I kind of feel the same way about these new Marvel Star Wars films, as I do about J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek films. Whatever keeps the idea alive can’t be so bad, can it? And Rogue One wasn’t so bad. But on closer analysis, it was bittersweet in a way that could only be properly digested and identified by a 70’s era child of the Original Trilogy.
It’s like this: while those films were made from a place of strong storytelling that recalled many well told cinematic stories of the past, this new film was designed to be a fresh take on the Star Wars universe, supercharged by modern cinematic techniques. But because they ignored the original intent of the Original films, they wound up with a diesel engine, as opposed to a linear aerospike. And it’s for this reason, that I think I had very little of an emotional response to this story. Or its characters. And that’s sad, given how good the acting is among the principal cast. If anything the director did right it was work with the actors to build memorable characters. Even if all they did was stand there most of the time. I mean, at the very least, the director did a very fine job of directing these actors to give their lines the proper inflection. Something Lucas never even gave a passing thought about doing with the Prequels. But maybe this film, and its audience, would be better served by a plot that involved the Rebels rounding up a group of criminals, one by one, and somehow getting them all to cooperate with this mission. Would’a, could’a, should’a.
To me, this film really felt like a long, twisted, confusing journey to find some sort of a weaving plot that justifies the happenings within it. And the audience isn’t supposed to even be this aware of something like that while watching a movie on an initial viewing. If your story is constructed correctly, the audience is completely preoccupied with the movie’s storyline, in the vault of their own imaginations. But here, we don’t have a thrilling plot that unfolds, much less a mystery. Heave ho, the art of distraction; all which is required is the overlong, episodic tale of how to get from point A to point B. Fuck points C through Z, we don’t need those; we can feed ‘em 3D, hyperbolic videogame gobbledygook for the cerebral cortex, throughout the second half of the film, and they won’t know the difference. This makes Rogue One a hollow meal that makes you wish for a better restaurant, or better yet, home cooking. Unlike some movies where it seems like bits and pieces of junk-ideas and leftovers have been heaped into a single script and sloughed onto the audience’s plate, this movie seems more like a by-the-instructions, hard won recipe for nothing more than a lunch of the week special of very expensive and well-made pasta — covertly removed from the refrigerator, and microwaved to proper room temperature before serving to an unsuspecting patron, at the most expensive restaurant in town.
So it’s truly confusing how to feel about this movie. While I cannot say I didn’t enjoy the movie Star Wars: Rogue One, I can definitely say that too many things about it seem all but completely distanced in my imagination from the universe of the Original Trilogy. Much like the Prequels. And that breaks my heart, in light of how much they got right with Rogue One. Don’t misunderstand me, the film is a vast improvement over the Prequels. As was Abrams’ own film, The Force Awakens. However, while I have issues with Abrams’ film, I did feel it was connected to the essence of Star Wars. It felt connected. But with Rogue One ... there’s something missing. Maybe it’s a simple spark of creativity. Maybe it’s that the intended connection — the face of Princess Leia — is a dodgy effect at best; and the audience required better, in order to complete that illusion and generate the intended emotional response. (Perhaps it would have been better if clearly CGI Leia didn’t fully face the camera.) Or maybe it’s too gritty. Perhaps the filmmakers didn’t realize that a little grit goes a long way with this type of film. Or maybe the film’s simply not intended by the filmmakers to truly belong within that universe the Original Trilogy of films inhabit, in the first place. And that’s an issue with me. They make a shit-ton of money off of these things. And they likely always will. No matter what kind of films they make. And they know that. Which begs the question, do they even care about the longevity of these stories? Or are they only playing pretend on behalf of the public. Yes, in addition to wanting to separate you from your money, we also care about Star Wars. But do they?
Since the filmmakers, and I’m sure numerous Executives, could not figure out how the magic of Star Wars worked, they merely reinvented it. Makes sense, doesn’t it. They simply went back to the drawing board. Question is, is that a sufficient enough copout for not trying to genuinely achieve the grand illusion that audiences require?
I knew something was off with the opening titles. Which were designed to place the film on another track. An adjacent track to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. The film opened with simply a prologue. A dark and gritty scene that portrays the abduction of the female protagonist’s father when she was a child. A scene that any experienced screenwriter will tell you, is unnecessary. In fact without it, her story would have unfolded much better in bits and pieces of information as the film went on. And there would have been more of a mystery surrounding her, as well as her Father. The entire sequence is not only unnecessary, but it plays much too long. As does pretty much the entire first half of the movie. In circumspect, the entire set-up of the film is handled the way today’s movies (many of them not theatrically released) are routinely tasked by today’s filmmakers and their crews. Lots of ‘you really need to take this seriously’ bullshit cinematography, complete with the customary shaky cam, and unending exposition. It’s a general tone we’ve all come to accept, and a modus operandi now seen repeated in film after film, since Casino Royale introduced it in 2007. And to some extent the filmmakers miraculously manage to make this work. But once you get beyond that, there are issues with this film that could never have been resolved, due to the way the story is constructed. And it all points to a singular idea, intended for a single sequence in a larger story, being padded out to fill the entire runtime of this one movie. Almost as if they looked at the original script’s structure and decided, ‘well we could make FIVE movies out of this,’ and earmarked the other five parts of the story, for five more movies. And personally, I dread the recognition of familiar material in subsequent films. I’ve seen this before, and it genuinely gives me a headache. I was the one who thought it was too easy and obvious that Lucas reused the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Now we have a total of 4 films, count ‘em, FOUR, featuring the freakin’ Death Star. (I’m including the planet killer in The Force Awakens; which was essentially the same plot device.) And while this one film does have a good excuse for that, given the conceit of the story, it manages to make the Death Star far less interesting, this time around. How the hell do you make a planet killing moon-sized space station, blasé and disinteresting?
And here’s a few more little touches of insanity that fell upon my head while ingesting this film:
When Diego Luna’s character (the Clandestine Rebel Agent) killed a trusted informer in one of the very first scenes … I knew the movie was in trouble. Because that could only mean certain doom for any protagonist character in any kind of Star Wars film. This was something that nagged at me for the entire first half of the movie. And to be fair, it is possible that his character, being who he is, was ordered to kill that individual by his Rebel Commander. But A) that was not conveyed, and B) that makes the Rebellion no better than the Empire.
Did they expect that the film would only be seen by audiences in 3D, is that the reasoning behind the slightly dodgy Liea and Grand Moff Tarkin effects. I mean, I appreciate the effort, I really do, but come on, man. They can do better than that on TV Commercials. You expect me to believe …
It was nice to have the cameos from the original film. Certainly in light of this film’s place in the timeline. But am I the only one who noticed a few issues with that? Where the hell are the characters from the wonderful, animated Disney show Star Wars: Rebels? When the impromptu Rebel Council – or whatever they called that inept roundtable debate – made a decision to surrender to the evil empire, and the female protagonist decides to go it alone, and suddenly Diego Luna’s character approaches her with volunteers … would this not have been a perrrrrfect opportunity to introduce the Star Wars: Rebels characters into the live action arena? In my opinion, that would have elevated the film to a B+, as opposed to a C-. And by the way, why is Walrus Man’s head so much larger in this film that it was in the original Star Wars? Did he get bit by a giant Fucking mosquito shortly before the events of this film, or something?
The score was ho-hum. Michael Giacchino is clearly no John Williams. To be fair, Giacchino was not the original composer, of record. Pun intended. The original composer was replaced, and Giacchino had to do a rush job on this one. But he ain’t no J.W. ‘Nuff said.
Why did the Game of Thrones mentality of ‘everybody dies,’ have to influence this film? I mean even the Robot dies. That’s overkill. Another pun intended. And placed within context – it sends a not so nice message to children that a bunch of ragtag, dirty, homeless, rogue rebels went through hell and died acquiring the plans to the most destructive weapon in the galaxy, so that pretty little rich kid Princess Leia Organa didn’t get her white robes messy.
Too much contrivance. I loved the small Rebel ship crashing into a Star Destroyer, causing it to collide with another Star Destroyer, and have both fall and crash into a shield generating spaceship, thereby destroying all ships involved, and deactivating the shield. Really made me laugh. There’s just one problem. Well, two if you want to get anal about it. There’s not enough gravity that far up in orbit to cause those ships to fall downward. Duh. 2. It’s too much of a stretch to believe that the Rebels didn’t know that shield ship was going to be there, and work out a method of dealing with it, beforehand. Maybe this would have worked in a more playful film, but positioned as a plot contrivance within a story told with the gritty tone this one is told with, it just stands out like a sore thumb.
There is really no main character, functioning within this plot. They’re ALL supporting characters, and only one of them even has an arc. Am I honestly the only one who noticed this? I was very excited to see this film. The premise seemed to be withholding much in the way of imaginative storytelling. And some of the critics who saw early screenings touted that the film did in fact hold surprises. But this was merely the Wizard behind the curtain. This new kind of movie seems to be the norm these days. Please don’t look to close, just enjoy the pretty pictures. It wasn’t dumb, by any definition. But it was an expert example of how to skip over the hard parts of telling a story.
They still haven’t fixed the issue of how easy it is to kill a storm trooper, even though they are supposedly wearing armor.
