Category Archives: Star Wars

Rian Johnson’s THE LAST JEDI

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SPOILERS IN PODCAST

Frank, Tim, and Ben break down the latest cinematic installment of the Star Wars saga films, THE LAST JEDI.

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It’s time to see The Last Jedi . . . again: A Review by Kent Hill

I am stunned. I am still. I am at a loss for words. I have just come from seeing The Last Jedi, and really all can muster is . . . it is a miracle.

I am going to try and avoid spoilers but I may fail, so, if you haven’t seen the movie stop reading now.

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was young and Star Wars was new. I don’t think I came out of that dark room in which I saw the first film, and the person that did – he certainly wasn’t the same kid who walked in. A long time have I watched, looking away, to the future, to the horizon, watching, what we who were there from the beginning will come to remember as, the saga of the Skywalkers.

I had read other reviews, seen teasers and trailers. The clever thing is though . . . this movie doesn’t go the way you think. Throw all the theories out of the window, forget all you know – or think you know. Breathe, just breathe. Now, sit back and watch The Last Jedi.

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We begin in a fury, in the heat of battle. Good versus evil, a staple of the Star Wars movies. Then it goes wrong and the good guys will lose. Because, as you’ll discover, this time round, it isn’t about winning and losing. It’s about existing. It’s a beautiful sentiment at the heart of this picture. Saving, indeed savoring, the things we love the most.

After all, what have we all been doing since 1977. Savoring this thing we love right? Mr. Johnson captured that so well. In fact, when it was all over, Bill Pullman’s line from Independence Day popped into my head, “He did it – the sonofabitch did it.”

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Abrams had the easy assignment if you think about it. He had to wake the force up. That’s not hard when you’ve got legions of fans awaiting to listen. The hard task is the difficult second album – trying like hell to be the one that strikes back. And, for my money, for this trilogy, for this time round – this is the new Empire Strikes Back. It can’t be the original – nothing will top that, but TLJ stands shoulder to shoulder with it.

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I think I have remarked a number of times to friends and family about what I thought the first words might have been out of Luke’s mouth back where Mr. Abrams left us in 2015. What he does retort with is better than a line or a speech, and it’s one of many moments of levity that the movie needed. I heard the voice of Irvin Kershner in my mind, talking about injecting humor into Empire. He was right then, as Mr. Johnson was right now. It is all about balance – the dark rises and the light to meet it.

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Two reviews I read prior to going in brought up two interesting points. One which I thought was kinda confirmed, whilst the other was dispelled. The first was that TLJ was almost like Empire in reverse. I found this to be, for me, delightfully true, and I’m surprised at how well that formula worked. Where Abrams was criticized for leaning to heavily on the crutch of A New Hope, Johnson seems to have avoided the problem by simply changing direction, which he does quite often. Be prepared.

Abrams surprisingly followed this theory to success with the first of the new Star Trek films, however grossly ignoring it for his own sequel. But it is well, not only if he stepped away from the director’s chair for fear of this, but that fresh eyes often make all the difference. I enjoyed Looper, but when they said that guy is going to not only write but direct Episode VIII, I was like half interested, half fearful.

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But we shouldn’t fear, should we. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.

Another element I like about TLJ is the fact that, more so than The Force Awakens, this felt like not only handing over the torch, but just throwing it away. I love how in the backgrounds of these movies we see the remnants of Star Wars past. From Rey’s junkyard home, to Luke’s X-Wing beneath the waters surrounding his fortress of solitude – even in Rogue One there is that giant fallen statue of a Jedi; the only true way to keep something going in this life is to keep it fresh and expose it to constant reinvention.

There’s lots of fun new creatures. LOVE THOSE PORGS! There’s some fun new locales. Mr. Williams musical voice sings a few new tunes and lovingly reminds us of a few old ones. The action is breathless, the reversals effective and plentiful. There are great revelations and many new questions.

Oh Look. You see what’s happened? I started off wanting to write a review and here I now find the need to be silent again. There is nothing I can tell you that you should ultimately listen to, except this: I have never seen a more beautiful journey that does as each new day does for us all; beginning and ending, staring off to the horizon, watching the rising and or setting of that bright sphere at the center of our galaxy.

When I was younger than I am now, I felt like Luke Skywalker, gazing off into those twin suns and longing for the next day, for the journey ahead. It is fitting then that TLJ comes now, and I am a much older man. You’ll know the moment when it comes. The twin suns will set and maybe, just maybe, your heart will swell as mine does even now, and I am at a loss for words. TLJ has touched me in a way I’ve not experienced in the cinema for a while now – and I am the better for it.

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So if you have seen the movie, I hope you enjoyed it – were thrilled by it. For those of you for whom this is their first Star Wars experience, rejoice, there’s more out there to discover – more still to come. For those who haven’t seen it – man, get away from this screen and get down to your local theatre real quick – what’s the matter with you?

It is fitting that the last line belongs to a certain character, and speaking of said line, it echoes my sentiments exactly:

In The Last Jedi, “We have everything we need – right here.”

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JJ Abrams’ STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

There are three types of people. Those who have an undying love for anything and everything Star Wars, those who have a legitimate beef with the unintentional ramifications that Star Wars brought to the fertile era of 70s cinema, and then there are the overly pompous people who parade around “liking” the original trilogy yet scoffing at minute aspects of THE FORCE AWAKENS. The third type of person is a fictitious amalgam of what people loathe about other people.

What JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Kathleen Kennedy did with the seventh entry into the Star Wars saga was establish a whole new world of Star Wars films. Some arguments against TFA are understandable, but after decades Abrams was able to construct, shoot, and assemble a film that looks and feels like it belongs, wholeheartedly, in the saga canon. Ultimately the job of directing a Star Wars film isn’t that sexy, their artistic freedom is monitored, but it’s up to that person to hit the marks that George Lucas set with the first film, and JJ Abrams achieves that in a way makes it hard to think anyone else could do a better job.

THE FORCE AWAKENS follows a template, just like THE PHANTOM MENACE before it. It’s A NEW HOPE but in a different era with some of the same characters. Anyone who walked into the film expecting something other than a Star Wars Saga film would be better off searching the deep web for some obscure Russian film from the 1970s that they can discuss in a vapid and obtuse way. Star Wars is Star Wars is Star Wars. There’s the light side. There is the dark side. There are TIE fighters and X-Wings, and there are space aliens that make witty zingers. Oh yeah, and there’s a Death Star.

Abrams assembles a diverse cast that is inspired organically. There wasn’t a mission to check boxes of ethnicity or gender. He found the right people that were born to play that part. The new cast is simpatico with returning cast members of Mark Hamill in his ultra brief turn, Carrie Fisher in what is now a very bittersweet performance, and of course Harrison Ford as the ultimate space cowboy.

Ford brings everything as he has to his final turn as his seminal character in a career stocked to the brim with so many memorable characters and franchises. With help from Abrams and Kasdan’s script, Ford takes on the Obi-Wan esque role. Ford is perfect. He’s funny, he’s smarmy, he’s hopeful, and he’s everything you’d want Han Solo to be all these years later and more. For those who fall into the first group of people, watching Han Solo die is one of the most heartbreaking moments in cinema history. Ford’s build up; his gruffness wrapped in his sentiment and nostalgia completely sells his demise in the most beautifully tragic way possible. It’s near maddening that Ford wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

There is a mixture of practical effects and CGI, much like the prequels. And then there’s BB-8. The new fan favorite that is an encompassment of R2-D2’s sassy personality and an ultra cute design and color scheme. It’s rather impressive how instantly beloved and welcomed BB-8 was, and after seeing the film, it’s incredibly hard not to fall hard for that little whirling dervish of love.

The picture excels on nearly every level, and if it weren’t so quickly followed up by the excellent ROGUE ONE, there wouldn’t be as much shelf wear on the film. The film is vibrant as it is dreary. Abrams not only acknowledges the prequels, he embraces the aesthetic. He mixes the original trilogy with the prequel trilogy to create his own, and predominantly new world of Star Wars. The film isn’t without some minor hiccups and narrative issues, but this isn’t the new film by Martin Scorsese. It’s Star Wars.

Star Wars saga films are built on nostalgia. Star Wars is nostalgia for many. And while Lucas isn’t part of the Star Wars universe moving forward, Abrams has more than proved himself as a worthy supplement. He’s inherited the mantle of Lucas, and he’s helped construct the joy of Star Wars for generations to come. What’s so ironic are those who hold such an obnoxious contempt for Lucas, yet are rabid for the new dawn of Star Wars. Those who consistently beat the drum of talking in circles to those who are as like(narrow)minded as them, that will bend over backwards to suck any joy they can out of anyone who praises Lucas. You know, the guy who created everything in the first place. Leave George Lucas alone, without him you’d have nothing to complain about and would have saved a lot of money.

Force Friday Podcast: THE EWOK ADVENTURES

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Join Frank and filmmaker Derek Wayne Johnson as they discuss BOTH of the Ewok films that are seminal films from their childhood. Don’t forget to purchase Derek’s film, JOHN G. AVILDSEN KING OF THE UNDERDOGS from retailers everywhere!

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STAR WARS POWERCAST EPISODE VI: Let’s Discuss Carrie Fisher and CGI Recreation

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Join Frank and Tim as they bring you yet another amazing STAR WARS POWERCAST.  This time, we discuss the passing of Carrie Fisher and how Lucasfilm/Disney should handle the role of Princess Leia in Episode 9.  We also discuss what we think is going to happen, the newly announced title for Episode 8 THE LAST JEDI, and whether or not Disney should CGI reconstruct Carrie Fisher for Epsidoe 9.

STAR WARS POWERCAST EPISODE III

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ATTENTION SPOILERS.  SPOILERS.  SPOILERS.  Frank and Tim FINALLY did another STAR WARS podcast.  This time we speak about the new standalone film, ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.  We dive in deep about the emotional impact, the cinematic influences, and where Disney takes the STAR WARS brand from here!

 

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.