Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Is Out Now On General Release.
Post Return Of the Jedi, Star Wars films for the most part have received mixed reviews, none quite hitting the mark like you would do a womp rat with a T16. But with part IX putting the main series to rest, will JJ Abrams bring out every trick in the book and ensure that the saga goes out with a galactic bang?
And so, from a galaxy far, far away, but with frequent news still making its way to our part of the universe, a naturally force-strong scavenger, an ex-imperial stormtrooper, an ace pilot and a wookie with vast life experience, are left (with a few friends in toe) to put to bed, what the Rebel Alliance started in Star Wars: A New Hope. What immediately became evident with JJ Abrams' latest opus was that he had 3 tasks fulfil. 1) To remind audiences why they loved about classic Star Wars. 2) To patch-up the mythology-killing parts of The Last Jedi and 3) still make a unique film which could stand on its own merits.
In The Rise Of Skywalker, Abrams gives us an ode and a sequel more akin to the Return Of The Jedi, which is his first smart move and there are a few secret revelations within TROS worthy of the first trilogy. It's not all good news though, parts of TROS are patchy, like you can see the seams showing because of the re-wiring that had to be done, due to the damage inflicted by The Last Jedi. I would even go as far as saying Abrams is also able to subvert our expectations - in a good way...to a degree, but because he had to semi-recreate the canonical damage, he could only go so far without contradicting the preceding film's narrative. There is plenty of true action, most of it standardly good, but some of which doesn't work. In particular, the awkward physics of the Jedi's more grand movements and everything astral projection, an overused device in the film, that I'm not wholly sure even belongs within the Jedi skill set.
Knowing what was on the line, there is no teasing of what is to come in the story, we are thrust into the thick of things and even the opening iconic yellow prologue is so straight to the point and without pazaz, that I am sure that a bored teenager who doesn't even like Star Wars wrote it. Events move along at a brisk pace which is pleasing, but at the same time, a bit too quickly for any true feeling to permeate out of the screen or for most of the jokes to land. The biggest device used to generate feeling is the music, but a score cannot carry an entire film.
The main problem with the latter entries of the Star Wars franchise is that it continues to deliberately stay arrested and this revelation I will ashamedly admit to, did not come from my own reasoning, but from Freddie Prinze Jr. in a interview about his involvement with Star Wars animation. The problem is whilst we, the fans grow older, we crave a more mature, potent delivery from the journey, with harder themes to match our age and life experiences. Our expectations continue to grow and grow, but become less and less realised as the franchise deliberately stays juvenile. We forget that we have to experience the magic through the eyes of children or as children, which is probably why The Phantom Menace really hurt. The Empire Strikes Back remains the most 'adult' film out of the series, never once issuing a corny moment or a back-track to 'safety' with heroism suddenly coming in to save the increasingly bleak circumstances. The Rise Of Skywalker is a good enough finish for the trilogy and the overall nonagon narrative, though it was always going to be a fight, had with one arm tied behind its back. I think with such a beloved franchise, we were always going to demand more and this finale just might not seem big or fulfiling enough for some.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Is Out Now On General Release.
She is the only surviving member of a slain group, the one that ends up vanquishing the evil or stopping the malevolent force from winning. She is a great and well-established trope of cinema, she is; The Final Girl.
Who Is The Final Girl?
In horror movies and sometimes survivalist themed films, it is a common and much celebrated cinematic convention, to have the last hero standing, be a virtuous, unassuming kind woman. She is typically the one person in a group dynamic, that we wouldn’t bet on surviving if the apocalypse came tomorrow, yet she becomes the one that remains - she becomes; The Final Girl and internationally, she is one of the most recognised motifs in cinema.
