Tag Archives: Jaws

“STAR WARS” Review (✫✫✫✫)

The force is strong with George Lucas.

What is your favorite piece of science fiction of all time? Nine times out of ten, most people’s answer will be Star Wars. Not Star Trek. Not Terminator. Not Alien, or Blade Runner, or Metropolis, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s always Star Wars. Why is that?

I think it’s because, unlike Gene Roddenberry, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Fritz Lang, and yes, even the great Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas succeeded in making characters that were not only believable, but loveable. We didn’t just accept them. We embraced them as we found a piece of ourselves in each of them. If I bring up the name David Bowman, many of you might ask “Who?” If I mention Nyota Uhura, most of you would stare at me in puzzlement. But if I mention the letters and numbers of C-3PO and R2-D2, your ears would most likely perk up in excitement as you realize I’m talking about Star Wars.

That’s what happened to me in my small living room in Brownsville, Texas when I was just a little boy. When the opening credits and theme song for Star Wars opened up, my attention was immediately caught. When the vast imperial fighter boarded the small rebel ship and the tall figure of Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) entered the deck, I stared at the screen in bewilderment and amazement. But when those two geeky droids entered the frame, as R2 slid around beeping and 3PO clumsily blundered about, I knew I had found something special, as we all did when Star Wars hit the theaters in 1977.

The droids escape the rebel ship and soon land on the dusty planet of Tatooine, where they are soon captured and sold to a small plantation family outside of the city. It is here where we meet our hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and we watch as he grows from being a desert farmer to a jedi warrior.

After spending years apart from this picture, I wondered if its appeal would still hold up to today’s standards. Yes, I had grown up with the characters, but that was when I was a child. I had grown away from many things as I grew into adulthood. Would I grow away from Star Wars too?

The answer is no, I didn’t, and I don’t think anyone can grow away from Star Wars. Star Wars appeals to a very specific part of the moviegoing experience: imagination. Yes, plenty of science-fiction films existed prior to the release of Star Wars, but none left the impact on the genre that Star Wars did. And every time I view Star Wars, watching as the droids beep and the aliens groan and the stormtroopers march, I ask what was it that this movie had that all of the others didn’t? My answer is the same every time: George Lucas.

From the writing to the visual design, George Lucas was heavily involved with the film’s concept and creation. How could Lucas come up with such creative and dynamic characters? From the droids to the humans, every character is completely fascinating and appealing, reaching a deep part of our mind from when we were excited at those swashbuckling serials we read when we were kids. It’s almost childlike in its appeal, and its heroes and villains alike are people we learn to root for not because we are asked to as viewers, but because we want to as fans.

Luke is the well-intentioned hero of the story, the knight in shining armor so to speak that is looking for his own adventure out there, all while trying to help anyone he can along the way. 3PO and R2 are the Abbott and Costello of robots here, and provide some of the more comedic moments of the picture without trying too hard or seeming exaggerated. Then there’s Darth Vader, whose visual scope and deep, imposing voice sets a new standard of villainy altogether. James Earl Jones wasn’t a relatively popular actor before Star Wars’ release. Yet, when Star Wars hit the theater, Jones’ personification of the character summoned such a powerful sense of intimidation for Darth Vader that it emboldened his status as a movie villain forever.

In retrospect, these characters don’t do anything in Star Wars that other characters haven’t done in other movies before. A princess is captured, a dashing hero (or two) comes in to save her, a climactic duel builds between its two leads, and somewhere, in one place or another, an explosion happens.

Doesn’t that sound like something you’ve seen before? Indeed, in most classic westerns and swashbuckling pictures, this was the template for your typical motion picture. What places Star Wars above the standard is its characters, in their funny, witty remarks, their moments of lighthearted comedy, and their deepened sense of adventure that survives past the stars and beyond. Yes, the cast gets credit for servicing their characters well, but not as much credit as the man who created the characters.

The other technical elements of the motion picture are astounding and contribute to the overall vision of this science-fiction fantasy. The visual effects were groundbreaking for its time, its elaborate art direction, set design, costuming and make up creating this authentic and aged environment that makes it feel like an age long lost. The technology and the weapons they use make for some of the most exciting action sequences, with one light saber battle between two jedi in the movie serving as one of its high points. And the musical composition by John Williams is simply beautiful, with the horns and the strings switching from moments of ease and reflection to moments of excitement and anticipation. Williams demonstrated his mastery of handling different aesthetics from his Academy Award-winning score for Jaws. Here is another film where he arguably contributed just as much to the film as its creator did.

But a film can be technically well made and fail on the whole. What makes Lucas’ work stand out is, once again, his characters. We share the young farmer’s dreams as he wants to travel to different worlds and become a jedi. We share the droid’s frustration at each other as their situation quickly crumbles into shambles, and we share the rebel’s fear and gloom as the shadowy figure of Darth Vader approaches them. This is a film that is strong in both production and concept, as it makes us deeply care for the characters that exist from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

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“ALL IS LOST” Review (✫)

All Is Lost? You have no idea. 

I’m about to save you twelve dollars and about two hours of your life. Robert Redford lives.

Frustrated? Good. You’re supposed to feel frustrated, because that’s all the movie makes you feel. Out of all of the survival movies you will ever see, expect All Is Lost to be a bare, boring, and mindlessly pointless experience.

Here is the premise of the movie: Robert Redford is on a boat, trying to survive against storms at sea.

That’s it. That’s as much depth and interest as you’re going to get with this film’s premise. Make no mistake fellow reader: All Is Lost is aggressively bad. It is the most boring film of the year. It is the most forgettable film of the year. If the Academy Awards had an award for Most Mundane Picture of The Year, All Is Lost wouldn’t only be the winner of the category, it would be the only film nominated.

And yet, strangely enough, the movie has been mostly well-received by critics. The movie has a 94 percent rating on Rottentomatoes and an 88 percent on Metacritic, so there will be no shortage of people trying to defend it. Here are the most popular arguments defending the movie:

“The film is great at latching your attention despite limited dialogue.”

It’s true that the first 20 minutes are exciting enough to do a good job at latching you’re attention. The other hour and a half, however, could not be more repetitive or frustrating. Only two lines of dialogue are spoken throughout the film: “This is Virginia Gene with an S.O.S. call, over?” and profanity. That’s it. The rest of the movie is Redford staring out into an empty ocean with a deep, dreary melody playing in the background. Oh boy! Music! That sure will keep us interested!

“J.C. Chandor was masterful as a writer/director.”

It’s hard to make an argument that he even wrote this. The screenplay was a little more than 31 pages, barely any material to substantiate a feature-length motion picture. Chandor, who is most known for the intelligent and conversational Margin Call in 2011, was great as a writer, making an intelligent, well-crafted picture filled with character depth, dialogue and dimension. Now, he has reverted to making All Is Lost. Why? What convinced him to step out of his comfort zone as a writer? With the clever, intelligent and enticing dialogue now missing from Margin Call, his sense of style is just as absent, and it gives the film an empty feeling that feels like it’s just half complete. It’s better, in fact, to describe the movie as a feature-length short film, meaning it’s a 30-minute television special stretched out to feature length simply to enhance profit.

“Robert Redford was incredible in the movie.”

Yes, I see Redford is in the movie. Thank you for pointing out the obvious. He is completely and utterly useless. Notice with the plot synopsis, I never called him by his character name. That is because his character doesn’t have a name, credited as “Our Man” on the international movie database. Redford is not acting here. He is modeling, staging and positioning himself in meager, idle positions and actions as Chandor commands him to flip from one side of the boat to another. The character is so impersonal, so thinly written and so emotionally bleak that there is little reason to care about him or be motivated by his journey. So thanks, Chandor, for casting Redford in a character nobody gives two rips about.

Compare this to any survival movie written and produced in the past 30 years. JawsCast Away127 HoursThe GreyGravity. Look at all of those movies and try to remember the emotions you felt while watching them. What is it about those movies that latched everyone’s attention? What captivated audiences and compelled them to care for these characters to survive?

That’s exactly it: Characters. We cared about Chief Brody when his son barely missed the shark’s jaws. We care about Chuck and Wilson because Chuck needs to get home to his girlfriend Kelly. We care about Aaron Ralston because of how estranged he was with his family, with John Ottoway when we realize his wife is dying, or with Doctor Stone when we realize what became of her daughter.

We care about these characters not because of their situations, but because of their inner turmoils that compelled them to keep living: They all had something to live for.

What reason does Robert Redford have to live for? We are told nothing except for that he’s “Our Man.” Riiiiiiight.

It’s movies like Jaws and Cast Away that keeps us away from the ocean, but it’s movies like All Is Lost that keeps us away from the movie theater. All Is Lost? You have no idea.

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