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Tag: Star Wars

Editorials

Ten Movies Turning Twenty In 2019

March 8, 2019

1999 was a good year for films but really, most years are a good year for films. Some years you may have to look a little harder for them but they’re always being made – here are ten films that are turning twenty this year.

Fight Club

Fight Club (moviemet.com)

This film became a cult classic almost instantly. A fierce and brutal movie about feeling detached from the modern world, feeling like the consumerist culture offered nothing and wanting something simpler and more violent. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt’s characters start having fights in public and amazingly more people join, seemingly made up almost entirely of people who don’t look like the sort of people who get in fights. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) turns them into something far more sinister; along the way giving the legendary rules of the club.

In my opinion Fight Club is both Brad Pitt’s and Edward Norton’s best film, both giving amazing performances with Pitt’s Tyler Durden becoming a film icon. It is a film that feels as relevant today as it did then – watch it.

Office Space

Office Space (20th Century Fox)

This little known Mike Judge film should come with a warning that after watching it you will probably want to quit your job. A hilarious work-based comedy about someone stuck in a job they don’t see the point of and him wondering why he should even care. After a derailed session with a hypnotherapist, the lead character acts on his impulses, turning up late, telling his manager what he really thinks and knocking down a wall of his cubicle. Where does this fearlessness lead? Crime.

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (Gramercy Pictures)

The film that launched a thousand bad British gangster films into production. One of the most damning things I can think to say about this film is that I liked it when I was a teenager and no longer see the appeal. Perhaps I am being too harsh – the film was certainly of its time and made a huge impact. Historically it’s been hard for British gangster films to compete with their American cousins – they were cooler, they had more money (the gangsters and the studios) and everything was on a bigger scale. Lock Stock showed that you could make a successful and popular British gangster film that still felt British.

10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You (freepressjournal.in)

Quite simply 10 Things… is one of the best teen movies ever made. Using Shakespeare’s Taming of a Shrew as a blueprint it told a story of teenage life and love wonderfully. The central four actors are all perfect in their roles and at least two have gone on to become major film stars. The film reolves around the father setting a rule that for the younger sister to date, the older sister must be dating as well, leading to man 1 who wants to date younger sister to recruit man 2 to date older sister – got it? For all of the deviousness going on with the plot, there is a niceness to the film. The two male leads aren’t awful selfish misogynists, the female leads are intelligent women while being completely different characters.

Election

Election (Letterboxd.com)

Alexander Payne’s whipsmart Election is a high-school film like no other. Centred around the election for class president, an almost meaningless office, teacher Matthew Broderick conspires to stop seemingly unstoppable, manipulative and overachiever Reese Witherspoon’s Tracey Flick winning the election. Witherspoon is sensational as Flick, sometimes almost seeming like a sociopath but never quite reaching it. Broderick is at his best as the teacher’s life falls apart – only partly connected to his class president plan.

The Mummy

The Mummy (TheAgonyBooth.com)

The Mummy, likes Jaws, is a film whose reputation has suffered because of the sequels. I forgot that Jaws is a masterclass of tension and acting and I forgot that The Mummy is a hugely enjoyable action adventure romp that rarely got made even back in the nineties. Starring quintessential 90s leading man Brendan Fraser and too-good-an-actor-for-this-film Rachel Weisz the filmmakers were clearly going for a new Indiana Jones style film and while not reaching those heights it is a lot of fun.

Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (DenofGeek.com)

I had never been more excited for a film release in all my life. A new Star Wars film seemed like an impossible event. I remember my dad shouting for me to come downstairs because a tv show was going to play the trailer (which I watched over and over again online, or as much as you could with pre-broadband internet). I managed to convince myself I liked it, focusing on the good bits like Darth Maul and the excellent John Williams score. As time passed though I realised it wasn’t a very good film. After the ferocious maelstrom of criticism that accompanied The Last Jedi I am actively trying to tone down negative feedback – The Phantom Menace was disappointing. It’s albatross hung heavily around the neck of The Force Awakens which against all expectations – including my own – was great.

