Written by John Edward Betancourt
Finales of any kind have to be difficult for filmmakers to put together. After all, this is the last time a particular story is going to be told and if it isn't done right, the ire of the fans will come forth and understandably so. These are the folks who have stood by a story after all this time so it's only fair they expect everything to be perfect when the time comes to say goodbye.
Which bring us to the sixth film in the Star Wars series, Return of the Jedi, because this is one of those polarizing films for fans of the franchise because I think this is a Star Wars film that you either completely love or completely hate for various reasons. I mean, some folks simply cannot stand the Ewoks and the third act of this motion picture and that's okay.
I personally hold this one near and dear to my heart because it's the first Star Wars film that I was actually able to see in theaters during its initial run in 1983 and to this day the movie remains magical in my memory and despite its flaws, I am of the opinion that this is actually an integral film to the franchise and one that does indeed serve up a perfect finale to a flawed character's journey.
After all, it is filled to the brim with some classic storytelling, specifically when it comes to the battle between good versus evil and really, who doesn't enjoy that kind of showdown? I mean this is it, this is the film when Luke finally becomes a Jedi and squares off against his father and the Emperor in epic fashion and the struggle that Vader has to go through, since his need to serve the Emperor and his desire to love his son tears his soul apart, has always fascinated me and it makes that magical moment when Vader makes his decision all the more powerful and quite frankly beautiful.
Not to mention, this movie features one big time and kickass finale. Whether or not you like the film, the Battle of Endor is without a doubt one of the coolest final battles I've ever seen. Sure the Ewoks are a little doofy but who cares, it's not the stuff on Endor that anyone really remembers, it's what happens above in space. To finally see the Empire and the Rebellion go head to head in one final battle, with incredible losses on both sides...well it's a truly epic showdown. One that to this day still sends chills down my spine and leaves me hooting and hollering even though I've seen the movie more times than I count.
In a way though, this film takes on a bigger role in the franchise than we give it credit thanks to The Force Awakens. I say that because now in a way, this final chapter in Anakin's story, where his redemption comes full circle now becomes a tragedy. For despite the fact that he was able to conquer the darkness within and make amends with his son and in many ways, save the damn universe...the dark shadow that Darth Vader cast will always serve as his legacy, and it inspired a new generation of evil, and it is that new wrinkle to the story that gives this film a fresh feel when it comes to the franchise and I don't think we will ever view it in the same light ever again.
Written by Shae Rufe
The Empire Strikes Back is a family favorite within my household. My dad adores this movie the best, and thus we watched it the most. Out of the original series this film was the darkest, and actually the best, to me, as far as plot. Though, I am always secretly rooting for the bad guy in just about anything I watch.
And this time, with this film, the bad guys won. Isn't that a little devastating!? Here our heroes thought that they would be able to beat the dark side and the Empire, easy! Destroy whatever was left of them and be done with it. Just kidding! Arrogance and cocky behavior ended up being the downfall of our heroes. Some more than others.
It's also the film where a lot of earth shattering moments happen to our characters. The rebels take a hard hit, Leia and Han finally get along for more than 10 minutes and even fall in love, and Luke finds a Jedi Mentor in the form of an old green gremlin. Our first meeting with Yoda will always be memorable. He went from funny to serious in such a short span. This isn't the Yoda we have known previously from the prequels.
But before those even happened, this backwards talking little thing warmed our hearts with his teaching skills. Move over R2, we have another favorite puppet. Of course, in the end Han is frozen in Carbonite in a moment that features the infamous lines we still know to this day, Leia proclaims her love for him and instead of returning her affection he simply replies with 'I know.' Okay, as a kid, that moment when Han is frozen freaked me out. I legit thought they'd just killed off my favorite character, because yes, Han was my favorite character. Thankfully they didn't, but I didn't know that!
