Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: George Lucas

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

It’s like they say, “Your best movies, are the ones that come close to killing you.” Even though, yeah, they don’t.

After making not just the Godfather Part I, but Part II in the span of a nearly two years, Francis Ford Coppola could basically do whatever the hell it is that he wanted, with as much money, with whomever, and wherever. That’s when he decides to take up adapting Heart of Darkness, the novella that had been a long passion-project of Coppola’s, but needed some extra push to get off the ground. Eventually, he got it, but in this case, it wasn’t what he, or anyone else was expecting. Needless to say, without saying too much, one lead actor gets a heart-attack, another gets recast about halfway through, one is filmed in a drunken-stooper, one lies about his age to get in the movie. But then, if you go past the usual actor stuff, you’ve also got the fact that the budget is running up the bill way more than it was supposed to, the Vietnam locals are getting pissed, the weather was absolutely awful and practically unlivable, and oh yeah, Coppola himself literally lost his mind.

Was it “method”?

The biggest joke about Hearts of Darkness would be that the resulting film of all this mayhem and madness, Apocalypse Now, turned out to be a bunch of crap that people put way too much of an effort into, for no other reason because they had to, or they thought what was right. But that’s what’s funny, because the movie turned out, dare I say it, almost perfect. All of the years spent filming, editing, and putting money into it, guess what?

At the end of the day, everyone went home happy.

But Hearts of Darkness isn’t a movie about what the final product ended up becoming, nor is it really about what everyone else thought about the movie, it’s mostly about the behind-the-scenes of everything that happened on, as well as off the set, and yeah, it’s just about as candid and as eye-opening as you can get with a documentary about so many big names and faces in Hollywood. With the assistance from Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper, believe it or not, Eleanor Coppola, Francis’ wife, is actually the perfect one to bring this table of absolute craziness to the big screen; she was, after all, there for it all, and her insight, while sometimes silly, focuses on things that probably mattered the most. While Francis was off worrying about how much fire was burning the trees down, Eleanor was worried that her husband was going to have a stroke and possibly die from all of the tension and turmoil in his life.

It’s not like she wants us to feel bad for her husband, but at the same time, she also wants to see it from more of a film-nerd’s perspective, where the control-freak director is always right for themselves, the movie, and everyone else around them. But still, just watching what happens behind-the-scenes here, and the things that we only hear small instances of, are truly insane, but draw you in even closer to the mind of Coppola, how he worked, and why he slaved away for so long to get this picture of his made and up on the big screen, for all the world to see and hopefully feast their eyes on.

It was the 70’s and it was hot, so maybe he wasn’t totally crazy.

And really, it all comes back to Coppola, someone who has become a pretty infamous figure in movie-making, only because it appears like his career has taken a huge turn downwards after he was put into debt for this project, as well as the many others to follow. For one, it’s interesting to see Coppola talk about this project, but also not think of him as a total ass; sure, he loves himself and his work, but can you blame him? The man has literally just made two of the greatest movies of all-time and was onto making another, so maybe he’s allowed to kiss his own ass, eh?

If so, it still brings up the question: How much is too much?

Eleanor and the movie as a whole, brings this point up many times and makes us think, whether we’re on his side for going so far as he did, to make sure that this movie was complete and actually worked to his vision, or, if he was just way too artistically-driven in the first place? See, it would be a problem if the movie didn’t turn out to be such a classic, but it somehow did and it makes us not just think, but wonder: Where has that same artistic integrity gone? And hell, when is it coming back?

Consensus: Eye-opening and thrilling to watch, especially if you’re a film-nerd, Hearts of Darkness will surely show you everything you need to see, hear, and understand about all of the craziness that went into making sure the final product turned into what it is seen as today.

8.5 / 10

Pictured: Cast and crew getting the hell out of Coppola’s rage.

Photos Courtesy of: Jonathan Rosenbaum

Advertisements

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

Apparently, we needed more fluffy creatures.

After he lost his hand and found out just exactly who his daddy is, Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewie (Peter Mayhew), and of course, the rest of the gang get together in hopes of saving the now-frozen Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the lair of notorious crime boss Jabba the Hutt, who now has him set-up as a set decoration of sorts. Mostly though, what the gang is looking to achieve here is that they’re able to get the Rebel Alliance all back together so that they can make one final push to take down the Empire once and for all. Issue is, the Sith is stronger than ever and, for the moment, seems as if they’re not afraid of a challenge. However, because Luke feels as if the force is strongest with him than ever before, he’s extra determined to take on the Sith, even if that does also mean he’ll have to take down his own father – someone he’s trying to connect with and change back to the bright side, but also knows that it may be a lost cause.

Meanwhile, Ewoks show up.

A goner, he is.

A goner, he is.

One of the main issues with finales in a series, is that they tend not to live up to everybody’s expectations. This is especially true in the case of Return of the Jedi, which, not only had the huge expectation of being a Star Wars movie, but also had to follow up both A New Hope, as well as the Empire Strikes Back. If anything, the odds were totally stacked against Return of the Jedi and well, needless to say, the wall sort of came tumbling down on it.

For one, Lucas’ writing, if anything, seems lazy here. Perhaps for the first half-hour or so, we spend watching what happens in Jabba’s little club of sorts and instead of feeling like a necessary bit of scenery that’s interesting to see, it just feels over-done, drawn-out, and most importantly, an excuse for Lucas to give us more odd-looking creatures that kiddies can soon buy the toys of not too long after watching. Of course, Jabba is a terribly disgusting and vile creature, but Lucas only seems interested in just how dirty he is, and that’s about it. The first sequence of this flick could have easily been chopped-down to at least 15 minutes, but instead, Lucas continues to go on and on with this and it seems to suck out a good portion of the movie’s energy.

Then, in come the Ewoks.

Granted, when I was younger, watching the Ewoks waddle around, speak in their funny gibberish, and be so fluffy and hairy that you wonder how they look on your wall, that I couldn’t help but love them. Nowadays, I still feel the same, but at the same time, realize that they’re what does in Return of the Jedi. If anything, the Ewoks are, tonally, out-of-place; they’re cute, goofy, and perfect for little kids to point at and adore. However, the rest of the movie, as it seems to be, is actually pretty dark and epic, therefore, the movie as a whole feels like a bit of a mess. One second, we’ll be watching the Ewoks tie clones up in the house-sized nets, the next, we’ll be watching as Luke and Vader battle one another.

Clearly, Lucas was solely trying to sell merchandise here, and while there’s no problem with that in the long run of things, it helps to make people wonder just where his head was for this final flick? Was he trying to close everything up in a neat, little bow-tie? Or, was he just trying to wait around and see when the paycheck comes in? Whatever the truth may be, either way, something still doesn’t sit right for about a good portion of this movie and it’s all the more disappointing that, for mostly everybody at the time, this was the ultimate flick to end the original franchise.

Fathers: Can't trust 'em for anything.

