Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)

STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005, USA) ***½
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm / Pandora Films / CTV Services; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas; exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Rick McCallum; ph. David Tattersall (DeLuxe. 35mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), 70mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383). Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Dolby Vision, HDCAM SR (1080p/24) (source format). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Roger Barton, Ben Burtt; pd. Gavin Bocquet; ad. Peter Russell; set d. Piero Di Giovanni, Richard Roberts; cos. Trisha Biggar; m/up. Nikki Gooley, Annette Miles, Josh Head; sd. Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood (DTS-ES | Dolby Digital EX | SDDS (uncredited) | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Rodney Burke; vfx. Roger Guyett, John Knoll; st. Nick Gillard; rel. 12 May 2005 (USA), 16 May 2005 (UK); cert: PG-13/12; r/t. 140m.

cast: Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Padmé), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), Keisha Castle-Hughes (Queen of Naboo), Silas Carson (Ki-Adi-Mundi / Nute Gunray), Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho), Bruce Spence (Tion Medon), Wayne Pygram (Governor Tarkin), Temuera Morrison (Commander Cody), David Bowers (Mas Amedda), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Rohan Nichol (Captain Raymus Antilles), Jeremy Bulloch (Captain Colton), Amanda Lucas (Terr Taneel), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Matt Sloan (Plo Koon), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Rebecca Jackson Mendoza (Queen of Alderaan), Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars), Bonnie Piesse (Beru Lars), Jett Lucas (Zett Jukassa), Tux Akindoyeni (Agen Kolar), Matt Rowan (Senator Orn Free Taa), Kenji Oates (Saesee Tiin), Amy Allen (Aayla Secura), Bodie Taylor (Clone Trooper), Graeme Blundell (Ruwee Naberrie), Trisha Noble (Jobal Naberrie), Claudia Karvan (Sola Naberrie), Keira Wingate (Ryoo Naberrie), Hayley Mooy (Pooja Naberrie), Sandi Finlay (Sly Moore), Katie Lucas (Chi Eekway), Genevieve O’Reilly (Mon Mothma), Warren Owens (Fang Zar), Kee Chan (Malé-Dee), Rena Owen (Nee Alavar), Christopher Kirby (Giddean Danu), Matthew Wood (General Grievous (voice)), Kristy Wright (Moteé), Coinneach Alexander (Whie), Olivia McCallum (Bene (as Mousy McCallum)), Michael Kingma (Wookiee General Tarfful), Axel Dench (Wookiee), Steven Foy (Wookiee), Julian Khazzouh (Wookiee), James Rowland (Wookiee), David Stiff (Wookiee), Robert Cope (Wookiee).

It has been three years since the Clone Wars began. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) rescue Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid) from General Grievous, the commander of the droid armies, but Grievous escapes. Suspicions are raised within the Jedi Council concerning Chancellor Palpatine, with whom Anakin has formed a bond. Asked to spy on the chancellor, and full of bitterness toward the Jedi Council, Anakin embraces the Dark Side. This is a visually impressive final instalment of parts 1-3 of the STAR WARS saga. Whilst many of the problems encountered in the first two films – notably the flat lead performances and leaden dialogue – remain, here the stakes are higher and as such the viewing experience is more rewarding. There is also a better balance between the political intrigue and the action sequences. The latter, however, often appear overly choreographed resulting in reduced tension as the viewer marvels at the movement rather than becomes embroiled in the struggle. The final act is largely engrossing but also feels manufactured in that it attempts to tie everything neatly into the set-up for part 4, which was released twenty-eight years earlier.

AAN: Best Achievement in Makeup (Dave Elsey, Nikki Gooley)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

