The Force Awoke Almost 40 Years Ago

So it’s Saturday and I can post whatever I want. Those are the rules. When the Star Wars VII trailer was first unleashed to the world a couple of weeks ago, people all over the place were sighing and pooh-poohing the thing. It’s too fake and glossy looking they said. The lightsaber doesn’t make sense they said. There’s too much CGI they said. I, on the other hand love the trailer – especially the more I watched it. In my comments I mentioned that the trailer actually looks a lot like scenes from the original movies. It’s very minimal and open when it needs to be, detail oriented and claustrophobic when it needs to be.

I found this trailer today which kind of proves my point. It even shows moments that I specifically mentioned in my comments.

 
What this mock trailer also proves of course, is that it’s ludicrous to judge a movie based on six or seven 3-second shots from a movie; context is imperative. But I think in terms of visuals, from what I can see, Abrams has nailed it.
 

The Empire Strikes Back: Uncut (Director’s Cut)

It’s finally here. The full, uncut version of the fan made version of The Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars Uncut was released a few years ago and after the success, the powers that be deemed a sequel was necessary. It’s been a long wait, but The Empire Strikes Back is ready to be watched in all of its fan-made glory.

It’s the entire length of the movie cut into short clips (from about 5 seconds to 15 seconds) and created by fans from around the world. Drawings, action figures, home CGI, live action office hijinx, marionettes, animals, stop motion, claymation and even just ethereal wierdness; you name it, all were brought in to recreate this masterpiece. And if you watch carefully, other areas of inspiration were brought in by many fans as well; from Wes Anderson to beer commercials to Devo to spaghetti and meatball Star Destroyers… and that’s just in the first fifteen minutes!

You can check out the entire uncut film below. Once you start, it’s difficult to stop watching. Enjoy1

Fantasia Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy


Confirming two axioms of popular cinema simultaneously, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (hereafter Guardians) demonstrates that there is nothing new under the sun, but also that execution can easily trump story to make a pretty swanky piece of pop bubblegum. Director James Gunn and his capable writers are only a few fourth wall breaks away from Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs in that Guardians is a loving parody of the space adventure genre while also delivering memorable characters and banter and sight gags. Every place name is ludicrously silly, all the stakes are kept thankfully low due to the attitude of the characters and the movie. It puts the fun back into the multiplex popcorn film that this summer has been lacking outside of Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Guardians feels like the entire film is set in the key of that dense, fun, and most importantly, cocky scene.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gunn’s voice is not silenced by the Marvel machine, I am curious to see if this movie changes the way people look at Jackson Pollack, or for that matter, parents have to explain that one-off joke to their kids (it will likely sail right over their tiny little heads like the blow job gag in Ghostbusters). Much like Sam Raimi’s initial foray into studio filmmaking, Army of Darkness, Gunn gets to bring in all of his favourite peeps to the party: Nathan Fillion, Gregg Henry (the filthy mayor from Slither), Lloyd Kaufman (Troma), even his brother Sean get cameos to pop in on the periphery to the main action. Even Kevin Bacon, who worked with Gunn as fried-eggs-loviing villain in Super, is here in spirit, mildly begging the question of whether or not he gets paid for his presence. Michael Rooker, in blue face paint right over top of his beard, enjoys a pretty significant opportunity to that thing he does. That is to look distinctly uncomfortable for our amusement, like he is having an unexpected orgasm in his pants while trying to make polite conversation at a party. This is the spirit of Guardians, in a way. Rooker is indeed excellent and off kilter as Starlord’s passive-agressive father-figure, and lover of troll dolls and kitchy knick-knacks.

Christ Pratt, as Peter Quill, aka Starlord, sports the tone, all-america surfer body of Caspar Van Dien in Starship Troopers, but is anything but vacant. He is self-away, sharp, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker all-in-one. Pratt nails timing of the screenplay and the sight gags. The tone of his salvage-man loner, happily adrift in the junkyard of space oddities feels not one bit realistic in someone surviving as the last man in space, but nevertheless very right. When he gathers all of these oddballs in the opening act of the film, 100% at odds with one another (one character even phones the villains their location to come and fight) he charmingly negotiates their foibles with wit and grace, but mainly invites everyone (audience included) to dance this little dance with him and enjoy the beauty and the fury of this wide universe.