Fathers: Can’t trust ’em for anything.

After this, there was supposed to be nothing else. So why go out on such a tame note?

Either way, Return of the Jedi isn’t as bad as people make it out to be – but at the same time, it still doesn’t feel like a whole lot of effort on Lucas’ part was given. The final battle between Luke and Vader is pretty awesome, the speeder chase scene still works, and yeah, watching as Han takes out baddies, is more than welcome by this point, but still, there’s something missing here that made it all work to begin with. There’s not enough heart and soul with this story, these characters, or just what this universe means. We know that the Death Star is bad, but really, that’s all we need to know and/or get to know.

And of course, everyone in Return of the Jedi feels as if they’re going through the motions again, but also don’t really benefit from a worthwhile script make them work harder and harder. Hamill’s Luke is a bit too serious now; Leia is nothing more than a sexy, objectified object for everyone to point and stare at; Solo doesn’t have much of anything witty or fun to say, so he just sort of coasts around this movie; and yeah, of course Vader is still freaky and evil.

But really, when was he not?

If anything, what Return of the Jedi proves perhaps best about Lucas is that, when push doesn’t come to shove, he could really care less. He’s happy to write anything down, give it a try and wait till the movie’s themselves all hit number 1. Not bad for a businessman, but this is the same guy most people trust with their childhood.

And how dare he let them down.

Consensus: By far the weakest of the original franchise, Return of the Jedi finds Lucas in too much of a comfort-zone and keeps the final installment, from being the most epic, memorable and exciting.

5.5 / 10

The gang's back together and clearly more bored than ever!

The gang’s back together and clearly more bored than ever!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Everyone’s got daddy issues.

After a few years have passed, we pick up back in the Galaxy that is still, yes, far, far away, and now has Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) along with the rest of the Dark Side searching far and wide for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and and the rest of the motley crew Luke has been aligning himself with. Which means, yes, people like Han (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Chewie (Peter Mayhew) are all still together, joined up with the rebels and trying to fight the good cause. However, everything turns South for the Rebel Alliance and everyone involved finds themselves left heading for the hills and looking for any refuge. Meanwhile, Luke gets stuck in a dirty, disgusting and grimy swamp that just so happens to have a little green friend of his that he may not know he needs, but will soon start to learn and understand just about everything a Jedi should know by him.

Yeah, I’m talking about Yoda (Frank Oz), in case I didn’t make that a bit clear by now.

Empire1

“Something holding you down, you feel?”

The Empire Strikes Back is where everything in the Star Wars universe gets very, very real. And is the case with most sequels, all the Empire Strikes Back has to do here is keep the story moving on, but never really feel the need to tie-up any loose-ends, either – in other words, everyone involved had a pretty easy task to just keep the story moving in a fun, entertaining manner for all of the fans to go crazy for. However, there’s a little something here.

For one, this movie’s just chock full of darkness that you hardly see coming. While with A New Hope, there were a few surprises in the way of emotionally-compelling moments, here, everything feels as if it was made to test out just how much you felt for these characters, the galaxy in which they live in, and realized just the kind of circumstances that were being fought for here. Which is to say that yes, it’s very hard not to get wrapped-up all in what the Empire Strikes Back does; even though he didn’t direct it, George Lucas’ inspiration is still felt through just about each and every frame.

Sure, we still get the little witty lines in between the havoc and violence, but they’re more or less pushed to the side here so that we can get more duking it out between skilled-fighters and tense moments that put the audience in a tail-spin of not knowing what to expect. You could say that maybe it’s a bit ridiculous to think that Lucas would have such the guts to kill-off a major character of this series in only the second movie, but honestly, while watching it, you’ll hardly ever think about that. You’ll just have that feeling that anything can happen because, well, Lucas’ universe says so.

That’s perhaps what’s missing from each and every other Star Wars flick, and it’s what keeps the Empire Strikes Back exciting.

But like I said, there’s of course more going on here than just a bunch of wild and crazy fun – there’s actually a solid amount of heart here that makes it hit harder. All of the scenes including Yoda and Luke, while getting off to a bit of a shaky start, work perfectly together as they’re not just a tad goofy and playful, but also, honest and sincere. In order for Luke to man up and become something of a better Jedi, he has to make his own self more disciplined and smarter, and to see how Yoda teaches him all of these tricks of the trade, is still an interesting watch. “The force”, in and of itself, may be made-up of total and absolute crap, but watching Yoda teach Luke on that subject is hard to look past.

Not to mention that Hamill’s acting gets a bit better here, as mostly everybody’s does. However, what mostly helps everybody out here is the fact that the script is more centered around what’s going on with them, how they feel, and less about where the plot’s heading towards and what type of cool action’s going to come up next. Granted, the movie still does both later options, which aren’t bad, but they don’t get in the way of the meat of this story and help remind us that, first and foremost, Star Wars is about its characters.

See? Luke's a bit more bad-ass now.

See? Luke’s a bit more bad-ass now.

Like I said, Yoda is great here and there’s no way to mince words about that fact. Frank Oz could do voices for days and it’s just great to see how much time and effort he put into making a strange creature like Yoda actually work. And yeah, while I’m on the subject of newcomers, Billy Dee Williams is a welcome-addition as Lando Calrissian, who is as fly as a spaceman as they come. Williams adds a nice level of cool charm to this character that makes him likable, but also not trustworthy enough and it’s what helps us put us in the same situation that Han has to go through.

Speaking of Han, Harrison Ford continues to kill it as everybody’s favorite anti-hero. However, what guides Ford this time around, is the fact that he and Fisher truly do have a bit of fun and fiery chemistry together that, honestly, you just want them to both drop the B.S., rip each other’s clothes off, and get it on like Donkey Kong. While this is a kids movie and we clearly know that’s not feasible in the PG-world, still, it’s an idea that’s hard to get out of your head once it’s in.

That’s because Ford and Fisher (who, oddly enough, got rid of her British accent), are so good together that, through it all, you want to see them together at the end. But of course, for most of us who know, the ending of this flick leaves us in two cliffhangers, both of which I won’t bother to speak about, but will say that they’re effective.

And that’s it.

Consensus: As a sequel, the Empire Strikes Back is not only heartfelt and exciting, but emotional to sit by, even if you know there’s one more movie left to go.

9 / 10

'Nuff said.

‘Nuff said.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

And nerds everywhere, were never the same.

A teenage farmhand who goes by the name of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has certain aspirations for greatness that go further than just collecting bots for his Uncle and Aunt, fixing them, and not reallly doing much else. However, through what seems to be a course of some life-changing moments and experiences in a very short span of time, he finds himself start to train to become a true jedi, one who can be trusted on to save the galaxy from the evil dark side. He learns all of his moves and skills from an older fellow named Obi-Wan (Alec Guiness) who, through his teachings, makes him understand how to control his force and not get carried away at all with it all. This then leads both of them to get caught up in a plot to rescue a princess named Leia (Carrie Fisher), forcing an alignment with two bad-asses of space called Han Solo and Chewbacca (Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew), and taking on perhaps the greatest force of all, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). However, little does Luke know just how hard this task will be and what it will take for someone as unskilled as him to take down a whole empire.

