Star Wars: Episode VI

Viewed – 25 October 2011  Blu-ray

Return Of The Jedi

Growing up, this was always my favourite of the original trilogy.  Looking back I wonder why.  Perhaps with less mature eyes I was taken by some of it’s more playful, childish stylings, and to be fair, it delivers where it counts.  Something about it is still very cool too.  But with a fresh perspective, and with the full knowledge of the entire saga behind it, just how well does the final curtain call for George Lucas’ famed fantasy really fair?

The rebels are planning an elaborate attack of an unfinished second Death Star, whilst Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca etc set forth to rescue their friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the clutches of slimy gangster Jabba The Hut on Tatooine.  Yet Luke’s recent revelations about Vader pull him toward one final confrontation, and the dark side will prove its greatest temptation yet.

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Star Wars: Episode V

Viewed  – 21 October 2011  Blu-ray

The Empire Strikes Back

When I was young, discovering these movies for the first time, ‘Empire was not my favourite.  I actually remember loving Return Of The Jedi most.  But I suppose with more mature eyes I have grown to appreciate just why this fifth instalment in the saga is regarded by so many as the best.  The rebels are hiding out on the ice planet of Hoth whilst evil lord Darth Vader is searching the galaxy for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) following the destruction of the Death Star.  Luke is then told by the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) that he must seek out Yoda in order to be trained to become a Jedi.

Almost from the start, this is a movie that flows brilliantly and is very exciting.  Battle sequences and locations burst with imagination and awe (the Imperial Walker assault especially), and unlike A New Hope at no time has George Lucas’ unnecessary tinkering made the movie anything less than it originally was.  The acting here is particularly strong and the chemistry between Carrie Fisher & Harrison Ford can not be questioned and lends the movie much of its emotional weight.  Add to this a sterling job from Mark Hamill especially during his confrontation with Vader, and this makes for a movie that is really hard to fault.

Story-wise it does suffer from that in-between feel of any trilogy, and as a plot point, just how Vader even knows about Luke Skywalker is not explained.  Also compared to A New Hope this feels a much more serious and straight forward sci-fi melodrama than that of a light and fluffy fantasy.   It’s perhaps the reason I didn’t take to it as a child.  Yet I can now see that it really does have everything … grand action, great acting, a gripping story and well placed moments of humour and emotion – a genuine masterpiece.

The Blu-ray is a revelation.  This is possibly the best looking Star Wars movie in the saga, and unquestionably ‘Empire has never looked this vibrant or detailed before … showcasing the excellent set design and gorgeous cinematography.  Watching this feels like you are watching it projected in a theatre for the very first time.  Yes, there’s moments of softness to the picture, but overall this is top notch.  The same can be said for the sound design, with the dialogue especially clear compared to A New Hope and effects and John WIlliams’ score are all delivered brilliantly.  Extras consist of deleted scenes, interviews and plenty of concept art, all on a seperate disk, whilst two commentaries, one by Lucas and co, the other compiled from archive interviews, make this a brilliant package.

Verdict:  5 /5

Movie musings 2011

This is the time of year when many of my viewing habits are of movies I missed out on seeing the previous year.  You can expect reviews of some of the summer blockbusters and lesser known releases of 2010, amongst new cinema releases.  This is one reason why an end of year top ten usually comprises of movies older than that year.  Something that has been of much deliberation to me lately considering that originally I had placed 21 Grams as my movie of the year, then thought better of it considering its age.  Yet that means classic movies such as The Sound Of Music will never qualify.  But you must have rules or else such an end of year list will have no comparison to other people’s end of year lists.

Anyway I digress.  In the coming months there are many movies I am looking forward to seeing, be it at the cinema or more than likely on Blu-ray.  Of the movies that have got me most excited, Zack Snyder’s ballistic looking Sucker Punch is much-anticipated.  Scantily clad babes with guns & samurai swords in a fantasy action adventure?  Where do I sign?  Also David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of those movie’s that just can’t fail – especially with Fincher at the helm.  Wes Craven returns with the unexpected but no less appreciated Scream 4, a franchise I recall loving to bits, and hell, aren’t we in need of a clever-ass slasher movie after all the countless remakes we’ve endured?  Consider my seat booked.  It also has to be said, the Harrison Ford / Daniel Craig vehicle Cowboys and Aliens looks heaps of fun, and with Iron Man director John Favreau at the helm, all the ingredients are in place.

Movies I’m less looking forward to but could be worth seeing none the less are Cars 2, which knowing Pixar will be entertaining and look the biz, and this time with a secret agent storyline, may well be more interesting than the fish out of water plot previously.  Having not seen the last Pirates movie, At Worlds End I wont be rushing to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides until I have got myself up to date – but the trailer does look like it will be great entertainment.  Also Kung Fu Panda 2 is fairly assured entertainment even if it’ll be on the back burner compared to a few of the other big hitters.  Oh and the idea of Transformers: Dark of the Moon fills me with dread after the mostly abysmal last movie, but then again the first Transformers in my opinion was superb, so it could go either way.

To conclude though, 2011 looks like being a great year for the movie industry with some great looking stuff coming our way.  Colour me excited!!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Viewed – 11 June 2008  Cinema

How long has this taken to arrive?  I was just a young teenager when the supposedly ‘Last Crusade’ reached the cinema.  Perhaps it was with the success of the recent Star Wars prequels that made George Lucas & Steven Spielberg choose to resurrect a franchise that for some, seemed dead in the water.  I must say though first off – how pleased I am that they did!

Of course I had my doubts – Harrison Ford is no longer the Hollywood heart throb he once was (kind of), and he’s no spring chicken either, but even though at first I though Indi looked in need of a zimmer-frame, I should not have worried as swept up I was in the quest to return a sacred crystal skull back to its rightful place and keep it out of the hands of ruthless KGB agents (headed by a very camp Cate Blanchett).  Along for the ride is the wise choice of latest hot-property Shia LaBeouf, who impressed me both in the Transformers movie and Disturbia – and thankfully is not playing the same nerdy idiot he was almost becoming typecast as, but has a quality of James Dean here, even if his own comedy talent overshadows such possibilities.

Action-wise we are treated to bike chases, explosions, shoot outs and even a nuclear bomb in one of the films best gags.  Yet for me the overly comical script seemed layed on a little too thick, causing the film to fall into the territory of farce, and whether or not it was intentional, some scenes look set on a made up stage than say the big budget locations of past films (even the opening and closing credits look like they’re off a cheap Saturday afternoon adventure flick).  But saying all that, there is enough excitement, great lines and likable characters to keep things running along, and yes – it at times gets very silly indeed…but hey, what were you expecting?  Doing a new Indiana Jones was always a dodgy idea – so perhaps the comic-book approach Lucas & Spielberg have taken has proved to be the best thing in the end.

Verdict:  3 /5