Showing posts with label star wars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label star wars. Show all posts

Thursday, April 28, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Rey's Theme from The Force Awakens (2015)



There were many things I enjoyed in the Star Wars prequels, but the parts could never quite match the whole of what I was hoping for.  Among the bits I enjoyed - Williams' scores stayed up to snuff.

I was delighted that, in his 80's, he was willing to come back to Star Wars.  He's not a kid, and we should be quite grateful that he's not just alive, but still, if the Force Awakens score is any indication, still as good as ever.

I loved Rey's theme.

It's difficult to talk about, as I lack the vocabulary for discussing music properly, but it has a Williams-ian adventure hook, but it's also got some lighter bit in the woodwinds, "feminine", lighter, more "humble" than anything.  She's a - as the track is called on the soundtrack "Scavenger".  She's one of these desert people scraping by.  She doesn't even have an Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and pleasantly domestic existence - but she also can't leave, even if she doesn't entirely understand why.  Luke sought the great expanse beyond his twin suns.  Rey wants someone to come to her, but, instead, she has to go.

The music goes from simple woodwinds to orchestral sweeps, just as she goes out upon her adventure.  It's a complex piece, to my ear, as Rey is perhaps a more complex character than Luke was before her - at least at the beginning of her story in comparison to his own in Episode IV.  There's a lot more going on there for her here in Episode VII, with 6 movies of history preceding her, and a history that's taken place between those films.

As Luke's theme was what we think of as "The Force" theme, Rey's theme merges with The Force, and the next part of the Star Wars saga begins in earnest.



Sunday, April 17, 2016

Star Wars Watch: Star Wars - The Force Awakens (2015) round 4



I finally busted out my disk of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) (or, Star Wars VII as the kids are calling it).

I'm pleased it held up so well upon a fourth viewing and a non-theatrical viewing at that, where distractions abound and I'm more likely to lean back and take a more critical view of a movie.  And, now knowing the plot reflects many milestone elements of Episode IV, all of that really falls into the background and I can just enjoy what the actors are doing, the sets, the vehicles, and all that stuff you get to like about a movie you watch over and over like Star Wars or Star Trek or, in my case, Captain America or the Superman movies.  

It's also funny to see how I relate to the new characters in comparison to the Episode IV - VI characters I grew up with.  My feelings regarding Rey and Finn are oddly... paternalistic.  My "empathy" characters, the ones I understand or relate more to at this point in my life are still Han, Leia, Chewie and Luke.

I'm incredibly impressed with the talent of John Boyega and Daisy Ridley and love the characters created by the actors and behind-the-lens crew.  These are fun characters to follow, not an obligation because that's who the camera is pointed at in a movie called "Star Wars".

Certainly, one can imagine Lawrence Kasdan and his contemporaries involved know a bit more about kids, failed marriages, etc...  now than they did 30 years ago.  And, at its heart, Star Wars is a family melodrama about a very messed up clan.  So there's quite a bit for the old favorites.

But I watch Finn and Rey discovering the Millennium Falcon and even finding each other not with skepticism, but excitement at the passing of torches, of new characters I can enjoy, if not identify with (or, wish to be).  Alas, my heart doesn't go pitter-patter for a girl young enough to be my daughter, but still for Princess Leia stepping off that Resistance command ship.  But, man, watching Finn has all the hallmarks of how I saw myself faking it as a younger me.  "We'll use the force!"

And, yes, I still take a little kid's delight in all the spaceship battles, whether its the amazing "graveyard" sequence with the Falcon on Jakku or a squadron of X-Wings coming in low over a lake on Takodana or storming Starkiller Base, and watch lightsaber battle with popped eyes, especially among rookies taking up the only fight that matters.

Here's to Star Wars being back and something I care about all over again.

Friday, April 15, 2016

John Williams Appreciation Post: Star Wars - The Force Theme



One of the curious things about watching all 16 hours of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle of operas was realizing (a) Williams may have had some idea how he could pull this thing off by looking at an old pro dealing with a multi-generational story, magical themes and heroic quests and (b) how themes and motifs can really work to convey story in ways both overt and subliminally.  In short - the music tells the story.

