action, adventure, fantasy, martial arts, movie, movie review

March 24th, 2019 Movie – Circle Of Iron

circle of iron

Another Sunday morning, another movie to watch from Shout Factory TV. Lucky for me, they have plenty of movies to choose from. Now I chose today’s movie because of the history behind it. See, today’s movie was originally co-written by Bruce Lee, who had intended to star in it but was unfortunately killed before he could start working on it. A couple of years after his death, Stirling Silliphant, one of the other co-writers, completed the screenplay and David Carradine was cast to play the role intended for Bruce Lee. So let’s see what kind of movie we have on out hands as I watch Circle Of Iron.

The plot: In a distant land, a martial arts tournament is held; with the final match coming down to Cord and Morthond. Cord ends up defeating Morthond but due to his dirty fighting tactics, he is disqualified and Morthond is declared the victor. After Morthond is awarded the medallion and the right to seek the Book of Knowledge from Zetan, Cord argues with the judge about why Morthond was chosen. The judge tells Cord that he had broken almost every rule in the tournament and is not worthy of going on the quest. Cord says that everyone they have sent to face Zetan has failed to return but he will defeat him and look into the Book of Enlightenment himself, then follows after Morthond when he leaves the city. Morthond is upset about Cord’s following him, breaking his vow of silence to challenge Cord to another fight, but Cord refuses, saying he wants to help him, not kill him. After travelling for most of the day, the two warriors stop to rest and notice a blind man, whom Cord had seen earlier in the city, making his way into some ruins. When loud voices are heard from the ruins, Cord decides to go and investigate while Morthond uses the opportunity to continue on his quest without Cord. Inside the ruins, Cord sees the blind man fighting with some bandits and easily defeats them, though Cord does kill one that was about to throw a knife at the blind man. Cord approaches the blind man and asks him to be his teacher and when the blind man refuses, Cord says he will follow him and learn by watching him. When the two men encounter a monkeyman, Cord doesn’t see the wisdom in how the blind man handles the encounter, arguing he will never need to fight a monkey, but when he turns to gether his gear, he finds the blind man has vanished. Suddenly, he sees a wounded Morthond stumble against some rocks and when Cord approaches him, Morthond tells him he had failed the first trial and asks Cord to help give him a warrior’s death, then take the medallion and finish the quest. Cord does as Morthond asks and after Morthond’s death, he takes the medallion and heads into the nearby caves. Inside, he finds a tribe of monkeymen and watches as their leader defeats another warrior. Recalling the words of the blind man, Cord heads down and confronts the monkeymen’s leader, eventually defeating him and learning the way to Zetan. After traveling for a while, Cord comes across a man in a giant cauldron of oil. Cord asks the man if he needs help but the man says no, as he had done this himself so that he can dissolve the lower half of his body as a way of ridding himself of his sexual urges and offers to let Cord join him but Cord refuses, saying his vow of celibacy is enough. Cord continues across the desert and eventually comes to an oasis, where he sees a group of travelers have set up camp and are holding a festival. As Cord makes his way into the camp and watches the festivities, he is invited to sit next to the travelers leader Chang-Sha inside his tent. The two men talk for a bit before Chang-Sha steps outside and battles another traveler who had sought to test his strength against him. After Chang-Sha defeats the warrior, Cord asks when they will fight but Chang-Sha tells him that they will fight in the morning. That night, one of Chang-Sha’s wives, Tara enters his tent and says that Chang-Sha sent her there to give him a rose, symbolizing his second trial, and after talking for a bit, the two end up having sex, after which Cord asks Tara to go with him. The next morning, Cord wakes up to find the camp has gone and Tara had been left crucified on the outskirts of the oasis. Cord goes looking for Chang-Sha and as he stops for the night, he has a vision of Death approaching him but Cord is able to dispel the vision by showing that he doesn’t fear Death. The next day, Cord comes to another oasis and encounters the blind man again, and after Cord asks again for him to teach him, the blind man agrees. As they continue on their way, the blind man asks a fisherman if they can use his boat to cross the river, but after they do so, the blind man kicks out the sides of the boat, damaging it. They then encounter some bandits and attempt to run from them, fighting them when they have to, and after dealing with the bandits, the blind man stops to repair a stone wall. As they continue on their way, the blind man strikes a young boy, breaking his nose. Cord tells the blind man that he is leaving him but demands answers for the things he did. When the blind man answers, Cord questions how he knew the things he did and realizes that the blind man had been through there before, which gave him the knowledge about things that Cord didn’t. Cord eventually comes across Chang-Sha and after admitting that he doesn’t hold Chang-Sha responsible for Tara’s death, he challenges him to a fight. Chang-Sha agrees and after the two men fight to a draw, Chang-Sha tells Cord where to find Zetan. Cord makes his way on a ferry to an island, where he finds the religious sect that protects the Book of Enlightenment. Cord is taken to see Zetan and Cord goes to fight him but Zetan says there is no need for violence. He tells Cord that he has passed the trials and is entitled to look at the Book of Enlightenment but as Cord turns the pages, he finds that they are nothing more than mirrors. Zetan explains that many have come to seek the book only to find that enlightenment comes from themselves. As Cord laughs at the result of his quest, Zetan says that otwhile most of those who looked in the book have stayed there, some have left to become part of the challenges or teachers in their own ways, and Cord realizes the blind man was one of those people. Zetan offers Cord his job as protector of the book but Cord continues laughing as he leaves the island. Cord eventually finds the blind man and after talking for a bit, they embrace and the blind man hands Cord his flute, passing on his role of teacher to Cord.

When Circle Of Iron first came out, it received mainly negative reviews but has since garnered a cult following, causing some critics to reassess the movie, hence it’s current ranking of 43% on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, several critics felt that the lack of Bruce Lee’s charisma and guidance caused the movie to not reach it’s true potential. Bruce Lee envisioned Circle Of Iron to be an introduction for Western audiences to Eastern philosophy and the movie was originally supposed to be shot in 1969, with Steve McQueen offered the role of Cord but he turned it down. The flute that David Carradine plays throughout the movie is the same flute he plays in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. The movie made $1 million, but most of that was through video rentals and not the box office.

Well, the movie is definitely slow enough to fit being a philosophical movie, but didn’t exactly keep the interest peaked enough to make it good. I will be honest, even if Bruce Lee was in it, I don’t know if this movie would have been any better. The acting was good, with David Carradine doing a great job playing the multiple roles of the blind man, Monkeyman, Death, and Chang-Sha. I honestly think he had some fun playing the different roles. Jeff Cooper was also good as Cord and but I thought that Christopher Lee was a little wasted as Zetan, as his presence honestly felt a little anti-climactic to me. The plot was pretty slow paced and even the few fight scenes were pretty slow, making this movie a little boring and hard to pay attention too. The fight scenes were pretty well choreographed but the slow pacing just didn’t make them exciting at all. I know that the focus was supposed to be on the philosophical aspects but they still could have made the few fights that were included to be a little more exciting. It’s a decent intellectual movie but the slow pace is not going to attract to many people to watch it.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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November 14th, 2017 Movie – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith

star wars episode III - revenge of the sith

Ever since they announced a prequel trilogy for Star Wars, I eagerly awaited the last movie for one reason; I wanted to see the fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin. When this movie came out, I decided to have a massive Star Wars movie marathon as part of my birthday celebrations since the Star Wars movies always came out close to my birthday, So me, and my friends who showed up early enough, started watching the first two prequels at my house, went to the theaters to watch the latest movie, then went back to my house to watch the original trilogy. It was a lot of fun and I will admit that not everyone managed to stay awake throughout all of the movies. So let’s observe the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader with today’s movie, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith.