The History Of The Final Girl
The term Final Girl was first coined by Carol Clover in 1987, when she wrote an essay called “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film” which was later mentioned in her 1992 book “Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender In The Modern Horror Film”. Predominantly cited as a feature in the Slasher genre of horror film, my own observations of the final girl heroine, usually had her be a weak, unskilled and unknowledgeable person. Yet ultimately, the final girl seemed to be empowered, even protected by her innate goodness or 'pureness', perhaps stemming from a sub-conscious, puritanical Judeo-Christian reason, as to why she should not die. Male filmmakers, with their construction of the female archetype, I imagine wanted the peril to be absolute and so by pitting a thoroughly malevolent male-energised force against someone who looked like they couldn’t punch their way out of a wet paper bag, they had to encapsulate the complete opposite. Remember the rule about couples who have sex or do 'bad things' in horror movies...well that outlook in part seems to manifest in the final girl's construction and so we are given an inexperienced female as a norm, with no radical life experience or formidable nature.
Subverting The Type
Not to say; that there were never any exceptions to the rule, but in the early days of horror, the bog standard archetype of the final girl was almost guaranteed. However, it began to change when less obvious forms of the Slasher horror began to emerge, usually in movies that spliced the established part of the genre with something totally unrelated. Modern films like Happy Death Day (2017) which has time travel within its narrative and The Final Girls (2016) which has characters sucked into a movie, are high-concept films, with Science Fiction and Fantasy elements. Not only have they helped sustain and elevate the genre, they have added to the characterisation roster of what a final girl can be. But, they owe their allowed existence to pioneering and isolated works from previous decades, as it was back in 1979, when Alien, a Sci-fi Slasher film set in space changed the game. Now I can hear you thinking "Alien", a slasher movie?" Well think about it - we have the mandatory tight group confined to a particular locale. We have the malevolent force, killing the group off one by one. We have the early parts of the film establishing personality types, leadership and skill qualities and we have the cast in itself, which served to make you think about who would survive, as surely the producers wouldn’t allow the big stars to be killed - right? No one saw a final girl premise being implemented and no one saw Sigourney Weaver coming either. A virtual unknown, Alien was Weaver's second ever big screen role and her first role in Annie Hall (1977) was a small non-speaking part. As the surprise lone survivor of the Nostromo incident, this was probably one hell of an unexpected direction for the movie and it is no surprise that Weaver was the last person to be cast. The gamble paid off and audiences loved and continue to love Ripley, a final girl who was neither timid nor exceptionally strong, who had skills, knowhow, and a quite charm that allowed us to see her as a real human being.
A Look At Some Of Cinema’s Most Memorable Final Girls
Laurie Strode – Halloween (1978)
What is interesting about the format of Halloween, is that the tight knit group that we are use to seeing in Slasher's, didn’t really exist here, there are no scenes where they all become alerted as a group to whom the big bad is and then unite as a team to fight it. Instead, the bogeyman Michael Myers is stealthy, no one notices him (except for Laurie) leaving everyone to roam around as normal and to be picked off one-by-one in isolation. In films like I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) or Final Destination (2000) the group usually (eventually) becomes aware of the evil and they band together to fight it off, which contributes to the drama. In Halloween, all of Laurie’s 'group' are killed before she truly encounters Michael which in itself is horrifying because of the ignorance of a nearby, but unseen danger. Even in fighting back, we still see that the final girl trope is in its infancy, as it is a male hero, Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasence), enters the scene in the nick of time and ‘ejects’ Michael through a window. 40 years later and the situation comes full circle, where now Laurie Strode is well versed in all things Michael Myers and has a skill set akin to that of a militia warrior to deal with him. Sarah Connor in the The Terminator (1984) could easily be compared to Laurie Strode, as both Michael Myers and the T-800 series cyborg are two unstoppable forces, with similar mindsets, hell bent on killing one person and not averse to killing anyone that gets in the way of their mission. And just like Laurie empowers herself years later, Sarah Connor, in T2 Judgement Day (1991) also expands as a character, having evolved into a gun-toting, trap-setting bad ass too.
Nancy Thompson – Nightmare On Elm Street
Appearing in three of the NOES films, Nancy uses her brains to try and combat, not so much Freddy Kruger at first, but falling asleep. When this becomes too hard, she relies on uncovering the personal legend behind Krueger and then discovers her own supernatural power somewhere in the process. Nancy Thompson may also be the first final girl to outwit a supernatural foe, which may have been the prototype that led to so many other movies taking this route. Instead of meeting force with force, solving a mystical conundrum, revolving around the villain's mythology became the solution. A lot of thought went into understanding dream psychology and fear, drawing on the night terrors that humans truly have and so this gave the earlier entries of the NOES a more respectable standing and potency. In NOES 3 – Dream Warriors, we get one of the most organised and unified team of victims ready to fight back and they are all imbued with powers to fight the evil. This made the plot fresh, as most horrors needed the victims to be completely powerless and have the audience empathise with their total helplessness and jeopardy. But even in knowing that each character is headed for their own personal gallows, the ace in the hole was in crafting bespoke deaths, that directly linked to a character's personal fears and trauma and with the exception of the Saw films, I don't think any other franchise or one shot film ever made the life of a character so connected to their death. The Wishmaster films are another bunch of stories that rallied around the idea of the final girl using cunning and trickery to resolve the peril, making audiences think as much as they did jump.
Kirsty Cotton - Hellraiser
Away from the Slasher genre, another angle of exploration, came courtesy of character Kirsty Cotton’s approach to dealing with the Cenobites in Hellraiser (1987). Using the power of negotiation, Kirsty had to deal with a well-spoken evil that actually had manners and her encounters with Pinhead provided an eerie contrast for viewers because the confrontations were verbal, very still but extremely tense. We all knew that the Cenobites didn’t have to listen to anyone’s pleas to seek a civil audience or show anyone, any mercy, but in examining the personality of the Cenobites' Kirsty saw their weakness and appealed to their hubris. Exploiting a very human emotion she tells them of an escapee from their subterranean cells and in their utter disbelief that anyone could escape them - their power, she is able to trade her life for his. In the second entry Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1987) her words are used to remind the Cenobites of their former humanity, showing the audience that we are all not that far away from being the horror or the hero ourselves. As a final girl, Kirsty was great at thinking on her feet, rather than just using them to run.
Sidney Prescott - Scream
What was interesting about Scream (1996) was it’s unapologetic ode to all the conventions of the Slasher film, by talking and examining the rules of the genre within its own narrative. A direct message to the audience that; we know what you’re expecting and you won’t be seeing that here, prepared us to be tricked and misdirected throughout each entry. The Scream endings might have been inspired by the likes of films like Sleepaway Camp (1983) and April Fool’s Day (1986), where the reveal is just as important as the scares. Scream also has a lot in common with a whodunit mystery drama, with final girl Sidney Prescott being depicted as intelligent, calm and resourceful, traits closer to a detective, than a person purely present to be in peril. Scream also allowed recurring characters, from the original central group to return - yes! Those who by default should have been killed returned for multiple sequels.
The Future Final Girl
As the final girl motif continues to stay with us, it also continues to evolve. Modern depictions of the final girl have permitted us, even forced us to have a range of characterisation that can give us all types of personality. But who ever takes the mantle of the final girl, we know that she is going to be chased, cut, shot at, tortured, petrified, made to scream and made to witness death. But we also know that she will fight back, ultimately instilling hope and promoting self-reliance.
Eddie Murphy emerged as a fresh new talent, bringing an edgy energy and improvisational talent to film that nobody had seen before. As of 2014, Eddie Murphy became and has stayed the 6th highest grossing actor of all time, his pictures amassing a whopping $6.8 billion worldwide.
In 48 Hours (1982), Murphy plays Reggie Hammond, a still imprisoned convict who is temporarily released into the custody of Jack Cates (Nick Nolte), an angry, bullish, faux-racist cop, in order to find two criminals. Wowing critics and audiences alike, 48 Hours went on to be credited as the quintessential, proto-mismatched cop duo movie, that would later fashion the likes of Lethal Weapon (1987) Bad Boys (1995) and Rush Hour (1998). The film garnered nominations for various awards including a nod to Eddie in the form of a Golden Globe for Best New Star Of The Year - Male, but the award went to Ben Kingsley for Gandhi. Though Murphy lost in that respect, the nomination, the film and Eddie's performance all highlighted that Murphy was an upcoming force to watch. 8 Years later, both Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte returned for the sequel Another 48 Hours, in which Eddie's salary this time around, would be equal to the entire budget of the first movie. For 48 Hours, Eddie earned $200,000, but after multiple box office hits in the interim, his star power shifted and he was paid $12,000,000 for the sequel and also claimed a share of the film's overall gross. 48 Hours was made for $12,000,000 and grossed $78,868,508. Another 48 Hours had budget a of $50,000,000 and made $153,518,974.
BEVERLY HILLS COP
Scoring his next big hit with Trading Places in 1983, which served up another Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy, Murphy would step into another iconic role considered by many, to be from his most popular franchise. In Beverly Hills Cop, Murphy played Detective Axel Foley, a fast talking, tough Detroit officer who receives a random and surprising visit from his childhood friend and ex-con Mikey Tandino, played by James Russo. Visiting all the way from from Beverly Hills, California, a night of nostalgic catch-up is turned sour when two men appear, knock out Axel and kill Mikey in cold blood. Murphy, who is told to leave the investigation alone by his hard-nosed, no nonsense boss Inspector Todd (Gilbert R. Hill) defies the order, takes some 'personal vacation time' and heads to Beverly Hills to investigate. Once there, he discovers a drug smuggling operation headed by Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff) and intends to bring him down.
Throughout the investigation, we see Murphy/Foley play the fish out of water role to perfection, we see him mock and ridicule the bougie practices of the rich and famous and be two steps ahead of everyone whilst making it look like he is blissfully ignorant. Assigned to watch Foley by Lt. Bogomil (Ronny Cox), Axel picks up two babysitters in the forms of Sergeant John Taggart (John Astin) and Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), who start out as buffers to limit any social and political damage Foley could do, but eventually befriend Foley and become his strongest allies. Beverly Hills Cop was Eddie Murphy's first solo lead role and he knocked it out of the ball park. Not only did he gain another Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy the film became the highest grossing of that year, the highest grossing comedy of all time and also the highest grossing 'R' rated picture of all time - at that time. Two sequels followed; Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) and Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) and even though they were both box office hits, the former gained mixed reviews whilst the latter was universally panned by everybody. Beverly Hills Cop was made for $13,000,000 and grossed $316,360,478, Beverly Hills Cop II had the highest grossing debut weekend of all time and with a budget of just $20,000,000, making $299,965,036 and despite a major drop in quality, Beverly Hills Cop III still performed well, using its budget of $50,000,000 to earn $119,208,989.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR
The original The Nutty Professor (1963) starred Jerry Lewis, who also served as the film's director and co-wrote the screenplay with Bill Richmond. The 90s version was adapted by 4 different writers and though Murphy was just going to act, he wasn't going to play one role, but seven! In the original premise of the movie, Jerry Lewis played Jerry Kelp, a buck-toothed university professor who is uber awkward and socially impotent. Plagued by his status and loneliness, he invents a concoction that creates an alter ego, turning him into the very opposite - a suave, good-looking, sophisticated alpha male. Altered for modern audiences, Murphy's 1996 version would make the main issue about his weight and whereas Jerry Lewis' Buddy Love (the moniker of the alter ego) became handsome and confident, Murphy's Buddy Love becomes handsome, confident and thin. However, in both versions, the Buddy Love alter ego tries to usurp the professor's original form, by trying to find a permanent way of staying as Buddy Love, the battle therefore becoming an allegory for all our inner battles. 4 Years after the original film, a sequel appeared in the form of Nutty Professor II - The Klumps, with new formulas being invented and old enemies returning. The Nutty Professor had a budget of $54,000,000 and earned $273,961,019, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps had a budget of $84,000,000 and grossed $166,339,890 and Eddie Murphy was once again nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy...which he failed to collect...again. He did however win a Saturn Award for Best Actor, a Blockbuster Award for Favourite Actor - Comedy and won and was nominated for several other awards too.
