2020 Shelter in Place Alphabet Movie Draft - BONUS ROUNDS

And our bodies are earth. And our thoughts are clay. And we sleep and eat with death.
Q = All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) - PG

A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.

IMDB said:
Great acting, great directing make a sincere, emotional film. -

To say that this movie is one of the greatest war films of all time would be an understatement. Naturally, since the picture is based on Erich Maria Remarque's marvelous novel, the screenwriter was given quite a powerful story to begin with. The three main reasons why I consider this movie so forceful are the acting, the cinematography, and simply the sincerity.

Lew Ayres, the man who plays Paul Baumer, convincingly portrays the main character in many ways. First of all, the sheer innocence of his facial appearance adds a poignant touch to the film, because the overwhelming theme of the story is how the war effects all young people of each nation, whether that person dies in the trenches or survives only to lament his days in the war. Ironically, when the film was initially being put together, Remarque, the novelist who won critical acclaim for writing the book, was asked to play the role of Paul. Having seen time in the war the producers must have thought him aptly prepared to play the role. But he declined because he had other commitments and because he felt he was not such a great actor. Lucky for us, because Ayres gives a powerful performance. Other characters with relatively minor roles have major importance in the film because they portray touching, heart wrenching scene s of death. These peripheral characters all help add to the general tone of the film (and the book) because they show how dark and terrible the war can be; and they in turn show how propaganda can be so harmful, because most of the soldiers in Paul's regiment are volunteers who receive a very rude awakening when they discover what the war is really all about. The acting is simply superb, and perhaps this is due to the fact that the famous director George Cukor was an assistant who, although uncredited, came onto the set to help supervise the actors (possibly because director Lewis Milestone's English was not too good).

The cinematography of this film is absolutely magnificent. The film rarely has gory sequences because the director finds other ways to imply death and still have the same emotional effect. One way in which he does this is by showing single body parts (such as a hand or a leg) and allowing these appendages to show the death of the soldier as a whole. Also, the cameraman uses overhead angles at times with great skill and also focuses on the trenches at times as the soldiers fall back into them after being shot (which implies that the trenches are a symbol of hell, because soldiers fall into them to die). In short, the cinematographer Arthur Edeson allows the camera to do the talking and to drive the film, rather than the dialogue (speaking of which, there is relatively little; the actors' facial expressions do the bulk of the talking in the film).

When I say this film is sincere I really can't give you any tangible evidence to prove the point; all I can tell you is to see the film. The film at times overwhelmed me with emotion to the extent that I got goose bumps from watching some of the more agonizing scenes. In a way, this movie is much like a silent film. This stands to reason because it came at the very beginning of the 'talkie' age, only three years after The Jazz Singer (1927). Also, Milestone directed silent films before this one, and he seemed to know that less focus on dialogue and more focus on acting would bring about an overwhelmingly emotional and well, sincere, film. The film obviously had an effect on its star, Mr. Ayres, because once World War II began and he was drafted into the war, he conscientiously protested serving in the army because of his opinions towards war. I believe he admits that his opinions stem from his work in this movie. Certainly this is a powerful admission, because his protest caused him and his films to be blacklisted in Hollywood, and his career suffered greatly because of his ideals. So if you don't believe my words about the power of this film, believe his.
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Hall of Famer
Z = The Mask of (Z)orro: I doubt that any character has had more movies or television shows made about him than Zorro. And this movie may be the best, at least in the form of entertainment. It was directed by Martin Campbell, who had replaced the original director, Mikael Salomon. He was not the only one that was replaced. Sean Connery was originally brought on to play the part of Don Diego De La Vega, but after he dropped out, he was replaced by Anthony Hopkins. Antonio Banderas was cast in the lead role of Alejandro Murietta and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the beautiful and unaware daughter of De La Vega.

In 1821, Don Diego de la Vega, a Spanish-born California nobleman, fights against soldiers in the Mexican War of Independence as Zorro, a mysterious masked swordsman who defends the Mexican peasants and commoners of Las Californias. Don Rafael Montero, the corrupt governor of the region, learns of De La Vega's alter ego and attempts to arrest him. De la Vega's wife Esperanza, who Montero was in love with, is killed during the ensuing scuffle. Montero imprisons de La Vega and takes his infant daughter, Elena, as his own before returning to Spain.

Twenty years later, Montero returns to California as a civilian, alongside Elena who has grown into a beautiful woman and resembles her late mother. Montero's reappearance motivates de La Vega to escape from prison. He encounters a thief, Alejandro Murietta who, as a child, saved Zorro's life during his last fight. De la Vega decides that fate has brought them together, and agrees to make Alejandro his protégé, grooming him to be the new Zorro. Alejandro agrees to undergo de La Vega's training regimen in Zorro's secret cave underneath the ruins of his family estate in order to be able to take revenge on Captain Harrison Love, Montero's right-hand man, who was responsible for killing Alejandro's brother, Joaquin.

Z = The Mask of (Z)orro: I doubt that any character has had more movies or television shows made about him than Zorro. And this movie may be the best, at least in the form of entertainment. It was directed by Martin Campbell, who had replaced the original director, Mikael Salomon. He was not the only one that was replaced. Sean Connery was originally brought on to play the part of Don Diego De La Vega, but after he dropped out, he was replaced by Anthony Hopkins. Antonio Banderas was cast in the lead role of Alejandro Murietta and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the beautiful and unaware daughter of De La Vega.

In 1821, Don Diego de la Vega, a Spanish-born California nobleman, fights against soldiers in the Mexican War of Independence as Zorro, a mysterious masked swordsman who defends the Mexican peasants and commoners of Las Californias. Don Rafael Montero, the corrupt governor of the region, learns of De La Vega's alter ego and attempts to arrest him. De la Vega's wife Esperanza, who Montero was in love with, is killed during the ensuing scuffle. Montero imprisons de La Vega and takes his infant daughter, Elena, as his own before returning to Spain.

Twenty years later, Montero returns to California as a civilian, alongside Elena who has grown into a beautiful woman and resembles her late mother. Montero's reappearance motivates de La Vega to escape from prison. He encounters a thief, Alejandro Murietta who, as a child, saved Zorro's life during his last fight. De la Vega decides that fate has brought them together, and agrees to make Alejandro his protégé, grooming him to be the new Zorro. Alejandro agrees to undergo de La Vega's training regimen in Zorro's secret cave underneath the ruins of his family estate in order to be able to take revenge on Captain Harrison Love, Montero's right-hand man, who was responsible for killing Alejandro's brother, Joaquin.

