Showing posts from December, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

It has now been two years since Star Wars: The Force Awakenswas released.  True to current fandom, about a month or so was spent praising it for bringing back the feel of the Star Wars franchise after the lackluster prequels.  The rest of the time?  Complaining that it was a rehash of the original movie, while speculating on Rey's parents and who this Snoke guy was.  While some explanations fit in with the new canon, much of what could explain the rise of the First Order was wiped out when years of world building was relegated to "Legends" status.

I will give some credit where it is due.  While expanding the Star Wars universe and adding some interesting new characters, while dispatching an old favorite, The Force Awakens felt like it had to in some ways incorporate elements of Star Wars in order to put things back on track.  What was truly unexpected would be that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first entry in the standalone series of movies, would go a completely di…

Scrooged (1988)

It is almost a guarantee that come Christmas there will be some new adaptation, or parody, of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.  Now that It's a Wonderful Life is back under copyright, the other typical go-to is a little harder, but the story of old man Scrooge and his visitation by three ghosts is fair game.  The 1951 version starring Alastair Sim is probably the most popular straight reading, while for comedic versions I have always enjoyed the Blackadder Christmas special.

For many, though, Scrooged has become required holiday viewing.  I saw it originally a couple years after it came out, and wasn't all that impressed.  I didn't hate it as much as some of the critics did at the time, but I felt so much potential was wasted.  I appreciate a late '80s effects movie revisiting the old theme once again, but I remembered very little over the years other than the movie is practically yelling at the audience throughout.  From what I have read, Bill Murray himself …

Die Hard (1988)

And then... along came Bruce.

No, not Bruce Lee.  Unfortunately he had been gone for 15 years by the time this came out.  It would have been interesting seeing him kick the butts of a bunch of bad guys taking over the fictional Nakatomi Plaza.  Maybe in some alternative dimension.  Still, I don't think even that particular Bruce would have made Die Hard as iconic and memorable as Bruce Willis.

At the time Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris were the big three, with Jean-Claude Van Damme and and Steven Seagal interesting newcomers.  Bruce Willis, on the other hand, was the start of a television detective/romance drama called Moonlighting, which was still in production at the same time Die Hard was filming.  Some of the big names were considered for the part of John McLane, but Willis had a certain everyman quality the others lacked.

Thus, we suddenly had another big action star on our hands, along with a major franchise and, surprisingly, a beloved Christmas…

The Evil Dead (1981)

Sam Raimi has been one of my favorite directors ever since I first saw Evil Dead IINot only was he able to do quite a lot on a small budget, but his direction was unique.  I later came to find out that was what I like about many horror directors.  You occasionally had your mainstream auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock or Orson Welles, but many independent horror directors were able to develop their own style simply because to do what they wanted to do, and do it cheaply, required a bit of extra thought.

The Evil Dead was Raimi's first feature-length film, famously financed by Raimi, producer Rob Tapert and lead actor Bruce Campbell going to extreme lengths to make sure the movie got made and found an audience.  Despite freezing temperatures, dangerous filming conditions and a number of injuries, it did, and it became one of the most important horror films of the 1980s.

Friends Scotty (Richard DeManincor) and Ash (Campbell) head to a remote cabin for a weekend of relaxation.  Along w…

Breathless (1960)

With films, much like literature, we are told there are certain films that we need to watch.  Not that we'll enjoy them or get anything from them, but because of some innovation or decree of the critical powers that be.  Often they are part of some movement of some sort, and elements of the film were revolutionary at the time it was done.  We are looked down upon with scorn if some reason we are not blown away by the genius of the movie.

When I finally get around to watching these movies I am often underwhelmed.  Take Belle du jour, for instance.  A big deal was made a number of years ago when it got re-released, and it's hailed as one of Luis Buñuel's greatest films, if not his masterpiece.  When I finally watched it I thought it was surprisingly straightforward for a Buñuel film, but didn't see anything striking or amazing about it.  It's good, but Buñuel has done better. 

Jean-Luc Godard is hailed as one of the foremost innovators of French New Wave, a film mov…