As I sat down to write a review for this film, I found myself struggling with what angle to take. See, I think movie reviewers take a position on whether or not they like a film, whether or not they would recommend a film, then they find a clever or witty angle to present their position. Granted, I'm not a professional reviewer, although I'd love to be, but for now, I just do this for fun and I have an opinion on just about everything. But, be that as it may, there are a few ways to approach this and I'm not sure which is best. So let's just get the basics out of the way:
I didn't like this movie.
OK, having said that, now I need to find the ice breaker, the witty way of presenting my reasons why I didn't like it. I could go with:
Comedy is more and more a difficult sell, particularly in movies. In my opinion, the last really funny movie (outside of Bridesmaids, which lost me in the last act) was 2010's The Other Guys. Before that, off the top of my head, I gotta go with Meet The Parents, yes, all the way back in 2000 (note to self: rent Ted). Unlike drama, which reliably has a protagonist who is beset with any number of obstacles he or she must overcome and there is usually an antagonist, be it a person or an event, that is meant to undermine the protagonist, comedy is very subjective. I don't think anyone in comedy could honestly tell you why something is funny, let alone why something is funny to one person and not another. Comedy is more intimate; I believe comedy usually plays better on the small screen in small doses. Plus, comedy is subject to the changing times, the changing mores of society. What passes for mainstream comedy today most often consists of raunch, filth, shock and so on. Not saying I have a problem with that, but many comedies take the approach that the raunchier and filthier it is, the funnier it is. Not so. Something funny, with the right amount of raunch and filth, can be hilarious. But this movie is far from hilarious.
The Heat stars Sandra Bullock as the straight-laced by the book FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, the Stan Laurel to Melissa McCarthy's Oliver Hardy; the foul and obnoxious Det. Shannon Mullins. It's the mismatched cop story you've seen a million times except for the absence of Y chromosomes in the two leads. While Melissa McCarthy provides a few laughs, she is proof of what I said earlier: comedy, or rather what passes for comedy today, plays better in small doses. Putting aside the few and far between laughs McCarthy provides, this movie clocks in at 117 minutes, an eternity for a comedy, and McCarthy becomes so over the top obnoxious, I wanted to plug my ears at a certain point. Some of the funny moments are in scenes where she resorts to ad-libs; the funniest scene of the movie involves McCarthy's character arresting a john, played by Tony Hale (superb on Arrested Development and Veep). What makes it funny (as I attempt to explain humor after saying it can't be done) is that McCarthy approaches the perp with a charming smile and does her shtick to entrap the guy, but we the audience are in on the joke and we laugh at the poor schmuck who doesn't realize she's a cop. Because Hale is so brilliant, the two of them make the scene very funny. But unfortunately, that scene occurs at the very beginning of the movie and it's the only scene in which Hale appears. And as mentioned, McCarthy's shtick becomes grating fast, as in a joke that goes on WAY too long about her looking for her precinct captain's balls.
Inevitably, through an improbable series of events, Ashburn and Mullins team up to take down a Boston drug lord. Sandra Bullock, bless her heart, does her best to move mountains in order to make this movie work. It's not that she's not funny, she has sharp comedic timing, but I just couldn't help feeling bad for her, as the Oscar winner is made to strip off clothing, dance badly and shove a guy's head in her cleavage (as you watch this scene, remember the filmmakers want you to believe her character is a top notch agent). As she's made to wrestle the plus size McCarthy through a door. As she's made to wrestle McCarthy over a cell phone. Are you getting the pattern here? Then there's the inevitable montage sequence of drunken revelry, where we smash cut between vignettes of the two leads in various supposedly funny activities with the locals at a dive bar. But I give them credit for one thing: the montage doesn't take place in a kitchen while cooking and dancing as a 60s Motown song plays in the background.
But as I said, one of the secrets of comedy is to know when to get off the stage. Hell, Seinfeld devoted a whole plotline to this concept with the Costanza character, and we all agree that Seinfeld knows a little about comedy, right? 117 minutes, jokes and bits that go way too long, setups and scenes that become repetitive, etc. I mean, how many different times can we see one guy with a gun get the drop on another guy with a gun before it gets boring? And there are really big missed opportunities as well. Take for instance the scene where Mullins introduces Ashburn to her family. Of course, the family members are as loud and obnoxious as she is; but unfortunately, characters that could've been funny are grating from jump because we've already been subjected to McCarthy for nearly an hour. They do wring some small laughs out of the Bah-ston accent, but at this point in the film, it's just more annoying characters. Take another scene where the movie decides to take a grisly turn and we get to see an emergency tracheotomy performed. Could've been funny, but as this movie does all too often, it goes for forced shock value as opposed to coaxing a laugh. Take yet another scene where Ashburn is stabbed in the leg not once, not twice, but three times. Laughing yet?