I was a big fan of the Disney Zorro TV shows as a child. Here is a picture of me dressed up as Zorro (neck up) in 1987. 5 year old Jespher...Zorro rocks :)!

Disney plus has the REDACTED, I wish they carried the other shows.
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Capt. Factorial

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Staff member
To fill my "relaxed X" column in the alphabetical movie draft, I select:

Equino(X) Flower (1958)

Directed by Yazujiro Ozu

Starring Shin Saburi, Kinuyo Tanaka, Ineko Arima


As soon as the bonus round was announced, I knew how I was going to fill my "X" slot, as Equinox Flower was my back-up "E" pick and was in the running for a backup slot for "H" under its Japanese title of "Higanbana". But I was pretty sure a 1950s Japanese film would probably slide to me, so I let it wait. Ozu is one of Japan's greatest directors, with a deep filmography of 51 feature-length films spanning from the silent era in 1927 to the color era in 1962. Equinox Flower is not Ozu's best-known film, but it resonates with me a bit more than all the others.

When I was trying to think of how to describe Ozu to an audience like this who might not be familiar with him, the one name I kept coming back to was Wes Anderson. When you watch a Wes Anderson film, you know immediately from the visuals that you're watching a Wes Anderson film, and you know what it's going to be about - poignant family relationships with a big heaping of wistful nostalgia. Ozu really does fit that bill very well. His visual style is distinctive, particularly his "tatami mat shot" with the camera placed at floor level, which he uses continually. And the subject matter actually meets up with Anderson pretty closely as well, though Ozu lacks the wry sense of humor that pervades Anderson films. The more I thought about it, the better I liked the comparison, and the better I liked the comparison, the more I came to believe that I was really out of line for making the comparison in the first place. So I have to say that I was pretty darn gratified when, during my YouTube search for a trailer (ended up going with a clip that sets up the film), one of the videos in the sidebar was a 10+ minute essay specifically drawing parallels between Ozu and Anderson. I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE!

Equinox Flower, as I've implied from the above, is a poignant family drama, which is set up around the plot of an aging Japanese traditionalist whose marriage was arranged, and his modern daughter who is resisting the marriage her father is setting up in order to blaze her own trail. The story alone is enough to make it worth watching, but on top of that, Equinox Flower also marks Ozu's first foray into the world of color film. Ozu resisted color film for a long, long time - you'll recall that my "Z" film, from 1939, is largely shot in color - but when he embraced it, he was very careful to maximize it. In Equinox Flower, every kimono, every vase, every teapot has been carefully selected to take advantage of this new dimension to an Ozu film. On a naïve viewing, you might miss it, but knowing that Ozu was designing his sets around this novel capability of film the palette really stands out, and adds to the charm of the film.

From what I hear, the bride and groom have been infatuated with each other. I've had the pleasure to hear about her relationship...not that I had much of a choice.
Z = Zathura: A Space Adventure - PG

From the author of Jumanji comes a space adventure game, come to life...

Roger Ebert said:
The opening credits of "Zathura" are closeups of an old science-fiction board game, a game that should have existed in real life and specifically in my childhood, but which was created for this movie. In these days of high-tech video games, it's remarkable that kids once got incredibly thrilled while pushing little metal racing cars around a cardboard track: The toy car was yours, and you invested it with importance and enhanced it with fantasy and pitied it because it was small, like you were.

Such games were weapons against the ennui of endless Saturdays. In "Zathura," time hangs heavily on the hands of Walter and Danny Budwing, two brothers, one 10, one 6, whose father has left them alone in the house for a few hours. Not quite alone: Their teenage sister Lisa is allegedly baby-sitting, from her vantage point under the covers of her bed with her iPod. Walter and Danny fight, as brothers do; Danny hides in the dumbwaiter (a device that will come as news to many of the kids watching this movie), and Walter lowers him into the basement, which for every 6-year-old is a place filled with ominous noises and alarming, unseen menaces.

There Danny (Jonah Bobo) discovers the Zathura board game and tries to get Walter (Josh Hutcherson) to play it with him. Walter would rather watch sports on TV. Danny plays by himself. The game is an ingenious metal contraption; you wind it up and push a button, and your little car moves around a track, and the game emits a card for you to read. Danny has Walter help him read it: Meteor Shower. Take Evasive Action. Just about then the meteors start showering, sizzling through the living room ceiling and drilling through the floor, pulverizing coffee tables and floor lamps.

The game is a portal to an alternative universe of startling adventures; the movie wisely attempts no rational explanation. It resembles the game in "Jumanji" (1995), which ported its players into a world of fearsome beasts and harrowing dangers, and indeed is based on a book by the same author, Chris Van Allsburg, who also wrote the book that inspired REDACTED" (2004). The differences between the three movies are fundamental: "REDACTED" is a visionary fable, "Jumanji" is an uneasy thrill ride whose young heroes endure dangers too real to be funny, and Zathura is the only board game in history that lives up to the picture on its box.

A key to the film's charm comes during that meteor shower: The living room is pulverized, but Danny and Walter are untouched. They run around as if evading meteors, but actually the meteors evade them. Incredible things will happen while they play Zathura, but they will survive. That helps explain why they can still breathe when they open the front door and discover that their house is now in orbit.

"Zathura" is the third film directed by Jon Favreau, an actor who, like Ron Howard, was possibly born to be a director. His first film was "REDACTED" (2001), his second was "Elf" (2003) and his next will be inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars, a series I have always assumed was unfilmable, but on the basis of these three films, maybe not. Favreau brings a muscular solidity to his special effects; they look not like abstract digital perfection but as if hammered together from plywood, aluminum and concept cars. By that I don't mean they look cheap, I mean they have the kind of earnest sincerity you can find on the covers of Thrilling Wonder Stories. Since you may not know of this publication, I urge you to Google "Thrilling Wonder Stories magazine" and click on "images." You'll find the same kind of breathless pulp absurdity that "Zathura" brings to a boil.

