Star Wars Jabba the Hutt and He-Man

Star Wars Jabba the Hutt and He-Man

With all the big news about the next Star Wars installment being rewritten by JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, it made sense to have a look at the force and see what other things about the franchise might be of interest. Oddly enough, a few things did pop up. Namely, Jabba the Hut and He-Man.

Oblivion (2013) Surprisingly Good

tom-cruise-oblivion

With my busy schedule lately, I’ve been going through “new film” withdrawal. Fortuitously Playstation Store had Oblivion as an early release for the price of £14.99 (about $23). Despite my reservations, my desperation to see any new film made me purchase the film. Result? Surprisingly good and worth the exorbitant price of purchase. *Does it annoy anyone else that Playstation “early releases” are only for sale and not for rent? Answers on a postcard please.”

The film is directed by Joseph Kosinski (who has a credit for co-wrting the screenplay along with Karl Gajdusek  and  Michael Arndt, he also directed Tron: Legacy). It stars Tom Cruise (insert prior film titles here), the gravitas actor himself Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman),  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau  (Game of Thrones, The Hunters, and the one actor who should play agent Leon in any live action film of the Resident Evil game series) and  Andrea Riseborough  (Welcome to the Punch, Brighton Rock).

The plot revolves around a future earth that has been destroyed and decimated by an alien race. Jack Hawkins (Cruise) and his partner Victoria (Riseborough) have two weeks left on the now inhospitable planet as a team assigned to protect the energy producing fusion generators that power Titan where the human survivors who fled Earth are living.

Earth won the conflict with the aliens after the moon was destroyed by using nuclear warheads and survivors who didn’t migrate to Titan are scavenging the equipment that Jack must protect.

As Jack and Victoria near the end of their mission and the scavenger attacks increase, he sees an object fall from the sky and when he tracks it to the crash site, he discovers something that changes his perception of the world and his place in it.

I enjoyed the film. As I said, it is surprisingly good. I have never been a huge Tom Cruise fan despite the fact that he’s always turned in excellent performances. I think it has to do with his rather bizarre behaviour “off screen.” Cruise doesn’t disappoint in this film and I was amazed at his physical condition. Something has to be said for having the money to maintain biceps that large.

I fell in love with Julia (Kurylenko), but then I’ve had a “screen crush” on this actress ever since Hitman.  

Oblivion-Movie-Olga-Kurylenko-and-Tom-Cruise-560x315
Olga and Tom as Julia and Jack.

The film offers a brilliant cinematic experience and the characters all seem disturbingly real, despite the “Moon” device used and the somewhat “contrived” ending.  I found myself unable to stop watching the film and wound up  not taking any breaks. I was so caught up in the storyline that I didn’t want to pause it.

I will say that I did guess the plot twist fairly early on, but that was a combination of watching the trailer too many times and the fact that most sic-fi films all lean towards the same direction recently. In spite of the fact that I’d guessed the twist, I still enjoyed the film.

I have to give the film a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It loses half a star because I did guess the twist and its reliance on another film for another plot twist, so half a star off for lack of originality.  It is still a cracking good film and worth a watch.

So Oblivion was surprisingly good and I’m not upset that I had to buy the film versus just rent it. Although I do miss my special features and will most likely get a blue ray copy just for those. On my trip to South Africa (which I will keep posting about) I saw quite a few films that I need to review. The plane journey back was sleepless for the duration of the almost 11 hour flight, so I got to fit quite a few films in.  These will be cropping up from time to time in the form of reviews.

Oblivion_30
The master of gravitas, Morgan Freeman.

Michael Smith

United Kingdom

7 August 2013

Little Miss Sunshine (2006) Dysfunctional Family Fun

Cover of "Little Miss Sunshine [Blu-ray]&...
Cover of Little Miss Sunshine [Blu-ray]
Written by Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and directed by not one but two directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (these directors have been a ‘double-act’ for years, mainly in the realm of music videos and documentaries) Little Miss Sunshine is a ‘feel good film’ that entertains and amuses.

The film marks a couple of firsts. It was Michael Arndt’s first penned feature film and directorial team Dayton and Faris’s first full length feature film. Little Miss Sunshine had budget of 8 million dollars and was filmed in just 30 days on location in Arizona and Southern California.

It opened to rave reviews and to date has garnered a net profit of over 100 millions dollars. The film won two Oscars; Alan Arkin for best supporting actor and Michael Arndt for best original screenplay. The film went on to be nominated for a total of fifty-four times and garnered an additional fifty-two awards.

For an ‘Independent’ film, the cast list is impressive, Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, and Abigail Breslin. It is overall an ensemble film, but it does revolve around Olive (Breslin) and her interactions with the family. She is the centre piece of the story and the other actors and events circulate around her.

The story is about the Hoover family. Richard (Kinnear) is the head of the family and he is peddling a “personal success” book and holding seminars to try and drum up interest in the book. He is a positive thinker who seems to be a cross between John Wayne – “Never apologise, it’s a sign of weakness” he says to Olive at one point in the film – and J.P. Morgan.

Sheryl (Collette) is the long suffering wife and mother, who tries to make the tight family budget fit their everyday needs and tries to keep the family happy. She is almost the polar opposite of Richard and she is the peace maker of the family.

Grandpa Edwin (Arkin) is the patriarchal head of the family, but in his mind only. He is old and he is busy trying all the things that are bad for you before he dies. He is full of advice, while the family are travelling he tells his grandson Dwayne (Dano) that  he should be ‘fucking’ all the women, not just those cute cheerleader type.[sic] He has helped Olive (Breslin) rehearse for her pageant competition by teaching her a ‘dance’ routine.

Picture of Abigail Breslin, American actress. ...

Olive dreams of competing in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant and she gets her chance when the winner comes down with an illness. Dwayne hates his entire family and is refusing to speak to anyone, he writes his responses and statements down. He dreams of joining the ROTC for the Air Force and becoming a pilot.

Enter into the family mix Sheryl’s brother Frank (Carrell), he has just tried to kill himself and is suffering from depression since his male lover left him for another man.

When Olive finds out that she can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, the family decide to take her there. Thus begins the road trip that will tear the family apart and then bring them together again. On the way out to the pageant Grandpa Edwin dies and the family have to steal his body from the hospital, because they don’t have the money to pay the bill and they don’t have time to bury him.

When Olive finally gets to the pageant the family are at breaking point.  when it’s Olive’s turn to participate in the talent portion of the pageant she tell the emcee that she’s dedicating her performance to her Grandpa as he taught it to her. When the emcee asks Olive where her grandpa is, she says, “Oh he’s in the car.”

Rick James‘s Super Freak starts playing and Olive comes out and begins her performance, which to the pageant’s organiser horror is a variation on a strippers act. When the organiser demands that dad Richard remove her from the stage, he decides instead to join Olive on the stage and dance with her. In a show of solidarity the entire family join Olive and dance together on the stage.

This film from start to finish made me laugh, made me cry and made me care for the characters in the film. At the beginning of the film, you can’t help but dislike Richard with his ‘gotta win’ philosophy, but by the end of the film you love him.

You actually wind up loving the whole dysfunctional family. By the end they are less dysfunctional and have learned so much about themselves that you know they will continue to grow and support each other.

The film is about dreams and failure and the acceptance of both. If I am feeling low, I watch Little Miss Sunshine and even though I choke up at the end, I feel immediately better.