That's not a knock on Williams.  Too few composers have applied this hard won knowledge effectively in the world of film.  In fact, I think we should be quite satisfied with applying the term "Space Opera" when it comes to Star Wars.

"The Force Theme" is not the fanfare of the titles or the finale awards ceremony.  "The Force Theme", to me, rings with a certain melancholy, maybe that same look that's all over Luke's face there at the end of The Force Awakens.  There's greatness there, but it comes with a sense of tragedy, perhaps derived from the weight of responsibility and the gift's inherent "otherness" that will set you apart now.  There's a swelling undercurrent in the music, a ring of promise that comes after the opening bars, but it's muted, expressing something beyond joy or anger or sorrow.

It's a hell of a piece, and it's the tear jerker of the Star Wars music for nostalgic reasons, sure, but there's something there that hits you dead center as it pushes the story along.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Star Wars and Mythology via Marketing



A curious thing has happened in the past month of the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Most of my facebook friends are in my age range, and they've got kids in a wide range of ages.  Not all, but many of them, made sure they and their family partook in a screening of Star Wars.  That's a normal thing.  (A) If I have learned one thing, it's that parents mostly take kids to the movies for the possibility of silence and peace in their lives for 20- 90 minute stretches, otherwise unknown while the kids are awake, and (B) people take their kids to see Star Wars, in particular.

But I saw the families dressed up in Jedi garb, the post-Christmas-Day pics of kids in Kylo Ren masks waving $10-40 plastic lightsabers, and the joy in the posts as people proudly showed off how they'd passed down Star Wars - something I've seen even with the weaker Prequels, which I am always amazed to hear the kids like just fine.*

We are certainly in the age of multi-generational media.  Or, rather - we have re-entered an age of multi-generational storytelling.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is Candy for Morons



No.  It isn't.

But it is the biggest movie ever, and people seem to like it.  So, if I'm looking for clicks to my website, it's likely I'll write some post with a deeply inflammatory headline to (a) make people who agree with me have something I can link to when I'm internet squabbling with my pals or (b) get folks who did like the movie mad and argue with article in their head.

If I'm mad at the movie, hey, here's the thing that will calm me temporarily until I see some stupid eight year old who's so dumb, he thinks he liked the thing.  If I liked the movies I must read the article to see how I can frame an argument in my head why the author is a stupid jerk who doesn't like good things.

Here's the thing - maybe the movie wasn't the thing that is going to fill that empty space in your soul, maybe it's not quite the cataclysmically cathartic experience your nerdy little life needed, but - no matter.  Just be aware, (a) this is not a culture war worth fighting, (b) yeah, the internet is where you change people's minds, and (c) someone is making money off your clicks.

Not me.  I mean, I literally am not making any money with this site.  But someone at Google is likely making $0.0001 every time you click here, I guess.  Somehow.

In short, stop clicking on those articles.  You'll sleep better.

But when it comes to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I think we can all agree, it was no Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars Watch: Episode VII Re-Watch



These were the tickets I'd bought a while back when I found out I was responsible for getting my family out to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).  In case you missed it in my prior Star Wars posts about Growing Up Star Wars back in the 70's and 80's, Star Wars was for me (and a lot of us) a family affair.  So, I couldn't be too surprised when my mom and brother (everyone lives in Austin.  Don't knock it til' you haven't had to travel on a holiday in five years.) separately suggested we get together to see the movie.  In the end, once we added on JuanD, there were eight of us, total, out to see the movie.  Jamie, her dad, my dad, my mom, Jason, Amy, Juan (Solo), and myself.

I now have the official Alamo Drafthouse collector's glass and magazine and all that.

Oh, yeah, spoilers below the "read more" break.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Star Wars Watch: Return of the Jedi (1983)



Ah, Return of the Jedi (1983).  The much-debated finale to the original trilogy, where people get mad that the Empire is defeated by a band of teddy bears.

