Three Film Feast: Star Wars (Original Trilogy)

Star Wars OTRoze-Verdict: Possibly the greatest trilogy ever made.

Films;
– Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
– Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
– Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Directors;
– George Lucas (A New Hope)
– Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back)
– Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi)

Main Cast;
– Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker)
– Harrison Ford (Han Solo)
– Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia)
– James Earl Jones (Darth Vader Voice)
– Billy Dee Williams (Lando)
– Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
– Kenny Baker (R2-D2)
– Anthony Daniels (C-3PO)
– Frank Oz (Yoda)
– Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)

George Lucas had a vision, his vision included star fighters, talking robots, Jedi nights, gangster worm monsters, storm troopers, countless planets and a death star. All things that we would have loved to think of. Lucas was so passionate about his project he later produced the final two films independently, with the intentions of protecting his work from being meddled with by film studios. Although a difficult task, he succeeded in making a long lasting trilogy which created die hard fans around the globe.

There’s a good reason why Star Wars is such a classic and that’s because it’s absolutely incredible. From the characters to the locations, it is not short of imagination, it makes me wonder where all this innovation has gone to nowadays. Of course there’s no surprise that George Lucas creator of Star Wars also played a large part in writing the Indiana Jones series which is probably my favorite film franchise to date. It’s not hard to see similarities in both these franchises as the adventure is what the films are all about. What’s great about this trilogy is that it works as a 6 hour film, as the story picks off from where the last one ended. What’s even better is that each film ends satisfyingly avoiding that irritating cliffhanger feeling. Does it hold up compared to films nowadays? Absolutely and probably exceeds them in terms of quality.

I think anyone who can make a robot, that can’t speak, one of the most lovable characters on screen, should get massive praise. Almost half the characters in the franchise can’t speak a language we understand, yet they are memorable and characters we empathize with, most notably Chewbaka, R2-D2 and Wicket the Ewok. That goes for all the characters, they are all interesting and have personalities we can relate to, but they really wouldn’t be anything without the bonds they share. The likes of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and even Lando share a chemistry that’s addictive, it makes us want to see more of them and come out victorious. Another brilliant character is Darth Vader, the very person we’re meant to despise. Even though he was an evil bastard in the first couple of films, I couldn’t help but admire his no nonsense style and persistence. Which is why after the “shocking” ending of The Empire Strikes Back, we realize there’s even more to him than we thought. Nowadays our villains on screen are one dimensional and share similar motives, it’s refreshing to witness such a character transformation of a villain on screen because what initially is a feeling of bitterness towards Darth Vader ends in one of the most emotional and heart warming scenes of the trilogy. I can’t stress how brilliant these characters are.

For a film made 30 odd years ago where CGI was on the brink of development, it doesn’t do too bad of a job. If I’m not mistaken Star Wars was one of the first films to use CGI at its full potential during that time period and prompted future use of it in films like Alien and Superman: The Movie. George Lucas of course went on to build his own visual effects company which is pretty much the reason we have incredible CGI imagery in blockbuster films today. In respect to the time period Star Wars was made, they were smart in using the CGI only where necessary so it didn’t get tiresome or draw attention to its flaws. What I think enhanced the underdeveloped CGI is the costume and set design which is some of the best I’ve ever seen in film. Some may disagree and argue that it makes the alien characters look noticeably fake but there is a charm to it. Knowing that the human characters are acting with objects within the scene makes it all that more convincing, more so than some films nowadays where actors have to pretend that the CGI characters are there with them, most recently Transformers. We are immersed in the lands they explore and the surroundings because the sets are expertly built with emphasis on detail and the location scouting is bold. After the films, it doesn’t just make you want to build a light saber and fight evil, but it makes you want to explore and have you’re own epic adventure as these characters did.

For a time where cynicism inhabited most things in society such as music, media and even films, Star Wars really brought back an optimistic and hopeful perspective on life and the future. It’s a simple story between good and evil, where peoples choices and free will define them, and no matter what, the good will smash the evil. Even though there’s a possibility Luke could turn to the dark side, we never believe it because his character is so pure and likable, he’s the every man, someone we can all relate to, and by the end of the trilogy, someone we strive to be. As well as being a great story, it’s also a lot of fun. Probably the biggest positive about Star Wars is what a good time it is, no matter how many times you watch it, Han Solo’s sarcastic humor and wit will make you smile, as well as the back and forth dialogue between the characters. It really is the definition of a “popcorn flick”, and I think that’s largely down to how passionate George Lucas is and how well the actors know the characters. They play them with so much confidence and awareness of how the characters should be portrayed, that we are able to buy into them. Ultimately the film knows exactly what it wants to be, which is a quirky, fantastical space opera that needs to be watched religiously because “if you’re not trillion at least once every three years, the dark side wins” (How I Met Your Mother reference).

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Oscars Throwback: No Country For Old Men (2007)

Movies_Movies_N__006313_Roze-Rating: 5 / 5

Llewelyn Moss is a Vietnam veteran living in the desolate lands of Texas. One day during a hunting session, he finds what would be a drug deal gone wrong. Along with dead corpses and a wounded man begging for water, he finds a black satchel with 2 million dollars inside. He takes the money and hides it in his house knowing people are going to be looking for it. His conscious gets the better of him as he wakes up in the middle of the night to bring water to the wounded man, a mistake as he gives vital clues to the one man with no morals when it comes to getting what he wants.

No Country For Old Men is an absolute gem of a film. For me, it ticks all the boxes for a perfect thriller with a wild west edge. As a shallow viewer it has enough suspense, violence and action to enthrall for the full viewing time. Even with its quiet, barren land demeanor. But for the sometimes sophisticated side of my brain, the narrative has enough substance for me to have come out with a much richer experience of the film.

As the title and opening monologue from old timer Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) would suggest, it’s a film about the changing times. How a land which was once relatively safe has now become a harsh environment. Whenever we see the older generation on screen, they seem to be bogged down by unusual information or just odd behavior. A sign which says, times are more complicated and not as straight forward as before. Even for Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, he fails to put the pieces together quick enough to solve the drug deal gone wrong case. This isn’t to say he’s incompetent, he is the opposite, but it says that crime in the modern times are a lot more overwhelming.

The characters are also a great part of this film, the three main characters signify something different. We have the Sheriff who is an obviously good man. He has a loving wife and is also good at his job. Just like the old time’s, he’s laid back and composed but nothing less than a good person. There is the antagonist Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who is a total psychopath, from the worst hair cut ever in film to his lack of remorse when killing people, he is the bad of the film. Since we are unaware of where he’s from and it’s apparent that he isn’t local, he seems to signify the unpredictability of modern evil and crime, sometimes referred to as a ghost. This may refer to the how the future is and what makes it so unsettling. He has no moral compass but believes in the power of fate, apparent from his coin toss game. As for Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), he is right bang in the middle, as Uncle Ellis refers to some of his cats as half wild or outlaws. Moss is your every man, he’s been through a lot and understands the harshness of life. I like how he looks at the money with no expression and sighs “yeah” as if he already knows what he’s getting into but can’t protest against it. There’s some form of inevitability to it.

This film really is a cat and mouse thriller. Except the mouse is a cat too. Predator vs predator. It’s refreshing because we have characters who aren’t stupid. They’re all intelligent and know how to cover their tracks, they know how to defend themselves and when it comes to doing the deed, they can do it. Just as you think a character is missing something they respond with intelligence. It’s awesome to watch a film where you find it hard to criticize characters decisions but instead be left wondering “why didn’t I think of that”.