In summary, I did enjoy the film, Star Wars: Rogue One. Just not as a Star Wars film. I had trouble accepting that. And in the end, there were a few little things I did like. And Diego Luna’s character arc was one of them. At the beginning of the film, he kills indiscriminately. Possibly because he’s been ordered to. After all, he is a clandestine operative. But when faced with a moral dilemma, he chooses not to kill; which rings true with the morality that Star Wars was originally designed to impart to children. And while that doesn’t correct the problem of his character’s initial introduction, it does give his character a proper arc; whilst none of the other characters even have an arc. The female protagonist walks through the film and dies a martyr, whose name is only spoken of in hushed whisper, off camera for the remainder of the serial. The Blind Guy (really the best character) who really believes he’s one with the force, walks through gunfire, flips a switch then dies walking back — guess an actual Jedi would’ve seen that coming. The stoic rifle toting broad shouldered long haired guy … charges the enemy, gets shot, has a grenade roll his way, then just stares at it go off and dies, needlessly. The Clandestine operative is content with having accomplished his mission and dies. The former Empire pilot who just wants to make things right, has a grenade thrown at him, then just stares at it and gets blown to bits, too. And the Robot is given a blaster (apparently his life’s ambition is to hold one) moments before he gets to use it, then gets himself shot. Gets shot a lot, actually. Matter of fact, I think the last one went right through the center of his head. Guess those toys won’t be flying off the shelves. Oh well, everybody else dies, why not the stepin fetchit, right.
**Actually, I liked the Robot. Didn’t like that he was given artificial intelligence that practically acquaints to human intelligence, and then treated like a ‘sophisticated spanner,’ as writer Harlan Ellison once termed R2-D2. That dehumanizes the character. Another negative aspect of the storyline.
“STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS” SPOILERS AHEAD!! ALL SPOILERS!!
SERIOUSLY, DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE!! YOU HAVE NO EXCUSES!! ALSO: FAIR WARNING — FOUL LANGUAGE AHEAD. THIS IS AN UNCENSORED REVIEW!!!
**Please NOTE: I began writing a movie review, and wound up writing a paper. A thesis, if you will, that critiques the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but moreover subsists as a tome of frustration against, and will hopefully be thumbtacked to the very ass of, Corporate Hollywood.
IN PROLOGUE A Writer in Requiem
In May of 1983, I was 12 years old.
Sitting in a darkened theater called “Angelina Twin Cinema,” in Lufkin, Texas, I watched as the last (and most anticipated) of the original Star Wars Trilogy, unfolded. And surprisingly, I sank lower, and lower, and lower in my seat. Having read interviews with various behind-the-scenes participants, in various movie magazines such as Starlog and Fantastic Films, I knew in advance that something hadn’t gone quite as planned in relation to the film’s screenplay. On my way in, I really didn’t think it would matter. On my way out, I was frustrated. I just kept shaking my head, ‘Why the hell did they do that??’
While watching the movie, my ability to delude myself, suspend my disbelief, and in general distract myself from the film’s faults, was not only nonexistent, it had gradually turned into full blown anxiety. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Five drafts! All circulated among V.I.P.’s termed, “Above-The-Line Talent,” prior to principal photography. And with each new draft, reportedly came even more watered down characters and plot developments, and more and more contrived and inconsequential visual exposition. Rumor was, it was a ploy intended to sell more toys.
I was caught off guard. I could actually see the difference in the quality of the material, moving across the screen. And I could certainly hear it in the dialogue. Although the larger structure was really strong, scenes within that larger story structure were … simplified. And a little wooden. Even cartoony. But more often, pointless. This was awkward and embarrassing. Especially in comparison with the former film, Empire Strikes Back. Within two days, I knew I could have written it better. I didn’t just think I could have written Return of the Jedi better – I knew I could have written it better. This was the very moment, I realized I was going to be a writer. Whether I wanted to be, or not.
Mind you, I was only 12 years old.
PART FIRST The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing or Wherein I explain the how’s and why’s of every nightmare in the 21’st Century being systematically generated and monopolized by Opportunists
I thought Return of the Jedi was the worst Star Wars would ever have to offer. DISSOLVE TO: Thirty-two years and Seven months have passed since then. And Luke Skywalker has vanished. In more than one sense.
After a disappointing trilogy of Prequel films, helmed by original Star Wars co-writer and director, George Lucas, Disney and Lucasfilm sought out talent to “reboot” their newly acquired franchise. Several names were thrown to the media. After months of gossip, former movie Producer, and newly inaugurated Lucasfilm President, Kathleen Kennedy announced that J.J. Abrams had gotten the job.
Abrams entered the Industry as a college film school grad who had attracted the attention of the one and only Steven Spielberg. Working in multiple roles and positions in the area of film production, “Jeffrey” Abrams had managed to write and sell screenplays such as: Taking Care of Business (1990,) Regarding Henry (1991,) and Forever Young (1992.) Eventually, he was offered work polishing scripts for film production, and did so for good payment, but little or no credit. That is, with exception to the 1998 stupidfest, Armageddon. And just why Abrams would agree to a job rewriting said script is a head-scratcher. Specifically in light of the fact that Steven Spielberg was a mentor to Abrams, and Armageddon was competing against the Steve Spielberg produced Deep Impact.
Segueing into the TV business, by writing, and creating shows such as Felicty and Alias, Abrams quickly became a well-known, successful commodity in the business of Television. By the time the TV show Lost became a phenomenon in 2004, Abrams had plopped into the Television Development Executive comfy chair, offering comments, notes, and a certain creative advice, on numerous shows. A job role which he would never be credited with, as Development Executives rarely get credited. That’s the job position they don’t want you asking too many questions about. Because Television Development Executives always have more authority than they really need, and exploit it, obsessive-compulsively.
Eventually, Abrams began directing. First in Television, but later with films like Mission: Impossible III, Super8 (a film that reportedly pitted him against both Dreamworks’ and Paramount’s Development Executives, with heartbreaking results, ha-ha) and two Star Trek films. And all the while, he maintained his role as a “Television Development Executive.” The role that actually introduced him to the corporate climate of Hollywood, and in effect, has always been his trump card in the industry.
So, why did Lucasfilm want Abrams? Because Stephen Spielberg called up Kathy Kennedy and suggested Abrams. And why would Stephen Spielberg call up Kathy Kennedy, wishing to suggest Abrams? Because Spielberg had discovered that Disney (which owns Lucasfilm) wanted to reboot Star Wars into another kind of franchise. And just what kind of franchise? An ATM Machine, that’s what kind of franchise. Specifically, an overly episodic, simplified, addicting storyline. An unending series of films, preferably designed with less emphasis on the Joseph Campbell influence, and preferably straight-jacketed by a “Bible.” A “Bible” on a show, is television industry parlance for, “We wanna know what the hell’s gonna happen, going forward; don’t hold anything back; tell us everything, so that we — those who are really in charge — can determine the direction of these stories. You know, just like the Marvel films that we release. That’s it! Simplify the fuck out of it, in advance; that works for us!” They wanted something that they, the corporate-minded people who don’t really want to watch these movies, can understand. Something that is nothing like the Original Trilogy. Something that Development Executives can understand. Something like a Television Pilot…
Enter, J.J. Abrams.
PART SECOND “The Film,” if you insist upon calling it that, or Jar Jar Abrams Strikes Again
There will always be quibbles. So let’s get those out of the way, first. I have two minor quibbles about the opening of this new film, The Farce Awakens, and I’ll let it be that. Laugh if you wish, I’m sure you will.
A) “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …” was always vibrant blue in the Original films. Now, for some inexplicable reason, it’s freakin’ green. And kind of an ugly green.
B) That opening starfield doesn’t look right. Many of the stars seem to be in the same place as they are in the other films, but … Now, I know you’re laughing, but I’m tellin’ ‘ya, it doesn’t look right. All the stars are the exact same brightness, giving it absolutely no depth at all. It looks cheaper. In the Original films, the starfields have depth. Mainly because the effects artists gave them depth, by creating multiple layers of variant brightness. In the case of this new film, it appears that a computer program mapped out the generic starfield from the Original films, and re-generated it. And no one ever sought to even tweak that. They just let the computer do it. You wouldn’t think this would matter, but it does.
Let’s get back to those quibbles a little later. Presently, let me just give you the overlong, exasperated, overblown, blow-by-bow, description of incidentals that take place within this movie, minus the commercial breaks. *dusts hands* Stay tuned, I’m about to get mean.
The camera tilts down to the planet Jakku (pronounced Jack-oooo,) and after Abrams’ poor attempt at a signature opening shot (a cartoony shadowy triangle of a big star destroyer rising up in frame to cover the day-side of the planet,) we are on planet night-side. And quickly introduced to an apparently nameless character, played by world-renowned actor, Max Von Sydow. But please don’t get to comfortable with him, or curious about him, because he will be dead shortly. After having a brief exchange with Poe Dameron (played well by actor Oscar Isaac of Inside Llewyn Davis,) this makeshift camp in the desert is raided by Stormtroopers. Wait. Are they still called Stormtroopers? Screw it, I’m callin’ ‘em Stormtroopers. Poe has uttered exposition, confirming that he is part of ‘The Resistance’ (this is apparently a new word standing in for Rebellion; when in fact the Rebellion apparently never ended, and both words mean the same damn thing,) and Sydow has given him a small thumb drive (no shit, that’s exactly what it is) filled with some secret data that will assist the Rebels. I mean the Resisters. Whatever.
So the camp is attacked — and although brief, it is good action filmmaking; some nice work here – and we are introduced to BB8, which is Poe’s droid. Poe’s X-Wing fighter is damaged during the melee, so he cannot escape the Raid with the thumb drive. So he puts it in the robot, and tells BB8 to take off, that he will catch up with the cute little spanner later. Then, Poe sees an Imperial ship approach and land. Meanwhile, one of the Stormtroopers sees a comrade killed, and runs to his aid, only getting there as a bloody hand reaches up to mark his helmet. Then, the same sympathetic Stormtrooper watches as his other comrades gun down unarmed people. And even though he’s wearing a helmet, Stormtrooper is clearly conflicted. THIS guy, is the absolute best, and most wonderful thing about this fucking movie.
