Tag Archives: Star Wars

Eddie the Eagle (2016)

Eddie the Eagle (2016)There are two kinds of sports movies: underdog stories and everything else. The former category is vastly larger than the latter, likely because that’s sort of the archetypal narrative in any genre. The very first shot of Star Wars is a tiny Rebel ship fleeing a massive Imperial cruiser, and yet we know instantly which one we’re going to root for. In terms of sports movies this translates to Remember the Titans, The Longest Yard (not the remake), Rudy, Miracle, The Bad News Bears (not the remake), Chariots of Fire, The Hustler, A League of Their Own, Major League, Breaking Away, Slap Shot, Rocky, Hoosiers, Moneyball, and so on and so on.

One might easily claim that Jerry Maguire, Eight Men Out, The Natural, Field of Dreams, Raging Bull, and other sports movies that don’t fit comfortably into the underdog narrative are more admirable for finding a way to avoid it, but really all of the movies listed above are pretty great (but not the remakes). The question is not “in which category does Eddie the Eagle belong?” because Eddie very definitely belongs with the Underdogs; the question is whether Eddie’s story cuts it to the degree that the old hat storyline takes a backseat to the overall journey.

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Face Off: James Bond and Star Wars

Motion State Face Offs pit two films, franchises, or television series against each another for no reason other than because we can.

Every single time a Star Wars movie comes to theaters, a James Bond adventure always accompanies it within a year of release. That’s a weird bit of trivia, no? Two of the most gigantic franchises of all time, both in popularity and in cold hard box-office revenue, and the jaunts through a galaxy far, far away are always paired with some good old British womanizing. I smell a conspiracy. Maybe old Bond is just insecure about his lack of Force-wielding prowess and feels the need to release a movie every time a new Star Wars flick hits cinemas.

Regardless, it gives us an opportunity — nay, begs us — to revisit those years and the state of the respective franchises. With the trend continuing this year upon the release of Spectre and The Force Awakens, let’s zip back almost four decades ago to the beginning of the phenomenon.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and A New Hope (1977)

SHLM and NH

A brief look at the weekly box office number-ones throughout 1977 betrays what you’d expect: Star Wars absolutely dominated, reclaiming the top spot again and again weeks after the original release. Great films like SorcererBobby Deerfield, and Cross of Iron have since been relegated to obscurity in the looming shadow of A New Hope. And The Spy Who Loved Me? It’s not even in the Top 10 highest-grossing Bond films (and yet Octopussy is, somehow).

And still The Spy Who Loved Me is one of the better entires in the long-standing franchise, certainly one of the better outings for Roger Moore’s 007. After the idiocy of Live and Let Die and the beautiful weirdness of The Man with the Golden Gun, Moore’s Bond got relatively straightforward in a collaboration with the Russians against the maniacal Karl Stromberg and his trusty metal-toothed henchman. It seemed like Moore’s Bond was finally coming into his own, like the franchise was on its feet again after a long string of so-so spy shindigs. To this day it’s one of the most revered Moore outings.

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Escape from New York (1981)

Welcome to A Review of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, or: A History of the Cinematic Infodump.

As far as narrative exposition goes, the infodump is traditionally one of the more crass methods of conveying the ways in which the world of the film differs from the world of…the world. Here Is Everything You Need To Know, the infodump says before the film gets going. Preludes, prologues, epigraphs, whatever. Presumably, the more akin to “reality” a film pretends to be, the less exposition it should have — and, yeah, even though that’s definitely not always true, it’s science fiction and fantasy that demand large chunks of information be delivered as inconspicuously and efficiently as possible. That way we can get to enjoying the movie without wondering what the heck a Na’vi is, or a replicant, or why legions of Things That Aren’t Humans are fighting over this little gold ring, or why we should care about any of that at all.

Some films elect to disseminate the good stuff throughout the course of the film, like Inception or certain Star Wars installments (looking at you, midichlorians…I mean I’m not actually looking at you, because you’re so small, which I know because Qui-Gon told me mid-movie, but I’m looking in your direction). Escape from New York, the 1981 John Carpenter jaunt destined to become a cult classic and eventual ostensible subject of this very article, certainly has plenty of exposition peppered throughout the film in this fashion.

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Manglehorn (2014)

Discovered an alternate universe the other day. Stumbled upon it by accident, stayed for a while to check it out. Pretty weird. Their eggs and ham are green and Transformers: Age of Extinction won Best Picture. Hoverboards are the primary mode of travel, everyone’s wearing Air McFlys. Don’t know why, but strong suspicion that George Bailey never existed. Can’t tell which universe is good and which is evil. Met their film director David Gordon Green and discovered him to be a talentless hack who sold out after making a few good movies and now just makes big budget stuff. He did the Oscar-winning Transformers. They’ve him to thank for those Batman/Terminator crossover movies and can look forward to his upcoming Star Wars anthology film R2-D2 Rises. In their universe David Gordon Green also directed Pineapple Express and Your Highness and The Sitter…ah, no, wait, that’s ours.

Thankfully, our David Gordon Green turned away from the big budget stuff in order to make movies like Manglehorn. While Bizarro DGG turned to the dark side and never came back, the chunk of studio comedies characterized by Pineapple ExpressYour Highness and The Sitter just seems like a temporary detour in our world. Even if you liked those flicks, the point stands that Green’s career has followed one of the more unpredictable paths you’re likely to find on any Hollywood résumé. His first several features were intimate character dramas, beginning with the phenomenal coming-of-age tale George Washington. Most were well-received and all were small-scale, independent features. Understandable, then, that when three green things converged — money, weed, and David Gordon — and resulted in Pineapple Express, more than a few eyebrows headed north.