The plot: Three years after the battle on Geonosis began the Galactic Civil War, the Separatist Fleet, led by the cyborg General Grievous, has launched an attack on Coruscant, the Republic Capital Planet, and kidnapped Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. As a battle rages in space between Republic and Separatist forces, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker mount a rescue mission to rescue Palpatine, though Obi-Wan’s ship is damaged in the process of reaching Grievous’ ship. After locating Palpatine, they suspect they are walking into a trap so they leave R2-D2 behind with their ships while they head off to rescue him. After reaching the command tower, they approach Palpatine and move to rescue him but he alerts them to Count Dooku entering the room. The two Jedi move to face him, working as a team to try and overpower him but Dooku easily holds them at bay, then uses the Force to send Obi-Wan flying into a raised platform before dropping it on him. Anakin becomes enraged and manages to defeat Dooku, severing both of his hands as he disarms him and hold both his and Dooku’s lightsabers against his throat. Palpatine applauds Anakin’s victory, then orders Anakin to kill Dooku, eliciting Dooku to look at Palpatine in surprise, and Anakin hesitates but is eventually goaded by Palpatine into beheading Dooku. After freeing Palpatine, Anakin goes to check on Obi-Wan, though Palpatine says they should leave him behind, but as they make their way to the hangar, the battle outside intensifies and Grievous’ ship receives major damage, causing it to tilt precariously as it starts to lose orbit. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine manage to avoid getting crushed by an elevator but end up captured and taken to Grievous, who takes their lightsabers from them. R2 causes a distraction, allowing Obi-Wan and Anakin to use the Force to retrieve their lightsabers and begin battling Grievous’ Magnaguards. Once they defeat them, they go after Grievous but he destroys the cockpit hatch, allowing himself to be sucked out into space while Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine struggle to hold on so they don’t follow after him until the safety windows are closed. Grievous uses a tow cable to climb along the outside of the ship and drop back inside, where he enters an escape pod and ejects from the ship, then launches all of the remaining escape pods. With the ship falling apart and still dropping out of orbit, Anakin and Obi-Wan, with R2’s assistance, attempt to safely land the ship, though it ends up breaking in half as they enter the atmosphere, and the eventually crash land on a prepared runway. After a shuttle collects them and escorts them back to the capital, Palpatine, Anakin, and R2 disembark but Obi-Wan stays on board so he can go report to the Jedi Council about the latest developments. As Palpatine speaks with Mace Windu about Grievous’ escape and heads inside with the other senators,  Anakin talks briefly with Senator Bail Organa before meeting with his wife Padme, who embraces him and after expressing her happiness that he is still alive, tells him that she is pregnant. Padme worries about what they are going to do, as Anakin has already broken the Jedi code by marrying her, and Anakin says not to worry as this is a happy occasion. Meanwhile, Grievous arrives at his base on the planet Utapau and contacts Darth Sidious, who tells him to send the Separatist leaders to the volcanic planet Mustafar and says the war is almost over. When Grievous asks if Dooku’s loss will affect their plans, Sidious informs him that he will soon have a new apprentice, one who is younger and more powerful than Dooku. That night, Anakin has a dream of Padme dying during childbirth and after telling Padme about it and saying he won’t let it happen, he goes to speak to Yoda about premonitions within the Force. Yoda questions Anakin about the dream and when Anakin says it involves someone close to him, Yoda warns him not to get too attached as it could lead to the Dark Side. Later, Anakin goes to speak with Obi-Wan, who tells him that the Senate is voting on giving Palpatine more executive powers then tells him that Palpatine wishes to see Anakin, but is uneasy as he did not make the request through the Council as protocol dictates and warns Anakin to be careful around him. Anakin goes to see Palpatine, who asks Anakin to be his representative on the Jedi Council and Anakin is excited at the opportunity. At the Jedi Temple, the Council reluctantly agrees to give Anakin a seat at the Council but refuses to make him a Master, which upsets Anakin. As the Council meeting continues, Yoda decides to head to Kashyyyk, to help reinforce the Wookies in their fight against the droid armies. After the meeting, Anakin is still upset about not becoming a Master and Obi-Wan tries to calm him down then tells him that the Council gave him the seat because they want him to spy on Palpatine, as he is grabbing more and more power for himself. As they head to the shuttle pads, Obi-Wan tells Mace and Yoda of Anakin’s reluctance to handle the assignment and Mace voices his doubts concerning Anakin but Obi-Wan says he will do what needs to be done as he is “the Chosen One” to bring balance to the force. Meanwhile, Anakin voices his concerns that the Jedi might be losing their way during the course of the war and Padme says that she wonders if the longer they fight the war, the more they end up becoming the bad guys. That night, Palpatine has Anakin meet him at an opera and after Palpatine discusses how the Jedi seem to be against democracy, with Anakin agreeing with him, Palpatine tells Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise, a Sith Lord so powerful, he was able to create life and keep his loved ones from dying. When Anakin asks if it is possible to learn this ability, Palpatine tells him not from a Jedi. Later, Anakin relays news that Palpatine received concerning Grievous’ whereabouts and says Palpatine suggested he lead the assault but the Council denies that request and chooses to send Obi-Wan instead. After the meeting, Anakin is walking with Obi-Wan and voices his displeasure with the Council, then apologizes to Obi-Wan for not being a better student and wishes him luck on his journey. Obi-Wan heads to Utapau and speaks with the planet emissary, who whispers that Grievous and an army of droids are on the tenth level of the facility. Using a lizard mount, Obi-Wan heads up there and manages to sneak into the level, just as Grievous is sending the leaders to Mustafar. Obi-Wan drops down to face Grievous, dispatching the Magnaguards that Grievous sends after him, and as Grievous drops his cloak to fight Obi-Wan, he reveals that he has 4 arms, with a lightsaber wielded in each hand. As they fight, Obi-Wan manages to cut off two of Grievous’ hands when his reinforcements, led by Commander Cody, arrive. Grievous climbs into his personal vehicle and attempts to flee and Obi-Wan chases after him but loses his lightsaber, which Cody picks up. Cody transmits a report to the Jedi Council and Mace tells Anakin to alert Palpatine to the attack. After he leaves, Mace speaks to the other Council members via hologram and says he feels Palpatine is involved in a plot to destroy the Jedi and if he won’t relinquish his emergency power after Grievous’ defeat, then they will be forced to remove him from office. Anakin goes to Palpatine’s office and tells him about Obi-Wan’s attack and Palpatine begins speaking out against the Jedi Council and reveals himself to be Darth Sidious, and asks that Anakin join him and he can teach him to become more powerful in the force in order to save Padme but Anakin leaves to alert the Jedi Council about Palpatine, saying he will learn who is telling him the truth. Back on Utapau, Obi-Wan continues his pursuit of Grievous and as Grievous is about to kill him, Obi-Wan uses the Force to grab a nearby blaster and uses it to shoot Grievous, eventually killing him. Back on Coruscant, Mace Windu, Kit Fisto, and two other Jedi Masters are preparing to head over to speak with Palpatine and tell him of Grievous’ death and demand he return the emergency powers back to the Senate when Anakin approaches Mace and tells him that Palpatine is Darth Sidious. Anakin asks to go with Mace when they confront him but Mace tells him know, fearing Anakin’s troubled mind would be a weapon Palpatine could use against them, and tells him to wait in the Council chamber until they return but Anakin disobeys and follows after them. Mace and the Jedi’s enter Palpatine’s chamber and move to place him under arrest but Palpatine says they are committing treason, then pulls out his lightsaber and begins attacking them. He quickly kills Kit Fisto and the other two Jedi but Mace is able to battle back and eventually get the upper hand on him. When Anakin arrives, Mace has Palpatine pinned down and Palpatine tries to convince Anakin that the Jedi have turned traitor, then attacks Mace with Force lightning when Mace tries to convince Anakin that Palpatine is lying. Mace is able to