The brothers take turns. The game is inexhaustible. Another card reads, Shipmate Enters Cryonic Sleep Chamber. This means that their sister Lisa, who likes to sleep past noon, has been frozen into immobility in the upstairs bathroom. Other cards produce (a) a fearsome but badly coordinated robot, whose designers spent more time on its evil glowing red eyes than on its memory chips, (b) giant alien lizards who are directly from the pulp sci-fi tradition of bug-eyed monsters, (c) assault fire from spaceships that look like junkyard porpoises, and (d) a descent into a black hole. As the two kids hang on for dear life and lizards get sucked into the black hole, I was reminded of the kind of hubris celebrated by such Thrilling Wonder Stories titles as "Two Against Neptune."

What makes this fun is that Danny and Walter are obviously not going to get hurt. Alien fire blasts away whole chunks of their house, but never the chunks they're in, and the giant lizards seem more preoccupied with overacting than with eating little boys. The young actors, Hutcherson and Bobo, bring an unaffected enthusiasm to their roles, fighting with each other like brothers even when threatened with broasting by a solar furnace. Their father, I should have mentioned, is played by Tim Robbins, although his role consists primarily of being absent. Kristen Stewart makes the most of the sister Lisa's non-cryonic scenes. And then there is the character of the Astronaut (Dax Shepard), who materializes at a crucial point and helps shield the kids from intergalactic hazards. Lisa's crush on the Astronaut becomes cringy after all is known.

"Zathura" lacks the undercurrents of archetypal menace and genuine emotion that informed "REDACTED," a true classic that is being re-released again this year. But it works gloriously as space opera. We're going through a period right now in which every video game is being turned into a movie, resulting in cheerless exercises such as "REDACTED," which mindlessly consists of aliens popping up and getting creamed. "Zathura" is based on a different kind of game, in which the heroes are not simply shooting at targets, but are actually surrounded by real events that they need to figure out. They are active heroes, not passive marksmen. Nobody even gets killed in "Zathura." Well, depending on what happens to the lizards on the other side of the black hole.
Link #1 = Trailer
Link #2 = The Stranded Astronaut
Link #3 = Your Robot is Defective

At last, all out of letters except the one at the start.

My favorite movie begins with "A" and I've taken it first overall twice in these drafts, so wasn't going to retread that ground. And After @KainLear snatched Amelie surprisingly early, it suddenly wasn't a pressing need; I was really rather confident my third choice wasn't going to be bouncing around anyone else's wish-list.

I used what I thought was my last pick in the previous draft to take a pseudo-cult film I'd hope if enough people clamored for a sequel, we might get one.

My pick here similarly requires a sequel, in part because it's just fun and quirky enough to make another trip in the universe at least interesting, but also because it ends on a cliffhanger

(And it's only a couple scenes away from being able to use "literal" cliffhanger in its proper context there)

A is for ...

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Would you look at that: I spent the first part of this draft slagging off James Cameron, and here I am taking on board one of his babies. The weirder, awkward baby he left abandoned in a basement, but a Cameron baby all the same.

Now, this is as close to me calling a film a "guilty pleasure" as I will ever get. This movie has a lot of problems. Its tone and pacing are awkward, I found the characters rather shallow, Iron City is a cheaper looking 2019 LA in Blade Runner, its exposition-heavy dialogue drags, Rodriguez is clearly trying to cram a Manga/Anime's worth of sci-fi ideas into a 2 hour runtime making the whole experience choppy, and maybe a fourth of the movie is dedicated to the in-universe sport Motorball which while cool, could have been cut entirely without disrupting the story.

Then there's Alita herself, who ... doesn't really seem beatable. She "loses" one fight out of dozens, and the only fallout is she gets an upgraded cyborg body in the aftermath. There really don't feel like a whole lot of stakes or limits for her. She starts out nigh-invincible, then drops the "nigh" part midway for good measure. It's as if River started Serenity fully knowing and understanding her powers from the beginning and Deus ex Machina-ed her way through the plot. Neither Reavers nor the Operative would seem all that threatening if the Serenity crew knew from the beginning they could send in River to handle business.

But then again, that's kind of the fun. In the same regard, when we do find out River is a warrior-savant, there's something thrilling in watching her cheat-mode her way through bar brawls and combat zones. Alita is that for a whole movie.

In the end, I like Alita as a character and I find her world creative and entertaining. Rosa Salazar really brings a power to Alita that simultaneously makes her seem emotinally vulnerable even as she's phsycially invincible, and somehow pulls off clunky lines like "I do not stand by in the presence of evil."

If the movie was just Alita: Motorball Queen by day, Hunter-Warrior by night, that would be enough.

But we do need a sequel, if for nothing else, to give Ed Norton more (read: something) to do.

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The cake is a lie.
Staff member
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Yeah, this is one I think I like more than I should as well. It sets up an interesting (but not entirely unique) world and I also want to see where the sequel takes us. But, now that Mickey Mouse owns it, I wonder if a sequel is forthcoming any time soon....

Mr. S£im Citrus

Doryphore of KingsFans.com
Staff member
I will admit to not having given that movie a fair shake. My impression of the movie was negatively affected by backlash from Captain Marvel haters online, who insisted that this movie was better. My take after watching it, with that floating around in my head, was, "Y'all smoking dope!"


The cake is a lie.
Staff member
I will admit to not having given that movie a fair shake. My impression of the movie was negatively affected by backlash from Captain Marvel haters online, who insisted that this movie was better. My take after watching it, with that floating around in my head, was, "Y'all smoking dope!"
It's a different kind of movie. I think I like Captain Marvel better overall, but Alita: Battle Angel also has some good stuff going for it and I would be interested in seeing where they ultimately take the story.


The cake is a lie.
Staff member
Steve Rogers: You get hurt, hurt 'em back. You get killed... walk it off.

"U" is for:

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)



From wikipedia:
And don't forget Andy Serkis!

While not my favorite Avengers movie, the expanded draft rules allows me to sneak this one in using a letter sparse on good options (after Bourne Ultimatum, Usual Suspects, Untouchables, and Up were taken). I was considering a couple other movies as well, but all had some drawbacks that made them difficult to prioritize over a fun Avengers flick. Some of my favorite aspects are the continuing development of Iron Man as a character and his suit and technical options (Hulkbuster/Veronica and FRIDAY, for instance), the addition of Vision and Scarlet Witch (and for this film, Quicksilver), James Spader as Ultron, and the further development of the Avengers as a team becoming more than the sum of their parts. You can see their rapport growing throughout the film, especially as we learn more about their pasts.

