Film | by Shane Hnetka

Long-time critic and documentary filmmaker Richard Schickel has passed away at the age of 84. Schickel, who died Feb. 18, was one of the last of the old-school film critics who championed movies as an art form. Schickel wrote several books about cinema and made more than 30 documentaries, including the awesome, eight-episode series The Men Who Made the Movies. Check it out. He’ll be missed.

Game Over, Man

Beloved actor Bill Paxton unexpectedly died on Oscar weekend. He was only 61. Paxton starred in 93 TV shows and movies over his career, playing everything from a badass tough guy to a loser con-man. Along the way, he became possibly the only actor to be “killed” by a Terminator, an Alien and a Predator.

To me, Paxton’s greatest achievement was the 2001 film Frailty, which he directed and starred in.

Frailty is a brilliant little thriller. Adam (Matthew McConaughey) walks into a FBI agent’s office and tells him he knows the identity of the so-called God’s Hand Killer. The agent, played by Powers Boothe, is skeptical but McConaughey tells him a story from his childhood. McConaughey’s father, played by Paxton, tells his two sons that he’s had a vision of an angel who told him there are demons in the world that he needs to destroy. Soon, Paxton has a list of supposed “demons”. His oldest son doubts his father, but doesn’t know how to stop him killing people.

The movie is intense and the killer perfectly played by Paxton.

Sadly, Paxton would only direct one more feature: The Greatest Game Ever Played. Although he will also remembered for directing and starring in the 1980 music video for Bill Mumy and Robert Haimer’s memorably bizarre “Fish Heads”.

Rest in peace, Mr. Paxton.

Star Wars: A New Hope

You would think in this day and age it would be impossible to lose original cuts of movies but it happens a lot. Even with blockbusters.

Case in point: since 1997 it has been almost impossible to find the original, pre-Special Edition Star Wars. Lucasfilm did briefly, and grudgingly, release it on DVD, but the quality was pretty crappy. Worse, creator George Lucas claimed the prints were destroyed to make the special edition, and as a result, quality copies of the original theatrical version no longer exist.

Fortunately, that claim is in doubt, and in fact a print was found in Italy a couple of years ago that someone restored and released online. Even better: since Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 fans have hoped the original series would be re-released in its original, theatrical form.

Well, according to wild-eyed Internet speculation, that might happen this year.

The timing would be perfect. Star Wars turns 40 in May, and what better way to celebrate than releasing it the way it was originally shown theatrically? No retroactively added “A New Hope” title, no dumb, computer-animated Jabba The Hutt and most importantly, Han shoots first.

I hope this happens. Finally, balance would return to the Force.

Shane Hnetka is a made-in Saskatchewan film and comic book nerd.