Tag Archives: Star Wars

Super Recaps: The Mandalorian – Chapter 2

THEMANDALORIAN0

The Mandalorian is owned by Disney

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

We’re back with another episode of Star Wars After Dark; which admittedly is still pretty family friendly considering its being made on Disney’s dime.  That said, the first episode did establish a tone for itself as a less goofy and more grounded interpretation of this universe and was quite good on top of that!  Was that episode a one off fluke, or does Disney really have something here that’s worth paying attention to?  Let’s find out!!

.

The episode begins with THE MANDALORIAN… okay, I’m not gonna keep calling him that, so until they give him a real name let’s try out a different one each episode.  Let’s go with… Jim for this one!  So Jim (Pedro Pascal) is taking the Yoda Baby with him after “rescuing” it from the “bad guys” last time (it’s still unclear whether they were good guys or not) and it’s unclear what Jim plans to do with it once he gets off world.  Will he take it back to the DEFINITE BAD GUY Werner Herzog, or find a Space Orphanage to drop it off at?   These are questions that will have to be tabled for the moment as Jim gets attacked by a bunch of… I guess they’re Tusken Raiders, who try to smash his head in with sticks.  Jim manages to fight them off however in a really well choreographed action scene, and after the dust has settled he notices that one of his attackers had a tracking device on him.  The same one that Werner Herzog gave to him to find the Yoda Baby.  So yeah, if being played by WERNER HERZOG wasn’t enough of a clue, this pretty much cements it that Jim is working for the wrong team.  They didn’t even give him a chance to find the baby before handing the job off to someone else, and I guess that begs the question of just how many more people are after this little green brat?  Speaking of whom, the little bugger is actually a pretty impressive effect.  They LOOK like a really good puppet with CG modifications, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re just a REALLY good CG effect.  While it can’t talk or seem to communicate with Jim, it seems to be much more aware than a typical baby would be (considering he’s fifty years old, he BETTER have picked up on a few things) but Jim has no time for such things as he ignores it like any good surrogate father figure does in the first two acts of a story!

Eventually the duo make it back to Jim’s ship which would normally be good news, but as it turns out a Jawa sandcrawler has happened upon it and the little jerks are currently stripping it for parts which Jim doesn’t take too kindly and starts shooting at them.  They scurry off at the first sign of danger and try to bail in their sandcrawler with whatever parts they have, but Jim doesn’t take too kindly to that either and tries to chase it down.  The show is still knocking it out of the park with the action as this scene where Jim chases the sandcrawler is really well made and does a much better job of blending grit and comedy than we got in the last one.  Jim eventually jumps on the side and starts climbing with grim determination and ruthless skill while the Jawa’s are scrambling to knock this guy off of their truck; throwing trash and hurling insults like space soccer hooligans.  He somehow manages to crawl his way up to the top of the sandcrawler and is ready to bust some heads, but he didn’t stop to think that MAYBE a bunch of them would be waiting up there for him and sure enough he gets blasted with enough stun weapons to fall over the side like a sack of space potatoes.  Well that didn’t go too well all things considered!  With the Jawas now far off in the distance with a bunch of the ship’s parts, Jim has no choice but to go back to the guy who helped him out in the last episode (Nick Nolte) and beg him to find them a way off planet.  His solution is pretty simple which is to go back to the Jawas and ASK them for the parts back which is a plan Jim doesn’t seem to fond of, but sure enough it actually seems to do the trick as they agree to return what they took as long as they do something for them.  There’s a creature in a cave not too far from here that has an egg the Jawas want.  If Jim can get the egg, he can have his parts back.  Not too shabby a deal considering how many of them he’s already killed, but hey!  Why let a wee bit of murder get in the way of perfectly good transaction!?

