movies

#954/REVIEW: A Day at the Matinee – Eternals (2021) [SPOILER-Y]

The last time I went to see a movie, it was a V.I.P. experience and I had never heard the word “coronavirus” in my life.  This time was starkly different but enjoyable in its own way.

I’ve been wanting to see a movie in this pandemic ever since Tenet hit theaters in 2020, but that was before vaccines and many people were not ready to be back in cinemas yet.  2021 is different, and I’ve been enjoying stores and dinners out once again.  Time to go see a movie!  Eternals it is!  Now I’m completely caught up in the MCU, just in time for Spiderman:  No Way Home!

Eternals hasn’t been doing well, and for a Sunday matinee all that was available was the standard 2D showing.  (I could identify scenes that looked like important bits were cropped out from the Imax aspect ratio.)  My original intent was to see the movie with our friend Vu, but he’s a busy pharmacist and at the last minute, could not get away.  I was already at the theater, so I went ahead and bought my ticket.  Morning show:  less than eight bucks!  Occupany:  I was one of five people total!

I got comfortable in my seat; with the nearest person many rows away, I felt more comfortable than I’ve ever felt in a movie theater.  Not a sound from the others (not even a laugh at the funny scenes) and absolutely no distractions.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience in the cinemas before.  As per cinema rules, I was also masked for two and a half hours with no difficulty whatsoever.  In fact my usually cold nose was very happy to be masked.

I usually look forward to the trailers, but all I saw was shit.  Morbius looks awful and the fan-service trailer feels like a promotional clip for more than one movie.   I grew impatient.  Bring on the Eternals.


ETERNALS (2021 Marvel)
Directed By Chloé Zhao

I really wanted to like the Eternals.  Just days ago I acquired the last Eternals action figure of the ten:  Ajak, Salma Hayek’s character, healer and leader of the team.  She was a Walmart exclusive.  More like Walmart “elusive”!   The designs of the costumes, with unique colours for each character, were intriguing.  With all ten characters in hand, I was familiar with all their names and powers.

There’s Thena, Angelina Jolie’s goddess of war who can manifest blades and shields.  Gilgamesh (Don Lee), the powerhouse with a mighty punch.  Sprite (Lia McHugh), the master of illusions and storytelling, trapped in a child’s body.  Druig (Barry Keoghan), the brooding controller of minds.  Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), a star of the silver screen who can fire bursts of energy from his hands.  The master of technology, Phastos (Bryan Tyree Henry), can create devices of great power and ingenuity with his mind.  Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) is the speedster and seemingly much faster than Quicksilver himself.  She’s also deaf and signs with her teammates.  Ikaris (Richard Madden), upon whom the legend of Icarus is based, is perhaps the most powerful, with strength, flight, and cosmic energy eyebeams.  Finally there is Sersi (Gemma Chan), the actual central hero of the film, who can convert any non-sentient matter into anything else.  Air to water, earth to wood, her choice.  They have been here for 7000 years, shaping our history and becoming our heroes of ancient legend.

That’s a lot of characters, and doesn’t include the underused Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington), Sersi’s boyfriend and spinoff setup device.  Kingo’s valet Karun (Harish Patel) has more screentime than the future Black Knight.  Dane’s lineage is briefly hinted at, and the Ebony Blade mentioned, before being revealed in a post-credit scene that we’ll discuss later.  The point is, Whitman is not important to the story.  He begins as the “regular person” perspective character that we can relate to, as the strangeness unfolds.  But then he disappears and only at the end do we cynically realize his true purpose:  MCU world building.

It wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without some deus ex machina to boot — or maybe characters just like to wait until the last possible minute before revealing their presence?  That said, Ikaris does know how to make an entrance.

Many of the characters are quite delightful.  One feels for the relationship between Thena and Gilgamesh; one the sick and one the caretaker.  Poor Sprite feels cursed as a 7000 year old child who can never age, never to know love or even what it feels like to be treated as an equal.  Phastos, the master of technology, is haunted by his past.  He thought aiding humans to develop new sources of energy would help their society advance.  As he stood in the ashes of Hiroshima, he realized how wrong he was.  He has retreated to an anonymous family life with a husband and a son.  Thena, wonderfully portrayed by Jolie, has the equivalent of Space Alzheimers, lashing out in violence in fitful rages of memory loss.

Other characters go undeveloped.  I loved watching the speedy heroics of Makkari (Mercury), the girl with attitude, but never get a feel for her character otherwise.  Kingo is the entertainer, loving the spotlight and admiration of humans.  He displays wisdom, insight and his own unique perspective on events, but we never really get a feeling for what makes him tick.

Then there is Druig, the intriguing Eternal who can control minds.  With a thought, he could end all war on Earth, but he is forbidden from interfering.  Forbidden by who?

The complex story of love, deception, legend, history and family takes two and a half hours to unfold.  It is told in the form of flashbacks and exposition, lots of exposition.  The initial cover story is that the Eternals were sent to Earth to protect intelligent life from predators called Deviants.  That turned out to be a lie, but they are forbidden from interfering in human affairs unless Deviants are involved.  This comes right down from those that created both Eternals and Deviants:  the Celestials.  The Deviants were their mistake, and the Eternals are the correction.

Again, a lot to sort out in under one movie.  So in sum:  11 new characters (including Whitman), and three new factions.  Sort of new.

We’ve seen Celestials before in the Marvel universe:  giant beings of immense power.  Peter Quill’s dad Ego the Living Planet said he was a Celestial.  The space colony of Knowhere was built in the severed head of a giant Celestial.  The ultimate villain of Eternals is Arishem, a planet-sized Celestial who helps creation continue in the universe.  Celestials create new suns and life in the universe.  meanwhile, new Celestials are born in the heart of planets and feed on the life energy of intelligent beings like humans.  And it just so happens that a new Celestial named Tiamut is about to be born right in the middle of our Earth.  We die so that the Celestials can continue to create new life.  It’s a cycle.

And it also turns out that the Eternals are not the protectors of humans that we assumed.  They were only to protect them until such time as the new Celestial growing inside Earth had absorbed enough life energy.  This happened after the “Blip”, the moment in Avengers: Endgame when half of life in the universe was restored with the Infinity Stones.  Now some of the Eternals have grown so attached to humanity that they don’t want to fulfill their purpose.  They want to stop the destruction of the Earth.  Others cannot imagine disobeying their Celestial masters.  As you can imagine, this boils down to an Eternal vs. Eternal showdown at the end.

Any battle scene with the Eternals in this film has merit.  Since each character has their own power, they find creative ways to use them in concert together.  Unfortunately, the Deviants (who are being sold as the main villains but are really a just side threat) are not very interesting foes.  They look like Bayformers from one of the really bad Transformers films; all sinewy with tentacles that seem to defy physics.  Generic and uninteresting to look at.  One of the Deviants learns how to steal powers from Eternals and becomes a new threat.  We’re never really told why he can do this, but he does, and he evolves.

With the battle lines drawn, two groups of Eternals fight.  Needless to say the do-gooders trying to save the Earth, led by Sersi, are triumphant.  However the planet’s surface itself is scarred by the near-emergence of Tiamut the Celestial, and this will undoubtedly be referenced in Marvel movies and shows in Phase 4.  Our heroes and villains split up and go their separate ways.  A defeated Ikaris flies into the sun, almost like his mythical counterpart.  A small group take their triangular spaceship the Domo to go look for more Eternals.  And they find one almost immediately, in the mid-credit scene!  Patton Oswalt fans will like this, and what it could mean for the future.

In a clunky but hype-worthy post credit scene, Kit Harrington reveals his family’s cursed blade, but before touching it, is asked by an offscreen voice if he’s really ready for it.  Of course we know he will be, in whatever spinoff he appears.  But what really matters is who the offscreen voice is.  Thanks to director Chloé Zhao, we know it was a guy who’s kind of an expert on blades.  Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Blade (Mahershala Ali)!

Zhao’s knack for an outdoor scene made this Marvel movie seem bigger than any before it.  The cosmic themes with a grounded Earth setting helped the movie stay accessible.  At all times, our characters feel like humans.  Her direction provides a visual feast, as well as human characters.

But it’s congested.  While not fast paced, it feels like characters and concepts are rushed.  Who is Phastos, who is Kingo?  Let’s find out more about them.  What has Sprite been doing all these centuries?  Are Druig and Makkari ever going to hook up, and if so, why has it taken them 7000 years?  Seriously, you could do an entire film on Druig and what he could have been up to, building strange utopias in the jungle.  Makkari looks like she’s been on a hell of a lot of adventures, plus she can read a book in seconds.  Let’s find out more about her, please.

Nitpick:  in the film, Dane Whitman asks why the Eternals didn’t try to stop Thanos or anything else that’s happened in the MCU.  I would also ask where the other Marvel heroes are when a giant head and hand start to emerge from the ocean.  Where’s that beeper to Captain Marvel at a time like this?  (Granted, she had to go somewhere pretty urgently at the end of the last Marvel movie, perhaps excusing herself from helping out in this film.)

Following so closely behind the truly Marvel-ous Shang-Chi, Eternals feels like an unfortunate misfire.  The proof will be how it goes in rewatches.  Two or three years down the road, it might be better appreciated.  Or, it might be seen as an unfortunate corporate launchpad for new characters and concepts in the MCU.  Those who enjoy the cosmic side of the universe, as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy and Loki, will delight in the massive Celestials, very well executed on screen.  Could this all be priming our senses up for the eventual arrival of Galactus in Phase Five?  Just speculation of course, but it seems more than possible.

See Eternals, but maybe do some research on the characters first before you go in completely dry.

3/5 stars


On my way out, I said “screw it, I’m getting some popcorn”.  I didn’t have any during the film having just had an early lunch.  I buttered it extra heavy and brought it home with me.

That was what I’ll call a positive experience.

Redrum! A wickedly scary Top 5 Horror Movie show on the LeBrain Train

Big props to the panel tonight:  Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller, Rob “Chucky” Daniels and Erik “Velvet Voice” Woods!  Any time we cover movies, I am the luckiest host in the world to be able to lean on Rob and Erik.  I truly believe these two guys are some of the top experts on movie soundtracks in the world.  By extension, they also know movies like the backs of their hands.  This was a truly great show because we had three amazing guests on the panel.  Me, all I could do was tell amusing anecdotes!  (Watch the show and find out what my buddy Bob and I “learned” about women’s clothing from the movie Christine.

This is a show you’ll want to watch from start to finish.  The discussion far exceeded just a simple “top 5” list, with plenty of interesting runners-up scattered through the broadcast.  Go get a beverage and get ready to be inspired to watch a whole bunch of horror movies this weekend!


REMINDER:

November 5 7:00 PM E.S.T.: We are joined by the awesome Dan Fila, drummer of Sven Gali and Varga! Co-hosted by John “2loud2old” Snow. Get ready to be pummelled by a double bass master!

Next week I’ll be on Tim’s Vinyl Confessions for a special episode, and 107.5 Dave Rocks, with Jessie David for The Essential Alice Cooper on October 31!

The Horror! Top Five Scary Flicks on the LeBrain Train

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and the Meat Man

Episode 85 – Cinco De List-O: Top 5 Horror Films

Topic courtesy of the Meat Man! It’s Halloween so perfect timing for another movie list: horror movies! And any time we’re talking movies, we better have Rob Daniels and Erik Woods on board!

It’s a really simple subject so we don’t need a lot of explanation here. To read up on my history with horror films, check out Record Store Tales #496: The Horror. It may spoil a couple of my picks so be forewarned!

Friday October 29, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook: MikeLeBrain and YouTube: Mike LeBrain.


Upcoming shows:

I am very pleased to announce next week’s show:

November 5 7:00 PM E.S.T.: We are joined by the awesome Dan Fila, drummer of Sven Gali and Varga! Freeze, don’t move, this show is gonna be Under the Influence! Co-hosted by John “2loud2old” Snow.

I also have an appearance on Tim’s Vinyl Confessions coming up, and will be be on 107.5 Dave Rocks, with Jessie David and my pick for The Essential Alice Cooper, on October 31!

A Very Animated Four Hours: An Epic LeBrain Train List Show

Going into this show, I didn’t know what to expect.  I’m not a big animation guy, as you’ll see.  But this was one of the most fun shows we’ve ever done in the umpteen months of this show!  The discussions were funny, insightful, and passionate.  The picks were diverse with some consensus on key animated films.  There was a little bit of CanCon and a little bit of Kiss.  And a lot of fun.

Thank you to our awesome panel this week:

I also did a an unboxing of the brand new RSD Triumph Allied Forces 40th anniversary box set (Canadian edition).  You gotta see this puppy.  Check that out right at the start of the broadcast.  After which, the lists commence!

Thanks for watching everyone, this was a blast from beginning to end!

 

The LeBrain Train Gets Animated Friday Night

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and Friends

Episode 79 – Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Animated films

 

I agreed to this week’s theme before I really thought it through.  When it came down to making my actual list, I realized how few animated movies I’ve seen.  However this show will not suck.  Rob and Erik know their stuff, and I’m sure Kevin, Lana and Harrison will bring it.  That’s your panel this week:

BONUS:  Unboxing!  You will not believe what Deke and I scored this time.  That will happen in the pre-show segment before 7:00.  Show up around 6:45 if you want to see the musical bounty we hauled!

We also need to update you on the upcoming schedule and future plans.  Stay tuned!

Friday August 13, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

And next week…

 

Best of 2020 Part 4: Guest Lists from Frankie and Michael

FRANKIE THE MAN OF MYSTERY

Here’s my list, for what it’s worth. Turns out I didn’t go watch many movies in theatre, but did stream a lot of content. It also seems I like watching cartoons and anime, but that’s not really a surprise. – Frank

Film and Streaming

Blood of Zeus, Netflix
Castlevania Season 3, Netflix
Dragon’s Dogma, Netflix
The Mandalorian, Disney+
1917
The Boys season 2, Prime
Bill and Ted Face the Music
Altered Carbon Season 2 Netflix
October Faction, Netflix
Bosch, Prime

Music

Testament, Titans of Creation, track “Night of the Witch”
Static-X, Project Regeneration Vol 1., track “Hollow”
Sepultura, Quadra, track “Raging Void”
Trivium, What the Dead Men Say
Five Finger Death Punch, F8, track “Scar Tissue”


MICHAEL, MAX THE AXE’S STUNT DOUBLE

Gorillaz – Song Machine
Warbringer – Weapons of Tomorrow
Lamb of God – Lamb of God
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
Poppy – I Disagree
The Chats – High Risk Behaviour
Oliver Tree – Ugly is Beautiful
King Gizzard – K.G.
Testament – Titans of Creation
Atomic Bitchwax – Scorpio

Runners Up

Flaming Lips – American Lips
Midnight – Rebirth by Blasphemy
Deep Purple – Whoosh!
Jeff Rosenstock – No Dream
Blue Oyster Cult – The Symbol Remains

 

Best of 2020 Part 3: TV & Movies

Best movie: 

I’m not a Christopher Nolan junkie, nor a spy thriller fan, so it’s quite a surprise that I loved Tenet as much as I did.  I think I understand 95% of it now, and I’ve only watched it three times, so that’s not bad.  Seriously, I think John David Washington is great, as was the whole cast.  One normal and one inverted thumb up for a movie I file in my science fiction collection.  Great stuff.


Best shows:

5. Jeopardy! – final season with Alex

4. Star Trek: Picard – Season 1

3. American Dad! – Season 17

2. Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3

1. Star Wars: The Mandalorian – Season 2

Jeopardy’s never made my lists here before but watching Alex Trebek keep on going and going only weeks before his death is awe-inspiring.

American Dad had a better than average season this year.  Some of the episodes this year will go down as the series’ best:  “Brave N00B World“, “300“, and “First, Do No Farm”.  The latter features a new Weird Al Yankovic called “Rabbitage” based on — you guessed it — “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys.  The season also featured pop star The Weeknd in an episode called “A Starboy is Born”.

I’m jumping the gun a little bit on Discovery as the season hasn’t ended yet.  However, setting the season over 900 past the days of Kirk and Spock has opened the show up to new possibilities and…discoveries.  It has been a great season with some standout episodes that felt more like The Next Generation than anything since.  Contemplative episodes with minimal (sometimes zero) violence.  Trek is back, and Discovery is currently the superior show, even over Picard, which was pretty good itself.

