TV Review – FIREFLY: SERENITY (2002)

FIREFLY: SERENITY (TV) (2002, USA) ****
Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

dist. Fox Network (USA); pr co. Mutant Enemy / 20th Century Fox Television; d. Joss Whedon; w. Joss Whedon; exec pr. Joss Whedon, Tim Minear; pr. Gareth Davies, Ben Edlund; assoc pr. Lisa Lassek, Brian Wankum; ph. David Boyd (Colour. 35mm, HDTV (remastered re-runs), Video (NTSC). Spherical. 1.78:1); m. Greg Edmonson; theme m/l. Joss Whedon (performed by Sonny Rhodes); ed. Lisa Lassek; pd. Carey Meyer; set d. David A. Koneff; cos. Jill M. Ohanneson; m/up. Camille Calvet, Tina Hoffman, Ron Pipes, Colette Slattery; sd. Cindy Rabideau (Dolby Digital); sfx. Bruce Minkus; vfx. Kristen Branan, Loni Peristere; st. Eddie Braun; rel. 20 December 2002 (USA), 12 May 2003 (UK); cert: 12; r/t. 86m.

cast: Nathan Fillion (Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds), Gina Torres (Zoë Washburne), Alan Tudyk (Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne), Morena Baccarin (Inara Serra), Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb), Jewel Staite (Kaylee Frye), Sean Maher (Dr. Simon Tam), Summer Glau (River Tam), Ron Glass (Shepherd Derrial Book), Carlos Jacott (Lawrence Dobson), Mark Sheppard (Badger), Andy Umberger (Dortmunder Captain), Philip Sternberg (Inara’s Client), Eddie Adams (Bendis), Colin Patrick Lynch (Radio Operator), Bonnie Bartlett (Patience), Domingo Vara (Ensign), Stephen O’Mahoney (Man (Dortmunder)), Jamie McShane (Man), John F. Kearney (Old Man).

Malcolm Reynolds (Fillion) is a veteran and the captain of Serenity. He and his crew are smuggling goods, but they need to pick up some passengers for extra money. However, not all the passengers are what they seem. This highly entertaining and witty mix of Sci-Fi and Western themes was the pilot episode for the TV series Firefly. The premise transplants the aftermath of the American Civil War to outer space – the browncoats replace the greycoats and the Alliance replace the Union, whilst the “’verse” replaces the states and the Reavers replace the Native Americans. Fillion channels Harrison Ford’s Han Solo but adds the complexity of a defeated soldier still proud of the cause he fought for and refusing to surrender his values. His crew all have distinctive characteristics that makes them standout as individual characters. The ambiguity between the crew making a living from salvage via criminal distribution and the moral stance they are often asked to take give the story and the subsequent series its focus. Whedon had developed a wonderful premise and had executed it with finesse. Unfortunately, the TV public were slow to catch on and Fox cancelled the series before it had managed to pick up an audience. The resultant TV series (2002-3) ran for just 14 episodes but built enough of a cult following to warrant a theatrical sequel SERENITY (2005).

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 II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)

STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002, USA) ***
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm / Recce & Production Services / Mestiere Cinema; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas, Jonathan Hales (based on a story by George Lucas); exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Rick McCallum, Lorne Orleans; ph. David Tattersall (Colour. 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), Digital (Texas Instruments DLP 1280 x 1024, 1.9: 1 anamorphic). Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Dolby Vision, HDCAM (1080p/24) (source format) (matted to 2.39: 1). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Ben Burtt; pd. Gavin Bocquet; ad. Peter Russell; set d. Peter Walpole; cos. Trisha Biggar; m/up. Lesley Vanderwalt, Sue Love; sd. Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood (DTS-ES | Dolby Digital EX | SDDS | Dolby Atmos); sfx. David Young, Geoff Heron, Tom Harris; vfx. Pablo Helman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Ben Snow; st. Nick Gillard; rel. 12 May 2002 (USA), 14 May 2002 (UK); cert: PG/PG; r/t. 142m.