deflect the lightning with his lightsaber and direct it back towards Palpatine, causing him to age as the lightning saps his strength. When Palpatine stops firing the lightning, Mace decides he is too dangerous to let live and goes to kill him but Anakin pleads with Mace to let him live, saying it isn’t the Jedi way. When Mace doesn’t stop, Anakin uses his lightsaber to cut off Mace’s arm and as he cries out in pain, Palpatine uses the lightning again to send him flying out the window to his death. Anakin is in anguish over what he has done but Palpatine says he did the right thing and convinces Anakin to join him as his apprentice. Renaming Anakin Darth Vader, Palpatine tells him that all of the Jedi are now their enemies and he sends Vader with a squad of troopers to kill everyone in the Jedi Temple, including the younglings, and after he leaves, Palpatine sends a communication to all of his clone officers and tells them to execute Order 66, a command hidden in the clones programming to attack the Jedi. Back on Utapau, Obi-Wan regroups with Cody, who hands Obi-Wan his lightsaber, and then he heads back into battle when Cody receives the order and has his men attack Obi-Wan, blasting the rock his lizard mount is climbing and sending him plummeting into a deep pool below but he survives and is able to avoid detection. As other Jedi Masters and Knights across the galaxy are killed by the clones, Yoda is struck by their loss through the Force but when two clone troopers try to kill him, he quickly kills them, then is helped off of Kashyyyk by the Wookies Chewbacca and Tarfful. Back on Coruscant, Senator Bail Organa goes to the Jedi Temple but is told to leave by a group of clone soldiers. As he goes to leave, he witnesses them kill a young Padawan and quickly leaves before they can attack him, then heads off to find Yoda, telling his men if any Jedi would have survived it would have been him. Back on Utapau, Obi-Wan continues to evade the clones and makes his way to Grievous’ ship and leaves the planet. While trying to call for help, he receives a transmission from Organa, who tells him that all of the Jedi had been betrayed by the clones but he has Yoda with him and sends Obi-Wan their coordinates so he can meet with them. Back on Coruscant, Anakin returns to Padme’s apartment and tells her that the Jedi turned against the Republic but he will remain loyal and then heads off to the Mustafar system under Palpatine’s orders. Out in space, Obi-Wan docks on Organa’s ship and heads inside, where he discusses the situation with Yoda and Organa. Hearing that a coded message telling the Jedi to return to the temple is being transmitted, Obi-Wan says they must go to the temple and shut off the beacon, as it is merely luring any surviving Jedi into a trap. As they reach Coruscant, Organa receives word of a special Senate session and thinks it might be a trap but Yoda disagrees, as Palpatine will still need the Senate to help run the galaxy, and Yoda thinks it will make sneaking into the temple easier. Meanwhile, Sidious contacts the Separatist leaders and tells them that the war is almost over and his assistant, Darth Vader, will be arriving to take care of them. When Vader arrives, on the planet, he enters the chamber that the leaders are in, then seals it before proceeding to kill all of them. As Palpatine delivers a message to the Senate, telling them of the Jedi’s “betrayal” and attack on him and declaring the Republic to now be the First Galactic Empire, Obi-Wan and Yoda enter the temple and recalibrate the signal. Obi-Wan then views the security footage of the temple to learn who betrayed the Jedi and witnesses Anakin attacking the temple and killing the younglings. Deciding to face the Sith, Obi-Wan asks Yoda to let him face Palpatine but Yoda says Palpatine is too powerful for him to face and says Obi-Wan must face and defeat Anakin. OBi-Wan goes to see Padme, asking her help in locating Anakin and telling him how Anakin and everyone had been deceived by Palpatine but she doesn’t believe him. As he goes to leave, Obi-Wan asks Padme if Anakin is the father of her baby and when she bows her head, he says he is sorry and walks away. Padme boards a spaceship and prepares to head to Mustafar to see Anakin but Obi-Wan manages to stow away on the ship. When Padme reaches Mustafar, Anakin rushes out to greet her and asks what she is doing there. Padme confronts him about what Obi-Wan told her and when Anakin confirms that he did what he must, she begs him to leave everything behind and leave with her so they can raise their child together. When Anakin sees Obi-Wan at the top of the ship’s gangplank, he accuses Padme of betraying him and starts to Forcechoke her but Obi-Wan convinces him to stop and she collapses to the ground. As Obi-Wan goes to check on her, Anakin starts ranting at him and the two begin fighting. Back on Coruscant, Yoda enters Palpatine’s chambers and confronts Palpatine, who uses his Force lightning to blast Yoda into a wall. As he laughing approaches Yoda’s body, Yoda gets up and Force shoves Palpatine over his desk, then the two begin fighting with lightsabers as Palpatine’s Senate platform rises up into the Senate Chamber. As the two continue fighting, Palpatine begins hurling Senate platforms at Yoda, and after avoiding several of them, Yoda stops one and sends it hurtling back at Palpatine, then presses his attack. Palpoatine fires Force lightning at Yoda, who blocks it but the resulting feedback due to their close proximity knocks him to the ground and as Palpatine laughs while he struggles to climb back onto his own platform, Yoda crawls away and contacts Organa, who picks him up and helps him escape. Yoda says that he must go into exile as he failed to stop Palpatine while Palpatine tells his men to keep searching for Yoda, then orders Commander Cody to prepare a shuttle as he wants to check on Vader. Back on Mustafar, Obi-Wan and Anakin’s fight continues, with one of Anakin’s blows destroying the computer controlling the force fields, causing them to drop and making the whole complex vulnerable to the lava on the planet’s surface. As they continue to fight, they end up on a platform floating down a river of lava and as they find themselves locked in a stalemate, Obi-Wan jumps onto the nearby shore and the two continue to argue their different viewpoints as to who is evil. When Anakin leaps from the platform and attempts to attack Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan slashes at him and ends up severing both of Anakin’s legs  at the knees and his left arm. As Anakin cries out in pain and slides down to the lava river’s edge, Obi-Wan cries out that Anakin was supposed to bring balance to the Force, not destroy it and that he was like a brother to him. Obi-Wan picks up Anakin’s lightsaber and as Anakin catches on fire, Obi-Wan leaves him to die and heads back to the shuttle, finding that C-3PO and R2 had already gotten Padme on board and prepared it for takeoff. They leave just as Palpatine’s shuttle arrives on the planet and Palpatine finds a badly burned Vader struggling to climb up out of the river and orders Vader placed in a medical capsule. Obi-Wan meets up with Yoda and Organa on a hidden medical facility, where the medical droid says that she is dying, having given up the will to live, but the must act quickly in order to save her babies. Padme gives birth to her twins, naming them Luke and Leia, and tells Obi-Wan that there is still good in Anakin before she dies. Meanwhile, Palpatine has Vader taken back to Coruscant, where he is fitted with cybernetic limbs and armor (containing a breathing apparatus for his damaged lungs) and after learning that Padme died, he cries out, destroying the machinery in the lab as he does. Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Organa decide to keep the twins hidden and separate them so that Vader and Palpatine can’t find them. Organa says he will adopt Leia while Yoda tells Obi-Wan to take Luke to Tatooine to live with his aunt and uncle, Owen and Beru Lars. Before Obi-Wan leaves, Yoda tells him that while on Tatooine, he is to begin training in a new aspect of the Force, one that will allow him to communicate with Qui Gon Jinn. As they leave to drop off the prospective twins, Yoda heads to the planet Dagobah to live in exile while Palpatine and Vader head out into space, where they oversee the beginning stages of construction on Palpatine’s secret weapon, the Death Star.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “With Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas brings his second Star Wars trilogy to a suitably thrilling and often poignant — if still a bit uneven — conclusion.” In preparation for their final fight, Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen trained in fencing and fitness for two months, with the end result being the speed of their duel that was filmed being unaltered in the completed movie. The movie was a box office success, earning $848.8 million off of a $113 million budget but like it’s predecessor, it was not the #1 box office movie that year.