The movie effortlessly cribs from Star Wars, The Heavy Metal Movie (particularly the John Candy driven Loknar segment), Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond The Stars and even the pilot for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Forgive my need to catalogue this kind of minutiae. All of this Mega-franchise connectedness of the Marvel-verse seems to invite this sort of thing, even when it isn’t important or necessary.

More than all of this, Guardians feels like an Edgar Wright movie (note the Peter Ser. All the best jokes in Guardians involve either character driven humour or visual gags involving framing and film grammar; the way stuff happens in the background, or looking away from a dense action set-piece to a nonchalant bit of calm negotiation happening just off to the side of all furious noise. The wicked soundtrack of precisely calibrated and implanted pop songs is perfection, even if many of the cassette tape moments were omnipresent in the marketing. Seeing how well Guardians works outside of the usual tone of the studio makes Wrights firing from Marvel’s Ant Man utterly baffling.

Like many a Marvel movie, the villains, look great in leather costumes and fantastic body tattoos. Apparently, everyone in this film goes to the same tattoo and accessory shop. Ronan, Korath and Nebula (more consonant-vowel-consonant, generic-ridiculous naming, in a movie with oh so plenty to spare) are completely uninteresting and self-serious-silly. Shades of Colm Feore, Karl Urban and Thandie Newton in similar, if not as good The Chronicles of Riddick, which, now that I think about it, also echoes a Heavy Metal Comic-vibe. The reavers, er whatever they are, baddies exist to merely to endanger the universe for no real compelling reasons other than to give the heroes fodder to mock in the middle of familiar CGI space battles and fist fights.

I was very happy to see, in the current ADHD blockbuster landscape, for Guardians to often slow down and spend time hanging out with Quill, Rocket, Gamora, Drax and Chewbacca…er…Groot for long stretches such that one could easily be convinced that this is a re-imaginging of Firefly/Serenity under the watch of Joss Whedon. I was surprised by how effective they get the CGI right. Rocket’s racoon bed heat, Groot’s charming presence and facial tics, the beautifully bright planet (where we encounter Glenn Close as the cheery governor and John C. Reilly as the guard-slash family man) has open vistas and bright clouds highly reminiscent of Farpoint (The Star Trek Next Generation pilot, as does a certain safety-barrier). The planet offers something to save, but also suitably serves up a complex introduce the characters chase with winning choreography, worthy of Buster Keaton. Furthermore, there are moments when the film stops to smell the CGI-roses in slow motion, engaging camera work that does what Brad Bird suggest these types of movies should always do: offer audience a little joy and wonder.

If I never bothered with story details in this review, please forgive me, but you’ve seen Star Wars and its plethora of derivates over the past 35 years, so don’t sweat the generic ‘subway-stop’ plotting (a Marvel-Disney speciality, but in all fairness, Spielberg and all those beloved ’80s fantasy films do it as well) and logistics and enjoy how much Guardians get to take the piss out of it all, with just more than a pinch of sweetness, and an Awesome Mix Tape #1 to make care just enough to not nitpick.

Return of the Guardians of the Galaxy

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #a9a883;”] N [/dropcap]ormally I’d place this in the Monday Suck post tomorrow but it’s Sunday and we need content and this is too well done to not have it in it’s own post. Take the music and the cadence of the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer and pop in Star Wars scenes and dialogue. Yeah this sort of thing has been done before, but this is pretty fun.

 
[quote]”This simultaneously renewed my love of Star Wars and doubled my desire to see Guardians of the Galaxy.”

       -git-shell (Reddit)[/quote]


Star Wars VII Cast Announced


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Thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, a new story is about to be told. But there will be familiar faces. JJ Abrams and Disney today announced the cast of the next chapter in the Star Wars saga. No mention of who they will be portraying, but these are the names – most which are already familiar to us:

John Boyega
Daisy Ridley
Adam Driver
Oscar Isaac
Andy Serkis
Domhnall Gleeson
and Max von Sydow

Original cast members include:
Harrison Ford
Carrie Fisher
Mark Hamill
Peter Mayhew
Anthony Daniels

and Kenny Baker

See them all in action, December 2015.



