star wars

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi – Teaser Trailer “Just Breathe”

“Reach out…what do you see?”

Balance has been a major theme in Star Wars stories of late, from The Force Awakens to Rebels. Looks like this will play out in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

REY!
LUKE!
LEIA!
KYLO!
FINN!
POE!
BB-8!
R2-D2!
PHASMA!

Set your hyperdrives to December 15 2017.

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REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 11 (2017)

TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 11 (2017 Netflix)

Thank you Netflix for saving the Trailer Park Boys.  It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but ever since the Boys returned to Sunnyvale with the excellent Season 8 (remember Orangie?), the show has continued unhindered by cast defections.  Season 11 is the first without Lucy Decoutere (Lucy) and Jonathan Torrens (J-Roc).  After already losing such favourites as Trevor (Mike Jackson) and Ray (Barrie Dunn), I can understand why some fans may have said enough’s enough.  Every show has its peak.  For some that would be the first three seasons of Trailer Park Boys.  For others, we have rolled with the changes.  Not all fans were unanimous in the acceptance of newer characters such as Col. Dancer, Don/Donna, and Candy.  For this season, those characters have been dropped.  The core park residents are now Ricky, Julian and Bubbles accompanied by Randy, Lahey, Sarah, Cory, Jacob and Trinity.  Little baby Motel is around, as is Barb Lahey.

Continuing a storyline from Season 10, Julian has vanished.  Bubbles is doing well now, having gone legit selling his own brand of organic pizza sauce.  It’s a hit, and a restaurant owner is willing to pay wholesale.  He has the whole park working together growing vegetables, contributing to the well-being of Sunnyvale and its residents.  All is well, but Bubbles does miss Julian.  Jim Lahey is sober and supervising, having truly changed this time.  He and Randy are planning to get married, while Randy is vying to get on the police force.  The absence of Lucy and J-Roc is explained satisfactorily.

When Ricky and Bubbles (now mobile with his own little truck) discover that Julian is now a lobster fisherman (or is he?) living in a shipping container, they go to confront him.  Ultimately, Julian’s return brings what it always does:  crime back into the park.  Snoop Dogg calls and wants weed, and lots of it.  Julian decides to hijack Bubbles’ pizza sauce business and convert it to a grow op.  As usual, Bubbles is driven near to the breaking point as the stress builds.

In Season 10, there was a revelation that Lahey may in fact be Ricky’s real father.  This is fully addressed in Season 11, via a lightsaber dual (hockey sticks and brooms subbing in for laser swords) and dialogue taken directly from The Empire Strikes Back.  Director Bobby Farrelly (Bobby fucking Farrelly!) must be given credit for the perfect Star Wars homage in Episode 4, “Darth Lahey”, right down to the action beats.  Brilliant stuff — a highpoint episode for this show.

There are cameos by celebrities and past characters. Look for Susan Kent from 22 Minutes, and NHLer Nathan MacKinnon, first overall draft pick and rookie of the year.  A few old adversaries have returned as well, to cause problems for our three lovable idiots.  Speaking of idiots, Ricky and Julian manage to bring the stupidly to new levels, but simultaneously, Ricky has a Yoda-like ability to trick cops.    Meanwhile, they have also managed to keep up with modern technology.  Cell phones, cameras and GPS now figure into the plots.  There are references to the Walking Dead and changing times.  This manages to keep the series feeling fresh.

After 11 seasons, it is understood that a show rarely hits the highs it once did.  Season 11 is a worthy effort; not in the Top Five, but certainly good enough at this point.

4/5 stars

 

Gallery: “Holy sh*t, jackpot” #3: C-3P0 Gold Arm edition

Action figures are like CDs. You can go and buy the “standard edition” at Walmart, or what have you. But if you want all the extra goodies, sometimes you have to hunt a little more and buy a few extra versions.

Toys such as my beloved Star Wars Black Series 6″ series have plenty of exclusives, some that I have and some that I want. The most elusive are the San Diego Comic-Con toys. Some exclusives: Jabba the Hut came with a cardboard throne and accessories. Their Boba Fett came with Han Solo in carbonite. But they are mucho pricey. Elsewhere down the money scale are toys that are exclusive to certain stores and online outlets.

Walgreens is a store that doesn’t exist in Canada and often gets exclusive Star Wars figures. Their most well known is the “prototype” all-white Boba Fett based on an original 1978 Ralph McQuarrie concept sketch. Their current Star Wars treasure is a C-3P0 variation with two gold arms and one silver leg.

