Rogue One

REVIEW: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story soundtrack (2016)

I will be going LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning coffee.

Rob says:  “Star Wars For A New Generation – May is Star Wars month on Visions In Sound and we will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary with a slew of special shows. Joining me this week will be special guests Jason Drury, Michael Ladano & Erik Woods to help with the celebration. Featured music will be from Star Wars – The Force Awakens (John Williams), Star Wars – Rebels (Kevin Kiner) and Rogue One – A Star Wars Story (Michael Giacchino). Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET)”

ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story original motion picture soundtrack (2015 Lucasfilm/Disney)

A Star Wars soundtrack without John Williams?  Blasphemy!  Right?  Right guys and girls?  No John = No Star Wars, right?

Wrong!

It’s not like Rogue One is even the first!  20 years before, Joel McNeely composed Shadows of the Empire, the soundtrack to a massive multi-media Star Wars story.  It accompanied a novel, a comic, a video game and action figure line.  The only thing missing was a movie.  Since Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of Star Wars, Shadows of the Empire is now considered “legends”, or non-canon, so if you’re not aware of it, that’s OK.  The point is, a non-Williams Star Wars soundtrack is nothing new to long time fans.  And Rogue One is the perfect vehicle for such a soundtrack.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first non-episodic, non-Skywalker-saga Star Wars film ever.  There are two very obvious ways that it differentiates from the main line of films.  One is that there was no opening crawl (nor should there have been).  The second is that Williams didn’t do the music.  Michael Giacchino did, a man who has plenty of credits on his resume including a large number of J.J. Abrams productions.

Giacchino wisely didn’t overuse established Star Wars music.  You won’t hear the fanfare.  The sudden crash opening music of “He’s Here For Us” was actually a pretty cool moment of shock, and it’s right there at the start.  The music feels like the storyline.  When Director Kennic suddenly pays a surprise visit to his “friend” Galen Erso, you couldn’t ask for more abrupt and appropriate music.  The threat has arrived.  Better hide.

Though Giacchino borrows music only sparingly from John Williams, he seems to embody that classic style.  While unfamiliar, these new pieces sound like part of that universe.  There are memorable parts; not so many as the classic films, but they are there.  “He’s Here For Us” introduces one such theme, and there are more, such as the main theme contained within “A Long Ride Ahead” (and again in “The Master Switch”).  You’ll notice the Rogue One theme music in “A Long Ride Ahead” is very similar to the Star Wars main theme, in particular the first two notes.  It’s the same interval, transposed down to a different key.   That’s why the Rogue One and Star Wars themes sound similar, but different.

Other tracks like “When Has Become Now” have bits and pieces that recall prior Star Wars music without copying.  Another fantastic theme is “Jedha Arrival” which really captures the vibe.  You will get to hear the legendary “Imperial March” in “Krennic’s Aspirations”, in which he meets the Dark Lord Darth Vader in his castle on Mustafar.

For action scenes, “Jedha City Ambush” hits a double:  It’s different from past Williams work, but really gets the adrenaline running.  “Star-Dust” is more contemplative, and very unique.  The drama of “Confrontation on Eadu” has that awe-inspiring mix of ingredients that good Star Wars music always has.  Then, for sheer terror, the ironically titled “Hope” gives you all you need in pure musical form.  The solo violin on “Jyn Erso & Hope Suite” will make you weep.

The crux of the soundtrack is this:  It’s nearly impossible to listen to it without consciously or unconsciously comparing it.  That’s natural.  No matter who composed it, fans would notice it’s not John Williams.  Just like fans can tell the Kiss band of today is not the Kiss band of 1978.  What else could Disney do?  John Williams is 85 years old, and they plan on making these movies for years and years to come.  It’s reasonable to think John Williams will be able to complete the third trilogy of Star Wars, as we hope.  It’s not realistic to think he’ll be around as long as Disney plan on making Star Wars movies, as sad as that is.

