Posted on May 21st, 2020
The Empire Strikes Back is one of the greatest movies of all time. Easily the best film of the entire Star Wars franchise. It's an epic sci-fi adventure story that doesn't pander or self-sabotage with kiddie shit like we would get out of Return of the Jedi and the awful prequel trilogy. We wouldn't see anything like it in the Star Wars Universe again until Rogue One and The Mandalorian.
And today is the 40th anniversary of Empire hitting theaters...
So naturally I had to watch it for the hundredth time.
As if I need an excuse.
The difference being that I watched the original film and not the "Special Edition." Sure the re-release is prettier and the effects are more polished, but it has some idiotic changes that are beyond bad. Greedo shooting first... that hilariously clumsy and inexplicably redundant scene with Jabba (didn't we just go through this conversation with Greedo?)... they're jarring in the worst possible way. What would be great if we could just get the original movie with the updated effects, which is all you really need.
Obviously, The Empire Strikes Back totally holds up despite being 40(!) years old.
After viewing the film I ran to my bookshelf to grab the epic The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back book by J.W. Rinzler...
If you haven't already read it, the book is well worth tracking down.
I wanted to re-read the movie novelization, but my copy has long-since fallen apart from use. It's a shame, because it adds some depth to already memorable scenes. Like when Lando is walking Han and Leia to dinner, the door opens up, and Darth Vader is there. In the novel they talk about how Han draws his blaster fast... maybe the fastest he's ever drawn it... which is a cool detail that you can't get from the movie. I'm pretty sure that I have the comic book adaptation somewhere, but that would take more digging than I'm prepared to do.
Oddly enough, watching The Empire Strikes Back doesn't make me want to forge onward with The Return of the Jedi, but it does make me want to watch Solo: A Star Wars Story. The movie was severely underrated, and Donald Glover's take on Lando Calrissian is pretty great.
So I guess I've got the rest of my evening planned out then.
Posted on October 12th, 2010
I am starting to really, really despise Amazon.com — not because they suck or anything... for the most part I find their pricing and service to be excellent. No, the reason I hate them is because they make it entirely too easy for me to spend money I don't have. Stupid Amazon and their stupid product suggestions and their stupid One-Click ordering!
Here are three of my latest totally non-essential purchases that I just had to own or else I would die...
THE MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Star Wars is awesomeness defined. So awesome that at the time it was released, it was nearly impossible to process. Most everything about it was so new and revolutionary that the brain had no choice but to explode at the thought of it all. But by the time The Empire Strikes Back came along three years later, we were accustomed to all the amazing special effects and mind-blowing elements that made Star Wars such a phenomena. We wouldn't be surprised again.
Or so we thought. The Empire Strikes Back proved us wrong. Upping the ante in every possible way, the film raised the bar so high that few... very few... films have managed to top it. It remains one of my top-five favorite films of all time, and cemented my love of Star Wars for all eternity (even when the franchise turned to shit with Return of the Jedi and the horrendously craptastic prequels).
So how could I possibly not purchase The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler's stunning follow-up to The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones? This massive 372-page tome has a definitive look at every aspect of the movie's creation taken from countless hours of research and interviews. It includes numerous pieces of production art, behind-the-scenes photos, and other tidbits which gives the reader an insider's look at Empire in a way that will make you not only fall in love with the film all over again... but have an entirely new appreciation for the people behind it...
It's a complete and total steal at $49.72 (list price $85.00!), and I give it my highest possible recommendation for Star Wars fans and anybody who's interested in film production. The Force is indeed strong with this one!
THE SECRET OF KELLS BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO
Where to start with this one. Probably with the fact that I am a total animation whore. I remain hopelessly fascinated with the artform and obsess over its every incarnation. Everything from a simple flip-book to full-blown computer-generated animations captivate me. But hand-drawn animated features are my favorite. Even when Pixar unleashes their latest computer-rendered genius, I still find myself pining for the animated classics I grew up with.