Always trust in these three.

Always trust in these three.

What’s there to say about A New Hope that hasn’t already been said? For one, the movie’s an absolute classic, and that’s not just talking about the movie itself. More or less, the movie changed Hollywood and the movie-world as we known it; space operas had been done before Star Wars ever came out, but this one, despite its meager budget, list of no-name actors, and total cult-appeal, somehow destroyed the box-office and became the billion-dollar juggernaut that it is today.

And for that reason alone, George Lucas will always and forever have my respect.

Sure, the past decade or so has proven that maybe dear ol’ George has fallen a bit far from the cork tree, but regardless, nobody will ever forget just what sort of guts it took for someone like George Lucas, to make a movie like Star Wars, and then actually go somewhere with it all in the end. In a way, it’s the American Dream: Making an original movie, full of your own, crazy and unique ideas, doing everything your own self, and allowing for the rest of the world to see, only to have everyone accept it, love it and want to see more of it. Of course, along with that Dream, comes plenty of money, greed and vanity, but hey, none of that dark stuff now! This, my friends, is a happy story about how one George Lucas made a movie like Star Wars and ultimately, changed the movie landscape as we know it.

But seriously, aside from all the cultural significance this flick holds, it’s still pretty great in its own right. What surprised me so much about checking out A New Hope, even after all of these years, is how funny it actually was; people will mostly get swamped remembering the later movies and how corny Lucas’ sense of humor was, but honestly, the guy was actually a pretty nifty writer. Are the jokes silly? Of course they are, but there’s a sense of actual fun and play going on here that makes this movie such a better watch than some of the others; while Lucas may want his material to be taken seriously, he still can’t keep himself away from a witty line to deliver on. But still, it all works well with the rest of the movie and doesn’t feel just thrown in there for short measure.

Perhaps what has A New Hope stand the test of time, for as long as it has, is the fact that Lucas introduced so many iconic characters and seemed to actually do something with them.

Luke is, as made out to be, the quintessential hero of this story who may be naive and a bit bitchy, but also dreams for something more out of his life. While Hamill may get a lot of crap thrown at him for not being the best actor out of the bunch here, there’s still a certain amount of sweetness to his character-arch that makes him work and seem like more than just your ordinary hero. He’s on a quest, for sure, but because he’s so clean and good, it’s hard to hate the guy, either.

Then, of course, there’s Alec Guiness as Obi-Wan who, despite being the most acclaimed and skilled actor out of the bunch here, fits perfectly. Granted, Guiness doesn’t have much more to do here except go on and on about “the force” and how to control it, but really, he’s such a seasoned pro, he can make talking about rocks sound as compelling as they probably shouldn’t be. The fact that he and Darth Vader were, at one point in their lives, adversaries, makes it all the more interesting to watch, especially once they have that final duel between one another.

Speaking of Darth, James Earl Jones was perhaps the most perfect choice to voice this character. While we all know now that Darth Vader wasn’t actually played by Jones, it still doesn’t matter because his voice is so husky, rough and manly, that it’s absolutely terrifying to hear him get mad at someone, or just talk in general. The breathing’s scary, too, in that you don’t know why he’s doing it or where it’s coming from, but regardless, there’s just something awfully intimidating about seeing a man, dressed in an all black, nearly-identical Nazi-outfit, coming at you from afar.

One generation of cool-ass Jedi's, to another.

One generation of cool-ass Jedi’s, to another.

Not to mention the fact that, yes, he’s voiced by James Earl Jones.

But still, there’s so many more iconic characters to speak about that, honestly, it’s hard to go on about them without sounding like nothing more than just a cliche. Of course, Harrison Ford is the perfect anti-hero who, rather than try and save the girl because he’s a nice guy, would much rather do so to just get some sex (like most of us men out there); Chewbacca never makes sense, but it’s hard not to laugh whenever he and Solo communicate; C-3PO and R2-D2 are like a married couple and have the most charming love-hate relationship ever seen on the big screen; and yes, Carrie Fisher was not only as cute as a button playing Leia, but also worked well as the character because she’s not just a bad-ass gal, but one who can take care of herself and get stuff done whenever the men are just sitting around on their rumps, thinking of what to do next.

There’s more here (like Porkins), but yeah, you get the point – A New Hope has so many great, memorable characters to talk about, that to do so, would just be overkill.

However, what always has me coming back to A New Hope and remembering it for how great it truly was, and still is to this day, is the universal feeling of doing something that’s not only extraordinary, but better for the rest of mankind. It’s the kind of inspirational message that almost every movie made for young kids tries to tap into, but so rarely actually deliver on; however, without even trying, Lucas has our heads in the stars, dreaming for days, and wanting to do something special with what we’re given. Whether that’s making a billion-dollar-grossing movie, or saving the galaxy from evil clones, it doesn’t matter.

Continue to dream and you know what? Maybe it can happen to you, too.

Consensus: A New Hope not only changed the movie-business as a whole, but offered up iconic characters, an inspirational tale for the decades, and gave us reason to trust in George Lucas, even if he did sort of screw all of that up later on in his career.

10 / 10

Who shot first? Well, George, thanks to you, the world may never know.

Who shot first? Well, George, thanks to you, the world may never know.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

SithposterBlack, is always better.

It’s now been nearly three years after start of the Clone Wars and, well, a lot has changed. Anakin (Hayden Christensen) not only has long hair now, but is also married and expecting twins with Padme. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) is more scruffier than ever and is starting to notice something strange with Anakin. While he’s happy that his student has now become more powerful and skilled than he ever was before, he’s also realizing that there’s a bit of a rebellious streak in Anakin that doesn’t put him in the good graces with the fellow Jedis around him like Windu, or most importantly, Yoda. Still, despite all of this, the two now spend most of their time here hunting down the leaders of the Separatist Army across the galaxy. Because while they do have plenty of power with the Clone Army and band of Jedis, they still have to worry about the opposing forces as Chancellor Palpatine is now plotting to take over senate and reclaim galactic rule for the Sith. What makes him all the more sinister is that he’s looking to do so with the help of a new padawan of his own choosing – one of whom, if he has his way, may be Anakin.

Nobody's fresher than Obi-Wan. Get that through your thick skulls.

Nobody’s fresher than Obi-Wan. Get that through your thick skulls.

So, finally. After wading through the other two disappointing prequels, we now get to the one that matters the most: Anakin turning to the dark side. And yes, for the most part, Revenge of the Sith is most definitely the best of the other prequels. Is that saying much to begin with? No, not really. But hey, it’s saying something that makes this movie not just an enjoyable watch, but also a pretty heartfelt one, too, for old and new fans alike.