The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense (IMDb)

This is surely one of the cultural touchstones of the year – a film that seemingly everyone saw. This, like another film on this list, has a “twist” and is probably the default example of a “twist film”. A great horror/ghost story of a boy who sees dead people and the psychiatrist trying to help him, who naturally enough starts from the position that ghosts aren’t real, and that’s how he’ll help him. The slow realisation that the child might actually be right is played very well. Of course, this is the film that launched M. Night Shyamalan’s career and that has been, at best, a mixed bag. If somehow you still haven’t seen this film go and find it.

Toy Story 2

Toy Story 2 (pixartalk.com)

The Toy Story trilogy (soon to be quadrilogy) is held up by some as the best trilogy in cinema history and quite frankly it’s hard to argue. Each film is brilliant yet different from the others. Following the practically perfect Toy Story was always going to be a challenge but the filmmakers succeeded. Toy collector Al, surely one of the greatest villains in cinema history, steals the incredibly valuable Woody causing the rest of the Toy Story gang to band together to get him back. Featuring incredibly fun new characters like Stinky Pete, Tour Guide Barbie and Evil Emperor Zurg – Buzz Lightyear’s archnemesis. The film is a triumph.

Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich (beyondtheboxset.com)

When I first saw this film I didn’t know what to make of it. I liked it but couldn’t quite explain why. It’s one of those films where if someone asked you to explain why it’s good it was a struggle. It still is. A bizarre story of love, jealousy and a portal into the head of John Malkovich, and not a character played by Malkovich, the actor John Malkovich. Directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, both known for making weird films this is probably their weirdest.

Editorials

Disney Strikes Back: Disney+ Breaks The Internet

January 29, 2019

It truly is an exciting time to be a film viewer with so many streaming sites vying for our attention. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV and so many others are competing to be your go-to entertainment streaming service. And soon another company will join the streaming wars. Disney announced last year that at some point in 2019 it will launch its own streaming service, Disney+. Many have prophesized that the entertainment behemoth could give Netflix a run for its money. So, today we are going to ask, what effect Disney+ could have on the streaming landscape. Will Netflix be able to compete with a company as giant as the house of mouse? And what could this mean for the future of film distribution?

What is Disney+ offering?

Disney+ is stated to be a child-friendly streaming hub for all of Disney’s owned films and TV shows. These include properties like Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, and National Geographic. Hulu will broadcast the more adult-oriented content owned by the company. So far, the service has not set a price, but has promised that it will be cheaper than a Netflix subscription. Similar to Netflix and Amazon Prime, Disney+ also plans to host exclusive content. These include Star Wars: The Mandalorian and a series based on Marvel’s Loki. It will also be the first place where all the latest Disney films become available.

How will this effect the industry?

Disney+ could herald the beginning of the next generation of streaming. With the studio’s pedigree and the exclusive big names they have, including Star Wars and Marvel, it seems likely that the production value of their exclusives will be high, with both properties usually focusing a lot on spectacle. And if the service becomes successful with a cheaper price, other streaming companies will have to step up their game. Perhaps lowering their price, offering new selling points or allotting higher budgets for their new projects. Competition breeds creativity and Disney+ seems poised to encourage that.

It is also interesting that Disney does not intend to dismiss cinema distribution. Allowing films to run their course in theatres rather than exclusively releasing it on Disney+. It is interesting that despite the rise of streaming, cinema exhibition continues to generate over £1 billion in revenue each year. And this display from Disney reinforces the importance of cinematic distribution. Therefore, cinemas will still benefit from the income that big releases bring to them. As well as allowing a broad audience to see the films before it becomes exclusive and potentially allowing platforms for smaller films to be seen by a larger audience.

However, if Disney+ is successful it’s not hard to see other big studios forming their own streaming companies to retain distribution rights. Meaning that a movie will run its course in cinemas and then become exclusive to that studio’s website. Customers will thus lose the variety of current streaming sites. Instead, they’ll have to sign up to multiple companies, with different prices to find what they want. This isn’t a particularly consumer-friendly environment to encourage. Plus with the four highest grossing movies of 2017 being produced by them, it’s not hard to see why Disney wants to keep using the cinema box office.

Netflix Vs Disney+

And with Disney+’s announcement, many saw it as a direct challenge to Netflix’s hold on the market. With a cheaper price, a large back catalog as well as original programming and exclusive retention of its latest cinema releases, many predict that Disney+ will be a great Netflix competitor. However, this judgment seems rash. It is exciting to see what Disney will bring to the table. And the more family-focused content of Disney+ makes it unique amongst current streaming companies. Which mainly focus on offering content for different age ranges. But ultimately it is hard to see Disney+ felling Netflix completely for one simple reason, a lack of variety.

The reason platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime have succeeded is because they provide a vast range of content for all ages and interests. Genre cinema, documentaries, critically acclaimed work, schlocky trash, foreign language cinema from all over the world, kids films and the latest blockbusters are all available on those platforms. And not everyone wants to watch a Disney show or movie when they get home. Some people want to watch an adult-oriented comedy or violent action films, not exclusively family-orientated films.

Just look at the domestic box office figures for Disney’s releases last year. Their box office takings are incredibly sporadic. With some projects earning hundreds of millions while others never reach the hundred mark. Fatigue can set in easily when there is little room to breathe between brand projects (comparatively speaking). Even big-name brands don’t guarantee success, see Solo: A Star Wars Story for proof of that. Disney+ will undoubtedly have a big fan base to rely on. But the limited audience range and content makes it seems more like an Amazon Prime add on than something you would exclusively pay for. 

Disney at the 2018 Box Office

What does the future hold?

Ultimately these judgements are merely speculation and we will find out what happens when Disney+ launches later this year.

It will be interesting to see how established companies will deal with the challenge posed by Disney. A healthy dose of competition is sure to produce a good amount of change. Both in business and in the products produced. And the retention of cinema distribution will give faith to cinemagoers and smaller filmmakers looking for potential platforms to reach a wide audience.

But it is also hard to not be pessimistic about what this could do to the industry by promoting insular distribution rather than reaching the widest possible audience. Overall this feels like something being done for business rather than art. And even devoted fan culture can get burnt out when given too much to chew.

Editorials

Three franchises ending soon: my hopes and fears for each

January 13, 2019
Avengers, Star Wars & Jurassic World

Good things come in threes (unless you’re an only child like me, in which case the BEST things come in ones), so this week I’ve picked out three film series that are coming to an end in the near future – one of which will wrap up in the very near future, I might add – and have laid out some of my hopes and fears for each.

Full disclosure: these are three film franchises that I adore, so apologies in advance if this gets emotional.

Let’s do them chronologically, just to keep things simple.

Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame (Teaser)

The Endgame title was revealed just last month, along with a decidedly threadbare teaser trailer. We saw Tony Stark saying his goodbyes to his beloved, a clean-shaven Captain America concocting a plan, and the reappearance of some faces notably absent from Infinity War. This next (and very much not final) entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be the 21st in the series since Iron Man kicked it all off in 2008, which is in itself a remarkable achievement.

Hopes and fears:

The Avengers find themselves in a sticky situation, with a significant portion of their team (along with half of all beings in existence) wiped out by the jolly purple giant Thanos at the end of Infinity War. Plenty have speculated, but no-one really knows exactly how everything’s going to work out fine in the end for our superheroes, though Ant-Man and his quantum tunnel machine thing surely have something to do with it…right?

Personally, I’m excited to see how Captain Marvel fits into this increasingly-complex puzzle – is she the key to defeating Thanos? More importantly, just where did everyone go after The Snap? I hope the Russo brothers can deliver another perfectly-balanced visual spectacle to follow on from the first film, with solid performances from a very talented cast and plenty more breath-taking MCU action. My only fear is that Endgame won’t live up to expectations, and that the weight of eleven years-worth of interwoven narratives and characterisation finally collapses in on itself.

Fingers crossed we can make it beyond April without that happening…

Star Wars Episode IX

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Trailer)

The as-yet-untitled final episode in the new trilogy is perfectly poised to surprise, I believe. The Resistance has been reduced to a handful of rebels stuffed into the Millennium Falcon, with the ever-angry Kylo Ren now the Supreme Leader of the First Order hell-bent on wiping them out. Han’s gone, Luke’s gone, and, as a result of tragic real-life circumstances, Leia probably won’t feature for long in the new movie. That leaves us solely with the new cast, as well as Lando Calrissian, who is due to make another appearance in that galaxy far, far away.

Hopes and fears:

I’m pretty hopeful for the final act in the Skywalker saga since J.J.Abrams retook the reins. The Force Awakens was excellent, while The Last Jedi was marmite (I loved it, for what it’s worth). Abrams is one of the best currently in the business, and with the story right on the brink of something truly special, I’m already getting excited about seeing how the inevitable Kylo-Rey-Finn love triangle pans out (don’t lie, you were thinking it too).

My fears for Star Wars always stem from Disney’s control over the final product. The worst part of The Last Jedi (ie. the middle bit at the casino) had clearly come about based on the advice of executives who wanted to retain a fun, child-friendly element in what was otherwise a darker and more interesting storyline. If Abrams and his writing team can keep the pesky Mickey Mouse meddlers out of production, we could have an epic space opera on our hands that’s worthy of George Lucas’s original vision, before pod-racing and Jar Jar Binks.

Jurassic World 3

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Trailer)

I know a lot of people didn’t like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and I understand why. I also know that, as a long-time fan with rose-tinted glasses fused to my face, I will always find a silver lining in every velociraptor-shaped cloud that floats my way, so I’ll do my best to be objective here.

The Jurassic World movies, though clearly not as expertly-crafted as the original movie, are fun to watch, and have introduced a whole new generation of movie-goers to the classic cloned reptiles. And I think that’s great.

Hopes and fears:

My hope for the final movie in the new trilogy, which hits the big screen in 2021, is that all of the potential that’s been simmering under the surface throughout the first two instalments comes together in the way I’ve always hoped it would. No more weak writing, no more ‘filler’ characters, and no more sauropods left behind on lava-soaked docks as I try not to die inside.

Colin Trevorrow, who did a fine job of resurrecting the series back in 2015, has returned to the director’s chair after being let go by Disney (“creative differences”, and all that jazz), and I think that might be enough to get the trilogy over the line in a satisfactory way – while Fallen Kingdom was often preoccupied with trying to either scare or sadden us, Trevorrow leans more towards giving JP fans what they always wanted to see.

The bottom line

Of the three series in question, Jurassic World 3 has the most potential to crash and burn, which I desperately hope it doesn’t. I think Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars Episode IX are both in great hands and stand a much better chance of delivering, especially since both franchises are guaranteed to carry on beyond 2019 with plenty more Marvel movies in the works and an entirely new Star Wars trilogy reportedly under development.

Fingers crossed for satisfying conclusions featuring copious amounts of Hulk smashing, lightsabre clashing, and T-rex jaws gnashing.

Editorials

May The Fan Film Be With You

December 23, 2018

I am a huge Star Wars fan. So obviously I’ve seen all the films and tv shows many times (even the prequels). I’ve also read fiction set in that universe, as well as non-fiction, I’ve read graphic novels, played computer games and literally bought the t-shirts. However, compared to some people I am not very committed at all. Some people love Star Wars so much they have devoted time, money and resources to create their own fan films, original stories set in the Star Wars universe. They do this without hope of profit or reward and I always admire people who work hard on something simply because they love it. In writing this article I watched a lot of Star Wars fan films and was shocked by just how good they were, so here’s a list of five great fan films that showcase the different types of film being made.

Troops

Troops was one of the first fan films and dates back to 1997. Troops create the format and style of infamous reality tv show Cops and applies it to stormtroopers on Tatooine. A Star Wars comedy parody fan film could easily annoy me but they pitch it perfectly, mixing the almost polite and reasonable behaviour police demonstrate on Cops – for example trying to calm down an arguing couple,  to more typical stormtrooper behaviour like shooting Jawas in cold blood.

There a lot of cute details for Star Wars fans and when we learn that these particular storm troopers are searching for stolen droids we kind of know where this is going. 

The special effects aren’t great but considering when this was made this is not surprising and the grainy appearance could even be intentional. The costumes are dead on and they certainly look like stormtroopers. Overall this a funny and cool film that everyone from casual fans to complete Star Wars nerds will enjoy.

Darth Maul: Apprentice 

This fan film focuses on everyone’s favourite bisected sith apprentice- Darth Maul, to many people he was one of the few good things in The Phantom Menace. In this film, Darth Maul takes on a number of Jedi sent to fight him. There is limited plot and is essentially one long fight scene but it has the best fighting of any fan film I’ve watched.

The stunt work and fighting are very well done, the fights moving quickly and smoothly and while occasionally some of the special effects remind you that you are not watching a Hollywood blockbuster that is a minor gripe as usually they are very well done.

The acting isn’t always top notch but this is a film about getting to watch Darth Maul fight Jedi and in that sense it is a complete success. That said, the actor playing Darth Maul has captured that character wonderfully.

Jakku: First Wave

A lot of fan films focus on fighting. Light sabre-duels, blaster fights and dogfights are all cool but often they lack story and interesting characters. Personally I really need these things and can put up with bad special effects if it makes me think and feel something.

This film has essentially abandoned many of the special effects and set pieces fan films rely on. The film lasts three and a bit minutes and is of several stormtroopers waiting to go into battle talking about why they are fighting. It was an interesting idea as it takes the normally anonymous stormtroopers who follow a clearly evil emperor and shows things from their point of view. The costumes and sound effects are great and I genuinely wanted to know more about their story and what happened to these characters and that’s high praise indeed.

TK-436: A Stormtrooper Story

Star Wars fan films are such a longstanding phenomenon there are awards – which this film won. Like Jakku: First Wave this is taken from the point of view of a person who signs up as a stormtrooper because he believes in the cause of the Empire, he’s clearly not evil but sees the Empire as the legitimate authority and propaganda broadcasts frame the Rebel Alliance wanting a return to the lawless days of the Republic. This is an epic of fan films capturing the chaotic and dirty business of war. Most of the film is focused on a single battlefield, soldiers fire at each other and dogfights go on above them and they even come up with some nifty stormtrooper weapons.

Perhaps most interestingly this film focuses on the fact that in a civil war your enemies can be your friends, your family, your neighbours. How will you feel fighting these people? Why did you choose different sides? Of all the fan films I watched this one felt most like a complete film.

Hoshino

This is a very interesting film that I enjoyed a lot, it is the story of Hoshino who we see both as an apprentice and as a Jedi Master with shots going back and forth from the present to the past. We see in the present that Jedi Master Hoshino is blind, a vicious scar running across both her eyes and when an apprentice this scar is not present. We will learn what happened to her.

The film has great special effects including a very cool sequence of Hoshino assembling her light sabre just by using the Force to combine all the pieces.  There is also some cool Jedi philosophising between Hoshino and the Jedi training her which fits in nicely with the Jedi religion that Lucas created. 

There is a familiar plot of arrogant apprentice rushing into something they’re not properly prepared for but this is handled well and has some interesting features. There is, of course, the question of how a blind Jedi perceives the world and while I don’t know of any such characters in the wider Star Wars universe I wouldn’t be surprised if they existed.