Tag: George Lucas

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #13. Star Wars (1977)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Star Wars 1
“I have a very bad feeling about this.”

I was born in 1980. So while that means I never got to see the original Star Wars trilogy in cinemas, it means I was of an age where I grew up with myself, and pretty much all of my friends, having the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS and watching them constantly. I had the toys, though not nearly enough of them, a few books, a t-shirt or two, and even thought the Ewoks movie was good. I’m of an age that I will always love the originals, was too old to like the prequels, yet still can’t help being a little excited about JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What is it about these movies that grabbed a generation, and never let go?


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a rebel spaceship is boarded by a band of menacing Imperial storm troopers and their leader, the black suited and black helmeted Darth Vader (voice by James Earl Jones, body by David Prowse). Before he is able to capture rebel leader Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), she is able to dispatch an escape pod holding two droids, the pretentious and particular C-3PO (Antony Daniels), and the adorable little scamp, R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). They land on the desert planet of Tatooine, where they are eventually bought by farming uncle and nephew duo, Owen and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #62. American Graffiti (1973)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

American

“Peel out, I just love it when guys peel out.”

For a bloke who spent the last 15 or so years facing charges of raping nerd’s childhoods by having the audacity to make movies for kids long after those nerds grew out of childhood, George Lucas had a way more interesting and eclectic start to his a career than the years since would suggest.  He started with some serious, dark, adult sci-fi in THX-1138.    A few years later, he had one of the most successful movies of all time and helped invent the concept of the blockbuster with not so serious, not so adult sci-fi in Star Wars.  And in between, he made a small coming of age story that was love letter to America the 50s, American Graffiti.


It’s the last night of summer in small town, 60s California.  With a scholarship cheque in his pocket, Curt (Richard Dreyfus) gets ready for one last night of cruising the main drag before going away to college on the other side of the country.  Also living the dream and getting ready for the big move is his best friend, Steve (Ron Howard).  Only, Curt’s having second thoughts.  Whether it’s fear holding him back or nostalgia for his home town, Curt keeps trying to prolong his last night and avoid accepting that his move is only hours away. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #66. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

 Raiders

“You want to talk to God? Let’s go see him together, I’ve got nothing better to do.”

Here we are, about a third of the way through this countdown, and we’re only now just getting to the first super fun, rollercoaster ride style blockbuster.  Sure, we’ve had classic comedies like A Night at the Opera, song and dance frivolity with Swing Time, and kids’ movies that work well for adults too, like Toy Story. But the majority of this AFI 100 is so obsessed with drama and cinematic downers, Raiders of the Lost Ark simply sticks out more than pretty much anything else on there.  And any excuse to rewatch this movie is a good thing.


In what is one of the best and most iconic opening sequences in cinematic history, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) basically commits a break an enter on a South American temple, stealing a golden idol.  But just when he thinks he’s free and clear, rival archaeologist Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman) manages to claim it for himself.  But back home at his job teaching at a prestigious American college, he gets a new assignment that makes him forget about his stolen idol. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DIRECTOR DEBUT WEEK*** Lucas: THX 1138 (1971)

THX1138
Poor old George Lucas gets a bad wrap.  Sure, I didn’t like the Star Wars prequels, but I was in my 20s when they came out, they weren’t made for me.  Just like my parents who were in their 20s and 30s when the original trilogy came out and didn’t like those.  The Star Wars movies are kids movies, and if you see them early enough, chances are you’ll love them into adulthood.  Yet the nostalgia of those original trilogy fans is so rabid, Lucas has spent the last 15 or so years vilified as a hack.  But George Lucas is more than Star Wars.  He also made the great American Graffiti, and before everything else, he made THX 1138.

This is science fiction, but it’s not the kid friendly, gee-whiz science fiction of Star Wars.  THX 1138 is serious, dark, adult shit.  In this world, mankind are drugged up drones, living in a cold empty world, surrounded by sanitised white and constantly monitored by big brother.  Robert Duvall is THX, a factory worker who builds the police robots that help keep society down.  His missus, LUH (Maggie McOmie) realises they are being numbed by the mandatory drug program and orchestrates THX going cold turkey.

Sobering up, THX starts to think for himself and feel all the emotions he’s been missing.  Soon, THX and LUH are also mixed up with Donald Pleasance as SEN.  They’re growing independent thinking brings them to the attention of the authorities and shit gets real.

Over the years, Lucas has more than once talked about his desire to make small, personal, not so commercial movies.  Based on the Star Wars series and America Graffiti, I always thought he only knew how to make mass appeal, feel good crowd pleasers.  But THX 1138 shows he’s capable of genuinely subversive, interesting and very non conventional story telling and film making.

Robert Duvall is great in the title role.  He sells the lobotomized, dead eyed compliance of the movie’s early scenes and convincingly evolves through confusion to realisation to rebellion as the story progresses.   Of course it’s no surprise that Robert Duvall puts in an awesome performance, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

And what was the story with Donald Pleasance in the 70s?  He was either insane or an absolute genius.  From movies like THX 1138, to Halloween to the amazing Wake in Fright, he really does have one of the most interesting and bizarre resumes of the decade.

Now that George Lucas is out of the Star Wars game, and now that I’ve finally seen THX 1138, I really hope it does free him up to make the small, personal, not so commercial movies he’s talked about in the past.  The result could be like the Frances Ford Coppola of the last decade.  Maybe not amazing and as hugely successful as his prime, but never boring.

THX 1138
Directed By – George Lucas
Written By – George Lucas, Walter Murch

MOVIE REVIEW | ***FLOP WEEK*** Howard the Duck (1986)

howard-the-duck

People can talk about and make fun of a modern day Hollywood disaster like The Lone Ranger all they want, but it’s just a flop wannabe.  Before it was even a redundant, half assed, lazy, money grabbing glint in a studio executive’s eye, there was one shit bomb of such legend, pretty much the only thing it’s famous for today, almost three decades after it first underwhelmed audiences, is it’s shit bombery.  Yes people, I watched Howard the Duck.  And you know what, its reputation is kind of undeserved.


That is by no means me saying it’s a good movie.  Howard the Duck is not a good movie.  It’s just not nearly as bad as its almost mythical status would have you believe.  By the time George Lucas got involved as a producer of Howard the Duck, the famed writer, director, producer and neck waddle connoisseur was riding high on three Star Warses and two Indian Jonses.  So why would anyone doubt the potential when he proposed making a live action adaptation of a little known comic book foul  mouthed duck?

Within the first couple of minutes, we meet Howard at home on his duck populated planet before he’s beamed to Earth via a pretty cheap looking special effect.  Once on Earth, he meets Lea Thompson after we see her playing a gig with her band, which leads to two observations about that time period.  In the mid-eighties a lot of movies involved characters in dangerous punk bands that played the most bubble gum of non threatening pop.  Also in the mid-eighties, film making had access to possibly the smokingly hottest trio of smoking hot “girls next door”, Lea Thomspon, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates.

Back to the plot.  Howard meets Lea Thompson, who in turn introduces him to her scientist mate play by Tim Robbins.  Robbins reckons he knows how Howard ended up on Earth and takes him to his lab where we meet his boss, played by Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (I could look up the actor’s name, but I think describing him as “Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” will make more sense to more people than his real name).  Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off becomes a bad guy and Howard, Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins have to defeat him in their efforts to send Howard home.

The story is fine, nothing special, but there are plenty of worse ones out there.  The effects are a let down at times, especially when you consider that Lucas was involved, but they’re not the worst of the time either.  And while Howard never seems like more than a little dude in a duck costume, the puppetry involved with his facial expressions and eyes are really expressive and impressive.  I’m not gonna rush to watch Howard the Duck again anytime soon, and I can understand why it wasn’t a massive hit at the time, but I also don’t think it deserves its rep as one of the patron saints of film flops.  And say what you will about the rest of this movie, but the song Thompson sings at the end is an insanely catchy toe tapper that’s been stuck in my head for days.

Budget $37million / U.S Box Office $37.9million

Razzies Won:
Worst Picture
Worst Screenplay – Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz
Worst Visual Effects – Industrial Light and Magic

Howard the Duck
Directed By – Willard Huyck
Written By – Willard HuyckGloria Katz

Instead of Howard the Duck, watch Tim Robbins be awesome The Hudsucker Proxy