Friday, May 30, 2014
The following is a list of minor notes and observations that came to me, during my recent viewing of “Episode IV: A New Hope”. I hope that you enjoy them:
Notes and Observations on "STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE"
*According to the movie’s opening scrawl, Leia possessed the Death Star plans that could “provide freedom to the galaxy”. Is that what happened at the end of the movie?
*Wow! R2-D2 really looks worn and old aboard the Organas’ ship, the Tantive IV. It is easy to imagine that he has been around for over three decades.
*Are the troops firing upon the stormtroopers, Alderaanian troops? If so, does that mean Leia had contradicted herself when she told Tarkin and Vader that Alderaan was a peaceful planet?
*When Vader made his entrance, the first thing that popped into my mind was Anakin leading the clone troopers to the Jedi Temple in ROTS.
*Father and daughter meet. At last.
*I hate to say this, but I have always found C3-P0 and R2’s adventures on Tatooine before meeting Luke to be slightly boring. Okay. I did find it boring.
*The technology inside the Jawa’s ship looked very outdated.
*It is interesting how Owen had to ask Threepio if he spoke Bocce for the moisture vaporators. Which tells me that he did not immediately know Threepio’s identity. But then, Threepio had not introduced himself.
*"But I was going into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!” - Ah yes! The infamous Skywalker whining at work. I really don’t understand why many fans complained of Anakin’s whining in AOTC. Luke had to have inherited his whining from someone.
*C3-P0 finally introduces himself and R2-D2 when they are alone with Luke, inside the Lars’ garage.
*So, Threepio and Artoo were not personally in Leia’s service aboard the Tantive IV, as I had first imagined. I had forgotten that they had become the property of Captain Antilles.
*I did not realize that Luke knew where Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi lived.
*The moment Luke had mentioned R2 and 3P0 might belong to Obi-Wan, Owen ordered their memories to be wiped. Interesting.
*For some bizarre reason, I found myself seeing Padme comfort Luke and telling him not to grow up too fast.
*Artoo seemed to have set a lot in motion. Leia hid the Death Star plans in his system. Artoo was the one who set out to find Obi-Wan, bringing about the old Jedi Master and the future Jedi Master’s first meeting. And because Luke was forced to search for R2, he managed to avoid Owen and Beru’s fate.
*I also noticed that Vader did not bother to join the search for R2 and 3P0 on Tatooine.
*It is a good thing that those Tusken Raiders did not know that Luke was the son of the Jedi who had wiped out a tribe of their kind.
*Did Obi-Wan immediately recognize the two droids?
*”He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior.” – It is nice to know that’s how Obi-Wan remembered Anakin. But then these next words, as he handed over Anakin s lightsaber to Luke rather spoiled the moment – “I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it.” - especially in light of how Obi-Wan really managed to acquire the lightsaber. Obi-Wan’s description of how Vader had “murdered” Anakin spoiled the moment even further.
*If the Emperor had dissolved the Imperial Senate as stated by Tarkin in the movie, then it is obvious that Lucas had abandoned the earlier idea of Palpatine being a pawn or puppet of other politicians, as indicated in the 1976 edition of The Journal of the Whills.
*”Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.” – Was this an example of Vader’s past Jedi training coming to the fore? Or was this an example of his Sith background? Or his 30 odd years as a Force user?
*Some people have stated that Luke’s upbringing had prepared him to face Owen and Beru’s deaths a lot better than Anakin had dealt with Shmi’s death. But considering Luke’s reaction to Obi-Wan’s death, along with Han and Leia’s endangerment in both ESB and ROTJ, I would say that Luke did not feel as emotionally close to the Lars as he did to the other three.
*”Mos Eisley Spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” – Famous words to live by. I wonder if Obi-Wan had ever visited Mos Espa.
*I love how the special effects recently added to the film, has enhanced the details of Mos Eisley during Luke and Obi-Wan’s arrival.