For one, this is the installment where we see Anakin finally turn the other cheek and realize there’s a lot of evil inside of him. While the reasoning for him turning into a baddie and to start killing younglings, isn’t fully realized and more of just a, “Hey, people aren’t being nice to me, so it’s time to fight back”, but it still works in a way; we know to expect it, so when he does start going off onto the dark side, it’s neat and interesting to watch. While Christensen’s acting is, once again, a bit over-the-top and crummy, the good side of it all is that we’re not supposed to like or care for him this time – we’re supposed to dislike and hate him, so it actually works in Christensen’s favor.

For better or worse, I guess.

But what works best here is that George Lucas really seems invested in what this story will become and because of that, the action-sequences have another added element of drama and suspense that was hardly found in the other two prequels. We don’t know if Mace Windu is anywhere out there in the galaxy for the original trilogy, so when he starts to have a duel with Senator Palpatine, it’s not only exciting, but quite scary; we care for Windu and we actually want him to survive.

Same goes for that amazing, ultimately epic battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Not only is it one of the best of the entire franchise (which is including the original franchise), but it also does a lot in that it tells us more about these characters through the way they battle one another. Anakin will occasionally get ahead of himself and miss a move or two, whereas Obi-Wan’s every move is as calculated as ever and ready for what’s next to come. Then again, he’s getting a lot older, so he can’t always handle Anakin’s energy, which is why, when watching the battle unfold, we wonder if Obi-Wan’s going to make a wrong step or two, and bite the dust. As I said, we know what to expect with Anakin and Obi-Wan in the later trilogy, but still, Lucas does something special here in that he keeps us expecting the unexpected.

Still though, the same issues with Revenge of the Sith, have been around for the past two installments. The script’s still pretty lame and filled with all sorts of silly lines that seem as if they came out of an episode of Young and the Restless; Padme’s and Anakin’s love story, once again, doesn’t breathe a single fresh air of truth and just continues to get more and more hackneyed as it goes along; and yeah, Palpatine himself, as played by Ian McDiarmid, gets way campy, way too quick. Thing is, though, it’s easy to push a lot of these issues to the side and just focus on the fact that, you know what, the movie’s actually pretty fun and emotional.

Yoda's still bad-ass, but we get it! You talk backwards, bro!

Yoda’s still bad-ass, but we get it! You talk backwards, bro!

And “emotional” is, honestly, not something we’d come to expect with these new installments, but like I said, Lucas does something here that works and helps this movie hit a lot harder than it should.

For example, that whole sequence in which the Clones initiate “Order 66”? Yeah, some pretty rough stuff to sit back, watch and not at all relax, too. What about the aforementioned scene of the murder of those younglings? Ten years later and you know what? That scene is still incredibly screwed-up. Even the scene when Anakin goes around the switchboard room of that Lava world and kills just about every bad person from the previous installments? Yeah, that’s a little hard to watch, too. Here, it seems like Lucas finally gave into his darker, more adult side and let everyone in this story, have it. He doesn’t hold back on hardly a single person and really, it’s actually quite brutal to watch.

To me, that’s perhaps the most impressive aspect surrounding this movie and while it does make me wish that the rest of the other flicks were just like it, I still can’t help but feel pleased that Lucas didn’t end on a terribly weak-note. Of course, people will get on the movie for trying to tarnish the legacy of the originals and not be anything more than just a bunch of obvious and manipulative cash-grabs, but personally, it’s nice to see these stories told. Could they have been done so with a better director and writer on-hand? Of course they could have! But Lucas gave it his all and while, at first, it didn’t hold, he eventually got the hang of things and it’s nice to see.

Now, it’s time for the original trilogy and oh boy, can’t wait.

Consensus: Revenge of the Sith is the best installment of the prequels, which may not be saying much at all, but does show that Lucas eventually got the hang of everything that he was doing and decided to remind his audience that this story was going to get a whole lot darker and more serious as it went along. Which, thankfully, it did.

8 / 10

See? Look! They're all pals in the end, collecting hefty paychecks, one gig at a time.

See? Look! They’re all pals in the end, collecting hefty paychecks, one gig at a time.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

First is the worst and you know what? Second is not the best.

Taking place about ten years after the events of the Phantom Menace, we now see that Anakin (Hayden Christensen) has grown up quite a bit. Though he is still learning a lot under the guidance of Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor), he’s also beginning to understand his strength and power, while also using it for the greater good of the world. But now that Anakin’s a whole lot older too, that means that he’ll be experiencing life in different ways than ever before. That’s when Queen Amidala/Padme (Natalie Portman) reenters his life and reminds him of all those feelings he had for her when he was just a kid. And since Anakin is tasked with protecting Padme after an assassination attempt on her failed, he’s made to spend a lot more time with her in which he gets to know more about her, discuss life, politics, romance, and most of all, realize that he may actually be in love. While this is all going on, the Galactic Republic and Jedi council are also trying to prevent from there being an all-out war from a separatist movement with the help of a clone army.

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I'll leave that up to you to decide

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

So yeah, is Attack of the Clones better than the Phantom Menace? Well, yeah, of course it is. But then again, look at how low the bar has been set. Then again, I do have to give credit to Lucas for at least stepping back up to the plate with the Star Wars franchise, seeing what he could bring to the next installment and, while maybe not totally listening to the haters and their complaints, at least giving them something that they can still enjoy, regardless of if they’re old or new fans of the franchise.

And by this, I mean Lucas gives us plenty and plenty of action.

Sure, the problems with the story and character-development are still here, but they’re not on such full-display as they were in Episode 1; instead, they’re now just used as filler to get us from one action sequence to the next. In all honesty, I would much rather have that, than to be stuck watching as Anakin grew up and as Jar-Jar goofed-around and generally pissed everybody off. Speaking of the later, he’s definitely thrown on the back-burner, although, at the same time, it’s still a tad ridiculous that he’s now playing Padme’s senatorial representative.

Still though, hardly anywhere Jar-Jar anywhere is fine, because, like I said, there’s still plenty more to focus on here. One of Lucas’ strong suits has always been his skill of setting-up and handling action set-pieces, which here, all seem to work out well. There’s a nice piece between Obi-Wan and Boba Fett that not only remind us how crafty and skilled of a Jedia Obi-Wan actually is, but why Jango Fett was considered such a deadly assassin in the later movies. While he’s only seen as a kid here, the movie still sets up the fact that he’d grow up one day to be a scary, trained hitman just like his daddy. Of course, the CGI, despite being somewhat choppy, still helps these scenes to be more intriguing and fun-to-watch, although they were still clearly miles away from having everything look genuine.

And of course, yeah, the movie still does a nice job at setting-up what’s to come with this story next and just how exactly this galaxy gets set into the Clone Wars. Though most of us expect it to come very soon, while watching this movie, it’s hard not to get tense and be curious as to where all the pieces of the puzzle fall. While prequels can get annoying doing too much setting-up and not actually delivering on anything, Attack of the Clones does a nice job in that it sets a lot up for the next, action-packed installment, while still giving people a lot to lock onto here and, overall, be entertained by.