You want more unfunny repetition? OK, well, there's a scene which follows a needless subplot about Mullins's evidently numerous flings as guys plead with her to take them back. See, it's supposed to be funny because she's so fat, yet all these guys want her so bad! Get it? Yeah, maybe the first time, but twice? However, it was cool to see the reunion of McCarthy and real-life husband Ben Falcone (the air marshal from Bridesmaids). But much like the ridiculous subplot, the scene kind of goes nowhere. And then there's the subplot about a black street dealer who gets arrested not once, but twice, and gets a watermelon thrown at him. Seriously. No, I didn't make that up.
I haven't really delved into the plot. There's a reason for that. It's because it makes little sense and it really doesn't matter. Even if the movie were good, it wouldn't matter because the point of this film is to laugh at the two mismatched characters. But there's the rub: IF the movie were good. And it's not.
OK, I could take that angle. Or, in keeping with the spirit of the film, I could take a ruder, raunchier angle:
What the hell is going on with Sandra Bullock? Why does she keep appearing in lame comedies? Jesus f**king Christ, didn't she learn ANYTHING from All About Steve? I mean, she's a f**king Oscar winner! Is she aware that the Oscar clique consisting of Halle Berry and Cube Gooding, Jr. is one that she DOESN'T want to join?
And what the f**k's going on with her face? In certain lighting and in some camera angles, she looks like f**king Joan Rivers. Not that I would kick her out of bed for eating crackers, she's still got a smokin' body, just check out the scene where director Paul Feig makes her debase herself by ripping off her clothes! Man, I've got some swollen goods she could take into evidence! I'm just disappointed they didn't make her do a striptease since that's the "thing" now. Just ask Jennifer Aniston or Gwyneth Paltrow. And THANK--GOD they actually wrote dialogue into the script as to why McCarthy is not required to strip. That would've been a tragedy. The filmmakers make it clear that McCarthy's girth is meant to make us laugh by putting her in weird situations where her size is a detriment. And she seems all too eager to please in that endeavor.
This movie just ain't that f**king funny. 2/5 reels
P.S. I don't know if it was the speaker system in the theater where I saw this, but even the sound was off. There's a club scene where the music is mixed way low and the crowd walla is non-existent. It literally sounds like it was shot on a soundstage and they forgot to foley the scene. This happens in a few other scenes. And the rap background music seems unnaturally loud, further amplifying the unnecessarily crude lyrics. It seems forced and out of place, particularly when they go into a Boston Southie bar. Rap music in a Boston corner bar, really?
Like most stand-ups Kevin Hart’s movie career has been spotty at best although he delivers one of the funniest lines in recent movie history in the 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN with “First of all, you throwin' too many big words at me, and because I don't understand them, I'm gonna take 'em as disrespect” That is funny stuff but his role is all too brief in the film and left audiences wanting more. As with most stand-ups give them a microphone and a captivated audience and they shoot to the moon. Kevin Hart is no different and he is back on the big screen doing what he does best; making audiences double over with laughter.
The film begins with an overlong segment which has Hart at a party being thrown in his honor and he is being hit with different false rumors and he decides on the spot to play the Madison Square Garden to “explain” his side of things. This then leads to yet another overlong segment which shows Hart performing at different venues across the globe. This segment could have been left out in fact the audience I saw it with seemed a little anxious for the show to get going. Once the show get does get going it does not disappoint. Filmed at Madison Square Garden during his LET ME EXPLAIN tour Hart unleashes his unique look at relationships, fame, kids, being single and horseback riding (yes horseback riding!). Once he hits the stage it is off and running and barely slows down to catch a breath. I do not know how the show actually played live but Hart’s energy level is amazing and he doesn't even break a sweat. I must admit I laughed more than I thought I would. My favorite bits are his buddy’s inability to remember a code they have to avoid saying the wrong thing in front of their women, he’s own signal to let his buddies know to assist him in certain situations and “bum bumps”. Hart apparently found the latter joke so funny he almost could not get it out. One of the things that I have admired about Hart’s humor is that it never seems mean spirited and although he purports everything he talks about to be a true story I doubt that most are but he tells them which such conviction and clarity they just might be.
Undoubtedly this film will be compared to other stand up films such as RICHARD PRYOR LIVE IN CONCERT, YOU SO CRAZY, EDDIE MURPHY RAW and THE ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY and it probably an unfair comparison because they are all funny for different reasons. This is a very funny film and it does not overstay its welcome as the stand-up portion clocks in at about an hour and there is never a dull moment. If there is material on the cutting room floor I hope it appears on the eventual home video release. As it stands this is an excellent document of Hart’s stand up and I highly recommend it. Obviously leave the kiddos at home and enjoy a grown folks time at the movies. With all the craziness in the world we could all use a little good laughter.
Meagan Good let it all hang out at this years BET Awards. The newly married actress and her husband Devon Franklin (he is a Seventh Day Adventist pastor), presented the Best Gospel Artist Award. Pry your eyes away from the danger zone and think for a second, she is a preachers wife. She is the 1st Lady. Is this what's popping at the church these days? I ain't been in a while but GOTDAMN! What time is Sunday school?
To be clear I dont' have a problem personally with her dress. (That's the thirst speaking) We have to ask the question tho, is this respectful to the Gospel music culture? You wouldn't have Lil Kim with the pasties on, present an award to Kirk Franklin. I wonder did her husband co-sign this look? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he modern cop buddy picture has been around started with the release of 1982’s 48 HRS starring Nick Nolte and then film newcomer Eddie Murphy as mismatched partners that must work together to solve a crime. The film spawned a dismal sequel and countless remakes. It seemed like box office gold, just get to popular stars and pair them together and watch the sparks fly. The typical plot of a buddy cop film is as follows. Introduction of a crime and and/or bad guy. Intro of the “lead character” typically the “straight-laced one”. Separate intro of the wilder “loose cannon” character. Two leads discover that have a mutual enemy in the bad guy and discover that they must work together usually. Both are resistant to the idea and think they can do the job alone. They bicker, they fight and during the course of the film they discover a mutual respect for each other. They defeat the bad guy and by the time the credits roll they are not only friends they are ready to return for a sequel. Take a look at the list of buddy cop films here: Buddy Cop Films. There have been all types of pairings in this genre of film but rarely have there been a female buddy cop film. COPYCAT is the only one that comes to mind but that was not a comedy. Well now we have the first female buddy cop pairing with THE HEAT starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.
The late Roger Ebert can up with the term “wunza” as any film using a plot which can be summarized by saying "One's a..." This film follows the classic buddy cop formula almost to the letter. One is a straight laced FBI agent (Bullock) and one is loose cannon Boston detective (McCarthy) who find that they must team up to take down a drug dealer. Plot does not matter in these types of film and I won’t spend time talking about it. This film is played for laughs and it is extremely funny and the interplay between the two is top notch. I am not aware of the history of the film but this could have very well have been a straight forward action film that was modified to be an action-comedy much like the original BEVERLY HILLS COP. In fact this film has very little action and it definitely falls into the comedy category almost to the point of parody.
While Bullock seems to be having fun playing off of her squeaky clean image this film belongs to McCarthy. She provides about 90 percent of the films laugh out loud moments and there are plenty of them to many of them to name. I would venture a guess that a large part of her dialogue came from improve. Now I am typically not a fun of bloopers over closing credits but here I was disappointed that they were not featured here. One can only imagine the amount of fun the two of them had while making this film and it shows on screen. Their chemistry does not seem forced at all and they bounce off each other with ease.
I really enjoyed this film and in fact it was the film that I was looking forward the most to seeing this summer. It did not disappoint in anyway. It is flat out funny and it is one of the funniest movie of the year (21 & OVER being the funniest) I hope that guys do not shy away from this film due to the fact that it has two female leads. The audience I saw it with was mostly couples and there was audible laughter from both sexes. I resist the urge to say that this is the “funniest comedy of the summer” because as of now it is the ONLY comedy playing right now. However I have seen the other comedies that are opening soon and I can honestly say it is the "funniest comedy of the summer” It is a credit to credit laugh riot! Don’t miss it!!