*I was surprised to notice the small number of human customers and inhabitants inside the cantina in Mos Eisley.
*For one crazy moment, Sir Alec Guiness sounded like Ewan McGregor in the scene where Obi-Wan and Luke meet Han Solo for the first time.
*”That’s okay. I’m never coming back to this planet, again.” – Careful Luke. Never make promises that one cannot keep.
*Does anyone know the name of the creature that followed Luke and Obi-Wan to the Millennium Falcon’s hangar?
*I had no idea that Boba Fett had been working for Jabba the Hutt before the incidents of ESB.
*I don’t think that even the massacre at the Jedi Temple in ROTS could ever exceed the horror of Alderaan’s destruction. Tarkin made Vader look like an amateur.
*Did I detect a slight British accent coming out of Carrie Fisher’s mouth?
*While watching Obi-Wan begin Luke’s training in the Jedi skills, I realized that this is the first time I’ve seen a 19 year-old Jedi youngling.
*”That’s good. You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” – A rather apt description of one’s introduction into the Force.
*”I sense something. A presence I have not felt since . . .” – I find it odd that Vader was able to immediately sense Obi-Wan, yet Obi-Wan did not sense Vader until the latter nearly found him?
*"Bring em’ on! I prefer a straight fight to all of this sneaking around!” – I found Han’s comment rather odd, considering that he was a smuggler.
*”Better her than me!” – I found Han’s refusal to save Leia rather cold, considering that she would end up being his future love.
*Leia was imprisoned in cell block 1138. Hmmm . . . do you suppose that Robert Duvall is with her?
*Han gave the worst impression of an Imperial trooper I have ever seen. Classic moment.
*”Hi! I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.” – Brother and sister meet for the first time since their births.
*”Will someone please get this big, walking carpet out of my way?” – Ah! Leia is still Daddy’s girl.
*Watching Luke and Leia swing to safety reminded me of Anakin and Padme’s failure to do the same in AOTC.
*Anakin (Vader) vs. Obi-Wan: Part II – in retrospect, is not as exciting or thrilling as their first duel on Mustafar.
*Vader’s dialogue seemed rather wooden during his duel with Obi-Wan.
*”Not this ship, sister.”/”It is for me, sister.” – Without a doubt, these are the two worst lines ever uttered in a STAR WARS movie. And both lines had been spoken by Harrison Ford.
*For a guy that had been traumatized by Obi-Wan’s death, Luke seemed to have recovered from his grief rather fast. Even to the point that he ended up contemplating a romance with Leia before the Falcon could reach Yavin IV.
*Despite the Battle of Yavin sequence, the movie never recaptured or continued its drive, following the Falcon’s escape from the Death Star.
*Why did Han and Chewbacca attend the pilot’s briefing on their mission to destroy the Death Star? Especially since the two never had plans to hang around any longer or join the Rebel Alliance.
*Typical of Vader/Anakin in that he had decided to join the Imperial fighters in the battle, instead of remaining with the generals.
*What do you know? Uncle Dennis . . . oop! I mean, Wedge to the rescue!
*It seemed as if Lucas had incorporated nearly every World War II aviator cliché into the Battle of Yavin sequence.
*Someone in my family had pointed out that the Rebels never really had any kind of strategy to destroy the Death Star. Instead, the Alliance military leaders merely had an objective and a method to destroy the station.
*When Obi-Wan had urged Luke to use the Force, had he foreseen that Vader would sense it?
*When I first saw ANH, I had wondered why Vader did not die in the end. From a 29 year perspective, I know understand why.
*The medal ceremony featured a good number of pilots in the audience. So, where had they been during the Battle of Yavin?
*Someone had described the medal ceremony near the end of the film as a pyhrric victory for the Rebel Alliance. When one contemplates on what laid ahead for Luke, Leia, Han and the others . . . that person may have been right.