cast: Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Padmé), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku / Darth Tyranus), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker), Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Jack Thompson (Cliegg Lars), Leeanna Walsman (Zam Wesell), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks / Achk Med-Beq (voice)), Rose Byrne (Dormé), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Ronald Falk (Dexter Jettster (voice)), Jay Laga’aia (Capt. Typho), Andy Secombe (Watto (voice)), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO / Dannl Faytonni), Silas Carson (Ki-Adi-Mundi / Viceroy Nute Gunray), Ayesha Dharker (Queen Jamillia), Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars), Daniel Logan (Boba Fett), Bonnie Piesse (Beru), Anthony Phelan (Lama Su (voice)), Rena Owen (Taun We (voice)), Alethea McGrath (Madame Jocasta Nu), Susie Porter (Hermione Bagwa / WA-7), Matt Doran (Elan Sleazebaggano), Alan Ruscoe (Lott Dod), Matt Sloan (Plo Koon), Veronica Segura (Cordé), David Bowers (Mas Amedda), Steve John Shepherd (Naboo lieutenant), Bodie Taylor (Clone Trooper), Matt Rowan (Senator Orn Free Taa), Steven Boyle (Senator Ask Aak / Passel Argente), Zachariah Jensen (Kit Fisto), Alex Knoll (J.K. Burtola), Phoebe Yiamkiati (Mari Amithest), Kenny Baker (R2-D2).

Set ten years after the events of THE PHANTOM MENACE, the Republic continues to be mired in strife and chaos. A separatist movement encompassing hundreds of planets and powerful corporate alliances poses new threats to the galaxy that even the Jedi cannot stem. These moves, long planned by an as yet unrevealed and powerful force, lead to the beginning of the Clone Wars — and the beginning of the end of the Republic. This continuation of the STAR WARS saga delves deeper into the political intrigue, but has enough action sequences, some of which fail to convince with their logic, to keep the less demanding viewers entertained. Where the film pales in comparison to those that preceded it are in the characters and the actor’s performances. McGregor, Christensen and Portman lack the personality of Hamill, Ford and Fisher from the original trilogy. What humour is there is uninspired and largely repeats lines from earlier movies. Portman and Chsritensen, in particular, are given wooden dialogue to work with but fail to rise above their material in a way Christopher Lee in particular does. There is little emotional resonance despite the big themes at play. Technically, though, the film is a triumph. The visuals are highly impressive, albeit it increasingly CGI dependant. Lucas’s direction, though, is workmanlike and he fails to bring his own material to life in a way he did back in 1977. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005).

AAN: Best Visual Effects (Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll, Ben Snow)

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: REVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS (2021)

DOCTOR WHO: REVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS (TV) (2021) **½
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); pr co. BBC Studios; d. Lee Haven Jones; w. Chris Chibnall; exec pr. Chris Chibnall; pr. Alex Mercer; ph. Luke Bryant (Colour. 2.00:1); m. Segun Akinola; ed. Joel Skinner; pd. Dafydd Shurmer; ad. Rebecca Brown; set d. Vicki Male; cos. Ray Holman; m/up. Claire Pritchard-Jones; sd. Harry Barnes (Dolby Digital); sfx. Real SFX; vfx. DNEG, Chris Thomas; b/cast. 1 January 2021 (UK/USA); cert: 12; r/t. 71m.

cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Chris Noth (Jack Robertson), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Leo Rugazzi), Harriet Walter (Jo Patterson), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Leo Rugazzi), Nathan Armakwei-Laryea (Armen), Helene Anderson (Rachel), Nicholas Briggs (Daleks (voice)), Sharon D. Clarke (Grace).

The Doctor is imprisoned halfway across the universe. On Earth, the sighting of a Dalek alerts Ryan, Graham and Yaz. Can the return of Captain Jack Harkness help them stop a deadly Dalek takeover? A disappointing special which is failed by a script that is full of plot holes and is decidedly lazy, skirting over key narrative progressions. It also fails to make the most of its dramatic potential – for example Jack and Yaz’s discovery of the Tokyo Dalek factory should have been the surprise reveal, but we had already been introduced to it a few scenes earlier. The whole threat lacks the global and epic scope its plot suggests, and the wrap-up is far too convenient. Barrowman’s return is welcome, but he disappears at the story’s conclusion. Noth’s performance is way over the top and just as unconvincing as it was in his previous appearance in ARACHNIDS IN THE UK (2018). Moments of character introspection are welcome and help to add some explanation of motivation. Whittaker is okay as the Doctor, but still lacks the presence of previous incarnations. The Daleks are great in both traditional and new designs and the clash of different factions recalls earlier episodes – notably REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS (1988). Technical values are high and the episode is nicely shot, but the direction of Jones fails to overcome the limitations of Chibnall’s script.