So imagine my surprise when I happened across a production blog back in 2006 for an animated feature called The Secret of Kells. I had visited Dublin and seen the jaw-dropping beauty of The Book of Kells the previous year, and thought it was pure genius to use it as the foundation for a movie. For years I followed the updates, watching with amazement as the film took shape...
With each update at The Blog of Kells, I became more and more excited at the visual feast that was being created. Even at its very earliest stages, you could feel this would be something special. When peeks of the animated sequences were revealed, you knew it was something special. And when it finally opened in limited release in Washington State back in May, I finally got to see it and know that "special" was a drastic understatement. The film was magic. And I don't use that term lightly.
Infused with Celtic mythology, The Secret of Kells tells the story of a young boy named Brendan who sees an unfinished book of secret wisdom and magical powers which holds the hope of banishing darkness and defeating evil. Leaving his world behind, Brendan undertakes an amazing journey through an enchanted forest to help complete The Book of Kells. Along the way he meets mystical creatures and the fairy spirit Aisling to aid him in his quest...
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. Every frame of this movie is a sublime work of art in its own right. Every frickin' frame! The fact that it's all beautifully animated in old-school stylings is just the icing on the cake. I could use words like "stunning" and "breathtaking" and "Glorious" to describe it, but there is simply nothing I can say which would adequately prepare you for the experience of viewing the film. Though a part of me wonders if the story is a bit too abstract for younger kids, I can't imagine anybody not enjoying The Secret of Kells.
For $25 you get a combo Blu-Ray/DVD pack (alas, no digital version to be found) and it's worth every penny. Again, my highest possible recommendation.
GRINDHOUSE: COLLECTOR'S EDITION BLU-RAY
Finally... finally... Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's wonderful experiment in old-school double-feature cinema has been released on home video as they intended it to be seen... an uninterrupted back-to-back experience complete with all the pseudo-trailers, aged film damage, missing reels, and intermission card goodness!
Grindhouse combines two films of senseless campy violence, horror, and action by two of Hollywood's most genius and unconventional directors... Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino, and Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez. You also get a bunch of brutally cool "faux trailers" for films like Werewolf Women of the S.S. by Rob Zombie and Don't by Edgar Wright (and, of course, Machete which was later made into an actual film!). It's not going to be for everybody, but any fan of shlock horror films will probably love it...
While both films have their charms, it's Death Proof that I can't get enough of. When it comes to Tarantino movies, it's but a blip on the radar of his impressive oeuvre, but it's still genius when compared to most of the shit that gets released. Kurt Russell(!) plays a psychopathically homicidal stuntman who likes to stalk lady drivers in his "death-proof" stunt car, eventually running them off the road and killing them. It's all fun and games for the maniac... until he terrorizes the wrong women! This twisted tale of suspense and revenge has one of the best car chase sequences ever put to film, and is chock-full of Tarantino's witty (and borderline scandalous) dialogue. As I said, it's not going to be for everybody, but it's dead-on target for its intended audience. If that's you, I give Grindhouse my highest recommendation. Amazon has it for just $23, which is more entertainment per dollar than you can shake a machine gun at!
And there you have it. $100 of my hard-earned money blown with three clicks. I wish I could say this was a rare event but, alas, there are even more unnecessary but essential items waiting for me, I'm sure.
Don't act surprised when I'm selling myself on the street for Amazon gift certificates. It's only a matter of time...
Posted on May 21st, 2010
The Hilton SeaTac Airport charges $14.95 for internet. I guess I can post this tomorrow, because Hilton can suck it.
Today is a day where the entire internet is celebrating a movie so astoundingly brilliant... so wonderfully imaginative... so monumentally game-changing... so vastly superior to everything that came before... that it redefines what cinema entertainment means.
I am talking, of course, about MacGruber, from which I just returned.
This was the film I was most looking forward to this summer, and it did not disappoint. It was funny and action-packed from start to finish. Kudos to Will Forte and Kristen Wiig for their fantastic performances, and welcome back to comedy Val Kilmer! Of course, I like MacGruber on Saturday Night Live, so I'm probably biased.