There were some flaws, but this got the job done and was a nice way to wrap up the trilogy. The acting was ok, with Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan), Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine), Christopher Lee (Dooku), and Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu) all did great jobs in their roles. As good of an actress as she is, Natalie Portman’s performance of Padme felt a little bland while Hayden Christensen (Anakin) was just terrible, with it seeming like he put no real inflection in his tone, making him sound flat and somewhat robotic (a criticism many people cited against him). Minus some dialogue issues, the story was pretty good and did it’s part in ending the prequel trilogy while setting up how the initial trilogy would start. I will admit that the scene with Vader learning of Padme’s death and crying out in loss was incredibly stupid, but my guess they were trying to humanize him a little more (but it kind of made him seem even more robotic). My favorite part was the twist with the prophecy regarding Anakin, as he did bring balance to the Force in a fashion, just not in the way the Jedi thought. The special effects in this movie were great, with the various battle scenes being incredibly well done. The fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan was not what I expected but everything I could have hoped for. I also loved the imagery, whether intentional or not, in the fact that before the duel started, Obi-Wan kept appearing in the light while Anakin always had a darker backdrop behind him. The lava eruptions as they fought, which were footage of an actual volcano erupting, added to the dynamic of the fight. Faults aside, this is the best movie out of the prequels and worth watching to see how they set things up.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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November 13th, 2017 Movie – Star Wars: The Clone Wars