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)

Watch Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Episode I) | Full Movie | Disney+STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999, USA) ***
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas; exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Rick McCallum; ph. David Tattersall (DeLuxe. 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383, Vision Premier 2393), D-Cinema (Texas Instruments DLP 1280 x 1024, 1.9: 1 anamorphic). Dolby Vision, HDCAM (some scenes), Hawk Scope (anamorphic), Powerscope (anamorphic) (underwater scenes), VistaVision (some scenes). 2.35:1); m. John Williams; ed. Ben Burtt, Paul Martin Smith; pd. Gavin Bocquet; ad. Peter Russell; set d. Peter Walpole; cos. Trisha Biggar; m/up. Paul Engelen, Sue Love; sd. Tom Bellfort, Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood (Dolby Digital EX | SDDS (8 channels) | DTS-ES | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Geoff Heron, Peter Hutchinson; vfx. John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Scott Squires; st. Nick Gillard; anim. Miguel A. Fuertes; rel. 16 May 1999 (USA), 14 July 1999 (UK); cert: U; r/t. 136m.

cast: Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala / Padmé), Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Hugh Quarshie (Captain Panaka), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO (voice)), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Terence Stamp (Chancellor Valorum), Brian Blessed (Boss Nass (voice)), Andy Secombe (Watto (voice)), Ray Park (Darth Maul), Lewis Macleod (Sebulba (voice)), Warwick Davis (Wald / Pod race spectator / Mos Espa Citizen), Steve Speirs (Captain Tarpals).

The first of the second trilogy of STAR WARS movies goes back to the start of the story. Here, two Jedi Knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy (Lloyd) who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to reclaim their old glory. The film is a technical and visual marvel but is lumbered with a leaden narrative, a wordy script and wooden dialogue. Except for Neeson and the villainous McDiarmid, the actors fail to breathe life into the characters leaving an experience that lacks emotive investment. What’s left is to marvel at the staging of the action sequences, which at times feel too heavily choreographed, and to be antagonised by Jar Jar Binks – the singularly most annoying character of the series. The finale battle is well staged and sets up the thread to be taken forward in the next two films. Re-released in 3D in 2012. Followed by STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002).

AAN: Best Sound (Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Shawn Murphy, John Midgley); Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt, Tom Bellfort); Best Effects, Visual Effects (John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Scott Squires, Rob Coleman)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Poster by Josh Kirby, 1983 for sale at PamonoSTAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983, USA) ***½
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox ; pr co. Lucasfilm; d. Richard Marquand; w. Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas (based on a story by George Lucas); exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Howard G. Kazanjian, Rick McCallum; ph. Alan Hume (DeLuxe. 35mm (Eastman 5384). Digital Intermediate (4K) (2019 remaster), Dolby Vision, J-D-C Scope (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Sean Barton, Duwayne Dunham, Marcia Lucas; pd. Norman Reynolds; ad. Fred Hole, James L. Schoppe; set d. Michael Ford, Harry Lange; cos. Aggie Guerard Rodgers, Nilo Rodis-Jamero; m/up. Stuart Freeborn, Graham Freeborn, Tom Smith, Pat McDermott; sd. Ben Burtt (70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby (35 mm prints)); sfx. Roy Arbogast; vfx. Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston; st. Glenn Randall; rel. 25 May 1983 (USA), 2 June 1983 (UK); cert: U; r/t. 131m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Sebastian Shaw (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (The Emperor), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader (voice)), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Alec Guinness (Ben ‘Obi-Wan’ Kenobi), Kenny Baker (R2-D2 / Paploo), Michael Pennington (Moff Jerjerrod), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna), Denis Lawson (Wedge), Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar), Dermot Crowley (General Madine), Caroline Blakiston (Mon Mothma), Warwick Davis (Wicket), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Femi Taylor (Oola), Annie Arbogast (Sy Snootles), Claire Davenport (Fat Dancer), Jack Purvis (Teebo), Mike Edmonds (Logray), Jane Busby (Chief Chirpa), Malcolm Dixon (Ewok Warrior (as Malcom Dixon)), Mike Cottrell (Ewok Warrior), Nicolas Read (Nicki (as Nicki Reade)), Adam Bareham (Stardestroyer Controller #1), Jonathan Oliver (Stardestroyer Controller #2), Pip Miller (Stardestroyer Captain #1), Tom Mannion (Stardestroyer Captain #2), Margo Apostolos (Ewok (as Margo Apostocos)), Ray Armstrong (Ewok), Eileen Baker (Ewok), Michael Henbury Ballan (Ewok (as Michael H. Balham)), Bobby Bell (Ewok), Patty Bell (Ewok), Alan Bennett (Ewok), Sarah Bennett (Ewok), Pamela Betts (Ewok), Danny Blackner (Ewok (as Dan Blackner)), Linda Bowley (Ewok), Peter Burroughs (Ewok), Debbie Lee Carrington (Romba Ewok (as Debbie Carrington)), Maureen Charlton (Ewok), Willie Coppen (Ewok (as William Coppen)), Sadie Corre (Ewok (as Sadie Corrie)), Tony Cox (Ewok), John Cumming (Ewok), Jean D’Agostino (Ewok), Luis De Jesus (Ewok), Debbie Dixon (Ewok), Margarita Farrell (Ewok (as Margarita Fernandez)), Phil Fondacaro (Ewok), Sal Fondacaro (Ewok), Tony Friel (Ewok), Daniel Frishman (Ewok (as Dan Frishman)), John Ghavan (Ewok (as John Gavam)), Michael Gilden (Ewok), Paul Grant (Ewok), Lydia Green (Ewok), Lars Green (Ewok), Pam Grizz (Ewok), Andrew Herd (Ewok / Jawa), J.J. Jackson (Ewok),