Coincidentally, today is also the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite films of all time: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back...
I never saw the original Star Wars in an actual theater until the re-release in 1978. Instead I saw it at a drive-in with some neighbor kids. I, of course, loved the film and became obsessed with it in whatever ways were available to be obsessed with it back then. You couldn't buy VHS tapes until later, but you could buy outrageously expensive snippets on 8mm film. And then there were the books, magazines, posters, and all the other crap an 11-year-old simply must have or else they'll die.
By the time Empire was released in 1980, my Star Wars mania was at a fever pitch. The idea of seeing the sequel on opening day was too much to resist, so a friend and I got dropped off at the theater so we could wait in line for entirely too long and be among the first to see it. The time spent was, obviously, worth it. The Empire Strikes Back is easily one of the best films ever created, and holds up on all counts to this day. As a movie, that alone is remarkable... but a science fiction movie?!? Magic.
If I was obsessed with Star Wars, I became positively stupid-insane over Empire. It pushed the Star Wars envelope in all directions, and has some of the best dialogue quotes ever to hit the silver screen in ANY genre (I can only guess that this is because George Lucas didn't write or direct it... if only we were so lucky with the prequels). My imagination wasn't just captured by all the amazing things the film offered up, it was blown away never to return.
Once you here those immortal words... "Luke, I am your father" you don't have much choice but to be blown away. Screw The Sixth Sense, THIS is the ultimate twist ending in modern cinematic history.
Even though I was eventually let down by the follow-up effort, Return of the Jedi, my spirit was never dampened. Empire was simply too good to ever die. Toss in all the Ewoks, fart jokes, and other stupid crap you want, it doesn't matter. Once you've learned the ways of The Force from Yoda, there can be no turning back.
Star Wars is in your heart and mind forever.
I know it is in mine.
Posted on January 5th, 2010
I'm a firm believer in using the right tool for the job. Or, if you're Tiger Woods, using a firm tool for everything.
The problem is that entirely too many people are taking a Darwinian slide towards gene pool elimination because they can't understand this simple concept. Not a day goes by that I don't read about some moron using the wrong tool for a job and then acting all surprised when things go terribly wrong. My current favorite being the guy who decided to clear a pile of leaves off his lawn by blasting a shotgun into them at point-blank range. It's a perfectly good idea... unless the leaves in question are piled on top of an industrial strength metal well cover.
Certainly a shotgun is a lot more fun than using a rake. And I'm sure there are a lot of great uses for a shotgun that I'm simply not imaginative enough to think of. I'm just saying that, in this particular case, it's the wrong tool for the job. My microwave can boil the fuck out of a cup of water, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start smelting steel in there.
Anyway... as far as examples go, it couldn't be made much clearer than this ad I ran across this morning...
Yes, that's the incomparable Elizabeth Hurley... most beautiful woman on earth and goddess of all things good and decent in the world. Some shitty dating site saw her glorious visage after running a Google Image Search, rightfully determined that her ravishing aesthetic would be perfect for attracting lonely computer nerds, and stole her exquisite form to make a crappy (but very, very sexy) web ad.
And, while this may indeed be a good tool for the job at hand once legalities have been forgotten, it's not entirely realistic.
Elizabeth Hurley has about as much interest in helping computer nerds get a date as George Lucas has in making a decent Star Wars film after Empire Strikes Back. You'd have a better chance of getting struck by lightning while bananas spontaneously shoot out of your ass then miraculously transform into kittens in mid-air. Though, if Elizabeth Hurley's lawyers get ahold of the people who are illegally using her to endorse TOTALLY FREE DATING, the resulting prison experience would probably make the whole lightning-banana-kitten-out-your-ass scenario seem like a picnic with the cast of Sesame Street.
So... not so much the right tool for the job after all, once legalities are factored in.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to try and get some sleep while I've got Elizabeth Hurley and bananas running around in my head.
I wonder if that TOTALLY FREE DATING site really works?