star wars the clone wars

So with the prequel trilogy a success, it looked like it would be another 15 years or so before we would get a new movie. Luckily, someone at Lucasfilm Animation had a different idea. Before Revenge Of The Sith came out, there was a short animated series on Cartoon Network which won several awards. Seeing how much interest there was in an animated series, Lucasfilm Animation decided to make another series, but this time with a full length movie serving as the pilot for the series. I will admit that I did not see this movie in theaters when it came out but wound up watching it after it showed up on Netflix along with the Clone Wars series a few years ago. So I decided to pick it up on DVD in order to complete my Star Wars collection, which brings us to today’s movie, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

The plot: As the Galactic Civil War continues to rage, the Separatists Armies have taken control of the hyperspace lanes, making it difficult for the Jedi and their clone soldiers to move throughout the systems. As this is going on, Jabba the Hutt’s son Rotta is kidnapped by a rival gang and he contacts the Jedi for help in rescuing him. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine says they have to help Jabba, hoping to use the opportunity to make a treaty with the Hutts, who control the Outer Rim, and use their space lanes to help turn the tide of battle. Mace Windu says the only Jedi they can spare are Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, who are finishing a campaign on the planet Christophosis, and Palpatine says to contact them immediately. Mace Windu and Yoda contact the Republic fleet in orbit above Christophosis and ask that they escort their messenger to Obi-Wan and Anakin immediately. On the planet’s surface, Obi-Wan and Anakin, along with their clone troops, manage to successfully hold off an assault by the Separatists’ droid army when a shuttle lands and Ahsoka Tano, a Togruta Padawan exits. Ahsoka relays Yoda’s message to them and when they explain their situation to her, she suggest routing a message from her shuttle to the command ship to try and contact the Jedi Temple. They manage to reach Yoda, who tells them that he will send reinforcements but their transmission is cut off as the command ship, drastically outgunned, is forced to move position and come back for them later. Obi-Wan introduces himself and Anakin to Ahsoka, believing her to be his new Padawan but she explains that Yoda assigned her to Anakin. Anakin is shocked and not happy about this but reluctantly takes her with him as he goes to check on their defenses. Meanwhile, Asajj Ventress, the apprentice to Count Dooku, contacts him to inform him of her success in capturing Rotta when Darth Sidious appears in the hologram and says that their plan to have the Hutts attack the Jedi is proceeding as planned. Back on Christophosis, Anakin introduces Ahsoka to Captain Rex, one of the clone leaders, and as Rex shows Ahsoka around, they see the droids approaching under the cover of an energy shield. Discussing their options, Ahsoka suggest destoying the shield generator and Anakin agrees with her and the two head off to find a way to the generator. Meanwhile, a republic scouting party have followed some bounty hunters to an old monastery on the planet Teth, where they believe Rotta is being kept and report it to Mace and Yoda. Mace tells them to stay out of sight and keep watch while Yoda heads off to rescue Obi-Wan and Anakin. Back on Christophosis, Anakin and Ahsoka hide underneath a box as the shield, and troops, pass over them, then head towards the generator but in her rush to get there, Ahsoka trips the security system, causing droids to appear and attack them. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan and the clones are being overrun so he orders Rex to have the clones fall back to the heavy cannons and defend them while he tries stalling the droids by faking a surrender. Back at the generator, Anakin deals with the droids while Ahsoka plants the explosive charges and as she helps him destroy the last of the droids, she blows up the generator. With the energy shield collapsing, Obi-Wan is able to capture the Separatist general while Rex and the clones destroy the droid tanks and soldiers, just as Yoda and the reinforcements arrive. As they wait to be picked up, Anakin talks with Ahsoka and admits that while rough around the edges, she did a good job and he agrees to take her on as his Padawan. After Anakin and Ahsoka return to their base, Yoda explains the situation and sends Anakin and Ahsoka to Teth to rescue Rotta, while sending Obi-Wan to Tatooine to negotiate an agreement with Jabba. On Tatooine, the heads of the bounty hunters Jabba sent to find his son have been sent back to him and he angrily contacts Palpatine and demands that the Jedi find and return his son. Obi-Wan arrives on Tatooine and meets with Jabba, who demands that they also bring him the ones responsible for kidnapping his son. Anakin and Ahsoka arrive on Teth and after Anakin speaks with the scouts and learns the situation, they head out to the monastery. After reaching the monastery, they scale the cliff walls and make their way to the top. Ahsoka, wanting to beat Anakin to the top, is riding on an AT-TE (All Terrain Tactical Enforcer) but finds herself in trouble when the droids start targeting it and almost causes it to fall. Anakin saves her, and the AT-TE, then commandeers a droid STAP (Single Trooper Aerial Platform) to reach the top, taking out the droids while Ahsoka and the AT-TE take out the Destroyer droids that show up. After securing the monastery, Anakin and Ahsoka head inside, meeting a caretaker droid who tells them where Rotta is. Anakin and Ahsoka head down to the detention levels, dealing with the few droids they find, and find Rotta but Ahsoka notices that he is running a fever so they place him in a med-evac pack. However, Ventress has the caretaker droid record this, which Dooku uses to convince Jabba that the Jedi were the ones to kidnap his son. Back on Teth, Ventress leads a droid army to attack Anakin’s troops and they are forced to fall back into the monastery. As Captain Rex and the clones hold the droids back, Anakin, Ahsoka, and R2 try to find another way out of there so they can save Rotta. They find a hidden platform and try to contact Obi-Wan, who had arrived with reinforcements, to pick them up there but their transmissions are jammed. When Ventress shows up with two Destroyer droids, Anakin has R2 seal the door to buy them some time. Rotta points out another platform with a ship on it and Anakin jumps onto a large flying insect, then grabs Ahsoka as she is trying to fend off Ventress and heads for the platform, with R2 following behind them. When they reach the platform, Ahsoka discovers that the caretaker droid was working with Ventress and the droids and destroys the droids on the ship. Obi-Wan and his reinforcements arrive to help Captain Rex and his surviving men, and Obi-Wan ends up fighting Ventress inside the monastery. Anakin and Ahsoka get the old spice freighter started and make their way to the Republic cruiser but when it comes under too much fire and some droids breach the hangar, they are forced to take the freighter to Tatooine themselves. Ventress and Obi-Wan both sense that Anakin has left the planet and Ventress decides to escape, and contacts Dooku, who has her tell Jabba that Anakin killed Rotta and is now coming to kill him. While making the hyperspace jump, Ahsoka is able to find some medicine to give to Rotta, then helps Anakin work on repairing the ship’s systems in case they find trouble waiting for them. When they reach Tatooine, they are attacked by two droid ships and are able to take them out but not before their ship is damaged and they end up crashing in the desert. Obi-Wan contacts Palpatine, Yoda, and Mace, explaining his thoughts that Ventress and Dooku are trying to make it look like the Jedi kidnapped Rotta in order to get the Hutts to align themselves with the Separatists. When Padme arrives Palpatine dismisses the Jedi and tells her what is going on and Padme offers to negotiate with Jabba but Palpatine tells her that Jabba won’t accept any communication with them so she says she will go see Jabba’s uncle Ziro, who has a club in Coruscant, and see if he will help them get contact, with Palpatine warning her to be careful. Padme heads to the club and attempts to persuade Ziro of the Jedi’s innocence but Ziro refuses to believe her and has her thrown out of the club. Padme sneaks back in and learns that Ziro was working with Dooku to overthrow Jabba but she ends up being captured but is able to get a message to C-3P0 as she is locked up. On Tatooine, Anakin and Ahsoka make their way to Jabba’s palace when they sense Dooku approaching them. Anakin gives Rotta to Ahsoka, telling her to keep going to Jabba’s palace while he faces off with Dooku. As the two fight, Dooku shows Anakin footage from his Magnaguards, who are battling Ahsoka, and Anakin manages to push Dooku back, then takes Dooku’s speeder and heads off. Back on Coruscant, Padme is rescued by some clone troopers and they capture Ziro, who tells them he was forced to help Dooku kidnap Rotta. Back on Tatooine, Ahsoka was knocked down an embankment by the Magnaguards, so Anakin doesn’t see her when he arrives. When Anakin enters the palace and finds Ahsoka isn’t there, he questions Jabba, threatening to kill him and Jabba claims this is proof that the Jedi were here to kill him. Ahsoka finishes off the Magnaguards and arrives at the palace and returns Rotta to Jabba but Jabba still orders them killed. Suddenly, Padme contacts Jabba through Ziro’s communication device and explains how Dooku and Ziro were behind the kidnapping. Jabba says that Ziro will be punished by the Hutt Families and that the Republic forces will be able to use the Hutt’s trade routes to move their ships. As Obi-Wan and Yoda arrive to pick up Anakin and Ahsoka, Dooku makes his escape and contacts Sidious, who says that things are still going their way in the war.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars was panned by the critics, holding an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Mechanical animation and a less-than stellar script make The Clone Wars a pale shadow of George Lucas’ once great franchise.” During one scene in the movie, there is a pink R2 droid called R2-KT. This is a reference to Katie Johnson, the daughter of Albin Johnson (the founder of the 501st Legion), who died of cancer when she was 7 and the costumers built a pink R2 droid to keep her spirits up during her final days. The movie was a box office hit, earning $68.3 million off of an $8.5 million budget and spawned an animated series which lasted for 6 seasons.

This is a pretty entertaining movie that is a nice fit into the Star Wars franchise. The voice acting was pretty good, with Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, and Matthew Wood reprising their roles of Mace Windu, Count Dooku, C-3P0, and the battle droids respectively. The story was pretty interesting, with the idea of Anakin Skywalker having a Padawan making for an interesting story as you are left to wonder what happened to her after he became Vader. The interaction between Anakin and Ahsoka was very well done, with both of them playing off of each other’s impulsiveness. The CGI animation was pretty good, though some characters looked a little too square for my liking but over all, the lines were pretty smooth and well created. A great movie to watch and a nice pause in the Anakin Skywalker saga before he turns into Darth Vader.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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action, adventure, fantasy, movie, movie review, sci-fi

November 12th, 2017 Movie – Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones

star wars episode II - attack of the clones

Ok, so we have the next entry in the prequel trilogy and the only thing I was honestly excited about regarding it was the introduction of Jango Fett. I honestly felt it was a little bit poetic that Boba Fett was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, the second movie in the original trilogy, and now we get to see his father in this movie. While that was my main reason in this movie, I will admit that finally seeing the Clone Wars, which was mentioned was back in the original Star Wars. So let’s see how this story progresses as I watch today’s movie, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones.

