Tag Archives: The Last Jedi

Emerging from the river of wind: Remembering Slipstream with Tony Kayden by Kent Hill

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Slipstream was alluring from the moment I saw the poster in the front window of my local theater. From the producer of STAR WARS and the director of TRON was the proclamation, and I was sold. The film, even then, delivered, as far as I am concerned. It offered a different world, an intriguing premise, great performances and . . . yes, I’ll admit a disjointed viewing experience. Still, I love the movie and have always been curious as to the production and what elements combined to bring this fascinating story to the screen.

At length, I finally made contact with Tony Kayden, a veteran screenwriter and the credited scribe of the film (as well as a man with his own amazing set of adventures in the screen trade). And it didn’t take long to learn that the narrative irregularities of Slipstream were the result of no one really knowing what kind of film they wanted to make.

slipstream

With the money in escrow, the movie was being made, that was definite. The script that Tony was brought on to rework was, at its heart, a stock-standard Star Wars rehash. Enter producer Gary Kurtz. After enjoying success serving alongside George Lucas and Jim Henson on the Dark Crystal, Kurtz came to the project seeing another unique film on a grand scale and an adventure born in the wind. The director tapped to steer the ship was Tron director Steve Lisberger. His work on Tron was extraordinary, original, and one could only imagine what he might do with a larger canvas combined with thrilling aerial action, accompanying a compelling human story. But then then problems began. The Producers wanted action and more sexual interaction where possible. Kurtz wanted something cleaner, no graphic violence and something more Star Wars. Lastly there was Lisberger, having just become a father, and wanting to make something for kids.

Then you have the poor writer. Only hired for four weeks, Tony ended up residing in England for three months, trying in vain to mix this maelstrom of indecisiveness into a cohesive plot. Kayden saw the movie as a kind of post-apocalyptic version of the The Last Detail. You can see the surviving elements of this in the interactions between Bill Paxton and Bob Peck’s characters of Matt and Byron. One a fugitive being taken in for the reward, the other an opportunist looking to make a quick buck. But, ultimately they become friends and seek to merely flow with the slipstream they are, for better or worse, traveling along.

These two are chased by Tasker, Mark Hamill, in a platinum performance as the mustache-twisting law man whose faith has been replaced by devotion to duty and routine whilst maintaining order here in this desolate society. He harbors a Javert/Valijean type relationship with Peck’s curiously, emotionally-distant accused killer – who just so happens to be an android.

The journey down the stream brings Matt and Bryon into contact with fellow adventurers/survivors Sir Ben Kingsley (who after a chat about the script in the commissary with Tony, sought out a part in the movie), and eventually, another Oscar winner in the person of F. Murray Abraham, the caretaker of one of the last sanctuaries – a literal museum to the past, complete with all its folly and decadence.

But the movie ends in tragedy and triumph. While the evil pursuer is vanquished, Bryon’s hopes for happiness are dashed. He is forced to leave his new found friend and seek out his own kind, wherever they may be.

That all might come across as a little confusing? Like I said before, the film is disjointed. This doesn’t prevent it, however, from being fun. The the actors give solid performances, the photography is brilliant, the locations amazing, Elmer Bernstein’s score magnificent – it is just a shame that the powers behind this movie couldn’t seem to agree.

As Tony told me, “the writer often takes the blame.” Though that is not the case here. If anything he should be commended for fighting the good fight in a losing battle.

Still, my fondness for Slipstream endures. In part for what it is, but also for the possibility of what it might have been. Like I said to Tony, in the age of the reboot, there might be a second life yet for Slipstream. Now all we need to do is get Dwayne Johnson on board…

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33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival Podcast

SBIFF 2018

It’s time again for our annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival podcast! Frank and Tim recap Frank’s journey this year at the festival, including seeing Emilio Estevez’s new film, ‘the public’ and Susan Kucera’s LIVING IN FUTURE PAST which was presented and narrated by Santa Barbara’s own Jeff Bridges. This year, Frank’s red carpet interviews included on this podcast are with Executive Director of the festival Roger Durling, Gary Oldman, producer Doug Urbanski, Willem Dafoe, Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Leonard Maltin, Academy Award-nominated editor of I, TONYA Tatiana Riegel, Academy Award-nominated VFX supervisor of BLADE RUNNER 2049 John Nelson, Academy Award-nominated sound editor of THE LAST JEDI Matthew Wood, GET OUT’s Daniel Kaluuya, Jordan Peele, Guillermo del Toro, and lastly Frank talking to Ben Mendelsohn about Podcasting Them Softly’s namesake, KILLING THEM SOFTLY.

Best of 2017 Megacast!

BeFunky Collage

Frank, Tim, and Nate gather together to discuss this year’s Oscar nominations and then get into what they thought should have been nominated, running down their own top ten best pictures, and also giving their top five in each category. We will taking a week off and then we’ll be back with a vengeance with our annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival podcast!

“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. 

“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.