Taking on another remake, Eddie Murphy became Dr. Dolittle (1998), where he played a human being that can hear and communicate with animals. First realising his gift as a kid, John Dolittle loses this fantastical ability when an upsetting incident involving his dog, makes him forget about it. 30 years later, his ability is reactivated and high jinks and craziness ensues. In 2001, the only other Eddie Murphy sequel Dr. Dolittle 2 was released. The first outing had a budget of $70,500,000 and raked in $294,456,605, the sequel's budget of $70,000,000 didn't quite ensure the same results, but it still managed to gross $176,104,344.
In 2001, Murphy would voice Donkey in the first of the Shrek animations from the Dreamworks studios. As part of an ensemble cast that included Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow and Vincent Cassel, Shrek went on to be a smash hit, with a noticeably high and valuable contribution by Murphy's charismatic voice acting. Donkey was the unwanted friend and sidekick of Shrek. Always upbeat and positive, donkey had the biggest heart out of the main cast and was probably the most child-friendly character out of the ensemble. Shrek became so popular that not only did it spawn sequels and spin-offs galore, but it became the first full length animation to win an Academy Award for 'Best Animated Feature'. Critics and crowds immediately took to the old fashioned fairytale storytelling and settings, but in addition really appreciated it's draw and insertion of modern day popular culture. All in all, Murphy was featured in Shrek, Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party, Shrek 4-D, Shrek 2, Shrek The Third, Shrek The Halls, Shrek Forever After, Donkey's Christmas Shrektacular, Shrek's Yule Log, Scared Shrekless, and Shrek's Thrilling Tales. Sticking to just the cinematic movies; Shrek's budget was $60,000,000 and earned $484,409,218. Shrek 2 was made for $150,000,000 and grossed $923,075,336. Shrek The Third's production cost were $160,000,000 and reaped $804,438,141 and Shrek Forever After cost $165,000,000 and made $752,600,867. Constantly swapping places with The Lion King, Despicable Me and Toy Story, Shrek is, has been and will probably be again, the highest grossing animated franchise ever.
Away from his franchises, Eddie Murphy has also given us great stand-alone pictures such as Trading Places (1983), The Golden Child (1986), Coming To America (1988), Harlem Nights (1989) which he directed, Boomerang (1992) and My Name Is Dolemite (2019). And now with a Coming To America sequel in the works "Coming 2 America" he is adding yet another franchise to his filmography totalling six. There will also be another outing for Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop IV, perhaps re-awakening his strongest brand for a whole generation that weren't around even born when the last entry came out 25 years ago. And finally playing opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, Eddie is also set to join the sequel to Twins called Triplets, where he will play the third Benedict brother. If all of these films are carefully modernised from their 80s and 90s roots and are hits, Eddie Murphy could cross even more generations and cement a legendary status that will last forever.
Ex-con and ex-special forces operative Pete Koslow (Joel Kinnaman) is recruited by the FBI in order to help take out the 'General' a major drug kingpin of New York. But when an undercover operation goes horribly wrong, Koslow is forced into an incredibly tough situation where the odds of him coming out alive are virtually nil.
A taut story with a carefully constructed cast, The Informer is by no means the bog standard crime thriller. Caught between the proverbial "rock and the hard place" add Hell and Hades to Koslow's compass and you'll begin to understand the gravitas of the position he is forced into. In having to handle the mob, cops, the FBI, prison inmates and wardens, Koslow has to constantly be aware of all the changing angles and motives of these groups, whilst working out a way to protect himself, his family and his new clean name.
A complex story that intertwines fates, the success of The Informer can be mostly attributed to the superb cast that all hit the right notes in supporting Joel Kinnamen, in his aria as Pete Koslow. Rosamund Pike in particular is brilliant as a conflicted FBI agent, trying to do the right thing, but also forced to face internal posturing, red tape and maintain self-preservation. Common's depiction of an NYPD cop determined to get justice, showcases some of his best acting yet. Common, a.k.a. Lonnie Lynn, displays a natural and comfortable charisma and is even silently powerful in some of his interactions. Overall, The Informer is a worthy watch and is on general release August 30th.
TDD, RC & IK talk: