Wednesday, 28 December 2016

"So long, Princess!"

Actress Carrie Fisher, most famous for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga, suffered a serious heart attack aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles last week. Passengers attempted to revive her with CPR and she was taken to hospital after the plane landed.

Sadly Carrie Fisher succumbed to her injuries and died yesterday. She was 60.

I couldn't let this pass without comment during the festive season break.

My first, and greatest, silver screen crush. Vivid memory, post discharge from children's hospital, of asking my late mum if 'Princess Leia' would wait for me to grow up? Doubtlessly, I wasn't unique in that, but for a 5-year old, who had survived a life-changing trauma, it was a big deal. My younger self never imagined actually meeting her; let alone getting a kiss. Star Wars Celebration Europe will be fondly remembered. Always.

Coincidentally, I visited mum's memorial yesterday and she introduced me to Star Wars. The connective tissue of hope...

Star Wars ignited a lifelong passion for film, giving me a framework within which to make sense of feeling intense isolation in the wake of a childhood trauma, and the inspiration behind the inception of this blog.

Thank you and RIP Carrie Fisher. xx

How did Carrie Fisher and Star Wars impact your life? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Fans flock to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The experiment worked! The first Star Wars standalone movie is a critical and commercial success.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story took $155 million at the US box office in its opening weekend, but falls short of The Force Awakens' $248 million domestic debut. Worldwide takings are $290.5 million and, with the festive season fully underway, that's only going to increase as more fans and cinema goers flock to multiplexes around the world.

Director Gareth Edwards' instalment is a dark chapter in the franchise and there's a high body count. Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst with comScore, said the film lived up to expectations.

Based on the success of Rogue One and The Force Awakens, he said: "The next film in the Star Wars saga has the potential to claim the title as the biggest movie of all time."

Star Wars will be an annual festive tradition for years to come. Well, until at least 2020.

May I wish all my readers a fantastic festive period, whatever you may be doing, and all the best for the New Year! Thank you for all your comments. I'm off to see Rogue One, again, and hope you all find Star Wars goodies under the Christmas tree.

See you in 2017 for the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars' release in the US and Rian Johnson's Episode VIII.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Rogue One is the Star Wars prequel you're looking for

Director Gareth Edwards' Star Wars spin-off movie is about the Death Star and by the end I'd concluded Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the best Star Wars movie since the original trilogy.

Not too shabby in the wake of JJ Abrams' joyous reboot: The Force Awakens. But, this is the expanded Star Wars universe I always imagined between episodes of the original trilogy, and in the pages of Dark Horse Comics in the 1990s...

Spoilers ahoy and I urge fellow fans to see the movie first. Otherwise it's tantamount to opening your presents before Christmas.

This film is for the fans from a fan and it's dark; The Empire Strikes Back dark. Edwards and cohorts put the war into Star Wars and assemble a brutal, heartbreaking, adventure with no happy ending for the adorable misfits lead by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). A generation of children will be as traumatised as I was watching the final episode of Blake's 7 in 1981.

Felicity Jones is an engaging lead and Jyn Erso's story arc mirrors Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor. And I knew we were in for something sinister with Rogue One when Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) shot a Rebel informant in the back. These Rebels operate in world of grey.

K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) deserves special mention. The last time I wept over a machine's demise was Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Alan Tudyk delivers a tour de force erasing all memories of Jar Jar Binks in George Lucas' prequels.

The late Peter Cushing is digitally resurrected as Grand Moff Tarkin. The uncanny valley takes no prisoners. However, Tarkin had to be a commanding presence and the miracle workers at ILM came close to accomplishing the impossible and surpassed young Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War.

Then there's the return of Darth Vader. Magisterial and menacing. The first shot of Mustafar's lava flows sent chills down my spine and the Sith Lord's introduction, submerged in a bacta tank, was nightmarish and chillingly foreshadows the horrors unleashed at the movie's audacious and claustrophobic climax in the wake of the best space battle since the original trilogy: a fitting epitaph to the late conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie.

The first hour or so gives no indication of the spectacular third act to come and there's a cohesive vision that belies the extensive summer reshoots. It's as if Edwards ripped up the Hollywood rule book and his movie takes Star Wars to the nth degree and into A New Hope.

This maybe the closest we'll ever get to a Steven Spielberg directed franchise instalment. Edwards deftly mixes The Dirty Dozen, Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now. In fact Rogue One is replete with filmic references to delight all cinephiles.

The nod to the Journal of the Whills and countless Easter Eggs will give diehard fans a frisson of excitement lacking in the prequels. Hollywood composer Michael Giacchino, parachuted late into the production when Alexandre Desplat had to back out, interweaves John Williams' iconic soundtrack with his usual aplomb.

Kyber crystals power the Death Star's reactors and lightsabers. So, I couldn't help recalling Splinter of the Mind's Eye, a novelisation written by Alan Dean Foster, which shares Rogue One's genesis as a story originally intended for a live-action Star Wars television series.

Connected universes are de rigeur and Star Wars surpasses stablemate Marvel in this regard. The Clone Wars' Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), who shaped Jyn Erso's formative years after her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), was forced to serve the Empire, against his will, by an overreaching Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), will appear in the current season of Star Wars Rebels. The Disney XD series predates events in Rogue One.

The only fly in the ointment was the lack of an opening crawl. Rogue One, whilst boasting the most beautiful reveal in the saga's history, deserved more and I hope Disney rethinks this strategy for the upcoming Han Solo spin-off and beyond.

The Force is strong with this one and it bodes well for future Star Wars spin-offs.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Stormtroopers invade Canary Wharf for Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opened in UK cinemas at midnight.

To celebrate the release of the first Star Wars spin-off movie, Stormtroopers, from the 501st UK Garrison and Rebel Legion Elstree Base, descended on London's commuter hotspots including Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf is one of the locations used in the filming of Rogue One.

Incidentally, I met the Imperial Officer (pictured) at Star Wars Celebration Europe and he instructed a phalanx of Stormtroopers to salute me as they patrolled the ExCeL London last July. Happy days!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Star Wars creator George Lucas loves Rogue One

The review embargo for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story lifted yesterday. However, director Gareth Edwards is most interested in the reaction of George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, to his spin-off movie that dovetails into A New Hope. The verdict? “He loved it.”

“We got to show George the movie... and I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but I can honestly say that I can die happy now," said Gareth Edwards. "He really liked the movie. It meant a lot.”

“It was the most important review to me,” Edwards added. “He’s kind of God... I will take that conversation to my grave. His opinion means the world to me.”

Critical reaction is overwhelmingly positive with some reviewers suggesting Rogue One surpasses JJ Abrams' The Force Awakens and draws worthy comparison to The Empire Strikes Back. I'm seeing the movie this Friday and a review will follow soon thereafter.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Spider-Man goes rogue in Homecoming

Tom Holland's scene-stealing cameo as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War reinvigorated Spidey's silver screen persona in the wake of the middling The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Most importantly, it brought Peter Parker into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as part of a deal between Disney and Sony.

Next summer the rebooted Spider-Man franchise debuts, in theatres, with Spider-Man ignoring Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) when he goes into battle with Michael Keaton's Vulture.

Marvel Studios released an official trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming movie during Jimmy Kimmel Live!

It appears a stale origin story has been ditched in favour of dropping the teenaged webslinger directly into action in his quest to become a member of the Avengers.

Excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Rogue One Chinese trailer focuses on Baze and Chirrut

Lucasfilm has unleashed a new official trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Directly aimed at the Chinese market and focussing on new characters Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe.

“I’ve been recruiting for the Rebellion,” Diego Luna’s Rebel officer Cassian Andor says in a voiceover. “Spies, saboteurs, assassins,” before cutting to a scene of a platoon of stormtroopers surrounding Chirrut on Jedha. “He’s blind,” says one of them before they’re all taken out by the Force-loving monk with a little help from his big gun-toting friend.

“You almost shot me!” Chirrut says. “You’re welcome,” Baze responds.

The Force Awakens met with a lukewarm reception in China. So, Disney will be keen to garner greater success in the Chinese market with Rogue One.

The upcoming Star Wars spin-off, released next week, follows the Rebellion as it embarks on a perilous mission to steal the Death Star plans.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Lucasfilm screens 28 minutes of Rogue One

With less than two weeks to go until Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is released in theatres. Journalists (alas, not me) were invited to a press junket at Lucasfilm.

Disney didn't impose an embargo. The journalists' spoiler-free reactions on social media, to the 28 minutes of screened footage, have been positive with praise given to the action, scope and K-S2O. Many dismissed the incessant focus on summer reshoots citing Rogue One looks spectacular and opens with a breathtaking jolt.

Someone, who has purportedly seen an edit of Rogue One, said the Star Wars spin-off was their third favourite entry in the blockbusting franchise, following The Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope. If that's the widespread reaction after 14th December...

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