The film is rated R and it has VERY strong language but nothing really objectionable and contains no nudity or sex and the violence is very mild for this type of movie. I would say it is suitable for older teens.
June 27, 2013 \ Movies \ 0 Comments
The Mind of a Critic
My name is Sean Hill avid movie watcher and self-proclaimed film buff. Movies have always been an important part of my life and in fact I have a BS in Communications with an emphasis in Broadcasting. I had hoped to turn that degree into a film career but that did not workout however my love of the cinema did not. I have seen more movies than I care to count and I really don’t have a favorite genre. I like all types of films except for bad ones! I currently reside in sunny San Diego with my wife and 2 children. Due to work and family obligations I am not able to get to the cinema as much as I would like to but my love for film has not vanished. In my reviews I try to be as honest as I can in my critiques with insight and humor.
I am often asked why I care so much about the movies. Why am I so critical? What makes me an expert in movies? My personal favorite question I’m asked is why can’t I just enjoy the movies I see and not analyze or over analyze them? Well my friends the answer is simple; I love the cinema and I have since I was a kid. There isn’t much to it than that. Some people love and consider themselves experts in wine or cigars or cars or whatever. I consider myself an expert in movies. I have spent a great deal of time not only watching movies but researching and reading everything I can about them as well. You know those commentaries on DVDs and blu-rays that no one cares about? I listen to them and find them quite enjoyable. Interestingly enough I like listening to commentaries of bad movies. Those are fun because sometimes the filmmakers acknowledge the film’s shortcomings while others will defend the bad movies that they have made. But I am getting ahead of myself here. The point of this piece is to give you some insight into how I view, evaluate, and rate the movies I see.
The first thing I try to determine is does the film work within the genre that it is in. For example is a comedy so the question I ask myself would be “is this movie funny “? In the case of BRIDESMAIDS it is extremely funny so the film works within its genre. THE HANGOVER PT.2 is a comedy that is not funny so it’s a film that does not work within its genre. Simply put how does the movie differentiate itself from other movies in the same genre. You have thousands of comedies to choose from so why chose “that” particular one to watch. Why see THE HANGOVER 2 when you can just see THE HANGOVER. Along those same lines another aspect I consider is does the movie accept what it is. Those who know me know I have affection for SNAKES ON A PLANE. While I acknowledge that it is not the best movie ever made what I do like about is that it does attempt to try to be anything other than “SNAKES ON A PLANE”. The movie knows it’s a B-Movie with and A-List star. I would rather sit thru that movie than say THE GREEN HORNET, a movie that can not make up its mind what it wants to be. Is it a parody, homage, a serious action piece, comedy? The movie can't decide what it wants to be and because of that it is not very good.
The second thing I take into consideration is the story of a movie. Contrary to what some may think I do not try to outguess or figure out where a story is going. I like to let it unfold and see where it goes. Once the movie is over then I try to determine if the story worked or not. I have found that trying to figure out where a movie is going I miss out on other things so I don’t worry about that while I am watching it. For example when I first saw THE SIXTH SENSE I knew that there was a surprise ending I just did not know what that surprise ending was. I did not try to figure it out although I did somewhat because I kept wonder why Bruce Willis only interacted with Haley Joel Osment during the course of the story. Of course at the end I had my answer but my focus was the story itself and not trying to put the ending together. [SIDENOTE: Out of all the “surprise twist ending movies” I believe this one holds up to repeated viewings. There are many other that try this same thing but if you go back and watch them a second time the ending just doesn’t work.] Now I may not like the outcome of a story but that won’t stop me from giving the film a positive review. For example I HATED the outcome of NIGHTS IN RODANTHE however I found the story compelling enough to give it a positive review.
Characters can make or break a movie and to me that is the difference between a good movie and bad movie. No matter the genre of a movie the characters have to be interesting. You don’t necessarily have to LIKE a character in a movie but if they are not interesting it doesn’t make a good movie. Hannibal Lector is not a likeable character but he is an interesting one. If you have read my previous entries on my greatest films of all time you will find there is a common thread between them and that is those movies are about the people first and what happens to them second. If the characters are not interesting then to me the movie is just two hours of background noise. Let’s use the beloved TWILIGHT series as an example. To me the movies don’t work, although I have given 2 of the 4 positive reviews, because the 3 main characters just aren’t that interesting. The filmmakers haven’t done enough to flesh them out and make them more interesting. [SIDENOTE: I haven’t read the books so I am just talking about their cinematic rendering and not what is on the page.]
