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Reviews: Star Wars, Episodes I-VII

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A funny thing happened recently. Not long before The Force Awakens came out, my wife and I decided to re-watch all of Star Wars on Blu-ray. Then we went and saw Episode VII in the theater. Not long after that, I was having lunch with a friend and we were talking about all the Star Wars movies, including the most recent.

This particular friend is willing to go in-depth in these sort of geeky film/TV/media conversations whenever we have them (he’s a writer and a critic type, like me), so I went into the sort of detail talking about Star Wars that I might not have normally. And as I was sitting there talking, I realized I had most of the thoughts in my head about what I wanted to say about these movies, which I had just watched. All I needed to do was get them down on paper and expand upon them, because I knew they’d make a natural addition to my website. Besides — I love Star Wars.

So I struck while the iron was hot, my thoughts were still clear, and while The Force Awakens was still in theaters and on people’s minds — so these reviews could be (gasp!) timely and relevant. My initial plan was to keep it short and sweet, and at first I was successful. But things got longer as I went further, and I finally broke the bank with The Force Awakens. Oh, well. Either way, it also gives all of you a chance to comment on these movies in this particular forum.

You’ll notice that I’ve ordered them according to when they were released, starting with the original trilogy, then the prequels. That’s how I watched them, including this most recent time. Why anyone would want to watch them in "chronological" episode-numbered order is beyond me, because the whole point of the prequels is that you already know where they are headed. Anyway, here they are. Enjoy.

Jammer’s Reviews: Star Wars, Episodes I-VII

Review: ‘Interstellar’ (minor spoilers)

Over on the mothership, I’ve posted a new review (gasp!) for Christopher Nolan’s new sci-fi film, Interstellar. Go read it now.

Star Trek Into Darkness: Still pending.

Discuss ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

Because my review is likely to be delayed a bit, I’ve opened up comments for Star Trek Into Darkness. See more details on that page, and please refrain from posting comments about the movie elsewhere on Jammer’s Reviews and Jammer’s Blog. Thanks.

Farewell, Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Photo by Eileen Ryan

It’s probably pretty safe to say that Roger Ebert, by a wide margin, has been the most influential figure on my writing. It’s possible, although far from certain, that had I not read Ebert as a teen, I might never have thought to write one review, let alone nearly 1,000. (Of course, that’s pure conjecture. If you pull a thread on one’s life, there’s no telling to what degree it might unravel, but maybe I’d have found another way in the same direction.)

But that’s the thing about Ebert: He was so prolific, so observant and wise, so widely read and well respected — so utterly the gold standard of all critics — that probably every writer in the genre of criticism saw him as the model to aspire to. (Read more…)

Trailer: ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

The teaser trailer for the next J.J. Abrams installment of the Trek franchise, Star Trek Into Darkness has been released. I’ve embedded it here for your viewing, assuming you haven’t already seen it 10 times.

There was a time, back in my college days, around the time that First Contact was released, that I knew a ton about a Trek movie months before it even came out. Those days are long gone, and I haven’t followed Trek XII‘s production much at all, beyond knowing it was being made.

But I was informed today of the release of the teaser trailer for next May’s upcoming Trek film, which based on the title and trailer, seems like it’s going to be pretty, well, dark, I guess. If you’re going into darkness, I guess it’s going to be dark.

Please, no spoilers here. If you know way more about this movie than I do, don’t feel compelled to share. I’m going to go into it as oblivious as possible.

To grandmother’s house we go!

You can call this post what it is — a snarky, sight-unseen prejudgment of something that just looks stupid on its face.

Red Riding Hood
Amanda Seyfried is going to grandmother’s house. (Warner Bros. photo)

I’m talking about the making of “Red Riding Hood” into a Hollywood “thriller” starring Amanda Seyfried in the title role, and I think involving a werewolf.

Yes.

With any luck, the werewolf, if there is one (and I don’t know that there is; I did NOT consult the Google on the Internets for a plot description), will be played by Taylor Whatshisface, in a crossover appearance from the Twilight franchise.

(And speaking of Twilight, why did they have to go and split the last book into two movies which I’ll now have to sit through with my wife? Greedy Hollywood bastards!) (Read more…)

3D cinema? Possibly. 3D television? Please get real.

The film industry has been trying to push 3D on its customers for a while now, but it has just in the past year or so shifted that campaign into high gear. 2009 had a number of notable titles to be released in movie theaters in 3D (most of them CGI-animated productions that easily lend themselves to the 3D process because they are completely digitally created).

AvatarAvatar and 3D: The future of cinema? Not so fast.

Now comes the 3D “game changer” behemoth: Avatar. This is going to be the movie that changes everything, right?