As the evil Emperor Palpatine (McDiarmid) oversees the construction of the new Death Star by Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones) and the Galactic Empire, smuggler Han Solo (Ford) is rescued from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt by his friends, Luke Skywalker (Hamill), Princess Leia (Fisher), Lando Calrissian (Williams), and Chewbacca (Mayhew). Leaving Luke Skywalker Jedi training with Master Yoda (Oz), Solo returns to the Rebel fleet to prepare to complete his battle with the Empire. During the ensuing fighting, the newly returned Luke Skywalker is captured by Darth Vader. This third of the original STAR WARS trilogy is the least effective, being served by a script that offers little new and unimaginative direction. The Death Star plot merely re-cycles that of the first film and the character interaction lacks the slick camaraderie so apparent in the first two films. Fortunately, there is sufficient action and bravura in the lead performances to push through these faults and produce an entertaining, if flawed, conclusion. 1997 Special edition with added new effects runs to 134m. Original title: RETURN OF THE JEDI. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999).

AA: Special Achievement Award: Visual Effects (Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, Phil Tippett)
AAN: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Norman Reynolds, Fred Hole, James L. Schoppe, Michael Ford); Best Sound (Ben Burtt, Gary Summers, Randy Thom, Tony Dawe); Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt); Best Music, Original Score (John Williams)

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 – BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978)

Battlestar Galactica (1978) - Binge Watch Like A Pro!BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978, USA) **½
Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Glen A. Larson Productions / Universal TV; d. Richard A. Colla; w. Glen A. Larson; exec pr. Glen A. Larson; pr. John Dykstra; sup pr. Leslie Stevens; ass pr. Winrich Kolbe; ph. Ben Colman (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1 (Television ratio), 1.85:1 (theatrical ratio)); m. Stu Phillips; s. “It’s Love, Love Love” m/l. Sue Collins, John Andrew Tartaglia; m sup. ; ed. Robert L. Kimble, Leon Ortiz-Gil, Larry Strong; ad. John E. Chilberg II; set d. Lowell Chambers, Mickey S. Michaels; cos. Jean-Pierre Dorléac; m/up. Scott H. Eddo, Marvin C. Thompson, Paul Griffin, Joy Zapata; sd. James R. Alexander (Mono | Sensurround (theatrical print)); sfx. Joe Goss, Karl G. Miller, John Peyser; vfx. John Dykstra; st. Hubie Kerns Jr.; rel. 7 July 1978 (Canada), 12 April 1979 (UK), 18 May 1979 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 125m.

cast: Richard Hatch (Captain Apollo), Dirk Benedict (Lieutenant Starbuck), Lorne Greene (Commander Adama), Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Lieutenant Boomer), Maren Jensen (Lieutenant Athena), Tony Swartz (Flight Sergeant Jolly), Noah Hathaway (Boxey), Terry Carter (Colonel Tigh), Lew Ayres (President Adar), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Sire Anton), John Colicos (Count Baltar), Laurette Spang (Cassiopeia), John Fink (Dr. Paye), Jane Seymour (Serina), Ray Milland (Sire Uri), Ed Begley Jr. (Ensign Greenbean), Rick Springfield (Lieutenant Zac), Randi Oakes (Blonde Taurus), Norman Stuart (Statesman), David Greenan (Flight Officer Omega).