Since Hollywood is devoid of ideas the last 10 years or so there have been loads of sequels, reboots, remakes, prequels, updates, directors cuts, and studio cuts being released. Reviewing these types of films is tricky because they come in with baggage from their sometimes successful originals. The way I look a these types of films is also simple and I again will use THE HANGOVER 2 as an example. If THE HANGOVER 2 was THE HANGOVER 1 would THE HANGOVER 2 be any good? My answer would be no. THE HANGOVER 2 as the first outing would not produce a sequel. I try to view these types as their own separate entity and determine if they can stand on their own. It’s the rare sequel that can do that with THE DARK KNIGHT being the most obvious example to this. I do not hold the recent rash of remakes in high regard because in most cases the films that are being remade are not all that bad. See my article on the Worst of 2011 and read my review of the remake of FRIGHT NIGHT at hillstreetviewz.blogspot.com for my thoughts on remakes/reboots.
Well there you have it you have entered the mind of film critic. I hope this helps you understand what things I consider when watching a movie. These rules don’t necessarily always apply, for example kid’s movies, but those are the things I generally look for. So the next time you read a review of mine you will have an idea of what thought process went into my ratings. I hope you enjoy reading my reviews as much as like writing them. You can also follow me on Twitter as @hillstreetviewz and read my reviews of mainstream films at hillstreetviewz.blogspot.com.
4 Stars-A MUST see
3 Stars-Very good but not GREAT
2 Stars-Watchable don’t expect t much. See something else instead
1 Stars-Skip it
No Stars-AVOID at all cost
Superman and Tony Stark face off over Man Of Steel.
Ever since I started reading the Walking Dead comic book, I've become a fan of the genre, even though I've never understood how zombies work. Aren't they comprised of necrotic tissue? If so, how do they manage to shuffle for such great lengths? Wouldn't they decompose or succumb to environmental extremes like heat or cold? How does dead muscle tissue allow them to ambulate? Or in the case of modern zombie films, including World War Z, how are they able to run like Kenyans in a marathon?
So that raises a nitpick question I have about this film. Are the creatures here really zombies? At the beginning of the film, we see people being attacked, and within seconds, they turn, rather violently, in herky-jerky spasms, I might add. So, I'm led to believe there's no death involved, rather viral mutation. And the fact that Brad Pitt's Gerry Lane goes globe-hopping to find Patient Zero as well as the source of the pandemic makes it seem like a disease rather than preternatural undead activity. For those of you who read the book, maybe you can clear that up for me. And if you have read the book, my understanding is you probably won't like the movie because it diverges from the source material significantly.
I didn't read the book (I plan to now) but in what I've read about the differences between film and novel, it strikes me that, while this was a very effective horror-thriller, the filmmakers may have missed a chance to do something really unique with this quickly-becoming-played-out genre to make it stand out from the 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, Dawn Of The Dead series of films, and of course not to mention the awesome Walking Dead program. My understanding is the book's narrative unfolds through a series of reporter interviews and news reports in the aftermath of the Zombie World War. Imagine how original this film would have been, had it been presented like a documentary; the zombie set pieces could've been shown in flashback or in vignettes as the interviewees recount their stories. I remember only recently, after I became somewhat of a fan of zombie lore, I bought Romero's classic Night Of The Living Dead on DVD and I was amazed at how ahead of its time it seemed. In that film, the zombie onslaught is reported very realistically over TV and radio; that technique was effective back then and it could've been put to good use here.
But despite the fact that towards its conclusion, the film becomes just another series of horror cliches, the cliches are presented masterfully. I like the fact that it starts out very innocuously, where we see the Lane family rising out of bed, preparing to take on another ordinary day. Without warning, in the middle of Philadelphia gridlock, the zombies attack. Perhaps in reality, a zombie uprising would garnish a little more advance attention, but I imagine it would probably happen as suddenly as portrayed in this film. As an allegory, much like a cold virus overtakes me with no advance notice, so might a zombie apocalypse. Right away, we see how zombies are quickly able to overrun the global population. Apparently, these zombies don't take the time eat you; they bite and move on. Once you're bitten, you turn. The efficiency of it allows the zombie horde to increase exponentially. And these zombies can move. They jump, they hurl themselves, they climb over each other, they move like a swarm of insects (cleverly alluded to in the opening credits).