Once again, it’s not a perfect installment, but it’s still far better than anything that the Phantom Menace tried doing.

However though, the one key factor that keeps Attack of the Clones away from going anywhere towards being considered “great”, is that Anakin’s a lot older now and is played by Hayden Christensen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t really hate Christensen as an actor; sure, he’s definitely weak and doesn’t seem to have that certain screen-presence that grabs you from the very start, but I’m hesitant to call him “a terrible actor”. In movies like Shattered Glass and even to a certain extent, Life as a House, Christensen has shown that, with the right script to read from, as well as a talented director to help guide him along, he’s actually quite fine. Not terrific, but just fine.

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

But what he’s forced to work with in Attack of the Clones, is what sets him so far back and really, Lucas doesn’t help much. Though the script here is nowhere near as cringe-inducing and as scattered as the first flick, Attack of the Clones still suffers from a lot of the poor-wording and corniness of what we can come to expect from Lucas, and it doesn’t help that Christensen is, more often than not, the one delivering these sorts of lines. That his story-line is mostly focused on a supposed romance he has with Padme, already makes it hard to watch, but the movie constantly gives Christensen nothing to do except bitch, moan and act as if he’s never had a conversation with anyone else in his entire life.

Which is a huge problem because, well, Christensen is supposed to be the leading-force of this movie – he is, as we know, going to become the one and only Darth Vader. So why he’s such an annoying pain-in-the-ass, is totally beyond me. All I do know is that Christensen spends the majority of this flick whining or kissing, neither of which he does so in a compelling way. Is his poor acting-skills to be blamed? Potentially, yes. But at the same time, I’m still not going to rag on him too much considering I’ve seen him do well before and really, with Lucas, sometimes, you’re just left to fend for yourself.

Which, sadly, Christensen seemed as if he had to do here.

Anyway, the rest of the cast seems like they’re trying too, but like Christensen, aren’t allowed to do much beyond the boring stuff Lucas gives them to do. McGregor is more believable this time as a more seasoned, skilled and disciplined Obi-Wan; Natalie Portman seems like cynical this time around as Padme and is, sadly, left to drop the same corny lines as Christensen had to; Samuel L. Jackson gets more time as Mace Windu here and shows why he’s more of a bad-ass than most of the other Jedi’s hanging around; and Christopher Lee, despite seeming like he was a last second call to fill out a villainous role, does a nice job as Count Dooku, showing us why he’s so menacing and deserving of being a baddie that our heroes can’t seem to defeat.

Oh, and yeah, we get more of Yoda here. Which, honestly, never gets old.

Consensus: Despite the occasional script and tonal issues, Attack of the Clones is still a step-above the Phantom Menace, which may not be saying much, but still says enough if you remember Jar-Jar Binks and all the pain and torment he caused.

6.5 / 10

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Death to Jar-Jar.

In order to tell the story in its fullest form, sometimes, you have to go to the very beginning. In this case, we start with two Jedi knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who are sent in to break up some sort of intergalactic trade embargo that’s going on and interrupting all sorts of people. However, while they’re on the case, they also manage to uncover a secret, scary plot by a bunch of aliens who’s sole plan is to take over the planet Naboo by sheer force and power. While all of this is going on, the two Jedi’s also discover the presence of two Sith warriors, who were thought to be long extinct by this point, but are still a force to be reckoned with. And of course, the Jedi’s end up crossing paths with small, young slave boy who has something about him that just makes them want to work with him to be the next great Jedi. The kid’s name? Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) and he is destined to be “The Chosen One”. Even though certain folks like Yoda, aren’t too sure of the kid and make it their top priority to test him every chance they get.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

It’s become almost second nature to despise the Phantom Menace. When I was around six or seven and saw this movie, I’ll never forget the feeling; there was just a certain rush of joy and excitement that I couldn’t get out of my system. I was hooked from the very beginning and all I wanted to do was see it again. Then, once that happened, I got the awesome PS1 video-game, caught up on the other Star Wars flicks, and considered myself a fan for so very long. But now, after all of these years of constantly pushing it away and not wanting to admit it, I can easily say that, well, yes, the Phantom Menace is not a very good movie.

Does that mean it’s an awfully terribly crappy one that deserves every cop in existence to burned and steam-piled?

No, of course not. In fact, there’s very few movies that actually deserve that; while my mind automatically jumps to Adam Sandler’s flicks, even then, I still find something here and there to take away. With the Phantom Menace, you get the sense that because the movie had so much hype surrounding what it was supposed to be, that when it ended-up actually becoming something of a let-down, it wasn’t just a disappointment – it was a sign of the end of the world. That the movie and George Lucas was given as much money and time as he needed to make this movie and do whatever he wanted to with it, already puts everything into perspective: Like, is this really what he wanted to do?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a nice couple bits within the Phantom Menace that are still fun and exciting, even if they feel thrown in a jumbled-up mess. The pod-racing scene, of course, is neat to watch, even after all of these years; the Jedi-battle duel at the end is by far one of the very best of the franchise; and Liam Neeson, playing the almighty dad-like figure as he’s best known for, does seem like a genuinely nice and warm figure to have around. Do all of these factors add up to a good movie? No, they do not. However, by the same token, they at least help the movie out in ways that, quite frankly, people don’t give them enough credit for.

Once again, I am in no way saying that the Phantom Menace is a misunderstood masterpiece that people just wanted to hate because they could – what I’m saying is that, well, it’s pretty lame and misguided, but not terrible.

Most of this has to do with the fact that George Lucas, who returned to directing and writing after 22 years for this, doesn’t seem like he’s always clear of what he wants to do with this story, whom to put the main focus on, or set things up for the next two movies. It’s obvious that, from the very start, Lucas set-out to make a Star Wars movie that his kids could enjoy and because of that, we’re tragically forced to sit through and watch as Jar-Jar Binks and Anakin take over the film, and hardly bring out any emotions whatsoever. Everything’s already been said about Jar-Jar, his faux-Jamaican accent, and the fact that the movie itself couldn’t get enough of his slapstick, so without trying to beat a dead horse, I’ll just say that, yes, when I was six or seven, Jar-Jar was awesome – now, he’s just super annoying and makes you feel like you’re watching a different movie.

Someone misses Leon.

Someone misses Leon.

But really, I still can’t wrap my head around the casting of Jake Lloyd in the iconic role of Anakin Skywalker. For one, as much as it pains me to say this, Jake Lloyd can’t act; though the movie seems like it wasn’t helping him out much either, there’s still the impression that the kid doesn’t know how to read his lines without seeming like he’s confused and in need of some help. This isn’t me ragging on him and being a cruel, miserable a-hole, because it’s not just his fault, but why he was pushed so far to the front of the line for this role, is totally beyond me. There’s also the idea of why he’s so young to begin with, but hey, that’s another post for another day.

