Tag Archives: 1980 movies

Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Retrospective Review

Star Wars Episode 5 - The Empire Strikes Back

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
David Prowse as Darth Vader
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Director: Irvin Kershner

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) face attack by the imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millnennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda (Frank Oz). Only with the Jedi Master’s help will Luke survive when the Dark Side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (David Prowse).

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The Empire Strikes Back has been known as the best Star Wars movie, and for very good reason. It takes the best elements of the first movie and improved them, while taking the story and characters into new territories. Even nearly 4 decades later, it still holds up very well.

This movie is darker than the previous movie for sure, however that’s not the only reason this movie works so well. It doesn’t repeat what the previous movie did, and takes the story and characters on different (and more interesting) directions. I actually don’t have any complaints really with the story or characters. I liked the storyline of Luke going on Dagobah and training with Yoda, I liked Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO escaping in the Falcon from Imperial forces, and I also really liked the first act battle scene on Hoth and the climax on Cloud City. I’m not one to call movies perfect, but Empire Strikes Back is at least very close to being perfect. I really don’t have too much to say about that aspect.

The cast have improved and grown since the first movie. The biggest improver over the past movie was Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, he’s grown quite a lot as an actor and a character. Hamill also really sold the impact of learning that Vader is his father, which of course is one of the most iconic scenes of all time. There’s also Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher as Han and Leia, who share great chemistry. I found Darth Vader in A New Hope to be just fine, but he’s on another level in this movie, and this movie is where he became great. There’s no Tarkin that he has to follow orders from, outside of the Emperor, he’s really the one in charge, and he’s shown to be really ruthless throughout. The additions to the cast were good as well. Billy Dee Williams was introduced as Lando, and although he’s just in the third act, he does well in his screentime. There’s of course Yoda voiced by Frank Oz, who immediately became iconic upon his first appearance, and he was great as well.

This movie is very directed well by Irvin Kershner. The visuals also mostly hold up pretty well, and there are some spectacular sequences, from the fighters against the AT-ATs on Hoth, to the Falcon flying from TIE fighters, to the final fight between Luke and Vader. That last fight was particularly great, such an improvement over the lightsabre fight in A New Hope. It seems that compared to the other two movies in the trilogy, George Lucas didn’t add so many changes and that was for the better, in fact it seemed the changes helped quite a bit. For example, in the scene with Darth Vader communicating with The Emperor via hologram, they replaced their original version of the character with Ian McDiarmid delivering the lines, who famously played him from Return of the Jedi onwards. Definitely helped with continuity. Also in the scenes taking place at Cloud City, there were windows added in, so it looks a lot better. With that said there was one change to one of the earlier versions which may well have been the worst change of the original trilogy. At the end of the iconic “I am your father” scene, instead of joining Vader, Luke willingly falls down. For some reason in one version, Lucas added in a screaming sound for him, which made it almost like he fell. Thankfully he seemed to have realised that it wasn’t a good idea and removed that bit, which is good because that would’ve actually ruined the scene. John Williams’s score for Empire Strikes Back is even better than A New Hope. The highlight is the new Imperial theme, it was sort of there in the original Star Wars, but in this movie, Williams revamped it into something even more menacing and iconic.

I still feel confident in saying that The Empire Strikes Back is by far the best Star Wars movie. In every other Star Wars movie, even the ones I love, there usually are some clear issues that I have with them. That’s not the case with Empire however, watching it again recently, I couldn’t really find any problems with it.

Raging Bull (1980) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta
Joe Pesci as Joey LaMotta
Cathy Moriarty as Vickie LaMotta
Nicholas Colasanto as Tommy Como
Director: Martin Scorsese

When Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) steps into a boxing ring and obliterates his opponent, he’s a prizefighter. But when he treats his family and friends the same way, he’s a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at any moment. Though LaMotta wants his family’s love, something always seems to come between them. Perhaps it’s his violent bouts of paranoia and jealousy. This kind of rage helped make him a champ, but in real life, the winds up in the ring alone.

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3 years after a movie known as one of his weakest with New York, New York, Martin Scorsese made one of the best films of his career. I had been meaning to give Raging Bull a rewatch for some time as it’s been years since I’ve seen it for the first time, and with my recent viewing of many of Scorsese’s films, there was no better time. Raging Bull nearly 40 years later remains an absolutely masterful, if hard to watch, film.

