Category Archives: Movies

In Honor of the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars–Top Ten Reason that it is the greatest movie ever made.

Star Wars is 40 years old today.

That makes it sound old and therefore me. But I don’t care. I love this movie.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary, this is an updated version of a post I did last summer.

Star wars came out when I was four.

According to my parents it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. I’ll let you figure out how old I am based on that information.

And when I say Star Wars, I mean the first one, A New Hope. When I first saw it wasn’t called A New Hope, it was just Star Wars.

Star Wars is a great movie.

Star Wars became my childhood.

Star Wars became my birthday and Christmas for years.

It became visits to my grandmother. She would regularly have a new action for me. It was always wrapped in a brown paper bag.

It became playground games—lightsabers verses lightsabers.

It became card collections.

It became Halloween costumes.

Now it hangs on my Christmas tree.

The music made my four-year-old chest just stick out. I grew muscular and taller listening to opening music. Star Wars was the world I was in.

Yes.
We all know the cultural phenomenon that it has become. And the huge intellectual property that it has become to Disney.

5 Billion dollars to be exact. (That’s what Disney paid to George Lucas for the franchise.)

But it wasn’t just me. An entire generation of boys and girls, who are now middle age with children of their own who are into Star Wars. We are passing down the world to another generation of movie lovers.

But there has to be reasons why it is so good…

In honor of the 40th anniversary…

Here are the ten reasons why Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made.

1. The opening.
Beginning a movie with loud music and a title crawl was ripped directly from the Flash Gordon serials of decades previous.

But they weren’t done nearly as well as this. Then flew in the ship in. But it flew in FROM OVER HEAD! And not just one ship but two!

This is now the standard opening for all Star Wars movies, until Rogue One changed it because it technically wasn’t an episode but a Star Wars story. The crawl was borrowed from the ol’ Flash Gordon movies. Lucas brought the 40s serials style into the modern world.

2. Darth Vader.
Five minutes in we are introduced the greatest villain we have ever seen. And here is the thing, he doesn’t say one word. But you know, you need to be scared of him.

And in many ways the prequel movies took away the mystique of the character, but on the other hand we refer to him as Darth Vader and not Anakin Skywalker.

3. The Music.
Let’s face John Williams is the Master at cinematic music. There is John Williams, and then everyone else. There are John Williams concerts around the country through out the year, there was one here in my own town of Richmond, VA a few months ago. He is in his 80s and currently scoring the next Star Wars movie, talk about commitment to your craft. (There’s a lesson there as well.)

Most people copies of their favorite band releases. I have different CD copies of different releases of all the sound tracks. I have issues.

4. Lightsabers.
They were described originally as laser swords and they’re such an obvious invention, but I know of no other place before where laser swords existed in a movie.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you know what a lightsaber is and the sound it makes. When a new trailer comes we always look for the sight of a lightsaber being ignited.

5. Ralph McQuarrie.
The average movie watch does not know who Ralph is. The hard-core of us do. And we know that it was him who took George’s words and turned them into beautiful illustrations. For the average viewer, they’ve never heard his name. But he may have had more influence on the look of Star Wars than any other person. He designed the world.

6. The Toys.
Lucas made a seismic shift in how movies were promoted. The toys were just awesome. I got new toys every Christmas and birthday from 1977 to 1984. Have toys allowed children to replay the movie. (Remember kids, this was before DVDs.)


This is really how Lucas became a billionaire. The toys also change the contracts of all following movies. The studios released that they were really in the Intellectual Property business.

7. Sound Effects.
Without Ben Burtt there is no laser blast, no lightsaber sound, no roar of a tie fighter, no growl of Chewbacca, no rumble of the trash compactor, no explosion of the Death Star. In other words, no Star Wars.

Star Wars earned an Oscar for its sound, and rightfully so.

8. Industrial Light and Magic.
Lucas needed special effects that had never been done before. In the process he created a company that is used by most of Hollywood.

40 years later, ILM is stilling working and creating movie magic.