We’ll leave this review with just some fun speculation.  It is widely known that, at some point in the late 1970s, George Lucas mentioned there would be 12 films.  Not 3, 6 or 9.  12 films.  He later backtracked and said, “Yeah, no, I meant 6.”  And of course he also used to deny he’d even make the prequel trilogy at all.  Then we found out he was already writing Episode I.  And recently, we learned he was actually planning to do the sequel trilogy after all, meaning you can’t trust anything Lucas backtracks on.  Fans always assumed 12 films meant 4 trilogies.  A fourth trilogy (probably focusing on Rey, Finn, Poe or Kylo’s children) does not seem impossible any more.   As long as these movies make money, it’s feasible that Disney could continue the actual saga beyond just these anthology films.  If we imagine that one day we’ll get Episodes X, XI and XII then who could compose the music?  Certainly not John Williams, since this could not happen until the mid-2020s at the soonest.  If it ever comes to pass, the fourth trilogy would have to be composed by somebody new, be it Giacchino or someone else.   Giacchino established himself as a real contender on Rogue One.  Well done.

3.5/5 stars

QUIZ WINNER Scott goes Rogue, receives prize

 

Scott works hard for his prizes!  When he said that Lego Album Cover Quiz #3 was his “entire afternoon” he wasn’t kidding.  That’s what makes a winner!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hand over Scott’s prize (a new copy of Whitesnake’s killer Saints & Sinners CD, featuring “Here I Go Again” and “Crying in the Rain”).  We met up and saw Rogue One which gets better upon further viewings.

There are more QUIZZES and more PRIZES coming in 2017!  Stay tuned, watch this space, or better yet, sign up for daily notifications so you never miss a chance to win some cool rock.

 


 

 

 

#537.3: 2016 Can Suck Balls – Year End Lists, Part 3 – LeBrain

GETTING MORE TALE #537.3: 2016 Can Suck Balls
Year End Lists, Part 3 – LeBrain

Regardless of the music, 2016 will go down in history (for most of us) for just one notorious reason:  The sheer number of stars that we lost, both young and old.  Even after I had completed a list of the most significant pop culture deaths in 2016, I had to add even more names:  Debbie Reynolds, and Carrie Fisher.  Princess Leia was one of my first heroes.  I was five years old.  Carrie was an incredible woman, who lived a hard life and came out laughing.

2016

Perspective.

 


But we’ll save the deaths for last.

Ever since the Record Store days, I have always done my albums as a Top Five. We had a newsletter and employees were asked to submit their Top Fives of the year. That being the case, I’ve always stuck with that tradition even when my compatriots have submitted some pretty awesome Top Tens.

You can check out the submitted Top Ten lists here:

After much deliberation, here are my Top Five albums of 2016.

 

5. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct

4. Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem

3. Jim Crean – Insatiable

2. The Cult – Hidden City

1. Monster Truck – Sittin’ Heavy

***

And of course, some killer runners-up.  These three releases rocked hard and were just barely squeezed out of the Top Five:

A Rebel Few – As The Crow Flies

Black Sabbath – The End

Evilyn Strange – Evilution


Top TV shows of 2016

Some extras!  The TV shows below are the only ones I bother with.  If you haven’t watched American Dad yet, after all my badgering, I don’t know what else I can say about the funniest show on TV!

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Actually I do — American Dad has the best musical jokes.  You will hear plenty of great tunes:  Metallica, The Sword, Stan Bush, Satriani, Rush, Queen, and many more.  And even the songs you don’t like (Owl City, Kelly Clarkson?) are hilarious, because of the context.  That’s what makes a musical joke work.  You can find a complete list of songs used in American Dad by clicking here.

Top four TV shows:

4. Family Guy

3. The Grinder

2. The Walking Dead

1. American Dad

Dropping off the list is the Big Bang Theory which started to suck a couple years ago, a few noteworthy episodes aside (such as any time Wil Wheaton shows up).


Top Movies of 2016
movie

Movies were…just movies.  There was nothing this year with the emotional impact of The Force Awakens.  The films below are not in any particular order.  They are just movies, nothing more and nothing less.  2016 was a somewhat disappointing year for the silver screen.  (I have not yet seen Arrival.)

