Posts Tagged ‘Star Wars’

Monkey Shines

Posted 17 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Monkey Shines, USA, 1988

Written and Directed by George A. Romero

Based on the Novel Monkey Shines by Michael Stewart

Monkey Shines is quality entertainment from director George A. Romero. Much like famous rappers, great horror directors often do their best (or at least most well-received) work right out of the gate, only to spend decades laboring over increasingly diminished returns. Often this critical and/or commercial appraisal is unfair, but it is arguably true that, for example, Nas never again put out an album as good as his debut, Illmatic, or that John Carpenter has never equaled or exceeded his early work of the 1970s and ’80s, though his late-period Masters of Horror film, Cigarette Burns (2005), showed the kind of genius not seen in his films for about a decade up to that point. Tobe Hooper is another filmmaker who never quite lived up to the promise of his brilliant breakthrough feature, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), despite doing some pretty quality follow-up work such as Salem’s Lot (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), though of course producer Steven Spielberg is commonly recognized as the real creative force behind the latter.

George A. Romero is generally considered to be one of these unlucky filmmakers as well, and while it is true that he never topped his chilling debut feature, Night of the Living Dead (1968), there is a worthwhile body of work to examine in later decades, and his 1988 film Monkey Shines is among his best work, along with films like Martin (1976), Creepshow (1982) and, of course, the original Dead trilogy (I haven’t seen his latest, 2009’s Survival of the Dead, but based on the previous two – 2005’s Land of the Dead and 2007’s Diary of the Dead – I feel relatively comfortable relegating the new Dead trilogy to the same scorn-pile as the new Star Wars trilogy). Read More

Rango

Posted 25 May 2011 — by Nicole P
Category Animation, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Rango, USA, 2011

Directed by Gore VerbinskiRango film

I wasn’t prepared for Rango to be as dark as it was. Gore Verbinski has always been a director to dabble into life’s bigger questions with a lot of subtle ease, without losing the ostensibly fun side to his films, but, with this being an animated Nickelodeon production and all, I was blind-sided by the depth of John Logan’s screenplay and the heartfelt genuineness of Johnny Depp’s performance as a chameleon with an identity crisis. To be fair, the screenplay’s base elements are very standard – there is a formula, and you know where the film is headed as soon as it starts – but, to the film’s credit, everything that happens in between is remarkably intelligent.

And the whole thing feels like a painting. Gotta love that.

Consider that this one of the rare CGI films that pays respects to traditionally animated films; remember that Tangled (2010) was specifically designed to look like oil paintings and 2D animation. Rango achieves this without the oil painting angle, and does so seamlessly. I couldn’t point to one shot that didn’t look carefully rendered. I also had a hard time not picking out references to other films. I like movies that respect their elders. Nods to Star Wars, Raising Arizona (tell me that score doesn’t have echoes here), and obviously older westerns are everywhere. There’s even a certain cameo that ties the entire story together and references that by which the entire Western genre has come to be recognized. Read More

Black Swan

Posted 13 Dec 2010 — by contributor
Category Member Movie Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

black swan Natalie Portman movies i didnt getBlack Swan, USA, 2010

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

The latest film from visionary director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) continues to show his versatility and determination to not make the same film twice. Originally slated to direct the upcoming David O. Russell film The Fighter, Aronofsky understandably considered the project too similar to his previous film, 2008’s The Wrestler, and opted instead to make the intense, hallucinatory madhouse that is Black Swan.

Natalie Portman stars as Nina Sayers, an up-and-coming ballet dancer in New York City who finds herself in the lead role of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. She is initially chosen for the role as a replacement for veteran dancer Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) because she embodies the qualities of the White Swan – grace and beauty. Her technical perfection is clear, but her lusty French director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel, in his best English-language role to date), insists that she find her dark side, the Black Swan representing cunning and sensuality. Read More

Irvin Kershner Becomes One With The Force At Eighty-Seven

Posted 30 Nov 2010 — by Jason A. Hill
Category Film Industry News, Hollywood Beat

By Jason A. Hill

irvin kershner directing empire strikes back movies i didnt getDirector Irvin Kershner, most famous for directing Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), has died at the age of 87.

Kershner, who also directed Sean Connery as James Bond in Never Say Never Again (1983) and Peter Weller in RoboCop 2 (1990), died at home in Los Angeles on Saturday after a long illness, according to the AFP.

George Lucas, who picked Kershner to direct the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, said in a statement that he had lost a friend.

“The world has lost a great director and one of the most genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Irvin Kershner was a true gentleman in every sense of the word … When I think of Kersh, I think of his warmth, his thoughtfulness and his talent. I knew him from USC – I attended his lectures and he was actually on the festival panel that gave the prize to my ‘THX’ short [which eventually became the 1971 film THX 1138] … I considered him a mentor.”

— George Lucas

Read More

Metropolis – Still Compelling After Nearly A Century

Posted 31 Oct 2010 — by Jason A. Hill
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Jason A. Hill

Metropolis, Germany, 1927

Directed by Fritz Lang

metropolis 1927 movie poster movies i didnt getMany attended the much anticipated premiere of Metropolis in Berlin on January 10, 1927, including many high-ranking officials in the German government, such as former Reichsprasident Paul Von Hindenburg. The film was the most expensive ever made in Europe at the time, and much was expected from it. It was carrying the financial burden for not only The Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft (UFA), the largest film production company in Germany, but also the German film industry itself. After all, UFA owed the majority of the film’s cost, a sum of over four million dollars, to two American film companies: Famous Players and Metro-Goldwyn. A few years later, it so impressed Adolf Hitler that he requested its director, Fritz Lang, to become his principal filmmaker for the German film industry. Lang fled Germany soon after the offer was made.

Like all great epic films, just as much creativity went into the making of the film as the story itself. Lang used state of the art special effects to create integrated animated images with the actors. Much of these scenes were achieved by a technique called the “Schufftan Method,” a photography technique that combines mirror shots and model shots to create a composite image. It was invented by cinematographer Eugen Schufftan and was first used on a large scale in Metropolis. Many of the other sets were built at real-to-life scale, not sparing much else to sacrifice detail. Lighting was used extensively throughout the film and accounted for a quarter of the film’s budget. Filmmakers in the early 1900s were able to move lights around and further away from objects while maintaining beam concentration, which enabled Lang to create surreal, hard light with long, sharp shadows. The scenes of the roberter (robots) are stunning, and the concepts and design of the roberter are mimicked in many other sci-fi films that came later, such as George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977), especially in the character of C3PO.

Spoiler AlertMetropolis tells the story of a city in the future and the people who build and inhabit it. The inhabitants are divided into two classes: the industrialists and city dwellers, who plan, design and occupy the uppers levels of the city, and the workers who build and maintain the city’s functions and live below the machine level. The standards of living between the two classes are distinct and unjust. Life among the “top dwellers” is shown to be gay and carefree. They participate in games and sports, attend the theater and frolic in parks, while life among the “workers” is barely livable, as they drudge from one day to the next performing physically taxing tasks and duties in order to maintain the city’s power and resources. Towers ascend to dizzying heights. Cars and public transport travel between mammoth structures on trams and byways that connect the buildings in a labyrinth of man-made objects. The city represents the ultimate in man’s achievement, but in it we see the price of building and sustaining such an accomplishment. Read More