Look, it doesn't bother me.  In fact, I like it.  The Emperor has "foreseen" how all will unfold.  He's moved the pieces into place so that the Alliance will finally be crushed, caught in a Battle of the Bulge scenario as the Rebel Fleet is trapped between the fully-operational Death Star and some portion of the Imperial Fleet.  But ol' Darth Sidious here did not account for the forest weirdos he considered so lowly they couldn't play a part in his schemes.  And, not only do they show the Rebels a backdoor to the Imperial Base/ Generator - they take out local security in guerrilla warfare.  So they were kinda cute mammal things.  So what?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Star Wars Watch: Star Wars Episode V -The Empire Strikes Back (1980)



This is the holy mother of Star Wars movies, and it's always a funny one to watch, because I don't disagree, but it's a movie that doesn't make a lot of sense.  The Empire Strikes Back (1980) should be the measuring stick you're using when you start coming at me with plot holes in the new movie, because if you found a few there, this one is like the remains of a tattered sheet hanging on a laundry line after ten years in an Oklahoma back yard.

But I still love it.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Star Wars Watch: The Force Awakens (2015)



Due to the surge and servers blowing up, etc...  when the pre-sale began, I didn't buy tickets for opening weekend of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).  I was also deeply skeptical of another stab at the movies by a director for whom I have no particular affinity, and who has been involved with some things I thought were downright bad.  In October I wrote a bit about trying to remain optimistic, but cautiously so.  After all, I'd already had not one but three bad experiences with Star Wars, and this would mean the end of my interest in the franchise.

My original plan was to just wait for the reviews to roll in and then pull the trigger on buying tickets or (shudder) not buying them and waiting for the movie to eventually cross my path, but I was talked into buying tickets for my family.  And, good luck finding a day or time before Christmas to get that whole crew in one place.  So, we were headed to see the movie on December 27th.

Then the reviews came out, and they averaged toward very, very good  Not that I read any (I still haven't), but a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score is usually a good indicator of something.  Then word of mouth from trusted sources came back, all spoiler-free, and I was a bit sad I wouldn't see the movie for many days yet.  Then my former boss, who has a 7 year-old son who thinks he's Anakin Skywalker, started texting me, assuming I'd seen the movie, and I realized:  I am going to get this movie ruined for me by accident.  If not the internet (which has done a remarkable job of keeping it's mouth shut.  Which... when has that ever happened?), then someone at the comic shop or at work on Monday was going to blow it.

So, I bought two tickets for 8:00 AM today, the only two remaining seats, I think.  And after getting up at 6:30 AM and arriving at the theater at 7:30, we sat in our front row seats and waited for the scroll.

I am happy to say, I actually very much enjoyed The Force Awakens.

Before continuing - I am well aware of the Spoilers problem around this movie, so if you want to remain Spoiler-Free, best to just say "okay, Ryan was cool with it" and move on.  Because we're just going to talk about the movie after this.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Star Wars Watch: Star Wars (or, as you kids call it, Episode IV: A New Hope)

where the hell are Leia's sleeves?


I believe I've already done a fair job already talking Star Wars Episode IV in context in recent posts, so I'll let you kids read that and come back, if the Force compels you or whatever.

Back in October I posted about how I was trying to remain calm and reasonable about the new Star Wars movie until reviews were in.  I wasn't even planning on buying tickets until after the first mass of reviews hit Rotten Tomatoes.  So, I wasn't supposed to be seeing the movie until the 27th.  I know, crazy, right?

Well, I also realized - Disney is not really all that hyped about not making money, so my belief that Episodes IV-VI would be readily available on cable this week was just fundamentally stupid.  And, to give you guys how much of an idea of how much I've been not paying attention to Star Wars, I didn't own a copy in any format.  But, a quick perusal of Amazon fixed that, and my BluRay copies of the Special Edition discs showed up (don't worry, they were pretty cheap, actually).