But as I mentioned, the film moves along and serves up a series of derivative set pieces, but they're so well done, I kind of didn't care that they were cliched. Tense and exciting scenes included the refueling of military air carrier in North Korea, the overtaking of Jerusalem (if zombies are attracted to noise, it's probably not a good idea to shout your midday prayers over megaphones), a zombie attack on a plane ("I've had it with these motherf**king zombies on this..."--no, no I won't go there), and most effectively, a standoff at the World Health Organization.
I was a little conflicted by the scene at the W.H.O. You have this film which does manage to stand out from all the other zombie films and TV shows because this is the first time I've seen a zombie apocalypse on a global scale. Usually, we're dropped in the middle of the story after the zombies have infested the world. Here, we get to see humanity address the crisis as it unfolds. Considering the Walking Dead, one could imagine that this film takes place in between the time lawman Rick Grimes is shot and after he wakes up alone in his hospital bed. I really liked seeing the onset of the pandemic, and seeing things before they completely go to hell. I also, once again, liked the worldwide scale this film presented. So, I was slightly disappointed that so much of the weight was reduced to a scene at the W.H.O. But once the scene unfolded, I got over that disappointment quickly. It's a great setup, which I don't want to spoil, it's a thrilling series of obstacles the hero has to overcome. I will say that the W.H.O. has some of the noisiest doors and machines I've ever seen in an office. But I wouldn't have expected any less in a sequence like this.
There are places where the filmmakers drop the ball and some things are a little hard to swallow. Unless young Hispanic boys are not really attached to their parents, one would think a kid would evince a little more sadness at losing his entire family. And I'm going to start sitting near the front when I book my plane tickets because apparently sitting in front makes it possible to survive a crash where the front of the plane splits off from the rear, burst in flames, and rolls over a couple times. And the outcome of the W.H.O scene might ring a little false, as maybe our protagonist is a little too lucky with a choice he has to make, but overall, none of these leaps take away from the entertainment value of the film.
I'd forgotten how good an actor Brad Pitt is, because even though he still maintains some pretty boy features and he sports a hippie pageboy haircut, he managed to make me believe that the U.N. would send a retired investigator into these deadly zombie hot zones. It's not an original piece of work by any stretch of the imagination, but it's an entertaining entry in the zombie pantheon. 3.5/5 reels
More reviews at Lightning Strikes!
Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980
Um, it's Star Wars.
Seriously, do I need to say more? Oh, maybe I do. It's ORIGINAL trilogy Star Wars. Anything outside of that--OK, I won't get started. But we all know that this is still the best of all the Star Wars films.
This is the film that gave us dialogue that lives in pop culture history.
"I am your father."
This is the film that gave us one of the best improvised lines of all time.
Leia: "I love you!" Han: (all together now) "I know."
This is the film that established Han as a "scoundrel." This is the film where not much was made of a sister kissing her twin brother full on the lips (we weren't aware at the time, but I don't recall hearing any "ewwwws" when Luke and Leia's kinship was revealed in ROTJ. And don't try to sell me that this subplot was planned all along). This is the film that introduced us to Boba Fett, and although I wasn't taken with him, I know my friends, along with legions of other kids, loved the character. The film where we first see Luke and Vader duel! And perhaps best of all, this is the film in the hallowed franchise which proved that sometimes it's better for visionaries to delegate rather than remain hands on, as George Lucas, for whatever reason, relinquished the director's chair to Irvin Kershner.
The movie first crash lands on the icy surface of Hoth, where whites and blues mix to create a vast desolate but beautiful landscape.
Then there are arachnid evil probes and impressive elephantine AT-ATs.
New rebel fighter ships retrofitted for the cold.
Here it is the year 2013 and the Battle In The Snow still does not look dated, at least not to me.
(Bonus points if you can tell me what current insanely popular pay TV show the actor playing the Imperial commander appears in).
Then the movie drops us in the middle of a murky, damp and misty swamp in the Dagobah system, where we meet a diminutive pop culture giant who has a funny way of speaking and is a master of the Force.
After that, we travel to the beautiful cloud city of Bespin, a warm locale that always looks lit by "golden hour" sunlight.
Ironic that the most inviting of the three locations proves to be the most dangerous. I loved how this movie transported me to all these contrasting environments, a theme which continues in the subsequent sequel and the prequels (but we don't speak of the prequels, ever).