Scott Foundas of Variety wrote, "If this is what the apotheosis of branded, big-studio entertainment has come to look like in 2015, we could be doing much worse. Unlike its title character, Age of Ultron most definitely has soul." Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times and giving the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, Richard Roeper said, "Some day, an Avengers film might collapse under the weight of its own awesomeness. I mean, how many times can they save the world? But this is not that day." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, "Age of Ultron is a whole summer of fireworks packed into one movie. It doesn't just go to 11, it starts there. [Joss Whedon] takes a few wrong turns, creating a jumble when the action gets too thick. But he recovers like a pro, devising a spectacle that's epic in every sense of the word." Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave the film three out of four stars, stating that despite being "bigger, louder and more disjointed" than its predecessor, "it's also got more personality—specifically Whedon's—than any other film in the now seven-year-old franchise."
Maria Hill: [about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch] He's got increased metabolism and improved thermal homeostasis. Her thing is neuroelectric interfacing, telekinesis, mental manipulation.
[Cap gives her a blank look]
Maria Hill: He's fast, she's weird.

Natasha Romanoff: Thor, report on the Hulk.
Thor: The gates of Hel are filled with the screams of his victims!
[Natasha glares at him while Bruce groans and puts his head in his hands]
Thor: But not the screams of the dead, of course. No, no... wounded screams... mainly whimpering, a great deal of complaining and tales of sprained deltoids and... gout.

Vision: I don't want to kill Ultron. He's unique... and he's in pain. But that pain will roll over the Earth. So he must be destroyed: every form he's built, every trace of his presence on the 'net. We have to act now, and not one of us can do it without the others. Maybe I am a monster. I don't think I'd know if I were one. I'm not what you are and not what you intended. So there may be no way to make you trust me.
[hands Thor his hammer]
Vision: But we need to go.

Thor: [about Vision] If he can wield the Hammer, he can keep the Stone.

[Thor has dropped Mjolnir while fighting Ultron, who is presently choking him]
Ultron: You think you're saving anyone? I turn that key and drop this rock a little early, and it's still billions dead. Even you can't stop that.
Thor: I am Thor, son of Odin. As long as there is life in my breast...
[He's losing oxygen]
Thor: I am running out of things to say. Are you ready?
[Looks past Ultron, and Ultron turns to see why]
Vision: [Vision hits Ultron away with Mjolnir and returns it to Thor] It's terribly well balanced.
Thor: Well, if there's too much weight, you lose power on the swing.

Ultron: There were more than a dozen extinction-level events before even the dinosaurs got theirs. When the Earth starts to settle, God throws a stone at it. And, believe me, he's winding up.

Steve Rogers: Ultron thinks we're monsters, that we're what's wrong with the world. This isn't just about beating him, it's about whether he's right.

Hawkeye: The city is flying and we're fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.

Mr. S£im Citrus

Doryphore of KingsFans.com
Staff member
"Z" is for:

Da Zui xia (Come Drink With Me) (1966)


Director: King Hu
Writer(s): King Hu and Shan-Hsi Ting
Score: Lan-Ping Chow and Eddie Wang
Cast: Pei-Pei Chang, Yueh Hua, Hung Lieh Chen, Chih-Ching Yang
Genre(s): Crime, Action
Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes

IMDb summary: A group of bandits kidnaps the governor's son and demands their imprisoned leader to be set free in exchange.

Set during the Ming dynasty, a general's son is taken hostage, and used as leverage to free a gang leader. The general sends the legendary fighter Golden Swallow to rescue him. Golden Swallow (Chang), contrary to erroneous reports about their identity, is a woman (and the general's daughter). Upon her arrival in the village, Golden Swallow gets into a skirmish with members of the gang, and defeats them, only to find herself in a comedic encounter with the town drunk, Fan Da-Pei (Hua), whom everyone refers to as "Drunken Cat." Drunken Cat tips Golden Swallow off to where the gang's hiding out, and she goes undercover to infiltrate, but a fight breaks out, and Golden Swallow is critically poisoned, only to be rescued by Drunken Cat, who reveals himself to be a kung fu master, in his own right. He is also a former mentee of Liao Kung (Yang), the evil abbot of the Buddhist temple where the gang is hiding out at. The climax of the movie comes for Golden Swallow, during a hostage exchange, while Drunken Cat would go on to confront Liao Kung.

Da zui xia is considered a classic, and a nearly universally-praised and highly acclaimed movie in the genre. Written and directed by the legendary King Hu, it is regarded by many as a pioneer of the "wire"-style kung fu movie sub-genre, and is the spiritual "grandmother" to one of @VF21's earlier picks, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In 2000, Pei-Pei Cheng won the most prestigious acting award of her career, a Hong Kong Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, for her role as Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and, thirty-four years previously, she got her first breakout role, as the star of Da zui xia. King Hu, whose approach to filming fight scenes was to emphasize their artistic nature, has suggested in interviews that he hand-picked Cheng for the role, because of her background in Chinese ballet. The role kicked Cheng's profile into high gear, and she would go on to feature in over 80 movies, throughout her 55-year career, including a cameo in the upcoming live-action Mulan remake.

Da zui xia was highly regarded for having production values and cinematography that was considered rare for Eastern cinema, at the time. In addition to its pioneer wire work, it is often credited for either innovating or codifying many popular tropes in the wuxia sub-genre, such as the "female protagonist initially disguised as a male," and the "drunken master." And, while the fight scenes look slow and unremarkable, compared to what you can see today, it bears noting that many of the foundational techniques in filming fight choreography were actually innovated by this movie, and it's worth looking at it from that perspective. In terms of recognition, I am of the opinion that this movie was a casualty of the fact that Hong Kong did not establish an organization to recognize films until the Hong Kong Film Awards were created in 1982. I suspect that it would have won multiple awards for acting, directing and cinematography, had the awards existed to be won. If you enjoyed movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and [REDACTED], I recommend watching Da zui xia, so you can see the movie that inspired those movies.

