Star Wars is and always has been an underdog story. An action-packed intergalactic odyssey about small legions of rebels rising against seemingly insurmountable adversaries, Star Wars is rooted in an idea of hope against all odds, and you don’t need C3P0 on hand to butt in for that calculation. After the politically-charged prequels, The Force Awakens (and Rogue One) returned to this central conceit of a Sisyphusian struggle – toil in the face of utter improbability – depicting new characters taking their turn against a tyrannical empire, its limitless armada and impossibly supercharged firepower and with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, hope has never seemed so out of reach and victory so unachievable. Read More
Breathe people breathe…Ok I can’t hold it in. My god, it looks so glorious. So absolutely glorious. From the sights (AT-ATS in action, a semi-complete Death Star, new Stormtroopers), sounds (that iconic dark side score, that blaring alarm, that sweet zap of blaster fire) and new characters (Felicity Jones‘ already amazing rebel protagonist, Ben Mendelssohn as an evil Empirial commandeer, Forest Whitaker going all Ghost Dog (is he a Jedi? Please say he’s a Jedi), Donnie Yen going full samurai), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story looks so f***king good! Directed by Gareth Edwards, this eighth Star Wars feature focuses on the rebellion squadron tasked with stealing the infamous Death Star plans and offers the Star Wars universe its first chance to veer from the path of the traditional trilogy. It will function as a standalone spin-off and I cannot wait.
I was thinking that this had been a week without a lot of screenings but then I realized I’d seen four films this week – The Two Faces of January, The Guest, Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and Tusk. I guess the fact that I’ve not been able to yet publish reviews for any of these that has me thrown off. None the less, it was an almost prolific week of watching at home, where I consumed six films including one of my all time favorites; Star Wars; a few more Werner Herzog features; Woyzeck and Cobra Verde; a couple of uber tense horrors; Irreversible and In Fear; and a film that I didn’t really like though I can understand other’s appreciation for it; Henry: Portrait of a Killer. So let’s get down to it and spit some Weekly Review.
STAR WARS (1977)
Perfect in its imperfections, Star Wars – and yes I mean A New Hope but remember, this was originally just called Star Wars – deserves its status as legendary. Unfortunately, the only copy I now possess is the demonic “Special Editions” in which Gredo shoots first, an inexcusably badly rendered Jabba the Hutt makes a completely nonsensical appearance and clumsy, ill-fitting CGI clutters up the otherwise inspired scenery but to experience just how much this annoys me – and dear god does it annoy me – is a testament to both the nostalgic power of the original Star Wars and how great George Lucas‘ original vision really was. Though Mark Hamill is noticeably shy of the acting mark, it’s nothing short of a joy watching Harrison Ford rock his character-defining smugness, Alec Guinness bring a classically trained believability to the otherwise goofy “Force”, Carrie Fischer own the only role she’s ever really owned and all the lively secondary characters – from the walking rug to those lovable droids – running amock. A definitive classic, even my sci-fi-adhoring girlfriend finally fell for the weirdness of Star Wars. I couldn’t have been more pleased. (A+)
One of the most graphic and disturbing films ever imaginable with a rape sequence that will likely haunt me for the rest of my life, Irreversible is as impossible to watch as it is to recommend…and yet, it is fantastic. For those looking to “go the distance” and really challenge yourself to watch something so horrifying and so heinous that it will literally seer itself into your nightmares, this is it. It’s incredibly well done and viciously visceral as filmmaker Gaspar Noé backwardly tracks two men hunting down a rapist who’s brutally assaulted one of their girlfriends, Alex. Gratuitous almost seems like an understatement in this film that let’s the camera roll on and on and on in some of the most graphic sequences ever set to film. If the camera somersaults and seizure-inducing strobing don’t make you sick, the content might, and still Irreversible is a glaringly avant garde effort, a near brilliant art film so committed to its contrarian cause that it’ll happily spurn the leagues of those who do attempt to consume it. For those with a stomach of iron though, Irreversible will surely join the ranks of most “fucked up” movies you’ll ever see. (A)
IN FEAR (2013)
A taut little psychological thriller that could almost be defined as “one location”, Jeremy Lovering‘s In Fear sees a fresh couple of Irish festival-goers lost on the customary dirt road in the middle of some back-country woods. For such a fatigued concept, In Fear‘s vehicular invasion premise is preternaturally creepy, providing just the right amount of bumps in the night to spook those willing to turn the lights off and commit to the darkly lit scares. With only three actors in the entire film and an imaginably frugal budget (I couldn’t find official budget numbers anywhere), In Fear‘s biggest asset is Lovering’s ability to work simplicity to his advantage. The tension lives in the shadow, just outside the fray of Lovering’s spotlight tactics. Using our fear of the unseen as the most powerful tool in his arsenal, Lovering understands how to built up tension like a conflagration. An economical and tactile horror venture for those willing to take the unnerving plunge, In Fear commits to its small stature and massages these prudently scary elements to match the mold expertly. (B-)
HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A KILLER (1986)
This rough around the edges effort from indie filmmaker John McNaughton seems like it might have been culturally relevant and borderline antagonistic back in the 80s where it came from but nowadays, doesn’t hold much power and is more repulsive than intriguing. We’ve seen a dump truck of superior serial killer procedurals – from both sides of the fence – and though Henry might be responsible for inspiring some of those better films to follow, it’s hard to pretend that this was a film I liked. Michael Rooker (Merv of The Walking Dead) plays real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, a man to whom life is as meaningless as a noncommittal shrug. As Henry’s life becomes intertwined with redneck friend Otis (Tom Towles) and his younger, maltreated sister Becky (Tracy Arnold), his murderous ways spread like a cancer. Taking Otis under his wing, the two start a spree that leaves a trail of victims somewhere between 11 and thousands. According to Wikipedia, Lucas “initially admitted to having killed 60 people, a number he raised to over 100 and then to 3,000.” From this, you can imagine the bulk of the film. McNaughton’s fictionalized biopic is a narcissistic film with a jet black heart that isn’t much fun to watch though it’s undoubtedly respectably made considering available resources. (C-)
One of Klaus Kinski‘s less definitive Hamlet-esque descents into insanity, Woyzeck pits a dullard against his own throbbing suspicions. A lowly rifleman who’s almost the social equivalent of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Leonard “Soap Socked” Lawrence from Full Metal Jacket, the titular Woyzeck is driven mad both by his unforgiving peers/patronizing superiors and adulterous wife. He’s a peon, a pariah, a bottom feeder at the command of all those around him. The only thing he can control is his family, woe be unto them. This cuckold gone bat shit crazy perfectly matches Kinski’s outlandish aura making Woyzeck a cautionary tale of Shakespearean compare. Adapted from a play of the same name by German dramatist Georg Büchne, Woyzeck may not be Herzog’s most noted accomplishment but it’s a soaring accomplishment none the less. (B+)
COBRA VERDE (1987)
We takes a trip to Africa for Cobra Verge, a narrative trip through colorful lands and splashy, living-on-the-edge cultures. Cobra Verde would be the last film that Klaus Kinski made with Werner Herzog (and preceded his death by just four years) and leaves Kinski with some monstrously powerful imagery. As has been my experience of all Kinski-Herzog collaborations, Kinski’s performance is the glue that holds Herzog’s sweeping, celestial elements together; he’s a dehumanizing black hole who eats our attention just as much as he apparently tormented those who worked with him. Cobra takes on slavery, outlaws and the bushman lifestyle with the kind of spontaneity and attention to detail that only Herzog’s wandering eye can achieve and it makes for some stunning imagery and mighty powerful scene work. (B+)
“The horror…the horror.“
According to recent reports, Zac Efron has (maybe-potentially-hopefully-not) been in discussions with Director J.J. Abrams regarding potential casting in Star Wars: Episode VII. This, following earlier news this week that Adam Driver is set to portray a Sith Lord in the newest Disney-sponsored saga. For anyone who’s seen Efron’s work—most recently That Awkward Moment, quite possibly the year’s worst film to date—this could spell disaster for the film, which already seems like it’s on a galactic crash course. At least this isn’t the worst possible casting, as it certainly could be worse. Here are some actors we definitely don’t want to see anywhere near this trilogy.
1. Kevin Hart
With Abrams’ reboot, there certainly will be creatures of all shapes and sizes floating through hyperspace. Let’s hope Kevin Hart, nuisance personified, isn’t one of them. He’s everywhere these days. He’s like the force, a constant presence you don’t see but definitely feel; you couldn’t escape him if you tried. Whether it’s terrible movies (recent examples: Ride Along, Grudge Match, and Think Like a Man), the NBA All-Star Celebrities’ Game, or all over BET, KHart has burned himself into the intergalactic rolodex. Though it would be funny to see him bouncing around with a lightsaber, this shouldn’t happen in any dimension.
2. Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler hasn’t made anything worthwile since 2002, and pretty much everything he touches turns to space junk. It would help if he were still funny, but that Sandler is in a galaxy far far way. Just imagine Sandler trying to fly the Millenium Falcon. And really, how many roles would he play? It’d be great to see him play Chewbacca, Han Solo, Leia and Luke simultaneously. We beg you, Adam Solo, stay away.
3. John Travolta
Is it wrong that I think it would be aweseome if John Travolta was brought into the Star Wars galaxy? How many names would he mispronounce? So much intentional comedy would ensue with Travolta trying to pronounce “midichlorians” (mardiacloritis) and “Dagobah” (Deborawr). Okay, maybe this one should happen. Get on it Abrams, you’re our only hope!
It remains to be seen how the rest of the cast will be filled out as production starts in April. With Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 6 set to release Friday, and all the castings sure to come out in the next month, this is sure to be a force-filled March. As Travolta would say: Mary the frost be wart yew.