So Jim goes off to get this egg and for some reason brings the Yoda Baby along which doesn’t seem like the BEST of ideas.  I mean sure, he wouldn’t want to leave them with the Jawas who already stole everything else he had, but he couldn’t trust that baby with adorable alien dude Nick Nolte?  Oh well, it can’t be THAT dangerous right?  I mean everything else on this planet has been pretty small, so how big could this creature be?  Turns out; quite big!  Imagine a rhinoceros the size of a Wampa and you get the idea, and for Jim this is less than ideal situation as the creature bashes him all over the place; knocking his weapons away, pretty much destroying his armor, and presumably with far fewer bones intact than when he went there in the first place.  Then something MAGICAL happens!  Seemingly by some sort of… shall we say… FORCE, the monster starts rising several inches off the ground and hangs there mid charge.  Surprising Jim and literally no one else, it turns out Yoda Baby can use the force and just barely saved Jim’s life as well as keeping the animal still long enough for Jim to jab a knife in its neck in a particularly grim moment in the series.  Jim grabs the egg, brings it back to Nick Nolte and the Jawas, and he finally gets the parts he needs to put his ship back together.  Well… for NICK NOLTE to put his ship back together at least.  Seriously, I understand being neighborly and all that, but considering he pretty much rebuilt this ship from the ground up for absolutely no fee, I’m starting to think that Nick Nolte is less the Ned Flanders of this planet and is actually hiding something here and which is why he wants Jim to go away as fast as possible.  And so ends the second episode of THE MANDALORIAN as Jim and the Baby say their goodbyes to Nick Nolte and ride off into the stratosphere with uncertain futures and probably more than a few targets on their back.

.

What really came together for me while watching this episode is that it seems to be taking inspiration not just from the other films and some of the lore, but from Genndy Tartakovsky’s more serious works like Samurai Jack and even that Clone Wars show he did.  This episode is light on plot and dialogue but excels at setting its scene, establishing clear and straightforward goals for its characters, and showing off some flashy action on top of it.  I’m not sure if every episode will be this way now that we’re presumably going back to the more talkative and character based world of bounty hunters, but it was a real treat to watch this episode unfold and I’m glad they’re willing to just let some of the story speak for itself instead of filling it with redundant dialogue or pointless subplots.  Sometimes all you need is a guy in a helmet, a desert planet, and a force sensitive baby of unknown origin who can lift monsters with their mind!  Keep it simple!

Super Recaps: The Mandalorian – Chapter 1

THEMANDALORIAN0

The Mandalorian is owned by Disney

Directed by Dave Filoni

Since Disney+ is the new hotness and so are the shows that Disney will be producing for it, I figured I’d check out the Star Wars show (which is set about five years after Return of the Jedi) and let you know if it’s worth your time and attention!  It’s being made by Jon Faverau which is a good sign as even the movies I’m not too fond of like The Jungle Book and The Lion King are still notable for their technical achievements, and the amount of money Disney is putting into this show is absolutely ludicrous which means at least the visual side of things will be interesting to see unfold.  Heck, if nothing else a production of THIS scale, if it’s destined to fail, can only fail in the most SPECTACULAR of ways, and I want a front row seat if it’s going to be one big hot mess!  Does Disney’s latest venture into the Star Wars universe provide an intriguing introduction into a part of the universe we’ve yet to see on screen, or is this an underwhelming attempt to further cash in on their very expensive license?  Let’s find out!!

.

I knew nothing about this series going into it, and by the end of the first episode it was kind of exactly what I never knew I wanted out of a Star Wars series.  It’s almost childish in just how much it appeals to the basest of my tastes, and yet it never sinks into being crude or garish with it.  It’s a fan film made by professionals; not wanting to subvert the source material to their own ends but to give us a glimpse at something we haven’t seen in this world before.

If there’s anything it reminds of specifically it’s Solo which has a similar stylistic bent to it as both of these draw from cowboy stories, old fashioned machismo, and plenty of gun play to satisfy your action cravings.  Where this one differs though is that where Solo was about charm and wit, this is much more about stoicism and grit which is a valid approach to take as long as its handled well, and I think they do a fine job of it here.  The opening scene of the episode where THE MANDALORIAN (Pedro Pascal) silently walks into a bar, immediately gets the heat from local tough guys, and then cleans house with barely any effort, is taken whole cloth from any number of cheesy B-movies or old school action anime, but seeing it in the Star Wars universe and done with a decent enough budget is definitely novel if nothing else.  So why is it that THE MANDALORIAN is in this bar in the middle of nowhere in the first place?  Well the tough guys were hassling this blue guy (Horatio Sanz) and after THE MANDALORIAN tears them to pieces, we find out that said blue guy is actually his target.  He drags him back to wherever it is bounty hunters take their captives.  This return trip includes a cameo from none other than Brian Posehn who drives them from the bar to their ship, and during this scene we learn that THE MANDALORIAN has a problem with droids that we’ll no doubt get further into in later episodes.