Theatrical trailer:

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I will admit to not having given that movie a fair shake. My impression of the movie was negatively affected by backlash from Captain Marvel haters online, who insisted that this movie was better. My take after watching it, with that floating around in my head, was, "Y'all smoking dope!"
I saw some of that sentiment online while looking up background for the write-up, and agree it’s inane nonsense.

If I were to come in blind, watching them back-to-back, prompted only to choose the “better” of the two, it would be Captain Marvel by a country mile. Narrative is more focused while not sacrificing ambition, characters are better developed, stays more committed to its theming, more natural and snappy dialogue, Larson and Jackson have great chemistry, and Larson is a quality actor, period. I’ve been a fan of her since she was Envy Adams.

The similarities between the two are superficial at best anyway. Don’t believe I’m too far out suggesting those who initially made the parallels did so with malicious intent and an agenda.
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Mr. S£im Citrus

Doryphore of KingsFans.com
Staff member
The similarities between the two are superficial at best anyway. Don’t believe I’m too far out my lane suggesting those who initially made the parallels did so with malicious intent and an agenda.
Oh, there's not a doubt in my mind that that's exactly what happened. A bunch of dudes were in their feelings because of comments that Brie Larson had made, which they (likely intentionally) misinterpreted, and were slagging Captain Marvel over it, but then held up Alita: Battle Angel, like it was some kind of shield, to prove that their problems with Captain Marvel were not rooted in misogyny. Many of those same dudes "suddenly" remembered how much they loved [REDACTED], too. It was transparent as ****.
Q = John Q (2002)

IMDB said:
Highly under-rated and ignored by most in 2002, "John Q" is one of those movies that is sometimes too intelligent for a viewing public unfamiliar with topics never really thought about in common societal circles (health care and insurance policies, rights of blue-collar citizens, media exploitation, law enforcement practices and over-paid medical specialists).

Denzel Washington's young son falls out one day at a little league baseball game. The diagnosis is frightening. Without a new heart, the boy will most definitely die. Washington, a normal everyday citizen, lacks substantial resources and benefits from his insurance to even get his son on a donor's list. It is blatantly obvious that Washington and wife Kimberly Elise are being strangled by red tape in a mercilessly heartless (no pun intended) system.

Friends Laura Herring and David Thornton (and seemingly countless other ordinary people) do their best to help the couple raise money and soon it seems that most everything they have is on the market to be sold. Work and more hard work does not get the couple much closer to having the money they desperately need. Washington realizes that time is now of the essence. He has been pushed and pushed again and now he takes it upon himself to push back.

As a last resort he literally takes the doctor (James Woods) hostage, along with other bystanders who have nothing to do with Washington's war with the hospitals and insurance organizations. Immediately cops led by Robert Duvall and Ray Liotta surround the hospital and the tenseness builds.

Hungry media cronies (who would not help Washington when he had asked earlier) also try to benefit from the misery of all those that are involved with their typical exploitation tactics (one thing Jerry Springer got right). Will Washington's son be saved and is Washington actually willing to take his own life in the venture so his boy can live? "John Q" is a very impressive production from director Nick Cassavetes (showing much of the same ability his late father John showed throughout his career).

Screenwriter James Kearns gets to the soul of an American society that has been blinded by economics and inefficient big-wigs who have no business possessing the careers they have. Morality has gone out the window and that "hypocritical oath" that is so prevalent in the medical field seems to be little more than a silly afterthought. "John Q" succeeds everywhere just about except in its ending. The ending is a major mistake that took away from some of the good things accomplished before the final ten minutes. Washington, arguably better here than in recent triumphs like "REDACTED" (an Oscar-winning role) and "REDACTED", goes to an even higher plateau here.

Much like Al Pacino in the equally under-rated "REDACTED" (an admittedly better picture), Washington dominates in a role that thrives on a claustrophobic aspect that cannot be escaped or denied within the film's running time. Duvall and Woods are also solid, as always, but Washington is the man here. Strikingly accurate when pointing the finger at things wrong with America these days, "John Q" is a thought-provoking production that will cause its audience to think and learn about sometimes forgotten aspects of human life.

Q - Vision Quest (1985)

High school wrestler Louden Swain (Matthew Modine) feels he must do something significant in his life shortly after turning 18. Despite vehement advice against it from his father (Ronny Cox) and coach (Charles Hallahan), Swain decides to try to lose over 20 pounds in a very short time in an attempt to take on the defending state champion of a lower weight class. Meanwhile, he falls for the edgy, older Carla (Linda Fiorentino), who provides further distraction for the young wrestler.
J = The Jungle Book (2016) - PG

This is a "live action" remake of a childhood favorite, and a staple in our family movie nights. Jon Favreau does an excellent job bringing the animated version to redux with more of the story line and tone from Rudyard Kipling's novel. I especially enjoyed the roles of Bill Murray as Baloo, the "Con Artist" Bear, and Idris Elba is breathtaking as the murderous Shere Khan, the Tiger.

Link #1 = Shere Khan Hunts
Link #2 = Mowgli and Baloo Gather Honey
Link #3 = Trailer

Matt Zoller Seitz said:
I saw the newest Disney version of "The Jungle Book" in the company of my enthralled 12-year-old son, and there were moments when I envied him—but not too many, because the film is so surefooted in its effects, so precise and simple in its characterizations, and so clear about what it's trying to say about the relationship between humanity and nature, that it made me feel about his age again, too. Maybe younger.

From the opening sequence of young Mowgli (Neel Sethi) racing through the jungle in the company of his adoptive wolf family and his feline guardian, the black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), through its comic setpieces with the layabout Baloo the Bear (Bill Murray) and its sinister interludes with the python Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), the despot orangutan King Louie (Christopher Walken), and the scarred Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), the movie bears you along on a current of enchantment, climaxing in a thunderous extended action sequence that dazzles while tying off every lingering plot point, and gathering up all the bits of folklore, iconography, and Jungian dream symbols that have been strewn throughout the story like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs.

It's not accurate to call this "Jungle Book" a "live-action" version, since so much of it has been generated on a computer. But screenwriter Justin Marks, director Jon Favreau and their hundreds of collaborators render such distinctions moot. Combining spectacular widescreen images of rain forests, watering holes and crumbling temples, a couple of human actors, and realistic mammals, birds and reptiles that nevertheless talk, joke and even sing in celebrity voices, the movie creates its own dream-space that seems at once illustrated and tactile. It's the sort of movie you might inadvertently dream about after re-reading one of Rudyard Kipling's source books or re-watching the 1967 animated Disney film, both of which contributed strands of this one's creative DNA.