Soon after, a dark and shady guy in cheap black cloth and a graphite grilled helmet comes out to question Max Von Sydow. They seem to know each other. Sydow speaks to Mr. dark and shady, says something about you can hide behind a mask, and call yourself Kylo Ren, but yada yada yada… That sort of thing. So Kylo Ren lightsabers Max Von Sydow. A wonderful thespian, and unique talent, taken from the Star Wars universe so quickly it makes you want to buy a puppy, name it J.J. Abrams, and slap the living shit out of it. Then, some Stormtroopers bring Poe before the Kylo Ren person, and place him on his knees. Kylo Ren leans over, just stares at Poe. Poe comments that he’s not sure if he’s supposed to talk first. Then Kylo says something about wanting the little thumb drive, and Poe comments that he can’t understand a word he’s saying; must be the mask. They take Poe away. Stormtrooper with blood on helmet is still conflicted …
Shift to day, and across the Planet. A character we eventually come to know as ‘Rey,’ a teenage scavenger, appears, and following a series of expository bits of business revealing her shit life and knowledge of the veritable junkyard of ‘Empire’ space ships littering the planet, she rescues the nauseously cute BB8 from a junk scavenger, who would have simply dismantled the robot for spare parts. This comes to us via conversation between Rey the teenager, and BB8 the droid. You see, she speaks his language. They can communicate. Something Luke needed an X-Wing Fighter’s computer to assist him with in Empire Strikes Back. Wait, it gets better. As the movie goes on, she talks to Chewie, as well. She’d make a great protocol droid, given she speaks the language of everybody she meets. In any case, she shows dignity and integrity, by refusing to sell BB8 for food. Awwwww …
Meanwhile, after arriving on-board the Star Destroyer, Conflicted Stormtrooper needs a moment to himself. After removing his helmet to get some air, he finds a minor character named “Captain Phasma” over his shoulder. A sleek, tall, chrome Stormtrooper that looks very similar to a Cylon on the old Battlestar Galactica. By Phasma’s voice, we know the dude’s a she. This cool chick was wasted. She pops up infrequently, and only for an instant. And Later on in the movie, they just stick her in a garbage compactor, and that’s the last we see of her. And we never saw much of her to begin with, mind you. I hear she’s in the sequel. Lame excuse.
Anyway, after Poe has been interrogated by Kylo Ren, or Darth Punk-ass Bitch, as I like to call him, Conflicted Stormtrooper is placed in charge of the despot Rebel fighter, and pulls them both aside to offer to help Poe escape, if Poe will fly. Because conflicted Stormtrooper’s not a pilot. Some funny exposition, and the two of them go through a humorous sequence of stealing a Tie Fighter and crash landing it back on Jakku. But before they do, Conflicted Stormtrooper gives his name as FN and a number. Poe refuses to call him that, decides to call him “FINN.” Finn responds really enthusiastically to this. They probably should have rethought that moment, given what a white man giving a black man a name, implies.
They two are separated by the crash. Is Poe no more? Finn meets Rey, after witnessing her defend herself. Gets attacked by Rey because BB8 recognizes Poe’s jacket on Finn. Somewhere in there, Finn lies, says he’s part of the Resistance. And essentially he is, now. Whether he likes it or not. So technically, he’s not really lying. And, the Empire – I mean The First Order – Jesus, was it really necessary that they rename the fucking Empire? Okay. I’ll just have to get used to that, I guess. I’m not getting used to ‘The Resistance,’ though. That is ‘The Ridiculous.’ So anyway, The F.O. knows that BB8 is carrying the thumb drive. So they’re gonna be looking for it, right? And the last thing they would do is shoot at it, right? Wrong. Sort of a plot hole, there, people! Once they find BB8, Tie Fighters show up and start strafing the area. Clearly attempting to murder the poor little robot fart. Like I said, PLOT HOLE, PEOPLE! Or … ‘ya know, discrepancy, or whatever-the-hell you wanna call it. I don’t care. Run, you little 1981 Nerf soccer ball.So Rey and Finn have to escape. But like Gerbils, they’re obviously going nowhere without transportation off this rock. So she leads them to a ship that’s about 200 yards away. Finn sees one closer, and shouts something along the lines of, “What about that one!?” She looks across the desert sand, and deems it to be a piece of junk. Suddenly, the very ship they’re running for 200 yards away gets blasted into oblivion, and Rey and Finn deviate to ‘piece of junk.’ Which turns out to be The Millennium Falcon, with tattered tarp covering its fuselage. IT’S A TARP! Admiral Ackbar even makes a later appearance in the movie. So this is a nice little in-joke.
Contrivance, contrivance, they escape, get caught by a freighter, which turns out to be Han Solo and Chewie, wherein we get the famous trailer moment, “Chewie … we’re home,” but a slightly better version of it. Once everyone knows who everyone is, Han tells Chewie that they will have to let the kids off at a nearby way station. Rey and Finn offer that BB8 is carrying a map to Luke Skywalker. Han is surprised. They take a look at it. The map is not complete, but it’s a good chance for some exposition. Han tells them that Luke tried to train a new generation of Jedi, and failed, miserably. He sunk into depression and vanished. Leia has been trying to find him ever since. Han says at one time he didn’t believe any of it: a force that encompassed everything, the Jedi, their powers. All of it. But now, he tells them he knows it’s true. All of it. This scene attempts to get across that these kids have heard about ‘The Force,’ and these people (Han, Luke, etc.) but assumed they were mythical. And now they’re finding out they are real. Unfortunately, it’s handled, fleetingly, and amateurishly. And after illustrating that little bit of the scene from the trailer, ‘It’s all true, all of it,’ the scene essentially goes nowhere. They really didn’t know what they had there. I honestly thought, given that this is a key scene, that the filmmakers would have worked on it a bit longer. But oh, no, it seems like they did a couple of passes, and never came back to it, and consequently, the real meaning of it, and the opportunity to dig deeper and have it really mean something, and possibly narrow down the through-line of the entire movie, gets lost. Or is slighted. Don’t get me wrong. You comprehend what they’re telling you — the idea they’re trying to get across — but it’s not nearly as mythical or emotional or legendary as it should be. Most important scene in the movie, and they mucked it up. And they could’a done it with less dialogue. That’s the sad part. And there’s something bothering me about Han Solo. He seems familiar. But like a grandmother. Please note: I did not say grandfather.
Next, there’s a mindlessly unnecessary sequence that follows wherein two criminal gangs dock with and board Han and Chewie’s freighter, wanting the return of their money, as cargo was undelivered. Han argues he’s got to get rid of the cargo he currently has, before he can pay them back. Seems Han is borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, again. Han’s hauling some monsters, which I cannot remember the name of, but wasn’t really impressed by much. They certainly were creepy, gooey looking things; I’ll give ‘em that. Weird looking 1990’s Sci-Fi shit, is really what it was. However, they were derivative, and not very inventive. Didn’t capture my imagination for an instant. Matter of fact, looked like a rejected creature from one of Abrams’ Star Trek films. Or any bad sci-fi movie, for that matter.
Anyway, our heroes escape in the Falcon and travel to another planet to meet a small alien woman who owns a Bar in a Castle. A small alien woman who wants to know where her boyfriend Chewbacca is. Anyway. There’s some talk at a table. Finn warns them about a new type of Deathstar. Finn wants to get the hell out of there, and head for the Galaxy’s outer rim, for safety. Rey is shocked. Finn decides to leave with some aliens who will take him there. The Bar owner, Maz Kenyata? Kanata? Sounds like a compact car. I guess it is hard for Development Executives to come up with good names in the Star Wars Universe. She asks Han who the girl is, WE CUT AWAY before he answers. But we suspect that we will eventually learn in another film, that this is Luke Skywalker’s daughter. Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps they haven’t nailed that down yet. I don’t know whether to chastise them for generating a Bible for this new enterprise, or chastise them for not having figured out the backstory to their own fucking movie. I’m conflicted.
Case in point. Rey hears something, and is drawn into the basement of Castle/Bar. Down a long stone hallway, she finds a keepsake box with a lightsaber inside. Touching it, she has a flashback to the corridor aboard Cloud City, from Empire Strikes Back, sees Kylo Ren and others like him, and finally, sees herself as a little girl, abandoned on Jakku. Apparently, by her parents. At this point, I realize that the planet Jakku is not really very interesting, and has come up far too much, and been dwelled on far too much, in this movie. It looks exact’a’fuckin’ like Tantooine. So why didn’t they just – never mind. So the little Maz Piñata Bar owner lady appears, again, tells Rey that the lightsaber belonged to Luke, how it got here is another story, but that it calls to Rey. Rey runs away, says she never wants to touch the thing again. Like a virgin. The point that should be taken, though, is that none of this makes sense, because it doesn’t make sense to Abrams, either. Keep that in mind.
By the way, there are a few brief interludes I’m leaving out between a red-headed guy in authority aboard the Star Destroyer, and Mr. shady, Kylo Ren. They are wasted time. I have also left out a character seen in giant hologram. A shitty hologram. Named Snoke. It looks like a giant naked “Dobby” from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Only without ears. Snoke wants Kylo Ren to kill his father, Han Solo. Stupid for them to give that away so early, but whatever, dude. Your story; ruin it if ‘ya gotta. Snoke is the kind of character you hope somehow vanishes in-between movies. He’s gonna turn out to be the Jar Jar of these new films, I can see that already.
So, two aliens inside the Bar/Castle have sent secret messages: one to the Rebel Alliance (once again, the ‘Resistance.’ Notice how my mind is ‘Resisting’ using that word,) the other to The Fuck Off. I mean the F.O. Both report that they’ve found the droid each side is looking for. Which is not a bad bit of business, but not handled very effectively. If I could take a moment to simply reiterate my appreciation for the fact that F.O. also stands for – never mind that; never mind that. Okay … so Rey has run off into the woods around the Castle/Bar place, and looks up to see Tie Fighters, etc., flying overhead. Uh, oh. Shit’s about to get real. Right? Not so fast, this is a sequence that could have been done much better. It’s too much ‘by the numbers.’ As if the director just walked through it. Like it was a Television Pilot — thaaaat’s right; I forgot, I’m sorry.
