Tag Archives: Star Wars

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!

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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!

In Defense of the STAR WARS Prequels

Dear Simon Pegg, The Hollywood Reporter and everyone else who goes out of their way to degrade and dismiss the STAR WARS prequels.

You’re not a real STAR WARS fan.

If you can’t accept the STAR WARS prequels for what they are, flaws and all, STAR WARS does not mean nearly as much to you as you pretend it does.

If you love the original trilogy, that’s great. But don’t act like STAR WARS is important to you. And if that’s you, please do us all a favor and own it. The constant shaming of George Lucas, and the STAR WARS prequels has become this relentless and bandwagon circle jerk that those of us who love, embrace, and accept all of the STAR WARS cinematic universe have to endure and hits us in a very deep and personal place.

I, as anyone who loves the prequels can fully admit, they have flaws, some of the films have deeper flaws than others, and they are not as good as the original trilogy, but the bottom line is, they are STAR WARS films and they are fantastic. There are a couple of fallback arguments any prequel shamer will telegraphically always pivot to. Jar Jar Binks, the “overuse” of CGI, Hayden Christensen, Jake Lloyd, and poor dialogue.

All of those pivot points have their merits, I can fully admit it. Look, I used to be somewhat dismissive of the prequels too, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my appreciation and love of the prequels grew from the Cartoon Network/Netflix show STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS, and from different video games, novels, comic books and merchandising that flushed out more of the rich story that lies within the prequels.

The “overuse” of CGI in the prequels is the one pivot point that drives me absolutely crazy.

First of all, the CGI in the prequels is absolutely pristine and looks better, to this day, than most CGI induced films that have come out since. The use of CGI and moving to the digital format completely changed the film industry, for better or worse. The “overuse” of CGI is a poor pivot point for prequel bashers, due to the fact of not nearly as much CGI was used as they think. George Lucas used a lot of practical effects and built a lot of sets for the prequels. You know how I know that? Because I educated myself by watching the supplements on the STAR WARS blu ray suite, read articles with Lucas, Rick McCallum (the producer of the prequels), and others from Industrial Light and Magic.

Look, the prequels needed CGI. General Grievous, Yoda, the Senate Chamber, all the Clones needed Temuera Morrison’s face, the MagnaGuards, the epic space battle above Coruscant in EPISODE III, an 80 year old Christopher Lee fighting, and the plethora of exotic planets HAD to use CGI.

What, are all of those going to be miniatures? Or puppets? Puppet Yoda in the original trilogy is amazing. Love it. I don’t even think he’s a puppet. Remember puppet Yoda in EPISODE 1? It was AWFUL. Because in the prequels, Yoda servers a far different and bigger purpose, he’s a warrior, a general in the Clone army. He has to actually fight, and we get to see why Yoda is the most powerful Jedi.

General Grievous, the general of the Separatist army, the cyborg Jedi killer who fights with four lightsabers. Would it have been better if there was a man in a ridiculous suit with arms controlled by puppeteers?

Should there have been a massive scouting effort for people who looked identical and have the same physique of Temuera Morrison? Or prosthetic face molds?

If you’re so hung up on the “overuse” of CGI, you surely must RAGE when you watch a Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, Michael Bay, or a Steven Spielberg film, and surely you must HATE any and all of the Marvel/DC films, right?  Oh, and those LORD OF THE RINGS films, Peter Jackson is an idiot, he should have made those films without CGI.  Same goes for GAME OF THRONES.  Man, WATCHMEN should have used nothing but practical effects. INTERSTELLAR?  Don’t even get me started.

Yeah, do ANY of that without an abundance of CGI.

Hayden Christensen. Yes he’s miscast, but stop acting like he’s the first actor to miscast in a film ever.

Poor dialogue? Valid point. Lawrence Kasdan must have been busy.

Jake Lloyd? Anakin Skywalker wasn’t born as Darth Vader. He wasn’t born evil. He’s a kid playing a kid.

Jar Jar Binks? Jesus Christ. Get over it. The best part about Jar Jar is that Lucas owns the hatred of that character, and uses Jar Jar to make the move in the Republic Senate to give Supreme Chancellor Palpatine complete and total control at the height of the Galactic Civil War.

There are so many shining moments in the prequels.

We get to see the beautiful and vibrant universe pre Empire, before the dilapidation and worn universe we’re used to seeing in the original trilogy.

Liam Neeson.

Liam Neeson.

Liam Neeson.

Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Sidious. Easily one of the best acted roles in the entire saga.

Ewan McGregor is absolutely terrific as the younger Obi-Wan.

The Duel of the Fates battle between Qui Gon, Obi and Maul is one of the best lightsaber battles in the entire saga, if not the best. And it is accompanied by a magnificent John Williams track.

The Republic Senate scenes are masterfully created and designed, and perfectly sets up a principle understanding of how and why Palpatine becomes the Emperor of the Empire.

Christopher Lee is incredible. One of my favorite characters in the entire universe.  The dissention of Yoda training Dooku, Dooku training Qui Gon, Qui Gon training Obi and Obi training Anakin makes so much sense, how and why Anakin is who he is.

The full-out Jedi and Clones vs Geonosians and Battle Droids in the climax of EPISODE 2 is terrific. That’s a moment a lot of us have been waiting for, a full out Jedi battle.

We get to see the Jedi Council in action, see the plethora of Jedi, as opposed to the three we see in the original trilogy.

EPIC saber battles, as I mentioned before with the Duel of the Fates, but we also watch Yoda battle his former student, Dooku – watch him go toe to toe with Palpatine himself, watch Palpatine take down four Jedi, and see the brutal and heartbreaking final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan.

I could continue, but I won’t. I’m sure a lot of the points I’ve made will go over a lot of the prequel basher’s heads because they don’t catch the references. Because they’re not STAR WARS fans. Bottom line, get off your high horse and shut the fuck up about “George Lucas ruined my childhood” or that the “prequels don’t matter”. The worst part about all of this, is that George Lucas has admittedly been shamed for making any more films. This guy is bigger than STAR WARS, he’s responsible for AMERICAN GRAFFITI and THX 1138 which is one of the best science fiction films ever made.

To quote William Friedken, “STAR WARS is a religious experience.” STAR WARS means so much, to millions and millions of people globally. There are very few things that can match that kind of passion. Without George Lucas, you’d have absolutely nothing to bitch about in the first place.

PTS Presents DIRECTOR’S CHAIR with THE WHEAT BROTHERS

WHEAT BROTHERS POWERCAST

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We were honored to be joined by the filmmaking team of Ken and Jim Wheat, who are responsible for the second of the Ewok films, EWOK ADVENTURES: BATTLE FOR ENDOR, as well as penning THE FLY 2, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 and the Vin Diesel vehicle PITCH BLACK.  We had an absolute blast speaking with Ken and Jim about BATTLE FOR ENDOR and their experience working with George Lucas, the first time they saw STAR WARS and working with Wilford Brimley.  Hope you guys enjoy this one as much as we did!