And what the real shame about Lucas putting all of his focus on the likes of Jar-Jar and Anakin, is that it takes away from the overall impact of the story. Because this is the first movie of the supposed trilogy, after all, it makes sense to start things off slow, easy-going, and relatively peaceful, but really, a lot of this film just seems meandering. It’s as if Lucas wasn’t ready to scare his audience just yet, so in a way to wind them all up, he just gave each and everyone a film that’s perfectly serviceable for the whole family. Of course it worked for me when I was younger, but now, it just feels like a waste of what a great opportunity this movie could have been.

Thankfully, it gets better from here on out.

Sort of.

Consensus: George Lucas clearly had some rust when making the Phantom Menace, which will always and forever be known as the unwanted and unloved “Annie and Jar-Jar Show”, despite it not being the end-all, be-all disaster people love to hop on the band-wagon and go on about.

4.5 / 10

"Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me."

“Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

TRON (1982)

About 20 years later and hell, I could make this movie off of my Mac.

A hip and cool computer programmer named Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is transported inside the software world of a mainframe computer during a computer game. This is also where he interacts with various programs in his attempt to get back out but also make the computer program “nice and civilized” again.

Watching and reviewing old-school movies like this are so hard because you always have to take them with the grain salt, especially ones from the 80’s. You have to always expect the material to be cheesy, you have to always expect it to be dated, and you always have to expect it to not be as up-to-date with the times as you may be used. This movie is even harder to review, mostly due to the fact that nerds from all over the globe hail this as their wake-up call in life, and consider it one of the sci-fi greats, along up there with Star Wars and 2001. Sorry geek fan boys, not quite up there with those classics.

No matter what it is you may hear about this flick, whether it be good or bad, you always hear that this is just one of those flicks that changed the way computers affected a movie. For instance, back in the days before the summer ’82, computers and film didn’t really need each other, except if it was for a fully-animated movie that needed help moving the pictures and graphics along. Then comes along this movie and soon you start to see actual-people, perform in front of a live-stage that’s just filled to the core with special-effects and even though it may not look as beautiful and awe-inspiring as it may have then, it still really takes you awhile to realize, “Damn, this had to really fuck people’s minds when they saw it”.

Seeing an all-out, special-effects extravaganza like Avatar and remembering your first reactions after seeing that can only give you an idea of what people thought about after seeing this movie way back when, and it’s really impressive. Director Steve Lisberger definitely seemed like he had a real hunch in his back with everything he wanted to do, how he wanted to do it, and how he wanted it look in the final-cut, and for the most part; the guy succeeds big time. In the day and age we live in nowadays, films like these only get filled with more flashy-effects and added-on with an extra-dimension, but to see something as simple but cool as this, really brings you back to the days and gets you in the nostalgia-feeling, even if you were never born when it first came-out. Hell, this is my first-time seeing this flick and yet, I still feel the breeze of nostalgia hit me from the early-80’s. Ahh, those were the days…..I think.

Good-looking celebrities trying to look nerdy: not buying it.

Good-looking celebrities trying to look nerdy: not buying it.

Anyway, the special-effects aren’t as dated as I may make it think, they are actually pretty cool to view. I used to be a huge gamer, but recently have fallen off the wagon and found myself playing video-games around once or twice a year. To some of you out there who have hemmorhoids from all-nighters on XBOX live; you may be surprised. However, to some of you that are full-time critics that just love movies; this may not surprise you. Still, watching this made me feel like I was playing a video-game and a really fun, and retro-one at that. Some of the effects may not look as cool as you’d think, but there are still some scenes full of plenty of eye-candy and glamour to feast your eyes upon and whether or not you are a gamer; it doesn’t matter because you’ll still be able to appreciate what’s up on-screen and how Lisberger and his crew were able to create it. It’s very, very impressive, but sadly, this is just one of those cases where it’s all style and beauty, but no substance.

First of all, I had no idea what the hell was up with this story. In the beginning of the movie, I really tried to understand what the hell all of this “computer and technology talk” was all supposed to mean and as soon as I felt like it was translated to me, the film throws me for a loop and not only adds more confusing bits of language to the mix, but brings a piece of tension I never understood. I never fully got why Flynn was in this world and better yet, how, where, when, and how he was supposed to get out of it. To be brutally honest, I don’t think Lisberger cared about any of those details, either, because he seems a lot more concerned with the frequent scenes of running, chasing, brawling, and in what seems to be the most awesome game of dead-or-alive Frisbee. These scenes are all cool to see play-out with the type of visuals Lisberger has on-display, but seriously: what the hell does it all add up to?

Even worse, the film has little to no tension. Other than the cool game of Frisbee I just mentioned in that last paragraph, I never really found myself tense, on-the-edge-of-my-seat, or particularly revved-up with what was going on in the movie. Honestly, I was just watching and waiting for something other than the visuals, to take me by storm and make me feel as if I was really in the mode of playing a video-game. Instead, this ends-up being the lamest video-game ever and it’s even worse when the melodrama rears it’s ugly head in and makes everything seem so corny and dated, aka, exactly what I have come to expect from a sci-fi movie of the early 80’s.

And I know some of you out there may get a tad pissed-off at me and state that this is a movie that’s more about it’s look and feel, rather than the dialogue, but seriously: what sort of defense is that? But even if you weren’t on the film’s side of it’s “style-over-substance”-argument, you still have to admit that it doesn’t matter if a flick has a lame-o script, just as long as it has enough fun and entertainment to take my mind off the crappiness. However, this flick is not one of those and as much action there may have been in the first hour or so, it all starts to go away, in a slowly but surely manner, and rarely ever gain back the excitement it once has. No matter what negatives I may have to speak about this flick, it is still great to look at, but that’s not enough to take my mind off a shit-script of Lucas-proportions.

As of right now, Toyota is using this picture as an example for their next-line of automobiles. Good gas mileage, I''d assume.

As of right now, Toyota is using this picture as an example for their next-line of automobiles. Good gas mileage, I”d assume.

However, when you have a shit-script, you usually have shit-actors and in a way, that’s sort of the case here. Jeff Bridges plays Flynn and is a bunch of fun as the wacky and wild dude that gets sucked into his own world he enjoys to play around with, and brings a lot of excitement to a flick that seems like it really needs it at certain-points. Bridges is always fun to watch and it’s no surprise that the guy brings a much-needed levity to a script that couldn’t be concerned with it either way. The problem with Bridges being so much fun, though, is that he is probably the best one and everybody else sort of falls by the waist-side, and badly too, may I add.