As for performances, well you have Javier Bardem in one of his first major English roles and will probably stand as his best for awhile. Think Silva from Skyfall but even crazier. I like that opening scene of him where he’s strangling that cop, just from his facial expressions you can tell that he’s a heartless bastard and it’s not the first time he’s attempted to kill someone. As good as Bardem is, Brolin totally knocks it out of the park for me. There’s something about his portrayal of the character. He’s just so slick and such a guy, a guy we all wish we could be. If I could pull off boots and a cowboy hat, I would, wouldn’t have to think about it, I’d be walking around looking like a total badass. (Brolin) “you got socks”, (Shopkeeper) “We only have white”. (Brolin) “That’s ok, whites all I wear”, that’s what it means to be a man right there. Tommy Lee Jones is business as usual and it was nice seeing some Woody Harrelson as well to make up a really great cast.

This was totally deserving of the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Javier Bardem) Oscars. A film back in the day that I wouldn’t have wanted to watch, purely because it’s absent of music. Thanks to more appreciation for films, that lack of music only adds to the film, putting us in the west with the characters and surprisingly adding suspense to the films more thrilling scenes. No Country For Old Men is truly a great film.

Oldboy (2004) vs Oldboy (2013)

OldBoy VS

I chose to watch the remake before the original and immediately regretted that decision after realizing that this isn’t your average revenge flick. It’s a lot darker and filled with more surprises than I first anticipated. Going into the original knowing the general storyline and plot diminished the effect of the first half of the film, luckily due to changes in the remake there were still a few pleasant surprises and twists that I didn’t see coming. I think if I would have been a bit smarter and chose to watch the original first I would have instantly loved it.

The initial reasoning behind watching the remake first was to give it a fair chance so that I wouldn’t be comparing the two constantly, but this is just one of those films where this can’t be prevented. Firstly the story is unique providing plenty of plot twists to keep us guessing. Once knowing these twists, it’s hard to stop waiting for them to happen in the original. Luckily the remake didn’t stay completely true to the original and made a few plot changes but those were the only changes made. That’s what makes the remake incredibly pointless in my opinion. It didn’t offer anything new, apart from a western cast and a neo-noir tone. Why remake a film and change virtually nothing about it. Usually what you’d like to see in a remake is perhaps a unique style true to the director or something different creatively but the 2013 version felt lackluster and ultimately not worth filming especially when you have a pretty perfect counterpart.

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Oldboy (2013) –
Roze-Rating: 3 / 5

We’re introduced to Joe Doucett leaving a lunch meeting drunk, what first seems acceptable turns unacceptable as he urinates in public and adds more booze into a soda cup before returning to work. He later shouts at his wife for nagging him to attend his daughters 3rd birthday party and hits on his clients wife who has no interest in him. It’s safe to say that he isn’t a pleasant man at all. We’re not meant to like him but we can tell that not even he likes himself as he spits at a mirror while staring at his reflection. He seems to have given up on himself. After a booze filled night he’s snatched off the street and awakens in an unfamiliar room which he’s trapped in.

We don’t really get a sense of that revenge until he is released from the room. Whilst in the room it’s more about his self improvement and redemption in order to be worthy of his daughters forgiveness when he is let out. I suppose that is what prevents him from going insane.

Without giving anything away this film tackles some dark themes which would make a lot of people feel uncomfortable, but this film lacked grit and an appropriate tone to support it. It felt too mainstream and lacked style, the cinematography, characters and locations felt generic which ruined what was supposed to be an eerie film about revenge. Instead it came off as your average blockbuster film.

What I liked about this film was the added noir tone. It felt appropriate during the scenes where Brolin and Olsen are trying to figure out who trapped him in that room. But then there would be an abrupt change in tone during Brolin’s hammer to skull combat scenes. Sometimes it would feel out of place especially the iconic hallway tracking shot. It was always going to be a hard scene to pull off and unfortunately it looked awkward. Having not seen the original before this, I can say that was my first reaction. Brolin was awesome but the extra’s made the scene feel gimmicky with over the top reactions and unrealistic movements, some moments were cool but others were off. Talking about extra’s, they seemed to burden the film with below par acting. Not only the iconic fight scene but a couple of flashbacks too. If someone points a shotgun at you, I’m pretty sure you’d flinch, at least a little bit.