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Willow (1988)

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 the primary news item was very definitely Star Wars and the announcement of a new expansion on the galaxy far, far away. The Force Awakens comes this December, but talk is already turning to Indiana Jones, another Lucasfilm franchise, and the possibility of continuing that as well (because distilling Raiders into Crystal Skull wasn’t enough). What’s next? THX 1138Howard the Duck? Radioland Murders? Perhaps even an original idea? Probably none of those for a few years, while Wars and Jones get the attention they deserve. Eventually, though, they’ll probably remake Willow.

Starring Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer, Willow is a fantasy epic set in what seems to be a mystical land of fairies, witches, warriors and little magicians. Willow Ufgood is our unlikely hero, tasked with the safe passage of a prophesied infant through the dangerous lands outside the borders of his home. He seems like a simpleton, a mere farmer, but there’s a lot more to Willow than meets the eye. Importantly, despite the evil tyranny he encounters in his quest, Willow remains one of the most endlessly optimistic characters in all of fantasy cinema. This made Ron Howard the perfect director at the time to handle Willow’s journey, as his previous Cocoon was similarly steeped in magic and optimism. Davis is instantly iconic as Willow. Meanwhile, Val Kilmer plays a drunk version of Aragorn.

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Film & TV News: May 4

News

  • May the Fourth be with you! A bunch of Star Wars news dropped this week, including the arrival of the first season of Star Wars Rebels online and the departure of director Josh Trank from the upcoming “anthology” film. Both are good!
  • Collider has the first pictures from David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, which the director tweeted last night. If you’re wondering what in the hell is going on with some of these costumes, you’re not alone. Killer Croc needs a touchup. Badly. But the solo portrait of Will Smith’s Deadshot is promising, even if he’s still a weird choice for the role.
  • CSI, one of the longest-running cable television shows in history, has been officially cancelled by CBS. The question is now whether a farewell season is in order, or whether that last season finale is actually the series finale, or whether anyone actually gives a shit about CSI anymore.

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Film & TV News: April 13

News

  • Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is getting “fast-tracked” — whatever that means nowadays — at Sony Pictures. The fantasy series has long been rumored for a film adaptation and had Ron Howard attached as director at one point, but now it sounds like it might actually get made.
  • As his latest film Furious 7 continues box office domination, director James Wan is now rumored for DC’s Aquaman film. According to a consortium of critics known as Me, if the DC Cinematic Universe has a more cohesive storyline then they should be able to stray in tone and mood from Zack Snyder’s pout-fests without seeming out-of-place. The more unique the directorial vision, the better.
  • The complete Star Wars saga is now available for the first time in Digital HD, just in time to watch all six movies a dozen more times before The Force Awakens comes out.

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Westworld (1973)

Though known primarily for his novels, Michael Crichton made a name for himself in Hollywood not only through popular adaptations of his novels such as Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain but also by directing films himself for more than a decade. Westworld was both Crichton’s feature directorial debut (barring the ABC made-for-TV film Pursuit) and one of his earliest original screenplays. Plagued with production woes from the start, Westworld is largely renowned today as a major landmark in science-fiction cinema and an important advancement in film technology.

As David A. Price writes in this New Yorker piece, computer-generated imagery is commonplace at the movies these days. Star Wars gets a lot of the credit for sparking the technological revolution in Hollywood (although there have been a few technological advances since then), and it’s certainly true that the effects team behind that space saga deserves most of the commendation in which they bask. But if the question is where did all of this start?Star Wars and Avatar and every other CGI-laden movie of the past thirty years — then the answer is almost certainly Westworld.

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Film & TV News: February 23

News

– Oscars went to Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything (Best Actor), Julianne Moore for Still Alice (Actress), and Birdman for mostly everything else. A huge fist pump goes to Whiplash for winning three out of their five nominations, including a long overdue acting award for J.K. Simmons. All in all, a fairly good year for movies.

-It turns out Neill Blomkamp actually is directing a new Alien movie, not just Instagramming it. Thoughts?

-After shitting on him a little bit in last week’s news roundup, Kodi Smit-McPhee got cast in X-Men: Apocalypse as the supercool mutant Nightcrawler. We’ll have our apology ready for when he nails it.

-Happily, The Man in the High Castle got picked up by Amazon for a full first season; sadly, Niko and the Sword of Light did not.

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Niko and the Sword of Light 1.1

Much has been written about Amazon’s Pilot Season, particularly its live-action slate–and with good reason, judging from potentially great new shows like The Man in the High Castle. As for the animated fare, critics have been criminally silent–possibly with good reason, judging from titles like The Stinky & Dirty Show. But their first mistake is lumping those shows together with Niko and the Sword of Light. (Their second mistake is probably assuming that animation has nothing new to offer.)

Niko started out as a carefully crafted motion comic. Actually, it started as a labor of love by a group of storyboard artists, concept designers, and animators from several high profile studios. But thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Niko’s journey can now be purchased and experienced on iPads everywhere. These adventures follow the last human boy as he seeks to rid his savage land of the darkness that’s consumed it. With the help of a sword (of light, naturally) and a strange host of creatures he meets along the way, Niko braves countless enemies and discovers more mysteries about his past. Continue reading Niko and the Sword of Light 1.1