In the midst of it all, Luke loses his hand, which is kind of a big deal, and we learn that Vader is really his father! I can honestly say I was so surprised. Little Shae did NOT see that plot twist coming one bit. By the end, our heroes are scattered, Han is being taken to Jabba, Luke is wounded, and Leia has a lot to answer for. I mean, that famous kiss between her and Luke doesn't get gross until the last episode, but you know, it did happen. Still, as far as the Star Wars films go, this is my all-time favorite.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Time often changes everything when it comes to our favorite films. As we grow older we begin to see their flaws, see how dated they have become and as the years pass they become nothing more than a slice of nostalgia and a collection of good memories when we pop them into our Blu Ray Player or stream them on our television or computer screens.
But some of the films we grew up with, will always withstand the test of time. These are the movies that we watch and find ourselves once again lost in the adventure. It doesn't matter when it was made or how many years it has been since we have seen it, it's instantly magical and whisks us away to a special place and one of those films is the fourth entry in the Star Wars saga...A New Hope.
After all, this is where everything began. This is the adventure that blew all of us away with its special effects and unique story and to this day each and every one of us find this film magical. It's managed to transcend generations, with parents making this motion picture now part of their family traditions and if you don't believe me...just check out a convention near you and see pairs of father and son Jedi running around the con.
But what gives this movie that kind of staying power? How on earth does it continue to blow us away every single time we watch it after all these years? Well plenty of folks have done their best to break it down and analyze it and I would venture to say it's a motion picture that has had every aspect of its story dissected. But I think it goes beyond the groundbreaking special effects and fun little story, this film's magic comes from one particular aspect we never really think about in filmmaking...it's genuine.
After all, this is a movie that came about at the dawn of the blockbuster, and some even cite that it was responsible for the creation of the big-time summer blockbuster and while that may be true, one has to remember a few things. This is a movie that was free of executive influence and a marketing scheme. This came out before the era of tent-poles and remakes and sequels that we live in now and being free of all of that allowed for something special to happen on the screen, it became a story that grew on its own. I'm sure there were rewrites and all the things that happen in the business regardless but it's obvious that George Lucas simply went for broke, threw caution to the wind and told a tale that he wanted to tell. After all, he had nothing to lose and the end result was nothing short of magnificent.
I mean really, this movie has it all. Action, adventure, a grand villain and a wonderful cause for you to root for and you really can't ask for anything more. But at the same time, the scope of it, the power of the universe surrounding these characters took hold in our imagination and captivated us. That comes from the care that went into making this film, the honest performances from the cast on the screen and the fact that fresh new ideas were injected into the science fiction genre. This is one of those rare films that managed to give us something new and exciting and who knew that forty years later we would be sitting here, still celebrating this story and preparing to enjoy another incredible chapter in this magnificent saga.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
I still distinctly remember that there was a lot of talk amongst the fans leading up to and following the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and all of it revolved around the fact that at this particular time in the franchise's history...there seemed to be an unhealthy obsession surrounding everything and anything when it comes to Episode IV: A New Hope and this discussion existed with good reason.
After all, The Force Awakens was in many ways the second coming of A New Hope, serving as a 'best of' reel for that film, reminding us of its wonder by paying homage to its finest moments and of course, Rogue One is an outright prequel to that particular film. But the debate as to whether or not this level of nostalgia is acceptable will rage on regardless of anything discussed in this review, so it's far more important we take a moment today and look at Rogue One in an objective fashion and focus on all the important things this story does for the franchise as a whole.
Case in point, this is a motion picture that finally gives us a solid understanding of what life is like under the rule of the Galactic Empire. Yes, we've always known they're an evil bunch, but primarily our dealings with them as fans have come by way of Emperor Palpatine or Darth Vader and while its no secret that Vader pops up in this film as well, by removing the whole Skywalker focus, we are finally taken inside the plight of the everyman by way of Jyn Erso and later on through her new found friends. It is here that we learn that life in the Empire is awful to say the least. It goes beyond being merely oppressed or robbed of basic freedoms...the Empire wants everything and anything it can get its hands on, including one's life if necessary.
In addition to showing us the pure hell the people of the Galaxy must endure, Rogue One takes things a step further by showing us what kind of frightening freedoms are extended to officers of the Empire by way of Director Krennic. A man whose personal ambition matters above everything else to the point where people will die and die horribly in order for him to enjoy the glory and grace of the Emperor. Krennic is a chilling character, one that reminds us of the evil that men are capable of when it is encouraged and nourished and when consequences simply do not exist.
But giving us all of those darker story elements is critical to this film's success. We need to know what the galaxy turned into under Palpatine's rule for one simple reason...to inspire hope. It's a word thrown around often in this story simply because of the fact there's little of it to be found. Even Jyn Erso is a woman without hope. She has acquiesced to this awful, awful life and it isn't until she loses everything that she understands the need to fight, in part to provide her soul with a sense of peace, but also to right the wrongs that the Empire is forcing innocent people to endure and when all is said and done, it makes for a compelling and dark Star Wars story, one where you root for the characters a little harder than usual simply because the Empire is finally on display as a brutal, and vicious organization that deserves to be dismantled and defeated.
However, all of that aside, what truly makes this film so magical and enjoyable...is the fact that it is in many ways the reset button for the entire franchise. By stripping away the mysticism of the Force, by removing the Skywalker focus and presenting us with everyday people in the galaxy struggling for a better life, it serves as a fine reminder as to why we fell in love with A New Hope in the first place, the fact that the story of a galaxy, far, far, away was always about one thing; good triumphing over evil. Everything else was merely a bonus, because the saga introduced us to ordinary people, who discovered they had extraordinary talents and they worked together to make their world a better place now and forever and despite this film's harsh ending and gritty nature, we know that the plight of the Rebels in this film is not in vain, they inspired hope...they made a difference, and if giving us hope and revisiting the wonder of what makes this franchise so great is going to continue to pop up in every single film going forward...then I welcome it because it's exactly what makes Rogue One a wonderful tale and a welcome addition to a storied franchise.
Written by Shae Rufe
Revenge of the Sith brought a whole new darker tone to the beginning of the series. Having started off kind of weak, we did get a bit of a stronger ending to the prequel trilogy. Of course, who could forget the iconic moment where Anakin finally becomes Vader? I'm still questioning how we went from madly in love with Padmé to slaughtering baby Jedi, but...this is the same franchise that thought Jar Jar was acceptable.
The darker themes in this film played more to that of my favorite original movie, The Empire Strikes Back. This film is filled with betrayal, crazy political moves, and really epic lightsaber battles. Which, seriously, Samuel L Jackson with a purple lightsaber? Still my favorite thing ever. Until he gets killed by Anakin that is. Which, okay, let's take another moment here.
Say you're the Jedi. And there's literally a lot of you. The Sith always just have two, right? But there is this kid out there who will bring balance to the Force.....I'm not saying I'm really good at math, but a ton of you vs. two of them? I'd say forget the balance, get rid of the kid and go deal with the Sith. Then again, years later, I am still violently upset about what that bastard did to all those Jedi kids! Not cool!
On the subject of not cool, let's talk about Padmé's death scene in general. At least she lived long enough to name her little munchkins. There are debates about that scene and there have been many who speculate that the Emperor steals her life energy to give to our new Darth Vader. But, either way, it was a strange ending to her life, and really...she deserved way better than that.
Having the chance to see this film in theaters was a mix between awesome and strange. Easily it was the strongest of the prequels, since it plays a pivotal role in telling the story. Better yet, knowing just how we got to where we begin with Rogue One and Episode IV is a nice way to wrap everything up when all is said and done. Still, it was the end of the franchise at the time, or so we thought.....
Written by Scott Edwards
The bond between siblings is something that can never be taken away, even if the situation asks for it. Being family since the first day they meet each other, the sacrifice that they are willing to give for each other is something that amazes me. Not having any brothers or sisters myself, I like to think that I understand this love with my friends, and while I am willing to do anything for them, it is not the same. Keeping your family close to you no matter the situation is key, because no matter what happens, they will be the only ones you can truly count on.
After a pandemic has claimed the lives of millions on the planet, there are still small pockets of survivors that are just trying to live. Three sisters, Jenny, Sarah and Danika have their own refuge set up by their father who was not willing to see the world come to an end. Being told to protect themselves at all costs, there is nothing that these sisters will not do for each other and while the future looks bleak, they are trying to make the best of things. Jenny being the oldest keeps her other two sisters in line, or tries to at least by taking on her mother’s role and she also tries to teach her youngest sister Danika how to have fun and survive in the event things go from bad to worse.
Danika, however is starting to show the signs of the sickness as her hair is starting to fall out and Jenny does not have any ideas of what to do. Trying to find her sister while collecting firewood, Jenny is shocked to see that she is being talked to by a stranger. Warning the young man to stay away from her home and family, Jenny spews warnings that go unheard, but Sarah takes matters into her own hands and shoots the man in the leg. Feeling bad because the man only wanted some food and would move on, Jenny invites him to stay until he is recovered, something that doesn’t sit well with Sarah.
Jenny and Danika seem fine with having Ryan join their home. Jenny is pleased because she has someone else to talk to and Danika is happy because she sees something in the young man that she trusts. As the days go by, everything seems fine in the household and Ryan is even offering advice on what the girls should do next, as he has heard that there are outposts in the cities that could offer help for Danika who is showing the signs of infection. While Jenny wants to believe the stories, she has to keep her family’s best intentions in mind since being around people with the way things are is not a good idea for anyone. Sarah on the other hand is intrigued and asks Ryan to take her with him when he leaves, as the water supply in the house is drying up and there might not be any other choice.
Waking up and seeing that Sarah and Ryan are gone, Jenny starts to worry what is happening around her. While looking for her sister, Jenny is greeted by another stranger that is looking for Ryan and while he does not seem to have bad intentions, Jenny will not allow him near her home. But she has little choice as Ryan returns with a tied-up Sarah and other members of his family that have been able to survive on their own. Wanting to rebuild civilization, the girl’s refuge is the perfect place since it has survived this long and Charlie has an offer for them all. While Jenny listens to what Charlie has to say and seeing that he is infected and still alive, he might know what is really happening, but before she is able to come to a decision about what will happen to her home, a scream comes from her sister who has other plans for the group in mind.
I did not think that a post-apocalyptic type movie would impress me that much, but I will admit that this one did. Seeing what the sisters would do to defend themselves in the opening seconds, I was surprised that anyone that entered their home would walk away in one piece. The fear of the living during this trying time is understandable, especially when there are people looking for more than they are entitled to. I liked how the introduction of Charlie and his group was shown and even when he says he means no harm, you still have the worry that he will take advantage of the girls in an unsavory way. But you never know what the true intentions are of someone until they put all of their cards on the table and even when it is done, things still get out of hand. With three girls living on their own, an impending sickness, a stranger with promises of a better life, a sister who trusts no one and a sister who is chosen, it really gives you great insight as to how other people really see the world. This is a movie that does not pull any punches as they start to be thrown and it features an ending that cannot be beat.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
I think we can all agree on one thing when it comes to the prequels in the Star Wars universe, they all have an awful reputation. From Jar Jar Binks to some dubious performances, we all have our reasons for despising something about the prequels. But The Last Jedi is about to arrive in theaters, and it's a magical time, so for today's review of Episode II: Attack of the Clones, let's forget about the stuff we hate and celebrate the good about this film.
Now I'm sure someone reading this is raising an eyebrow, wondering exactly what could be good about this film and that's fair, since there's a lot of rough spots in Clones. But here's the thing, whether we like it or not, the second entry in the series is actually an important one when it comes to the Star Wars mythos. After all, it is filled with plot points that would impact the franchise for years to come and if you're thinking I'm out of my mind...well look no further than the Clone Wars.
This is after all where this grand war began and the gravity of this war and everything that would come from it is underplayed upon the first viewing of this film and that's not a bad thing. We aren't supposed to realize that every character in this film is a pawn, we’re supposed to firmly believe that the heroes aren’t being sucked into some awful trap and that the day will indeed be saved. Of course, the grand mystery surrounding Count Dooku helps add an air of skepticism, but the story is engrossing enough that it feels like a euphoric and heroic tale through and through and it isn’t until later on that one realizes that this film is in fact, a grand and sweeping tragedy.
I say that, simply because there's a sadness that settles in upon further viewings, especially when you realize just how far Palpatine's power extends and how intricate his plans truly are. It gives the love story that one can easily regard as fluffy a certain sense of doom as well since this is the last time we will ever see Anakin and Padmé as innocents since the war will change everything. It's those subtle undertones that I applaud when it comes to this film and quite frankly, they allow me to forgive the cheesier moments in this film because let's be honest...there are plenty of them, but they are balanced by the weight of everything set up in this film, and it did such a good job with the setup that all of us had plenty of hearty conversations with our friends about what the third film might hold when it comes to how Anakin turns to the Dark Side.
That alone is why I give the prequels their passing grade, because they brought out the kid and the movie fan in all of us and to top it all off, I do have to give George Lucas some serious credit for blending together multiple genres in this prequel. After all, it is filled to the brim with science fiction wonder, but it also pays homage to the serial adventure stories of the 1940's and 1950's and I know I'll be giving this one a re-watch here in the coming days as I brace myself to return to theaters once again to see what kind of adventure will be waiting for all of us in The Last Jedi.
Written by Shae Rufe
You know what always bugged me? How they called these things episodes. I don't know why, it just did. I hadn't seen any of the films until I was living in Florida with my parents, and my dad was shocked to find out I hadn't seen them yet. An epic marathon ensued. Shortly after Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out. I.....don't know what happened, but my inner nerd exploded.
I think I saw that film in theaters more times than anyone should see that film. Yes, it has its down sides and characters that are annoying, but I liked it. It didn't help that I drug my friend Cass to see it constantly. I'm sure she might actually hold a grudge over it to this day! Either way, the thrilling tale of a young kid being a powerful Jedi waiting to happen, was kind of cool.
I can't tell you how many books I ended up owning from this franchise. Or how utterly obsessed I got with the whole ordeal. Sadly, I never have owned any Jedi robes. I did however have some very epic lightsaber battles in the garage with my dad and sister. Which was probably the coolest part about my childhood.
So, I'm not really going to recap the film, because we have all seen it, we all know what it's about, and it's the most hated film in the entire franchise. Which is a total epic feat all on its own. All I'm really going to say is that it's because of this movie coming out in my childhood that I got to experience some awesome nerd feelings. I wasn't old enough (at all!) to ever enjoy seeing any other film like that in my life time.
I remember how excited everyone was leading up to it. And then the subsequent back lash that the film received. While Jar Jar and Pod Racing weren't really......cool, the film had its upsides. Like Natalie Portman and Liam Neeson being big enough nerds to do things like this, along with Ewan McGregor and of course the introduction of Samuel L. Jackson into the universe. So rag on it all you want, this one holds a special place in my heart because hey...it's Star Wars, and it's fun and that's what I think we forget when it comes to this movie.
Written by Shae Rufe
If you’re a fan of Disney then a couple of years ago you might have noticed their release of a new live action version of Cinderella. Yes, this movie has had many incarnations since its original written version, but the glass slippers have never looked so good. Also, the Frozen short before the film was truly an experience and is pretty fantastic.
Cinderella follows our enchanting princess-to-be Ella, and her life. She is surrounded by a loving father and mother from a respectable household with servants and farmers; the father travels quite often and is always bringing young Ella the most enchanting gifts. Sadly, all good things come to an end, it seems, when Ella’s Mother dies of some unknown disease. It isn’t until years later, however, that her father re-marries our infamous stepmother. Things seem to be fine, and maybe the stepmother isn’t even evil…but words hurt. She overhears Ella and her father talking about how much they miss the long dead mother. When this is constantly thrown in the stepmother's face, I truly can’t blame her for resenting Ella. The Stepsisters are, for lack of a better term, hilariously awful.
When things seem like they may just work out, things take a turn for the worse and our Ella finds herself orphaned. And living in the attic…which has her sleeping by the fire, which gets her a new name, Cinderella. Ella finds herself being their servant and finally snaps after they call her Cinderella. She leaves on a horse, only to run into a young apprentice named Kit. We all know Kit is really the prince, but Ella doesn’t, and with just a few moments between them, something sparks. Ella returns home, and Kit goes to convince his father that he wants the entire village invited to the party being thrown for him.
Ella isn’t allowed to go to the ball, and unlike the animated version we grew up with, she doesn’t have animal friends to help make her dress, but she does have animal friends and they do chat with her…or she talks to them? Either way, she fixes up an old dress from her mother and says she’s going to attend the ball as well…until her dress is ruined by her stepfamily. Ella runs off, and instead of her Fairy Godmother just appearing, like we’re used to, there’s a test. An old woman asks Ella for some bread or milk. Ella, still distraught, calms instantly, and gives the woman a bowl of milk without question. Her Fairy Godmother reveals herself as the old woman and before we know it, Ella is in a stunning dress, with Glass Slippers, and in a Pumpkin Carriage on her way to the ball.
Ella is the belle of the ball as she is the last to arrive and captures the prince’s attention immediately. They dance, and then sneak off to talk privately. Everyone Is convinced she is a princess, and Ella isn’t about to correct anyone, nor will she give Kit her real name. But soon, Midnight is about to happen. Ella leaves, her slipper falls and is left on the stairs. She gets away and our Prince is not pleased. With the King dying, he finally grants his son’s wish; Kit may marry whomever he likes. The Grand Duke is not pleased with this and wants him to marry a Princess, for the better of their kingdom.
The search begins. Whoever fits the glass slipper is the missing princess. Every woman in the kingdom tries it on. Finally, Cinderella’s home is checked. The stepsisters try their luck, and are found to not be the girl. Ella is locked in the attic as her stepmother figured out she was the Mystery Princess, even breaking the other glass slipper she had. Fate, however, has a way of working out. The guards hear singing, and our Prince, now King, is among them. He insists the girl be released, and low and behold, she is his mystery girl, but not a princess. Thankfully, true love is more important. This film was adorable. While it held the classic elements we know and love, it had its own twists. A film for the whole family, and of course, all those Cinderella fans out there.
Written by Scott Edwards
A group of friends are looking to get away from the planet and have a little bit of fun. Wanting to go to Centauri Five for a little time away from home they are able to rent a shuttle and make their dream a reality. When they get away from port, they have a party on the shuttle, but when the ship's computer tells them that they are off course, they need to find a way to get back on track to their final destination.
Being a boat load full of college students, they all have their own areas of focus, and one student’s specialty is in travel and he tries to fix the malfunctioning navigation system, but he finds that it is much worse than he thought. The shuttle engages its hyper drive and takes the group further off course and lands them in an uncharted system. Not knowing where they are and not having a way to call for help, the group has to land on what appears to be an uninhabited planet to make repairs and hopefully get rescued.
Upon landing, the group get banged up and need to find a way to get help. Without a distress beacon, they look around in their surroundings to try to find something that can help them. Not seeing a living soul around them, they start to see images out of the sides of their eyes of some sort of creatures, but never get to see one head on. Thinking that they are not alone on the planet, they try to get back to the ship, only to find that there is a bigger threat at hand than some dormant aliens.
This is a good old fashioned fun movie with some great characters. Although it starts off kind of slow, once you get into the air, all bets are off on what will happen next. Watching as each of the friends has to call upon their selected skills is great and shows how valuable each one of them is in their own way. With a strong female lead as well, it is easy to get lost on the uncharted planet with these characters and join in their wonder of what could be coming out of the vast and alien wilderness. Happy Viewing.