Monday, May 30, 2016
Below are images from "JANE EYRE", the 2011 adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, the movie starred Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender:
"JANE EYRE" (2011) Photo Gallery
Saturday, May 28, 2016
"STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH" (2005) Review
Released during the summer of 2005, "STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH" marked the sixth and final time producer-director-writer George Lucas served as creator of a "STAR WARS" movie. By an ironic twist, the movie served as the third film in terms of the series timeline.
Set three years after "STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES" and the beginning of the Clone Wars,"REVENGE OF THE SITH" begin with Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker leading a mission to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from the clutches of Separatist leader and former Jedi Master Count Dooku aka Darth Tyrannus and his leading military commander, General Grievous. The rescue mission is besieged with difficulties. First, the two Jedi are forced to fight a difficult duel against Dooku and later, are briefly captured by General Grievous. But the pair prevail and return the kidnapped Palpatine to Coruscant via a crash landing skillfully executed by Anakin. The latter is reunited with his secret wife, Senator Padmé Amidala, who reveals she is pregnant. At first excited, Anakin begins to have premonitions of Padmé dying in childbirth.
Fearful of Padmé dying, Anakin seek advice from Jedi Master Yoda on how do deal with his anxieties. But Yoda's advice leaves him unsatisfied. Even worse, Obi-Wan reveals that the Jedi Council are suspicious of Palpatine maintaining power of the Senate and asks Anakin to spy on the politician. Anakin is against the idea, due to his friendship with Palpatine and because he finds the mission dishonorable. His opinion of the Jedi Council sinks even further when Palpatine appoints Anakin as his representative on the Jedi Council . . . and the latter is denied the rank of Master. Between his anxieties over Padmé's pregnancy and fate and loss of faith toward the Jedi Order, Anakin finds himself listening more and more to the insidious advice of Chancellor Palpatine.
Most fans of the "STAR WARS" view "REVENGE OF THE SITH" as the best film in the Prequel Trilogy. I could make assumptions on why the 2005 film is considered the best of the second trilogy, but it would be arrogant of me to do so. Unlike the Original Trilogy, it is the third and last film of this trilogy that proved to be the darkest. In fact, "REVENGE OF THE SITH" is probably the darkest film in the entire franchise . . . so far. And that is not surprising, considering that it marked the downfalls of Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic. Many fans have dumped the blame on Chancellor-turned-Emperor Palpatine for being responsible for the downfall of a Jedi Knight, a religious order and a political body. I wish I could agree with them . . . but I cannot. I would say that Palpatine exploited their weaknesses, fears and bad choices in his bid for supreme power. But he would have never had the opportunity for that grasp for power without the mistakes of the Galactic Senate, the Republic and the Jedi Order. There are some who believed that he "used the Force" to cloud his real identity and actions from the Jedi Council. I find that ridiculous . . . even for a science-fiction/fantasy tale like "STAR WARS".
Sometimes, I get the feeling that certain fans simply cannot accept the idea that the so-called "good guys" would make such erroneous mistakes that would help lead to their downfalls. Unless said "good guys" were Anakin Skywalker and Jedi Master Mace Windu. Due to the foreknowledge of Anakin's fate as Sith apprentice Darth Vader, many were willing to accept him capable of making serious mistakes. And due to Mace Windu's unpopularity with many fans - especially those who are incapable of accepting Samuel L. Jackson in the role of a major member of the Jedi Order - they were willing to accept him as flawed. Yet, many of these same fans seemed unwilling to accept the flawed nature of characters like Senator Padmé Amidala and especially Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Padmé is regarded - to her great detriment - as some idealized female character. And both Obi-Wan and Yoda are highly regarded by the fans, due to their major roles in the older trilogy. In fact, I find this attitude so annoying that I am almost willing to break my earlier edit about making assumptions regarding the fans' opinion of "REVENGE OF THE SITH". Okay . . . I am willing to do so. I am willing to make an arrogant assumption. And here it is. I suspect that many STAR WARS fans are more acceptable of this third film, due to Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. It is the event that many had been looking forward to since the Prequel Trilogy movies first hit the movie screens back in 1999.
For me, "REVENGE OF THE SITH" was not merely about Anakin's love of Padmé and his fear of losing her finally led to his transformation into Sith Lord Darth Vader. For me, it was also watching the last chapter in which the major characters made their final decisions that helped Chancellor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious become leader of the Galactic Empire. Watching these major characters make mistake after mistake, along with crime and crime was fascinating to watch. Even some of the most minor decisions - like Padmé Amidala's insistence that her marriage to Anakin remain a secret - struck me as a prime example of the mistakes the characters made, due to their attachments. Most fans tend to claim that the Jedi - especially Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi - harbored no attachments to anyone or anything. But I feel differently. I believe the movie made it clear that the Jedi - and all of them - were attached to the Order and were willing to do anything to maintain it, the Republic and the Order's position within the Republic.
"REVENGE OF THE SITH" featured some very memorable scenes. I was especially impressed by the entire sequence featuring Obi-Wan and Anakin's rescue of Palpatine from Count Dooku and General Grievous; which featured a hilarious moment with R2-D2 and was capped by a fantastic crash landing on Coruscant. Obi-Wan's experiences on Utapau struck me as interesting . . . especially his duel with Grievous. Anakin and the clonetroopers' attack on the Jedi Temple sent chills down my spine. So did that final confrontation between Palpatine, Mace Windu and Anakin inside the chancellor's office. The twin duels of Anakin vs. Obi-Wan, and Yoda vs. Palpatine practically took my breath away. I was really impressed by Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen's work in their fight scene. I have seen clips of the two actors practicing their duel . . . and yes, they are that good. However, I cannot help but wonder which scenes that the majority of the fans prefer - the two lightsaber duels or the bone-chilling Order 66 sequence that featured the destruction of many Jedi padawans, Knights and Masters. By the way, Lucas shot that sequence as a montage and I must say that his direction, along with Ben Burtt and Roger Barton's editing, and John Williams' score made this the most haunting sequence in the entire Saga.
The movie also featured some intimate scenes - both dramatic and comedic - that struck me as a positive addition to its story. Both Ian McDiarmid and Hayden Christensen gave outstanding performances in many of the scenes between Palpatine and Anakin . . . especially the opera scene in which the former revealed the circumstances behind the death of the former's master, Darth Plagueis. Both Christensen and Natalie Portman did excellent jobs in conveying the love between their characters and the lack of communication that seemed to plague the Skywalker/Amidala marriage - including one scene in which Padmé expressed her sympathy toward the Separatists. Both McDiarmid and Samuel L. Jackson were excellent in the final confrontation scene between Palpatine and Master Windu. Christensen and McGregor were outstanding in two particular scenes between Anakin and Obi-Wan. I not only enjoyed their performances in one scene in which the pair argued over Obi-Wan's request that Anakin spy on Palpatine, but also when the Jedi Master and his former padawan exchanged their last friendly conversation before Obi-Wan's departure for Utapau. And I must admit that I found it nice to see not only the Wookie homeworld Kashyyyk, but also Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca.
