on it’s own merits. 
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a novel adaption from veteran writer and freshman director Shane Black.  Don’t know who that is?  Well, perhaps you weren’t alive during the late eighties or early nineties and never saw any of the Lethal Weapons, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Last Action Hero, or The Last Boy Scout.  Perhaps you only heard of him when he was named as the writer/director of Iron Man 3 and were puzzled by the choice.  For the former, I recommend you do some netflixing.  For the latter, the notoriously known script Nazi Robert Downey Jr. approved him for Iron Man 3 because of their work together on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  Black just gets Downey Jr.’s voice and vice versa.  The Tony Stark we know and love might have been born through this collaboration. 

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a crime comedy of mistakes and unusual circumstances.  Very similar to, but not as blissfully odd as The Big Lebowski.  A funny coincidence, seeing as the stars of both starred together in the 1st Iron Man film.  Instead of a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, Downey Jr. plays a petty thief with an affinity for magic who is mistakenly recruited to solve a mystery.  Trust me, the journey you take to get there is so worth the trip.  You will find yourself laughing one moment and riveted the next.

Like The Big Lebowski, it isn’t really the plot that makes Kiss Kiss Bang Bang good.  It’s the performances.   Robert Downey Jr. is of course great.  He’s charming, witty, snarky, and surprisingly moving in some moments.  It is hard to have a film with narration, especially not done by Morgan Freeman, that avoids being pretentious and out of place.  Downey Jr.’s narration succeeds with that and turns out as one of the most funny and original ones you’ll ever hear.  His costars, no matter how small their roles, are solid.  None more so than Val Kilmer.  This is my favorite Val Kilmer role.  Yes, even more than Iceman.  Gay Perry is an amazing character that could have easily been botched.  However, Kilmer nails every single line he has.  His chemistry with Downey Jr. is magnetic.  I personally would kill to have a sequel with these two.  The greatness of Kilmer’s exchanges with Downey Jr. rivals Jude Law’s and even Gwyneth Paltrow’s
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a SLEEPER comedy that many moviegoers may have missed.  Those that finally do see it, more often than not, come away asking themselves, “Why haven’t I seen this film before?”  Watch it…ask yourself that question…then tell me I’m wrong.  

October 24, 2012

31 Nights Of Halloween, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose

INDELICATE

As I’ve stated before, you gotta bring something different to the table in order for your horror film to pique my interest.  Stereotypical slashers bore me to tears.  Found footage ‘Paranormal Witch Projects’ are just poorly shot films with the same cheap scares as a haunted house visit at Halloween Horror Nights.  And torture porn.  Don’t get me started on torture porn. You want to scare me to my core?  Give me a film that grounds the supernatural element you are playing with in reality.  Write characters that aren’t “Lets go investigate” idiots that I can’t relate to, let alone, root for.  And an occasional loom of the prince of darkness doesn’t hurt either.  The Exorcist was that for me.  It was the benchmark for the best the horror genre had to to offer.  I’d swat away any comers trying to claim supremacy over it like an old man asked to indulge in some newfangled fad.  The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is the newfangled fad the grandson of that old man forces him to try or else he’ll ship him away to a home.  Somewhere an AARP member just sh*t their pants…um…uncharacteristically.

Now films love to slap the “Based On A True Story” label on their films.  Mainly, for the reason I stated before. Ground your film in reality and it immediately becomes much more interesting.  Sometimes, however, it only serves as an unnecessary distraction.  You get so wrapped up in if it is actually true or not. Especially, the more fantastical the film gets.  The Coens caught some flack for saying Fargo was based on a true story when it wasn’t.  The claim distracted critics from the point of how great a film it was.  You can make your film feel real without reassuring us.  But I digress.  The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is a story loosely…and I mean loosely based on the real life exorcism of German born, Anneliese Michel.  See?  I just did it.

The one thing I really liked about The Exorcism Of Emily Rose is that it is a postmortem.  Whatever the traumatic event that happened to this girl has already happened by the start of this film.  We learn about the specifics mainly through flashbacks and testimonials.  This, to me, puts the audience in the mind of the skeptic.  As the film goes on we are put in the position of either being doubtful of what we’re told happened or convinced.  Because make no mistake, this is a film about belief.  An interesting approach to the material that had the potential to make an interesting film.  But what was the operative word I just used?  It was ‘had’.  This film’s INDELICATE, rushed, stomping through the material makes it a marginal effort at best.   A film of this ilk is more effective when handled with more subtlety.  Director Scott Derrickson actually shoots the one exorcism scene in this film more like an action scene, tossing all intensity out the window…literally.

Another miscalculation The Exorcism Of Emily Rose has is the numerous divergences from what makes it good.  The film is mostly set in a courtroom, pouring over the facts of what actually happened during the exorcism.   Was this young girl taken over by demons or did her priest criminally harm her?  However, it tries to slide in some suspense with a pointless subplot involving star Laura Linney being accosted by dark forces.   It feels totally out of place and stops whatever momentum the film has built up.   I am convinced these scenes were jammed in because of studio pressure for more jump scares and exciting moments.  You see, studios hear subtlety and automatically think boring.  Their low respect for the audiences they constantly pander to usually short circuits modern horror films.

Jennifer Carpenter, from Dexter fame, does most of the heavy lifting in this film.  Now, I won’t go into comparisons of scary between her in Linda Blair.  However, I will say I was more impressed by Carpenter’s terrified Emily than her possessed one.  Tom Wilkinson is great as usual, though underused.  Laura Linney is nothing special but is still solid.  The only really poor performance that sticks out to me is given by Campbell Scott.  I’ve seen him before on the television show Royal Pains and a short bit as Peter Parker’s dad in….(Rolling Eyes With A Wanking Motion)…The Amazing Spider-Man.  In those parts, his super stoic delivery, nature, and overall presence didn’t particularly bother me because they’re small.  In this film, Campbell Scott is tasked with carrying a significant part of the film.  He is the voice of the doubters.  He is, in actuality, the secondary villain of the film.  And he has about as much personality as a creaky ironing board.  A great character actor like Victor Garber or John Noble could have put some heft to that part.  Instead, we’re left with a walking talking popsicle stick.

So, yes.  I tried another one of these fads.  But after watching The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, it might have been a better choice to just get shipped to the home.  If the power of Christ compels you…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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