Star Wars: Leigh Brackett and The Empire Strikes Back You Never Saw | Den  of GeekSTAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980, USA) *****
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox ; pr co. Lucasfilm; d. Irvin Kershner; w. Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan (based on a story by George Lucas); exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Gary Kurtz, Rick McCallum; ass pr. Jim Bloom, Robert Watts; ph. Peter Suschitzky (DeLuxe. 35mm. Digital Intermediate (4K) (2019 remaster), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic), VistaVision (special effects). 2.35:1); m. John Williams; m sup. ; ed. Paul Hirsch; pd. Norman Reynolds; ad. Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins; set d. Michael Ford; cos. John Mollo; m/up. Graham Freeborn, Stuart Freeborn, Barbara Ritchie; sd. Richard Burrow, Bonnie Koehler, Teresa Eckton (70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints) | Dolby Digital EX (DVD) | DTS-ES (6.1 channels) (Blu-ray) | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Nick Allder, Neil Swan, David H. Watkins; vfx. Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Bruce Nicholson; st. Peter Diamond; rel. 17 May 1980 (USA), 20 May 1980 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 124m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Alec Guinness (Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), John Hollis (Lobot, Lando’s Aide), Jack Purvis (Chief Ugnaught), Des Webb (Snow Creature), Clive Revill (Emperor (voice)), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Julian Glover (General Veers), Michael Sheard (Admiral Ozzel), Michael Culver (Captain Needa), John Dicks (Imperial Officer), Milton Johns (Imperial Officer), Mark Jones (Imperial Officer), Oliver Maguire (Imperial Officer), Robin Scobey (Imperial Officer), Bruce Boa (Rebel Force General Rieekan), Christopher Malcolm (Rebel Force Zev (Rogue 2) (as Christopher Malcom)), Denis Lawson (Rebel Force Wedge (Rogue 3) (as Dennis Lawson)), Richard Oldfield (Rebel Force Hobbie (Rogue 4)), John Morton (Rebel Force Dak (Luke’s Gunner)), Ian Liston (Rebel Force Janson (Wedge’s Gunner)), John Ratzenberger (Rebel Force Major Derlin), Jack McKenzie (Rebel Force Deck Lieutenant), Jerry Harte (Rebel Force Head Controller), Norman Chancer (Other Rebel Officer), Norwich Duff (Other Rebel Officer), Ray Hassett (Other Rebel Officer), Brigitte Kahn (Other Rebel Officer), Burnell Tucker (Other Rebel Officer).

Luke Skywalker (Hamill), Han Solo (Ford), Princess Leia (Fisher) and Chewbacca (Mayhew) face attack by the Imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda. Only with the Jedi Master’s help will Luke survive when the Dark Side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones). The sequel to STAR WARS was confirmation we were now into a full blown series – this one listed as Episode V. Being the middle film in the first trilogy the film gains by the reduced need for character and background set-up and loses in the lack of closure. However, as a cinema experience it was, and still is, exhilarating. The action sequences are superbly edited and imaginatively handled. The story has a darker tone with its portent around the dark side of the force and the relationship between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and the finale is truly memorable. Williams’ majestic score drives the action along and Hamill, Ford and Fisher pick up where they left off. The developing relationship between Ford’s Han Solo and Fisher’s princess Leia gives the story an emotional edge and the introduction of Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian adds another memorable character to the roster. The muppetry with Jedi Master Yoda and a cameo from Guinness keep the mysticism at a high level only hinted at in the first film. A true fantasy classic. Special edition with new effects runs 127m. Original title: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).

AA: Best Sound (Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Peter Sutton); Visual Effects (Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Bruce Nicholson)

AAN: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins, Michael Ford); Best Music, Original Score (John Williams)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977)

Star Wars (Star Wars: A New Hope) (1977) - Movie Review / Film EssaySTAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977, USA) *****
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. 20th Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas; exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Gary Kurtz, Rick McCallum; ass pr. James Nelson (uncredited); ph. Gilbert Taylor (Technicolor. 35mm. Digital Intermediate (4K) (2019 remaster), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic), VistaVision (special effects). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; m sup. ; ed. Richard Chew, Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas; pd. John Barry; ad. Leslie Dilley, Norman Reynolds; set d. Roger Christian; cos. John Mollo; m/up. Stuart Freeborn; sd. Sam F. Shaw (70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby (35 mm prints)); sfx. John Stears; vfx. John Dykstra, Dave Carson, John Knoll, Alex Seiden, Joe Letteri, Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams; st. Peter Diamond; rel. 25 May 1977 (USA), 27 December 1977 (UK); cert: U; r/t. 121m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin), Alec Guinness (Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader (voice)), Phil Brown (Uncle Owen), Shelagh Fraser (Aunt Beru), Jack Purvis (Chief Jawa), Alex McCrindle (General Dodonna), Eddie Byrne (General Willard), Drewe Henley (Red Leader), Denis Lawson (Red Two (Wedge)), Garrick Hagon (Red Three (Biggs)), Jack Klaff (Red Four (John D.)), William Hootkins (Red Six (Porkins)), Angus MacInnes (Gold Leader), Jeremy Sinden (Gold Two), Graham Ashley (Gold Five), Don Henderson (General Taggi), Richard LeParmentier (General Motti), Leslie Schofield (Commander #1).