Even though he’s more or less the secondary-character in this story, Bruce Boxleitner plays Tron and is fine with his material, even though you never understand what is so damn special about this guy in the first-place. You sort of feel like Bridges should have been the only guy in the video-game world after all, and even better, should have been named Tron. I don’t know how much of that would have changed and screwed-up the story, but it probably would have made a lot more sense than just featuring two characters that could be the lead-character but yet, continue to battle-it-out for the top-spot. And not in the fun way, either. It’s more confusing and annoying than that. Cindy Morgan is Yori and, rightfully so, probably plays the most robotic member of the cast as she obviously just seems to be going through the motions of acting, without a care in the world. Maybe it worked back then when people weren’t paying attention to her acting or line-reading, but now, it’s more obvious and distracting than the elephant in the room. And finally, all the movie needed was one hell of an evil S.O.B. to take this movie and make something better, but somehow, some way, David Warner isn’t up to the challenge as Stark and just feels like less and less of a threat as time goes on. Yep, I think that the Dude is the only one who prevails in this cast but then again: are you the least-bit surprised?

Consensus: No doubt that the visuals and look of TRON are as beautiful and as polished as they once were, way back when in 1982, but it just doesn’t take special-effects to make a good film. Sometimes, you need other elements like strong acting, believable dialogue, excitement, fun, joy, action, and glee to make a good film, which is where I think this movie dropped the ball on. Okay, bring on the hate-mail nerds.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

If there's anything we can thank this movie for, it's this man and all that he strives for as a human-being. That's a hero right there.

If there’s anything we can thank this movie for, it’s this man and all that he strives for as a human-being.

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

“Getttt offffff of myyy fieeeeld.”

The film centers on an aging Atlanta Braves scout (Clint Eastwood) who is starting to lose his sight and goes on a last scouting trip with his reluctant daughter (Amy Adams), who, in her own time, becomes slightly involved with a rival scout (Justin Timberlake).

Not only does it seem like Dirty Clint has lost his mind (talking to chairs and all), but the guy’s also losing a lot of energy and steam to not only make movies, but to star in them as well. That’s why it is heavily rumored that this may be his last flick, ever, and thought what better way to go out then give the directing duties over to a first-timer he’s been working with for over 12 years. Problem is, there is a better way to go out: make your own movie because you got the skill to do so jackass!

First-time director Robert Lorenz doesn’t really do anything spectacular with this material whatsoever. It’s a generic, boring, and dull-looking film that doesn’t bring-out anything neat or different in it’s story-line, either. Now, I know Eastwood was no master when it came to directing flicks (hell, his last directorial effort was  J. Edgar, and we all know how that did) but at least the guy put some heart, emotion, and feeling into his work. This Lorenz guy doesn’t really seem like he has any of that and is just trying to see what he can do with himself behind the camera this time. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this was another George Lucas situation where he plays the head-producer behind the flick, but is automatically the director in his own way because he takes over every decision that was made. Actually, I would be surprised because this doesn’t seem like something Eastwood would just churn out, no matter how old or goofy he gets.

A lot of the people going into this flick will probably expect a baseball drama along the lines of last year’s fall-hit Moneyball (even though it talks-out against using a computer for statistics), or the classic baseball tearjerker, Field of Dreams, but will end-up most likely being disappointed with how little baseball action there is. I knew it wasn’t going to be a full-out baseball movie where bats were hitting balls, peanuts were being chewed, and tobacco was being dipped, so I wasn’t all that bummed when it started focusing on the actual-story at-hand but I kind of wish they did something more with this generic story. Right from the first scene, you can tell where it’s all going to go. It’s going to follow the same patterns you would expect from a family-drama like this one here and any chance the film actually gets to surprise us, it either tries and fails, or doesn’t even try at all. It’s sort of like this flick trudges along, like a baseball game between two teams that suck, but you only went to go and see because the tickets cost less than the whole McDonald’s Value menu combined together. Been there, done that and don’t want to go back to it again.

The story itself was also quite repetitive and never seemed to fully make sense with itself. There’s this constant problem that Clint has with getting old, then Adams tries to help him, he gets mad, growls at her, she gets mad, leaves, and then they are back together in the next scene acting as if nothing had just happened between them. I don’t know how most families work out most of their problems but if my mom or dad basically tells me to piss-off, I’m not going to be sitting with them at a baseball game, telling them how everything’s going. I’m going to tell them to kiss my ass and ask for somebody else to help. Then again, I may not be the most lovable son out there, but you get my point. Then, the ending pops-up and it seems as if nothing was fully resolved. Well, yeah, in a way it was but nobody ever really comes out of this feeling like a changed-person and never really admits to doing any wrong in their lives, ever. It’s almost as if this film/story never happened which is a shame because these stars make the best of it and deserve a hell of a lot better.

Clint Eastwood (in which I hope isn’t his last role) does a great job playing the usual, cranky old man that people have come to know and love him for, but this character has a bit of an emotional ting to him that makes his character a bit more accessible. Granted, a lot of the film has Clint doing his usual “growl”, and non-stop yells at random people, but he has a bit of a soft-side to him that you see very early on and continues to show various times throughout the whole flick. It’s a nice performance from Clint, but not one of his best and I hope that he doesn’t decide to end a stellar career on this one because I think, and this is just my opinion, he’s got one more solid performance left in him that may give the Academy voters a bit of a run for their money. Don’t know if I’m ever going to actually get to see that but that’s why I keep my fingers crossed.

Amy Adams is fun to watch as his everyday woman, that has a bit of that tomboy-ish act to her that separates her from most gals. Adams is good here and offers up plenty of real and honest emotion, and most of her scenes with Eastwood feel genuine enough to make me believe in that story only, but I couldn’t help thinking how much more powerful and special this role would have been, had it been given to Sandra Bullock in the first-place like they originally planned. Obviously, that whole idea would just change-up the whole movie in general, but it would have been more interesting to see her in a dramatic role, opposite of a legend like Eastwood. Still though, I can’t take too much away from Amy as she does do a nice job with what she’s given.

Everybody has this terrible hate for Justin Timberlake which in ways, I do see, but at the same time, I don’t because the guy is just so damn likable. Timberlake is a lot of fun in this role because he seems like a genuinely nice and fun guy to be around, and brings out a lot of energy and spirit in most scenes that seem a bit boring and generic. His whole love-story with Adams seems a little tacked-on, but they have a nice chemistry that makes you believe in it and makes it a lot more fun to watch their scenes. There’s a whole bunch of other actors that show-up in this flick and all do their parts well, but also seem like they just decided to do this movie because it had Eastwood in it. That’s not a terribly bad thing, as this film really isn’t, but it also shows you the type of impact Eastwood still has on everybody in the business. Yes, that’s right, even Matthew Lillard.

Consensus: There’s a crowd-pleasing feel to Trouble with the Curve that will have the audience happy, as well as the great performances from the talented cast, but is also too predictable, too repetitive, too manipulative, and too disappointing to be anything that really hits you hard and seems like a flick that Clint better not end on.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Red Tails (2012)

It’s like a mixture of ‘Flyboys’ without all of the white people and ‘Miracle at St. Anna’ without all of the whatever the hell else Spike Lee put in there.

