Film Review: The ‘Star Wars’ Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005)

*Written in 2015.

I haven’t watched these films in a few years. I catch glimpses of them from time to time as I am flipping through channels on cable but it has been at least five years since I’ve sat down and watched this trilogy in its entirety.

It is universally agreed upon that this trilogy was not on par with the original trilogy and many people have griped about these three films for well over a decade now. I knew they weren’t as good but I used to try and defend them, as I could look passed their faults because at least they were new Star Wars movies.

Having had a lot of time away from this series and being less enthusiastic than I probably should be about the upcoming Disney films, I can no longer defend the prequels in good conscience. They are what essentially killed the Star Wars magic inside of me, even if I didn’t want to see it at the time.

But let me address each one individually.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999):

Release Date: May 25th, 1999
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Ahmed Best, Ray Park, Terence Stamp, Keira Knightley, Peter Serafinowicz, Sofia Coppola, Warwick Davis

Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 133 Minutes

Review:

“I have a bad feeling about this.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

The Phantom Menace is a bad film, plain and simple.

There are only a few good things even worth mentioning as positives.

To start, Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor were great as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Also, Darth Maul is the most bad ass looking Sith of all-time. Unfortunately, Darth Maul has little screen time and meets his demise before this film is over and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have to share most of their scenes with any combination of the characters Jar Jar Binks, Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. All three of those characters, in this film and really all of the films, were mostly unbearable.

This installment into the Star Wars mega franchise was too full of political nonsense and pointless babble about stuff no one cares about. Sure, we’d like to know how the Galactic Empire came to be and how the Sith rose to power and conquered the Jedi but we didn’t need endless diatribes about details no one even remotely wanted to follow.

Also, take into account what this franchise was before this movie. You have now replaced terrifying and cool Storm Troopers with anorexic and bumbling Battle Droids. You replaced Rebel soldiers with thousands of Jar Jars and armed them with bubbles. You replaced X-wing Starfighters and TIE Fighters with awfully designed Naboo Starfighters and Vulture Droids. You replaced desolate and wild worlds with the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Everything about this film was wrong: in tone, in characters, in design, in total execution.

It was corny, cheesy, way too child friendly and full of more annoyances than things that are actually cool.

Fuck pod racing. Fuck midichlorians.

There really is nothing I like about this film other than the few things mentioned around paragraph two. And even then, they certainly aren’t enough to save this movie.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002):

Release Date: May 12th, 2002 (Tribeca)
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas, Jonathan Hales
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits, Temuera Morrison, Joel Edgerton, Rose Byrne, Ahmed Best, Pernilla August, Liam Neeson

Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 142 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” – Anakin Skywalker

Attack of the Clones may be even worse than The Phantom Menace.

This film offers up a lot of the same as the previous. Luckily though, Jar Jar Binks has pretty limited screen time, as the backlash of that character was tremendous. In fact, I’ll be shocked if future Star Wars films even remotely show a Gungan.

The cool thing about this film is the inclusion of Jango Fett and the origin of his son, the uber popular and awesome Boba Fett. Also, Christoper Lee, one of my three favorite actors of all-time, shows up as the Sith Lord, Count Dooku.

This film should have been awesome. Well, for the first time ever, we get to see what happens when an army of Jedi fights together. While it was visually cool to see a bunch of Jedi light up a few dozen lightsabers, it happened against Battle Droids. You know, those clumsy metal comedians that the idiotic Gungans beat in the previous film. Somehow, now, they present a challenge to the best Jedi in the galaxy. Am I missing something here?

Also, one thing that has always bothered me about the Star Wars films was the ambiguous travel times. Never is it as much of a continuity problem, as it is here.

Look at the timeline of people traveling to Geonosis. Yoda shows up five minutes after Mace Windu, even though they both left Coruscant at the same time and Yoda had to make a pit stop at Kamino to pick up the Clone Army. Anakin and Padmé got there not too long before Windu because they knew Windu would not make it in time to stop Kenobi’s execution. However, Windu walks up just as the attempt at execution is going down. And Windu was walking casually slow. Had he tried not to look so cool, he could’ve probably beat the clock for sure.

This movie is a mess. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s acting during the Anakin and Padmé romance scenes was beyond painful to watch.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005):

Release Date: May 15th, 2005 (Cannes)
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits, Peter Mayhew, Ahmed Best, Temuera Morrison, Joel Edgerton, Bruce Spence, Keisha Castle-Hughes, James Earl Jones, Bai Ling (scenes cut)

Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 140 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, I have a bad feeling about this.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

The third and final movie in the prequel trilogy is the best of the three. However, it still isn’t very good by Star Wars standards.

In this one, we see Anakin’s destiny reach full climax as, by film’s end, he becomes the iconic Darth Vader. Of course, the path to full Vaderdom is just more of the same bullshit that we’ve had to endure over multiple films now. And Hayden Christensen continues to give a wooden performance accented by Natalie Portman, who doesn’t even want to be there and Ewan McGregor, who is trying to be passionate with the shitty lines George Lucas gave him to speak.