The Disney animated version was the last cartoon feature personally overseen by Walt Disney, and its release one year after his death marked the start of a period of creative wandering for the company (though other features that had been in development for years, most of them lackluster, would appear throughout the decade that followed). Like a lot of the company's 1960s and '70s output, it was relaxed to a fault—a succession of beautifully rendered, mostly jokey set-pieces strung together by memorable songs, including "The Bare Necessities," "I Wanna Be Like You" and the python’s seduction song "Trust in Me"—but it still made a deep impression on '60s and '70s kids like the 49-year-old Favreau. This incarnation is a more straightforward telling that includes just two brief, according-to-Hoyle musical numbers, "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You"—performed by Sethi with Murray and Walken, respectively. It relegates a longer version of the ape's song and a torch-song-y version of "Trust in Me," performed by Johansson, to the approximately seven-minute end credits sequence, which is so intricately imagined as to be worth the ticket price by itself. Other numbers, including the elephants' marching song and "That's What Friends Are For," performed by a barbershop quartet of mop-topped vultures, are MIA, presumably in the interest of pacing.

I mention all this not because I consider the film's lack of music a shortcoming, but because it gives some indication of how gracefully this "Jungle Book" juggles the competing interests of parents and kids. Musically, visually and tonally, there are enough nods to the 1967 version to satisfy nostalgia buffs, but not so many that the film becomes a glorified rehash. Kipling's tales are a stronger influence, down to the scenes where the wolves, Mowgli and other creatures recite a stripped-down version of Kipling's poem "The Law of The Jungle" ("...For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf/and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack"). And there are nods to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan stories and the masterful comics illustrator Burne Hogarth's adaptations, which seem to have influenced the way the movie's CGI artists render the movie's trees: as gnarled, knuckled, pretzel-twisted, vine-shrouded wonders, rising from the forest floor.

The film creates its own, more politically evolved version of Kipling's literary ecosystem, with its ancient animal beliefs and practices, such as predators and prey declaring a "water truce" during a drought so that they can all drink unmolested from a parched watering hole. And it invests Mowgli with a touch of optimistic environmentalist fantasy: where human mastery of fire and tools was presented in earlier films as a threat, and Mowgli's fated exit from the jungle as an unfortunate necessity, in this film the boy is shown using his ingrained ingenuity to solve problems beyond the capabilities of his animal pals, as when he builds a rappel and pulley system to help Baloo claim honey from a cliffside beehive he's been coveting. The idea here seems to be that humanity is not necessarily fated to subjugate and destroy nature. People and animals can live in harmony if we behave with kindness and mercy while showing reverence for the ancients of other species, like the elephants that Bagheera credits with creating the rain forest and directing the flow of water by digging canals with their hooves and tusks.

The movie takes these ideas and others seriously, but in a matter of fact way, so that they don't feel clumsily superimposed, but rather discovered within a text that has existed for more than a century. Kingsley's unhurried storybook narration hypnotizes the audience into buying everything Favreau shows us, as surely as Johansson's Kaa voice-work hypnotizes Mowgli. (The latter sequence includes one of the new movie's most extraordinary embellishments: as Mowgli stares into one of Kaa's eyes, he sees his own origin story play out within it.)

Another kind of balancing act is happening in the voice actors' performances. Favreau leans on distinctive-sounding stars to earn knowing chuckles from the audience, and lets some of their familiar physical and facial tics seep into the animal "performances": Murray is a shambling pleasure-seeker in life as well as in many of his movie roles. Walken is legendarily good at playing funny-scary villains who love to mess with heroes' minds (he's merged here with Marlon Brando's performance as Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now," entering the story swathed in Rembrandt gloom). Kingsley has aged into one of the cinema's great mentor figures. And so on.

But the film is never content to use our affection for its voice actors as a storytelling crutch. These are strong, simple, clearly motivated characters, not movie star cameos wrapped in CGI fur. The most impressive is Elba's Khan. His loping menace is envisioned so powerfully that he'd be scary no matter what, but the character becomes a great villain through imaginative empathy. As was the case with Magua in Michael Mann's "REDACTED" and General Zod in "REDACTED," we understand and appreciate his point-of-view even though carrying it out would mean the death of Mowgli.

In every way, this quietly majestic film should be considered a triumph. The familiar, picaresque story of a young boy raised by forest creatures but fated to re-join Man has been re-imagined as a funny, scary, affecting family adventure with mythic heft but a refreshing lack of swagger. It was made with the latest in movie-making technology but has the ethical values and wide-net storytelling sensibility of an Old Hollywood classic. At its best it feels as though it always existed and we are only now discovering it.
Shere Khan: Everyone comes to Peace Rock, so many smells to catch up on. But, um, I can't help but notice there's this strange odor today... What is it, this scent that I'm on? Almost...almost think it was some kind of man-cub. [spots Mowgli]
Akela: Mowgli belongs to my pack, Shere Khan.
Shere Khan: Mowgli? They've given it a name. When was it we came to adopt man into the jungle?
Akela: He's just a cub.
Shere Khan: [shows his scars] Does my face not remind you of what a GROWN man can do? Shift your hunting grounds for a few years, and everyone forgets how the law works. Well, let me remind you: a man-cub becomes man, and man is FORBIDDEN!!!
Raksha: What do you know about law?
Akela: Raksha.
Raksha: Hunting for pleasure, killing for power, you've never known law. The cub is mine, mine to me. So, go back to where you came from, you burned beast!
Akela: The tiger knows who rules this part of the jungle. I'm sure he doesn't mean to come here and make threats. Especially during a water truce.
Shere Khan: Though I'm deeply respectful of these laws to keep us safe. So, here's my promise. Nothing lasts forever. The rains will return and the river will rise. And when this rock disappears, that truce will end. You want to protect him? Fine. But ask yourselves: How many lives is a man-cub worth?

Kaa: Mostly, men stay in their village, far from the dark of the jungle. But sometimes, they travel. And when they do, their caves breathe in the dark. They call it... the Red Flower. Man's creation. It brings warmth and light and destruction to all that it touches.

Baloo: [Looking at the pangolin] You have never been a more endangered species than you are at this moment.

Baloo: Didn't the wolves ever sing?
Mowgli: I don't know. Uh... Oh! We recited the law of the jungle: "This is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky. The wolf that keeps it may prosper, but the wolf that breaks it will die."
Baloo: Kid, that's not a song. That's propaganda.
Mowgli: What's propaganda?

Mowgli: [back from the beehive with welts] You said they didn't sting. What do you call this?
Baloo: How the heck did you do THAT? Oh, those must have been females! Ahhh! They look like males from down here. Females DO sting. Just put some, uh... honey on those.
Mowgli: Honey? Really?
Baloo: Yeah. You put it on, you lick it off, you feel much better.
Giant Squirrel: It's nature's ointment. I put it everywhere.

Shere Khan: [to Raksha's cubs] But the one you have to watch out for is the cuckoo bird. Do you know how the cuckoo bird survives? By preying on a mother's weakness. The cuckoo bird is too cleaver to raise its young. Instead, it sneaks its eggs into the nests of simpler birds; so, when they hatch, the mother bird is fooled. She feeds them, nurtures them... And do you know what happens to her own chicks? They starve and die from neglect, all because a mother loved a chick that wasn't her own.

Mowgli: It's a honey stash for winter.
Bagheera: Have you lost your mind?!
Mowgli: You said you wouldn't get mad.
Bagheera: Did you listen to anything Akela taught you? There's no place in the jungle for these... tricks! You wanna do this, you do this in the man-village.
Mowgli: But I'm helping Baloo get ready for hibernation.
Bagheera: Bears don't hibernate in the jungle. [to Baloo] What are you teaching him?
Baloo: Not full hibernation, but I nap, a lot.
Bagheera: Listen to me, you con artist! He may not know your game, but I do. He's leaving now.
Mowgli: But I don't wanna leave!
Bagheera: You don't have a choice!
Baloo: Why don't we all just settle down for a minute? Look, it's gotten late. Too late to travel, so why don't we all just have a little honey...?
Bagheera: I don't eat honey.
Baloo: No problem. I'll eat the honey. Let's all get a good night's sleep, and we can talk about this in the morning.
Bagheera: Fine, but we're leaving first thing.

Baloo: "This is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky."
Shere Khan: What is this?
Baloo: "The wolf that keeps it may prosper"
Baloo and Bagheera: "... but the wolf that breaks it will die ."
Shere Khan: You fools.
Baloo, Bagheera and Raksha: "Like the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth over and back."
Shere Khan: Fine! Rise up, all of you! You want to put yourselves between me and the man-cub?!
Baloo, Bagheera and Raksha: "For the strength of the pack is the wolf..."
Baloo, Bagheera, Raksha and Mowgli: [further joined by the other wolves] "... and the strength of the wolf is the pack!"
Shere Khan: I will have you ALL IN MY TEETH!

Bagheera: [tackles Mowgli to restrain him from fighting Shere Khan] Stay here!
Mowgli: [trying to push Bagheera's paw away] But I want to fight with the wolves!
Bagheera: You can't fight him like a wolf! You're not a wolf! Fight him like a man!

Shere Khan: Did you think I would let you grow old? [realizes that the branch he's standing on is about to crack] Either I'll devour you or the Red Flower will. It's just a matter of time. How long did you really think you'd survive against me? Longer than your father did? Longer than... Akela?
Mowgli: I'm not afraid of you! Do you hear me? I'm done running from you!



Hall of Famer
# = The 13th Warrior: Based on a book by Michael Crichton, The Eaters of the Dead This was a big budget movie that didn't do well at the box office, but later became a sort of cult movie. It was directed by John McTiernan of Die Hard fame, and stared Antonio Banderas along with amounted to a cameo by Omar Sharif. Despite it's lack of critical acclaim, I've probably watched this movie over 20 times over the years. I either have poor taste, or the critic's are wrong. I'm going with the latter. I mean, you throw a bunch of Vikings together with a devout Muslim Arab, whose handy with a sword and what's not to like. Dennis Storhoi who plays the Viking Herger steals every scene he's in.

Ahmad ibn Fadlan (Banderas) is a court poet to the Caliph of Baghdad, until his amorous encounter with the wife of an influential noble gets him exiled as an "ambassador" to the Volga Bulgars. Traveling with his father's old friend, Melchisidek (Sharif), his caravan is saved from Tatar raiders by the appearance of Norsemen. Taking refuge at their settlement on the Volga river, communications are established through Melchisidek and Herger, a Norseman who speaks Latin. From Herger (Storhoi), the two learn that the celebration being held by the Northmen is in fact a funeral for their recently deceased king. Herger also introduces them to one of the king's sons, Buliwyf. Ahmad and Melchisidek then witness a fight in which Buliwyf kills his brother in self defense, which establishes Buliwyf as heir apparent, followed by the Viking funeral of their dead king, cremated together with a young woman who agreed to accompany him to Valhalla.

The next day, a young prince named Wulfgar enters the camp requesting Buliwyf's aid: his father's kingdom in the far north is under attack from an ancient evil so frightening that even the bravest warriors dare not name it. The "angel of death", a völva (wisewoman) determines the mission will be successful if thirteen warriors go to face this danger—but the thirteenth must not be a Norseman. Ahmad is recruited against his will.

I hesitate to propose this because it’s been a long haul for everybody, and school is starting up, but ...

How would everyone feel about extending this 3 more rounds to give us an even 30? The second bonus round would have no letter restrictions. We’d be able to scoop up those dangling favorites that were blocked by slightly more favorite films with the same letter.

It would also come with the proviso that Slim gets Black Panther.
Due to popular demand, and to drive my brother nuts, the draft continues with a Bonus Bonus Round! Three picks more to make it an even 30 films.

