Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope Review

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope movie posterSynopsis
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) leaves his home planet of Tatooine, along with his Jedi mentor Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and the smugglers Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from Darth Vader (David Prowse, James Earl Jones (voice)). Together, they hope to stop the Empire and destroy the world-destroying Death Star, commanded by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing).

Review
Star Wars is one of those things that has always been there for me. I couldn’t tell you the first time I saw Star Wars: A New Hope, I was too young to remember, but it has stuck with me all these years. When I was younger, I liked to watch it for the action and fantasy, but much like Jurassic Park, I have come to appreciate it for the story and for what it has done for the movie industry. It is also a rare film that manages to hold up today, over thirty-five years later.

Darth Vader has the best entrance of any villain on screen. Like, ever. The guy just waltzes in after a gun fight, then picks up someone a foot or two into the air like it is nothing and chokes him out. Then later, he is willing to kill one of his officers, simply because he was talking back (normal bad guy behavior, I know, but still). If that’s not bad-ass, I don’t know what is. Vader’s appeal for me is that you don’t know what’s under his mask; He show’s no expressions. You have no idea what he is thinking or planning until he does it. And his suit simply screams ‘menacing villain,’ just so there is no confusion who he is.

A New Hope introduces one of the best movie duos in cinema: C-3PO and R2-D2. R2 (Kenny Baker) can’t speak, so it is up to 3PO (Anthony Daniels) to help decipher what he said. However, most of the time he doesn’t directly translate. Instead he reacts to it, leaving the audience to infer what was said themselves. It makes for some great moments. Although the pair is used mostly for comedic relief, they never become too much or over the top. They strike the right balance between humor and seriousness.

At the time, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and (to a lesser extent) Harrison Ford were relatively unknown actors. It was a great casting call because it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the parts. Hamill captured the boyish wonder of Luke’s character spot-on. Fisher’s Princess Leia was snarky yet confident and strong. No one could have fit Han’s roguish charm and charisma like Ford. They were all perfect. And I haven’t even mentioned James Earl Jones’ awesome voicing as Darth Vader. That dude seriously has one of the best voices in film.

One thing I would have liked to see more is Biggs (Garrick Hagon) fleshed out more. Luke mentioned him several times in the beginning as his best friend. Then their reunion before their attack on the Death Star was one of old friends seeing each other again after a long time away (which it was). But that is all the exposure he gets. If he and Luke were as good of friends as he suggests, his character should have been explored more.

There is no questioning the influence Star Wars has had in cinema. Special effects, and what a movie was visually capable of, were revolutionized. It was one of the first films to incorporate computer generated images, kick-starting the larger-than-life effects seen on screen today. Star Wars and George Lucas are also indirectly responsible for creating computer animated movies, such as Toy Story and How to Train Your Dragon (Pixar started as a branch of Lucasfilm). Not to mention the cultural significance it has had. It is hard to come up with a movie that has impacted so many facets of film and culture the way Star Wars has.

Star Wars: A New Hope is great for so many reasons. It gave cinema one of its best villains in Darth Vader, as well as its best duo in C-3PO and R2-D2. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, mostly nameless actors at the time, were excellently cast and perfectly fit their parts. There were a few flaws with the film, but those are easy to overlook given what the rest of the film does well. The cultural and film impact of A New Hope is undeniable and I will never lose the wonder and awe I felt as a little boy, wishing I could be a Jedi in a galaxy far, far away.

Rating
4.5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
George Lucas – Director / Writer
John Williams – Composer

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford – Han Solo
Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia Organa
Alec Guinness – Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
David Prowse – Darth Vader
James Earl Jones – Darth Vader (voice)
Peter Cushing – Grand Moff Tarkin
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Kenny Baker – R2-D2
Peter Mayhew – Chewbacca
Phil Brown – Uncle Owen
Shelagh Fraser – Aunt Beru
Denis Lawson – Red Two (Wedge)
Garrick Hagon – Red Three (Biggs)

Ender’s Game Review

Ender's Game movie posterSynopsis
In order to find the next battle commander to lead Earth’s forces against the alien Formics, the International Fleet recruits promising children into Battle School. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), their most hopeful student yet, must go through grueling challenges to prove he has what it takes to lead the fleet to victory.

Review
I only recently read Ender’s Game, written by Orson Scott Card. Some of my friends told me it was a fun read, and with the movie coming out, I decided now was as good a time as any to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so I was excited to see Ender’s world unfold on the big screen. Ender’s Game hits all the major story beats of the book, but lacks the characterization that made it so enjoyable.

Going into the differences between the book and the movie is going into spoiler territory and is a whole other article itself. But if that’s what you are interested in, here is an article from Cinema Blend explaining some of the major differences. What is good to know, though, is the movie does feature all the important scenes from the book.

One of the first things I noticed was how gorgeous the special effects looked. Visually, Ender’s Game stunning, I could actually imagine being in battle school right next to Ender, or in the cockpit with Mazer Rackham when he’s fighting the Formics. Definitely on of the best looking films this fall.

For a cast consisting of mainly inexperienced actors, the acting was pretty good. Asa Butterfield embodied the character of Ender perfectly. Moises Arias was intimidating as Bonzo and Hailee Steinfeld easily makes you feel Petra’s sympathy. The other children, such as Abigail Breslin as Valentine, Suraj Parthasarathy as Alai, and Aramis Knight as Bean, didn’t get much time on screen but they did well with what time they did have.

If the idea of children violence does not sit well with you, this may not be a movie for you. Although it is nothing compared to The Hunger Games, there are several fight scenes between Ender and some others, and characters are fairly aggressive towards him, too. Just something to keep in mind.

Throughout the entire movie, the story felt really rushed. The story quickly moves from Ender on Earth, to Battle school, then to his final training. Outside of Ender, and maybe Petra, not much time is spent focused on the characters. We don’t learn much about them. Characters such as Graff kept saying how much of a tactical genius Ender is, but it felt like we didn’t see it too much. I know I’ve complained about movies running too long, but if there is extra time spent on characterization, that time is worth it. Ender’s Game runs just under two hours. It would have benefited greatly by even having a few extra scenes to delve into Ender’s, and his friends’, state of mind.

As I said before, all the major story beats are touched, but that also means that everything else was either compressed or missing. Some of my favorite parts from the book were Ender in Battle School, learning about tactics, training his team, and forging bonds with Bean and the rest. Instead, the story was put on the back burner to give more focus on the visuals. As beautiful as the movie was, a lot was sacrificed in terms of story. It does, however, manage to keep the core of the story intact. Which I guess is a plus considering many film adaptations get a complete overhaul compared to their source material.

Ender’s Game is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book. Much of the characterization was removed to move the story along, but the core story remains intact. The children gave excellent performances and the visuals were stunning. Fans of the Card’s book should definitely watch this film, but even if you haven’t read it, Ender’s Game is still worth checking out.

Rating
3/5

Grammer is Officially Expendable

The Expendables logo

It has been floating around that Kelsey Grammer was in talks to join the already large cast of The Expendables 3.  Recently, Yahoo movies has confirmed that audiences will get to see Grammer in the upcoming installment of the action franchise.

Kelsey GrammerHe will play Bonaparete, a retired mercenary recruited by the Expendables.  Originally Nicolas Cage was up for the role, but for whatever reason, that didn’t pan out.  Grammer is an interesting casting choice because he hasn’t had many action roles (I can’t think of any besides X3: The Last Stand).  But I think he will play the part well.  He has many years of experience from sitcoms that will offer much comedic relief.

The Expendables 3 is set for release on August 15, 2014 with Patrick Hughes in the director’s chair. Grammer will join Expendables veterans Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, and Jet Li, as well as fellow newcomers Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas, Milla Jovovich, and Wesley Snipes.