9. The spaceships.
The x-wing, tie-fighter, and of course the Milineum Falcon. The Falcon itself is a character in the movies. The Falcon is such a character than when I saw The Force Awakens the crowd cheered when the Falcon finally appeared on screen. Personally part of the reason that Return of the Jedi is not my favorite of the series partly because no scenes really occur in the Falcon.

In The Force Awakens, the Falcon is introduced as a character in the movie when Rey rightfully says, “The garbage will do!”

10. The Force.
Everyone wants to have the Force. The Force is the spirituality behind the story. It is with the Force that the movie goes to a different level. We all want the Force. We are all interested in that sort of power.

It’s hard to believe that it is 40 years old. But I guess that is part of getting older.

But through this movie, I can regularly visit my childhood.

That is why it is the great movie ever made.

SING–Movie Review–A nice solid family outing.

 

I am a dad of a five year old.  These are the types of  movies that I see.

And SING is a good one.

Buster Moon is a  Koala Bear is wanna-be successful theater producer.  We are introduced to him when he is six years and his parents take him to the theater.  He falls in love with theater, and his six-year-old mind decides he doesn’t want to be an astronaut anymore, he wants to produce theater.  And we are with him.

Fast forward a couple of decades and we find that Buster is a failed theater producer.  So much so, that the bank is about to foreclose on his property.

He begs for money from his best-friend and business partner, a sheep named  Eddie Noodleman, whose parents are wealthy.  But this time Eddie, turns him down.  Buster’s recent plays have flopped.  Flopped.

Buster’s Big Idea to get people back into the theater is to run a singing competition.  Eddie quickly points out the obvious, that nobody wants to see a singing competition made up of only locals.

Buster ignores him.

In a silly and stupid plot point, Buster’s secretary, Ms. Crawly an aging iguana, accidently turns the $1,000 prize into a $100,000 with a typo, and then within 30 seconds thousands of the flyers are blown out into the town, where the townsfolk begin to read about the $100,000 prize.

Consequently, more people show up to Buster’s talent audition than he expected.

From here we are connected with several enjoyable characters.

Rosita, a pig, who is mother to 25 piglets.  Her dream of being a famous singer abandoned to raise a family.

Ash, a teenage punk rocker who is forced to break-up with her boyfriend, when she is allowed in the competition and he is not.

Meena, a teenage elephant, who has a gifted voice, but is crippled by debilitating stage fright. 

Johnny, a teenage gorilla, whose family is a gang of bank robbers.

Mike, a mouse, is the Frank Sinatra clone.  He gets into trouble with women and the mob.

Gunter, a German-accent pig, is Rosita’s dance partner.

The story continues as Buster tries to get the singing competition off the ground.  The movie continues through obstacle after obstacle, each more over the top than the next.  Until finally the theater itself is destroyed.

Buster hits his low, and goes into hiding.  But those that were going to sing in the competition pull a singing performance off in the end.

Overall

The movie is funny.  But there is nothing groundbreaking here.

Plot points are obvious and silly.

But we can relate to characters that have given up on their dreams, but find hope and joy when the chance to finally live those dreams happens.

And for Generation Xer parents and Baby Boomer Grandparents there are some great musical numbers here.  The writers knew who would be bringing the children to see this.

And my five-year-old got up to dance during the movie, which makes me recommend the movie.

 

Image credits:

Several of the images came from here.

 

Rogue One Review–Treading Water Til Episode 8

 

Rogue One Movie Poster

 Star Wars is in many ways unreviewable.

People will go to see it, no matter what is written about it. People will see it just to be a part of the cultural aspect of it.

But, still here I write.

Rogue One is a prequel. Not the infamous Prequels that Lucas made, but a prequel none the less, and that leaves it with problems from the get go. You already know how the movie is going to end.  We know that the Rebels at the start of A New Hope had gotten stolen plans on how the Death Star worked. It was in the opening the crawl. This entire movie is an introduction to another movie.

Because this isn’t an episode, there is no opening crawl. Which makes sense, considering that this movie is the opening crawl for the next movie.

