Sunday, August 28, 2016
"STAR WARS: EPISODE V - THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" (1980) Review
From a certain point of view, I find it hard to believe that the 1980 film, "STAR WARS: EPISODE V - THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" has become the most critically acclaimed STAR WARS movie by the franchise's fans. And I find it hard to believe, due to the film's original box office performance.
I was also surprised that "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" was released in the first place. Despite the ambiguous nature of villain Darth Vader's fate in the 1977 film, "STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE", I had assumed that film's happy ending meant the story of Luke Skywalker and his friends was over. But my assumption proved to be wrong three years later. Many other filmgoers and critics also expressed surprise at the release of a second STAR WARS movie. More importantly, a surprising revelation and an ending with a cliffhanger resulted in a smaller box office for "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" than either "A NEW HOPE" or the 1983 film, "STAR WARS: EPISODE VI - RETURN OF THE JEDI". Yet, thirty-three years later, the movie is now viewed as the most critically acclaimed - not just among the first three movies, but also among those released between 1999 and 2005.
"THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" begins three years following the events of " A NEW HOPE". Despite the Rebel Alliance's major victory above the planet of Yavin and the destruction of the Galactic Empire's Death Star, the rebellion continues to rage on. Luke Skywalker, now a wing commander at the Rebels' base on Hoth, patrols beyond the base's perimenter with close friend and former smuggler Han Solo. After the latter returns to base, Luke is attacked by a wampa and dragged into the latter's cave. Meanwhile, Han receives word from Princess Leia, one of the Rebel leaders and a friend of both men, that Luke has not returned. He leaves the base to find Luke, while the latter manages to escape from the wampa's lair. Luke stumbles into a snowstorm and before losing consciousness, receives a message from the Force spirit of his late mentor, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, to seek out another Jedi named Yoda on Dagobah for further training. Han eventually finds Luke before a Rebel patrol finds them both.
While Luke recovers from his ordeal, Leia and General Rieekan learn from Han and his Wookie companion Chewbacca have discovered an Imperial probe. They surmise that Imperial forces know the location of their base and might be on their way. The Rebel Alliance forces prepare to evacuate Hoth. But an Imperial presence on the planet served as a bigger problem for the heroes. Unbeknownst to them, Darth Vader seeks out Luke, following his discovery of the young man's connection to the Force three years ago. Although the three friends will separate for a period of time and experience adventures of their own, Lord Vader's hunt for Luke will result in great danger and a surprising revelation in the end.
I once came across a post on the TheForce.net - Jedi Council Forums message board that complained of the lack of a main narrative for "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK". A part of me could understand why this person reached such an opinion. Despite the circumstances on Hoth and the finale on the Bespin mining colony, our heroes barely spent any time together. Following the Rebel Alliance's defeat on Hoth, Luke and R2-D2 traveled to Dagobah, where the former continued his Jedi training under Master Yoda. Meanwhile, Han and Chewbacca helped Leia and C3-P0 evade Darth Vader and Imperial forces on Hoth and in space before seeking refuge on Bespin. I believe this person failed to realize that other than Luke's Jedi training with Yoda, most of the movie's narrative centered on Vader's attempts to capture Luke - the Imperial invasion of Hoth, his pursuit of the Millennium Falcon with Leia and Han aboard, and their subsequent capture on Bespin. Even Luke's Jedi training was interrupted by visions of his friends in danger and journeyed into the trap set by Vader. And this is why I found it hard to accept this complaint about "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK".
Most fans tend to regard the movie as perfect or near perfect. Despite my feelings for "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK", I cannot agree with this view. I believe that the movie has its flaws. One could find cheesy dialogue in the movie, especially from Darth Vader. He possessed an annoying penchant for constantly using the phrase "It is your destiny" in the movie's last half hour. Some of Leia and Han's "romantic dialogue" in the movie's first half struck me as a bit childish and pedantic. Speaking of those two - how did they end up attracted to each other in the first place? "A NEW HOPE"ended with Han making a brief pass at Leia during the medal ceremony. But she seemed to regard him as a mere annoyance and nothing else. Three years later, both are exchanging longing glances and engaging in verbal foreplay at least ten to fifteen minutes into the story. I would have allowed this to slide if a novel or comic story had explained this sudden shift toward romance between them. But no such publication exists, as far as I know. This little romance seemed to have developed out of the blue.