Happy Birthday Mr. Harrison “Hero” Ford

When it was officially announced that Star Wars: Episode VII was slated for release in 2015, fans’ minds immediately went to the obvious questions: would the main stars of Return of the Jedi, now the new film’s effective prequel, return to reprise their roles 30 years later? Well, unconfirmed rumor has it that Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher have indeed both signed on for Episode VII, and while he won’t say for sure, it’s also being widely reported that Harrison Ford will also return to his iconic role as Han Solo. Though that character will surely be at least somewhat different than the roguish heartthrob we last saw in Jedi (if only because Ford is in his early 70s now), there’s a definite sense among fans that the presence of the original actors will help make the new films better than the more recent episodes I through III with their all-new casts and shiny CGI gloss.

And while everyone I know would love to see Ford flying the Millennium Falcon again, the funny thing is that Ford wasn’t George Lucas’ first choice for the part–not even close. Surprisingly, he was actually one of the last choices considered, since Lucas wanted to stay away from actors he had previously used in other films and Ford had just played Bob Flafa in Lucas’ American Graffiti. Actors James Caan, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro and Burt Reynolds all turned down the role, and the long list of actors auditioned to play Solo ultimately included Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Sylvester Stallone, and John Travolta. In the end Ford began to read the part of Han Solo only as a supporting player during screen tests for other actors auditioning for the movie – essentially serving as a lowly assistant during the casting process. During these tests Lucas realized Ford was perfect for the role even though he wasn’t originally even considered.

On set Ford played a large role in the character development of Han Solo, and many of the most memorable Han Solo moments were actually improvised by Ford. In the first film, for instance, Ford deliberately didn’t learn his lines for the intercom conversation in the Death Star cell block, so it would sound spontaneous.

The classic exchange between Princess Leia and Han Solo in Episode V right before Han is frozen in carbonite became a defining moment for the relationship between the characters. Originally when Leia said “I love you”, the script called for Han to respond with (the uninspired line) “I love you too,” but Ford changed the line to “I know.” Fans to this day love this moment as the defining example of Solo’s loveable narcissism.

Another moment of Ford changing the dynamic between Leia and Han came earlier in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. In the original script, when Lando Calrissian is about to lead Han, Leia, and Chewie into the trap set by Darth Vader, Lando offers his arm to Leia, as a gesture to lead her down the hallway. Harrison Ford ad-libbed Han cutting off Lando, and offering his arm to Leia at the exact same moment to show that Han was protective, and even jealous.

In addition to Ford’s many improvisations throughout the films, Ford also wound up changing the entire storyline of the films, at least indirectly. Unlike his co-stars Hamill and Fisher, Ford did not sign a contract for three films. Because Ford was unsure of his return to a third film, Lucas chose to freeze Han in carbonite at the end of the second film as a precautionary measure in case the character would be sitting out Jedi. This iconic cliffhanger may not have existed without Ford’s contract situation being so uncertain, and reportedly Ford actually begged Lucas to kill Han off as part of an act of heroism in saving Luke and Leia, but Lucas refused, claiming he still had big plans for Solo.
With Harrison Ford being the biggest movie star today from the original trilogy, and Han Solo being one of most compelling characters in the Star Wars universe, there is no doubt Ford can come to the negotiating table ready to influence the use of Han Solo, and even the entire story arc of the upcoming movie. These anecdotes prove he is the only player with the combination of power, and moxie, to tangle with management.

But, more importantly, the amazing choices he made in the original trilogy suggest he might just be the perfect creative voice to help guide future Star Wars movies. Help us Harrison Ford, you are Star Wars 7’s only hope!

Author Bio: Spencer Blohm a television and film blogger for DirectTV who writes about everything from rumors about upcoming releases to retrospectives of forgotten sci-fi, horror, and comedy classics from the 1950s to today. He has been a Han Solo fan since the moment he saw how Han handled Greedo, and is hoping against hope that Episode VII will set the franchise right again. He lives and works in Chicago.

Harrison Ford (Doesn’t) Talk Star Wars

Was going to save this until our usual Monday post, but by then everyone will have already seen it. Plus it’s snowing to beat the band across the midwest and I thought those of us stuck in this mess could use a little pick me up. Here’s Harrison Ford getting angry and refusing to answer Star Wars questions on a popular late night take show. And while we’re at it, if you haven’t seen this bit of Star Wars commentary brilliance from Patton Oswalt, this is even more worth a look.