Tag Archives: Star Wars

“It’s time for the Jedi… to end.” A spoiler review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi – by Josh Hains 

Thirty-seven years ago, The Empire Strikes Back subverted audience expectations by taking the story and characters in new directions that, for lack of better word, no one saw coming. Han Solo was frozen in carbonite late in the movie, and Luke Skywalker lost his right hand in the lightsaber duel with Darth Vader that revealed his biological connection to the man beneath the mask. Empire itself had a divided reaction, with some viewers angry that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, or that Han had been frozen, but thanks to the lack of internet in 1980, this division was nowhere near as caustic as it is now. Today, The Empire Strikes Back is lauded for the geoundbreaking risks it took in evolving the characters and story, and one would assume the risks involved in the storytelling of The Last Jedi would be received similarly. Oddly enough, it’s even more divisive than any if us could have expected, and thanks to the social media’s manner of letting every voice be heard no matter how asinine it may be, this division is infinitely more caustic. 

I know a lot of my fellow Star Wars fans went into The Last Jedi with their own fan theories and fictions bouncing around in their minds, and their expectations understandably high. This is Star Wars after all. It’s okay if you didn’t like the movie for a variety of reasons, from the performances to the CGI to the score. It’s also perfectly okay if you loved this movie for the same reasons other seem to hate it. However, calling a movie “bad”, or claiming it has ruined your childhood because your fan theories didn’t pan out, isn’t well thought out, rationally minded criticism, and it doesn’t make a movie bad. That’s not how cinema works. This hyperbole laced tantruming makes me appreciate the rational conversations I’ve had with others who don’t like the movie, or don’t like it as much as I do, all the more. Remember folks, it’s just a movie. 

I have seen The Last Jedi twice. Once for the experience of seeing the movie for the first time loud and writ large, the second to see if my reaction was strengthened or weakened by an additional viewing. After the second viewing, I came to the conclusion that most of the problems I had with the movie had dissappeared, and I was left with just one gaping problem that I simply can’t overlook. Thankfully, the rest of the movie built around that singular problem more than make up for the damages. I am happy to report that while it may not be my favourite entry in the series (I don’t know which one is, to be truthful), it is certainly beloved by me. Warts and all, I adore this motion picture. 

By now you should may know the basic plot of the eighth film in the Skywalker saga. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) are battling the First Order in wide open space. Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) head to a gorgeous new locale known as Canto Bight to acquire assistance in fighting the First Order. And Rey (Daisy Ridley) is confined to Ahch-To, trying desperately to persuade a reluctant Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to join the battle against The First Order and put an end to Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) reign. That’s not saying too much, is it? 

The gaping problem I was referring to in an earlier paragraph comes in the form of the plot thread involving Finn and Rose and their adventure of sorts to Canto Bight. The events that unfold here are do not affect the main narrative of the movie, and only seem to affect the characters involved in this plot in the moment, or soonly. I appreciate being shown how rich war profiteers live, how their intense gambling and partying also seem second nature to them by the time we meet them. It’s a shame then that their modes of gambling are too Earth-like, lacking any real imagination or creativity. 

I also took issue with the character of Rose, who I didn’t find to be a compelling character, and whose portrayal by Kelly Marie Tran lacked chemistry between herself and John Boyega (Finn). Had Rose’s arc ended shortly after she stuns Finn into a brief slumber, I would have been okay with it, but because Rian Johnson instead pairs her up with Finn, I felt like I was forced to suffer through watching a vaguely interesting character without a worthwhile character arc, who is as out of place in this movie as a Deadpool cameo would have in this year’s Logan. The forced and otherwise jarring and completely unnecessary romantic desire Rose holds for Finn (but he doesnt seem to reciprocate in the slightest), conjured up on the salty grounds of Crait that causes her to crash her speeder into his while he’s attempting a suicide run against a powerful First Order weapon, is as asinine as saying this movie ruined your childhood. It’s all fine entertainment, but this sole portion of the movie is its greatest weakness. 

There’s plenty of greatness to be found elsewhere, but for my money’s worth, I found true greatness in three places. Firstly, the elongated opening scene, once the action kicks in after a couple of humourous gags, is a frontrunner for the best space battle in Star Wars film history, especially becausit contains a brilliant white knuckling sequence where Rose’s soon to be deceased sister Paige (Veronica Ngo) has to recover a device that will allow her to drop the enormous payload of bombs aboard the ship she’s on. Secondly, there is the popular throne room fight scene around three quarters of the way through the movie, wherein Rey and Kylo face off against Snoke’s well trained private guards. It’s a dazzling, inventive, and thrilling action scene, bound for iconic status in no time at all. And lastly, there’s the scene near the very end of the film in which Luke Force projects himself onto the battlefield of Crait to distract Kylo while the remaining Resistance fighters escape the clutches of the hell bent Sith, before Luke is revealed to still be on Ahch-To. He seemingly becomes one with the Force and peacefully vanishes into the air. That he does so to the tune of John Williams’ beautifully composed and iconic Binary Sunset track from Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope), made the moment all the more moving and powerful for this fan, whose favourite scene in Star Wars is in fact the original Binary Sunset, though this scene sure gives it a run for its money.  

In the opening line of his review for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the late movie critic Roger Ebert offered up the following sentiment: “If it were the first “Star Wars” movie, “The Phantom Menace” would be hailed as a visionary breakthrough. But this is the fourth movie of the famous series, and we think we know the territory; many of the early reviews have been blase, paying lip service to the visuals and wondering why the characters aren’t better developed. How quickly do we grow accustomed to wonders,”. That quote has stuck with me like dirt under my fingernails, and I can’t help but apply its unwavering logic to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. My mind wanders to the finale of my favourite movie of last year, La La Land, which posed a delightful what-could-have-been sequence, an alternate timeline if you will. Perhaps in another timeline of our human history, The Last Jedi was the first of the Star Wars movies, lauded by many for generations to come, and praised for the risks it took in creating something new and unique. Perhaps not. Who knows what could have been. 

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“This is not going to go the way you think!” A spoiler free review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi – by Josh Hains  

Thirty-seven years ago, The Empire Strikes Back subverted audience expectations by taking the story and characters in new directions that, for lack of better word, no one saw coming. Han Solo was frozen in carbonite late in the movie, and Luke Skywalker lost his right hand in the lightsaber duel with Darth Vader that revealed his biological connection to the man beneath the mask. Empire itself had a divided reaction, with some viewers angry that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, or that Han had been frozen, but thanks to the lack of internet in 1980, this division was nowhere near as caustic as it is now. Today, The Empire Strikes Back is lauded for the geoundbreaking risks it took in evolving the characters and story, and one would assume the risks involved in the storytelling of The Last Jedi would be received similarly. Oddly enough, it’s even more divisive than any if us could have expected, and thanks to the social media’s manner of letting every voice be heard no matter how asinine it may be, this division is infinitely more caustic. 

I know a lot of my fellow Star Wars fans went into The Last Jedi with their own fan theories and fictions bouncing around in their minds, and their expectations understandably high. This is Star Wars after all. It’s okay if you didn’t like the movie for a variety of reasons, from the performances to the CGI to the score. It’s also perfectly okay if you loved this movie for the same reasons other seem to hate it. However, calling a movie “bad”, or claiming it has ruined your childhood because your fan theories didn’t pan out, isn’t well thought out, rationally minded criticism, and it doesn’t make a movie bad. That’s not how cinema works. This hyperbole laced tantruming makes me appreciate the rational conversations I’ve had with others who don’t like the movie, or don’t like it as much as I do, all the more. Remember folks, it’s just a movie. 

I have seen The Last Jedi twice. Once for the experience of seeing the movie for the first time loud and writ large, the second to see if my reaction was strengthened or weakened by an additional viewing. After the second viewing, I came to the conclusion that most of the problems I had with the movie had dissappeared, and I was left with just one gaping problem that I simply can’t overlook. Thankfully, the rest of the movie built around that singular problem more than make up for the damages. I am happy to report that while it may not be my favourite entry in the series (I don’t know which one is, to be truthful), it is certainly beloved by me. Warts and all, I adore this motion picture 
By now you should may know the basic plot of the eighth film in the Skywalker saga. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) are battling the First Order in wide open space. Finn and newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) head to a gorgeous new locale known as Canto Bight to acquire assistance in fighting the First Order. And Rey (Daisy Ridley) is confined to Ahch-To, trying desperately to persuade a reluctant Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to join the battle against The First Order and put an end to Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) reign. That’s not saying too much, is it? 

The gaping problem I was referring to in an earlier paragraph comes in the form of the plot thread involving Finn and Rose and their adventure of sorts to Canto Bight. The events that unfold here are do not affect the main narrative of the movie, and only seem to affect the characters involved in this plot in the moment, or soonly. I appreciate being shown how rich war profiteers live, how their intense gambling and partying also seem second nature to them by the time we meet them. It’s a shame then that their modes of gambling are too Earth-like, lacking any real imagination or creativity. I also took issue with the character of Rose, who I didn’t find to be a compelling character, and whose portrayal by Kelly Marie Tran lacked chemistry between herself and John Boyega (Finn). Had Rose’s arc ended shortly after she stuns Finn into a brief slumber, I would have been okay with it, but because Rian Johnson instead pairs her up with Finn, I felt like I was forced to suffer through watching a vaguely interesting character without a worthwhile character arc, who is as out of place in this movie as a Deadpool cameo would have in this year’s Logan.  It’s all fine entertainment, but this sole portion of the movie is its greatest weakness. 

In the opening line of his review for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the late movie critic Roger Ebert offered up the following sentiment: “If it were the first “Star Wars” movie, “The Phantom Menace” would be hailed as a visionary breakthrough. But this is the fourth movie of the famous series, and we think we know the territory; many of the early reviews have been blase, paying lip service to the visuals and wondering why the characters aren’t better developed. How quickly do we grow accustomed to wonders,”. That quote has stuck with me like dirt under my fingernails, and I can’t help but apply its unwavering logic to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. My mind wanders to the finale of my favourite movie of last year, La La Land, which posed a delightful what-could-have-been sequence, an alternate timeline if you will. Perhaps in another timeline of our human history, The Last Jedi was the first of the Star Wars movies, lauded by many for generations to come, and praised for the risks it took in creating something new and unique. Perhaps not. Who knows what could have been. 

The Day of Reckoning: An Interview with Andrew David Barker by Kent Hill

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Andrew David Barker was born in Derby, England in 1975. He grew up with a love of films and writing. I suppose this is a common thread among those of us who seek to express ourselves through these mediums. Hoping against hope that it will be either one or the other that strikes first – one or the other that shall propel us out of obscurity and into the stratosphere in which we are allowed to create for a living.

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It was horror films (the Video Nasties), but also the bombastic, high concept and blockbuster works of the 80’s that further fueled the young Barker to carry on his quest. Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese, but also Romero and Raimi fed him with images and blasted on the big screen the seemingly endless possibilities which lay in wait, destined to be unearthed by the daring dreamer.

Like all those that had come before, young Barker cut his teeth making short films and writing books and short stories – at times with friends. Then the time came – the time which calls to the fledgling auteurs and beckons them into the fray – time to put all accumulated knowledge to the test, and make that first film.

Thus A Reckoning was born. But through no fault of his own, young Barker was forced to sit by and see his film languish in obscurity. So, he took up the pen, and began to tell his stories on the printed page. Soon, he produced two fine works (see pictured above) and interest from the film industry power brokers soon came knocking.

Andrew is an eclectic storyteller whose visions are at once personal and profound. To talk to him about his journey, his influences and aspirations was a thrill. He is definitely a talent to watch, and, I for one, will be watching with great anticipation as to where his journey will take him next.

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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Hollywood’s best-kept Secret: An Interview with Scott Windhauser by Kent Hill

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Scott Windhauser might seem to have simply fallen out of the clear blue sky recently. Truth is, he has been in the game for quite some time. He worked his way up through the ranks, paying his dues, making connections – but all the while, working quietly on his own scripts.

The turning point came when he wrote a screenplay. You know the one, the kind of script that gets you noticed, that gets them to return your phone calls, that’s peaks the interest of the movie gods. Now I’m not going to spoil it here, you’ll have to have a listen, but the premise was really cool stuff.

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But, as things often happen in Hollywood, another picture, that took place in a similar setting, came out around the same time and the backers started backing away. It’s times like these that separate the men from boys. It’s like Michael Douglas’s line in The Ghost and The Darkness, “Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit. Well my friend, you’ve just been hit. The getting up is up to you.”

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Scott did a little better than just getting back on his feet. He went back to the forge and starting producing a veritable war chest of material, most of which is on its way to release as we speak. There’s some that Scott has also directed like Dead Trigger starring Dolph Lundgren as well as Cops and Robbers with Tom Berenger and Michael Jai White. Then there’s the Rob Cohen(The Fast and The Furious, XXX) directed Hurricane Heist (or Category 5 as some of the advertising is calling it) and Tsunami L.A., along with numerous other projects big and small in the works as well as on the way either this or next year.

Scott Windhauser folks. His is a name you may not have heard, but the times they are a changin’. He fought his way through the minefields of La La Land, he’s given a script a ‘Nic-polish’ (have a listen, all shall be revealed), he has even bumped into John Williams, the man who wrote the cinematic themes of our youth.

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This all adds up to a great interview folks, so please, press play and learn about the man who is quickly becoming a name to take notice of.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Scott Windhauser.

(The Password to watch ‘DEAD TRIGGER’ trailer below is: zombie)

Just wild about Larry: An Interview with Steve Mitchell by Kent Hill

Steve Mitchell has been on quite a ride. Having begun in the world of comics, he has the distinction of inking the very first book by a guy you might have heard of . . . Frank Miller. But being in New York with all his friends heading west, Steve, after forging an impressive beginning to his career, took a phone call one night from his another friend and filmmaker Jim Wynorski. Jim wanted an opinion on an idea that, if he could make it work, they might be able to get the picture made. From that conversation a film would be born. It was the cult classic Chopping Mall.

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So like Horatio Alger before him, he went west and continued writing for both the worlds of film and television. The fateful moment would come one day while looking over the credits of the legendary maverick auteur, Larry Cohen, on IMDB.  Astounded by the length and breadth of Cohen’s career, Steve saw an opportunity to possibly make a documentary that would chronicle the life and exploits of the successful filmmaker.

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After receiving a blessing from the man (Larry) himself, Steve set about the mammoth undertaking of  not only pulling together the interviews with Cohen’s many collaborators, all of the footage of his many works , but also the financing to bring these and the countless other elements together to form KING COHEN: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen.

This truly insightful and utterly entertaining look at the, thus far continuing, career of Cohen is the passion project of a man with whom I share a kinship. Not only for the stories behind the men who make the movies, but also how the films we know and love were pieced together with money, dreams, light, shadow and the technical tools which help capture and refine the many wondrous adventures we as cinema goers have been relishing since our very first experiences.

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KING COHEN is a great film made by a really great guy, and it is my hope, as it is Steve’s hope, that you enjoy the story of Larry Cohen, but also come away from watching the film wishing to then seek out and discover the movies contained within that you may have only experienced for the first time as part of the documentary. The films of the filmmaker that inspired Steve’s film in the first place. (that’s a lot films)

Enjoy…