Category Archives: It’s About the Character

Why ROGUE ONE is the Most Important STAR WARS Film to Date.

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is the most important film to enter the STAR WARS canon to date.  While the initial reaction and hype has this billed as one of the best films of the series; that’s a bit of a loaded statement.  Yes, the film is fantastic, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen from the cinematic universe before, but after the shock and awe wears down; it will still be a top tier film, but somewhere behind EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and A NEW HOPE.  ROGUE ONE is important for an array of reasons, but most importantly the films serves as a bridge between the film series as well as other mediums of the STAR WARS canon.

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Jimmy Smits’ reprisal as Leia’s father and Rebel leader highlights a very important purpose.  Smits authenticates the prequel trilogy for those diehard fans that have disdain and immediately dismissal of them.  Smits as well as the reprisal of Genevieve O’Reilly as Republic Senator and successor to Bail, Mon Motha, legitimizes aspects of the prequels, as well as Disney further proving that they are not going to shy away from Lucas’ “controversial” trilogy.  O’Reilly would have been easy to recast, most of her scenes were cut from REVENGE OF THE SITH, and she isn’t particularly a well-known actress to the populous outside of STAR WARS diehards.  Both of these characters biggest roles can be found within the CLONE WARS series, were both parts are voiced by different actors.

Both these actors are great in their respective roles, and are given much more to do than any of us originally thought.  Smits has his most lengthy role to date, as does O’Reilly; and they are both important aspect of Disney’s bigger picture of what they plan on doing moving forward beyond the safe haven of the saga films.  Along with Vader and the CGI reconstructed Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, the most important job these actors had was anchoring the film within the universe that so many of us hold so dear.

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Forest Whitaker’s turn as Saw Gerrera, the Colonel Kurtz esque defrocked Rebel, might be the boldest move yet by Disney.  The origins of Gerrara lay within George Lucas’ concept for a live action STAR WARS show titled UNDERWORLD, an unproduced project that was originally announced in 2005.  Gerrera then made his first appearance in a four episode arc of the fifth season of animated series CLONE WARS.  Gerrera was a very grey shaded resistance fighter who used whatever methods possible to fight off the Separatists.

When it was first announced that Whitaker was playing a character we’ve already seen in the SW universe, rumors swirled of Captain Panaka from THE PHANTOM MENACE, Dash Rendar from the non-canonized novel SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE.  Then it was quickly announced who he was playing, and many of us quickly booted up Netflix to rewatch the four episode arc.  So, why did Disney do this?

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Validity.

By doing this, Disney opens the door to make cinematic crossovers.  Bring characters to screen who we’ve seen before in novels, animated TV shows, or comics.  It was heavily rumored that bounty hunter Cad Bane was going to make an appearance in ROGUE ONE.  That ended up not being the case, but I imagine we’ll see him and other fan favorites (Ahsoka, Hondo, Thrawn) make cinematic appearances in the near future.

Lastly, the inclusion of Gerrera was a very nice and symbolic gesture to the creator, George Lucas.  In reality, Gerrera is an inconsequential character in the SW universe.  His part in the film could have just as easily had an original name with no prior connection, and it would not have lessened the impact of his character in the slightest.  For as ridiculously controversial the creator, George Lucas, has become amongst SW diehards, Disney showing him direct tribute with the addition of Saw Gerrera was an incredibly gracious gesture.  After all, without George Lucas, we wouldn’t have ROGUE ONE.

LOW WINTER SUN – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

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LOW WINTER SUN came and went quickly but it packed a heavy gut punch. It was AMC’s remake of the BBC show of the same name that starred Mark Strong as Detective Frank Agnew. Strong reprises his role for the AMC remake. The show was a conventional, dark cop drama that lasted one season. Strong’s performance as the stoic detective put this show over the top, and Strong was able to show his range as an actor. He wasn’t just another archetypal cop, he was deeply layered. As the show ran its course, we would get glimpses into what made him the man he was.

The storyline was just as layered as Strong’s character. The show starts with his partner (played perfectly by Lennie James), killing a fellow detective, and staging it as a suicide. Agnew was coerced into this by his partner who had told Agnew that the detective they killed, had killed Agnew’s Russian escort of a girlfriend. The first shot we see of the show is a tight closeup on Strong’s face, he is looking into the camera with a tear streaming down his cheek. We can hear his thought: I am not a bad man.

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The show progresses with multiple story arcs of police corruption, a young gangster on the rise, and Agnew’s “missing” girlfriend who was presumed dead. The show never overreaches, and all the story arcs are taut and perfectly executed. The build up pays off remarkably in the two part series finale. Strong, who played it calm and cool in the show, spirals out of control so fast, you can’t believe everything you are seeing in the final two episodes.

The first part of the series finale has a remarkable segment. Distraught, Agnew travels to see his ex wife, who we had previously knew nothing about. She’s remarried and has a kid. The latter is as a surprise to Agnew as it is to the audience. This is Agnew’s last stop. He’s lost control of the beast of a situation he helped create. He recounts to his ex wife their previous relationship. He remembering of their marriage is sweet and loving, something he holds very dear. His ex wife corrects him. She tells it like it was, not how Agnew re-remembered it. And there we have it, it’s all out on the screen, it’s the price that Agnew paid for his stoicism.

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LOW WINTER SUN ends on a perfect note. While I would have loved to have seen a second season to see where the characters progress onward, the arc is neatly buttoned up, and Agnew’s season long journey has come to a close. This show is a slow burn. It’s brooding and dangerous, and Mark Strong gives the finest performance of his career in an amazing tour de force.

LOW WINTER SUN is available to stream on Netflix.

The Man Who Made Indiana Jones – By Frank Mengarelli

“You lost today kid, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.” – Fedora (Richard Young)

 Every time I’ve watched INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, even as a little kid, I was always drawn to the character dubbed Fedora (Richard Young) in the credits. He’s never called directly by name in the film, but during the opening when Young Indy (River Phoenix) is watching the gang in the cave digging for treasure, the name Garth is mentioned.

Indiana Jones had met a wide array of characters in the films, but I don’t think anyone had as big of an influence on his life as Fedora did. Fedora has limited screen time, and few lines of dialogue, but during the opening sequence of the film – he’s the most important character. After Indy gets the cross from the gang and Indy gets chased to a circus train – he finds himself in a life or death situation when he falls into a train car that contains a roaring lion.

Indy tries to tame the lion with his whip, but Fedora and his men are on top of the train car looking down, and Fedora commands that Indy toss-up his whip so they can pull him up. After Fedora rescues Indy, they chase beings again, as Indy escapes from the caboose Fedora watches Indy run down the train tracks, away from the hauling train. As Fedora watches him run away, he gets a smirk on his face.

When Indy returns home to tell his father what he had just done, his father essentially brushes him off because he’s working on his obsession of the Holy Grail. Fedora’s gang shows up with the town’s sheriff and the sheriff asks Indy for the cross back. Fedora’s gang is pompous and smug because they just won. But as everyone leaves, Fedora is left standing in the doorway. He removes his fedora and as he sets it on Young Indy’s head he says one of the greatest lines in film history: “You lost today kid, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.” The film then resumes in real-time where we see Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones – he’s on a ship, being held by men with blood coming from his busted lip. He’s smiling remembering Fedora’s words of wisdom.

It’s not that Fedora is sympathetic to Indy, even though he’s the only one who shows respect to him; Fedora sees himself in Indy, and for that he gives him his fedora as if he’s passing the torch to him, telling him, “here you go kid, the job is now yours.” In the films when Indy is out in the field, he always has his hat, and risks his life on a couple of occasions to ensure that he has possession of his hat that Fedora gave him when he was a teenager. While it may not always be the same exact hat, the hat does symbolize Fedora, the man who made Indiana Jones.

When Spielberg shot the scene in the cave, where the men find this rare artifact, Fedora is hunched over, and he’s holding it – watching it. He’s mystified by the discovery and it’s then you realize he’s not after the money, he’s after the hunt. The tight close-ups, and the way the camera revolves around Fedora is much like the way Spielberg shoots Indy when he’s found the idol in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

When we see Ford as Indiana Jones, he’s dressed exactly like Fedora was in the third film. His hat, his rough leather jacket – and even Fedora’s rough look and demeanor and right down to that signature smart ass smirk transcended to Indy. As the third film displays, Indy didn’t have a good relationship with his father, Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery) was obsessed with his work, too obsessed to provide the emotional commitment of being a father. Fedora accepted that role – though their interactions only lasted for a couple of hours when Indy was in his teens. Fedora shaped the man who stopped being “Junior” and became Indiana Jones.

In the original script the character of Fedora was originally Abner Ravenwood, who was the father of Marion (Karen Allen) and dubbed as Indy’s “mentor”. To be honest with you, I completely ignore the fourth installment of the franchise. Lucas, Ford and Spielberg should have known better.

The fact that in the original script that Fedora was Abner almost solidifies the fact that Fedora is actually Indy’s mentor. Next to Indiana Jones, I think Fedora is the second most important character in the franchise even though he had maybe ten minutes of screen time and ten lines of dialogue. In that short time, we see Fedora in Indiana Jones, and in turn when we see Ford as Indy – I see Fedora.

After the films premier, Robert Young reprised his role as Fedora/Garth for a live performance of the opening show of the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. This event was produced by Steven Spielberg.

I would have liked to have seen more of Fedora, even an adventure of his since he is the precursor of Indiana Jones – but that’s what makes him so effective – is the fact that we know absolutely nothing about him – yet his story is told through the adventures of Indiana Jones.