Then there are the visual effects. I don't care what anybody says...the asteroid sequence in Attack Of The Clones, with all its weightless CG, gargles monkey balls compared to the asteroid sequence in this movie. It is NO CONTEST.
Now, go back and watch that clip again, and this time, listen to the music. Listen to how brilliantly John Williams's score meshes with the visuals. I contend that when you consider the visuals (which were completely non-CGI!!) as well as the music, the asteroid sequence is the best scene of all the Star Wars films. The score for this film, in my humble opinion, contains some of the best motifs in any of his work. It is absolutely beautiful. Outside of the title march from Superman, this is by far my favorite soundtrack by any film composer. How many times as a kid, when you were playing good guys and bad guys, did you hum this ditty:
[youtube id="jH6wXaLQIMQ" width="320" height="240"]
And then, there's the love theme. Williams created different love themes for each of the three original films and they're all great, but this is one is magnificent. It evokes classic Hollywood dashing heroism, undying love and a touch of adventure. I mean, I cannot adequately express how this piece of music affects me, it does something to me on a genetic level; I melt, I soar, sometimes I well up, I'm taken away with this music. Here's a clip from the soundtrack, "Rebel Fleet/End Credits," which is heard at the end of the film; it's all brilliant, but listen to the movement at :58, then go to 4:45 to hear how absolutely beautiful this theme is:
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I mean...wow. Williams's use of brass, timpani, swelling strings and his signature touch of pizzicato counterpoint, in this case with wind instruments (I'm guessing flute and piccolo) is just--I want to meet this man before I die. I could write an entire article on how John Williams inspired my love of music. The themes he creates for Yoda (heard at 2:28), for Lando Calrissian (heard as the group first meets Lando on Bespin and are walking through the city, right before C-3PO wanders off and gets shot), are all masterpieces.
Then there's Yoda. Can you even remember a time when you DIDN'T know who Yoda was? Do you recall wondering, who the hell is that pointy-eared green thing that's stealing Luke's food? Can we move this along so we can find out who Yoda is? This film introduces us to one of the most well-known, oft-quoted characters in the history of pop culture. And compare the maquette in this film to the fully CG Yoda in Clones and Sith. Do you REALLY want to go there? The Yoda in this film gives a fully realized, nuanced and excellent performance. He comes close to stealing the show from the human actors. It is difficult to fathom that this is merely a puppet that has Frank Oz's hand shoved up it's ass. Well, Frank Oz also provided the voice, and he KILLS it. The only performance from a non-human character that is equal to or better than this is Andy Serkis's Gollum. That's it. Just like the asteroid sequence, this puppet demolishes the CG Yoda of the prequels.
This movie makes my list because watching it transports me back to 1980 when I was just getting out of grade school, ready to enjoy the summer, completely carefree and eager to see the new Star Wars movie. So many things just blew me away in this movie, most of which I've already described. I was surprised at how dark it was; who would have thought we'd see a severed head in a Star Wars film? And I remember thinking, after Lando, Leia, Chewbacca and the droids fail to rescue the carbonited Han from Boba Fett, that the movie must be extremely long because surely, they're not going to make me wait for another two years to see what happens to Han. And then the end credits came up. And I was FURIOUS! I was LIVID! Oh, HELL NO! I HATED this movie for doing that to me.
But somewhere along the way, I got over it. And I paid to see this movie at least three more times (back then, in a pre-internet, pre-smartphone, hell, even a pre-VCR age, that's the only way you could see a movie, actually in the theaters). I'm still waiting to see a Star Wars that will top Empire Strikes Back; so far, the only movie to top this one is Empire Strikes Back, the special edition, with re-tooled footage. I don't mind the tinkering, as a matter of fact, I like seeing more of Bespin. There is one shot that bothers me, where Lando and Leia are running to save Han and they run by these windows which were originally solid walls. But other than that, as I've said, this is the best Star Wars yet. If J.J. Abrams wants to match this with his new Star Wars film, he better fire his Star Trek creative team (he should've done that already), and bring his A-game.
Sanaa McCoy Lathan (born September 19, 1971) is an American actress and voice actress. She has starred in many films, including the box-office hits Love & Basketball, Alien vs. Predator,Something New, and The Family That Preys. Lathan was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance on Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun. In 2010, she starred in the all-black performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre in London.