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REVIEW – Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

June 23, 2017 Leave a comment
Directed by: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Produced by: Thomas G. Smith, Ian Bryce
Screenplay by: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat
Story by: George Lucas
Edited by: Eric Jenkins
Cinematography by: Isidore Mankofsky
Music by: Peter Bernstein, John Williams (themes)
Starring: Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Siân Phillips, Paul Gleason, Carel Struycken, Niki Botelho, Eric Walker, Daniel Frishman, Tony Cox, Pam Grizz, Roger Johnson
Year: 1985

 

Well, they talk now… Or, at least, Wicket does. And by “talk,” I of course mean “speaks English” – or, if you will, “speaks Galactic basic” – rather than just Ewokese. Released a year after the first Ewok-starring Star Wars spinoff, Caravan of Courage, and set months after the events of that film, The Battle for Endor sees the friendship between Cindel Towani and Wicket the Ewok blossoming, to the point where Cindel’s lessons from the first film have apparently paid off. But, sadly, the Towanis have also made progress in repairing their star cruiser since being rescued from the Gorax by Cindel, her brother Mace, and the Ewoks, and so it’s almost time for them to go back home and say good-bye to their furry friends. Read more…

REVIEW – Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure

Directed by: John Korty
Produced by: Thomas G. Smith
Screenplay by: Bob Carrau
Story by: George Lucas
Edited by: John Nutt
Cinematography by: John Korty
Music by: Peter Bernstein, John Williams (themes)
Starring: Eric Walker, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Daniel Frishman, Debbie Lee Carrington, Tony Cox, Kevin Thompson, Margarita Fernández, Pam Grizz, Bobby Bell, Fionnula Flanagan, Guy Boyd, Darryl Henriques (voice), Sydney Walker (voice), Burl Ives (narration)
Originally known as: The Ewok Adventure
Year: 1984

 

What happens when you’ve seemingly brought an end to one of the most profitable film sagas, and yet you still want to make money off of the property in a similar medium? Why, you make a spin-off, of course! Return of the Jedi had brought the original film trilogy to a close on its release on May 25, 1983, but George Lucas was obviously far from finished with the series, despite this. (And who can complain, really?) Even before the concept of the prequel trilogy was thought up, and well before Disney’s acquisition and foray into the sequels and their own spinoffs, there were already plans to expand the series beyond the core films and even into the realm of television – just, you know, not in the form of a variety show. The Star Wars Holiday Special was considered to be an embarrassment by almost all involved, including George Lucas. So when this project began to move forward, Lucas ensured he had full creative control. Read more…

Star Wars 40th Anniversary Mini-Event

 

 

On this day, forty years ago, a film was released that changed the landscape of filmmaking forever…

 

 

Star Wars (later known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), was released on May 25, 1977, becoming a worldwide phenomenon, expanding its universe beyond films into books, comics, video games, television shows, and… well, you name it, and Star Wars has probably licensed itself to it in some form. Who knew back then that the franchise would also go on to become part of the Walt Disney empire alongside the likes of Marvel Comics? Or that the House of Mouse would actually do such a great, respectful job of handling the franchise?

As a result of this momentous event, I wanted to actually do some more reviews.

If you know me, you know I’m a pretty big fan of this universe. Perhaps not the biggest fan, but pretty big, all the same. I followed The Clone Wars TV series and am following Rebels. I saw the prequel films each at least three times in theatres, and have also made a point of seeing Disney’s films the same number. My only regret in all this is that I only ever got to see the original film theatrically was its 1997 Special Edition, and also that The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi never made it to the theatres where I was living at the time (i.e., a military base overseas).

“But, CJ,” I hear you exclaim, “you’ve already reviewed all the movies! Including Rogue One and that hastily put together pastiche of an animated ‘movie,’ The Clone Wars! What are you going to do, review The Holiday Special in May!?”

Well, to answer your question, no! I do not. I still plan on doing that around Christmas – you know, whenever I get around to actually getting the resolve to watch that again. [shudders] Instead, I intend to review a couple actual, honest-to-George movies you may have forgotten existed, but ones that I sure haven’t! You might also find it odd that these films were actually – gasp! – my first introduction ever to the Star Wars universe, period. I’m talking, of course, about…

… Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor!

Yup. My first exposure to anything Star Wars-related was actually the post-Return of the Jedi TV movie spinoffs starring the original trilogy’s most annoying characters – the cuddly teddy bears who inexplicably helped Leia, Han, and Chewie take down the Empire on the forest moon of Endor.

I had no idea at the time that these were part of a greater whole, having only watched them because a friend insisted on watching his VHS copies every now and then when I came over or spent the night at his place when we were about 7 or 8. Oddly, he didn’t have any Star Wars films, but he had all six original Star Trek films – those VHS copies that, when the spines were lined up, created a tantalizing picture of the Enterprise. Luckily, he was also my gateway to that franchise, but while I do love that series and don’t ever really understand the supposed rivalry between the two franchises and its fans, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t far more inclined to call myself more a fan of Star Wars and its whimsical, fantasy-based world.

But I have seen neither Caravan of Courage (originally known as The Ewok Adventure) nor The Battle for Endor since then, and so I decided to revisit the movies that started it all – well, for me, at least. What would I suddenly remember from these films that I’d forgotten in the last two decades? Do the movies hold up? Did they expand upon the greater Star Wars universe in any meaningful or even little but appreciable ways? Are they as bad as enduring Jar Jar Binks for an entire movie or watching Chewbacca’s family roar-gurgling at each other incessantly and without subtitles while we, the audience, stare at our screens aghast as to why we continue to watch that monstrosity? These were questions I needed answers to, and while I intended to do this for May the Fourth, I figured the franchise’s 40th anniversary was an even better time, signifying not just its beginning, but also in remembrance of my own fandom’s beginning – and I also got a little too busy and, therefore, tired around May 4….

REVIEW – Power Rangers

April 7, 2017 Leave a comment
Directed by: Dean Israelite
Produced by: Haim Saban, Brian Casentini, Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey
Screenplay by: John Gatins
Story by: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney
Edited by: Martin Bernfeld, Dody Dorn
Cinematography by: Matthew J. Lloyd
Music by: Brian Tyler
Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman
Based on the Power Rangers and Super Sentai TV series
Year: 2017

 

The film I’d always been asking for is finally here! … Sort of.

… Okay, let me clarify. A few years ago, I’d gotten all nostalgic about my childhood along with some friends, as people are wont to do, and the idea of creating a serious adaptation of the Power Rangers series we’d grown up with became a topic of fascination – at least for myself. I’d always imagined it as being something between serious and openly campy, acknowledging the series’ ridiculous qualities (“teenagers with attitude,” frenetic gesticulating and dramatic declarations prefacing every action, Rita Repulsa and her frequently giant-sized cronies, etc.) and embracing them alongside the aspects that could be made obviously and genuinely awesome (the action, the Zords, the monster battles).

Years later, we got what I always wanted. It’s called Pacific Rim. And it is incredible.

Now, years after that, we now have an actual Power Rangers movie – one that is somehow a more serious film than Pacific Rim, which is actually based on the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series – Zordon, Alpha 5, Rita, and everything. Read more…

REVIEW – Beauty and the Beast (2017)

March 21, 2017 1 comment
Directed by: Bill Condon
Produced by: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Screenplay by: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Edited by: Virginia Katz
Cinematography by: Tobias Schliessler
Music by: Alan Menken
Songs by: Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, Tim Rice
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Nathan Mack
Based on the 1991 film Beauty and the Beast and the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Year: 2017

 

It’s hard to take a movie like Beauty and the Beast and review it on its own terms. It would be easy to compare this film to Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho, which infamously almost exactly remade the original film, save for a few stylistic choices, color cinematography, a new cast, and the fact that the film was absolute crap. I’ve heard some compare this film, however, to a new cast simply taking over what is essentially a theatrically released play, which is certainly a nice and valid sentiment. The problem with that, however, is this doesn’t excuse the fact that this 2017 edition is still ultimately inferior to the otherwise identical original. Read more…

REVIEW – Gremlins

December 25, 2016 Leave a comment
gremlinsDirected by: Joe Dante
Produced by: Michael Finnell
Written by: Chris Columbus
Edited by: Tina Hirsch
Cinematography by: John Hora
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Francess Lee McCain, Corey Feldman, Dick Miller, Judge Reinhold, Glynn Turman, Polly Holliday, Keye Luke, Frank Welker, Howie Mandel
Year: 1984

 

Don’t expose them to bright lights. Do not get them wet. And never, ever feed them after midnight. The three rules about owning a mogwai are pretty well-known, even to people like me, who went a couple decades of their lives before seeing either of the Gremlins films – one of the most often cited Christmas films for people who don’t want a traditional Christmas film – much like Die Hard or even last year’s Krampus, itself kind of an adult Gremlins. I wasn’t allowed to see this movie growing up – the combination of monsters, magic, and the fact that it was a horror film were pretty critical factors in that. And probably in a lot of other kids’ lives, too, since it was a major reason why the PG-13 rating was created. Alongside Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, due to their scarier and more violent content than the usual PG-rated film, Steven Spielberg collaborated with the MPAA and created a rating between PG and R due to the films he was producing. I only ever got around to seeing it as an adult – not, mind you, because my mom told me I couldn’t all my life (that had long since passed, even as a kid). I just never got around to it until then! Luckily, I think I’ve held on to my inner child… Read more…

REVIEW – Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas

December 22, 2016 1 comment
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted ChristmasDirected by: Andy Knight
Produced by: Lori Forte, John C. Donkin
Written by: Flip Kobler, Cindy Marcus, Bill Motz, Bob Roth
Edited by: Daniel Lee
Art Direction by: Julie Eberley, Clive Powsey
Music by: Rachel Portman, Michael Starobin
Songs by: Rachel Portman, Don Black
Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Bernadette Peters, Tim Curry, Paul Reubens, Haley Joel Osment, Frank Welker, Jeff Bennett, Kath Soucie, Andrew Keenan-Bolger
Year: 1997

 

Disney may not have invented the concept of the midquel (a follow-up that takes place between the timeframe of the original work, rather than before or after), but with their direct-to-video series, I swear that they’re probably the one studio to make unusually extensive use of the concept. There’s Tarzan 2, Bambi II, The Lion King 1 ½, The Fox and the Hound II, and, as a follow-up to a film that celebrated its 25th anniversary just this year, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. (This would itself followed up by Belle’s Enchanted World, which was actually a compilation of episodes meant for a TV spinoff set within the timeline of the original movie that never came to be.) Along with the Aladdin movies and the first Lion King sequel, this was one of the few direct-to-video follow-ups my family actually had sitting around while growing up, and I recall that my sister and I would proudly claim that we were the owners of “the only good Disney sequels,” which… yeah, I don’t know about that, considering there weren’t that many at the time to begin with, and they all were pretty awful to meh in terms of quality. The Enchanted Christmas, in particular, is probably the worst of the four that we owned (it’s been a while since I’ve seen the others, granted), particularly considering the quality of the film that bore it. Read more…

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