Raging Bull may be about a boxer but the boxing itself isn’t the focus of the movie. It’s about real life boxer Jake LaMotta and his self destructive life. Saying that Jake LaMotta isn’t a good person would be quite an understatement, it doesn’t try to give you a reason to sympathise with him. It really doesn’t hold back in showing the brutal truth. It’s definitely not an easy movie to watch, only check it out if you’re ready for it really.

Robert De Niro gives one of the greatest performances of his career as Jake LaMotta. He’s transformative both as the fit Jake LaMotta earlier in his career, as well as the older and retired Jake LaMotta with more weight. Again, LaMotta really doesn’t have any redeeming qualities at all, with his mistrust, rage, outbursts, and self loathing alienating everyone around him. Yet De Niro manages to make him an human angle that works and makes him feels like a complex person, and still rather compelling to watch. The supporting cast also do well, with Cathy Moriarty playing Jake’s eventual wife and Joe Pesci playing Jake’s brother. Pesci and De Niro particularly have great chemistry together, really feeling like brothers.

Martin Scorsese directed this film immaculately, at the time of filming he thought that this might be his last film, and you certainly feel it in his work here. Although the black and white certainly helps with the violence with the colour of blood during boxing scenes, it also does something with the tone that makes it work, not to mention differentiates it from other boxing movies. The fighting scenes aren’t necessarily the focus of the movie but they are filmed masterfully. Unlike other boxing movies made at the time like Rocky, Raging Bull actually places the camera inside the ring along with the fighters. The violence both inside and outside the ring are harsh and brutal, and you feel every blow. Raging Bull is also edited extremely well, this marks the first time since Who’s that Knocking at My Door that Martin Scorsese would work with legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and her work here is nothing short of fantastic. And with their work here you can see why Scorsese and Schoonmaker worked together on each of his movies from this point onwards.

Raging Bull is definitely a tough watch, but it’s a fantastic film on every level. Martin Scorsese is at the top of his game here, and the performances are great, especially from Robert De Niro, giving one of his all time best performances. It’s not a movie that you watch over and over again, but it is worth watching at least once.

The Shining (1980) Review

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence
Cast:
Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance
Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance
Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance
Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing goes nowhere and Danny’s visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.

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I once saw The Shining some years ago, I really liked it and really appreciated the impact that it had on the horror genre and cinema as a whole. With the adaptation of the follow up to the book written by Stephen King coming in November, Doctor Sleep, I felt a rewatch was needed. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining had a bit of a mixed reaction upon its release in 1980, however, over time it started to receive some love and nearly 4 decades on now, The Shining is a horror classic today, and for good very reason.

I will say that Kubrick’s The Shining isn’t the best when it comes to it being an adaptation. Stephen King seems to generally like the adaptations of his work, but The Shining is the exception and I can kind of see why. The movie has the general story of the novel, but it plays around with a lot of the plot, characters and how the story is handled. It’s much less a ghost story and much more psychological. There’s also a lot of other aspects that are different, but I won’t go into all that. In that sense, I’m looking at this movie as its own thing, not as an adaptation. If you wanted a more accurate on screen representation, there’s a mini series out there (and from what I heard it’s not that good). Now there are two different cuts of the movie, I more recently saw the shorter version and I can’t remember if I watched the longer version on the first viewing. The plot is rather straight forward, and while it does feature aspects like psychic abilities with The Shining (which Danny has), for the most part the movie is a psychological thriller. It slowly builds up the tension and uneasiness, amps it up in the second half, and in the 3rd act turns into a pure nightmare. It really builds on top of each other as the 3 main characters start going insane over time, particularly Jack (Nicholson). The only other thing that I’d say is that the ending felt a little abrupt, and like there needed to be one more brief scene before the last scene, then again maybe the director’s cut has something extra at the end as well. On that note, so much of this movie is left up to the viewers’ interpretations, especially with the ending. So each person will probably get something different out of it from each other.

Jack Nicholson really was great in the role of Jack Torrance, and his work here has been cemented as one of the most iconic and memorable performances in a horror movie. A lot of the time he can go really over the top and almost a little comedic (intentional or not), but more often than not it’s the more infamous moments (like the now iconic “Here’s Johnny”). Looking at the movie more recently, highly quoted scenes aside, for the most part he seems genuinely unstable and of course knowing Nicholson, he pulls that off fantastically. He never seems right, even before he goes all axe murder you get the feeling that he might already have a screw loose. The only thing that can be said is that his Jack Torrance is quite different from the book’s version. Much of the book has Jack starting out normal and over time going insane. Here, Jack seems already pretty crazy and only gets worse once he arrives at the Hotel. Shelley Duvall gets a bit of a bad wrap for her performance as Wendy, especially in the second half of the movie when she’s terrified. As it turns out it wasn’t even really acting, you can look into it yourself, but long story short let’s just say that Kubrick pushed her quite a bit (large understatement there). There is a certain way that people acted when they’re scared in horror movies and so her performance can seem a little off and over the top, but it actually works for the movie. After all a lot of the movie is over the top anyway. It’s the most genuinely terrified performance I’ve seen from anyone in a horror movie, pushed past the absolute limit. It’s probably one of the most underrated horror performances honestly, even just because of how much underserving hate it had been receiving. Danny Lloyd is also good as the son Danny, who has The Shining, a psychic ability. It might be a random thing to note, but on my most recent viewing I noticed that in terms of horrified expressions in horror movies, his is among the best, it looked like absolute genuine terror. The rest of the cast don’t have more than a few scenes but I guess they do well in their small screentime. Scatman Crothers is only in a few scenes as Dick Hallorann, but he does very well, especially with helping us take the whole concept of ‘The Shining’ seriously.

Stanley Kubrick’s direction is always fantastic, and his work on The Shining is pretty much perfect. He really sets you at this location at the Overlook Hotel. It’s a stunning movie, with the camera movements, angles, the colours of the environment and the environment itself. The camera pans, zoom ins and zoom outs are very effective and really added to the movie a ton. One of the stand out scenes in The Shining in terms of directing was when the camera follows Danny on a Big Wheel around the hotel, it’s not broken by any sort of cuts and builds up a tension as we don’t know what he (and by extension us) is going to see next when he makes a turn. Kubrick manages to make you feel uneasy, even when you know that nothing bad is going to happen just yet. Personally I’m not scared of this movie, but personally I’d say that more effective horror scenes usually involved a lot of quick cuts and zoom ins, there are a few of these moments throughout and it did a good job at making you feel uneasy to say the least. There are so many now iconic images that has forever been burned into the memories of viewers, the blood coming out of the elevator, the maze, the twin sisters, and so on. The music and sounds effects are also great. It ranges from sombre and eerie to screeching (particularly in the third act).

The Shining is a horror classic for a reason, and honestly talking about it was a little hard, considering how redundant it felt given that it’s been talked to death for decades, there’s nothing I could’ve said that hasn’t been said already. The acting from its cast is great, and Stanley Kubrick’s direction is nothing less than masterful. If you haven’t seen The Shining, you need to get around to it soon because it’s really something significant. Even if you aren’t into horror, if you’re into film as an art form, The Shining is pretty much essential viewing.

Friday the 13th (1980) Review

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Friday the 13th

Time: 95 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Adrienne King as Alice Hardy
Harry Crosby as Bill
Laurie Bartram as Brenda
Jeannine Taylor as Marcie Cunningham
Kevin Bacon as Jack Burrel
Mark Nelson as Ned Rubinstein
Robbi Morgan as Annie
Betsy Palmer as Mrs Voorhees
Director: Sean S. Cunningham

In 1957, at Camp Crystal Lake, a young boy named Jason Voorhees drowned. In 1958, two camp counsellors were murdered and in 1962, fires and bad water thwarted the camp’s reopening. Now, in 1979, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) finally reopens Camp Crystal Lake with the help of a few new counsellors. Ignoring the warnings from a crazy old man, the murders start once again while a mysterious stalker prowls the area.

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I don’t watch horror movies as much as others, but I enjoy them most of the time when I watch them. I was curious to check out Friday the 13th, The Friday the 13th movies have been called horror classics, with its creative death scenes and its iconic killer Jason Voorhees. This is just me but after seeing the very first instalment to the franchise, I don’t see how this movie is that good. Granted I thought the movie is okay, it didn’t have my interest the whole way through but there are aspects of the movie that are good. I just don’t think it should be put up with all the horror classics like Halloween.

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The story is fairly basic, there is a killer going around killing people. Nothing really that special. The weakest aspect of this movie is that it isn’t interesting. In most horror movies, most people don’t usually pay attention to the story but I didn’t really care about what was going on. With other slasher movies like Halloween I actually cared about what was going on but not here. Even without caring about the story I didn’t feel interested, except when the killer is involved. There are also quite a bit of moments that I felt could’ve been cut out, it just seemed like padding to make the movie longer. None of the characters are interesting or stand out, so whenever they were getting killed off I never really felt anything, although the scenes themselves were really well done. I will give credit that there is a twist near the end, I won’t spoil it for those who don’t know about it yet.

