Category Archives: History

leia-anh

Loss: Carrie Fisher – Forever the Princess of Our Dreams

In 1977, the world at large was introduced to a beautiful and bright eyed 19-year-old girl in the science fiction/fantasy saga known as Star Wars. There were many beloved figures in that film and the subsequent sequels, prequels, and even cartoons, but to many, none shown so bright as a star than Carrie Fisher.  Today, December 27th, 2016, that starlight has vanished when, after a heart attack just a few days ago, she passed away.

so many of us will need this today.
So many of us will need this today.

Like many of you, and myself, this will be a heartbreaking affair.  Not only did we love Carrie Fisher and her work, but have grown up knowing her as Princess Leia.  There are a few things about her work that some forget to acknowledge and even admire.  As I was not born yet, but raised on the Disney Princesses, I had an idea of what a Princess should be.  Looking back at the Star Wars films as an adult, Carrie Fisher and the writers had already re-imagined what a Princess should be and absolutely what they could be.

A Warrior Princess - and one with the attitude to match
A Warrior Princess – and one with the attitude to match

I don’t have many words as this is a close loss of an actor as I’ve seen in a while and at the age of 60, Carrie was relatively young.  I do want to draw your attention to a few things that Carrie loved and cared about over the years and perhaps you’ll get a glimpse of her as a person.

Her latest book, The Princess Diarist, which can be purchased here, show another side of the actress we all grew up loving.  Carrie’s struggle with addiction and mental illness made her respected in the acting community as she was willing to speak open and honestly about what so many of us have have struggled with through the years.  I believe her having the courage to be self-deprecating and share her pain is something that should be admired.  She was an active advocate of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and if you feel the need to share something with the Princess you loved, go there are donate so that so many can benefit from their, and her, support.

Her look of loss in the Empire Strikes Back, something that I myself emulated earlier today.
Her look of loss and sadness in the Empire Strikes Back, something that I myself emulated earlier today.

Other than her charities and causes, Carrie Fisher had a few true loves in her life.  One being her daughter, Billie Catherine Lourd, who actually had a brief cameo appearance in The Force Awakens.  Then there was Gary Fisher, her pet dog who was there with her everywhere she went and stayed by her side til the end.  And when she took Gary as her date to the premier of The Force Awakens, it was a love that all could see and easily identify with due to their own love of their pets.  I’m sure we will all mourn for her, but pet parents will know that Gary, who has his own Instagram page, will be particularly lost without his mother.

carrie-and-gary
Gary stealing the charisma from the room
gettyimages-576767586
Carrie Fisher’s longtime co-star and friend Mark Hamill, bringing his own dog, a rescue named Millie, to accompany Carrie and Gary to the wrap party for The Force Awakens

There are not many things left to say about the great Carrie Fisher, but I hope that you were able to learn a little more about the person behind the Princess who stole our hearts so many years ago.  You will be missed Carrie Fisher and we here at IWTMM thank you for your contribution to film and to society as a whole.

Rest in Peace our lovely Princess Leia
Rest in Peace our lovely Princess Leia

-Darkmovienight

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi or Michael Bay’s 2nd Best Film

13-Hours-The-Secret-Soldiers-Of-Benghazi Poster

*****DISCLAIMER*****

Heavy subject in today’s review.  As usual with anything a little bit off kilter, controversial, or political, I want to state that we at I Watch Too Many Movies will not give our own personal opinion on the movie.  We are just here to review the movie itself.

*****RE-CLAIMER*****

Michael Bay is one crazy dude.  Not only can the man figure out a way to kill the Transformers as a franchise with exceptional CGI and explosions, but he can also slow down long enough to direct a film like 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.  When I say slow down, I’m probably searching for the word restraint.

"Hold on you guys, this is serious material, tone it down." -Michael Bay (maybe)
“Hold on you guys, this is serious material, tone it down.” -Michael Bay (maybe)

Even if Bay twisted the explosion knob down from his usual 11, this was still an action movie after all, so yeah, there were explosions.  I will give it to Bay that he did something that I didn’t think was possible: took a highly charged political issue and made it about the event instead of the aftermath.  That takes some guts and I appreciate Mr. Bay for that action and sparing us from his opinion.