Star Wars: Rogue One

Captain America: Civil War

Suicide Squad

Star Trek Beyond

Deadpool

 


And sadly, the real dead pool.  These are just some of the musicians, actors, writers and sports heroes we lost in the year of 2016. Many went way too young.  At the 11th hour, I received this sketch of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.  It was drawn by Wardy who you may know as regular reader here.  Thank you Wardy for sending and giving me permission to post this great sketch.  (Wardy is one talented guy with a pencil.)  Rest in peace to all below.

carrie-fisher-1956-2016-sketch-by-wardy

  • Paul MacLeod
  • David Bowie
  • Prince
  • Alan Rickman
  • George Michael
  • Rick Parfitt
  • Ralph “Chick” Schumilas
  • John Glenn
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Florence Henderson
  • Gene Wilder
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Dave Broadfoot
  • Glenn Frey
  • Gordie Howe
  • Harper Lee
  • Phife Dawg
  • Sir George Martin
  • Anton Yelchin
  • Garry Shandling
  • Christina Grimmie
  • Alan Thicke
  • Kenny Baker
  • Leon Russell
  • Merle Haggard
  • Paul Kantner
  • Jimmy Bain
  • John McLaughlin
  • Abe Vigoda
  • Chyna
  • Pat Harrington Jr.
  • Keith Emerson
  • Greg Lake
  • David Huddleston
  • Maurice White
  • George Kennedy
  • Rob Ford
  • Ralph Stanley
  • George Gaynes
  • Alan Young
  • Frank Sinatra Jr.
  • Lonnie Mack
  • Nick Menza
  • Prince Be
  • Bernie Worrell
  • Matt Roberts
  • Mr. Fuji
  • Alexis Arquette
  • Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr.
  • Jose Fernandez
  • Jean Shepard
  • Pete Burns
  • Robert Vaughn
  • Bobby Vee
  • Leonard Haze
  • James Wooley
  • Sandy Pearlman
  • John Berry
  • John Thomas
  • Dale “Buffin” Griffin
  • Carrie Fisher
  • Debbie Reynolds

 

Rest in peace, and thank you for making our days a little brighter.

LeBrain

MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars – Rogue One [spoiler-free]

“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….”

jyn-erso-rogue-one-posterSTAR WARS:  ROGUE ONE (2016)

Directed by Gareth Edwards

If you are familiar with the opening crawl from Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), then you are already familiar with the last third of Star Wars: Rogue One.  With Disney now in control, we will see Star Wars movies to fill every nook and cranny in the mythos.  Rogue One is just the beginning, and it’s a logical place to start.  A New Hope began mid-action.  Princess Leia is under attack and captured by Darth Vader, but R2D2 and C3P0 have escaped his clutches with the plans to the Death Star.  Did we need an entire movie to see how they got there?

Of course we didn’t.  That’s why George settled for an opening crawl.  The story of how the Death Star plans got into Leia’s hands has gone through many iterations over the years.  The original Star Wars radio drama was one variation.  In another, the video game Dark Forces, you steal the plans yourself as a character named Kyle Katarn.  Now we have the official story featuring a new band of rebels:  Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), K2S0 (Alan Tudyk), Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and the charismatic pair of Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen).  They are assisted by the forces of Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), an extremist character originally from the Clone Wars television series.  Together they must get those Death Star schematics into the hands of the Rebel Alliance.

If only it didn’t take so long to do it.

Rogue One is a long running movie, with a final battle that is stunning eye candy but too slow.  As X-Wings, Tie Fighters, Y-Wings and new ships such as Tie Strikers and U-Wings do battle over the planet Scarif where the Death Star plans are stored, you get to watch…someone trying to flip a master control switch.  Someone describing the location of the switch.  Someone trying to locate a file in an archive.   Someone trying to align an antenna and send a file.  Almost sounds like another day at the office, and it takes forever to get from A to B.