Continue reading

Cinema Dispatch: Solo: A Star Wars Story

SOLOCD0

Solo: A Star Wars Story and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Ron Howard

Well I guess we were destined to get one of these sooner than later, and all I can say is… I’m glad we at least aren’t starting with Boba Fett.  I mean it looks like we’re getting one of those no matter what, but out of all the characters to get a prequel… Han isn’t dead last?  Eh… look.  Han Solo is FINE, but what exactly do we need to know about him that isn’t made readily apparent the first time we see him Mos Eisley Cantina?  Then again, him being a smuggler almost makes him a perfect candidate for a decent action film as smugglers tend to get in more gun fights than say… a farm boy on Tatooine, but is that enough to sustain a Star Wars movie?  Probably, at least for me, but let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Han (Alden Ehrenreich), who will soon be taking the surname Solo, on the planet Corellia hustling for his meals and dodging fellow street rats to keep himself alive.  The only thing that keeps him going are his dreams of owning his own ship as well as his one true love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) who is similarly stuck running con games in the back alleys of this crap hole planet, but fortune soon finds its way to them as Han finds something JUST valuable enough to get them both a one way ticket off this planet and to a new life!  The good news is he manages to escape, but the bad news is that Qi’ra gets caught JUST at the last second which means that Han has to get a jump start on that whole “getting a ship and making boat loads of cash” thing so that he can come back for Qi’ra and they can live happily ever after!  Hm… but what’s the best way to GET a spaceship in an Empire controlled section of the galaxy?  Oh hey!  Aren’t they CONSTANTLY recruiting new red shirts to take bullets and fail to hit their targets!  Sounds like a good way to at least take the first step to earning a livable wage and get the training he needs to survive on his own!  From there things get complicated as Han is not what you’d call a MODEL solider, and ends up with a band of smugglers (Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, and Jon Favreau) as well as a new Wookie friend of his named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotama).  Funny story how they met, but I won’t spoil it here!  So now that he has a crew to run with (after deserting the Empire) and a way to FINALLY make all that sweet cash he needs, he can set his sights on going back to save Qi’ra from whatever fate has befallen her in the years that he’s been gone, right?  Well not exactly as things are ALWAYS more complicated than they seem, which includes a SUPER gangster named Dryden (Paul Bettany) who has a bone to pick with this little band of misfits, the ultimate fate of Qi’ra which is VERY different from what Han had imagined, and even a slick hot shot named Lando (Donald Glover) who’s always one step ahead and laughing about it the whole time!  Can Han survive in this world of backstabbers, sharpshooters, and expert gamblers long enough to get his own ship and start a life with the woman he loves?  Just what did the smugglers do to Dryden, and what chances do they have of ACTUALLY making it right again?  How the heck do you even play holo-chess anyway!?

SOLOCD1

THE SECRETS OF STAR WARS YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW!!

Continue reading

Cinema Dispatch: Top 10 Best Movies of 2017

Hark!  Is it that time of year again!?  Yes, it is time for the film critics to have their yearly ritual of ranking the films we saw in order of how much (or how little) venom we can summon up for it, and while I would love NOTHING more than to get this crap-tastic year over with and race towards the future, we can at least afford one more look in the rear view mirror before leaving it all behind.  Also, it’s worth pointing out that I didn’t get a chance to see all the movies that came out this year like The Florida Project, and there were films that I couldn’t have seen even if I wanted to like The Post, Phantom Thread, and I, Tonya, due to them getting extremely limited releases in the last weeks of the year.  If the studios can’t be bothered to let me see the movie, then I can’t be bothered to wait several weeks to finish up this list.  This is a 2017 list, so I’m finishing it in 2017!

So without further ado, ON WITH THE LIST!!

.

Honorable Mentions: The Big Sick & Kidnap

BEST2017-11

The Big Sick Review; Kidnap Review

Sure!  Let’s start this off with a pairing so disparate that it’s likely to cause whiplash!  Then again, it’s a probably a good indication of what to expect from the rest of the list as I try to find room for a little bit of everything… and by everything I mean legitimately good movies that everyone likes and amazing B movies that only I seem to like.  The Big Sick was one of the better comedies of the year as I’m sure it’s been mentioned on several best of the year lists other than this one, and rightfully so!  It didn’t quite make my top ten due to a bit of shaky structuring (time is a bit elusive in it) and the fact that it’s hard to overlook how much of this story is coming from only one viewpoint within it (being written by Nanjiani and Gordon who DID end up working out, it feels a BIT antagonist towards his parents who are drawn more broadly than hers are in the telling of this story), but there’s genuine heart in the way that Nanjiani is trying to navigate such an awkward situation where the right thing to do is kind of murky and his feelings about it all are even more so.  It’s a situation, like many in life, that could have ended VERY badly for everyone involved but Nanjiani and Gordon’s script is smart enough to walk that line between genuinely trying to express one’s feelings for someone and having a character realize when that’s not enough and when they need to walk away.  It ended up working out for these two but only after Nanjiani left her to live her life and to make her own choices which is certainly a worthwhile lesson for many of us to learn and for Hollywood to pick up on considering how much the BIG ROMANTIC GESTURE is still a staple in so many so called romance films.  Kidnap on the other hand… look, I just really had a lot of fun in it, alright!?  I know it’s not going to be to EVERYONE’S taste (hence why it didn’t make the list) but it’s damn near perfect in being exactly what it wants to be.  Calling something a NON-STOP ACTION THRILLER is about the most hack bit of marketing imaginable, but in this case it’s quite literally true and the film’s greatest asset.  Halle Berry is chasing after the people who have kidnapped her son and she can’t stop moving.  She can’t lose focus, can’t lose momentum, otherwise she’ll lose everything; and she knows that.  Yes it’s over the top and barely makes any sense (there’s maybe three cops in the ENTIRE state) but the tension is there and if you’re willing to get behind its rather ludicrous concept you’ll surely stay engaged all the way to the bloody end of her bloody quest to save her son.  Yeah, it’s goofy and has a few less than stellar editing shortcuts (why do they keep reminding us how low on gas she is when she NEVER RUNS OUT OF GAS!?), but they did a lot with what they had to work with which is often the sign of a great film more so than a film with many more resources not taking full advantage of them.  Not a bad double feature if you ask me!

Continue reading

Cinema Dispatch: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

SWTLJCD0

Star Wars: The Last Jedi and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Rian Johnson

And we’re back for our yearly song and dance to the empire George Lucas created and Disney is rebuilding!  Not that Star Wars ever really went away (nor did its fans who were perfectly willing to still spend money on it), but the last few years have been just the shot in the arm the franchise needed in order to make it more than a nostalgia artifact that won’t go away into something that will resonate with audiences today and maintain its throne as KING OF THE BLOCKBUSTERS.  Now that we’re at the second installment of the new trilogy, will it be yet another example of Disney getting this formula right, or have we already started hurtling head long into the dark side… by which I mean the movie is not very good?  Let’s find out!!

The movie picks up not long after the events of the first film where The First Order is understandably peeved over the destruction of the Star Killer Base and are on a warpath to hunt down the remnants of The Rebellion; more or less whittling them down to a single flagship desperately trying to find a place to hole up until the heat dies down.  Unfortunately for them, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) along with his own flagship are right on their tails and are blasting away at the Rebel ship’s shields until they can get a shot in and blow the whole thing up; effectively killing the resistance and all the loveable characters onboard.  Said characters include Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) who’s having trouble ceding to the Rebel Leadership which is primarily General Leia and Admiral Holdo (Carrie Fisher and Laura Dern), Finn (John Boyega) who’s all fixed up after the fight against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the engineer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) who’s sister recently died in an attack and wants to help Finn in saving everyone who’s left on the flagship.  While Finn, Pie, and Rose are working out a way to save the ship while subverting the Rebel Leadership, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is off on Planet Nowhere with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) trying to coax the latter into going back to The Rebels and giving her Jedi lessons, while Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo)… well he’s keeping the Millennium Falcon warm in case either of them needs it.  Need it they might though considering how dire the situation is with The Rebels and Rey can’t exactly wait around for Luke to stop being a grumpy pants; especially with Kylo Ren growing more and more desperate to prove himself which only makes him that much more dangerous of a blunt tool for Snoke’s greater ambitions.  Will The Rebels find a way to survive this unceasing onslaught by The First Order?  Will Rey find her place in this conflict and become the Jedi Master that everyone can look up to in these trying times?  Will Luke teach her all those lessons he kinda sorta learned from Yoda and Obi-Wan!?

SWTLJCD1

“Do, or do not.  There is no try.”     “What do you mean there’s no try!?”     “Huh. You know, I never really understood that part either.”