But it may have been 10 years since I last watched Star Wars, which is mind-boggling when I realize I've seen Three Amigos twice in the past two years.

Tonight we threw Episode IV in the ol' BluRay and gave it a whirl.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Growing Up With Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (and Beyond)

This is the 3rd and last in a series about being a kid in the 70's and 80's and being a part of the generation that was exposed to Star Wars first hand.  All recollections are subjective and are not intended to represent those of the other billion kids who were also around.  For Part 1 about Star Wars click here, for Part 2 about Empire, click here.



My memories about Return of the Jedi come with a lot of "firsts" attached.

It is the first movie I remember anticipating.  The Empire Strikes Back has ended on a cliffhanger, and so it only made sense that from the second we saw the Skywalkers staring off into space and the credits rolled, I was signed up for the third installment.  As I discussed in talking Empire, we moved into speculation.

What you kids have to remember is (a) there was no internet and (b) the sector of the population that obsessed over what movies were coming and when was much smaller back then.  My first inkling that the movie was actually, like, really, really coming was a slide that appeared before some other movie my mom took us to.  I don't think it said Revenge of the Jedi, I just processed that - yes, we were finally getting a 3rd movie.  But the slide was really bland - just a title and a picture of a greenish planet, if memory serves.

After that, I do believe images began to trickle out in magazines and on television.

It was also the first movie I spoiled for myself.

It appears The Force is strong with Star Wars VII



The reviews are in.  I'm in a bit of shock.  But could not be happier.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Growing Up With Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)



At five years old, I'm not sure I really understood the concepts of cliffhangers or ennui, so this was more or less my intro to those ideas.  I've read elsewhere about people my age who freaked out about how bleak they found The Empire Strikes Back (1980), or got wigged out that it didn't have a tight ending where the heroes saved the day.  And while I get that, I wouldn't say that was my take away.

Prior to the screening, I only vaguely recall being aware that there was a new Star Wars movie coming out because my mom ordered a Boba Fett toy through the mail (yeah, we were one of those families).   But one morning The Admiral grabbed my brother and I, tossed us in the car and drove us to a gigantic theater somewhere in Dallas (I've had Dallas-dwellers identify the theater for me a dozen times based on the description, but I can never remember the name), and we watched The Empire Strikes Back with hundreds of other people.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Growing Up with Star Wars - Let's Talk Episode IV (we just called it "Star Wars", dagnabbit!)



I was born in 1975.  In 1977, my folks dumped off my brother and myself for the evening and went with some friends to see Star Wars.  Legend has it that of the four in the party, only my dad liked the movie.  The Admiral apparently totally fan-boyed (he would have been about 31, then, I guess), told everyone they didn't know what they were talking about, and was proven very, very right by money and history.

As for myself, I tell people that the The Admiral took me to see Star Wars in the theater during its initial run and am surprised how often I'm met with looks of suspicion or people trying to correct me.  "You were 2 years old?" they say.  "I don't think so.  You must have seen the 1980 re-release."  Well, thanks to some iffy judgment calls and my dad's desire to see that movie again in an era before home video, I did, in fact, see Star Wars in the theater during that first run.

My primary memory of that Star Wars screening is getting totally wigged out by the Tusken Raiders.  So, anyone who wants to feel vindicated that Star Wars is too much for kids that age, maybe, maybe not.  Because I also remember the feeling of absolute amazement that exploded all over my life from that moment to today, in its own way.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Curbing My Enthusiasm: Approaching "Star Wars - The Force Awakens" with caution

I may not have been the most excited kid on my block for the Star Wars prequels in 1999, but I was pretty darn pumped.  I like to think I had some serious Star Wars nerd-credentials back when that meant something, back in an era when the internet was not around to provide you with an endless amount of trivia via a super computer in your hand.  I could name most of the characters, vehicles, planets, had the posters, the toys, etc...  Grew up with the bedsheets, the wallpaper, all that.  Typical American 80's kid.  No, I didn't have a tattoo or anything, and I certainly didn't quit my job to go sit in line for weeks until the tickets went on sale.  In short, I was a pretty big fan, but I hadn't made it a lifestyle.

Mid-tier nerd.  I know there are people out there who actually run around training to becomes Jedis.  Folks gotta do, I suppose.



Prior to the movie, I went out and bought the toys when they arrived at Toys R' Us, and before that I'd been buying the re-issued toys.  I remember having to explain to my pre-Jamie girlfriend that, yes, I WAS going to buy an X-Wing fighter, right in front of her.

I was never much of an expanded universe guy.  I guess I knew from a young age that anything not in the movies-proper didn't "count", and that the books at B. Dalton and Waldenbooks were a cash grab as much as the Marvel comics with the green rabbit character, but nothing the movies wouldn't run over in a second as it seemed laughable that George Lucas read any of that material.  

When Episode I came out, Jamie and I stood in line - she, fresh out of the hospital, and wearing my Darth Vader helmet (it wasn't a size 7 7/8ths helmet, so it never fit me) and carrying my Vader light saber (I carried my green Luke light saber).  

We were in one of three or four midnight showing screens at the Gateway theater in North Austin, and there was a huge party atmosphere.  Light saber duels on the stairs and people cheering hard against the late hour.

The credits came up, we cheered.  I remember thinking "oh, this isn't entirely what I expected", and just let it wash over me.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Batman vs. Superman"and "Star Wars VII" - avoiding the open-ended questions

I've already gotten one or two "hey, whaddayathink about the new Batman/ Superman trailer?" messages from people who know me, know I like me some Superman and Batman, and who know I was not a fan of the last Superman adventure by the same creative team.  And, likewise regarding Star Wars, which I've not been all that into for the last decade, I guess.

So, with the HD trailer now released for Batman and Superman are Going to Punch Each Other in the Rain and the certainty even my dad will now have seen the trailer - rather than answer the same open ended question in short bursts of tweets or Google Hangouts or whatever, here we go:


Ah, man.  We know you're doing your best, buddy.


The DCU that WB is working on for the movies does not jive well with the overall DCU I've liked for 30-odd years of my life (or 37 if you want to want to count when I got into Superman: The Movie and Super Friends - or, heck, before that if you're partial to Adam West, and I am).

There are pretty obvious lessons the WB execs believe they learned from the success of the Dark Knight trilogy and failure of Green Lantern and Superman Returns (although any kind of thoughtful evaluation that didn't require execs saving face just wasn't going to happen on the WB lot).   And in that lesson-learning, much like DC Comics believed with the New 52, everything had to be Batman.  And not just Batman, but the same Batman that shows up in Arkham Asylum video games.

Anyway, I tend to think that the point of Superman and Batman running up against each other is not just a question of the the tone of the characters coming into conflict - it's also the world and worldview colliding and reflecting off one another.  And this isn't that.  This is someone mistaking grim'n'gritty as an ends unto itself.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Single Question Posed is Answered - Star Wars or Star Trek?

Gerry asks:

Not sure if you've ever come out on either side of this, but the public demands an answer: Star Wars or Star Trek?
The short answer is:  Planet of the Apes.

pew pew pew!

The real answer is - I grew up loving both, and never understood why I had to pick one over the other.  To me, that was sort of like picking Dragonslayer over The Secret of NIMH.  I kind of felt they were two different animals (one is fantasy, one is space adventure) and I could enjoy both, but I do get that it's like the need to pick either DC or Marvel and then go online and defend your stance from a religious perspective.  It's the internet.  You want to feel that there's logic to your gut feeling.

In my youth, Star Wars certainly got a lot of extra weight as it was the franchise that was being merchandised like crazy.  I never had any official Star Trek stuff until college, I think, when Jamie's Dad got me a Next Generation badge for Christmas (I was touched).

But let's not take any short cuts.  Let's take a really, really long look at this, shall we?