Well, not so fast.

Avatar is the first modern 3D feature film that I’ve seen. By “modern,” I mean the sort of 3D by way of modern techniques like circular polarization, as opposed to those 1950s-style red/blue glasses.

Avatar is a wonderfully entertaining and unsubtle message movie and a visual achievement (and no, I will not be reviewing it), but I am not convinced that it needs to be seen in 3D. Granted, the 3D was pretty damn cool. There were scenes where you could literally focus on foreground objects on the screen as if they were really there, and then switch your focus to objects behind them, and the foreground object would go double, just like in real life. There are some breathtaking shots in 3D, where the experience becomes immersive. And impressive. (Read more…)

‘2012’: You want apocalypse? You GOT apocalypse.

Some movies speak for themselves. One such movie is 2012, which comes billed as the end of the world, Roland Emmerich style. This review could simply state “Roland Emmerich destroys the world for real this time” and that would probably be sufficient. If you’ve seen any of his other movies, you know more or less what to expect from Emmerich. And since you know what CGI effects are capable of in 2009, you can probably predict what the destruction of earth circa 2012 might look like.

2012
An airplane flies through the collapsing L.A. skyline — the first of many things that Roland Emmerich destroys in his latest world-ender, “2012.”

And since you’ve seen the trailers, you know what you’re buying going in. The only question here is whether 2012 delivers what you expect respectably and entertainingly, or whether it’s a cliche-ridden, implausible, over-the-top exercise in gratuitous mayhem.

Well, why can’t it be both? I submit that’s exactly what it is. 2012 is what it is: a spectacular popcorn disaster epic that appeals to a mass PG-13 audience. It’s a special effects thrill ride that will not be particularly disturbing or depressing. How can “the end of the world” not be depressing, you ask? I wouldn’t presume to give away the ending, but like all Emmerich mass-consumable destruction opuses, this one comes with a certain tempered conclusion to make all the world-ending that transpires over 150 minutes somehow seem okay, if you see what I mean. Never mind that untold billions have perished. This movie is not about who dies, it’s about who survives! (Read more…)

Why does Robert Zemeckis hate live action?

Back in the day — a long, long time ago — Robert Zemeckis was best known for directing Back to the Future and its eventual sequels. He probably became a big mainstream name with the massive success of Forrest Gump. That movie also perhaps signaled the beginning of the end for Zemeckis as a traditional live-action filmmaker (although one could argue that moment was earlier signaled by his helming of the then-groundbreaking animation-combined-with-live-action Who Framed Roger Rabbit?).

Beowulf
“Ray Winstone” in Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf. Performance capture technology turned Winstone from Average Joe into ripped superhero.

With Forrest Gump, Zemeckis played with the notion of compositing live action with archival footage, allowing Tom Hanks to appear in the same shots as TV footage of President Nixon, among plenty of others. It was a gimmick that Zemeckis later employed in Contact, in order to merge the movie with footage of President Clinton in press conferences.

If you watch the special features on the Contact DVD (or maybe it was the VHS tape, to be honest), you see that Zemeckis’ penchant for tweaking existing images began in earnest with that film: He found that when the skies in particular outdoor shots weren’t “interesting” enough, he could replace them with skies that had better-looking clouds. I think it was this sort of “because I can” mentality that guided Zemeckis’ career into the 2000s. (Read more…)

Why does Roland Emmerich hate the world?

On Friday, the much-advertised gargantuan-FX behemoth 2012 comes out. The film is the latest world-destroying epic from director Roland Emmerich, perhaps best known for his entertaining world-destroying Independence Day, his not-so-entertaining NY-destroying Godzilla ’98 and his decidedly ungood world-destroyed-by-climate-change The Day After Tomorrow.

2012What! Fucking! Ian guy?! There was a time that John Cusack had girlfriend problems. Now he’s a dad occupying the foreground framed by the background of Roland Emmerich disasters. (Columbia Pictures/Sony)

He also made the passable history-as-a-Mel-Gibson-revenge-melodrama The Patriot and the lame pyramids-built-by-aliens Stargate.

Independence Day, probably Emmerich’s best entertainment, worked on its chosen level of lightweight summer popcorn movie (with the question of just how much the destruction of the world could be portrayed as lightweight being answered, “quite a bit”). The White House and Empire State Building blown up! Awesomely!

Godzilla was a bad movie, with its annoying characters and mindless destruction for the sake of destruction. And The Day After Tomorrow was pretty lame. I just can’t abide the end of that movie, where the characters were RUNNING AWAY FROM LETHALLY COLD AIR, as if you can escape the flow of air by RUNNING TO A DIFFERENT ROOM. (Read more…)