“Return of the Jedi” (aka “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi”) stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Frank Oz. Released on May 25, 1983, the film has Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance attempting to take down the Galactic Empire once and for all.
The film is directed by Richard Marquand, who also directed films such as The Legacy, Eye of the Needle, Until September, and Hearts of Fire. It is the third installment in the original Star Wars trilogy and the sixth film in chronological order. Well, this is it. My short quest to review the original Star Wars trilogy is nearly complete. We’re just a day away from seeing The Last Jedi on the big screen, so it’s time for me to bring Luke Skywalker’s three-film journey to a close. While the reviews for this film weren’t as extremely positive as the last two, it is still receiving praise for being a fitting conclusion to the well-made trilogy. So, how does this one make me feel compared to my thoughts on the last two Star Wars films? Pretty much the same way as everybody else felt.
All of the main cast members once again reprised their roles from the last two films, including Hamill as Luke, Ford as Han Solo, and Fisher as Leia. As expected, they delivered some very solid performances, although there were a couple of scenes where their acting can come off as either stiff or underwhelming. The main highlight of the cast has to be Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, the supreme leader of the Galactic Empire and Darth Vader’s master. There are multiple ways I can describe his performance: menacing, brilliant, the list goes on…if I can remember the rest of them. Most people think that this film is the weakest in the trilogy. Well, I can somehow agree that some moments could’ve been portrayed better, but I think the story is still great for what it is. Not just because of Luke’s attempt to bring his father back to the light side of the Force, but also because of how it portrayed Darth Vader as more than just a villain in a mask, and how it deepens the relationship between Luke and Vader. The visuals (including the use of practical effects and some CGI), the action sequences, and the set designs were very pleasing to the eyes. However, they do feel a bit dated from time to time, especially the use of green-screen effects. But I did enjoy the action sequences. Those were still fun to watch. Like the last two predecessors, John Williams once again composed the music for this film and as always, it still sounds fantastic.
Overall, “Return of the Jedi” does feel a bit dated compared to the last two installments, but it still retains the sense of imagination and adventure that the franchise is known for since its inception. This is a well-crafted finale to the original trilogy that’s filled with a solid cast, entertaining action, and a riveting story. If I were to rank this movie, I would place it above the prequel trilogy, but below Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Once again, I would highly recommend this to any Star Wars fan, whether they’re young or old. Well, guys, I hope you enjoyed my galactic journey into the world of the original Star Wars trilogy. It has been a blast. If there are any other Star Wars movies or specials that you want me to look at, feel free to let me know. Until then, I’ll see you when I get to The Last Jedi, and remember, the Force will always be with you. Always.
“The Empire Strikes Back” (aka “Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back”) stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Frank Oz. Released on May 21, 1980, the film has Luke Skywalker learning the ways of the Force while Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire plot revenge against the Rebel Alliance.
The film is directed by Irvin Kershner, who also directed films such as Stakeout on Dope Street, Face in the Rain, and Never Say Never Again. It is the second installment in the original Star Wars trilogy and the fifth film in chronological order. After the surprise success of "Star Wars", a sequel was put into development, with George Lucas financing the project himself. When it was first released in theaters, the film received plenty of mixed responses from critics, but as the years went by, it went on to be considered as the best chapter in the original trilogy. I don’t remember watching this film from beginning to end, but with The Last Jedi coming out, I figured that I should give it a watch beforehand. Like my review for “Star Wars”, I will be looking at the Special Edition version that was released in 1997.
The story is set three years after the events of Star Wars, where the villainous Galactic Empire is in pursuit of the Rebel Alliance, lead by Princess Leia (Fisher). While Luke Skywalker (Hamill) sets off to find a legendary Jedi Master to complete his training, she and her friends, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and C-3PO, attempt to escape from Darth Vader’s evil clutches. Like its predecessor, the story in “Empire” is pretty easy to understand and the characters are just as fun as the actors portraying them, especially the two droids. The film tends to go a bit darker by raising the stakes for the main characters and making every action scene more intense than the last, and for a director who’s known for making low-budget films, Irvin Kershner managed to do just that. Considering the fact that it’s the second chapter in the trilogy, the story did its part in balancing storytelling with visual flair as well as setting the stage for the third and final chapter by incorporating one of the most affective plot twists in film history. Watching it again now, I still think that the twist is nicely constructed without winding up being obvious. The visuals and the set designs still remain as the main highlights of the film for bringing the world of Star Wars to life. The film uses practical effects, stop-motion, and puppetry to create certain creatures and ships, such as the AT-AT walkers from the Battle of Hoth sequence and the wise Jedi Master, Yoda, who is performed by puppeteer Frank Oz. There were also a few sequences where they rely on some CGI effects, but they didn’t distract me from viewing its splendid use of practical effects, so I’m considering that to be a good thing. The action sequences in “Empire” made some solid upgrades compared to the ones in “Star Wars”. The choreography for the lightsaber duels were much better than the duel between Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader from its predecessor, and the Battle of Hoth sequence was wonderfully filmed with rich intensity. I also really enjoyed John Williams’ musical score, especially “The Imperial March”, which I thought was very fitting for a menacing villain like Darth Vader.
Overall, “The Empire Strikes Back” successfully continues the original trilogy due to its affective storytelling, memorable characters, intense action, immersive visuals, and John Williams’ musical score. The film took the qualities that made “Star Wars” a beloved sci-fi masterpiece and made them slightly better compared to what we’ve seen in most sci-fi sequels. If you love “Star Wars”, then I’m pretty sure that you’ll love “Empire” as well. Two down, one to go.
“Star Wars” (aka “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope”) stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, and Alec Guinness. Released on May 25, 1977, the film is about a young farm boy who joins forces with the Rebel Alliance to take down the Galactic Empire.
The film is directed by George Lucas, who also directed THX 1138 and American Graffiti. It is the first film in the Star Wars franchise and the fourth film in chronological order. Normally, I would review some of the classic holiday-related films to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, but this year, I wanted to do something different. Since The Last Jedi is coming out in a few days and I already reviewed the Star Wars prequel trilogy, I thought that I would give the much-beloved original trilogy a shot. It has been more than 40 years since Star Wars blasted its way onto the big screen and wowed audiences around the globe, giving birth to one of the most successful and memorable film franchises in Hollywood history. Even though I was introduced to Star Wars via the prequel trilogy and the Lego Star Wars video games, it didn’t take me that long to find out that it actually began way before I was born. This film has been deemed a cultural phenomenon for many reasons, including the characters, the score, the visuals, and the concept. Everything that has made Star Wars one of the biggest influences in filmmaking is in this movie, and after all this time, I am finally sharing my thoughts on it to all of you fellow Star Wars fans.
The film features a simple good-vs-evil storyline, with the Galactic Empire attempting to conquer the galaxy with their powerful weapon, the Death Star. With the Death Star plans in the hands of a farm boy named Luke Skywalker (portrayed remarkably by the young Mark Hamill) and a couple of misfit droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, they must team up with a Jedi Master (Guinness) and a space smuggler named Han Solo (Ford) to rescue the princess (Fisher) and deliver the plans to the Rebel Alliance. This is the type of story that has been told many times, but it’s also the type of story that’s filled with excitement and imagination. The version that I watched was the 1997 Special Edition re-release that was digitally remastered with plenty of reedits and extra CGI elements. While some of the CGI were either distracting or unrealistic, the storytelling still delivers on its simplicity and its strong sense of adventure. The entire cast did a solid job bringing the characters to life. While they do have some simplistic characteristics, most of the characters in the film were either fun to watch or nicely developed, with Hamill, Ford and Fisher as Luke, Solo and Princess Leia respectively being the main examples. The way Carrie Fisher portrayed Leia is one of the reasons why I really appreciate strong female characters in film. Princess Leia is the type of character who’s courageous, smart, and fearless and not just some damsel in distress. I think Carrie Fisher may be the only actress who’s worthy enough to depict someone like her, and the fact that The Last Jedi is her final role before her tragic passing last year makes me want to see that film even more. The main antagonist, Darth Vader, was played by David Prowse in costume while James Earl Jones provided his speaking voice. First off, I really like the design of Vader. Simple, yet effective. Secondly, James Earl Jones was the perfect fit for Vader’s voice. Remember how Jones voiced Mufasa in The Lion King as a wise and kind character? Well, for Darth Vader, it’s the complete opposite, and it’s pretty darn cool. Going back to the visuals, the film used most of the practical effects to create this imaginative sci-fi world, including costumes for the alien creatures and actual set pieces. Despite the fact that some of the effects looked a bit dated, the visuals offer a remarkable and immersive experience of being in that cinematic world as well as making the film’s action sequences thrilling. The musical score by John Williams also did its part in enhancing the galactic adventure with its memorable tunes that are so infectious to the ears (in a good way).
Overall, the story in “Star Wars” is pretty simple to understand, but the main joy of watching it is its unique blend of science-fiction and imagination. Filled with fun characters, great visuals, entertaining action, and memorable music, the film still remains as a superbly-crafted sci-fi masterpiece that’s suitable for all ages. If you’re new to the franchise or just wanted to catch up before The Last Jedi hits theaters, I would recommend starting with this one along with the other chapters in the original trilogy. May the Force be with you.
“Howl’s Moving Castle” stars Chieko Baisho, Takuya Kimura, Akihiro Miwa, and Tatsuya Gashūin. Released on November 20, 2004, the film is about a young, cursed hatter who encounters a mysterious wizard and his giant, living castle.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, and Spirited Away. It is loosely based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones. When I found out about the Studio Ghibli Fest event back in June, I made it my personal mission to watch and review all of the selected anime classics from Hayao Miyazaki on the big screen. Now, my mission is coming to a close (for now) with a film that Miyazaki calls “his favorite creation”. This is one of the films from Studio Ghibli that I didn’t get into that often because of my busy schedule and stuff. I did remember watching it at home that one time and wound up liking it, but that’s about it. So, it would be interesting to see how well it holds up in my eyes. Like the other Studio Ghibli films, the film contains the original Japanese version and the English dub from Disney, which contains the voices of Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall, and Christian Bale from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. For this review, I will be looking at the Japanese dub.
Taking place in a fictional kingdom filled with magic and early 20th century technology, the story follows a young woman named Sophie (Baisho), who is transformed into an old woman due to a curse from the Witch of the Waste (Miwa). Her journey to break the spell leads her to a giant, magical castle which consists of a wizard named Howl (Kimura), his young apprentice Markl (Ryunosuke Kamiki), and a fire demon named Calcifer (Tatsuya Gashūin), who is also the source of the castle’s energy and magic. Like his other films, Miyazaki offers plenty of influential themes that some people might miss in their first viewing. The film explores the positive depiction of old age as well as compassion towards others, even the ones who are harmful. It also depicts the harsh effects of war, a theme that was influenced by Miyazaki’s hatred towards the Iraq War in 2003. From my own perspective, Miyazaki has created another brilliant piece of animation art that combines its fairy tale-like love story with its thought-provoking themes. This combination alone provides not only a visually, enchanting experience, but a thoughtful and miraculous story about the values of compassion. The Japanese voice cast delivered solid performances to their well-written characters, including Baisho as Sophie and Kimura as Howl. The animation in the film is pure magnetic and beautifully crafted from its gorgeous landscapes to the fiery depictions of war violence. Heck, even the giant castle with legs was amazingly animated. Once again, the musical score by Joe Hisaishi was top-notch from beginning to end. Trust me when I say this, there’s no composer that can make music in a Japanese animated feature better than Hisaishi. The only minor flaw that I had with this film is that the pacing can be a bit slow during a couple of scenes. The reason why I called it a minor flaw is because it was able to pick itself back up due to the characters and the animation.
Overall, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is a thoughtful and enchanting animated gem that was made by the best of Japanese animation. Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli team have once again provided a visually beautiful film that is filled with masterful animation, provocative themes, and its convincing sense of wonder. It’s quite a shame that I didn’t watch it as much as the likes of Totoro, Castle in the Sky, and Spirited Away, but who knows? Maybe that will change in the near future? This is another film that I would highly recommend to those who are starting to get into Miyazaki’s works as well as people who are fans of Japanese animation.
"Man of Steel" stars Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and Russell Crowe. Released on June 14, 2013, the film explores the origins of Superman as he tries to adapt his life in Metropolis and protect his people from General Zod's wrath.
The film is directed by Zack Snyder, who also directed films such as 300 and Sucker Punch. It is the first installment in the DC Extended Universe. After reviewing the recent installments in the DCEU on my blog, I just realized that I didn’t review the one that started it all for my website. So I decided to spend the night rewatching and “re-reviewing” the recent Superman reboot before I see Justice League in the morning. When I first saw it in the theater back in 2013, I thought it was a very solid take on Superman’s origins. After a while, I started to realize why it received such a mixed response from critics and fans alike. But, for some reason, it only managed to change my opinion by a small margin. Will it change again during my recent review of the film? I highly doubt it, but it doesn’t hurt for me to find out.
Like I said, the film is a recent retelling of how Superman came to be from the destruction of his home world, Krypton, to him testing his powers. There are also some flashbacks with Kal (Clark Kent) as a young boy. I really enjoyed how this story connects to how people feel different about themselves like they don't belong with other people. Then they discover their special talents that could not only help people, but give them hope as well. It's like how I have a talent for movies and I share that talent with the rest of the world. It's really nice to see some superhero movies that have some realistic tones and themes that connect to real life. Cavill did a really good job portraying Clark, AKA Superman, as a person rather than just a regular superhero. Amy Adams was also solid as Lois Lane, a reporter for the Daily Planet. I was expecting someone else to play Lane, but I'm cool with that choice. Then there's Michael Shannon as Zod, the main antagonist of the film. There were a couple of moments where he gets a little over the top, but I thought he pulled it off all right. The rest of the cast did a nice job as well, such as Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent (My mom loves Kevin Costner, so I had to take her to see it with me). The visuals and action sequences were just as astonishing and heart-pounding as I remembered it from my first viewing. The battle between Superman and Zod still reminded me of the Battle of Chicago sequence in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but with lots of buildings getting destroyed. Hans Zimmer’s score respectively offers the type of epicness and emotion without overdoing one or the other.
One of the flaws I had with this film was that the pacing can be a little slow at times. There were also some parts that may upset long-time fans of Superman, such as the tone and the final showdown between Superman and Zod. The latter, which has the most controversial way of ending the battle, is best described as one of those types of debates where it’s almost impossible to win based on my assumption. Looking back at it now, I still didn’t mind the film’s tone because when I compared it to the tone in Batman V Superman, it’s not as gloomy or dark as some people make it out to be. It’s more along the lines of having a realistic tone in the Superman realm with a couple of attempts of humor thrown into the mix.
Overall, "Man of Steel" isn't a perfect superhero movie, but with its well-executed themes, some good performances, and its mind-blowing visuals, it is one of the most entertaining movies of 2013. Not to mention a solid beginning of the DC Extended Universe. It is also one of my underrated films of 2013 because people are so busy focusing on what they did wrong with Superman's character instead of focusing on the themes that the movie itself provided. I reviewed this movie as a mature critic and not as a Superman fan to make things easier for me. You might not agree with my opinions and I understand that, but that's how I view it.