The Beauty of Film: The Battle of the Five Armies

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies — Andrew Lesnie (cinematographer) & Peter Jackson (director).


Bard (Luke Evans) looking into the recaptured Dwarf kingdom of Erabor.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens


To avoid spoilers I have redacted the following quotation:

Forgive me. I feel it again… the call from *****. ******* ****** senses it. Show me again, the power of the darkness, and I’ll let nothing stand in our way. Show me, ***********, and I will finish what you started.

There! Nothing spoiled!


Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the stormtroopers of the First Order, (c) 2015 Lucasfilm.

Who the hell is Kylo Ren? That is one of the questions mostly answered in a film that jumps right into the action, instead of providing the context that nerds have grown accustomed to having. Think of the lengths that the Lord of the Rings, or of the Star Wars prequels and how they wanted the viewer to know who/what/when/why things were happening. But not JJ Abrams, who directed this. Now think back to Star Trek where there is some Federation ship and some Starfleet officers and a giant spaceship. The action just starts up, as do the extreme closeups and lens flares. Well after all the parodies I did not notice any lens flares in Abrams’ The Force Awakens. But the action and indirect lighting certainly showed back up to the party.

While the film is short on answers, it is full of Han Solo yelling “yoohoo!” moments. Moments that made me want to hi-five the viewers around me. Moments that made me tear up a little. The film is basically the reverse of Darth Vader—there is a little bad in it, but the good has overwhelmed it.


Rey (Daisey Ridley), BB-8 and Finn (John Boyega) running for their lives on Jakku.

The one criticism I have seen lambasted against this fine film is how unoriginal it is. OH IRONY OF IRONIES. The Star Wars saga is wonderful but not very novel. Jedi are not called Samurai in space because the movies were not heavily influenced by Akira Kurosawa’s films. George Lucas did not strive to model his films on 1930s adventures because he thought it would be innovative. He did it to capture the joy and wonder he felt as a child. That is something that Abrams clearly also wants to do and he knows how to do it in a way that pays homage to the past without feeling beholden to it.

Interestingly enough, this is a film that can be spoiled by knowing too much going into the film. That does not tend to be the case with unoriginal material. Romeo & Juliet, for instance, knowing they die at the end does not detract from whatever merit that story has. Maybe the film is more original than I realized?

****½ seems blasphemous, as that is the rank that the original Star Wars has, but is this as good as Fist of Legend? Spy? Better than InterstellarI think the answers are yes.

Yeah, but…Attack of the Clones


Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. I remember my trepidation upon hearing that name. I saw it three times in theaters, I believe. Still, I gave it ***. It earned this for being an okay movie. It is pretty good. There are lots of problems and lots of positives. The narrative for this film is a primarily negative one now, so instead of piling on, I will highlight the positives I noticed.

  • The way the J-Type Diplomatic Barge exploding looked awesome.


    On Coruscant.

  • Natalie Portman is beautiful. When she wears that white outfit—she puts it on for the trip to Geonosis with Anakin to rescue Obi-Wan—she is just stunning.
  • The entire last 30 minutes of action. Jedi battles. Awesome large scale vehicles fighting. Great armies clashing. Shooting down core ships as they tried to take off. Jango Fett’s decapitation in front of Boba Fett.
  • The Geonosian holographic war room.
  • In the commentary track George Lucas addresses the Kevin Smith dialogue regarding the death of the contractors on the Death Star. Lucas imagines the Geonosian termite types doing the work.
  • Ian McDiarmid using his Emperor Palpatine voice as Darth Sidious.

The Beauty of Film: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari) — Willy Hameister (cinematographer) & Robert Wiene (director).


Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss).

For Your Eyes Only

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As I said with Never Say Never Again, IF I were to have live tweeted this movie, here are some of the things I would have tweeted:

So this is how Ernst Stavro Blofeld dies? Until his resurrection in Spectre our last image is his wheelchair falling into a smokestack from a helicopter.

I have learned why they did that. Spite towards the man who owned the rights to Spectre and Blofeld.

I will buy you a delicatessen! Stainless steel! Actual quote from the film before Blofeld dies.

Title sequence: Sheena Easton is visible. I cannot remember another singer whom you see singing the theme in a Bond movie.

Why is there a British sailor handcuffed to a console?? Anyone who can invade the ship and would be able to move this “ATAC” system would not be stopped by one handcuffed man!

Ahhh now I get it! Handcuff is so there can be an underwater corpse/skeleton handcuffed to it later! Now it makes sense!

I can’t find a photo of it, but I swear that M is talking to English Commissioner Gordon (from the Adam West Batman).

This is who I'm talking about, Neil Hamilton from Batman 1966. And that's the Batphone, or course.

This is who I’m talking about, Neil Hamilton from Batman 1966. And that’s the Batphone, or course.

Gogol’s KGB office looks like a set piece last used in Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible. That is impressive in a really odd way.

WOW Moneypenny’s MI-6 gadget is a popup makeup display. So, so sexist.

Bond stopping his Lotus to read a map is surprisingly amusing. So not sexist.

I think of different actors in varying degrees when someone says Bond. If someone said it during this movie, I would think of Roger Moore. Since he is currently on screen.


Okay so maybe it is. But Bond used to love his Beretta. He also was issued a Magnum in the books.

FYEO crossbow

No gun needed. Carole Bouquet’s Melina looks awesome with her crossbow.

The Chinese have a saying, “Before setting out for revenge, dig two graves.” Believe it or not Mr. Go-Rogue-For-Revenge James Bond said this!

Bond must have dug forty graves by now.

If this were a spaghetti western, he would have said, “Oh, gravedigger, three coffins please.” <10 minutes pass> “My mistake, four coffins.”

Close that door James! You’re in the Alps and left the door open on your balcony!

I think it is the Alps. I have never heard of Cortina.

I think it is in Italy.

Italian sleigh driver predicting “amore amore” for Bond and Melina. Having seen the movie before, I bet he’s right.

I do like the teenage girl forcing Bond to kiss her. Still creepy, but less sexist!

The East German biathlon champion is supposed to be a dick because he won’t stop his OLYMPIC RACE* to say hi to the teenage girl yelling to him.

*In hindsight, this might not be the actual Olympics.

WHAT!? He is forfeiting his lead to try to kill James Bond?! The East German team is more evil than I thought!

It is great how this place is both hosting the Olympics AND open to the public. That is just wonderful.

While absurd this skiing vs cycling scene has been awesome.

We had downhill!


Ski jump!

AND now bobsled!

Skiing on a bobsled track is crazy. Ditto for riding a motorcycle.

No no no no no! Not the hockey scene! So so dumb.

Huit! and Neuf! We must be playing baccarat! How Bond is this?!

And Bond plays his gut, not the odds. HOW IS HE SO GOOD AT CARDS!??! Answer—it’s scripted ya big dopes!

Took a break, but now I am back.

While my laptop was closed the countess wooed James and then got run over by the nefarious guy in glasses. It looked like he actually ran her over. That poor actress or stunt woman!

Okay, Bond has run up about 10 flights of stairs now. No way. I just don’t believe it. He’s like 50.

Yes! It is worth it though because he is about to kick the nefarious guy in glasses off a mountain. Sorry, kick his car with him in it off!

These underwater Greek ruins are awesome. But how did they get there?

We need to conserve oxygen. – James Bond. 30 seconds before talking solely to make a quip.

Mini-sub fight! The attacker is much better at this than Bond and Melina.

The beep-boop-bop sound effects of the attacking mini-sub are stellar. I’m thinking Oscar nom for sound editing.

5000 year old ruins!? What civilization made them? I am starting to think this was just created for the movie and not existent.

I feel like the element of surprise is a great idea, but also having lots of backup to come in once the defenders know an attack has started would help. Just some tips for Bond in the future.

I like how the technology was not good enough to zoom in too close with perfect resolution. It made it seem like we were looking through the binoculars too.

Hot shot guard kicked Bond off the cliff. Now go tell your friends! Or…try to finish him off before you get backup, I mean, it’s your funeral buddy…

I am sorry to see the body which fell like 800 feet did not explode. I mean, come on! Where is the realism?!

Impressive how Colombo knew Bond was manually signalling him through a wooden door. Maybe it was just telepathy?

Ahh the über-East-German seems much tougher than Bond. Although the 800 foot drop might give Bond the upper hand.

Bond was very busy trying to convince Melina not to kill the main bad guy for revenge while the bad guy got ready to stab Bond. That would have taught him to not be such a hypocrite.

Final thought—there was a character named Tanner, which means he was not invented for the Daniel Craig movies!




The Beauty of Film: Battleship Potemkin

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Battleship Potemkin (originally Броненосец “Потёмкин”) — Eduard Tisse (cinematographer) & Sergei Eisenstein (director).


1925’s Battleship Potemkin, the Massacre in Odessa with the iconic baby carriage.