The film is based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all black combat squadron who fought in World War 2. Besides the war against the enemies overseas the men also had to fight against racism and prejudice in the military and back home.

And so marks my first ever press screening ever after about 2 years of reviewing films. Yay!! It was great to see the packed crowd, all of the soldiers in uniform, fellow press agents, and even the original dudes that this film is based on, but for some reason that wasn’t enough to get by the fact that this film is pretty bad in the first place.

Although the film is directed by first-timer Anthony Hemingway, it still feels very much like a George Lucas flick, who actually produced this and tried to get it off the ground for over 23 years even using his own money. This could have easily been directed by Lucas because everything here just feels like him. Everything here feels dull from the characters, to the story, to the planes, and even to the special effects which over-power just about every scene to where it’s noticeable right away and very distracting.

The film’s script also tries so hard to be funny, dramatic, and moving but just comes off as terribly hokey. I was in a crowd full of people that laughed at just about every single damn word that these characters said but I couldn’t find a single, genuine laugh other than when the characters were all trying to be serious. The tale itself though is a very important one none the less and I was at least glad that this was actually getting some love for the first time but it’s all bogged-down by the painful predictable story arcs. Anybody who has seen this kind of film before can definitely notice all of the clichés here such as the love-story sub-plot that still seems forced no matter what, the kid who just isn’t ready for war/battle, the one soldier who has personal demons of his own to fight along with the war, one soldier who gets too cocky and could put himself into danger, and the fact that not only are these soldiers fighting the enemy up in the air, but they are also fighting them on the ground…with racism!! Don’t forget to bring your check book of war-movie clichés because I can promise you that every single one will be checked off by the end of this long as hell film.

The only time that this flick actually has some life brought into it is when they filmed the aerial battles themselves. The dogfights here, have a certain energy that the rest of the flick doesn’t really have and to be honest, they are very entertaining to watch considering we don’t get to see much of aerial-fights in war films nowadays. However, even when these aerial fights do happen, they still feel like something we have all seen done before. Instead of actually giving these high-flying fights some real danger, the film feels and looks more as if it was a just another video-game sequence like ‘The Adventures of Tintin’. After all of this time, you would have thought that Hollywood and films would start to find out new and improved ways of portraying these fights in the air, but they never really change.

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard are given top-billing for this film to ensure that it has some star-power to it but the problem is that they aren’t really in the film all that much which is a shame considering that these two need a big come-back of sorts. Nate Parker and David Oyelowo are the two here that actually stand-out and give their characters some real authenticity but they can never get past the fact that they are still one-dimensional war hero’s. Out of the rest of the supporting cast, everybody here is basically just running through their lines without any real emotion or feeling, and it’s weird to say this but the one out of the whole cast who actually had me laughing was freakin’ Ne-Yo. Yes, that dude who sang that song about being so sick of love songs, was the funniest part of this film considering he had me chuckle about twice.

Consensus: Its heart may be in the right place, but Red Tails is still a terrible-looking CGI action flick with wooden performances from almost everybody involved, and cliché upon cliché to really take the heart out of what could have been an important story.

2/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Apparently Tintin is famous everywhere else except for America.

Starring Jamie Bell as Tintin, the intrepid young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure teamed with his little dog Snowy, and Daniel Craig as the nefarious Red Rackham.

I have never read any of the graphic novels that this film is based off of and going into this, I wasn’t expecting much considering motion-capture is just simply freaky and having Peter Jackson and Steve Spielberg giving it a go, doesn’t really make me feel safe about it either. However, I just looked at it like a young Indiana Jones with dead eyes.

Where this film really benefits from is the screenplay written by Steve Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. With the script, you get a lot of mystery to keep your attention on the little details, the humor that will actually having you chuckling more than expected, and plenty of interesting motivations that really keeps the viewers interested in the plot even when it seems to dive into some real familiar territory that we have kind of all seen before, especially from Spielberg.

This film also benefits from the fact that Spielberg starts this films pace at a high of 11 and never lets loose once. The whole film you have hotels moving, guns shooting, fist-fights, pirate ships running into each other, Snowy moving from one vehicle to another, and just so many other exciting and fun things going on here that it’s actually a lot of fun. We get a lot of really fun action sequences that keep the plot moving and never stop as the camera constantly moves around each setting. This reminds me of what the 4th Indiana Jones film should have been like, if it weren’t for those damn aliens that George Lucas put in. That asshole.

The problem with this frenetic feel that Spielberg gives this flick is the fact that it is almost way too highly-energized and it feels as if Spielberg was just doing this to get away from the fact that the story itself is a little uneven. We never actually get a chance to rest and understand what is exactly going on with this plot, because every time they show us one clue, one crazy action sequence will just come by and follow it. Hey, I’m not against a film that just wants to be fun but what I do get annoyed by is when we never get a chance to just relax while watching it.

One of the other main problems that the flick runs into though is the fact that motion-capture still does not work for me. It isn’t quite on-par with certain films like ‘Avatar’ or ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ and the film tries so hard to be just those epics, but instead comes off as a long video-game sequence that I would find in ‘Drake’s Fortune’ or even ‘GTA’ games for that matter. I also never understood why there were some characters in this flick that tried to look like real people, while there were others who looked exactly like a cartoon. I mean it is based on a graphic novel, so I can definitely see why they would have cartoonish-looking characters here but what I never could fully grasp was why they didn’t do that for every character in this flick.

This is what leads onto my next biggest problem and that was Tintin himself. I have never really read any of the graphic novels in the first place so I was kind of depending on Spielberg to give me a really cool look at this character, but I could never really stand behind this kid considering there was nothing ever spectacular about him when it came to how he looked and how he acted. Tintin’s face looks very flat, with his cheeks looking like he’s a big baby and he doesn’t really have the round noses that all of the cartoonish characters have either. The film really tries hard to make Tintin look like a real person which makes him stand-out as terribly creepy and just plain dull looking. Jamie Bell is also very good in the things that I have seen him in but he just doesn’t have the physical presence to get us by this problem or even really get us to stand behind Tintin. Thankfully though, Tintin had his dog Snowy to steal just about every scene. With this film and ‘Beginners’, it’s been a pretty good year for movie dogs.

The one character in this flick that I could get behind was Captain Haddock, played by the always great Andy Serkis. When we meet Haddock he’s a lot of fun, cracking one-liners left-and-right, and Serkis just always seems to be having a ball with this role considering he pretty much owns motion-capture performances. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost aren’t in this film as much playing Interpol agents Thompson and Thompson, but they are still a lot of fun every time and Daniel Craig is a pretty mean son-of-a-bitch as our main baddy, Ivanovich Sakharine.

Consensus: The Adventures of Tintin still seems weird with the motion-capture animation and constantly moving plot, but where this film makes up for that is in its script that is full of mystery and humor, and a Spielberg direction that calls back his old Indiana Jones days that still works all of these years later.

6.5/10=Rental!!