The Twelve Colonies of Man are annihilated by the Cylons. Adama (Greene), commanding the last surviving Battlestar, takes it upon himself to lead all remaining survivors aboard 220 ships to find a new home. After the Galactica’s fighter pilots successfully navigate a path through the Nova of Madagon minefield, the spoiled Sire Uri proposes to settle down on Carillon, where food and entertainment are provided by the natives. However, Adama suspects a Cylon trap. Released theatrically on the back of the phenomenal success of STAR WARS (1977), this edited version of the TV series pilot cannot escape its small-screen origins. This despite some excellent model work and a well-edited and pacey space battle in the opening scenes. The story meanders on from this point into standard episodic TV fare, with a workmanlike approach to photography and direction. Benedict’s roguish fighter pilot is an obvious riff on Han Solo, but the actor lacks Harrison Ford’s nuance, whilst Hatch makes a bland hero. There is a strong guest cast assembled, including Ayres, Milland, Hyde-White, Begley, Jr. and Seymour, which is underused. Costumes and set design are typical of genre TV of the period and there is even a disco-styled song sung by a unique female trio. The TV pilot version, broadcast in the USA on 17 September 1978 as “Saga of a Star World”, runs 133m. Followed by a TV series 1978-9, two more big-screen features MISSION GALACTICA: THE CYLON ATTACK (1979) and CONQUEST OF THE EARTH (1980) were compiled from TV episodes. Later followed by a re-imagined and far grittier TV series 2003-9.

Film Review – FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956)

British Quad - Posterwire.comFORBIDDEN PLANET (1956, USA) ****½
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Toho Company; d. Fred M. Wilcox; w. Cyril Hume (based on a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler); pr. Nicholas Nayfack; ph. George J. Folsey (Eastmancolor. 35mm. CinemaScope. 2.55:1); m. Bebe Barron, Louis Barron; ed. Ferris Webster; pd. Irving Block, Mentor Huebner (both uncredited); ad. Cedric Gibbons, Arthur Lonergan; set d. Hugh Hunt, Edwin B. Willis; cos. Walter Plunkett, Helen Rose; m/up. John Truwe, William Tuttle, Sydney Guilaroff; sd. Wesley C. Miller (Mono (Perspecta Sound encoding) (Western Electric Sound System) | 4-Track Stereo (4 channels)); sfx. A. Arnold Gillespie, Joshua Meador, Warren Newcombe, Irving G. Ries; vfx. Bob Abrams, Max Fabian, Joshua Meador; rel. 23 March 1956 (USA), 8 June 1956 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: Walter Pidgeon (Dr. Morbius), Anne Francis (Altaira Morbius), Leslie Nielsen (Commander Adams), Warren Stevens (Lt. ‘Doc’ Ostrow), Jack Kelly (Lt. Farman), Richard Anderson (Chief Quinn), Earl Holliman (Cook), George Wallace (Bosun), Robert Dix (Crewman Grey (as Bob Dix)), Jimmy Thompson (Crewman Youngerford), James Drury (Crewman Strong), Harry Harvey Jr. (Crewman Randall), Roger McGee (Crewman Lindstrom), Peter Miller (Crewman Moran), Morgan Jones (Crewman Nichols), Richard Grant (Crewman Silvers), Robby the Robot (Robby the Robot), James Best (Crewman (uncredited)), William Boyett (Crewman (uncredited)), Frankie Darro (Robby the Robot (uncredited)), Marvin Miller (Robby the Robot (uncredited) (voice)), Les Tremayne (Narrator (uncredited) (voice)).

When Captain J.J. Adams (Neilsen) and his crew are sent to investigate the silence from a planet inhabited by scientists, he finds all but two have died. Dr. Morbius (Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Francis) have somehow survived a hideous monster which roams the planet. Unknown to Adams, Morbius has made a discovery, and has no intention of sharing it with anyone. This was a highly influential sci-fi adventure and significantly ahead of its time. Its reach can be seen most clearly in the TV series Star Trek that followed eight years later. The script is full of intelligent and challenging concepts and Pidgeon exudes both charm and menace as the stranded scientist whose obsessions turn in on themselves. Nielsen, making his film debut, plays the rescue ship captain who becomes involved with Pidgeon’s daughter Francis leading to her loyalty and trust in her father slowly evaporating. Stunning visuals for the period, notably in the exploration of the Krell city. Robby the Robot is a great creation and would become a star in his own right. The only downsides are the sometimes creaky dialogue and the dated and condescending attitude of the crew to Francis, otherwise this is a classic of the genre. It was the first mainstream film to have the music performed entirely by electronic instruments. The eerie score contributes greatly to the otherworldly environment the production team created. Those thinking that story elements have some familiarity are not without justification, with the story loosely based on “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare.