Tag Archives: Star Wars

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.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: A Review by Kent Hill

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So another December has come and with it comes another Star Wars movie. The reviews begin. Kevin Smith raves about it, calling it Empire Strikes Back great. In his brief thoughts following the premiere which he attended, Smith makes mention of what are really the highlights. This is an excellent chapter in the Star Wars saga. There are great tie-ins which link this film to those that have come before. Vader is badass in this movie and then there is the ending . . . that ending.

Now, unlike the case of The Force Awakens, this film has not enjoyed a triumphant reception. Those that have distaste for it are talking sooner rather than later. Before seeing the film today, I took note of some of the positive/negative stances. One thing I marked was a comment regarding the resurrection of a certain character from the original trilogy. I will not spoil this for anyone, but the review to which I refer, made the statement that the arrival of this character on screen (with the help of effects, cause he bought the farm a while ago) was something that took them out of the movie. I am going to take arms against this statement (which you may read more about if you wish here: http://geektyrant.com/news/review-disney-and-lucasfilm-play-it-safe-with-rogue-one-a-star-wars-story). Me personally, and I am referring to the pair of instances which the technology is used in the film, I feel this is one of the better examples of this type of effect used thus far in movies and remind the learned gentlemen for the prosecution of the creepy, expressionless faux-young Jeff Bridges in the lamentable Tron sequel as a better example of something that disconnects one from a film.

Still, what about the film itself? Is it Empire Strikes Good? I read Harry Knowles’ review this morning too. He though, has a tendency to gush, going so far as to list the things that he liked best. You need to be wary when film writers take such actions. The reason being? There was stuff they didn’t like in between those things they did.

Rogue One is the story of the story before the Star Wars we all grew up with – and I refer to those of us who grew up before they started using the “Episode” system. It finds the brains behind that moon that is no moon but a space station, living out his life in peace and harmony with his family. Then the empire shows up and ruins everything, as it is their want to do. From this pastoral opening we following our heroine Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) as she is recruited by the rebels (they are rebels aren’t they?) to track down Forest Whitaker, because rumour has it, that he has received word from Jyn’s dad, Mads Mikkelsen, about a super-weapon the empire is about to unleash.

So the Star Wars story moves along, and at times it is a slow boil. There is a good comradery among the cast, along with levity and heavy-handedness in equal measure. There are also lots of droids and aliens, which are always fun to hang out with in a time of great tyranny. This film paints the best portrait of the galaxy far, far away in the wake of the rise of the empire as we know it. It’s a grimy hit-run-hide type of universe, where heroes are few and all hope seems lost.

But wait, maybe not. Though the rebellion has its own dark undercurrent of distrust and personal agenda, we find out (what those of us who are children of Star Wars already know) there is a weakness to this battle station. It soon falls to the good guys to decide what they are going to do with this intel.

When faced with a planet killer, some guys run and some guys stay. The guys that stay join with our ragtag band of heroes on their veritable suicide mission. Their objective: to retrieve the plans of the Death Star in order to exploit the flaw in its design.

This is when Rogue One finds its wings, and all of a sudden I found myself in a film that felt more like a Star Wars movie than The Force Awakens did.

The final act of the film is bold, brilliant. At one point I think I heard Sam Elliot’s voice from The Big Lebowski in my head saying: “I didn’t like seeing Donnie go.” I was looking for shots from the trailers that I liked, but I found them to be absent from school today. I thought it was a good ending which brought to mind the old chestnut: those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. I also read in those reviews from earlier today, that the characters were thinly drawn. This would imply they are like most characters in modern movies, which is to say you don’t really give a shit whether they live or die. But I cared, not for all concerned, but for some. When things finally went south, I can genuinely say I was moved by their passing.

So, is Vader badass? Yes. That’s all I’m going to say on that score.

The film looks beautiful, though please again be wary, especially when reviewers make mention of this early in their critique. Praise for the photography and locations are often code for: it looked good, but that’s all it did.

The score by Giacchino is sombre and at times melancholic, but it lifts, and there is a nice peppering of Williams which will make you smile as ever.

And thus we come to that ending. Go see it. Go see it. The best thing about the ending is you can go home and watch the story continue, unlike last year’s Star Wars where we’ll have to wait a while yet to find out what Luke is going to say, or not say, or just keep on glaring, or fart , or something like that.

Did this dude in the audience like Rogue One? He did, he did indeed. He will be going again, that is a given. The cast and crew, all involved, have made a good Star Wars movie. It’s not Empire Strikes Good, but filmmaker Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider, Don’t Kill It), whom I interviewed recently, said it best. During our chat we talked about Spielberg and Mike’s love of Raiders of the Lost Ark. He (Mike) considers this the perfect film. He caught lightning in a bottle, and I’m paraphrasing Mike here, but Mike went on to say that as talented as Spielberg is, he doubts he could ever duplicate something like Raiders. The same could be said of this, the third coming of Star Wars. I watched it begin in the 70’s, I was there for explosive hype of The Phantom Menace. I was there last year when the force decided to wake up again.

My point is this. The lightning has already been caught. It was captured a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. They will never be able to recapture that lightning, but so far the Star Wars we are getting is calling down the thunder and Rogue One roars across the sky. It reminds us, yet again, of that brilliant lightning that brightened our world a long time ago…

GO SEE IT!

STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

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The galaxy has begun to divide amongst the Republic and the newly formed Separatist Movement, led by former Jedi Master who was trained by Yoda and mentored Qui Gon Jinn, Count Dooku (perfectly played by Christopher Lee). ATTACK OF THE CLONES follows in line with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as the transgressive center of the trilogy.

Like the rest of the prequels, the film has its recurring base of people who champion to dismiss the film at all costs. Yes, some of their points are valid, but some of them are ridiculous just to be ridiculous. We know people hate the prequels, but that will never stop the ones who love the films from continuing to do so.

The darkness of Episode II is very subtle, and upon first glance, it’s hard to pick up on due to the films cinematic glossiness. The first being the forbidden love between Padme and Anakin Skywalker. We know how this is going to end, and watching the beginnings of their courtship is the equivalent to looking for a gas leak with a match.

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For me, the most fascinating aspect in which Lucas included in the film is Anakin’s motivation for accepting the dark tendencies he feels. Anakin’s mother gets kidnapped by Tusken Raiders, and he returns back to Tatooine to save her. He approaches the camp, and finds his Mother, who has been gone for months, beaten, bloodied, and chained up face first on a rack.

Anakin’s mother dies in his arms, and then he proceeds to kills every single Tusken Raider in the village. Including the women and children in a fury of anger. Yoda and Qui Gon call out to him, but that can’t stop him form seeking vengeance.

Anakin’s mother was being raped. Repeadly. There is not another sound explanation as to why she was still alive, or why she would be chained up face first against a rack. This was the spark that lit the dark fire inside of Anakin.

While, at times, the second act featuring the overly romantic love story between Padme and Anakin can drag it’s feet, it is all worth it for the final act that a lot of us have waited our entire lives to see: an all out Jedi battle.

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At least thirty Jedi, led by Yoda and Mace Windu, backed by the Republic’s new Clone Army descend upon the Separatist hub planet of Geonosis and wage war against the Geonosians and the Separatist’s droid army.

The film includes my favorite (yet widely unpopular) light saber duel featuring Yoda facing off against his former Padawan turned Sith Lord, Count Dooku. This is the moment when we are shown exactly why he is the head of the Jedi Council, General of the Republic’s Army, and how powerful he is with the Force.

ATTACK OF THE CLONES remains an imperfect film, aside from some clunky dialogue and misguided casting, I’ve come to wholeheartedly accept the film, and still marvel at George Lucas’ unbelievable command and vision behind the camera.

STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

It’s no secret that many high brow cinephiles have their knives out when it comes to STAR WARS, but in particular the prequels.  To be fair, my film snobbery overflows onto big blockbuster franchises, but STAR WARS, all aspects of it; the films, the novels, the video games, collectibles are so ingrained in my life since childhood that it’s fair to say I will never have as much passion for anything as I do for STAR WARS.

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THE PHANTOM MENACE is a stark contrast from the original trilogy, and that’s exactly what it is supposed to be.  Yes, there are many missteps, including the casting of some actors, and the dialogue at times is lackluster and unintentionally laughable but there is so much more at stake when you look at the big picture.

Set decades before A NEW HOPE, Episode I shows us the beginning.  We see a vibrant and fertile galaxy before the desolate dilapidation that the Empire brings to not only the aesthetics but also thematically in the original trilogy.  This is a time of prosperity, a time when the Jedi oversaw peace in the galaxy.

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But.  This is also the beginning of the galaxy being divided in a full-out war.  Planets pitted against each other by fear and economics.  All the workings of seminal STAR WARS villain, Emperor Palpatine, who in Episode I is nothing more than the affable senator from the peaceful planet of Naboo.  His Sith alter ego, Darth Sidious, does all the dirty work.

I know.  Jar Jar Binks is the go to hangup.  Yes, Jar Jar is annoying until you get over it and embrace him.  Liam Neeson as the Jedi Master who is the hierarchy of the Skywalker lineage more than makes up for Jar Jar.  As does John Williams’ AMAZING score, particularly DUEL OF THE FATES which loudly surrounds the greatest lightsaber battle in the STAR WARS saga: Qui Gon Ginn AND Obi Wan Kenobi versus fan favorite, Darth Maul.

Yes, THE PHANTOM MENACE is the weakest of the STAR WARS saga, but it is also a solid foundation of what’s to come after.  The chaos that engulfs the galaxy.  The tangible rise of Palpatine’s dark powers.  For all of Lucas’ faults, he does an excellent job guiding the camera through the birth of galactic turmoil.  His casting of Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, and Terence Stamp are wonderfully perfect additions to the series, and his vibrant aesthetic is a pleasant contrast from the darkness of the original trilogy.

PTS Presents NICK AND FRANK’S BEST OF 2015

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We returned to form with our first new recording together since the newest addition to Nick’s family, and the STAR WARS overload that Frank has been overwhelmed by.  We go over our top ten films of the year, top five directors, actors, actresses, supporting actors, supporting actresses, screenplays, cinematographers, score, ensemble and television shows.  We were both very excited to do this, and we hope you enjoy!

STAR WARS POWERCAST EPISODE I

STAR WARS POWERCAST

Tim and Frank sit down and gush about their love for STAR WARS.  Topics discussed are the STAR WARS prequels, but we mainly discuss the genesis of THE FORCE AWAKENS and what we think might be happening.  This is going to be the first of many STAR WARS themed podcasts from Tim and Frank.  Enjoy!