There were other problems. The movie never explained the reason behind Leia's presence at the Rebels' Hoth base. She was, after all, a political leader; not a military one. The base already possessed a more than competent military leader in the form of General Rieekan. Watching Leia give orders to the pilots during the base's evacuation made me realize that she really had no business interfering in the Rebels' military command structure. It would have been a lot easier if she had been a military officer or a spy for the Alliance. "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" also failed to explain why Han was being hunted by Jabba the Hutt after three years. I thought the payment he had received for delivering Leia and the Death Star plans to Yavin was enough to settle his debt to the Tattooine gangster. Apparently not. And the movie failed to explain why. Perhaps there is a STAR WARS novel or comic book story that offered an explanation. I hope so. For years, I never understood the symbolism behind Luke's experiences inside the Dagobah cave during his Jedi training. And I am not sure if I still do. Finally, how long did Luke's training on Dagobah last? And how long did it take the Millennium Falcon to reach Bespin with a broken hyperdrive? LucasFilm eventually revealed that both incidents took at least three months. If so, why did the movie failed to convey this particular time span?
Thankfully, "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" more than rose above its flaws. For me, it is still one of the best science-fiction adventure films I have ever seen. I am amazed that such a complex tale arose from two simple premises - Darth Vader's hunt for Luke Skywalker and the continuation of the latter's Jedi training. From these simple premises, audiences were exposed to a richly detailed and action-filled narrative, thanks to George Lucas' story, Lawrence Kasdan's screenplay (which was also credited to Leigh Brackett) and Irvin Kershner's direction. The movie featured many exciting sequences and dramatic moments that simply enthralled me. Among my favorite action sequences were the Millennium Falcon's escape from Hoth, Yoda's introduction, Han's seduction of Leia inside the giant asteroid worm, the Falcon's escape from the worm. For me, the movie's best sequence proved to be the last - namely those scenes on the mining colony of Bespin. I would compare this last act in "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" to the Death Star sequence in "A NEW HOPE" or the Mos Espa podrace sequence in "STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE". The Bespin sequence featured a few truly iconic moments. Well . . . if I must be honest, I would say that it featured two iconic moments - Han's response to Leia's declaration of love and Darth Vader's revelation of his true identity.
Naturally, one cannot discuss a STAR WARS movie without mentioning its technical aspects. In my review of "A NEW HOPE", I had failed to mention Ben Burtt's outstanding sound effects. I will add that his work in "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" proved to be equally outstanding. I could also say the same for the movie's sound mixing, which earned Academy Awards for Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Greg Landaker, and Peter Sutton. Composer John Williams' additions to his famous STAR WARS score were not only outstanding, but earned him an Academy Award nomination. Those additions included a love theme for the Leia/Han romance and the memorable "Imperial March", which is also known as "Darth Vader's Theme" As far as I am concerned, the tune might as well be known as the Sith Order's theme song. The team of Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, and Bruce Nicholson did an outstanding job with the movie's visual effects - especially for the Battle of Hoth sequence. I can also say the same for Peter Suschitzky's photography. However, my favorite cinematic moment turned out to be Luke's initial encounter with Darth Vader on Bespin. Even to this day, I experience a chill whenever I see that moment when they meet face-to-face for the first time. Although John Mollo's costumes caught Hollywood's attention after "A NEW HOPE" was first released (he won an Oscar for his effort), his costumes for "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" seemed like a continuation of the same. In fact, I found the costumes somewhat on the conservative side, even if they blended well with the story.
It is interesting that the performances of both Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher garnered most of the attention when"THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" first came out. The Leia/Han romance was very popular with fans. Mind you, both gave very good performances. But I believe that Mark Hamill acted circles around them. And not surprising, he won a Saturn Award for his performance as Luke Skywalker in this film. Billy Dee Williams also gave a first-rate performance as the roguish smuggler-turned-colony administrator, whose charming persona hid a desperation to do anything to save the inhabitants of Bespin from Imperial annihilation. James Earl Jones and David Prowse continued their outstanding portrayal of Darth Vader aka Anakin Skywalker, with one serving as the voice and the other, the physical embodiment of the Sith Lord. Julian Glover, who later appeared in "INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE" made a brief appearance as the commander of the Imperial walkers, General Veers. Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew continued their excellent work as C3-P0, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. But I was particularly impressed by Frank Oz's voice work as the veteran Jedi Master Yoda, and Kenneth Colley as the Imperial Admiral Piett, whose caution and competency led him to rise in the ranks and avoid Vader's wrath for any incompetence.
Is "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" my favorite STAR WARS movie of all time? Almost. Not quite. For me, it is tied in first place with one other movie from the franchise. But after thirty-three years and in spite of its flaws, I still love it, despite its flaws. And I have give credit to not only the talented cast and crew, but also director Irwin Kershner, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and especially the man behind all of this talent, George Lucas.
Friday, August 26, 2016
"JERICHO" RETROSPECT: (1.02) "Fallout"
It just occurred to me that this second episode of the CBS television series, "JERICHO" was aptly named. In a way (1.02) "Fallout" perfectly described the situation from the series' first episode, (1.01) "Pilot - The First Seventeen Hours"
The previous episode ended with the western Kansas community shaken by the sight of an atomic mushroom and news that two U.S. cities had been devastated by nuclear explosions . . . and their sheriff and one of the deputies murdered by two escaped convicts on their way to prison. "Fallout" picks up the following morning with Jericho schoolteacher Emily Sullivan trying to hitchhike her way back to Jericho, when her stalled SUV prevents her from reaching the airport to pick up her fiance. She finally receives a ride from a police cruiser being driven by two deputy sheriffs. With the car low on gas, Emily suggests they seek gasoline at the farm of Stanley and Bonnie Richmond. By the time they reach their destination, she realizes that her two saviors are not lawmen, but possibly dangerous criminals.
Back in Jericho, the town's new resident, Robert Hawkins, hints of the possibility of radioactive fallout from the Denver bombing, in the incoming rainstorm threatening Jericho. He suggests that the citizens might have to either seek shelter in their homes or the town's two fallout shelters. While the Greens, Hawkins and businessman Gray Anderson struggle to help the citizens seek shelter; Emily tries to alert the deaf Bonnie that the new visitors are criminals. She also manages to sneak outside the Richmond house in order to send a message to Jericho, via the cruiser's radio.
After watching this episode, it occurred to me that the first three episodes of "JERICHO" might have been a three-part story depicting Jericho's initial reactions to the Denver bombing and its aftermath. I came to this conclusion after noticing that "Fallout" ended the story arc about the escaped prisoners, but failed to do the same for the "radioactive rain" story arc. The episode ended with the prisoners dead, but the citizens of Jericho inside shelters, basements and in the case for many, a salt mine. Not only did the rain continue to fall, but one of the community's citizens, Stanley Richardson, was no where to be found. Also, a new story arc regarding Mayor Johnston Green's illness began in this episode. And this story arc will have far reaching impact on the series that will last into Season Two. I now have the deepest suspicion that the series' creators must have planned their story with greater detail than I had originally imagined.
Another aspect of "Fallout" that I found particularly curious was that it seemed like a mixture of a television crime drama and a disaster movie. In fact, I was hard put to see the connection between the escaped convicts story arc and the plot regarding the nuclear fallout rain. The episode ended before the two story arcs could really mesh together. Not even Jake Green's rush from the salt mine shelter to the Richmond farm, following Emily's radio message, could really bridge the two stories. I think the reason is that none of the characters involved in the plot regarding the escaped convicts - especially Emily Sullivan and Bonnie Richmond - had no real knowledge of the approaching rain storm possibly containing a nuclear fallout. In fact, the two women will learn of the fallout in the next episode, thanks to Jake. Perhaps this is why it is best to view "Fallout" as a second chapter in the story arc about the initial response to the bombings, instead of a stand alone episode. However, despite my acceptance that "Fallout" might not be a stand alone episode, I do have one major complaint about it. In one scene, Emily found two Jericho deputy sheriffs - Jimmy Taylor and Bill Kohler - gagged, bound and in their underwear inside the police cruiser's trunk. If these same two convicts were willing to murder the sheriff and one of the deputies, why did they refrain from killing Jimmy and Bill? I never understood this, especially after they forced the two deputies to hand over their uniforms.
Although I could not seriously consider "Fallout" as a stand alone episode, I must admit that I still found it fascinating to watch. I have to credit Stephen Chbosky for writing a very taut episode. Between the danger surrounding the two escaped convicts and Jericho's citizens to seek shelter from a potentially dangerous rain storm, the episode was filled with tension, action and drama. I would not consider it particularly memorable or original if it had not been for that last scene. This episode marked the first episode that featured Robert Hawkins' new home and family - wife Darcy and young son Samuel. His daughter Allison appeared in the following episode. More importantly, the episode also featured the first hint that he knew the real truth behind the bombings. One scene featured him inside the sheriff's station, using a ham radio to receive information unknown to the audience. By the end of the episode, the audience learned what Robert knew - namely some of other U.S. locations that suffered a nuclear blast.
I certainly have no complaints about the performances in "Fallout". Skeet Ulrich continued his exuberant performance as lead character Jake Green. And Lennie James proved to be just as unfathomable as the mysterious Robert Hawkins. The episode also featured excellent work from Bob Stephenson, Richard Speight Jr., Gerald McRaney, Beth Grant, Pamela Reed, Michael Gaston, Sprague Grayden, Shoshannah Stern, Clare Carey and the two actors that portrayed the convicts - Jonno Roberts and Aaron Hendry. The episode also featured the first appearances of April D. Parker as Darcy Hawkins and Darby Stanchfield as April Green, Jake's sister-in-law. Like the others, they gave solid performances. But there were four performances that really impressed me. Two of them came from Erik Knudsen and Candace Bailey as teenage outcast Dale Turner and rich girl Skylar Stevens. The two actors did an excellent job in setting up the emotional and complex relationship between the superficially mismatched pair. Kenneth Mitchell, who portrayed Jake's younger brother Eric Green, shined in one particular scene in which the mayor's younger son resorted to scare tactics to convince a group of stubborn beer guzzlers at the local tavern to seek shelter from the radioactive rain. But the woman of the hour proved to be Ashley Scott, who did a marvelous job in conveying the ordeal that Emily Sullivan endured in this episode. I was impressed at how she managed to dominate the episode without resorting to any theatrical acting.
If I must be honest, I found this episode's handling of the two deputy sheriffs' fates rather illogical. And it is obvious that"Fallout" cannot really hold up as a stand alone episode. But thanks to Stephen Chbosky's transcript, Jon Turteltaub' taut direction and a standout performance by Ashley Scott, "Fallout" proved to be an interesting episode filled with tension, solid action and good drama.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Below are images from "THE WAY WE LIVE NOW", the 2001 television adaptation of Anthony Trollope's 1875 novel. Directed by David Yates, the four-part miniseries starred David Suchet, Shirley Henderson, Cillian Murphy and Matthew Macfadyen:
"THE WAY WE LIVE NOW" (2001) Photo Gallery
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
"SPIDER-MAN" (2002) Review
I have been a major fan of the Marvel Comics character, Spider-Man, for a long time. When I was a kid, I used to read "The Amazing Spider-Man" comic strip from my local newspaper on a daily basis. I was also a regular viewer of the reruns from the 1967-70 animated series "SPIDER-MAN" and the 1978-79 television series, "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN", which starred Nicholas Hammond. So when Columbia Pictures released a movie version of the comic book web crawler, I was a happy camper.
Ironically, I have no memories of any particular episode from either the animated series or the live-action series. All I know is that I used to watch both. But there is no way I could ever forget director Sam Rami's 2002 film adaptation, which starred Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. How could I? I own a DVD copy of the movie.
"SPIDER-MAN" is basically Rami and screenwriter David Koepp's take on the web slinger's origins. The movie begins with teenager Peter Parker living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May in Forest Hills, a suburb in Queens, New York. Peter is in love with next door neighbor Mary Jane Watson and is best friends with Harry Osborn, the son of millionaire/scientist and Oscorp CEO, Dr. Norman Osborn; who seems to regard Peter more as a son than Harry. Peter attends a field trip with Mary Jane, Harry and other fellow students to a genetics lab. when he is bitten by a genetically engineered spider. He wakes up the following morning with perfect vision, fast reflexes, superhuman strength and the ability to emit web strings. His school fight with Mary Jane's bullying boyfriend, Flash Thompson, attracts Uncle Ben's attention, who has become concerned with Peter's recently distant behavior.
Meanwhile, Norman Osborn's company is in danger of losing its bid for a contract with the U.S. Army for weapons. Osborn tests his company's new performance-enhancing drug and becomes stronger. He also acquires a maniacal alter ego and murders his assistant. And Peter decides to use his new abilities to raise money. He enters a wrestling match to win $300 dollars. But the promoter scams him out of his full reward and Peter retaliates by refusing to help stop a thief from stealing the box office returns. The same thief ends up killing Uncle Ben during a carjacking. When Peter realizes that the thief and his uncle's killer are one and the same, he becomes guilt-ridden and decides to use his powers to become a masked vigilante following graduation from high school. In time, Peter aka Spider-Man and Osborn aka the Green Goblin battle it out for the safety of New York.
As much as I enjoyed "SPIDER-MAN", I must admit that it had its flaws. All of those flaws centered around Koepp's screenplay. One, I thought the story was a bit episodic, especially the first half that revealed both Spider-Man and the Green Goblin's origins. In fact, the movie could be easily divided into two halves - from the beginning to Peter's graduation from high school, and his activities and battles with the Green Goblin. Another major problem that stemmed from Koepp's screenplay was the dialogue. "SPIDER-MAN" turned out to be one of the two top movies that were released during the summer of 2002. The other was "STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES". While fans and critics criticized some of the dialogue in the latter film, they easily overlooked the cheesy dialogue that tainted "SPIDER-MAN", especially the smart-ass comments that poured from Spider-Man's mouth. And I found the Green Goblin's early attempt to convince Spider-Man to become an ally a bit contrived.
Fortunately, "SPIDER-MAN" possessed virtues that outnumbered its flaws. One, the movie was fortunate to have Danny Elfman as its composer. I thought he did a top-notch job that contributed greatly to not only the movie's, but the entire trilogy's atmosphere. Neil Spisak and his team did a superb job with the movie's production designs that gave it a colorful, comic-book style without going over-the-top. I was especially impressed by Spisak's designs for the genetic lab sequence and the Oscorp-sponsored fair sequence that featured the murders of the Oscorp directors. Spisak's production work was ably assisted by Don Burgess' photography. In fact, I would say that Burgess' work more than Spisak's gave the movie its colorful comic-book style.
Although I found Koepp's screenplay a bit episodic, I must admit that it featured some very exciting scenes that I will never forget. My favorites include Peter's wrestling match with Bonesaw McGraw, the murder of the Oscorp directors, and Spider-Man's rescue of Mary Jane from a bunch of thugs. But the two scenes that truly stood out for me and struck me as well directed by Rami were the Thanksgiving dinner at Peter and Harry's Manhattan apartment; and the final showdown between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. The Thanksgiving dinner not only led to Osborn's discovery of Peter's identity as Spider-Man, it provided a deliciously subtle interaction between the millionaire and Aunt May, due to wonderful performances by Willem Dafoe and Rosemary Harris. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin's final confrontation led to a nail-biting moment in which the latter forced Spider-Man to choose between saving Mary Jane and the underage passengers of a Roosevelt Island Tramway car. The sequence also led to a brutal fight between the adversaries and one of the best lines ever to be uttered by a Marvel villain:
"This is why only fools are heroes - because you never know when some lunatic will come along with a sadistic choice."
I will also add that when I criticized Koepp's screenplay for being episodic, I really meant that it seemed to be somewhat divided between two complete stories. Once Peter assumed the role of Spider-Man, became a photographer for The Daily Bugle and engaged in his conflict with the Green Goblin, the movie picked up to become a force of nature.
Tobey Maguire nearly failed to become Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. Although Rami wanted him for the role, Columbia Pictures executives were hesitant to cast someone who did not seem to fit the ranks of "adrenaline-pumping, tail-kicking titans". Apparently, these guys never read any of the comic books. Without his Spider-Man outfit, Peter Parker was supposed to be a quiet, nerdy science student with a slight built. Not only did Maguire physically and emotionally fulfilled Peter's character with perfection, he also worked with a physical trainer to improve his physique for the Spider-Man scenes. His performances as Spider-Man really took me by surprise. I did not realize that he would be so effective as both an action hero and quiet nerd. And I like being surprised.
Koepp's portrayal of the Mary Jane Watson character differed from the comic books in many ways. One, Peter and Mary Jane never met until both were students at Empire State University in the comic books. Two, the comic book Mary Jane was a little more extroverted than the cinematic Mary Jane portrayed by Kirsten Dunst. And she seemed quite taken by Spider-Man, after he saved her during the Goblin's murder of the Oscorp directors. Despite these changes, Dunst gave an excellent performance with the character she was given and she had a very strong screen chemistry with Maguire, which culminated in the famous screen kiss that is still considered iconic. Also, Dunst's Mary Jane proved that friendship was a more valuable component than mere muscles, when she revealed at the end that Peter meant more to her than Spider-Man. Dunst also had a strong screen chemistry with actor James Franco, who gave an excellent performance as the insecure Harry Osborn, who longed for his father's attention and especially respect. Come to think of it, Franco also had strong chemistry with both Maguire and Willem Dafoe. Cliff Robertson was wonderful as Peter's Uncle Ben. He and Maguire were excellent in the Peter/Uncle Ben scenes that would end up reverberating in the next two movies. And Rosemary Harris was a delight as the warm-hearted Aunt May, especially in the Thanksgiving dinner scene and the hospital scene that featured her own heartwarming conversation with Peter. Despite being forced to utter some very cheesy dialogue, Willem Dafoe overcame this defect and gave a truly scary and fascinating performance as Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin. Some of his best moments featured those scenes in which Osborn had conversations with his alter ego - the Goblin. No wonder his Green Goblin is still considered to be the best on-screen Spider-Man villain.
Stan Lee was ecstatic over J.K. Simmons' portrayal of The Daily Bugle editor-in-chief, J. Jonah Jameson. And I can see why. In some ways, it is a rather one-dimensional performance. Then again, I have always remembered Jameson as a one-dimensional character. But Simmons breathed life and humor into the role and ended up giving one of the best performances in the movie. It is too bad that the Betty Brant character was regulated as a supporting one. In the comic books, she was Peter's high school girlfriend and his first love. In "SPIDER-MAN", she is Jameson's friendly secretary, who was always coming to Peter's aid. Yet, Elizabeth Banks effused a great deal of warmth into the character that made her very likeable. I can also say the same about Bill Nunn's performance as editor Joseph "Robbie" Robertson. Bruce Campbell and Octavia Spencer provided some humorous moments as a wrestling announcer and a clerk who signs Peter up for a match.
Unlike many other fans of the "SPIDER-MAN" movie franchise, I never considered the 2002 movie to be the second best of those directed by Sam Rami. David Koepp's screenplay seemed a bit episodic to me. And it was filled with too many cheesy dialogue. But the screenplay did provide a strong and action-packed second half for the story. And I am one who cannot deny that Rami's direction, along with the production crew and an excellent cast led by Tobey Maguire overcame the screenplay's flaws and provided a first-rate comic book movie that I will never forget.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Below is a list of my favorite movies set during the 1810s and 1820s:
FAVORITE FILMS SET IN THE 1810s AND 1820s
1. "Sense and Sensibility" (1995) - Ang Lee directed this superb adaptation of Jane Austen's 1811 novel about two sisters in love and financial straits. Adapted by Emma Thompson, the movie starred both her and Kate Winslet.
2. "Persuasion" (1995) - Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds starred in this entertaining adaptation of Jane Austen's 1818 novel about the reunion between two former lovers. Roger Michell directed. - Tie
2. "Persuasion" (2007) - I am also a big fan of this equally entertaining adaptation of Austen's 1818 novel about the two former lovers, Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth. Adrian Shergold directed. - Tie
3. "The Revenant" - Oscar winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu directed this fascinating and harrowing adaptation of Michael Punke's 2003 novel about mountain man Hugh Glass' struggles to survive a bear attack after being left for dead by two fellow trappers in the 1820s. Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio and Oscar nominee Tom Hardy starred.
4. "Vanity Fair" (2004) - I rather enjoyed this surprisingly first-rate adaptation of William Thackery Makepeace's 1848 novel about the rise, fall and rise of an ambitious early 19th century Englishwoman. Directed by Mira Nair, the movie starred Reese Witherspoon.
5. "The Deceivers" (1988) - Pierce Brosnan starred in this exciting adaptation of John Masters' 1952 novel about a British Army officer's discovery of the Thugee cult. Directed by Nicholas Meyer, the movie co-starred Saeed Jaffrey and Helena Michell.
6. "The Journey of August King" (1995) - Jason Patric and Thandie Newton starred in this first-rate adaptation of John Ehle's 1971 novel about a North Carolina farmer, who unexpectedly finds himself helping a young slave escape from her master.
7. "Northanger Abbey" (2007) - Felicity Jones and J.J. Feild starred in this delightful adaptation of Jane Austen's 1817 novel about a young girl's misadventures during a visit to the resort town of Bath and at a family's mysterious estate. Jon Jones directed.
8. "Davy Crockett and the River Pirates" (1956) - Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen starred in this superior sequel to the first Davy Crockett television movie about the adventures of the frontiersman and his friend George Russel along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
9. "Emma" (1996-97) - Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong starred in this solid adaptation of Jane Austen's 1815 novel about the matchmaking efforts of a wealthy young woman in early 19th century England. The movie was adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by Diarmuid Lawrence.
10. "Brother Future" (1991) - Phil Lewis starred in this entertaining historical/science-fiction movie about a Detroit teen who is hit by a car and wakes up to find himself a slave in 1822 Charleston. Directed by Roy Campanella II, the movie co-starred Carl Lumbly and Moses Gunn.