Josh Brolin proves to be one of the few positives coming out of this film , showing that he can be a strong lead and carry a film. Another positive is Sharlto Copley, now cementing his status as king of accents. It may be slightly off in this film but his stiff interpretation of Brolin’s mysterious enemy makes him an intriguing character. It was interesting seeing Elizabeth Olsen for the first time, it gave me the chance to see if she’s Avengers worthy. She was solid but maybe due to the script she felt monotone. We don’t really sense her troubled past or any hardship, the only time we sense it is when it’s spoon fed to us or the first scene we see her with Brolin where she’s wearing a scruffy torn T-shirt, then minutes later we see her wearing a nice blazer. The only thing that signified to me was whether she was homeless or not, not every druggie has a torn up shirt!

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Oldboy (2004) – Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Oh Dae Su is an obvious alcoholic as we’re introduced to him at a police station being a nuisance. He says all he does is try to get through the day, which suggests he struggles in life and in a way might have already given up. He may be unhappy but he shares a sweet spot for his daughter despite continually being absent from her life. From the opening we know he’s done some bad things and may not be a pleasant person. Before we know it he’s been picked up from the side of the street and trapped in a room.

Compared with the newer version, the transition to his entrapment is a lot quicker, you could say the remake spoon feeds the audience the plot and also gives us a more direct interpretation of the character. With Oh Dae Su we can understand him the way we want to. There’s more emphasis on his growing insanity within the room which the remake didn’t touch on, to put the cherry on the top there’s an explanation to why he never gave in to the insanity which is what I was wondering the whole time. When he’s released he saves a man from committing suicide but it becomes apparent that he hasn’t completely changed, he still lacks compassion but he’s fitter and driven with only revenge on his mind. In that respect there is more emphasis on revenge which the remake didn’t have.

Themes of vengeance are relevant throughout the film, when we learn more about the person who trapped Dae Su. We learn the extent to which revenge can go and what holding a grudge can do to a man. For Dae Su, remorse slowly creeps in on him once he figures out who the mystery man is.

Performances are great from everyone in the cast. The lead Min-sik Choi is phenomenal, a character which will stay with me for a long time. He finds the perfect mix of grit, anger and insanity. Gang Hye-Jeong plays the female supporting role convincingly, we buy into her loneliness and hurt, making her a character we believe in. Playing the mystery man is Ji-tae Yu who is portrayed as this charismatic, suave, insane, evil man. In terms of antagonists, this is as good as it gets.

The blend of violence and dark humour is emphasized by the films overall offbeat tone. It gives the film consistency and style which the remake lacked. The screenplay is also better with narration, memorable quotes and metaphoric messages that move the narrative along nicely. There’s no question to why this is a cult classic, I’ve not seen a film as interesting, fast paced and intense as this in a long time.

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Verdict

The original is miles better than Spike Lee’s remake. I’m all for a remake, but only if it’s justified. Foreign films have been adapted before, it’s not uncommon, but usually there’s a unique spin on them. For instance Prince Avalanche and The Departed. What makes the original so much better is the script, it has all the plot holes filled which the remake had. I don’t understand why you would take a film with a perfect story line and change little things like making the protagonists imprisonment 20 years instead of 15. Little things that create plot holes. As for the characters, as good as Josh Brolin is, he doesn’t come close to beating Min-sik Choi and his awesome hair. But even overall the characters are richer in the original. I didn’t like Elizabeth Olsen’s take on the female role at all. I didn’t buy into her vulnerability as much as Gang Hye-Jeong’s Mido. As for the antagonist, Sharlto Copley was absolute gold but it didn’t feel appropriate for a film like Oldboy, he felt gimmicky. Ji-tae Yu was just as suave as Copley but his anger and desire for vengeance felt real, you almost feel for the character. Overall Chan Wook Park’s film smashes the remake… in the skull… with a hammer.