Tag Archives: The Last Jedi

Paul Hirsch is here, the Force is with him by Kent Hill

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It is impossible to convey to those who weren’t there when STAR WARS was new – what it used to be like. For the third time since my existence began, I find myself faced with the end of yet another trilogy – the end of the Skywalker saga . . . ?

So it was with incredible nerves thundering tremulous throughout my body, that I sat down to talk with the man, and I want you to really think about this, who cut the scene in which Luke and Ben Kenobi discover the message hidden in R2. He cut Luke’s run, part of the final assault on the Death Star. He is even the man who suggested to George Lucas that Vader’s lightsaber be red and Obi-Wan’s be blue. As a STAR WARS fan . . . think about that. Think about the contributions of Paul Hirsch on the images that permeated our dreams and in some cases . . . shaped our destinies.

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On the eve of the Rise of Skywalker, it was a trip indeed to speak to and the read of the cinematic legacy of Mr. Hirsch. With his book A LONG TIME AGO IN A CUTTING ROOM FAR, FAR AWAY, Paul takes you back in time to a place when editors held the iconic images that flash before us on the silver screen…between their fingers.

My beloved Empire Strikes Back. Yes Paul came back for the sequel, but this is not merely an ode to the realm of Jedi’s and Rebels – it is a look inside the mind of a skilled craftsman of his art, and the journey which saw him mingle among the mighty company of the heavyweights of that last glorious era of Hollywood . . . the 70’s.

In a time when the men we would come to define as masters began their adventures in the screen trade: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma (with whom Paul cut frequently), Francis Coppola – oh, what a time. And it is not only the holy trilogy that has passed beneath the keen eyes of Hirsch – the work of other magnificent filmmakers like John Hughes, Joel Schumacher, George Romero,Herbert Ross, and Charles Shyer have all benefited from Paul’s expert touch.

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It took George’s clout to get him into Kubrick’s editing room. James Cameron boasted to him (referring to Titanic) that he made more money than the ‘WARS’ and didn’t have to make a sequel. He cringed at the idea of editing the helicopter sequence in Apocalypse Now for six months when Francis suggested it . . . yes folks . . . the cinema that has moved us to tears and had us on our feet cheering, has been before the eyes of my guest. And may the force be with him . . . always.

Ladies and Gentleman, please seek out the book, but until you do join me and Academy Award Winner . . . Paul Hirsch.

Meet-and-Greez by Kent Hill

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Daniel Roebuck’s directorial offering Getting Grace made me cry like a baby. The end result however, is that I was able to chat with one of the nicest dudes in Hollywood.

Now he’s back . . . and he’s in Star Wars. Well, a Star Wars video game, which isn’t bad either considering how much the line between video games and movies are blurring – the gaming experience having been elevated to its current status which is, quite simply, a little like an interactive story. But unlike the experience you have sitting down and watching a film – here you, are a part of the story.

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From the soulless killer, Samson Toulette, in Tim Hunter’s acclaimed dissection of 1980’s teen anguish, RIVER’S EDGE, to his latest role as the irascible four armed pilot Greez Dritus in the highly anticipated video game release, STAR WARS: JEDI FALLEN ORDER (available on PS4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows).

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EA and Respawn Entertainment’s STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER has already garnered a great deal of interest and the excitement is building for its November 15th, 2019 release. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, game director Stig Asmussen offered his thoughts on Roebuck’s character Greez, “He’s a member of a new species we’ve created. I don’t want to give away too much of his backstory, but like anybody you’re going to find during these dark times, he’s got demons. But he’s kind of like this loudmouthed little guy, he talks real big, he tells tall tales and most of the time they’re not true.”

Roebuck spent a few months working alongside of Cameron Monaghan, playing Cal, the young padawan and Debra Wilson who plays Cere in the game. “We had a wonderful camaraderie, the three of us,” said Roebuck. “Plus, we were performance directed by Tom Keegan who is truly a master director and always brings great insight into the process.” Keegan and Roebuck had worked together before on DEAD RISING 3.

During the performance capture process, the actors donned form fitting body suits covered with reflective balls and performed the game’s cinematic scenes in front of dozens of cameras. They also wore head gear fitted with cameras so that the animators could utilize the footage to animate the character’s facial features by directly correlating them to the actor’s reference video.

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STAR WARS JEDI FALLEN ORDER is on track to become one of the most successful video game releases of 2019. The game is one of a triumvirate of entertainment options being released by Lucasfilm LTD this fall. Its release coinciding with the original program from Disney +, THE MANDOLORIAN and STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, out this Christmas.

THE ‘HIT’ MAN: An Interview with Dominik Starck by Kent Hill

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Dominik Starck is a cool guy who loves and makes movies. That’s a man I’m down for spending some time with – so I did. His new movie, The Hitman Agency, is a complex nest of intrigue, danger, action and redemption. Throw those altogether and you have a great blend that tastes a little like something we’ve had before – yet it’s flavored by Mr. Starck’s unashamed passion for his many cinematic influences as well as the sheer joy he has being a filmmaker.

Most of us, at one time or another, who make fatal decision to go off and pursue a career as an artist, are met with the inevitable speech for our parents which carries the immortal lines like, “You’ll never make any money,” or “Why don’t you get a real job.”

Now Dominik tried that – he tried to deny the fire inside, the voice telling him he wasn’t doing what he was meant to be doing. He wasn’t, as the Bard would say, to thy own self being true.  So he started doing what he had to do, and, for my money, what he does well – he started making movies.

“Making an indie film is close to being a hitman; choose your goal, aim and go after it no matter the obstacles. And like assassinations, it’s a hit and miss with movies. I consider our movie the latter but it’s up to the target audience to decide if that’s the truth or not,” says Starck, the writer/director. While the German independent production by Starck Entertainment and R.J. Nier Films is represented by distributor Generation X Group GmbH at the film market in Cannes (May 8th to 17th) for international sales, the US audience is the first to be able to watch THE HITMAN AGENCY on Amazon.com where it’s available for rent and buy.

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This movie is the directorial debut of writer/producer Dominik Starck who previously worked on the award winning mercenary action film ATOMIC EDEN, starring Blaxploitation legend Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson and Lorenzo Lamas (RENEGADE). While being a deliberately different type of movie, THE HITMAN AGENCY features a special appearance by 11 time kickboxing champion Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson from BLOODFIST-fame. Starring American-born Erik Hansen (THE COUNTESS) and LA-based Everett Ray Aponte (ATOMIC EDEN) as competing hitmen from different ends of their assassin-careers, THE HITMAN AGENCY is a character-driven conspiracy-thriller with twists and turns, spiced with some martial arts outbreaks and assassinations. Shot on locations in Germany in English with more blood, sweat, and tears than a real budget, this underdog movie is proof to the phrase that nothing can stop you from making a movie when you really want it. Not even in Germany where there’s no platform for genre films at all.

Like I said at the top, Dominik is a cool guy and a cool filmmaker. He was worried about his English before we spoke but I tell you now as I told him then – “his English is as beautiful as his film-making.” Seek out THE HITMAN AGENCY… (follow the link below)

https://www.amazon.com/Hitman-Agency-Everett-Ray-Aponte/dp/B07BY5Y1XL

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.

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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…

33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival Podcast

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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!

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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.