The plot: Ten years after the Trade Federation’s blockade of Naboo, thousands of systems are considering leaving the Republic, with a former Jedi named Count Dooku leading this Separatist Movement. Padme Amidala, the former queen of Naboo now turned Senator, arrives on Coruscant for an important vote when an attack occurs when her ship lands, but the attack kills her decoy instead. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is meeting with several members of the Jedi Council about the Separatist Movement and the possibility of war arising when Amidala, and other members of the “Loyalist Committee” arrive. After speaking about her attack, and Padme voicing her belief that Dooku was behind it, Palpatine suggests that Obi-Wan Kenobi be assigned to protect Padme and the Council agrees. Later that day, Obi-Wan and his Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, arrive at Padme’s chambers and Padme is shocked to see how much Anakin has grown. Anakin and Obi-Wan argue on their course of action, then later discuss Anakin’s dreams concerning his mother and his feelings towards Padme. Meanwhile, the bounty hunter assigned to kill Padme meets with his associate, Zam Wesell, and hands her a tube filled with venomous centipedes to use in another attempt on Padme. Zam gives the tube to a droid, which flies to Padme’s window and unleashes the centipedes into Padme’s room while she is sleeping but Anakin and Obi-Wan sense the centipedes and Anakin is able to kill them before they attack Padme. Obi-Wan spots the droid and leaps through the window, grabbing onto the droid as it flies away while Anakin grabs a speeder and chases after them. The droid heads back towards Zam, who shoots the droid out of the sky but Anakin catches Obi-Wan as he is falling and they continue chasing after Zam. The eventually catch up to her at a night club, where Obi-Wan cuts off her arm when she tries to shoot him, but as they take her outside to question her, she is killed by the other bounty hunter, who uses his rocket pack to blast off into the night sky. The next day, the Jedi Council assigns Obi-Wan to track down the bounty hunter and has Anakin escort Padme back to Naboo for safekeeping. suggesting Anakin speak with Palpatine to convince her to go. Anakin speaks with Palpatine, who says he will order her to leave, then congratulates Anakin on his first solo assignment while elsewhere, Obi-Wan voices his concern to Mace Windu and Yoda about giving Anakin the assignment. After Anakin and Padme leave, Obi-Wan heads to a diner run by his friend Dexter Jettster and asks him about the dart used to kill Zam. Dexter tells him that it is a Kamino Sabre Dart and tells him where Kamino is, saying that the citizens there are cloners and are friendly enough if you have a big enough pocketbook. Obi-Wan searches the Jedi archives but finds no record of it in their system so he interrupts Yoda, who is teaching a class of children, about the matter. Yoda uses it as a teaching exercise for his pupils and they determine that someone had erased the information from the Archives, and Yoda says he will check on it as Obi-Wan heads off to Kamino. Meanwhile, Anakin and Padme, along with R2, arrive on Naboo, and Padme discusses the current situation with the new Queen but as Padme’s security arrangements, Padme overrules Anakin’s suggestions, which upsets him as she seems to be treating him like he is still a child. Obi-Wan arrives on Kamino, where he is greeted by Tuan We, who says that he was expected and escorts him to the Prime Minister Lama Su. Lama Su tells Obi-Wan that the Jedi’s order of a clone army is on schedule, with 200,000 units ready now and 1 million more underway. Obi-Wan then learns that the order was placed by Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas 10 years ago, which startles Obi-Wan as Sifo-Dyas had been dead almost 10 years, the Lama Su invites Obi-Wan to inspect the clone army being built for the Republic. As he is shown the clone army, Obi-Wan learns that the genetic template for the army came from a bounty hunter named Jango Fett, who asked for an unaltered clone as part of his payment and Obi-Wan asks to meet him. Meanwhile, Anakin and Padme arrive at Padme’s island home but as the two spend time together, they start to become romantically attracted to each other, with Anakin kissing Padme at one point, even though romantic love is forbidden in the Jedi Code. As they have dinner later that night, Anakin speaks about his feelings for her and suggest they can keep their love a secret but Padme says that they would be living a lie and she couldn’t live like that. Back on Kamino, Obi-Wan meets Jango and his “son” Boba Fett and questions him on if he has been on Coruscant recently, then asks if ho knows Sifo-Dyas but Jango says he was hired by a man named Tyrannus and after Obi-Wan leaves, Jango tells Boba to get ready to leave. Obi-Wan returns to his ship and contacts Mace and Yoda, explaining what he learned and asking them if the Council had authorized the creation of the army. Mace tells him no and Yoda says to bring Jango back to Coruscant for questioning and after ending the communication, the two Masters discuss telling the Senate how the Jedi’s ability to use the Force has diminished but Yoda fears that the knowledge will increase their enemies. Obi-Wan confronts Jango as he is about to leave and the two fight but Jango, with the help of Boba manning his ship’s weapons, manages to get away but Obi-Wan manages to throw a homing disc onto the ship, Slave 1, as it lifts off. Back on Naboo, Anakin has a dream concerning his mother in great pain and tells Padme he has to abandon her to go find out if she is ok but Padme says she will go with him. The two travel to Tatooine and go to see Watto, who tells Anakin that he sold Shmi to a moisture farmer named Cliegg Lars, who freed and married her. Meanwhile, Ob-Wan follows Jango to the planet Geonosis and after tricking Jango into thinking he was killed, follows him down to the surface, noting the large amount of Trade Federation ships in the area, before he lands and goes to explore. BAck on Tatooine, Anakin and Padme reach the Lars’ farm and are surprised to see C-3P0 working on the vaporators. After 3P0 introduces Anakin and Padme to Cliegg Lars, his son Owen and Owen’s girlfriend Beru, Anakin asks about his mother and Cliegg explains that she was kidnapped by Tusken Raiders. Anakin leaves Padme with the Lars and heads out to find the Tusken Raiders, eventually finding their camp. Anakin locates Shmi and frees her but she ends up dying in his arms, and in his anger and grief over not being able to save her, he slaughters all of the Raiders in the camp. Back on Geonosis, Obi-Wan sees Count Dooku working with the Trade Federation to enlist other planetary groups to the Separatist Movement, promising that their droid army will be able to overpower the Jedi. Obi-Wan tries to contact Coruscant but he is too far away so he contacts Anakin, leaving a message for him to relay to Coruscant only to be attacked and captured during it. Back on Tatooine, Anakin returns with Shmi’s body and as Cliegg, Owen, and Beru prepare it for burial, Anakin tells Padme what he did, upset over his inability to save his mother and how he slaughtered the Tusken Raiders. As they funish the funeral, R2 approaches them and informs Anakin and Padme about Obi-Wan’s message and they relay it to the Jedi Council. Mace orders Anakin to stay where he is and protect Padme while they help Obi-Wan but Padme says the Jedi won’t get there in time so she decides to head to Geonosis to help, with Anakin, R2, and 3P0 going with her. On Coruscant, Palpatine is given emergency powers to deal with the Separatist Army, and Mace heads out to help Obi-Wan while Yoda heads to Kamino to take command of the clone army. On Geonosis, Count Dooku speaks with the captive Obi-Wan and tries to convince him to join him, saying that the Senate was under the control of a Sith Lord named Darth Sidious, but Obi-Wan refuses to believe him. When Anakin and Padme arrive, they attempt to sneak into the droid manufacturing plant but they are soon captured. As they are taken to the arena to be executed, Padme tells Anakin that she loves him, wanting him to know before they die, and they share a kiss. The two are chained up to poles next to Obi-Wan, and the Geonosian leader orders their execution, having three creatures released to kill them. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme manage to free themselves and attempt to fend off the creatures just as Mace Windu arrives with the other Jedi to rescue them. Dooku summons the droid army, including the new Super Battle Droids, and they begin fighting with the Jedi, with Jango attacking Mace but Mace decapitates him. As the Jedi begin to get overwhelmed, Yoda arrives with the clone army to rescue the surviving Jedi. As the two armies clash, Dooku and the Separatist leaders plan to retreat, with Dooku taking the plans for their ultimate weapon with him. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme spot Dooku leaving and go after him but when their ship is attacked, Padme is knocked out of the ship and falls to the sand below. Anakin wants to go back for her but Obi-Wan convinces him to help him and Anakin reluctantly agrees. When they reach the hangar that Dooku was heading towards, Anakin rushes in to attack him but is knocked back by Dooku’s Force lightning. Dooku attacks Obi-Wan, first with lightning and then with his lightsaber, eventually scorching Obi-Wan’s arm and leg to cripple him. As Dooku goes to finish him off, Anakin recovers and stops him, and Obi-Wan throws him his lightsaber to use as well but Dooku easily defeats him, severing his right arm and shoving him aside. Suddenly, Yoda appears and begins fighting with Dooku and the two end up evenly matched but when Dooku causes a pillar to start to fall on Obi-Wan and Anakin, Yoda is forced to let Dooku escape in order to save them. Dooku makes his way to Coruscant, where he meets up with Darth Sidious, who refers to Dooku as Darth Tyrannus, and says everything is going as planned. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan speaks with Mace and Yoda about what has occurred and wonders if Dooku was right about a Sith Lord controlling the Senate, as Palpatine and the Loyalist Senators watch as the Clone Army boards the various ship to head out into battle. Meanwhile, Anakin has escorted Padme back to Naboo, where the two get married in a secret ceremony.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones met with mixed praise from the critics, holding a 66% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones benefits from an increased emphasis on thrilling action, although they’re once again undercut by ponderous plot points and underdeveloped characters.” When Jango is boarding Slave 1 after fighting Obi-Wan, he bangs his head on the doorway, which was intentionally done as a nod to the infamous goof in A New Hope, where a stormtrooper hit his head on a doorway. The movie was a box office hit, earning $649.4 million off of a $115 million budget, however it was the first movie in the franchise to not be the top box office hit of the year, being surpassed by both Spider-Man and The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers.