We do get the iconic “A long time ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away…”

The opening scene we are introduced to Galen Erso, Lyra Erso, and the main character Jyn Erso played by Felicity Jones. It during this scene that I believe we get the first Star Wars Meta reference. A Death Trooper picks a Stormtrooper doll. I enjoyed that touch.

Soon after Jyn’s father is capture and mother is killed we skipped ahead apparently 12 years or so, and we find Jyn is in prison. Now, why she is in prison, like a lot of plot points, in this movie is never mentioned. And this prison cell is dirty, unlike Leia’s prison room in the Death Star in the original Star Wars. We also hear prisoners being tortured from a far.

This is Star Wars with the emphasis on the War part.

Soon after, for whatever reason as we are never told why, Jyn is being transferred to a labor camp planet, and here we find the most honest detail in a Star Wars movie—an exhausted Stormtrooper. He sits there looking at the floor, his elbows on his knees.  The Stormtrooper is clearly a dude who is exhausted and just doing his job. And in a few seconds he is going to be killed, as Jyn is rescued by Cassian Andor and his droid K-2SO. That is part of the job description of a Stormtrooper—getting killed.

The forced humor

The Humor isn’t Jar-Jar Binks level, not even close, but it is still forced.  And it comes only through droid K-2S0. You have to ask, why is a droid the only one around with a sense of humor? While everyone else is walking around with depressed and angry. Who was the clever person that programmed K-2? Was he or she killed? Why isn’t he or she around?

The problem with a prequel is that you already know where the story is going.  You may not know exactly what is going to happen on the way, but you do know where the story is going, and takes some the of the interest away.

Yes, Vader is in it.

But he didn’t need to be.  Why does Crinnic need to travel to Mustofar to visit with Vader one on one?  Doesn’t this universe have long distance holographic communication?  Wouldn’t that be safer for Krinnic, because he wouldn’t be inconveincing Vader?  And yes, there is a very intense scene at the end where Vader kills several rebel soldiers.  This where the story changes differ from the original Star Wars.  In the original movie, Leia says that she is a part of a diplomatic mission.  Kinda hard to make that lie now, when Vader actually watches you rip your ship away from his ship.

A better movie would have used Vader in the background, not put him out front.

Star Wars brings back cutting edge technology.

Bringing Peter Cushing back with the combination of an actor and CGI was landmark work. Being a Star Wars nerd I clearly knew that this was CGI. I knew that Cushing has passed away  in 1994, so anytime his character Grand Moff Tarkin. It really was great, and the reason I know that is that other people, i.e. non-Star Wars fanatics didn’t realized that the character was CGI, they didn’t know any better. That’s the goal. The only reason we know that Tarkin is CGI, is because we know the actor is dead

Even the young Carrie Fisher scene was beyond belief. Why do I think this? As I walked out the movie I heard one parton explain to who seemed to be his mother, that it wasn’t a look alike actress. It fooled regular movie goers. That is mind-blowing.

Overall, Rogue One is clearly an exercise in treading water while we wait to see Episode 8 where the story will continue to a place where we don’t know what is going to happen and that is much more interesting.    

 

Top Ten Reasons Why Star Wars is the Greatest Movie Ever Made.

(This post originally appeared on my Steemit page.)

Star wars came out when I was four.

According to my parents it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. I’ll let you figure out how old I am based on that information.

And when I say Star Wars, I mean the first one, A New Hope. When I first saw it wasn’t called A New Hope, it was just Star Wars.

Star Wars is a great movie.

Star Wars became my childhood.

Star Wars became my birthday and Christmas for years.

It became visits to my grandmother. She would regularly have a new action for me. It was always wrapped in a brown paper bag.

It became playground games—lightsabers verses lightsabers.

It became Halloween costumes.

The music made my four-year-old chest just stick out. I grew muscular and taller listening to opening music.  Star Wars was the world I was in.

Yes.

We all know the cultural phenomenon that it has become. And the huge intellectual property that it has become to Disney.

5 Billion dollars to be exact.

But it wasn’t just me. An entire generation of boys and girls, who are now middle age with children of their own who are into Star Wars. We are passing down the world to another generation of movie lovers.