Fortunately, Rogue One delivers in other respects.  Planets new and old (you’re gonna shit your pants when you see which old) are to be seen.  One strength of the original trilogy was the variety of planets.  We visited five different worlds:  desert, ice, cloud, swamp and forest.  The prequel movies brought fire and water planets.  Rogue One debuts the exotic Jedha, a spiritual home of the Jedi religion and a source of the Kyber crystals that power their lightsabers.  There is also a tropical paradise planet, torn up and exploited by the evil Empire.

img_20161223_212600There are also cool new ships and stormtroopers to feast your eyes on.  The coolest of these are the black Death Troopers, the personal force of Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).  Krennic is the prime villain of the film, an ambitious yet bumbling higher-up in the Empire who finds himself on the wrong side of Governor Tarkin (a CG Peter Cushing) and Lord Darth Vader himself.  And as you shall see in the climax of the film, being on the wrong side of Darth Vader is not a place you want to find yourself.  Mendelsohn shines in the role, especially in any scene in which he is paired with Mads Mikkelsen who portrays Jyn’s father Galen Erso.  The character of Galen Erso is revealed to have made a major covert move in the war, that changes A New Hope in one significant way.

In trying to please Star Wars fans who weren’t into The Force Awakens or the prequel trilogy, perhaps Rogue One went too far.   A film with Tarkin as a major villain is a Star Wars fan’s dream, but CG isn’t at the stage yet where he looks perfect.  The uncanny valley strikes again, and somewhere between your eyes and brain, you can tell something is “off” about the character.  The same can be said about another surprise cameo from the past.  Other characters seem shoehorned into the film without a good reason.  (Was there any logical reason to see Pignose and his friend, Scott?)  On the other hand, there is some very clever use of original, unused footage from 1977 to bring other characters back who absolutely should be there.  You’ll know the shots when you see them.  Best, and most significant of the nods to the past are appearances by Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), two senior leaders of the Rebel Alliance.

Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are as fantastic as Mendelsohn is.  Jones can do more acting with her face than most can do with 10 lines of dialogue, but her character isn’t fleshed out.  We know a little bit about who she is, but not about what makes her tick and what she feels.  Luna’s Cassian Andor seems to have more depth.  He seems to have some more skin the game.  Jyn Erso is just along for the ride until she changes her mind mid-way and does a complete 180.  Too many times, characters don’t take actions that are consistent or logical.

The biggest flaw with Rogue One is you already know how it ends.  And if you don’t, you will be able to predict death scenes well in advance, so obviously are they telegraphed.

What makes Rogue One special despite its flaws are the ways it brings childhood dreams to the big screen.  For decades, kids have been flying their X-wings through the back yard, strafing their stormtroopers on invented planets.  Others lucky enough to have an AT-AT in their collection enjoyed target practice with a group of Rebel soldiers.  Younger fans brought up on Star Wars video games will enjoy settings and action right out of the Jedi Knight series.  Rogue One also lifts the veil on the Empire a little bit, an organization we actually see little of in the original trilogy.  Think about it.  Most of the time, you were following around Luke and his friends, on the run from the Empire and doing their own thing.  You didn’t see much of what life under the Empire is like.  Now you do.  Mass electronic surveillance, police state tactics, punishment and coverups are the order of the day.

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The last issue to discuss is the score by Michael Giacchino, which is intentionally different from a John Williams soundtrack. It is different and good, but lacks the standout themes that the saga films are known for.  That was the right direction to take, as Rogue One should and does feel like a different kind of Star Wars movie.  It should not be confused with the concurrent saga films, which follow the story of the Skywalker family.

It’s not Giacchino’s fault that Rogue One doesn’t deliver the same kind of awe-inspiring story of the other films.  While it does venture into the mythos of the Force via the blind guardian Chirrut Îmwe, it is not intended to unveil the same kind of chilling revelations.  There is no “I am your father” moment.  There is no self-discovery of inner power as we saw in the past with Anakin, Luke and Rey.  Instead Rogue One travels the road of the soldiers, the grunts on the ground fighting the Empire both openly and secretly.  There are no Jedi to save them, no chosen ones.  Only luck, if you believe in that sort of thing.

The most encouraging thing about Rogue One is how “right” it was done.  Its heart is in the right place at all times.  When the prequels came out to fill in the blanks, they left us more puzzled than anything.  Wait…Darth Vader built C3P0?  Obi-Wan was actually trained by Liam Neeson?  Princess Leia’s mother died in childbirth even though Leia remembered her as being “beautiful, but sad?”  Rogue One doesn’t trample on the continuity at all, it only enhances it.  And that’s all we really needed.

3.5/5 stars

ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story trailer “Trust”

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

Rogue One will be out in 19 days.  Get ready.

ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story official teaser trailer