Continue reading

Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)

SWTLJTT0

Star Wars: The last Jedi and all the images you see in this trailer talk are owned by Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Rian Johnson

Sure enough, Disney is going forward with their plan of turning the month of December into Star Wars month (Merry Lucas-mas!!) and they have just released the first teaser trailer for Episode VIII: The Last Jedi!  Now The Force Awakens topped my Best of 2015 list, and Rogue One ended up pretty high on my Best of 2016 list, so while the sense of HYPE isn’t really there this time (Disney knows what they’re doing and if this one doesn’t work we’ll have another one in 2018), I’m still rather interested to see where they go with the main story and hope they can build upon the success of The Force Awakens.  Anyway, let’s get started with the speculation!!

Now the first thing I noticed is that this trailer is cut EXACTLY the same as the teaser for The Force Awakens which is an interesting choice.  Both trailers are narrated by one of the characters in the movie, doesn’t connect to any of the scenes they actually show.  Both trailers start with a quite shot where one of the protagonists suddenly enters the frame with an accompanying musical sting.  Finally, both trailers are a collection sizzle shots to show off the graphics and incentivize speculation.  The only major difference in regards to the style of the two is the pacing.  While the teaser trailer for The Force Awakens had a strong sense of energy and movement, this one is much lower key and methodical with makes sense considering what the movie seems to be about.  At least partially, this movie is going to be about Rey’s training as a Jedi under Luke Skywalker which will require as much soul searching, meditation, and self-control as it will chopping dudes to bits with a glowing stick.

SWTLJTT1

“And then I’m gonna go WAAAA!  HIYAAAAA!  FFWWWOOOSHHHH!  And then everyone’s gonna go ‘YAAAAYYYYY!’ and then I’ll be all WOOHOOO!!!”

Continue reading

Cinema Dispatch: Top 10 Best Movies of 2016

So who else is ready for this year to be over?  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who felt that things got pretty rough over the last twelve months, but we’ll get to the Bad list soon enough.  For now, let’s try to focus on the things that were GOOD about 2016; namely the movies that you all should have gone out to see when they were still in theaters.  Unlike last year, I did manage to see quite a bit more movies which has led to a somewhat more well-rounded list, even if you can probably guess which genres got a lot of love from me this year.

Without further ado, LET’S START COUNTING!!

.

Honorable Mention: Skiptrace

bo2016-11

Now last year I needed an extra spot just to fit an indie film on my list as most of what my local theater got was just the mainstream fare and therefore those kinds of films completely dominated my Best Of list.  This time I actually went through the effort of seeing the smaller stuff, and while most of them still didn’t make it on my list, at least there’s SOME representation this time around to help fill things out.  Because of that, I figured I’d be less serious with my unofficial eleven spot and would choose a movie that wasn’t exactly GOOD but a hell of a lot of fun.  It was a tossup between Skiptrace and Huntsman: Winter’s War, but I’m gonna give it to the Jackie Chan flick just out of sheer nostalgia.  It’s a Renny Harlin action comedy starring Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville; basically making this the greatest thing imaginable for the ONE GUY out there that loves Jackie Chan buddy films but also thinks that Die Hard 2 is the best in the series and that Johnny Knoxville is an underrated actor.  So basically it was made for me and no one else (Die Hard 2 is criminally underrated).  Look, this movie is really sloppy, especially on the production side (why the hell is Jackie Chan subbed, dubbed, and ACTUALLY speaking English all in the same movie!?), but it’s got so many joyful and delightfully stupid moments like Johnny Knoxville being rolled down a hill in a garbage can or Jackie Chan getting in a fist fight while using a Russian Nesting Doll as a shield that it makes up for the cliché ridden script and lack of any real structure.  Even the stuff that’s straight up incompetent is hilarious like how the script puts these two on a train for no other reason than to jump off of it two minutes later, or how a woman gets shot three times and there’s ZERO blood to show for it.  It all adds to the goofy charm that makes it hard to stop watching even knowing just how bad the plot is that revolves around Jackie and Johnny needing to cross all of China looking for a damn cell phone charger.  In the end, none of that ends up mattering all that much when you’ve got Johnny Knoxville trying to dodge bowling balls or when we get to see drunk ass Jackie Chan singing Rolling in the Deep while hanging out in a Mongolian village.  If you’re looking for something incredibly silly and nonsensical with just enough sincerity and heart to avoid coming off as too cynically made just on Jackie’s star power, then you’ll definitely have a good time here.  Also, if you like watching Johnny Knoxville get the crap beat out of him because that happens constantly!

Continue reading