13 Hours was based off a 2014 book (13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff, who took actual accounts from the point of view of the Benghazi compound’s defenders. The book itself does not address any of the political controversy surrounding the attacks in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2012 horrible incident.

I’ll give a quick thought I had while I was watching the film.  In the beginning, the information on the screen read, “This is a True Story”.  If you’ll recall, I explained what these types of terms meant in the world of film.  When I read those words on the screen, I got to thinking about the “Chain of Custody”.  Quick definition is that when evidence or something else is handled by multiple people, each of them sign off so that anyone can quickly identify where, when, and who had the evidence.  Basically, it’s a much more accurate version of “Telephone”.

Unless you hear it from a Hamburger Phone, don't trust the Intel.
Unless you hear it from a Hamburger Phone, don’t trust the Intel.

Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that you can believe the depiction of the events in the film about as much as a packet of salt.  Here we have an author who discussed the events with the survivors, then we have Michael Bay and his writers dissecting the book and creating a screenplay from it, and finally the actors actually got a chance to discuss the events with the individuals that experienced those hellish hours.

If you want my opinion, the “Chain of Custody” had so many places to break and I believe it did.  That’s okay though.  Like I said, there were no allegations made in the film or the book, and the actors portrayed their characters who likely couldn’t care a “Lesser Hemsworth Brother” about the politics.

One is Thor and the other is living with Miley Cyrus. The different smiles say it all.
One is Thor and the other is living with Miley Cyrus. The different smiles say it all.

We’re glad they took the politics out of the event.  Great job Mr. Bay. Now, what did you fill the two hours with?  Actually a pretty solid action flick.  From the very beginning of the movie, it was obvious that our heroes were in hostile territory.  I mean even before Jim Halpert, excuse me, I mean John Krasinski‘s character lands in Libya, he’s given the evil eye about 100 times.

Yeah, I don't think I'd be too happy with someone waving a gun in my face either.
Yeah, I don’t think I’d be too happy with someone waving a gun in my face either.

At this point, it is my complete obligation to tell you that I really had a hard time separating Krasinski’s character from his portrayal of Jim Halpert in The Office.  He doesn’t deserve that at all, as there isn’t even a “Hint of Halpert” (say that five times fast) in the whole movie.  I just really kept waiting for him to turn and look at the camera and shrug his shoulders.  I saw an interview with him and he said that he never once slipped into a Halpert-ism.  In fact, all the actors do a very good job (but odd how more than two of them were from The Office). Perhaps it’s because they were allowed to discuss this particular incident directly with their real-life counter-parts or something else, but every single person took their job seriously.  It was the script that was a bit heavy handed.

Neither did we...
Neither did we…

Here is my huge issue, these guys went through hell and back.  You don’t have to spend every other minute reminding me that they either have a family, a dog, or a pet cactus.  WE GET IT, the stakes were high.  In Hollywood, there is a tendency to spoon feed the audience the emotions of the characters instead of letting the ambiance and actors do their jobs and, you know, tell the story.  Chuck Hogan, who wrote the screenplay from the novel, can do good work, I’ve seen or read it.  He wrote The Strain series with Guillermo del Toro and even wrote the novel in which the film The Town was based.  So I’m not quite sure why the audience is bashed over the head with a Skype call to family, new pregnancies, calling children, or even taking photos into battle throughout the whole movie.  If anyone had bothered to watch the trailer, they would know that there is tons of action, gunfights, and explosions, then they likely knew someone was going to die.  Come on, this is based on a real event, you could have spoiled the movie by reading a HISTORY TEXTBOOK.

