Monday, January 2, 2017
My last movie of the year I knew about well ahead of time. Way back in September or so, SimonUK and I made a pledge to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) together, and by November realized that it wasn't going to be us hand-in-hand on opening night as SimonUK actually works at the Alamo Drafthouse, and would be taking orders and whatnot during the first week, more or less non-stop. So, we made a date for New Year's Eve Day.
I knew I'd see this movie again in the theater unless it dropped to Episode I depths (the only Star Wars I've only seen through once is Revenge of the Sith).
I've already written this movie up, so I'll keep my comments to what I noticed on the second screening.
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Before the year (and my break) ended, I wanted to watch a couple of films as we say good-bye to a pair of women we're all going to miss.
No write up. It was actually great seeing them both in their pivotal roles again. We'll have these films forever, even if we've lost the women who made them.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
We are devastated to say that actor and author Carrie Fisher has passed.
I can't say I knew much about Fisher as a person - same things as everyone else. The Hollywood pedigree, the issues with substance abuse, the biting wit, her dog, Gary.
It had been a very, very long time since I'd re-watched Star Wars, which I did when The Force Awakens was released, and it's amazing to see how darn good she was in that first movie, fluctuating accent and all. I love all the main characters of Star Wars, no doubt, but if my personal collection of Star Wars stuff is any indication, and as longtime readers will probably have figured out, I'm a fan of Princess Leia first and foremost.
And, of course, her life seemed to be on such an upswing of late. She would make Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX, she had a book out that seemed to be moving a lot of copies, and from what I could see on social media, there was a generation of young women who were calling her "Space Mom", properly idolizing the character she'd imbued with tremendous strength, and building her social media army as she embraced them back.
She's leaving behind her daughter, Billie Lourd, a talented actress from what I hear. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, famed actress of the 20th Century. Gary, too, of course. And all of us, a planet of people who wished her the best not just as Princess Leia, but as Carrie Fisher, too.
I'm shocked she went so young and so suddenly, and I'm genuinely very sad. You'd think this year would have toughened me up a bit. I'm going to miss her on the talk show circuits, freaking out the robo-hosts when she goes on a tangent or drops some truth that makes them uncomfortable, or curls up on one of their over-stuffed couches, her shoes on the floor. I liked this era of Carrie Fisher and General Leia.
She'll always be royalty to me.
Friday, December 23, 2016
Like all of you, I saw the news about Carrie Fisher earlier today, and, yes, I also am heartbroken to hear she's ill.
I hope the love we *all* have for Ms. Fisher reaches her, can help her and speeds her recovery. It can't hurt to have everyone on the face of the Earth pulling for you.
Here's to the lady who carries hope with her.
Monday, December 19, 2016
When those of us who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy thought of what might happen in the long-awaited prequels, I strongly suspect most of us expected something a bit more like Rogue One (2016). We'd only received glimpses of the pre-Luke Skywalker past, embedded in the story we'd heard about the Clone Wars, an Anakin Skywalker who was supposed to be some sort of edgy fighter pilot who becomes a Jedi... I was expecting three movies that took place against the backdrop of The Clone Wars, which always sounded pretty rough, at least in my head.
I'd also observe - Much as the superhero comics we read grew up with us, I think maybe I was expecting a Star Wars that acknowledged the conflict from which Episode IV sprang and maybe cut a little deeper - maybe had a bit of a rough and tumble edge that Ewok-laden finales may have foregone.
So, I think it's true that the content and execution of the three Prequel films surprised a lot of us.
Rogue One, the second of these films directed by the generation that grew up on them, expands upon what we know, creating far less continuity difficulty than Lucas introduced in the Prequels, brings back familiar sights and sounds, while filling in gaps and giving us all new adventures and characters. In this, I think you can say it succeeds with a solid A-, B+ (I spotted an issue or two, and my pal Matt brought one up I thought actually a pretty salient point).
That's not to say Rogue One hits all the right notes or was exactly what I was expecting (it wasn't). It's interesting to see Disney seeking to expand upon the seemingly vast universe Star Wars always promised, but which we could only visit in 150 minute increments. Here, they risk tonal differences, deliver only bits of familiar characters and try something a little uncomfortable, and, for the most part, they succeed.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
For no particular reason, we watched Return of the Jedi this evening.
It seems dumb to write up a Star Wars movie, so I won't. We were going to watch A New Hope, but decided to wait til after Rogue One.
But, man, Luke is the world's biggest back-seat driver.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
The Guardian is reporting that actor Kenny Baker has merged with The Infinite.
From a very young age, I was aware that there was a guy sitting in R2-D2 and driving him around, and like most everyone else, I suddenly got why the trashcan had so much personality. There was an actual person putting actual thought into what was going on with that bucket of bolts.
Baker appeared in a lot of genre film, and seemed to be game for re-appearing as R2 in both film and in TV specials.
By the time The Phantom Menace rolled around, the technology was there to let Baker drive R2 around via remote control, and that continuity between the movies and R2's was a highlight of the prequels for me. I mean, who doesn't like R2-D2?
We'll miss you, Mr. Baker. You gave all of us a robot buddy.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Thursday, July 21, 2016
I forgot to post the new footage shared at the Star Wars Celebration. I've only really talked to JuanD about the footage so far.
But it's safe to say my enthusiasm remains for this offshoot first film.
While it's becoming an increasingly remote possibility that this movie is all X-Wing action, and, in fact, seems to have no X-Wing action, everything else about this makes me happy as a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, the new trilogy and film-making.
The decision Kathleen Kennedy seems to have made to make these movies on real locations and with constructed sets rather than against green screens has given the actors the tools to imagine their scenarios and give the universe the lived in, semi-plausible concrete world of living beings that was always part of the Star Wars aesthetic. While the culture is a mish-mash from planet to planet, seeing trees and buildings actually constructed - seeing Storm Troopers on a beach - it's all part of the scope and scale of war and war films.
While we use the words "star" and "wars" together, we sort of more think of this as a cosmic family drama/ buddy adevnture, but by pulling out and following this band of literal rebels, we're going to get another peek at the greater Star Wars Universe in filmic form, and see this as a war film. To me, that's exciting as hell.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
Last Star Wars Day, I kind of shrugged. 16 years or so of ambivalence regarding Star Wars had drained me of any enthusiasm for the movies. At most, I think, I mustered a picture of Princess Leia.
On Monday, I hung a print of the above X-Wing image in my office at work. That's how I roll.
But, hey, The Force Awakens brought me back in to the Star Wars fold, something I, frankly, thought impossible. I figured that even if I liked it, it'd still feel like something of an echo of something else I used to like. But, instead, I'm as excited about Star Wars now as I was in college.
So, here's to a Star Wars day I can feel is mine, too! And to celebrate, here's some artwork promoting the movie! And, heck, here's to Rogue One, coming soon!
Thursday, April 28, 2016
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. But I figured when Disney picked up the franchise, he'd be retired. Little did I know.
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
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
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.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
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
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
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
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
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
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.