The “standard” version of Threepio has the red arm seen in The Force Awakens. This “Resistance Base” Threepio is the common one. Since C-3P0 doesn’t come with any accessories (not even a restraining bolt or com-link), fans hoped he would come with alternate limbs, so you could recreate his look in Episode IV. Hasbro had a different plan. Instead they made the different limbed robots exclusives to Walgreens. I have been looking for one.  (There is also a version with a darker red arm, but it doesn’t look as good as these.)

Our neighbors went to Toronto Comic-Con yesterday and found the Walgreens silver leg Threepio for me. It was only $40 — a lot cheaper than ordering one online. Thanks guys!!

#542: Guy Zemmiton

A biographical tale about world-renowned bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano, a champion of improvised music…and my sister.

GETTING MORE TALE #542: Guy Zemmiton

My sister had a favourite Star Wars figure when we were small. There were so many to choose from. I had plenty of my own favourites. Droids such as IG-88 and 2-1B were cool and different. Yoda was special because he came with a record four accessories: his belt, cloak, walking stick and snake. But my sister’s favourite was Luke, in his X-Wing pilot outfit. It was released in 1978 and went beautifully with the X-Wing toy I got for Christmas that year. My sister Kathryn called him “Luke, the guy with the helmet on”. When she said “guy with the helmet on,” it came out as “Guy Zemmiton”. She was three.

We spent hours setting up massive wars on our living room floor. Guy Zemmiton would heroically defend the Rebellion from Darth Vader and the Empire. [See Record Store Tales Part 0: A Few Words for Days Gone By] Star Wars and its action figures were our universe back then.

We knew there was a second Star Wars movie coming.  The Empire Strikes Back was finally released right around the time Kathryn got incredibly sick.

One night she was complaining about a “sore tongue”.  I remember my parents frantically running around the house in the middle of the night.  “I want some juice,” I heard her croak from another room.  My dad said they had to take her to the hospital.  They got a babysitter.  I was incredibly upset and Kathryn remembered me looking down from the top of the stairs as they carried her away.   It was a rare condition called epiglottitis that can affect children and causes their airways to close.  Bill Bixby, star of The Incredible Hulk as David Banner, had a son who died of epiglottitis.  She was in that hospital in an air tent with a tube down her throat before she started getting better and visitors were allowed.

marvel_special_edition_esbThis whole time I was very worried and my dad decided to take me to see The Empire Strikes Back just the two of us, while my mom stayed with Kathryn in the hospital as she did every day.  In the movie theater lobby, they were selling oversized Marvel Empire Strikes Back comics and my dad bought one for me!  The movie was amazing.  I didn’t like seeing “Guy Zemmiton” being hurt, but the snow walker scene was an instant hit.  We left the theater to go and see my sister at the hospital.  I wasn’t to tell her that we had seen “Guy Zemmiton”, as we didn’t want to upset her.  That made it hard to explain where the comic came from, but I was so excited to see her.

A couple weeks later she came home, and dad took the whole family out to see Empire.  Kathryn was elated to get to see “Guy Zemmiton”, especially since there were so many scenes of Luke in that very outfit!  But my dad was a tease.  The whole time before the movie started he was claiming we were in the wrong theater.  “No Guy Zemmiton here,” he said.  “This theater is showing Captain Peachfuzz and the Penguins!”  He may have actually convinced her that we were about to see Captain Peachfuzz and the Penguins, and I was beginning to wonder myself!  It was with great relief that we saw “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” on the screen in big blue letters.  “I thought this was Captain Peachfuzz and the Penguins,” whispered my dad.

“Guy Zemmiton” was thrilling and my sister was in her glory finally having seen his latest adventure.   It was great for everything to finally be back to normal.

I read that comic book over and over again the whole summer, and later on we even got to go see Empire again.  It was at a drive-in and Empire was the second feature.  I think we both fell asleep long before the movie was over.

A lot of people say Empire is their favourite Star Wars, but for Kathryn, she really means it.  Empire was central to a scary time (that she still remembers clearly) when she almost died.  Not every three year old kid can claim that.

 

#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!

tv

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

#536: Obligatory Christmas Post 2016

This Christmas has been tinged with sadness.  Rick Parfitt, George Michael…and a man you haven’t heard of named Peter Cavan Sr.  I grew up with his son Peter Cavan Jr.  Pete was the best man at my wedding, and his dad Peter Sr. always treated me well.  The Cavans made me feel like part of the family.  In my first year of university, I decided to stay home from the cottage on Thanksgiving weekend, so I could study for my first exam undistracted.  Alone that Thanksgiving, Pete’s family had me over for dinner.  I’ll never forget their kindness.  I always enjoyed Peter Sr.’s stories, of growing up in Germany during the Second World War.  Those are tales you don’t hear every day.  And he was funny.  Peter Sr. was truly funny.  Whether intentionally or not, I knew his stories entertained us for many hours over the years.  I received the sad message on Christmas morning that Peter Sr. passed after a short battle with cancer, peacefully at home that morning.

So it is with profound sadness that I give you this year’s annual post-Christmas commentary.  My entire family knows and loves the Cavans, and we hope Pete and Joanne know we are there for them.


As it does every year, Christmas began early for me, at our office Christmas luncheon on November 25.  Just look at that food.  When you like the people you work with, an office Christmas party is a very rare and special chance to unwind with them.

My sister hosted Christmas Eve at her new place.  What a spread she put out!  Cheesey good appetizers, steak fondue, cheese fondue (the surprise winner), and chocolate fondue to boot.  The guests had a spirited debate on the merits of CD versus vinyl, with myself being the only holdout who still prefers CD.  (I know I’m not alone, just ask rock journalist Mitch Lafon which format he prefers.)  My sister did a great job of decorating her tree.  Have a gander.

And now, on to the good stuff.  Broken down into categories, let’s give’r!

Stuff You Listen To:

I have only played the Rik Emmett so far, given to me by Mrs. LeBrain who met Rik back in highschool as part of her guitar class.  Pretty cool!  It features a Triumph reunion on the bonus track, “Grand Parade”.  The Queen set is six discs of radio recordings.  The Rush set I am both grateful for and bitter about.  This is the third time I’ve received Rush 2112 as a gift in the last five years!  First as part of the Sector 1 box set, then the “deluxe edition“, and now this 40th anniversary edition which has some tracks not included on the deluxe (and a slew of artists covering Rush including Jacob Moon, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters).  However, the 40th anniversary edition doesn’t include the 5.1 surround mix of the album, meaning…you kinda need both.  It’s sad that Rush reissues have become so exploitive.

The Keel reissue of The Right to Rock has a bonus track, a remix of “Easier Said Than Done”.  And this is my first time owning any version of Jethro Tull’s first album, This Was.

Stuff You Read:

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Stuff You Play With:

The Force Is With This Stuff:

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Stuff You Watch:

The Sopranos set I orchestrated myself.  Sometimes-contributor Thussy and I both always said:  “If the blu-ray set drops below $100, we’ll buy it.”  A few weeks ago he texted me that Amazon has it on for 24 hours only at just $80!  So this Christmas holiday, we will be enjoying some Sopranos and Italian food.

Stuff That Transforms From Stuff Into Robots:

Pictured below are the official Transformers Titans Return Astrotrain figure and a couple very interesting third party figs.  These are Masterpiece scale and heavy as fuck with plenty of die-cast parts.  Please meet Generation 1 Decepticon Reflector, incarnated here as KFC’s Eavi Metal series “Opticlones”.  Representing the Autobots is Dinobot Snarl, produced by the excellent Fans Toys in their Iron Dibots line as “Sever”.  I long ran out of room for more Masterpiece figures (especially Dinobots)…but who cares.

And finally…

Stuff That Flies:

I always wanted to try flying a drone.  My mom and dad surprised me with this starter drone, and is it ever a lot of fun.  I can almost get it to hover!  Getting it to fly in the direction I want is still a challenge.  So far there are no serious injuries.  Jen has a couple bruises.  I think my mistake was calling her into the room when I got it into the air, rather than when I figured out how the controls worked.  That was a lesson there.

 

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That’s another Christmas for the books!  I hope each and every one of you had a safe and happy holiday.  As I think of my friends the Cavan family, I ask you to remember that life is short.  Tell the people who matter that you love them.  Let’s try and make the world a better place in 2017.

LeBrain

#349: Christmas Eve [Reblog]

One more reblog for this season.  Here’s an instalment of Getting More Tale (the sequel series to Record Store Tales) about Christmas Eve in the glorious, wonderful period we knew as the 1980s.  Feliz Navidad!

 

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#349: Christmas Eve

So here we are once again, Christmas Eve.  When I was a kid, you were my favourite day of the entire year.   It’s hard not to get excited about you, today in 2014.  Christmas Eve, you were the center of everything, 30 years ago!   Such a short but exciting day.  Inevitably, relatives would start handing us colourfully wrapped boxes, the best ones saved for last.  Then the ritual of steps:  Shake the box.  Give the card a cursory read and give it a toss.  Rip the paper.  Peer inside.  30 years ago, there would have been Star Wars figures inside.  Perhaps my Jabba the Hutt gift set.  An Atari game, possibly.  I wasn’t into music that much until about 1985, when Kiss really opened my eyes.

Around that time, Christmas Eve changed a little bit, but only in a subtle way.  Instead of racing downstairs to play our new Atari games, we would race upstairs to play our new cassette tapes!  Some Helix, Kiss, or Twisted Sister would have been among the music received back then.  We also would have received our fair share of GI Joe and Transformers toys.  I remember the year I got the GI Joe Hovercraft from “Santa”!  Oh boy.  My dad won’t let me forget that one.  I woke up at 1 in the morning to play with it.  Yeah, the parents weren’t overly thrilled to be woken up by the noise at that hour.  I just couldn’t stay asleep!  Having a younger sister meant the whole Santa thing went on longer than its normal sell-by date, but I wasn’t complaining.  It was a lot of fun.

I’m sure tonight won’t be that different.  If I’m lucky, I will receive a CD or two from somebody who loves me.  I won’t race anywhere to go and listen to it right away, but it will be just as appreciated.  After I got older, got a job, and started buying people gifts with my own money, I’ve realized that it’s the giving that is so much more fun.  I cannot wait to see the look on people’s faces, especially when forced to open my elaborately disguised surprises.  That’s what I get a kick out of the most now.

This year, I wish each one of you all the best, and indeed a Merry, Merry Christmas.  Whether you celebrate it or not, have a good day, eh?  Be safe.  Please drink responsibly, and please call a cab if you have been drinking.  But that’s enough serious talk.  I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Christmas videos (still unreleased on CD to this day), and some links to past Christmas posts.  Enjoy!  Ho ho ho!


Winger’s cool traditional / funky version of “Silent Night”!

RECORD STORE TALES:

WHALE

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.

#518: Read-Along Adventures

Welcome to another week-long series at mikeladano.com! We’re doing another week of Getting More Getting More Tale: five brand new instalments from the Getting More Tale series. Hope you enjoy these blasts from the past.

GETTING MORE TALE #518: Read-Along Adventures

When I was a child in the late 1970’s, the average household did not have a VCR.  There was no such thing as video rentals.  Most homes had a record player, but as the 70’s turned into the 80’s, the VHS and Betamax formats battled it out for home domination.  In the Ladano home, we rented a VCR and movies until 1984, when my dad finally bought our first VHS recorder.  It was hi-tech and lasted many years.  All but impossible to program recordings on, but you could do it.  In the meantime, there was a family stereo system, and I also had a heavy duty kid’s mono turntable put out by Fisher-Price.  It was built like a tank and folded up into a case.

Until the VCR became a household staple, kids only had two ways of enjoying a favourite movie:  Going to see it in the theatre, or wait until it was on TV.  Certain movies would return to theatres periodically, such as old Disney classics.  Other movies, such as The Wizard of Oz, were a big family event when they were on TV.  Popcorn and treats!  Yes, the movie would be chopped up with commercials and often edited down*, but we didn’t know any different.  To this day, with certain movies, I can remember where the commercial breaks used to go.**

Yet there was a way to let youngsters enjoy their favourites at home, after a fashion.  Story records had always been around, but when Buena Vista released 7″ story records with a book that kids could follow, they tapped into a void and struck gold.  Star Wars became an obvious winner.   We had the story of Star Wars on a 7″, and we would read along and enjoy the vibrant pictures from the film.  Another I enjoyed was Disney’s The Black Hole.  A narrator would read along with you, and when you heard R2-D2 beep, it was time to turn the page!  These records played at 33 1/3 rpm, to facilitate a longer running time.  There were music cues and sound effects to go with the story, and I’m sure our parents would tell you these records kept us occupied!  Sometimes, original actors even did the voices.  I distinctly remember having the story of E.T., narrated by Drew Barrymore who was also on the cover.  As time went on, these releases began to come out on cassette.  Fisher-Price was there with another heavy duty product, a tape recorder that I used for years to play and record just about everything.  By the time the story of Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I was on to cassettes.  Thankfully they continued to make story records for kids in my now-older age bracket.

The 80’s wore on and cassettes replaced records all but completely.  Between Star Wars and Jedi, we had graduated to things a little more challenging, such as the full-length movie soundtracks by John Williams.  Without the cheesy narration, we were free to create our own adventures to the classic music.  The old story records got tucked away…but they can still be found.  Last Christmas, my buddy Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound received some old classic Star Trek read-along records.  I have some too, also Christmas gifts, from my sister.  She found four sealed Star Trek story records on 7″ vinyl and had to get them for me.  They include the stories for The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, and two original stories on a different label called Peter Pan records.

I’ve never opened these records, but I know inside I would find some glorious full colour pictures of space-scapes from the big screen, along with a pristine 7″ record.  It’s tempting but they’ve been sealed this long, it would a shame to open them now.

 

*Not Superman: The Movie!  It had some really cool deleted scenes added to the TV version, to stretch it over two nights!

**I can also hear, clearly in my head, the terrible TV dubbing done for Jackie Gleason’s character in Smokey and the Bandit.  It was not Gleason, and it was obvious every time.  Unintentionally funny!