Bonus Bonus Round Rules:
  1. Fill in picks may be made in any order, and do not need to be alphabetical. You may choose movies with the same letter as desired.
  2. No copies of previous picks. Original remakes are eligible, but no dice selecting a previous selection to add to your island.
  3. The draft order will remain, without change. Nice job so far all!
  4. Please send a PM to the next drafter following each pick.
  5. Any film available to rent/watch is fair game this time. Netflix, made for TV Rankin and Bass, etc. Go nuts!
  6. One film per choice please, no series, seasons of TV shows, etc. Try to keep this to feature films.
  7. Please update earlier pick pages with your favorite awesome content to sell your pick and describe your preference for it. I have included links to the selection page and will use this for final rankings/playoffs.
  8. I'll pencil Black Panther in for Mr. S£im Citrus :).
  9. foxfire wants me to pencil in the Rankin and Bass Hobbit for him too...
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Capt. Factorial

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Staff member
As my first "free pick" in the alphabetical movie draft, I select:

The Wedding Singer (1998)

Directed by Frank Coraci

Starring Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Steve Buscemi


I doubt anybody was keeping track, but in my first 27 picks I (not too shockingly) did not select a Rom-Com. There's a reason for that, and the reason is that I'm not a particular fan of the genre. I would also point out that I'm not typically very excited about Drew Barrymore, and I have a general aversion to Adam Sandler.

Put Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler together in a Rom-Com, and you can throw everything I just said out the window.

I don't know what it is, but Sandler and Barrymore have a classic chemistry that makes me just want to watch them interact for an hour and a half and desperately want them to be happy together the whole time. I can't explain it, but it's a thing. Anyway, although it lost out to a serious film, The Wedding Singer was in contention for my "W" pick, so having some free picks now, I'm happy to grab it. The trailer gives away nearly the entire plot - Robbie Hart is a local wedding singer, and Julia Sullivan is a catering waitress. After Julia's long-term jerkface of a boyfriend finally proposes, Robbie agrees to work at her wedding - until he gets stood up at the altar at his own wedding. But don't worry, Robbie and Julia get together at the end, with some help from Billy Idol. How can you not love it?

Once again, things that could've been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!
S = Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

I gotta go to bed, but I wanted to grab a Star Wars film to add to the collection. This will do nicely :)

Roger Ebert said:
"The Empire Strikes Back'' is the best of three Star Wars films, and the most thought-provoking. After the space opera cheerfulness of the original film, this one plunges into darkness and even despair, and surrenders more completely to the underlying mystery of the story. It is because of the emotions stirred in "Empire'' that the entire series takes on a mythic quality that resonates back to the first and ahead to the third. This is the heart.

The film was made in 1980 with full knowledge that "Star Wars'' had become the most successful movie of all time. If corners were cut in the first film's budget, no cost was spared in this one: It is a visual extravaganza from beginning to end, one of the most visionary and inventive of all films.

Entirely apart from the story and the plot, the film is worth seeing simply for its sights. Not for the scenes of space battle, which are more or less standard (there's nothing here to match the hurtling chase through the high walls of the Death Star). But for such sights as the lumbering, elephantlike Imperial Walkers (was ever a weapon more impractical?). Or for the Cloud City, on its spire high in the sky. Or for the face of a creature named Yoda, whose expressions are as convincing as a human's, and as subtle. Or for the vertiginous heights that Luke Skywalker dangles over, after nearly plunging to his death.

There is a generosity in the production design of "The Empire Strikes Back.'' There are not only the amazing sights there before us, but plenty more in the corners of the screen, or everywhere the camera turns. The whole world of this story has been devised and constructed in such a way that we're not particularly aware of sets or effects--there's so *much* of this world that it all seems seamless. Consider, for example, an early scene where an Empire "probe droid'' is fired upon on the ice planet Hoth. It explodes. We've seen that lots of time. But then hot pieces of it shower down on the snow in the foreground, in soft, wet plops. That's the kind of detail George Lucas and his team live for.

There is another moment. Yoda has just sent Luke Skywalker into a dark part of the forest to confront his destiny. Luke says a brave farewell. There is a cut to R2-D2 whirling and beeping. And then a cut back to Yoda, whose face reflects a series of emotions: Concern, sadness, a hint of pride. You know intellectually that Yoda is a creature made by Frank Oz in a Muppet shop. But Oz and Lucas were not content to make Yoda realistic. They wanted to make him a good actor, too. And they did; in his range of wisdom and emotion, Yoda may actually give the best performance in the movie.

The worst, I'm afraid, is Chewbacca's. This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp. Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chew's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes?

Never mind. The second movie's story continues the saga set up in the first film. The Death Star has been destroyed, but Vader, of course, escaped, and now commands the Empire forces in their ascendancy against the Rebels. Our heroes have a secret base on Hoth, but flee it after the Empire attack, and then the key characters split up for parallel stories. Luke and R2-D2 crash-land on the planet Dagobah and Luke is tutored there by Yoda in the ways of the Jedi and the power of the Force. Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and C-3PO evade Empire capture by hiding their ship in plain sight and then flee to the Cloud City, ruled by Lando (Billy Dee Williams), an old pal of Han's and (we learn) the original owner of the Millennium Falcon, before an unlucky card game.

There are a couple of amusing subplots, one involving Han's easily wounded male ego, another about Vader's knack of issuing sudden and fatal demotions. Then comes the defining moment of the series. Can there be a person alive who does not know (read no further if you are that person) that Luke discovers Darth Vader is his father? But that is not the moment. It comes after their protracted (and somewhat disorganized) laser-sword fight, when Luke chooses to fall to his death rather than live to be the son of Vader.

He doesn't die, of course (there is a third movie to be made); he's saved by some sort of chute I still don't understand, only to dangle beneath the Cloud City until his rescue, and a conclusion that only by sheer effort of will doesn't have the words "To be continued'' superimposed over it.

Perhaps because so much more time and money was spent on "The Empire Strikes Back'' in the first place, not much has been changed in this restored and spruced-up rerelease. I do not recall the first film in exact detail, but learn from the "Star Wars'' Web pages that the look of the Cloud City has been extended and enhanced, and there is more of the Wampa ice creature than before. I have no doubt there are many improvements on the soundtrack, but I would have to be a dog to hear them.

In the glory days of science fiction, critics wrote about the "sense of wonder.'' That's what "The Empire Strikes Back'' creates in us. Like a lot of traditional science fiction, it isn't psychologically complex or even very interested in personalities (aside from some obvious character traits). That's because the characters are not themselves--they are us. We are looking out through their eyes, instead of into them, as we would in more serious drama. We are on a quest, on a journey, on a mythological expedition. The story elements in the "Star Wars'' trilogy are as deep and universal as storytelling itself. Watching these movies, we're in a receptive state like that of a child--our eyes and ears are open, we're paying attention, and we are amazed.