And finally we have Mandalorian, which despite an unimpressive initial teaser trailer went on to be the show we always hoped it could be.  And it was Bill fucking Burr’s Mayfeld that really pushed it late in the season, adding some much needed character development.  All this made it so much more delicious when Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon did all the moustache-twirling villain stuff at the end.  Then we get Boba, more vicious and primal, and the stoic but intense Jedi.  Bonus points for doing what Qui-Gon Jinn failed to do in Episode I:  just crush the fucking droid with the Force already!  Thanks, Luke.


2020 was the Year Without a Marvel.  Boo.

MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars (1977)

STAR WARS – Original theatrical (1977) version
As released on the 2006 Lucasfilm Limited Edition DVD

Directed by George Lucas

In 1977 my parents took me to see Star Wars for the first time, like millions of other kids my age.  By the end of the year, terms like “The Force” and “Millennium Falcon” were commonly spoken among children like secret code, while remaining merely gibberish to their teachers.  Because of the availability of cool action figures and vehicles by Kenner, Star Wars became much more than a mere movie.  Its world building potential meant that kids were using the characters and settings to make their own adventures.  It became…forever.  A part of culture.  The image of Darth Vader will be found by future archaeologists the same as ours today find carvings Apollo and Zeus.

We memorized this movie.  Lines like “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”  We could recite them with perfect cadence and intonation, albeit an octave high.  But we didn’t understand all the words we were saying, or what it really meant.

Reviewing this movie is like revisiting an old friend to reminisce about the good times.


For the most authentic Star Wars re-watching experience, the 2006 Lucasfilm double DVD edition provides the theatrical version most of us grew up with and knew by heart.  There was no A New Hope, no episode number.  We saw Star Wars three times in the theatres.  After that, everyone had to wait for TV broadcasts or video rental if you wanted to watch Star Wars.  Except back then, there were only “fullscreen” tapes available for rental at the local store.  For many years, we completely forgot about certain alien creatures that were cropped out for home video!  This DVD is a reminder of those times, and how lucky we are today to have so many viewing options available.  (Including a new 2019 Disney+ version of the film. I say “Maclunkey!”)

When he conceived Star Wars, George Lucas had plenty of backstory sketched out.  He assumed he only had one shot at making it, and so chose what he felt was the best and most exciting part of the overall story.  In a way, Star Wars always had a leg up on everything that came later for that reason.  The origin story of the farmer boy that leaves home to save the world is a setup taken from classic lore, and put on screen in an original way by turning it into a space fantasy.  With the benefit of hindsight, could it even lose?

Actually yes — if the special effects weren’t as convincing as they are.  Those artists took Ralph McQuarrie’s crucial conceptual art and turned drawings into filmable 3D objects that look worn, used and real.  Using bits of plastic battleship model kids and parts taken from cameras, a universe that looked as real as the world we live in was created.  Then they innovated further using blue screens and skill, creating dynamic space battles that surpassed anything we’d seen before.  One key innovation was the idea to choreograph the space battles based on actual World War II dogfight footage.

Sir Alec Guinness (Ben Kenobi) and Peter Cushing (Tarkin) were the two most recognizable stars to the parents in the audience, but Harrison Ford was an up-and-comer who impressed everyone that loved George Lucas’ other coming-of-age story, American Graffiti.  Even though Cushing and Guinness had no idea what their dialogue was really about, they turned in incredible character performances.  The hero trio of Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher were perfectly tuned.  Meanwhile, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker provided the roles of perspective for the film.  Indeed, Lucas said that only C-3P0 and R2-D2 witnessed the events of the entire saga.  Finally, Peter Mayhew and David Prowse provided the physical acting necessary for the roles of Chewbacca and Darth Vader.  These performances were topped off with sound effects by Ben Burtt and a brilliant Vader voiceover by James Earl Jones.

Lucas has been mocked in his later years for getting terribly wooden performances out of great actors in the prequel trilogy.  When he was young, making Star Wars, he was different.  His direction is alive and he gets spontaneous feeling performances from the entire cast.  Whatever he was doing in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, he was a different director in 1977.  Of course, much credit must also be given to the editors who carved this movie out of the celluloid.  Yet none of that would have had the same impact without the groundbreaking score by John Williams.  Williams is so important to the entire saga that he composed the scores to all nine films.

In other words, Star Wars is all but a perfect film.  On its own, without any sequels or prequels, it was already one of the best things ever, and what kid could resist that?  On a technical level, it’s a masterpiece achievement.  All this contained within a simple, engaging story drawing upon the tenets of classic mythology.  Consciously it’s blowing your mind, and subconsciously it’s tugging at your Jungian psyche.

The best part about watching the 1977 theatrical version of Star Wars is simply the ease of slipping into that world and really believing it.  When the 1997 special editions hit, the effects may have been improved, but awkwardly jarring additions were made:  The insertion of jerkily-moving Dewbacks.  An extended entry into Mos Eisley with distractingly fake looking Rontos.  A poorly-edited reimaginging of the Greedo faceoff.  And of course, Jabba the Hutt himself, perhaps the most hideous of all the additions due to the extremely primitive animation of the 1990s.  The rest of the changes, such as a restored Biggs Darklighter scene and an improved Death Star battle, are not so bad.  Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with the Death Star battle as it was in ’77.  The problem is that every time an addition is made in every reissue of a Star Wars film, it takes you right out of the movie and into reality once again.


Further Observations

When you pull the focus back and look at Star Wars in a greater context, more insight and meaning can be wrenched from the stone.  Both in terms of cultural impact, and how it relates to the Skywalker Saga as a whole, we can look deeper into this film and enjoy it even more.

One thing we appreciated a little bit as kids, but I really admire today, is the amount of sheer labour that went into making Star Wars.  It’s so much easier to appreciate in this original unrestored version.  If you can see the line between matte painting and live set, you realize:  oh my God, all of that big portion of the screen is actually a set!  And that matte painting is really, really good!  The amount of work to do both, and match them as close as they did is quite impressive without the aid of a computer.  Also, observe techniques used to make shots more dynamic.  The Falcon flying, for example.  The actual model isn’t moving much, but the starfield behind it is.  That makes it look as if it is really burning some rubber.

Here’s something to think about.  One of the biggest action set pieces of this movie involved Luke and Leia swinging across a chasm from a rope.  It blew everyone’s brain, that huge looking vertical shaft with the retracted bridges.  The Stormtroopers are coming at them from two directions, as Luke takes his leap of faith.  While in 1977 we also saw the male and female lead together as a team with possible romantic foreshadowing, today the scene actually has more meaning.  Now, it is the children of Anakin Skywalker finally united after two decades of separation.  The New Hopes.  It’s actually a pretty heavy moment in the whole saga when you think on what that means.  Obi-Wan and Yoda hid those children away as babies in the hopes that one day, they would take over the fight.  The moment we see them swinging across the chasm, we realize that dream has been realized.  From whiny space brat to brave hero in two hours.  It’s also clear from her courage and familiarity with a blaster that Leia is a “Force” to be reckoned with too.

Children loved the adventures but didn’t fully appreciate what Luke was experiencing.  You can feel that Uncle Owen tried, but wasn’t the father figure that Luke wanted.  Then Luke loses the only parents he ever had, his aunt and uncle, and is whisked off-planet for the first time in his life by a new father figure, Ben Kenobi.  In addition he’s told a bombshell of a truth (with a hidden lie):  his real father wasn’t a navigator on a spice freighter.  His uncle had been lying to him his entire life about who his father really was:  a Jedi knight, who fought in a “damn fool idealistic crusade” called the Clone Wars.  He then learns, in a second revelation, that the universe itself is more than it seems, and that an all powerful Force is behind everything.  And then he loses that father figure almost immediately after!  Today that would send most of us into months of therapy, but Luke soldiers on and picks up on this Jedi stuff pretty quickly!  In the end battle, he is forced into a leadership position when Red Leader is shot down by Darth Vader.  “We’re going in, we’re going in full throttle,” he says to the remaining squad.  His older best friend and role model Biggs is on board, and so is hot shot pilot Wedge.  “Right with you boss,” he says without hesitation.

A weighty moment is the final (corporeal) meeting of Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  A physically imposing David Prowse in the Vader costume has the presence necessary to convey the anger behind the words:  “Your powers are weak, old man.”  You can almost hear the voice of Hayden Christensen from the Episode III Vader behind the voice of James Earl Jones.  The hate, as he now calls the man he once knew as “master” by the epithet “old man”.  It was always a foregone conclusion who would win this battle, but we children were amazed when Old Ben disappeared before our very eyes.  And what did those final words of his really mean?  “If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”  Surely a disembodied voice was not the “more powerful” that Ben was referring to?  This is something that the oft-criticized sequel trilogy finally delivered and expanded upon, where the prequels did not.  In episodes VIII and IX, we learn that powerful Jedi spirits can even interact with the physical world, and join with the living to defeat the ultimate evil.  In this way, Obi-Wan Kenobi has a role in concluding the nine-story arc of the Saga (even utilizing the voices of Sir Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor).

Another minor tie to the sequel trilogy is Han Solo’s offering to Luke Skywalker to come with him instead of joining the Rebellion on their “suicide” mission.  The only other person we see him offer to “job” to is Rey in Episode VII.  Any viewing of any Star Wars movie is always enriched by watching other Star Wars movies.  Last week I watched Rogue One.  Since that standalone film was designed to add backstory and blend the saga together even more tightly with the original movie, watching it adds richness and foundation to the original.  Knowing what happened to the previous Red Five, for example.  All the films have this ability to amplify the others.

Though dense with unfamiliar terms, throwaway dialogue built worlds.  The Kessel Run, for example, spawned half of the movie Solo.  Some of the most iconic lines in the whole original film were throwaways:  “You fought in the Clone Wars?”  Apparently so, when he was known as “General Kenobi”!  We didn’t learn a damn thing more about the Clone Wars until Episode II, released a quarter century later.  And so watching the prequels and even the animated Clone Wars series adds depth to the experience.  When Luke asks “How did my father die?” you see the hesitation on his face before Obi-Wan lies to Luke.  In that hesitation lies all the prequels and animated series.  The line about the Clone Wars planted the seed for pretty much everything about the prequels.  The only difference was that as kids, we assumed the clones were the bad guys not the good guys.  (Well, I guess they were both but we won’t delve further here.)

The quality and success of Star Wars were both necessary to launch a thousand imitations.  As kids we became familiar with the concept of “knock offs” pretty quickly.  Battlestar Galactica seemed like a B-level Star Wars.  You could even buy knock off toys at the store like glow-in-the-dark “space swords”.  For the real thing, there could be no substitute.  We were able to prolong and expand our love of the movie with the Kenner action figure line, the Marvel comics, the John Williams soundtrack records, and even “The Story of Star Wars” on vinyl.  This really gave kids a canvas to use their imaginations.  Today, some of the kids that played with Star Wars toys in a sandbox are making their visions real in official spinoff shows like The Mandalorian, that hearken back to what we liked about Star Wars in old ’77.


Conclusion

If you really want to recreate the authentic 1977 Star Wars experience, you won’t find it on your Disney+.  Even hardened cynics must concede that Disney has done some cool stuff with Star Wars recently, but if they really wanted to do something “Force”-ful, they could reissue the ’77 cut one more time.  If they never do, the 2006 DVD is always out there.  There’s nothing better than the real thing.

6/5 stars

Music Movie Mania on the LeBrain Train

An epic six-member panel!  Mega mega movie lists!  Another great show in the books.

Music movies were the focus of the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten tonight, and we brought you so many that your head will spin.  In a good way.  Like a record.  Thanks to everyone for coming on tonight:

Here are your timestamps for various parts of the show:

  • For a cool Japanese import music unboxing, go to 0:03:50.
  • For the start of the lists, skip to 0:23:20.
  • General discussion & current events begin at 2:10:10.

We hope you find at least one new music movie to watch and enjoy!

 

 

Friday Live Stream – Music Movie Lists & Guests

The LeBrain Train – 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano
Episode 29

Another week, another list show, and this one comes courtesy of the founder of the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list, Uncle Meat himself.  Music Movies — with one caveat.  No documentaries.  Those would make a fine list on their own.

Lists by:

 

Friday September 25.  7:00 PM E.S.T.  Facebook:  Michael Ladano or Facebook:  MikeLeBrain.  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.