With Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) released forty years ago this month, BBC critic Nicholas Barber writes that he finds the Star Wars film considered as the best to be “slower, stodgier, more contrived, convoluted, and repetitive.” Indeed, Barber is not alone in his opinion – notable reviewers such as Vincent Canby at The New York Times were also underwhelmed with the first sequel to George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). Instead, Barber argues that the original is the greatest entry in the franchise, “with its wealth of history, mythology, politics, and technology.”
Films that didn’t play in theaters now eligible for Academy Awards
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences adjusted its eligibility rules for the Academy Awards to include films that didn’t play in theaters, according to Variety. The board of governors convened Tuesday to approve the temporary hold on the mandate that a movie needs to run for seven days in a commercial Los Angeles theater to qualify for the Oscars. While digital releases will be eligible, the streamed picture must have already had a planned theatrical release, in addition to being made available on the Academy Screening Room member-only site within sixty days.
New set photo released for Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” (2021)
The production for Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World: Dominion (2021) may have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the filmmaker has still offered fans a behind-the-scenes sneak peek, according to /Film. The new set photo features Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) – the cloned daughter of the late Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) – in a snowy environment after freeing all the captured dinosaurs at the end of J.A. Bayona’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018). Franchise alumni Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, as well as Laura Dern will all be returning to Dominion.
Garry Marshall’s “Pretty Woman” (1990) turns thirty
The Guardian critic Scott Tobias writes that Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman (1990) may have been released in the 1990s, but it is very 1980s with its “greed is good,” Reaganomics materialism, as well as its ultraconservative sexual politics. After all, it is about a Hollywood Boulevard prostitute named Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) – who is new to streetwalking, does no drugs, and doesn’t have a pimp – snagging a wealthy out-of-towner named Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), who innocently meets her asking for directions. According to Tobias, Roberts’s star-making turn, which made her America’s sweetheart overnight, elevates the film beyond its shortcomings.
“Ready or Not” directors attached to “Scream” reboot
Spyglass Media Group is rebooting Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) in partnership with Matthew Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who directed Ready or Not (2019), according to Variety. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are part of filmmaking group Radio Silence with Chad Villella, who will serve as one of the producers behind the untitled Scream reboot; Radio Silence produced V/H/S (2012), Devil’s Due (2014), and Southbound (2015). As for Spyglass, they were organized a year ago with former MGM executive Gary Barber and Lantern Entertainment co-presidents Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic, who took over the rights to Scream from the Weinstein Co. in 2018.
Amazon Prime review: George Lucas’s “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977)
George Lucas’s fellow movie brat, Steven Spielberg, may have invented the summer blockbuster with his Jaws (1975) two years before, but it is Lucas who’s responsible for the multimedia franchise as we know it today.
The Star Wars saga is a hotbed for sequels, merchandise, and derivative works, and it all started with a relatively modest passion project from a young auteur.
It birthed a new era of filmmaking.
And it killed the Hollywood Renaissance.
If you don’t know what to watch next, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) is available on Amazon Prime.
The epic space opera was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, and won eight, including two special Oscars. The auteur also penned the script.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Galactic Imperial Senator Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) flees an Imperial Star Destroyer under the command of Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) after stealing the plans to the Empire’s Death Star for the Rebellion.
Vader captures Leia’s starship, but not before she dispatches two droids, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) to the desert planet of Tatooine bearing a message for retired Jedi Master Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (Best Supporting Actor nominee Sir Alec Guinness).
The droids are discovered by farm boy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the son of Obi-Wan’s apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who enlists smugglers Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to fly Obi-Wan to the Death Star so they can rescue Leia.
Originally titled Star Wars, it can be an obstacle to divorce A New Hope from the mythology that is its legacy for this critic, who was born into a world already saturated with Star Wars and has no way of remembering a time before it, or experiencing it how audiences did upon its release.
Except for Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), all Star Wars films are inferior to A New Hope. Knowing the downturn the saga will take before even going into the one that started it all, it can be a lot to ask to fall in love with it at first sight.
Regardless, A New Hope is an imaginative Wild West fairytale set in outer space, a prototypical hero’s journey explored through a once-in-a-lifetime creative mind.
Like the commoners in Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1954) and the “cripples, bastards, and broken things” in HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011-2019), the good guys here are two bickering robots, an orphan, an eccentric old man, and two criminals.
As for the villains, they are not the Emperor himself, but, rather, his bureaucratic henchmen. It goes to show even the unlikeliest person can do the right thing, and even the lowest government official can be an oppressor.
And in the hands of any other screenwriter, Princess Leia would be a damsel in distress. Instead, she is an assertive, straight-shooting leader who saves herself, and her rescuers (none of whom “get the girl” at the end).
It’s almost enough to make up for the movie’s lack of intersectional diversity.
But Star Wars is more praiseworthy than A New Hope. Unethically, Lucas has revised each rerelease of his masterpiece beyond recognition to retroactively co-opt it into the mythos he wove around it, thus bastardizing the version that his fans first obsessed over.
When you unleash a work of art into the world, it belongs no longer to you, but, rather, to the audience it inspires – otherwise, of what worth is that inspiration?
Revisionism aside, Lucas may be the worst thing to happen to his own creation, but he’s also the best, like how Star Wars is the best and worst thing to happen to cinema.
Love it or hate it, if moviemaking has always been about making money, then Star Wars is important, and Lucas was forward-thinking enough to singlehandedly anticipate the zeitgeist even as we know it today.
To all the viewers who made it one of the top grossers of all time (adjusted for inflation), A New Hope is a nostalgic, childlike dream bringing strangers together, and that is what keeps them coming back to the series again, hoping (in vain) to relive that movie magic for the first time.
Updates released on second “Simpsons” film
Al Jean, showrunner for 20th Century’s The Simpsons (1989-) as well as a producer behind David Silverman’s The Simpsons Movie (2007), says the talks for another potential spinoff film are “in the very, very early stages,” according to New Music Express. Series creator Matt Groening said at D23 that he thinks the movie will happen, and Jean added that the Simpsons team “would love to do one for Disney, but it’s not like it’s happening next week or next year.” In a new statement, Jean made clear that any new film would be a standalone work, rather than a sequel.
Subject of Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures” (2016) dead at 101
NASA scientist Katherine Johnson, who was played by Taraji P. Henson in Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures (2016), has died at 101 years old, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One of the first black women to work as a NASA scientist, almost no one outside of the agency knew who she was until the release of Hidden Figures, even though Johnson helped calculate the trajectory for spaceflights during the 1960s space race with Russia, including the moon landing. Hidden Figures was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and Johnson received a standing ovation when she appeared onstage with the cast.
April start date greenlit for new David O. Russell film
David O. Russell’s first films since Joy (2015) will begin production at New Regency in April, with Margot Robbie, Christian Bale, as well as Michael B. Jordan already signed to lead, and Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, and Robert De Niro in talks to co-star, according to IndieWire. Little is known about the new project, other than that Russell is directing from his own screenplay, and it is about a doctor and lawyer who form an unlikely partnership. Russell has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director three times in the past decade, and twice for his screenwriting.
The three films nominated for eight awards each at this year’s Razzies
Tom Hooper’s Cats (2019), Adrian Grunberg’s Rambo: Last Blood (2019), as well as Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral (2019), have each been nominated in eight categories at this year’s Golden Raspberry Awards, including worst film, according to BBC News. All four of the stars in Cats, including Dame Judi Dench and James Corden, have been nominated, while Perry was nominated for three out of the four roles he played in A Madea Family Funeral. Meanwhile, Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019), which is up for eleven Academy Awards, received a nod for worst reckless disregard for human life and public property.