The Imperial Forces, under orders from cruel Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones), hold Princess Leia (Fisher) hostage in their efforts to quell the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Luke Skywalker (Hamill) and Han Solo (Ford), captain of the Millennium Falcon, work together with the companionable droid duo R2-D2 and C-3PO (Daniels) to rescue the beautiful princess, help the Rebel Alliance and restore freedom and justice to the Galaxy. It is hard to believe today in this world of blockbuster CGI driven epics, the impact the original STAR WARS had on release in 1977. Driven by a fast-paced pulpy script, superbly edited with its scene transitions ensuring the story keeps moving. It made a star of Ford as the cynical Han Solo and introduced characters that would pass into cinema folklore. The well-choreographed action sequences, great visual effects, detailed model work and imaginative realisation of alien landscapes and worlds were spectacular for the time. Influences ranged from the western to samurai films and swashbucklers. The effects industry may have moved on, but the heart and sheer exuberance of this story have rarely been equalled since. The special edition with new effects runs 125m. Original title: STAR WARS. Followed by the equally superb STAR WARS: EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980).

AA: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian); Best Costume Design (John Mollo); Best Sound (Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler, Derek Ball) Best Film Editing (Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew); Best Effects, Visual Effects (John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune, Robert Blalack); Best Music, Original Score (John Williams); Special Achievement sound effects. (For the creation of the alien, creature and robot voices.) (Ben Burtt)

AAN: Best Picture (Gary Kurtz); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Alec Guinness); Best Director (George Lucas); Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (George Lucas)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (USA, 2015) ****½
      Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Production Company: Lucasfilm / Bad Robot; Release Date: 14 December 2015 (USA), 16 December 2015 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 May 2014 – 3 November 2014; Running Time: 135m; Colour: FotoKem; Sound Mix: 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Dolby Digital; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version), DCP (2K DCP) (Normal 3D versions), DCP (4K DCP) (IMAX Laser versions); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, IMAX (source format) (Escape from Jakku scene), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: J. J. Abrams; Writer: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt (based on characters created by George Lucas); Executive Producer: Tommy Harper, Jason D. McGatlin; Producer: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Kathleen Kennedy; Associate Producer: Michael Arndt; Director of Photography: Daniel Mindel; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; Casting Director: Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg; Production Designer: Rick Carter, Darren Gilford; Art Director: Neil Lamont; Set Decorator: Lee Sandales; Costumes: Michael Kaplan; Make-up: Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin; Sound: David Acord, Matthew Wood; Special Effects: Chris Corbould; Visual Effects: Nina Fallon, Meredith Meyer-Nichols, Lillias Ng, Louise Bertrand, Ben Lock, Sophie Dawes, Chrysta Marie Burton, Janet Lewin.
      Cast: Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca Double), Pip Andersen (Lead Stormtrooper), Simon Pegg (Unkar Plutt), Kiran Shah (Teedo), Sasha Frost (Jakku Villager), Pip Torrens (Colonel Kaplan).
      Synopsis: 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
      Comment: The best of the STAR WARS films outside of the original trilogy, fans of which will no doubt readily accept this continuation and overlook some of its flaws – notably in originality in plot and character development. But as the start of a new trilogy, it also succeeds in capturing the uninhibited spirit of those first three films. The result is a lively, action-packed and thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series. It is great to see Ford back as Han Solo and his scenes will give older fans a warm and satisfying smile. The new characters portrayed by Ridley and Boyega are likeable and the script keeps the right tonal balance. Yes, it is a virtual replay of the original STAR WARS, but there is also a freshness here that was lacking in the second trilogy. Also shot in 3-D.