Look at those smug bastards just waiting to spoil the movie for you. Just to be safe, you should Un-Friend them so they don't spoil the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Look at those smug bastards just waiting to spoil the movie for you.  Just to be safe, you should Un-Friend them on Facebook so they don’t spoil the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Other than being told repeatedly that this is a dangerous situation, the film is fine.  Typical action with plenty of gunfire, death, explosions, and the terrible feeling that you have no idea who is your enemy and who may be a sympathizer.  I was especially impressed by how the actors shot and reloaded in this scenario.   Typically, in every other action movie, an automatic weapon fires for minutes at a time and doesn’t need to be reloaded.  This wasn’t the case in 13 Hours.  Small 3-4 round bursts and dedication to actual tactical maneuvers that might be used in an actual battle.

The set was interesting in that the creators used all of the actual blueprints to construct the buildings in the film.  That’s a pretty neat bit of dedication.  Last thing that was impressive?  The beards.  Apparently, and this is true, if you’re going to be stationed in a CIA base, and you’re hired mercenaries, then you have to have an awesomely groomed beard at all times.

Ahhhh, I can smell America from here
Ahhhh, I can smell America from here

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

Michael Bay actually showed some restraint in this film about a real-life event that was devastating for our country and he kept the political aspects completely out of the film.  The actors did play “super-hero” versions of their actual counter-parts, but they hit the right notes and didn’t ring false at all with just a few real touches.  I was a little disappointed in the script as it intravenously fed you the stakes of the event and the artificial terror of someone dying.  It’s not a bad film to see in theaters, but you’ll enjoy it just as well by streaming or buying it on Blu-Ray.  Oh, and if you even had to wonder what I consider to be Michael Bay’s best film, then shame on you.

Just can't beat the combination of Cage, Connery, Helms, and Bay
Just can’t beat the combination of Cage, Connery, Helms, and Bay

-Darkmovienight

*****BONUS*****

Quick little bonus for all you good boys and girls.  In the first 15 minutes of the film, I realized that all grizzled looking action stars had one thing in common: they either roll up their shirts or wear short sleeves.  Just take a look (and know this is just the tip of the iceberg):

Rolled up from 13 Hours
Rolled up from 13 Hours
Short Sleeves from Casino Royale
Short Sleeves from Casino Royale
Short Sleeve Over-Shirt from Die Hard 3
Short Sleeve Over-Shirt from Die Hard 3
Rolled Up Sleeve from Chris Pine as Jack Ryan
Rolled Up Sleeve from Chris Pine as Jack Ryan
Short Sleeves for the Thieves in Ocean's 11
Short Sleeves for the Thieves in Ocean’s 11
So many Rolled Up Sleeves in Argo
So many Rolled Up Sleeves in Argo

Now you can look for it in the next film you watch.  Have a nice day.

The Hateful Eight or Samuel L. Jackson steals the show…again

the-hateful-eight-poster1

Warning, the following review will indeed be a review of a Quentin Tarantino movie, we cannot do our job without being slightly profane.  Rest assured that no racial slurs will be used, but if you’re offended by gratuitous violence and language, you wouldn’t see this movie anyway, let alone read a review.  Now, on with the show, er, review:

Now I will get into detail about the film and showcase some of its best features as well as a few failings, but first I want to give you a little bit of history regarding the “70MM” presentation you might have heard about for this film.  If you’re not interested, just skip to the picture of the film strips.

Yes, I said history, I promise you'll survive.
Yes, I said history, I promise you’ll survive.

As you’ve likely seen, The Hateful Eight is being shown in this fancy “70MM Ultra Panavision” at select locations.  Most of you will likely not get this opportunity as it requires a theater to rent, borrow, sell their souls for a projector that can handle it, and it’s being shown as a  special “Roadshow Event”.

I threw a lot at you there.  Let me break it down just a little bit in more detail.  I’ll get to the film comparisons soon, and I won’t get too technical here, just take my word for it, it’s an extremely panoramic film that  not only gives excellent detail, but can make landscapes absolutely breathtaking (there were quite a few examples in The Hateful Eight). What really makes this exciting is that this is the first movie filmed in 70MM and shown since 1966.