This film solidifies just how stupid the Jedi Council is or just how bad of a writer that George Lucas is. Why are only two Jedi sent to rescue the Supreme Chancellor who is held hostage over Coruscant, the capital of the galaxy? I mean, there is a Jedi Temple full of Jedi below, even if many are off fighting on other planets. And why did Yoda and Obi-Wan not tag team Palpatine and then Anakin? And somehow, Yoda and Obi-Wan fought their battles at the same time, even though they took off for them simultaneously but one was down the street and the other was on the other side of the galaxy. Again, ambiguous travel times.

Count Dooku dies too early. General Grievous is a dumb villain and it is clear that instead of having long lasting iconic bad guys like Darth Vader, Lucas would rather give us Maul then Dooku then Grievous in an effort to sell more toys. Sacrifice the story, sell more shit.

Fuck this movie too.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.

Film Review: Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance (2015)

Release Date: October 9th, 2015
Directed by: Gregory Hatanaka
Written by: Rich Mallery, T.L. Young, Gregory Hatanaka
Music by: Toshiyuki Hiraoka
Cast: Mathew Karedas, Mark Frazer, Tommy Wiseau, Bai Ling, Kayden Kross, Lexi Belle, Laurene Landon, Gerald Okamura, Joe Estevez, Joselito Rescober

CineRidge Entertainment, Cinema Epoch, 93 Minutes

Review:

I finally got around to catching Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance. Since I recently saw the first film on the big screen, courtesy of RiffTrax Live, I felt that I needed to follow up that experience with the sequel. Sure, I am over a year late on seeing it but it doesn’t mean that my love for these characters isn’t immense.

The best thing about the first film, above all other great things, is the hilarious and natural camaraderie between buddy cops Joe Marshall (Mathew Karedas) and Frank Washington (Mark Frazer). In this film, it is even better. You feel as if these two buddies, who had not been together for over two decades in the film world and in the real world, were just glad to be back together. Age worked well for both men as characters and as actors. Their friendship feels truly authentic in Samurai Cop 2 and I’d just like to see these two guys together again, at some point, down the road.

Initially, Samurai Cop 2 starts out really strong. It kind of goes off the rails for me in the second half but it still entertains and it is a good 93 minute romp for those familiar with the first film. I don’t think that the picture will resonate as well to those who aren’t already fans of the first movie. Samurai Cop 2 is a big fan service project and it delivers in that regard. The downside, is that it puts fan service ahead of the movie itself. While this should stand alone, as its own film, it doesn’t and it also falls short of being the silly and lovable b-movie action classic that its predecessor is.

I don’t want to sound like I am talking trash here. I still really like Samurai Cop 2. I’m sure I will watch it again, more than once. It just doesn’t have the same sort of magic as the first picture. I think some of that has to do with being bogged down with too many actors that are hard to keep track of. While it is nice to see some of the old actors from the first reappear, there is a whole slew of other people that are wedged into this thing. However, I have to give mad props for the inclusion of Tommy Wiseau from The Room and Joe Estevez, the least known Estevez/Sheen, from a slew of really bad pictures.

Samurai Cop 2 doesn’t jump the shark because how can you in a film series like this? It just seems a bit out of sync with the original in style and tone. While this is a Kickstarter funded project, some parts of the film feel overproduced and overly stylized. The original movie wasn’t stylized deliberately, it was just a reflection of the time it was made in and the lack of budget the producers had. Samurai Cop 2 walks the line between trying to fall back to 1990 and trying to be overly futuristic.

All that being said, I still wouldn’t mind a Samurai Cop 3. To be honest, I could watch Karedas and Frazer team up anytime. And hell, I’d like to see Tommy Wiseau again because he is gold in everything that he does.

Film Review: ‘The Crow’ Film Series (1994-2005)

I just re-watched The Crow and all of its sequels. I watch the original film about once a year or so but it has been a long time since I have seen the sequels. Instead of just reviewing one of them, I figured I’d give my two cents on each film.

The Crow (1994):

Release Date: May 13th, 1994
Directed by: Alex Proyas
Written by: David J. Schow, John Shirley
Based on: The Crow by James O’Barr
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Bai Ling, Rochelle Davis, David Patrick Kelly, Jon Polito, Tony Todd

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 102 Minutes

the_crow_1994Review:

The first film in the series is by far the best, that isn’t even debatable. The cast was pretty fantastic, as director Alex Proyas (Dark City, I, Robot) strung together a nice team comprised of Brandon Lee (Rapid Fire, Showdown In Little Tokyo), the late son of Bruce Lee, as well as Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, Oz), Michael Wincott (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Basquiat), Tony Todd (Candyman, Platoon), Bai Ling (Anna and the King, Three… Extremes), David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors, Twin Peaks) and newcomer Rochelle Davis, who has only appeared in one other film.