You know, this was a decent movie all in all. The acting was ok, with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Lee doing good jobs in their roles of Obi-Wan and Count Dooku respectively. Now, I know this is going to sound somewhat blasphemous, but after watching this again a little more objectively, I do think that Hayden Christensen did a good job in his role as Anakin. Despite all of his powers and abilities, Anakin was essentially a teenager trying to act like an adult and getting frustrated by all the rules and responsibilities he is forced to follow or when things don’t go the way he wants. This is pretty much what a lot of teenagers go through in life and this is exactly how Hayden played the character. The story was honestly a little weak and while it essentially had two main parts to it, Obi-Wan’s mission and Anakin and Padme’s romance (which both tied together to start the beginning of the Clone Wars), the back and forth between the two plot lines felt disjointed and they could have done a better job with the transition between them. Added to this was the fact that the dialogue honestly sucked, with Anakin’s soliloquy on sand just sounding stupid. The special effects were pretty good but I have to admit that the coolest effect was something that wasn’t actually an effect. On Tatooine, when Anakin talks with Padme before he leaves to find his mom, his shadow against the building resembles Darth Vader and according to the DVD Commentary, this was entirely a coincidence. A decent entry in the series but it could have been done better.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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fantasy, horror, movie, movie review, mystery

September 24th, 2017 Movie – Sleepy Hollow (1999)

sleepy hollow (1999)

It may not feel like it in some places, but it is Fall and that means the weather is going to, hopefully, get colder, night will come sooner, and the movies will start getting a little darker as we get closer to Halloween. One director who is somewhat synonymous with dark movies, even if they have nothing to do with Halloween, is Tim Burton. I have always liked his movies, ever since Beetlejuice, and when I heard that he was making a live action movie of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, I was immediately on board and ready to see it. So lets see how good of a job he did with today’s movie, Sleepy Hollow.

The plot: In 1799 in the village of Sleepy Hollow, wealthy land owner Peter Van Garrett is writing a new will and testament and has it witnessed by Jonathan Masbath, one of his servants. Van Garrett rides off in his stage coach, driven by his son, to deliver the new will when he hears a horse pass by them followed by a strange sound. When Van Garrett looks out of the stage coach, he finds his son has been decapitated and he quickly jumps from the now out of control coach. Making his way through a field, he pauses when he comes to a scarecrow only to hear a sound and as he turns around, his head is cut off. In New York City, Constable Ichabod Crane discovers a body in the river but while Crane wants to determine the cause of death, the police chief says the cause of death is drowning and has the body burned. As Crane argues that with the new century almost upon them, they should work on using more accurate, scientific means to solve crimes, the Burgomaster decides to have him put his methods to the test. He tells Crane about Sleepy Hollow and how 3 people (the Van Garretts and the widow Emily Winship) have been killed there within the past fort night, with their heads cut off, and tells Crane to use his methods to find the killer and bring him to justice. Crane arrives in Sleepy Hollow and heads to the home of the Van Tassels, where a party is underway and Crane ends up caught up in a game where he is kissed by Katrina Van Tassel. When Katrina’s suitor, Brom van Brunt, gets jealous, Baltus Van Tassel and his wife appear to calm things down and Crane introduces himself. Lady Van Tassel invites Crane to stay at their house while he is there and after he gets settled in, Crane heads downstairs and meets with Van Tassel and the other leaders of the community; Doctor Thomas Lancaster, Reverend Steenwyck, Magistrate Samuel Phillipse, and Notary James Hardenbrook. As Crane goes over what he was told of the murders, they tell him that the heads were never recovered and Hardenbrook tells him that they were taken back to hell by the Headless Horseman. They explain that the horseman was a Hessian mercenary that fought for the British during the revolution but was killed by American soldiers and beheaded with his own sword, then buried in the Western Woods, which has since become a haunted place. Crane doesn’t believe their stories of a ghost being behind the deaths and claims a real person is responsible and he will find out who it is. That night, Jonathan Masbath is killed by the horseman and the next day, Crane makes his own examination of the body. At the funeral, Jonathan’s son, Young Masbath, approaches Crane and asks to help but Crane refuses at first until Phillipse approaches him and tells him that Masbath was the 5th victim even though there were only 4 graves, and Crane tells Young MAsbath to find a room in the servants quarters at the Van Tassel house. At dawn the next day, Crane has the bodies dug up and discovers that along with her decapitation, the widow Winship also has a sword thrust into her stomach. Crane takes her body to Dr. Lancaster’s office and performs an autopsy, which upsets Steenwyck, and discovers that the widow was pregnant when she died. That night, Brom plays a joke on Crane by pretending to be the Headless Horseman and scare him off and Crane ends up fainting after being hit in the face with a jack-o-lantern and begins dreaming of his mother. When he wakes up, he finds himself in his room and as he heads downstairs, he finds Katrina reading by herself. The two start talking and Katrina explains how her family came to be in the position they are now, then takes Crane to the remains of her childhood home. That night, Crane sees an argument between Lancaster, Steenwyck, Phillipse, and Hardenbrook and after Phillipse leaves, Crane questions him about the widow Winship’s child and who the father is when the Horseman appears and kills Phillipse and takes his head. Though cowering in fear at first, Crane has more dreams about his mother which causes him to overcome his initial fears and vow to find the Horseman’s grave and asks for volunteers to go with him into the Western Woods but only Young Masbath volunteers to go. They head into the woods and after Crane asks if his father had dealings with the Van Garretts and Young Masbath explains that his father worked for them and a week before the murders started, there was an argument between Van Garrett and his son, after which Van Garrett sent for Masbath. The two come to a cave in the woods and find a reclusive witch inside, who sends Young Masbath outside while keeping Crane inside and summons the spirit of the Horseman to tell him where the grave is. As they make their way to the grave, they see someone on a white horse ahead of them and when Crane approaches the horse, discovers it is Katrina. The three find the Tree of the Dead and as Crane cuts away some of the lower branches to clear out a hollow, he finds the missing heads. Suddenly, the Horseman and his steed emerge from within the tree and heads towards town and Crane follows after him. In the town, the Horseman enters the home of the town’s midwife and kills her, as well as her husband and child, and goes to leave. Brom, who is on watch with his friends, tries to stop him but is injured and as he moves to continue fighting, Crane tries to stop him. Crane tells him that the horseman is only fighting because Brom attacked them and is not trying to kill them but Brom refuses to listen. As Brom begins fighting again, Crane joins in but soon realizes they are outmatched and convinces Brom to run but as they move through the bridge, the Horseman catches up to them and stabs Crane in the shoulder before cutting Brom in half. As Crane deals with his injuries, he tries to explain to Van Tassel and Lancaster that the Horseman is killing specific targets which means he is being controlled by whoever took the Horseman’s skull. Katrina gives him a drink to help him sleep and he ends up dreaming about his mother again and when he wakes, he tells Katrina about her death. The next morning, after he has recovered, Crane starts going over all of his notes and tries to figure out what the secret is that Phillipse and the other town leaders were keeping and decides to head to Hardenbrook’s shop. When they get there, they find Hardenbrook hiding and Young Masbath discovers his father’s satchel and they find the new will that Van Garrett had made, as well as the marriage certificate for Van Garrett and the widow Winship. Crane realizes that the new will left everything to the widow Winship but if nobody knew about it, then it would end up going to Baltus Van Tassel. When he returns to the Van Tassel house, he finds Katrina in his room and she says her father thinks it best that Crane head back to New York, as the notes crane wrote in his ledger upset him. After she leaves, Young Masbath discovers a design on the floor underneath Crane’s bed and says that someone is casting an evil spell on him. That night, Crane follows a cloaked figure out into the woods but discovers it is Lady Van Tassell, who is having an affair with Steenwyck. When Crane returns to his room, he finds all of the evidence is missing and heads to the Van Tassel’s former house, where he finds Katrina burning it. She admits she did so to prevent Crane from accusing her father and he tells her that he has no choice but to follow where the evidence leads him and the two argue over their feelings for each other before Katrina leaves. That night, a town meeting is called in the church and as Van Tassel is waiting on his wife to finish picking some flowers, he sees the Horseman approaching behind her and quickly flees. When he arrives at the church, he tells Katrina that her step-mother is dead but Steenwyck tries to force him back outside, telling him that he is the one the Horseman wants. As Crane notices that the Horseman can’t enter the church yard because it is holy ground, he goes to tell them but Van Tassel grabs Crane’s pistol and threatens Steenwyck. Lancaster starts to tell Van Tassel the truth about the conspiracy but Steenwyck kills him, prompting Van Tassel to shoot him. As some of the townfolk approach him, Van Tassel grabs another pistol and heads up to the balcony, declaring that there is a conspiracy against him. Outside, the Horseman has grabbed some rope and a fence post, which he uses as a make shift spear, and he throws it through the window and strikes Van Tassel, then drags him outside until his head is past the church yard, allowing him to cut it off. Seeing what happened, Katrina faints and as Crane stares at her, he looks up to see the same design that was under his bed drawn on the floor in the church where Katrina had been kneeling. Crane burns all of his notes and prepares to leave, with Young Masbath questioning why he thinks Katrina was the one to control the Horseman but Crane tells him that that can never be spoken. As his coach is leaving town, Crane notices them bringing the bodies of Baltus and Lady Van Tassel to the morgue and as he suddenly looks at the book of spells and charms Katrina had given him when he first came to town and discovers the design she had drawn was one of protection. Crane tells the driver to turn around and heads to the morgue, where he discovers that the body assumed to be Lady Van Tassel is not her, as the wound on her hand was inflicted after the body was dead, as opposed to the cut he saw Lady Van Tassel give herself. At the Van Tassel house, Katrina is approached by Lady Van Tassel and faints and it is revealed that she is the one who controls the Horseman and she summons it to kill Katrina. Lady Van Tassel takes Katrina to an old windmill and explains that she and her family lived in the cottage before the Van Tassels before her father died and Van Garrett kicked them out. Their mother was a witch and taught her and her sister her ways before she died and the two girls lived in the woods, where they saw the Hessian die and Lady Van Tassel swore her soul to Satan if he would resurrect the Hessian to help her get her revenge. She then explains why she had everyone killed, while also explaining why she killed the servant and her own sister. Young Masbath, who had followed Lady Van Tassel to the windmill, tries to knock out Lady Van Tassel but she knows he is there and he and Katrina run. Crane shows up with the stage coach just as the Horseman arrives and they lure the Horseman inside, then use the windmill blades to reach the ground while Crane lights a fire to blow up the windmill in order to slow it down. As it emerges from the wreckage, Crane and the others leave and head towards the Tree of the Dead, with the Horseman chasing after them and Crane does his best to slow it down. When they get there, they find Lady Van Tassel had beaten them there and Crane tells Katrina to run but Lady Van Tassel shoots him, then grabs Katrina and holds her for the Horseman. Crane didn’t die, as the bullet was stopped by Katrina’s book, and he tackles Lady Van Tassel and after Young Masbath knocks her out, he grabs the skull and throws it to the Horseman. The Horseman puts the skull back on his body and his face is restored and he then grabs Lady Van Tassel and, with the tree suddenly opening up, he takes her back to Hell with him, as her deal with him is finished since he has her head, and the tree closes around her as she screams, with only her arm sticking out among the bramble of roots. Crane heads back to New York City with Katrina and Young Masbeth, just in time for the new century.

Sleepy Hollow met with mixed to positive reviews from the critics, holding a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Sleepy Hollow entertains with its stunning visuals and creepy atmosphere.” In October of ’99, one month before the movie was to be released, the studio launched a website that featured live interviews with the filmmakers, a short behind the scenes featurette, view photos and trailers, and was described, at the time, as “the most ambitious online launch of a motion picture to date.” The movie would be a modest hit at the box office, earning $206.1 million off of a $100 million budget.

I always enjoy watching this movie, even if it does have some faults. The acting was pretty good and Burton gathered an incredible cast of talent to take part in this movie. Johnny Depp (Crane) and Christina Ricci (Katrina) were both great and I also liked how well Michael Gambon (Van Tassel), Miranda Richardson (Lady Van Tassel), and Richard Griffiths (Phillipse) did in their roles and how they would all be part of the Harry Potter world a few years later. The story was a bit of a departure from the source material but I think those changes were honestly necessary to make for a more compelling full length movie. I did think the change of Ichabod Crane to a police officer was interesting and they had an interesting bit of “science vs supernatural/superstition” theme going there. However, the whole flashback scenes regarding Ichabod’s mother really didn’t make a whole lot of sense, even if they were meant to show that Ichabod had some experience with the supernatural before coming to Sleepy Hollow. The special effects were very well done and I loved the visuals involved in the movie, as the colors were mostly dark while even some of the brighter colors seemed a little muted except for the color red, which seemed visibly brighter most times and seemed to pop off the screen to be noticed. I also liked the bit of a running gag that seemed to occur with Crane constantly getting blood squirted in his face. While I will always have a bit of a soft spot for the original animated short, this is a fun movie to watch and definitely something for the Halloween season.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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