Yes, it WAS the same year that Adam West's Batman did "The Batusi"
Yes, it WAS the same year that Adam West’s Batman did “The Batusi”.  It’s not like China first synthesized Insulin to save diabetic peoples’ lives, the Batusi had way more of a cultural impact.

I also mentioned the special “Roadshow Event” earlier.  Basically, when TV was first invented, everyone went nuts for this home entertainment miracle and thus stopped spending money at the theaters.

I have a 1080p 55" Sony with great audio and as you can see, I buck the trend.
I have a 1080p 55″ Sony with great audio and as you can see, I clearly buck the trend.

So, what was poor disenfranchised Hollywood to do when their adoring (paying) customers stayed home and watched Batman, the first episode of Star Trek, and The Andy Griffith Show instead of dressing up all fancy like, shelling out the nickles and dimes (or *gasp* a dollar) on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,  El Dorado, or even Batman: The Movie.

As much as I love Batman, I just can't blame everyone for skipping this one...
As much as I love Batman, I just can’t blame everyone for skipping this one…

Anyway, the answer from Hollywood was to make going to theaters an “experience” again.  This came in the format of an old tactic called a “Roadshow Event”.  The premise was simple, limit the supply (the movie release) and people would rush to see a “Special Screening” of Ben-Hur (1959) or It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)- and oh, I made sure that I had the correct amount of “Mads” in the title there.  Genius idea, but without the best distribution methods, no Drones for Lyndon B. Johnson to deliver things…that we know about.

This is where the “Roadshow” portion came about.  They would bring the projector, a full panoramic (and sometimes curved screen, which you might say they were ahead of the…oh forget it, you would probably lynch me for making that joke about modern Curved TVs), and the film from area to area to show the film.  It made for those “Special Events” and got the attention of people again.  While 1966 was the final year a 70MM film was made, Hollywood did okay by reviving an old gimmick with new technology that would last well into the 1980’s:

Oh, and then Avatar (2009) came out and the theater chains found out they could charge a premium...
Oh, and then Avatar (2009) came out and the theater chains found out they could charge a premium for the same gimmick with just fancy new tech…and glasses

Bit of history on the “Roadshow Events” and now just a quick showcase of 70MM film in general.  I’ll do it quick and I won’t have you all do any math.  The 70MM film format had a ratio of 2.76:1 (that means the screen is 2.76 times as wide as it is tall). Compared, most movies today are projected in either 1.85:1 (35MM) or 2.35:1 “anamorphic widescreen” format. High-Def screens feature a 16:9 ratio, which is close enough to 1.85:1, and besides, only nerds like me appreciate.  As I said earlier, this is done to give amazing landscapes, epic scale of set pieces, and almost turning the film into a “play-like quality”.  Just take a quick look below to see comparisons of the different types of film.  I tossed in a true IMAX comparison just for fun.

70MM Comparison
Visual aids, the best thing since sliced bacon
IMAX Comparison
It looks like IMAX is compensating for something…

History lesson is over, let’s talk about all the filthy, gory, disturbing, racist and other offensive non-sense Tarantino loves to showcase in all of his films.

As I said in the title, Samuel L. Jackson really steals the show here.  His character not only progresses much of the story forward, and is the most clever.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Samuel L. Jackson and every Tarantino film, but I think it’s time they take a break from each other.  If you were to look at Tarantino’s IMDB page, you would see seventeen director credits.  All but eight of them, are TV shows, guest directing gigs, etc.  The meat of his directing career, the eight true films, starting with Reservoir Dogs (1992) and leading up to The Hateful Eight, Samuel L. Jackson appears in six of those eight films.

I mean, there is no cardinal sin here since both Samuel L. Jackson and Quentin Tarantino are both insanely talented, and they haven’t gotten to the level of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.  The latter two’s collaborations are getting worse and worse as the years go by.  I don’t want the same phenomenon to happen to Jackson and Tarantino.  And like I said, Jackson steals the show.  He’s the one the audience is rooting for and he can do no wrong.  In fact, in this performance, I believe he leaves a little on the table even though his dialogue is crisp and well delivered, it just feels that he’s playing “Samuel L. Jackson” and not the character in the film.

Everyone else has their assigned duties.  Kurt Russel pokes his head out from whatever hole he was in and punches a woman in the face so many times that I wanted to call the cops for assault and battery.  You’ve got other normal Tarantino actors: Michael Madsen and Tim Roth who put on great performances.  I really appreciate Roth who has one of the most prolonged but easily hilarious scenes I’ve seen.  You have to pay attention, but it’s there and it is glorious.  The others involved deliver the script to mount as much tension as possible before we have the “Tarantino Battle Minute”.

I name this particular sequence the “Tarantino Battle Minute” because it happens in every one of his films.  First, there is a seriously long discussion/dialogue featuring one person to a medium sized group.  This is Tarantino’s specialty.  No other writer/director ever produces such authentic dialogue.  It’s natural and in some situations, like half the scenes in Inglorious Basterds, it builds the tension to a serious boiling point.  That’s the second part, the “Tarantino Battle Minute”.  After all the conversations, there is a lightning quick amount of carnage.

Heads are blown off, people disemboweled, simultaneous murders, limbs ripped apart or off, testicles shredded, eyes stepped on, and in one case, the top of someone’s head is cleanly sliced off.  All this will occur in a matter of moments. The longest example is from Kill Bill: Vol. 1 when The Bride destroys the gang known as “The Crazy 88”.  But suffice it to say, the “Tarantino Battle Minute” usually ends up looking like this afterwards:

“YOU DIDN’T MENTION KNEECAPPING.” – DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Actual dialogue: “YOU DIDN’T MENTION KNEECAPPING.” – Django Unchained (2012).  I suppose I didn’t mention “kneecapping” up there…

You know these are in the movie.  They’re bloody fantastic (I mean that in the most serious and every way possible).  But, that brings me to a moment of hesitation in The Hateful Eight, I essentially knew what was going to happen the entire time and that’s kind of a bummer.  I know a lot of other films follow a director’s style and exact same formula, but that doesn’t make it any better.  What I can, and will say, is that even though I knew it was coming, it still showcased some of the most ridiculous and gratuitous violence with guns I’ve ever seen.  I say guns because The Bride murders with a blade.

Now some things I can dote on are the cinematography and set design.  I saw the film in its 70MM format, so your experience may vary, but what I felt was true immersion with the landscape and the characters.  It’s something that 3D tries to do all the time, but can’t quite get it right. You immediately see why Tarantino resurrected a decades old film format: not only “just because he could”, but he wanted the audience in that cabin and wanted us to be able to see every detail around us.

That’s really the last thing I can say about the film: the set was perfect. You have eight people in a one-room shack with no where to hide.  The outhouse is indeed outside, along with the stables.  The door has to be nailed shut due to it being broken.  And with all the decorations, tables, bed, bar, fireplace, and eight strangers, it gets extremely claustrophobic and paranoia, even in the audience, looms everywhere.  Tarantino could not have constructed a more perfectly tense location for the characters to interact.

I said "Characters" not Deadpool
I said “Characters” not just Deadpool

I wouldn’t be doing my job very well if I didn’t warn against the coarse language throughout the entire film.  I cannot imagine any of our readers offended by the slurs and curses, but I have to at least say something.  And it really does add to the dialogue.  The film takes place in the Post Civil War time and listening to the transition and moderate to no acceptance of anything or anyone was fascinating.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

The Hateful Eight is a Quentin Tarantino film.  Everything he does in every other movie he has done is present in this feature.  I can’t imagine this would be your first Tarantino film, so if you like what he’s done before, you’re going to like this movie.  I will say I’m getting tired of Samuel L. Jackson stealing every scene he’s in, but that’s a minor complaint.  Still it kept a little enjoyment from me, not much, but I wasn’t as invested in the character as I usually would have been.  Finally, if you live somewhere that has the 70MM Roadshow, see that version, you’ll be treating yourself.

-Darkmovienight