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The acting wasn’t anything special and no one stood out. None of the characters interested me or stood out either because the characters weren’t really written that well which didn’t help. There was a performance from Betsy Palmer which I thought was good but still, don’t go to this movie for the acting. Most people don’t go to this kind of movie for the acting but it is just worth noting that the acting is not the best.

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The movie’s budget was $550,000 but the filmmakers made well with what they had. Most of the camera shots were okay but the camerawork really shines when it at times takes the first person perspective of the killer. I also liked the soundtrack, even though I was never really scared throughout this movie, the soundtrack does have this creeping vibe throughout. I think that one of the most known things about Friday the 13th are the death scenes. They are pretty creative, at least for its time. I give props to those who did the makeup, it was done very well.

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Friday the 13th isn’t in my opinion a horror classic but I still think it’s okay. The twist was well done, Betsy Palmer’s performance was pretty good, the cinematography was pretty good and the death scenes are pretty creative. If you are a diehard horror fan, I recommend you see this movie. Don’t however expect another Halloween, this doesn’t really have the suspense that the franchise has. I haven’t seen any of the other movies but I can gather the Friday the 13th movies are entertainment. I haven’t seen the other movies but this movie was good enough that I’m open to check them out.

Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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Star Wars Episode 5 - The Empire Strikes Back

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
David Prowse as Darth Vader
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Director: Irvin Kershner

Fleeing the evil Galactic Empire, the Rebels abandon their new base in an assault with the Imperial AT-AT walkers on the ice world of Hoth. Princess Leia (Carrie Fischer), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca and the droid C-3PO escape in the Millennium Falcon as the Imperials pursue them across the galaxy. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the droid R2-D2 travel to the swamp world of Dagobah to learn the ways of the force from the legendary Jedi Master Yoda after receiving a vision from Obi-Wan Kenobi.

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The Empire Strikes back is the best Star Wars movie ever made and also one of the best films of all time. It was a hard act to make a follow up to original, but Irvin Kershner more than manages it. Dark and powerful, it improves on everything that was great in the first movie – it’s overall a masterpiece.

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Tone-wise, The Empire Strikes Back is darker than Star Wars but not too dark. The story picks up after the events of the first movie and from start to finish, always interests the audience. The first act is really good and starts off on a great note, it is the invasion of Hoth; the battle is so well put together and filmed and is one of the best scenes in the franchise. There is a particular plot point near the end of the movie that no one could have predicted at the time – which I will not spoil for those few people who haven’t watched this movie yet. If that same thing was repeated in another movie today, it wouldn’t really work, not just because this movie used it; with this movie, it is appropriate and somehow strangely works. The ending also is a little bit of a cliff-hanger. It isn’t like the previous movie with them invading the Death Star but somehow ends up being more satisfying.

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Just about everyone from the previous film returns here. A lot of the characters go through changes – overall they are much stronger characters. Luke is starting to learn about becoming a Jedi. Darth Vader in this movie is also more of a threat than in the previous movie. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fischer have great banter and dialogue between them which are effective, fun to watch and further the characters. The new characters introduced are also well acted, such as Billy Dee Williams in the role as Lando Calrissian; although he doesn’t have that much screen time and not much information is given about him, he is definitely a great addition to the cast. However the supporting character who steals the show is Yoda, played by Frank Oz who is a scene stealer and makes the character so special. Oz actually manages to go beyond Yoda being a puppet, and has successfully made him a character that really lives and breathes.

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The special effects are similar to Star Wars but end up being slightly better. The film takes a variety of locations, from the ice planet of Hoth, the swamp planet Dagabah and many others. John Williams’s score here continues to impress. The song that stands out the most is the Imperial March which is mostly used for Darth Vader; it gives such a dark and powerful vibe and in my opinion it is actually better than the original main theme of Star Wars.

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The Empire Strikes Back isn’t just the best Star Wars movie; it’s also one of the greatest films of all time. It improves on every element, from the acting, to the effects, locations, art directions and even the writing. It is up there with movies like The Godfather Part 2, Aliens and Terminator 2 as brilliant sequels that are better than the original. Absolutely brilliant, the Empire Strikes Back is a fantastic film in every way.