Rey is confronted by Finn. I mean Kylo Ren. Sorry. Finn and Ren rhyme too much. That’s not good. Anyway. Rey is still in the woods when Kylo tries to get the location of the droid out of her, and discovers that she’s seen the map. It’s in her head. Which for some reason reminds me of Star Trek. So he places her in an unconscious state, and abducts her. Finn sees this after fighting a Stormtrooper with Luke’s lightsaber. The Stormtrooper, by the by, has been magically equipped – total fucking coincidence, I’m sure – with a wonderful taser wand, that deflects a lightsaber. Let that sink in. So a moment later, Finn sees Kylo Ren taking Rey — ya know all three of their names should have been changed to something else. Rey, Ren, and Finn. What dumbass thought that was a good idea??
Okay … so anyway, Finn is sweet on Rey. And is devastated to see her being carried, unconscious into a later-day shuttle craft, by Kylo Ren. He tells Han they took her, and Han just confirms he knows; walking straight for a transport ship, landing not far away. He stands solemn, waiting. Like a guy’s who’s really done something stupid, waiting for his wife to get off the plane at the airport. And you’re expecting a really amped up Leia. Because previous dialogue from Maz the Bar owner has led you to believe that Han and Leia haven’t seen each other in a while. So she’s gonna have a word with him. Right? Wrong. Instead, you get a wooden Carrie Fisher; whose performance as Leia was clearly restricted. And that sucks. Big time. You also get C-3PO. He says hello to Han Solo and makes a small, trivial comment about his new “red” arm. Which seems forced, and truly makes you wonder if this Abrams guy is aware of how discombobulated and awkward that is. Because there’s nothing more to it than that. And why would 3PO need to mention that it’s “red?” Anyway, Han tells Leia that he saw their son. “He was here,” he says this without an ounce of grit, and suddenly I realize what it is that’s been bothering me about Han Solo. He’s been lobotomized.
Another thing I’ve neglected to mention is that Poe Dameron from the opening scenes, finally returns to pilot another X-Wing craft in defense of the aliens and resistance fighters, around the Castle/Bar. No doubt sent by Leia. So Poe’s back. That’s cool.
So now we get a protracted sequence on another planet, somewhere, wherein various characters converge and have more dialogue and exposition, which isn’t really well thought out, but also isn’t as simple and straight to the point as the original Star Wars, either. A shame really. Intercut with this, is Rey aboard the new Death Star. Which is a Death Star with a big laser gun at the equator, but with land and water all over the rest of the planet. Looks like they built this new Star Destroyer base from within the planet. Interesting idea. Wish they had dwelt on that a bit more. Even if only with a bit more dialogue about it. I’ve read they termed this technological craptastic extravaganza, “Starkiller Base.” But I don’t remember hearing that uttered in the movie.
So Rey is restrained within Kylo Ren’s interrogation room (the same one he interrogated Poe in,) and she convinces Kylo to finally take off his helmet. And as suspected, it’s Adam Driver. But we all knew that, because Disney and Lucasfilm can’t keep a secret for shit. They even paraded him out at Comic-Con – alongside the other villains featured in the film. Driver, while earning my respect in spades as both a thespian, and former United States Marine, is nonetheless playing a character that is not genuinely a threat to anyone. It’s easy to understand why they cast him, though. He looks like he could be the bastard child of Han and Leia. Looks a bit, in his own way, like each of them. And I can see what they’re going for here. The concept of the character is that he’s sort of a young 21 year-old guy from one of the X-Men movies, who drifted way past Magneto’s prejudice, and straight into complete madness … because he meant to do that. Kind of creepy, actually. But by his own exhibited behavior, the character is still just a child. And that just doesn’t work within this film. Because he’s the only real heavy, and he ain’t that damn heavy. Maybe if he was more acrobatic, and moved around like lightning. Something, anything scary. I’ve always believed that what makes a fantasy villain work is whether or not you could bean him in the head with a big rock, and he would still kill you. I mean that takes courage on your part. But what if it has no effect on the villain. Then you know you are dealing with something closer to evil. As opposed to a soul you can relate to, and have a dialectic argument with. But, from what I know of Kylo Run, I mean Ren, I could bean his ass in the head from 20 feet away and run like hell, and he would not recover quickly enough to chase me. He’s too weak. I fear no retribution from him.
Anyway, Kylo Ren soon finds that Rey is strong with the force, and he’s not getting that map out of her. So he leaves her under the guard of a Stormtrooper. So she tries the Ben Kenobi, “You don’t need to see his identification. These are not the droids you’re looking for.” And at first, she’s ineffective. It doesn’t work. However, after a second try, it does work. And a Stormtrooper that sounds suspiciously a lot like actor Daniel Craig, frees her, leaves the door open, and walks out, dropping his weapon on the floor. It’s mildly humorous.
So a few of Abrams small potatoes actors make cameos in the Rebels final briefing meeting. And there, of course, is Admiral Ackbar. And across the room, BB8 discovers R2-D2 underneath a drop cloth. C-3PO informs BB8 that when Master Luke went away, R2 went into low power mode, and has been in that state ever since. Maybe that will make more sense in the plot of the next movie. But it would have been nice if it had made sense in THIS movie. But let’s not forget, THIS IS TELEVISION. That’s the way they’ve designed this movie. They’re trying to get you addicted to nonsensical bullshit, with the promise that there will be a payoff. Just like the TV show, Lost. Remember Lost? Yea, that was Abrams.
To wrap things up, Han, Finn and Chewie travel to the big new Deathstar base to complete their part of the sabotage mission. There’s some bit of business about the Empire’s shield’s being at a certain modulation, and therefore the falcon will need to come out of light speed past the shield. Sounds like an idea leftover from Abrams’ Star Trek, but it’s kind’a cool when they do it. And that is when you realize this movie will play better on TV. Once they crash the falcon through some trees, and into some snow, they infiltrate the base, and Finn – who has offered to help them sabotage a vital part of the base – reveals that he lied. He doesn’t know anything about where that that part of the base is, or how to sabotage it. But he wanted to rescue Rey, and he knew they wouldn’t let him come along if he didn’t lie about being a sanitation worker for the F.O. No shit.
So they take Captain Phasma hostage, throw the poor maligned and unused character into a garbage compactor, and find Rey just in time. Now they have to set explosive charges. Whist Han and Chewie are doing this, Han sees Kylo Ren searching for them. Han decides to confront his son, “Ben,” who’s walking across a catwalk platform over a deep chasm leading down into the heart of the base. It does not go well. Kylo “Ben” Ren is definitely conflicted, but his inner conflict exists simply because he’s been ordered to kill his father, Han Solo, by Snoke, the giant earless Dobby clone. And though Kylo Ren/Ben he wants to kill his father, he doesn’t have the gumption. He’s simply not man enough. And Han doesn’t realize that. This reminds me of something Han and Leia had discussed earlier in the hidden Rebel base. Leia says something along the lines of, “If you find our son, bring him home.” But Kylo is no longer Ben. For whatever reason, his psychological transformation from the person he used to be, to the person he now wants to be, is complete. Or it’s about to be. Ben offers his lightsaber to Han, and once Han takes it, Kylo ignites it, right into Han’s chest. Han’s expression is complete surprise. He strokes his son’s cheek, and Kylo further slices the lightsaber blade out of Han’s side, and this sends Han falling into the chasm. Kind of like the Emperor falling into the same type of chasm in Return of the Jedi. Maybe Kylo was always just a bad kid. Maybe he was bullied. Maybe, maybe, maybe; whatever. If they knew, we would know. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan never figured that out, so they just never addressed it. Because they don’t have to do that in Television. In light of Harrison Ford terming Return of the Jedi, “… nothing but a big toy commercial,” I’m sure he’s secretly pleased as punch with having shot the most expensive Television Pilot ever made.
So Chewie sees this, HOWLS, and shoots at Kylo. Kylo evades his gunfire, looks up and spots Rey and Finn at an exit on their way out. Rey and Finn run out and into the woods. More woods. Scenes in the woods on two different planets. Interesting. Someone has a one-track mind. Once they get out there, Kylo magically appears from out of nowhere, and uses the Force to slap Rey into a tree. Finn goes to her aid, Kylo gets his attention with, “That lightsaber! It belongs to me.” Clearly Kylo wants Luke’s lightsaber. It is possible, that Luke gave it to him as a boy, and an adult wisely took it away from him. Clearly, Luke tried to train this kid, who, according to dialogue between Han and Leia earlier, was already a bad kid. But they only have a few words about this. So it just puts an image in your head that this kid might have been suffering from a sociopathic personality disorder, before Luke tried to train him in the Jedi arts. So why would Luke blame himself that the kid grew up to be an evil freak, and run away? To be fair, perhaps Luke didn’t run away for that reason. Perhaps Luke ran away because he knew that Kylo Ren could feed off of his power, and become more powerful. And perhaps that’s bullshit.
So Finn fights Kylo, and gets injured badly. We think he’s dead, in fact. Because Kylo Ren sliced him in the back, and we don’t know how deep. So Rey wakes up, sees Fin, and is emotionally overwhelmed. At the end of the previous fight, Luke’s lightsaber went flying off and landed in the snow, several yards away. Kylo uses the Force to grab for it — but it goes right past him and lands in Rey’s hand. And she fights him like she’s been trained. Like a Boss. Plot hole? Perhaps? Or perhaps her memory was wiped by Luke. Or something else. I’ve read theories, but honestly, I don’t think Abrams and Kasdan considered it important enough to determine that. And Rey was a little young in her flashback to when she was abandoned on Jakku. So when they hell did she learn to feel the force and use it, and train with it, and all that stuff??? Another questions we’re not supposed to ask. So she defeats Kylo Ren (sounds like a brand of Ramen Noodle,) leaving him injured, but alive on the other side of a canyon-like chasm that develops between them, following the explosion from the charges left by Han and Chewie. Chewie arrives in the Falcon, helps get Finn aboard, and they leave the planet, with Poe and his Squad in pursuit. The base explodes. Big Bang Boom. And we’re back at the Rebel Base. There is some celebration by the Rebels out on a tarmac. R2-D2 wakes up. He has the rest of the map, and the Rebels put it together with what was on the thumb drive, discovering Luke’s location.
Rey and Leia say goodbye. Rey takes Han’s seat aboard the Falcon. Chewie seems pleased with this. And they take off to cheering. On a distant alien planet, the Falcon surfs across the ocean as they approach an island of grass and rocks. Then, Rey walks from the Falcon, about a half a mile up a series of rock stairs to see a cloaked figure on a cliff, looking out over the ocean. He turns, she takes a step forward. He removes the hood of the cloak (looking a bit too dramatic, and trying to look cool) and she pulls out the lightsaber. Incidentally, I promise you the pose he makes will be turned into an endless series of gifs and memes on the internet. They will appear without hesitation or pause, as soon as that image and/or video is available. Facebook, here it comes. Trust me on this. By the way, Mark Hamill’s clearly wearing hair extensions. But the look on his face, the pain in his eyes … it works because of that. Even though he looks ridiculous.
Next, Rey offers him the lightsaber, and he just stares back at her. He’s a little stunned. Give him a minute, he’s old. Or that’s the impression we’re clearly supposed to get. Self-enforced ageism in Hollywood is getting a tad tired, at this point. “Sure,” they say. “He can be Luke Skywalker. But he has to be Luke Skywalker old and tired and everything that goes with.” Ridiculous. Luke would be more alive than that. Depressed, or not. And to be fair, we have all seen the more recent photos of Mark Hamill on the internet, evidencing his new haircut and waistline. And he’s already in the UK. Rumor is they’ve already started shooting the next movie, even though their official start date for principal photograph is in January. Regardless, it appears Luke will be much more alive, active, and overall present, in the next movie, than he was in this one. Which wouldn’t be hard to accomplish. Lastly, we get another shot of the two them still standing there from above, and we’re out.
First thing you see next, is “Directed by J.J. Abrams.” This comes full circle to my original quibbles about the credits. Said credits look oddly like a lazy approximation of the original credits. A pale imitation is really what they are. And there’s something about that simple detail that really bothered me, and still does. I mean, seriously. You heard of “Harmy,” yet? The individual (or possibly a group of individuals) who generated the De-Specialized Editions of the Original Films; thereby removing all changes made by George to the 1997 Special Editions? You know who I mean. Based upon samples I’ve seen, that person(s) did a much better job simulating those original credits, in a clear attempt to get those Original films as close to the versions that were theatrically released (in ’77, ’80, & ‘83,) as possible. Much better job. And although I’m not saying it had to be perfect — I’m not nitpicking, trust me – the fact is: if you’ve seen the Original films enough times, you will notice the glaring difference, pretty quickly. Once the film is released on home video, compare those opening and closing credits of Force Awakens (a title I do not like, and will address shortly) with that of the Original three films. You will instantly notice a clear difference. Again, I’m not stating this to be nitpicky. I’m pointing out how fucking lazy a job they did on the new film’s credits.You don’t see that with the Prequels. I gotta give ‘em credit for that, if nothing else. That element of the Prequels, Lucasfilm handled fairly well. They generated credits that were at the very least an attempt to be faithful to the pre-established look of those credits. But these new credits just look cheap and superficial. And while I’m sure many people will laugh at me being bothered by something like that, the truth is — it’s a clue. A big one. If approximating that look was done in such a slipshod manner, how much respect do you think they really have for Star Wars, in general? It says a lot about their actual intentions, as opposed to the public’s perception of their intentions.
All right. So, I think I’ve made my point.
PART THIRD A fair analysis by a fair-haired 6-year old; loaded cap pistol in hand
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has a plot that is “almost” literally the same as the original Star Wars. Secret Plans are the McGuffin. A farm boy (or girl, this time) on a desert planet. Han and Chewie aboard the Millennium Falcon spirits her away from her home, with Stormtroopers hot on their trail. There’s another bar with aliens. There’s a Death Star. Need I go on?
“This isn’t your father’s Star Wars.” That was the comment I saw on the internet that incensed me. That really bothers me. Because A) it’s not even close to being in the same league as the 1977 film, and B) it’s ripping off the original film, along with elements of Empire and Jedi — and doing a very poor job of it. This is a film with a budget reportedly north of $200Million. And maybe … just maybe, that’s part of the problem. A “Star Wars” film, needs to be a film with a more manageable budget, a spirited and inspired filmmaker, and a support group behind it that does not consist solely of Corporate Hollywood, in order to escape the dreaded by-the-numbers “Star Wars Rip-off” sensibility. Which is exactly what this feels like. One of those movies that simply rips-off Star Wars. Some associated with this new film have termed it, “an homage.” Proving they have no idea what the true nature of homage is, any more than they understand the Forces at work that made the original film work so damn well.
Luckily, everything in this movie goes by so fast, you don’t have much time to complain. And you do generally enjoy it. The film is a Class-A production, all the way. Disney made sure of that. But an hour later, it feels hollow, trumped up, like an interesting diversion from the actual Star Wars Universe, and worst of all, regardless of the money they spent on it, it feels cheap. This doesn’t feel like Star Wars on the big screen. AGAIN: It feels like Star Wars on Television. Or something worse. And it’s too easy. Really great movies are A LOT harder to make than this. And most people never stop and wonder why. It’s because it’s a lot harder to really get it RIGHT.
In truth, I have absolutely nothing against Star Wars being on Television. Actually, Star Wars: Rebels is frankly the best thing that has been done with the franchise, since Star Wars (1977) and Empire Strikes Back (1980.) But a production “intended” for Television is an entirely different animal, than a production intended to theatrical release; which is this case, has been promulgated as the heir apparent to the original film that started it all, and isn’t even trying to get honor the sources of inspiration for the original film.
In Thesis, just because you are terrified of repeating the mistake that was the Prequels, doesn’t mean that you go to the opposite extreme, essentially using every sleazy, derivative tactic ever employed in the annals of Television, to rip-off your most cherished predecessor. No. You do the work, and you do it right.
In closing, I really hope the kids enjoyed it. But based upon recent statistics of the average age of ticket buyers for the film, either the kids are simply not interested in this film, or they didn’t feel they were invited. Which is sad. Because Star Wars should be for the kids. It should always be for the kids. And if they don’t feel welcome. Something has gone terribly wrong. In fact, that 6-year-old kid still inside of me did not feel welcome at all. Maybe it will play better on Television. Where it belongs.
Good move not killing Finn, by the way.
Good article at Hollywood Reporter website on why the Star Wars franchise has to pay off for Disney: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/how-star-wars-will-change-846918?facebook_20151212
STARLOG LIVES !
As you no doubt know if you read this blog, Starlogger is an homage to the “Log Entries” column of Starlog magazine, a now defunct publication that originally hit news stands in 1976, and was unfortunately discontinued as a published title in 2009. And while republication of Starlog magazine in newsstand format seems like a longshot at present — specifically given current competition from the likes of SFX Magazine and Empire Magazine — Starlog has nonetheless fought its way out of retirement, and relaunched as a website, with all new contributors: Ken Hanley, Brittany Vincent, Robert Vaughn, and Josef Luciano. And the current plan is to have a digital version of the magazine bow, later this year ! Starlog was billed as The Science Fiction Universe, and was the premiere magazine to cover sci-fi entertainment in Television and Film, throughout the 1980’s. And while Starburst, Fantastic Films, Cinefantastique, and even Famous Monsters of Filmland, regularly offered plenty of meaty competition — Starlog was King. The magazine would often include some of the most sought after interviews, from personalities working in the various genres associated with Sci-Fi; from Ray Bradbury to Steven Spielberg, and William Gibson to John Carpenter — Starlog interviewed everybody. And Starlog was often a magazine ahead of the curve, printing exclusives provided to them by Paramount on the Star Trek films, and letter writing campaigns to keep beloved genre television shows such as Starman and Beauty and the Beast, on the air. The magazine also included book reviews, comic book reviews, home video reviews, and ever so often, video game and toy reviews. There were even film reviews by some very notable contributors such as Harlan Ellison and Ben Bova. Today, Starlog is a product of The Brooklyn Company, LLC, and remains a sibling publication to “Fangoria” magazine. Different company, different team, but they definitely have the potential, the support, and the financial assets to make that forthcoming digital edition happen. And Starlog fans are rooting for them.
The new site can be found here: http://www.starlog.com/
And the Twitter page can be found here: https://twitter.com/StarlogMag
Starlogger blog wishes the rebirth of “Starlog” nothing but the best, and has high hopes for the future relaunch of the newsstand edition. Good Luck, Starlog !! … JURASSIC WORLD is looking more interesting, with these leaked photos from a brochure designed for guests of the park. If you click on the second photo for a larger version, you will better discern the various species of dinosaur that will be on display to the public, once the park opens, June 12, next year.
Please also note below a photo of a damaged tour vehicle, provided by an unnamed insurance company for reasons of corporate compliance with laws of transparency, we won’t go into. Note the damage to the vehicle, reportedly caused by a “minor incident” within a “contained area,” the public will not have access to. Clearly, these animals are the real deal. Legal Representatives of Jurassic World have given assurances that this is merely evidence of a common occurrence, wherein their own “animal handling experts” have not followed proper protocols. They insist that this photographic evidence has been divulged to better advise and educate the public on the purpose of adhering to the park’s strict safety precautions, while visiting the island …
IN STAR WARS: EPISODE VII NEWS, the production was set back a few weeks due to a severe leg injury suffered by actor Harrison Ford (Han Solo,) when a part of the Millennium Falcon set fell on his lower leg and ankle. And while rumors about the film’s supposed plot have been spamming the internet non-stop for many months now (most centering on two key elements: Solo and a small band of youths searching for Luke Skywalker, and additional characters referred to as “Jedi Hunters”) the unforeseen accident, has inherently revealed that Ford’s character will in fact be central to the plot of the film. Attempts were made by Disney to juggle the schedule, but in the end, the Studio was forced to admit that Ford’s injury put the production of the film behind schedule, and by a substantial margin. The good news is that Ford is on the mend, and according to various sources, eager to get back to work as soon as possible …
AND WRITER/DIRECTOR KEVIN SMITH recently paid a visit to the Pinewood Studios set of the film, and afterward gave his own colorful impressions of what he saw. “So we go to the set, and they’re actually shooting, and they’re shooting — and this is what I can’t tell you, what they were shooting — but what I saw I absolutely loved. It was tactile, it wasn’t a series of f***ing green and bluescreens in which later on digital characters would be added. It was there, it was happening. I saw uniforms, I saw artillery that I haven’t seen since I was a kid. I saw them shooting an actual sequence in a set that is real — I walked across the set, there were explosions — and it looked like a shot right out of a f***ing Star Wars movie.” … MOVIE POSTER ARTIST DREW STRUZAN has not confirmed this yet, but he is rumored to be the only artist Disney and director Abrams want for the job … JOSH (CHRONICLE) TRANK will helm a Star Wars spinoff in-between Episodes VIII and IX. Slated for release in 2018, the focus of the story has not been revealed by Disney at this time. This announcement comes hot on the heels of director Gareth (Godzilla) Edwards being hired to direct yet another Star Wars spinoff, scheduled to be released in 2016 … AND FOR THOSE INTERESTED, Episode VII will include sequences filmed in the IMAX format … IN OTHER STAR WARS NEWS, director Rian (Looper) Johnson was recently hired, then quickly removed from his position as director of the eventual sequel to the forthcoming Episode VII. Normally, studios choose not to comment on these situations, but in this case, Disney CEO Bob Iger had this to say, “It is with sad regret, we have had to part ways prematurely with Mr. Johnson. Although I am a fan of his work, his current passion to add an unwelcomed character to this future production, cannot happen. There’s too much baggage accompanying it.” Shortly thereafter, director Rian Johnson responded to Iger’s statement during an interview, and it was a response that quite simply astonished a lot of people. “It’s simple, really. I want to bring back Jar Jar Binks. What? You think I’m kidding? He’s actually one of the strongest characters ever created by George Lucas. He had so much potential, but unfortunately George decided that he would give Jar Jar the speech impediment of a bullfrog. I was going to change that! I wanted to redeem Jar Jar’s honor and make him a strong reliable character. Unfortunately the higher ups were heavily opposed to him being written into the story. We had a disagreement, and now here I am – at a sidewalk food cart. One day you’re a director of one of the biggest franchises in movie history, the next, you’re sitting in the middle of New York waiting for your felafel to cook. I guess, MEESA OUTTA DA JOB!” … DIRECTOR J.J. ABRAMS POSTED A RECENT UPDATE to the “Force for Change” initiative to benefit UNICEF. The “contest,” ongoing for about two months, grants the winner the chance to participate in the production and be featured in Episode VII. Abrams’ update was in the form of a video, wherein he stands against a Tie Fighter with a blue stripe. A revealing set piece to be sure. Take a look-see:
MARK HAMILL recently attended Star Wars Weekends, and was asked to voice a short exchange between The Joker and Luke Skywalker. The dialogue produced a hilarious moment.
… IN MARVEL NEWS: say hello to the new Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man ! Marvel has made some interesting, if timely changes to the Avengers roster that will soon be appearing within the pages of Marvel Comics. Thor will now be a woman, the Captain America costume will now be worn by “The Falcon” (a character portrayed in the Winter Soldier by actor Anthony Mackey,) and Iron Man will now be “Superior Iron Man.” Which appears to involve an extraordinary upgrade in Tony Stark’s armor design, and according to Marvel, this is NOT in fact Tony Stark. They say comic readers will find this new Superior Iron Man hard to root for. And so far, no word on the character’s true identity, which could mean that a foe has taken over the role of Iron Man in the comic … THOSE PLANET HULK RUMORS have been denied yet again. Previously Marvel’s Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Feige, and Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo, both emphatically denied the Planet Hulk rumors. But still, the rumors wouldn’t die. So this time, an unlikely ally has come to their defense: director James (Guardians of the Galaxy) Gunn. “I can answer that question very easily: it is absolute, 100% bulls**t. It feels like a great relief to finally say this after all the dumb stuff on the Internet. There’s not going to be a ‘”Planet Hulk” movie, there was never going to be a “Planet Hulk” movie, there was never plan for the Hulk to team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy – I wouldn’t want the Hulk to team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. And it’s all a bunch of complete bulls**t.” … So there’s that. … SPEAKING OF GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the film recently had its first press screening, and the responses were reportedly fantastic. They loved it ! Here’s a look at the theatrical poster:
LUCY (B.S.G., XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS) LAWLESS will have a recurring role on Season Two of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. … STAN LEE has revealed that he will have a cameo in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron … AND VARIOUS OTHER BITS of info have also been revealed by Disney. As opposed to the comics, “Ultron” is reportedly a robot built by Tony Stark, which goes haywire, and at some point grants “Jarvis,” Stark’s personal sentient computer intelligence, physical form — as The Vision … X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, the direct sequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past, will be, according to screenwriter Simon Kinberg, a disaster epic … THE FANTASTIC FOUR REBOOT will not be utilizing material from the comic books. It will instead be a total reinvention. A possibly ironic revelation, given that just a few months ago, Marvel tried to reacquire the film rights to Fantastic Four from 20th Century Fox, and were unsuccessful. Marvel’s response ? They pulled all “Fantastic Four” comic book titles from the shelf. Seriously. And while reportedly, the characters will be free to make appearances in other titles, there will be no further FF issues on stands. Marvel even pulled FF signage down from the walls of its offices, until further notice. Marvel is said to have done this because it doesn’t want to help the production or release of the Fox film in any way … WRITER’S ROBERT ORCI AND ALEX KURTZMAN (Amazing Spider-Man 2) recently revealed that the future of Sony’s current Amazing Spider-Man franchise is uncertain. No doubt due in part to the lower than expected returns and profits of Amazing Spider-Man 2 only earlier this summer. Rumors have been swirling for some time now that the Marvel/Sony Amazing Spider-Man spinoff, The Sinister Six, may also be in trouble. Though it should be stated for the record that rumors of that future production’s demise, have been unconfirmed by Studio, or creative sources. And to be fair, it has been speculated that The Sinister Six will merely be the title of the next Amazing Spider-Man film, and that said film will refocus its attention on the villains, as opposed to Spidey. Stay tuned, true believers! … ANT-MAN has recently received negative publicity for Marvel’s falling out with writer/director Edgar Wright. When questioned during a press junket for Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel CEO Kevin Feige offered the following explanation: “We sat round a table and we realized it was not working. A part of me wishes we could have figured that out in the eight years we were working on it. But better for us and for Edgar that we figure it out then, and not move it through production. We said ‘let’s do this together and put out a statement.’ What do we say? ‘Creative differences’. I said: ‘That’s what they always say and no-one ever believes it.’ Edgar said: ‘But in this case it’s true.’ The Marvel movies are very collaborative, and I think they are more collaborative than what he had been used to. And I totally respect that. [But] the notion that Marvel was scared, the vision was too good, too far out for Marvel is not true. And I don’t want to talk too much about that because I think our movies speak to that. The biggest disappointment for me is just the relationship, because I like Edgar very, very much and we were very close for many many years. But the perception that the big evil studio was too scared at the outside-the-box creative vision is just not the case.” … AND DOCTOR STRANGE is looking more and more like a soon-to-be Disney release. Director Scott (Sinister, The Day The Earth Stood Still) Derrickson was recently hired to helm the film. Several names have been mentioned as being courted to play the lead character, and according to Marvel, none of those names are off the table. They reportedly include Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hardy … IN DC NEWS, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may have recently revealed that he has been cast as Captain Marvel (not to be confused with any characters in the Marvel Universe,) otherwise known as Shazam. Johnson has been negotiating with Warner Bros. for months, and rumors have swirled as to which character he was in discussions to play, with Lobo being the front runner. However, Johnson himself gave a fairly telling description of the character he’s planning to portray. “I will say this. There’s a character out there that we’re going to announce very soon that I’m going to play, and I’ll just say this: This character has the power of Superman… and it’s not Green Lantern by the way… he can throw down. Just say the word. That’s all I’m going to say.” The announcement will reportedly be made at this years San Diego Comic-Con. … BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE — what a awkward mouthful that title is — is well into production, and rumors have spammed the net that actor Ben Affleck is having serious trouble dealing with his constricting and claustrophobic bat-suit. For reference, please see photos below of both the Man of Steel, and Dark Knight, as featured in the new film. “Click” for larger.
DIRECTOR RIDLEY SCOTT will film The Martian, a script centering on an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars alone. So Castaway on the Red Planet. This, according to director Scott, will film “before” the sequel to Prometheus, and “before” the sequel to Blade Runner. And apparently before any of those projects, he will also shoot his own version of the David and Goliath story. Ladies and gentlemen, the King of multitasking, Ridley Scott … SPEAKING OF BLADE RUNNER, actor Harrison Ford was “officially” offered the role of Rick Deckard in the forthcoming sequel, back in May. The film is being produced by Alcon Entertainment, and they sent out a press release, reading in part, “We believe that Hampton Fancher and Michael Green have crafted with Ridley Scott an extraordinary sequel to one of the greatest films of all time. We would be honored, and we are hopeful, that Harrison will be part of our project.” … AND SPEAKING OF RIDLEY SCOTT, a new video game based upon the director’s original film, Alien, “Alien: Isolation (Nostromo Missions)” portrays the original cast of the film, and additionally features voiceover work by said actors. And even though much of the game focuses mainly on Ripley’s daughter searching space for her mother, the exclusive “Nostromo Missions” version of the game, includes specific play levels where players recreate sequences in the film. The game doesn’t hit shelves until October 7th, but has already amassed a reputation among those who’ve tested it, as “authentically terrifying.”
… SPEAKING OF THE ALIEN FRANCHISE, JAMES CAMERON recently gave an update on the Avatar sequel scripts he has been working on. And it sounds like a complex procedure, involving multiple writers, aside from just himself. Said Cameron: “We tried an experiment. We set ourselves a challenge of writing three films at the same time. And I could certainly write any one of them but to write three in some reasonable amount of time – we wanted to shoot them together so we couldn’t start one until all three scripts were done and approved.” He added, “So we put together three teams, one for each script. The teams consist of me and another writer on each one of the three [films]. So I’m across all the films and then each one of them would have their own individual script they were responsible for. But what we did that was unique was we sat in the writing room for five months, eight hours a day, and we worked out every beat of the story across all three films so it all connects as one, sort of, three film saga. And I didn’t tell them which one was going to be there’s individually to write until the last day. So everyone was equally invested, story wise, in all three films.” Cameron also commented on the research he did in association with the new Avatar films. “… the first thing I did was sat for a year and wrote 1500 pages of notes of the world and the cultures and the different clans and different animals and different biomes and so on. And had a lot of loose thematic stuff that ran through that but I didn’t a concrete story. I wanted to approach it more like, ‘Guys we’re going to adapt a novel or series of novels.’ Because I felt that kind of detail, even if movies can’t ever be that detailed – it can be visually detailed, it can’t be that detailed in terms of character and culture. But you always get this tip of the iceberg kind of thing. You sense it’s there off camera or in the past of the moment that you’re seeing. So I felt that was the way to do it.”
MICHAEL BAY has revealed that his produced reboot of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (now retitled Ninja Turtles,) will be different from the one fans remember from the early 1990’s. In fact, along with possibly loosing the “Teenager” aspect altogether, the Turtles will be no longer be of toxic chemical origin, but rather of alien origin. Thus loosing the “Mutant” aspect as well. Following an immediate outcry among fans concerning such a massive shift in Turtle dogma, Bay responded: “Fans need to take a breath, and chill. They have not read the script. Our team is working closely with one of the original creators of Ninja Turtles to help expand and give a more complex back story. Relax, we are including everything that made you become fans in the first place. We are just building a richer world.” Peter Laird, co-creator of the Turtles (along with Heavy Metal publisher Kevin Eastman) later commented: “It’s possible that with enough truly creative brainpower applied to this idea, it might actually work. I’m not saying it’s probable, or even somewhat likely… but it is possible.” It should be noted that it has not yet been explained by anyone associated with the production, as to how the re-imagined “alien” Turtles would have such an intrinsic working knowledge of pop culture so well, or why they would love pizza so much — especially if they are of alien origin. Both character traits are mainstays of the original comics and films. The film’s director Jonathan (Battle: Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans) Liebesman, later offered the following: “I heard about it, and I’m glad there’s such a passionate fanbase — I think that was good news for everyone — but literally, I’ve just been locked in a room with Kevin Eastman. I think what we’re developing, the fans will love. I’m a fan, and I love what we’re doing. It’s a lot of stuff Kevin’s been thinking about for a long time and just hasn’t done. Anything we expand will tie right into the mythology, so I think fans will go apeshit when they see it.” … ANTHONY HEAD, otherwise known as “Giles” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has replaced Pierce Brosnan as “Chiron” in the forthcoming sequel, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters … LEGENDARY PICTURES will potentially partner with another entity to produce, Slayer. A modern-day story about a young doctor who has to take over the family legacy of slaying dragons — shades of the NBC hit, Grimm. The spec script was written by Martin Helgeland, son of writer Brian (Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood) Helgeland … IN HOME VIDEO NEWS, the films Outland, Brainstorm, and Altered States will arrive on blu-ray this July: All are said to have been remastered in High definition. Brainstorm has previously received such treatment (on DVD,) but this will be the first time either Altered States, or the Peter Hyams/Sean Connery collaboration Outland will be available in a remastered condition, in any format. … RON HOWARD & BRYAN GRAZER’S IMAGINE ENTERTAINMENT will produce yet another version of George Orwell’s story, 1984 … BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD & CHROME, a pilot which focuses on the young Adama, was summarily canceled before even airing by the SyFy Channel. An adviser on the show named Kevin Grazier, ran a sizzle real of “unauthorized” footage from the show at Wondercon, and NBC (who own SyFy) were forced to swoop in and quickly removed the many instances of it popping up on the internet. It seems the music playing over the footage, had not been legally cleared by the music rights department. This incident may have contributed to the show being cancelled. Various sources are reporting that Universal Cable Services, which produces the show, may shop it to another network. And there is also the possibility that whatever has been shot may pop up on the internet as some sort of a web series. It’s fate is currently unclear … THE PRODUCTION OF ENDER’S GAME now has a blog, if you wish to follow it: http://endersgameblog.tumblr.com/ … UNIVERSAL PICTURES has purchased a “pitch” for a film centered on “The Bermuda Triangle,” and have hired Smallville alums Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, to write the screenplay. Further details of this project are as of yet unknown … DR. WHO FANS heads-up !
Introducing the Doctor’s new companion, actress Jenna-Louise Coleman. The character, as yet unnamed, will make her official debut during the Christmas episode, this December … DIRECTOR JOSH (THE CHRONICLE) TRANK has chosen his next project. The long in development movie version of Christian Gossett’s comic book, “The Red Star.” The Red Star takes place in an alternate version of Russia where technology and magic co-exist. Trank was last linked with the movie based on the Spider-Man villain, Venom. It isn’t known if the director is still connected to that project … CREATURE CREATOR RICK BAKER & SOME PEEPS FROM MEN IN BLACK III, have popped up on-line in a nice publicity shot. Click for larger:
ADAM HOROWITZ & EDWARD KATSIS, the writers of Tron: Legacy, have teased that the third Tron film will indeed see the return of Jeff Bridges’ character, Flynn, by stating that the definition of life and death will be explored in the coming sequel … JURASSIC PARK will return to theaters in 3D the summer of 2013 … ARTHUR & LANCELOT, that pic reinventing the classic Arthurian legend, which went into turnaround a short time ago, may yet live again. Actor Colin (Total Recall) Farrell has been signed to play one of the lead characters … THE TELEVISION SHOW FRINGE may not get a 5th season. However, according to Executive Producer Jeff Pinkner, in that eventuality, the show will be wrapped up in a comic book series. Pinkner refers to this as their “back-up plan.” … RIDLEY SCOTT visited WonderCon on March the 17th, and he brought with him what is easily the best trailer for any film so far this year. And definitely the most compelling. The extended 2 minute plus trailer for what started as a reboot of the ALIEN franchise, and became something much, much greater: Prometheus. Feel free to watch it 12 times in a row; everyone else has:
And here’s the UK Version, which features some of the same footage, yet expands on why and how the journey is being made by these people:
MONTY PYTHON members John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin will star in a sci-fi comedy written by Python alum Terry Jones, which follows a group of aliens who choose an earthling, give him the power to do absolutely anything, and then observe what he does with it. The live action Absolutely Anything (sounding like a cross between Bruce Almighty and the classic Twilight Zone episode, The Monsters are due on Maple Street,) will also co-star Robin Williams in some capacity. Python alum Eric Idle is said to be the only Python still in negotiations to join the production… THE RUMORS ARE TRUE: executives at 20th Century Fox have confirmed that Matthew Vaughn has been signed to direct the follow-up to X-Men: First Class, and that the script is currently being written by Simon (Sherlock Holmes) Kinberg. Bryan Singer will again produce … SILVER PICTURES have hired Albert Torres to pen their big budget remake/reimagining/reboot thingy of BEN 10. Torres previous credits include Henry Pool is Here, and the now defunct AKIRA remake … DUE TO a ballooning budget crisis, Warner Bros. has permanently delayed Arthur & Lancelot, and pushed the release of Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Killer, into the film’s former release window. This means that although TV Spots for Jack the Giant Killer had already began airing indicating a release this summer, the film in fact will now be arriving in theaters, March of 2013 … A NEW DIGITAL LOONEY TUNES SHORT will screen before Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. “Daffy’s Rhapsody” will be screened in both 2D and 3D/IMAX where available:
… EVEN THOUGH THE HUNGER GAMES movie hasn’t been released as of yet, production has already begun on the sequel, Catching Fire, with the same creative team … SPEAKING OF THE HUNGER GAMES, actor Liam Hemsworth has been cast in director Phillip Noyce’s next, Timeless. It’s a story about a grieving widower who constructs a time machine in defiance of reality, just so he can be with his wife, again …GEORGE LUCAS has officially announced his retirement from big budget filmmaking. This is said to have come about as a result of a certain lack of interest on the part of the major studios in Hollywood, when invited to screen his latest effort as producer: Red Tails. Said Lucas: “I’m retiring; I’m moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff.” Lucas did concede that Indiana Jones 5 is coming, but is adamant that it will be the very last blockbuster that he is involved in. In further Indy news, Lucas has denied the claim by Steven Spielberg that “nuking the fridge” was Spielberg’s own idea. That much hated scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, involving Indy escaping certain death at ground zero, by hiding in a lead-lined refrigerator. “It’s not true,” he said. “He’s trying to protect me.” According to Lucas, Spielberg “didn’t believe” the scene. So Lucas submitted to his friend a six-inch thick file on the subject, which indicated that if the fridge were lead lined, and if Indy didn’t break his neck from the concussion created by the explosion, or the impact of the refrigerator upon the ground, and if he were able to get the door back open, survival was higher than would be expected. “The odds of surviving that refrigerator — from a lot of scientists — are about 50-50,” Lucas said. In reference to further Star Wars films, Lucas commented: “Why would I make any more, when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?” … WALT DISNEY are planning an as of yet untitled Space Adventure film. Said to be some sort of a “Journey,” the film is being penned by screenwriter Max (Chronicle) Landis. Landis is the son of director John (An American Werewolf in London) Landis and costume designer Deborah (Raiders of the Lost Ark) Nadoolman … DOCTOR STRANGE finally has a script from the writers of Sahara. Marvel are now searching for a director & cast to “package” together. They hope to begin shooting this year for a 2013 release … IN OTHER MARVEL NEWS, Chronicle director Josh Trank has shot down reports that he is being considered to helm the reboot of The Fantastic Four. Said Trank: “I know as much as you guys know. I’m totally serious. I know as much as you.” And he added, “I saw that leak online and I was like, ‘Um, okay, I’m trying to finish Chronicle right now.’ This is weird. There’s nothing to say, ‘Chronicle’ is exactly the kind of superhero movie that I wanted to make and, going forward, I want to have some original ideas and different things I’m working on.” Yep. Sounds like a rumor … AND IN STILL OTHER MARVEL NEWS, Iron Man 3 is now scheduled to kick off shooting in Wilmington, North Carolina, just a few weeks from now, and under the direction of Shane (Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang) Black. Thor 2 is scheduled to begin shooting sometime this year as well, and Captain America 2 should begin filming in either December of this year, or January of next … AND IN A BRIEF BIT OF DC NEWS, director David (X-Files, Supernatural) Nutter will helm Arrow, the CW Network’s pilot for that proposed new series that focuses on Green Arrow … BEN AFFLECK has hired a screenwriter for his redux of Stephen King’s epic The Stand, which will be released theatrically this time and by Warner Bros. … KRISTEN WIIG has joined Ben Stiller for his remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty … ACTOR/DIRECTOR PETER BERG, Director/Producer Michael Mann, and screenwriter Akiva Goldman, have been talking to Will Smith about a sequel to Hancock. Says Berg: “… Will Smith actually had the idea — so I think it will happen, it’s just a question of timing.” … PRODUCER MARK (Back to the Future, Buckaroo Banzai) CANTON has teamed with comic book company Platinum Studios, to bring Atlantis Rising to the big screen. The story: seismic disturbances in the world’s oceans spur an investigation, which leads to the eventual discovery of a civilization that has developed simultaneous to our own, but underwater. Platinum previously developed the project several years ago with first, Gale Ann Hurd’s company Pacific Western, and then later with Dreamworks. Development hell was the result the first two times at bat; hopefully they’ll hit a home run this time … UNIVERSAL has gotten a smidgen closer to setting an exact date for the upcoming blu-ray release of E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial: “March” … Speaking of Blu-ray, Joe Dante first mentioned it and now Warner Bros. have confirmed that Gremlins 2: The New Batch will arrive on blu-ray May 8th — and here’s an advanced look at the artwork for the soon to be released and remastered in Hi-Def, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One package: According to CBS Home Entertainment’s executive VP Ken Ross, the release date for Season One is “late summer or early fall.” Ross went on to state that Paramount have 20 people working on this restoration project in full time shifts around the clock 24 hrs. a day, and that 2 Seasons of the show will be released per year until the final season arrives in 2015 … RELATIVITY MEDIA have pushed back the release of The Raven, starring John Cusack, to April 27th — and they have also pushed back the release of Mirror, Mirror to March 30th. That film, a revisionist take on Snow White, will now open opposite Wrath of the Titans, both a week after The Hunger Games. Mirror, Mirror will nonetheless still be released several weeks ahead of Snow White and the Huntsman; which arrives on June 1st … A DOCUMENTARY about comic book legend Stan Lee, titled With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story, will air later this year on the pay TV cable channel, EPIX. Soon after, it will be made available on their web-site, EPIXHD.com … NOW FOR THE SAD NEWS: Veteran actor Ian Abercrombie died Thursday in Hollywood, CA. Abercrombie is particularly memorable as both the old Wizard in Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness, and as John Hammond’s Butler in Lost World: Jurassic Park. In addition he had a very long career, which included roles in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, The Six Million Dollar Man, Battlestar Galactica, Twin Peaks, and Star Trek: Voyager. He also voiced the character of Palpatine/The Emperor in Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He was 77 years old …VETERAN TELEVISION DIRECTOR John Rich passed away yesterday. Among his almost fifty year career in directing comedy for television, he helmed two notable episodes of the original Twilight Zone: “A Kind so Stopwatch,” and “A Most Unusual Camera.” Rich was 86 years old … DIMITRA ARLISS, the actress who played the “hit lady” who was tasked with killing Robert Redford’s character in The Sting, passed away this week after suffering a stroke at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. She made several television and film appearances, including a part in Xanadu, and another as a Russian scientist in Clint Eastwood’s film, Firefox. She was 79 … ACTOR JAMES FARENTINO died on Tuesday, January the 24’th of heart failure. Among his many notable appearances: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, and the ill-fated Blue Thunder TV Series. In 1980 he turned in a memorable performance in the cult science fiction film, The Final Countdown. Acting alongside Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen, Farentino played a naval officer aboard an aircraft carrier transported back in time to Pearl Harbor, on December 7th, 1941. The 73 year old thespian will be missed … AND VERY SADLY, the voice actor who provided the very memorable voice for the Robot in Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space TV series, also died that day. Dick Tufeld was, of course, known for: “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger !” In addition to voicing the robot on the original TV series and in the 1998 movie, Tufeld also did routine voice work for producer Allen on both Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and The Time Tunnel. And Tufeld’s voice can clearly be recognized as the opening narrator of two of the most beloved cartoon series of the 1980’s: Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, and Thundarr: The Barbarian. Tufeld was 85 years old, and according to actor Bill Mumy, died peacefully in Los Angeles. He will be remembered by an entire generation that grew up watching TV in the 1960’s, and almost as many who watched Lost in Space in syndication …
THERE IS RUMOR circling Hollywood that Warner Bros. have renewed their on again/off again interest in making Gremlins 3. Original Gremlins director Joe Dante has stated that he will definitely not be involved … A PROPOSED THIRD! INCARNATION of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is however dead in the water. After a very negative response from fans of the original (mainly due to a lack of involvement on the part of Joss Whedon,) and a rejected script, the project has been abandoned … ANDREW KOSOVE, one of the producers of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner follow up, has commented that the project is a “high priority” for director Scott, and added, “Sometime in the first 2 months of the new year we’ll announce who the screenwriter will be and whether or not it’s a prequel or a sequel.” This information is in direct contrast to Scott’s own previous statements wherein he confirmed that a writer was already at work on the project and that the film would definitely be a sequel … TELEVISION DIRECTOR ALAN TAYLOR, of Game of Thrones fame, has been hired to replace Patty Jenkins on Thor 2 … ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER’S next genre film will reportedly be Black Sands. Described as a cross between Commando and Constantine, the film will feature Arnold waging war against a ruthless weapons manufacturer, with a twist. “I’m kind of an angel,” says Arnold … HERE’S ONE THAT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE: Kristen Dunst stars in yet another remake of Romeo & Juliet, this one being a science fiction take on the Shakespeare play titled, Upside Down. The film is due to be released sometime in 2012, you’ll find the trailer already on YouTube under that title … THE LOVELY ERICA DURANCE (Lois Lane on Smallville) will make an appearance on the NBC show Harry’s Law on January 11th, wearing the Wonder Woman costume from Producer David E. Kelley’s rejected W.W. pilot … FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE STUDIO’S HISTORY, Paramount had a float in a Rose Parade. The 55-foot long ‘Paramount Pictures – 100 Years of Movie Magic‘ float, featured a motif of the studios more popular assets, including a USS Enterprise representing the Star Trek franchise, and a replica of Bumblebee from Michael Bay’s Transformers films. … HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART II has been chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the 10 best films of the year. And Roger Ebert listed the film as #16 on his list of the 20 best films of 2011 … WITH MOST OF ITS CASTING COMPLETED, Ender’s Game has been fast tracked into production and will begin shooting next month. The film stars Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Abigail Breslin, and Hailee Steinfeld … J.J. ABRAMS has revealed that his next Star Trek film will be shot in the Panavision film format, with a possibility for one or two IMAX sequences. The film will not be shot in 3D, but could possibly be post-converted … UNIVERSAL has officially retired the JAWS ride at their Universal Orlando theme park. And in tandem, the Studio says that after much harassment by fans, the classic Steven Spielberg blockbuster will finally bow on blu-ray on August 14th. No official dates have been set as of yet for the remainder of Spielberg’s canon, however it has been confirmed that both the Indiana Jones films and E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial, will also arrive sometime in 2012 … BOB ANDERSON, an Olympic fencer and career stunt choreographer and master swordsman in Hollywood, died early New Years day in a hospital in England. He worked on such films as From Russia With Love, The Guns of Navarone, Barry Lyndon, Superman II, The Princess Bride, Highlander, the original Star Wars films, The Phantom, The Mark of Zorro, and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, along with the forthcoming Hobbit films. In a 1983 interview with Starlog Magazine, Mark Hammill commented: “Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting.” He was 89 years old …