*I would describe ANH as the most fun of all the STAR WARS movies. A straight out adventure flick with heroes, villains, damsels and wizards. Which would explain why many fans consider it to be the best of the saga. However . . . as much fun ANH was, it harbored very few meaningful metaphors and complexities in compare to the five other films that followed. It’s a lot of fun, but somewhat a little shallow to me.
Saturday, May 24, 2014
"MIAMI VICE" (2006) Review
When I first heard that Michael Mann had filmed a remake of the 1984-1989 classic crime drama, "MIAMI VICE", I was excited. Despite the disappointing way it went off the air, I had remained a big favorite of the show – especially its first two seasons.
Then word began to circulate that the movie version, which starred Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell was not as good as the NBC series. I heard that it lacked the style of the series and had a poor story. But despite all of the negative comments that had circulated, I was determined to see the movie and judge it for myself.
I am happy to say that I had ignored that person and went to see it, anyway. And I really enjoyed it. Both Jamie Foxx and Colin Ferrell were great, along with Gong Li, Naomie Harris and the rest of the cast. The partnership dynamics between Foxx and Farrell in the movie seemed to be different than the one between Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas in the television series. Do not get me wrong. Both Foxx and Farrell were excellent and had great chemistry. But their chemistry was different than the one between Johnson and Thomas. And I was especially impressed by Jamie. For a guy that started out as a comic, he was very commanding as Ricardo Tubbs. Whereas Johnson seemed to dominate the partnership in the TV series, Foxx seemed to do the same in the movie.
Another change featured in the 2006 movie proved to be the relationship between Ricardo Tubbs and fellow police detective, Trudy Joplin. Despite the on-screen chemistry between Thomas and actress Olivia Brown in the television series, their characters remained friends and colleagues during its five-year run. Michael Mann changed the nature of their relationship in the movie by allowing them to be both colleagues and lovers. In fact, the movie featured a very sexy and romantic love scene with Foxx and Harris. And unlike the television series, Sonny Crockett is not divorced, nor did he have a troublesome relationship with another colleague Gina Calabrese. Instead, Crockett found himself falling in love with Isabella Montoya, the lover and financial adviser of a South American drug kingpin.
The movie’s story boasted some rather exceptional villains, especially the Jose Yebo character portrayed by the talented John Ortiz. It also featured some great action sequences. My favorite action sequence proved to be the outstanding shoot-out in the movie's finale. It did not take me long to realize that some of the elements of the series’ Season One episode, (1.15) "Smuggler’s Blues", were included in Mann's screenplay. However, I do believe that the movie’s story seemed more solid than the episode’s story. My only complaints about "MIAMI VICE" proved to be its opening and fade-out scenes. Both seemed a bit too abrupt for my tastes, but that is Michael Mann for you. He did the same with his 1995 movie, "HEAT"and his 2004 flick, "COLLATERAL". But despite these flaws, "MIAMI VICE" proved to be one of my favorite Mann films. And I had never expected for this to happen.
Friday, May 16, 2014
"THERE WILL BE BLOOD" (2007) Photo Gallery
Below is a gallery of photos from the new Paul Thomas Anderson film, "THERE WILL BE BLOOD", starring Daniel Day-Lewis (who recently won a Golden Globe for his performance), Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Ciaran Hinds and Kevin J. O'Connor:
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
"BAND OF BROTHERS" (2001) - Episode Four “Replacements” Commentary
In the last episode, ”Carentan”, yet-to-be-announced First Sergeant Carwood Lipton announced to Normandy veterans Easy Company that they would be returning to France. Instead, a conversation between Sergeant Bill Guarnere and a group of replacements reveal that Easy Company never did. Eventually Easy Company did return to the Continent when they were deployed to the Netherlands to participate in the doomed Operation Market Garden campaign.