The tone of the film was perfect, the music was perfect, the casting of Brandon Lee was perfect. There aren’t a lot of negatives that one can find in this near masterpiece. For its time, it was one of the best, if not the best, comic book films of all-time. The only comic book films that one could possibly put in front of The Crow are the Richard Donner Superman films and the Tim Burton Batman films. In 1994, when this movie was released, comic book movies were very scarce.

This is a film that has a strong cult following and deservedly so.

Brandon Lee died on set due to a firearm accident and it had to be finished without him. There was a lot of debate as to whether or not the film should even be released but it was and has had a certain degree of mystique attached to it. The real-life tragedy added to the emotion and darkness of the film in a way that didn’t make light of Lee’s death or try to capitalize off of it. Everything, in my opinion, was done tastefully and in a way that honored the actor and gave people a look at his best work.

The chemistry between Lee and Davis, as well as Lee and Wincott was pretty strong. Brandon Lee gave this his all and it was a good display of his talent, which never got to grow and reach the heights it could have.

Plus, there is a performance by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult in the film.

The Crow: City of Angels (1996):

Release Date: August 30th, 1996
Directed by: Tim Pope
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: The Crow by James O’Barr
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Vincent Perez, Mia Kirshner, Iggy Pop, Richard Brooks, Thomas Jane

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 84 Minutes

the_crow_2Review:

The first sequel in the series was pretty bad, which would become the trend. It starred Vincent Perez (Queen of the Damned) as the title character and I still can’t recall anything noteworthy that I have seen him in besides this. It also starred punk rock legend Iggy Pop (Dead Man, Tank Girl), Thomas Jane (The Punisher, Hung) and Mia Kirshner (The L Word, The Black Dahlia).

Iggy was fantastic and just completely Iggy, which made his character great. Kirshner was angelic and beautiful with a real genuine level of sweetness but she was also more or less a statue propped up in the background to add allure to a very ugly looking film. Tom Jane basically just played a weird pervert and he was unrecognizable in the role.

I would consider this film to be the second to worst in the series. And there really isn’t much one can say about it. It is empty, soulless and an awful rehash of the classic before it.

But again, it features Iggy Pop and I will watch him in anything.

And I love Mia Kirshner, who has never looked better than she does in this.

 

The Crow: Salvation (2000):

Release Date: January 23rd, 2000
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
Written by: Chip Johannessen
Based on: The Crow by James O’Barr
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Eric Mabius, Kirsten Dunst, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Fred Ward, William Atherton, Walton Goggins

IMF, Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, Jeff Most Productions, Pacifica Film Development, Dimension Films, 102 Minutes

the_crow_3Review:

The second sequel was better than the first sequel. After the original film, this is the best installment of the series. It starred Eric Mabius (Ugly Betty, Cruel Intentions), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Melancholia), William Atherton (Real Genius, Ghostbusters), Fred Ward (Tremors, The Right Stuff) and Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justified).

Mabius was much more personable and likable than his predecessor, Vincent Perez. Dunst was good but nothing extraordinary. Atherton and Goggins were both presences in the film but didn’t leave me with anything all that memorable. Fred Ward, one of those lesser-known actors I’ve just always liked for some reason, did a pretty solid job of playing the scumbag evil bastard in this film.

From a storytelling standpoint, this offered so much more than City of Angels. It involved a conspiracy, a cover-up and evil dudes sending an innocent kid off to die for their sins. It wasn’t as straightforward and as simple as the previous films in this series. Granted, it wasn’t a storytelling masterpiece but it had depth and a bit of mystery.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005):

Release Date: June 3rd, 2005
Directed by: Lance Mungia
Written by: Lance Mungia, Jeff Most, Sean Hood
Based on: The Crow: Wicked Prayer by Norman Partridge
Music by: Jamie Christopherson
Cast: Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Dennis Hopper, Tito Ortiz, Danny Trejo

Dimension Films, 99 Minutes

the_crow_4Review:

The final film in the series was god awful, and that might be an understatement. It starred Edward Furlong (Terminator 2, American History X), Tara Reid (American Pie, The Big Lebowski), David Boreanaz (Angel, Bones), Tito Ortiz of UFC fame, Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Till Dawn), Dennis Hopper (Speed, True Romance) and a very brief appearance by singer Macy Gray.

Furlong just looked ridiculous as the Crow. I think the hair had a lot to do with the sloppy shitty look. Also, Furlong by this point, had grown too old and looked like a washed up forty-something Robert Smith wearing his Cure makeup instead of an awesome twenty-something Robert Smith wearing his Cure makeup. Furlong’s acting was horrible but so was everyone else’s.

Boreanaz was deplorable, Tara Reid was annoying and not naked enough, Tito Ortiz was a dipshit and Danny Trejo was the worst I’ve ever seen him and I really love that guy. Dennis Hopper took the cake, however, as he stumbled through some of the worst written lines I have ever heard in a film. It sucks that such a great actor was working on shit like this so late in his career.

Technically speaking, the special effects were disastrous, the cinematography was nightmarish and the editing was shit. There isn’t anything nice I can say about this film.