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

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Original Theatrical Release Date: May 19, 1999
Director: George Lucas

Two Jedi Knights – Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) – are in the middle of a trade dispute and narrowly escape a hostile blockade by the Trade Federation army. Making their way to the desert planet of Tatooine, the two Jedi warriors find a young boy named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who may be the one prophesied to bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon takes an interest in freeing the boy from a savvy gambler named Watto (Andy Secombe), but meanwhile the threat of the Sith is rising – with a vicious Sith lord, Darth Maul (Ray Park), hot on the heels of the two Jedi.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I used to have hand-me-down action figures from my uncle. They came in a carrying case shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet and I would play with them for hours. So, naturally – when this movie came out during my high school years – back in 1999….I was more than excited. I’d seen previews where Darth Maul was speeding across the desert surface of Tatooine, only to leap from his speeder and attack some Jedi and it gave me goosebumps. Darth Maul truly looked like a badass.

The real experience in the theater wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped. There was a certain quality to it that I didn’t like. Everything was too clean – even in the dirty, rundown slums of Tatooine. The CGI looked out of place for the Jim Henson style Star Wars experience I remembered as a kid. Everything was bright. The ships were polished and sounded like high-end vibrators. (Not that I’d know about that or anything)

In short, it didn’t feel real. Despite the excitement of the initial ambush sequence and the eventual podrace – I fell asleep in the theater. This is, to date, the only movie I’ve ever fallen asleep to during the time it was showing on the big screen. This hasn’t changed fifteen years later. The film boasts one of the best fight scenes in Star Wars history between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon – but other than that it’s a lot of politics and talk of trade embargoes and underhanded dealings. Jar-Jar Binks is MUY ANNOYING and seeing Darth Vader as a youngster is sort of a letdown. And don’t get me started on Midichlorians.

Recently, I’ve reverted to watching the Star Wars films in the “Machete Order“. I recommend you do the same, which enables you to skip out on Episode I entirely. As snarky as some hardcore Star Wars fans are about the prequel films – there is actually some decent stuff in them. When combined into a single narrative with every film aside from Episode I – it actually makes a lot more sense and is more enjoyable to watch.

In any case, after all the hype – Episode I just has way too many problems as a film – let alone as an installment of a beloved franchise. So, while I may watch it once in a while (mostly for the fight scenes), I will usually avoid this Lucas offering altogether.

PS – In case you didn’t know – I cosplay as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Exhibit A

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I was recently at Super Megafest 2013 in Framingham, Mass last November and I ran into Ray Park (the actor who played Darth Maul in Episode I) at his booth. He was only doing one photo per person, but after finishing with mine (I let him use my lightsaber) he told me to pretend I was being impaled so he could get his “revenge” on me. Exhibit B

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

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JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

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Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984)

When three parapsychology professors – Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) – lose their government grant, they go into business on their own as paranormal exterminators, eventually hiring on Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) as the fourth Ghostbuster once their business takes off and they can’t handle the volume. However, an ancient Babylonian demon appears in Dana Barrett’s (Sigourney Weaver) refrigerator and summons an army of ghosts which invade New York City, leaving it up to the Ghostbusters to save the day.

I don’t know why I haven’t reviewed this movie yet – it’s pretty much the perfect film.

In any case, those who weren’t born in the 80’s may not appreciate this film franchise. I’ve found that to be the case no matter how good a film is. However, I still think Ghostbusters holds its own against most of today’s comedies, and I think I can say that without being a snob.

The comedic genius of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis is just unbeatable. Sigourney Weaver was the Megan Fox of her time (but with much better acting talent) and Harold Ramis plays the perfect counterpoint to Murray. Some of the effects are dated, but not too badly. I’ve seen worse production quality on films nowadays, to be honest.

This movie has it all: Action, comedy, horror, sex appeal and proton packs. What more could you ask for? Go see it, if you haven’t. It’s on Netflix!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

PS – I met Ernie Hudson recently while I was at Super Megafest in Massachusetts. In case you didn’t catch me posing with him, here are a couple pictures of Zeddmore and I together. I was dressed up as Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: Episode One, and I got him to use my lightsaber. Initially, he didn’t seem to want to, but once I turned it on he started waving it around for the camera and making karate noises. It was the best day of my life. How can you beat a Ghostbuster swinging around a lightsaber? Here are some pics:

Me, teaching Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) some new tricks!

Me, teaching Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) some new tricks!

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Winston Zeddmore

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