”Replacements” centered on Sergeant Denver "Bull" Randleman and his experiences during Operation Market Garden and with the replacements in his platoon. One of them included Edward “Babe” Heffron, who hailed from the same Philadelphia neighborhood as Guarnere (this was established at the end of Carentan”). The other three include Antonio Garcia, James Miller and Lester “Leo” Hashey. Through both his and their eyes, viewers get to experience Easy Company’s trouble-free jump into Holland, the Dutch citizens’ joyous reaction to their presence in Eindhoven and their disastrous encounter with battle-hardened S.S. troops – one of many encounters that led to the failure of Operation Market Garden. Following Easy Company’s retreat from Eindhoven, a wounded “Bull” Randleman finds himself trapped in the German-occupied town and is forced to find his way back to Easy Company and the American lines.
”Replacements” turned out to be a decent episode, but it was one that did not knock my socks off. It featured a terrifying battle in which Easy Company was forced to retreat in defeat. And it also gave viewers an interesting view in the mindsets of replacement troops like Garcia, Miller and Hashey; who seemed to regard Randleman and the other Toccoa trained men with awe. In scenes that featured Easy Company’s brief liberation of Eindhoven, the episode revealed the cruel fates inflicted by the Dutch citizens upon local women who had collaborated (had sex) with some of the occupying German troops. And viewers got to enjoy more scenes featuring some of the men engaging in small talk that revealed more of their personalities. The episode also had interesting scenes that featured Lewis Nixon’s brief brush with death (a bullet in his helmet) and Winters’ reaction, Easy Company’s brief reunion with Herbert Sobel, who had become a supply officer; and David Webster, Don Hoobler and Robert Van Klinken’s humorous encounter with a Dutch farmer and his son. However, ”Replacements” belonged to one particular character, namely Denver “Bull” Randleman. Screenwriters Graham Yost and Bruce C. McKenna did a solid job in both his characterization and the Holland experiences of the Arkansas-born sergeant. One of the episode's more harrowing scenes featured a violent encounter between a wounded Randleman and a German soldier inside a barn, while the owner - a Dutch farmer - and his daughter look on.
But Randleman's experiences during Operation Market Garden would have never been that effective without Michael Cudlitz's subtle performance as the quiet and imposing Randleman. With very little dialogue, Cudlitz conveyed the veteran's battle experiences and emotions through body language, facial expressions and the use of his eyes. He made it easy for me to see why the troopers of First Platoon and even the company's officers held with such high regard. Cutdliz was ably supported by the likes of Dexter Fletcher's sardonic portrayal of First Platoon's other NCO, John Martin; Frank John Hughes' amusing performance as the verbose Bill Guarnere; and Peter McCabe, who turned out to be one of the few British actors who perfectly captured the accent and speech patterns of an American combatant in his portrayal of the aggressive Donald Hoobler. Also, it was nice to see David Schwimmer again as Easy Company's much reviled former commander, Herbert Sobel in a more subtle performance. Portraying the inexperienced replacement troops were James McAvoy (James Miller), Douglas Spain (Antonio C. Garcia) and Mark Huberman (Lester “Leo” Hashey). And each actor did a solid job in portraying their characters’ inexperience, awe of the veteran Toccoa men and their determination to prove themselves in combat.
However, ”Replacements” had its problems. One, the opening scene at the English pub featured Walter Gordon revealing Carwood Lipton as the company’s new first sergeant. And this moment really seemed out of place, considering that Lipton was already acting like the new first sergeant at the end of ”Carentan”. Aside from the battle scene, I must admit that this was not an exciting episode. Like ”Day of Days”, it featured a major historical event – in this case, Operation Market Garden – that had exciting moments, but lacked an epic quality that would have suited such a topic. Allowing the episode a longer running time would have been a step in the right direction. And if I must be honest, I got the feeling that not much really happened in this episode, in compare to ”Day of Days”.