As usual for any STAR WARS movie, "REVENGE OF THE SITH" featured some outstanding visual effects. If I could pinpoint the main person responsible for the movie's visual and special effects, I would kowtow at that person's feet. First of all, I was impressed not only by the effects used in the Battle of Coruscant opening and the crash landing that marked the sequence's ending; but also the two duels that dominated the movie's last half hour. The art direction team led by Peter Russell, along with cinematographer David Tattersall and the special effects team provided eye-catching scenes like those featured below that literally made me drool:
Speaking of art that made me drool, I have to bring up Trisha Biggar's costume designs. Naturally, I will not repeat myself about how much I admire her work. And I will not bring up the fact that I consider it a crime that she never received any Oscar nominations for her work. However, below are two examples of her work featured in "REVENGE OF THE SITH":
Was there anything about "REVENGE OF THE SITH" that I found troubling or questionable? Well . . . yes. As much as I admired the performances in the movie, there were the usual cheesy dialogue found in a STAR WARS movie. This was especially apparent in a few performances that struck me as particularly hammy. Christensen got pretty hammy in one scene in which Anakin angrily confronted Obi-Wan before their duel on Mustafar. And McGregor got a little hammy during that scene in which Obi-Wan ranted at a limbless and burning Anakin, after the duel. Even McDiarmid and Jackson engaged in a good deal of ham during the big Palpatine/Windu scene. I was a little disappointed that Christopher Lee's Count Dooku only appeared in the movie's first half hour. His replacement - General Grievous one-dimensional and not very interesting as a personality. I was also disappointed that Jar-Jar Binks, along with Owen and Beru Lars were all reduced to cameo appearances with no dialogue in the movie's last montage. However, my biggest complaint featured Anakin's early appearance on Mustafar. After killing Nute Gunray and the other Separatist leadership on Mustafar, Anakin remained on the planet; while Palpatine declared himself Emperor, Obi-Wan informed Padmé about Anakin's new role as a Sith Lord, and both of them headed for Mustafar. Why on earth did Anakin remain on the planet for so long, after killing the Separatists? That did not make sense to me.
Despite these complaints, I cannot deny that "STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH" was a more than worthy entry in the STAR WARS. I found it outstanding, despite its flaws. The movie featured a well written, yet bleak tale about the downfall of its many characters; outstanding visuals; along with excellent action and dramatic scenes. But most importantly, I also found it ironic that the movie's bleak and operatic tone ended up being more or less copied by many other film franchises in the years to come.
Friday, May 27, 2016
Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1870s:
TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN THE 1870s
1. "The Age of Innocence" (1993) - Martin Scorcese directed this exquisite adaptation of Edith Wharton's award winning 1920 novel about a love triangle within New York's high society during the Gilded Age. Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfieffer and Oscar nominee Winona Ryder starred.
2. "The Big Country" (1958) - William Wyler directed this colorful adaptation of Donald Hamilton's 1958 novel, "Ambush at Blanco Canyon". The movie starred Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker and Charlton Heston.
3. "True Grit" (2010) - Ethan and Joel Coen wrote and directed this excellent adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel about a fourteen year-old girl's desire for retribution against her father's killer. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hattie Steinfeld starred.
4. "Far From the Madding Crowd" (2015) - Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge and Michael Sheen starred in this well done adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1874 novel about a young Victorian woman who attracts three different suitors. Thomas Vinterberg directed.
5. "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956) - Mike Todd produced this Oscar winning adaptation of Jules Verne's 1873 novel about a Victorian gentleman who makes a bet that he can travel around the world in 80 days. Directed by Michael Anderson and John Farrow, the movie starred David Niven, Cantiflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton.
6. "Stardust" (2007) - Matthew Vaughn co-wrote and directed this adaptation of Neil Gaman's 1996 fantasy novel. The movie starred Charlie Cox, Claire Danes and Michelle Pfieffer.
7. "Fort Apache" (1948) - John Ford directed this loose adaptation of James Warner Bellah's 1947 Western short story called "Massacre". The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda, John Agar and Shirley Temple.
8. "Zulu Dawn" (1979) - Burt Lancaster, Simon Ward and Peter O'Toole starred in this depiction of the historical Battle of Isandlwana between British and Zulu forces in 1879 South Africa. Douglas Hickox directed.
9. "Young Guns" (1988) - Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips starred in this cinematic account of Billy the Kid's experiences during the Lincoln County War. The movie was directed by Christopher Cain.
10. "Cowboys & Aliens" (2011) - Jon Favreau directed this adaptation of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's 2006 graphic novel about an alien invasion in 1870s New Mexico Territory. The movie starred Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Below are images from "TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY", the 1979 television adaptation of John le Carré's 1974 novel. Directed by John Irwin, the miniseries starred Alec Guinness as George Smiley:
"TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY" (1979) Photo Gallery