But there has to be reasons why it is so good…

Here are the ten reasons why Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made.

1. The opening. Beginning a movie with loud music and a title crawl was ripped directly from the Flash Gordon serials of decades previous. But they weren’t done nearly as well as this. Then flew in the ship in. But it flew in FROM OVER HEAD! And not just one ship but two!

2. Darth Vader. Five minutes in we are introduced the greatest villain we have ever seen. And here is the thing, he doesn’t say one word. But you know, you need to be scared of him.

3. The Music. Let’s face John Williams is the Master at cinematic music. There is John Williams, and then everyone else.

4. Lightsabers. They were described originally as laser swords and they’re such an obvious invention, but I know of no other place before where laser swords existed in a movie.

5. Ralph McQuarrie . The average movie watch does not know who Ralph is. The hard-core of us do. And we know that it was him who took George’s words and turned them into beautiful illustrations.

6. The Toys. Lucas made a seismic shift in how movies were promoted. The toys were just awesome. I got new toys every Christmas and birthday from 1977 to 1984. Have toys allowed children to replay the movie. (Remember kids, this was before DVDs.)

7. Sound Effects. Without Ben Burtt there is no laser blast, no lightsaber sound, no roar of a tie fighter, no growl of Chewbacca, no rumble of the trash compactor, no explosion of the Death Star. In other words, no Star Wars.

8. Industrial Light and Magic. Lucas needed special effects that had never been done before. In the process he created a company that is used by most of Hollywood.

9. The spaceships. The x-wing, tie-fighter, and of course the Milineum Falcon. The Falcon itself is a character in the movies. The Falcon is such a character than when I saw The Force Awakens the crowd cheered when the Falcon finally appeared on screen. Personally part of the reason that Return of the Jedi is not my favorite of the series partly because no scenes really occur in the Falcon.

10. The Force. Everyone wants to have the Force. The Force is the spirituality behind the story. It is with the Force that the movie goes to a different level. We all want the Force. We are all interested in that sort of power.

This was a love letter to a movie.

A remembrance to my childhood.

That is why it is the great movie ever made.

The strange critiques of The Force Awakens

starwarshorizontal

The Force Awakens hits Blu-Ray here soon.   And there is something that has been bugging me about the fans response recently to the movie.

First of all, I admit it.  Star Wars takes up a lot of my thinking.  I was 4 when the original movie came out.  Apparently it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater, according to my parents.  And I’m pretty certain they would know.

So when the news hit that Disney had bought Star Wars in October 2012 I was excited.

Episode 7 30 rock

But let’s be honest the prequels left a tinge of disappoint.  (Or for some, complete hatred.)  So there was some worry that maybe we would get a new series of prequels, movie that had lightsabers but  were still somewhat off.

The Trailers

Then the first trailer dropped in 2014 and there X-wings, and the Millennium Falcon.  Holey Moses, the Falcon is back.  (And the radar dish is now rectangle, because as we all know the dish was destroyed in Return of the Jedi.)  It was great, but still, keep those expectations in check.

Then the second trailer dropped in 2015.  And it ended with the perfect lines “Chewie we’re home.”  Chills. Down. Spine.

Chewie, We're home

The third trailer just brought it all home,

“There are stories…”

“It’s true.  All of it.”

That exchange was just perfect.  I admit.  There may have been weeping.

Then the movie.

I saw the very first showing available here in the Richmond area, 7 pm on December 17.  I was giddy from the opening crawl.  Here was an opening crawl devoid of trade federation, trade talks, and blockades.  Instead there was talk of finding Luke Skywalker.

Yes!  The story has always been who is Skywalker!  So here we finally have a story where we are looking for someone.  A holy grail search in a Star Wars movie.

And it’s here that I begin to scratch my head at the complaints that Force Awakens is a retread of A New Hope.  With Force Awakens the entire story is getting us to finding a person.  A person.

A New Hope’s driving plot point was about blowing up the Death Star.

The Similarities and Differences

Yes, there are similarities.  There is a desert planet, Han Solo, Chewie, and Leia are back in the movie, there is something hidden in a droid that everyone is looking for.  And of course there is a new Death Star, Starkiller Planet.

But there are differences.  The first interaction between Poe and Finn, it feels like actors are finally excited and happy to be in a Star Wars movie.  Finn is funny.  Rey is funny.  And not forced Jar-Jar funny, or even worse C-3PO funny in Attack of the Clones.   (Dear Lord in Heaven, C-3PO in Episode 2 is just unbearable.)  Their joy was such a breath of fresh compared to all the other Star Wars movies.

Complaining that the Force Awakens is too much like A New Hope is just spoiled complaining.  For years people complained that the prequels weren’t like the originals, and now people complain about The Force Awakens is TOO MUCH LIKE THE ORIGINALS?!

What the actual heck!?!

Seriously Haters…get a grip.

Creating is difficult.  Complaining that a great movie isn’t the Second Coming Perfect is just stupid.

The deal is JJ Abrams had a near impossible task of rebuilding the Star Wars brand and he pulled it off with flying colors.  Good for him.

Creating is difficult.  If all you do is critique, then you realize that it is difficult, and you have chosen the easy way out.

Creating is difficult.  When creation succeeds, celebrate it.

Also see: Ten Things I Learned From George Lucas.

 

Lessons learned from George Lucas

I am a Star Wars nut.  I admit it.  I was four when Star Wars came out.  It apparently was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater.  From there it took over my childhood.  Now in middle age I enjoy it for the fun of it.  I have long read about George.  There is a lot there to learn from.

These are quick lessons I have learned from reading about his work.

George Lucas

1)  Own your creations

Lucas broke the mold by not accepting a directors fee.  Instead he held onto the rights.  AND THAT MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.

48965-lucas_destroyer

If you are an independent writer, filmmaker, musician, remember this lesson the most.

2)  Do it yourself.

Kuberick’s 2001 was the cutting edge of special effects when Lucas began work on Star Wars.  No one had ever done what Lucas needed.  When he got the first shot back he didn’t like it.  So he took over the special effects department.

 

From the need to create ground breaking special effects Lucas created ILM, Industrial Light and Magic.  ILM became the go to place for everyone else’s special effects for an entire generation of movies.

154px-ILM

Steven Spielberg uses ILM for all of his movies.  Enough said.

3) Borrow and steal from everywhere

Star Wars comes from everywhere.  I have seen a lot of references to his study of Jospeh Campbell’s work on mythology.  Yes, he studied Campbell.  Star Wars though is the intersection of Campbell, religion, Flash Gordan, Kuirosauara, and movie serials.

In one interview, Carrie Fisher described Lucas as just breathing film.  He took everything he liked and made it his own.

4) Lower expectations and then you can surpass them

For several years the original Star Wars was the highest grossing film of all-time.  Lucas though had no idea it was going to be a success.  In numerous interviews he states that all he wanted to do was to make enough to make another movie.  Well, he made another movie and then some.

5) Be independent and get outside of the group think

Skywalker Ranch not located in Hollywood.

Not only was Lucas financially independent, I would say  that he was also emotionally and intellectually independent.  He set his business, not in the Hollywood capital of Los Angeles, but outside of San Francisco, several hours away from Los Angeles.  Apparently he didn’t want to get caught up in the thinking of Hollywood.

6) Create in spite of criticism

Lucas is also famous for his prequel trilogy.  It didn’t reasonate with the original fans of the of the first three movies.  But he kept making them inspite of people’s down right hatred of them.  In many ways, The Phantom Menace, is the world’s highest grossing indepent movie.  He made The Phantom Menace with his own money that was made from his billion dollar company.  So whenever I hear someone complain about the prequels, I tend to think, “Oh, and how did your multi-million dollar independent movie do?”

Sure, I may not be emotionally as drawn to the prequel trilogy, but if anybody else made the prequels they would be a career highlight and not a side note.

I could go on.  He made the Indiana Jones movies, and others.

He owns education and software companies.

But in the end Lucas has created worlds and companies that affect us daily.

Learn from that.