But, ”Replacements” turned out to be a decent episode. Although it lacked an epic quality for a story about Easy Company’s experiences during Operation Market Garden, it did feature an exciting battle that resulted in defeat for them. And Michael Cutdliz gave a subtle and first-class performance as the episode’s central character, “Bull” Randleman.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
"AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" (1956) Review
Based upon Jules Verne’s 1873 classic novel, "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" is the story of a 19th century English gentleman named Phileas Fogg and his newly employed French valet, Passepartout, attempt to circumnavigate the world in eighty (80) days on a £20,000 wager set by his friends at the Reform Club. Produced by Michael Todd, the Academy Award winning film starred David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton.
Could someone please explain how "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" managed to win the 1956 Best Picture Academy Award? How on earth did this happen? Do not get me wrong. Ever since I first saw "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" on television years ago, I have been a fan of the movie. The idea of someone taking a long journey around the world – especially in an age before air travel – greatly appealed to me. It still does. I like the idea of travel, whether I am doing it myself or watching it on the big screen or on television. And even after all of these years, I still enjoy watching this movie. And yet . . . I simply cannot fathom the idea of it being considered the Best Picture of 1956. Even more surprising is the fact that John Farrow, S. J. Perelman, and James Poe all won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Perhaps the reason behind the movie’s accolades centered around Hollywood’s amazement that first time movie producer, Mike Todd, had succeeded in not only completing the film, but also creating an entertaining one. Two men directed this film – Michael Anderson, an Englishman who had only directed seven movies before "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS"; and John Farrow, a well-known Australian director who had co-written the film’s script. Farrow, by the way, did not receive any credit for his work as a director of this film. Which makes me wonder how many scenes he actually directed. Considering the movie’s running time of 183 minutes (3 hours and 3 minutes), I find it surprising that it took only seventy-five (75) days to shoot it. Along with the four leading actors, the movie featured over forty (40) stars, 140 locations, 100 sets and over 36,000 costumes. No wonder Hollywood seemed amazed that Todd managed to finish the film.
Set around 1872, "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" told the story an English gentleman named Phileas Fogg (David Niven) who claims he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He makes a £20,000 wager with several skeptical fellow members of his London gentlemen's club (Trevor Howard, Robert Morley and Finlay Currie included), the Reform Club, that he can arrive back within 80 days before exactly 8:45 pm. Together with his resourceful valet, Passepartout (Mario Moreno "Cantinflas"), Fogg sets out on his journey from Paris via a hot air balloon. Meanwhile, suspicion grows that Fogg has stolen his £20,000 from the Bank of England. Police Inspector Fix (Robert Newton) is sent out by Ralph the bank president (Robert Morley) to trail and arrest Fogg. Hopscotching around the globe, Fogg pauses in Spain, where Passepartout engages in a comic bullfight; and in India, Fogg and Passepartout rescue young widow Princess Aouda (Shirley MacLaine) from being forced into a funeral pyre so that she may join her late husband. The threesome visit Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, and the Wild West. Only hours short of winning his wager, Fogg is arrested upon returning to London by the diligent, yet misguided Inspector Fix.
The main differences between Jules Verne’s novel and the movie centered around Fogg and Passepartout’s efforts to leave Europe. Quite frankly, the novel never featured Fogg’s journey through Europe. In the novel, there were no stops in either France or Spain. Fogg had considered using a hot air balloon in Chapter 32, but quickly dismissed it. Also, Fogg never punched Detective Fix after being released from jail near the film’s finale. He simply insulted the detective’s skills as a whist player.
I might as well stop beating around the bush. What is my opinion of the movie? Like I had stated earlier, I still find it entertaining after all these years. I love travel movies. And I found the movie’s caricatures of the different nationalities that Fogg, Passepartout, Aouda and Fix encounters on the journey rather amusing – including encounters with a boorish American politician portrayed by John Caradine, Charles Boyer’s Parisian travel agent/balloonist and Reginald Denny’s parody of an Anglo-Indian official. The movie’s funniest moment featured Fogg and Aouda’s encounter with a Chinese gentlemen portrayed by Korean actor Philip Ahn, who proved that his English was a lot better than Fogg’s Chinese-English pidgin. The locations in this movie are absolutely gorgeous, especially Fogg and Passepartout’s trip over France, and the rail journeys through India and the United States. And Lionel Lindon’s Oscar winning photography is accompanied by the memorable score written by another one of the film’s Oscar winners – Victor Young. In fact, the most memorable thing about ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” is Young’s score. Even after 52 years, it is the first thing many fans mention about the film.
I was surprised to learn that Cantinflas had won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy for his portrayal of Passepartout. Frankly, I found this as astonishing as the movie’s Best Picture Oscar. Mind you, his performance was a little more animated than David Niven’s portrayal of the stiff-upper lip Phineas Fogg. And his dance with a young dancer at a Spanish cantina was entertaining. But a Golden Globe award? I cannot think of one actor or actress in that movie who deserved any acting award. As for Niven, I think he may have gone a little too far in his portrayal of the reserved Fogg. There were times when he came off as a bit inhuman. I have to wonder about Todd’s decision to cast a young American actress from Virginia to portray the Indian Princess Aouda. Shirley MacLaine, ladies and gentlemen? She is the last person I would have chosen for that particular role. I must give her credit for not succumbing to some clichéd portrayal that would have left moviegoers wincing and instead, gave a restrained yet charming performance. Robert Newton’s portrayal of the persistent detective, Mr. Fix, was just as restrained. Which turned out to be a miracle, considering his reputation as a cinematic ham. Sadly, Newton passed away from a heart attack before the movie’s release.
One might ask why I had expressed astonishment at the thought of "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" winning the Best Picture Oscar for 1956. Quite frankly, I do not believe that the movie deserved such a major award. Sure, the movie is entertaining. And that is about the best thing I can say about the film. Granted, Victor Young’s score and Lionel Lindon’s photography deserved its Oscars. But I feel that the movie did not deserve to be acknowledged as 1956’s Best Picture. Not over other films like "THE KING AND I", "FRIENDLY PERSUASION", "GIANT", ”THE SEARCHERS” or even "THE TEN COMMANDMENTS". Nor do I feel that the three men who won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay deserve their statuettes. Heck, the movie featured a major blooper carried over from the novel – namely Fix’s revelation to Passepartout in Hong Kong about the British authorities’ suspicions that Fogg may be responsible for robbing the Bank of England before his departure. Passepartout told Aouda about Fix’s suspicions . . . but neither of them ever told Fogg. Not even when they were about to reach the shores of Britain. Why?
Another scene that continues to baffle me centered around Passepartout’s bullfight in Spain. Impressed by the manservant’s cape work during a dance in a cantina, a Spanish-Arab sea captain named Achmed Abdullah (Gilbert Roland) promised to give Fogg and Passepartout passage to Marseilles if the manservant would take part in a bullfight. What started as a comic moment for Cantinflas turned into a bullfight that promised to never end. The damn thing lasted five minutes too long and I felt more than happy when Fogg and Passepartout finally arrived in Suez.
I have read Jules Verne’s novel. At best, it was entertaining fluff. I could say the same for the 1956 movie. Like the novel, lacks any real substance. For me, both versions struck me as nothing more than a detailed travelogue disguised as a series of vaguely written adventures. Unfortunately, the movie’s entertaining fluff lasted slightly over three (3) hours. Three hours? I like the movie a lot, but an obviously dated three hour movie based upon a piece of fluff like Verne’s novel just does not seem worthy of a Best Picture Oscar. Despite the movie’s undeserved Oscar, I still find it entertaining after all these years.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Below are photos from "MIAMI VICE", the 2006 movie adaptation of the NBC (1984-1989) television series. Directed by Michael Mann, the movie starred Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell:
"MIAMI VICE" (2006) Photo Gallery