‘Live Ritual NYC MMXIX’ Is A Surprisingly Disappointing Live Offering From Soulfly

Courtesy: Nuclear Blast Records

With the COVID-19 outbreak effectively having shut down live music in towns and cities nation and worldwide, music acts of all types are finding every way that they can to bring live music to the masses.  Metallica is airing free concerts every Monday through its official Facebook page.  Many other bands are taking archived concerts that were previously unreleased to their official YouTube channels in whole for everyone to enjoy for free, too.  And now Soulfly is doing its part to give audiences some sense of normalcy with its new live EP Live Ritual NYC MMXIX.  Released digitally over the weekend through Nuclear Blast Records, the performance featured here was originally recorded Feb. 11, 2019 at the Gramercy in New York City.  The concert was part of a larger tour that was in support of Soulfly’s most recent album Ritual.  The recording is a bit of a toss-up, to be honest.  That is due in part to its set, list, which comes in at just under half an hour.  This will be discussed shortly.  This matter plays directly into another issue for this recording, the concert’s audiovisual aspect.  This is another concern that cannot be ignored.  It will be addressed a little later.  The one positive to those this presentation, if one wants to call it a positive, is its availability options.  Each item noted here is critical in its own way to the whole of this recording.  All things considered, they make Live Ritual NYC MMXIX a disappointing presentation from an otherwise great band.  It is difficult to say this about an offering from a band the caliber of Soulyfly, but it is an unavoidable truth.  Whether the band or the label is to blame for this presentation is a discussion for another time.  Regardless, the reality is that this is a live recording that should have stayed shelved.

Soulfly’s new digital live EP Live ritual NYC MMXIX is a disappointing offering from a band that has built quite the successful reputation and resume for itself over the course of 23 years and 11 albums.  That is due in part to the recording’s set list.  Spanning a total of seven songs and just over 27 minutes, the concert, originally recorded Feb. 11, 2019 at the Gramercy in New York City, the band’s performance here is just a glimpse into what is in reality a much larger and longer set.  The full concert runs just short of an hour (approximately 53 minutes to be exact).  The songs featured in the recording are, by connection, only a portion of a much larger set that also featured a cover of Iron Maiden’s hit song ‘The Trooper.’  The other songs featured in that concert that are not featured in this recording are: ‘Arise Again,’ ‘Dead Behind the Eyes,’ ‘Rise of the Fallen’ and ‘Babylon.’  Given, the full set list, which also features the opening of ‘Jumpdaf***up” is not exactly an in-depth presentation of the band’s catalog, but is still much more enjoyable than the brief little glance that is featured in this recording. What’s more, the set list featured in this recording do not even go in the same order as the show from which they were lifted.  They are just snippets of the bigger show.  Keeping in mind the problem posed by the shortened set list here, it ties into another important item that cannot be ignored, the availability of the concert’s full, audiovisual presentation.

The whole of the concert from which this EP was pulled is available now entirely free through Revolver magazine’s official YouTube channel unless it has been pulled by the time this review is posted.  The performance, as a matter of fact, has been streaming through the noted YouTube channel since May 8, 2019. The video clip that the people at Nuclear Blast have released in order to promote this EP was taken from the presentation in question.  In other words, while Nuclear Blast is only giving people a portion of that concert only in audio format, the full audio-visual presentation has been available, and for free since early last year.  Keeping all of this in mind, it would have made more sense for Nuclear Blast and Soulfly to have just released the whole performance to DVD/BD/CD in some format than this essentially abbreviated presentation for those who want to enjoy it any time when they do not have access to the internet or don’t want to go online.  To that end, the overall presentation of Live Ritual NYC MMXIX is sadly, very much a disappointment and is just not worth the download.  For all of the negatives from which this recording suffers, it does have at least one positive.  That positive is the various platforms through which it is available.

Soulfly’s new live EP is available through a variety of platforms for streaming and download.  Those available platforms are: Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, Apple Music, iTunes, tidal, YouTube Music and Pandora.  Gooogle Play and Amazon both price the EP at $6.99.  Apple Music offers previews of the EP’s songs, but does not list a price.  In order to stream the recording thought Tidal, Spotify and Apple Music, audiences have to sign up for those services.  Of course the services are free at the basic level, but still mean being inundated with emails from those services in the long run.  The same applies for those who want to take in the recording through Deezer.  Simply put, audiences have plenty of listening options.  The price for purchase is not that bad, but at the same time, audiences should keep in mind before downloading the recording, that they are not getting the entire concert even in that case.  So in the bigger picture, there are plenty of free streaming options for this recording.  The purchase price of $6.99 is not that bad, either, but either way, audiences are not getting the entire concert either way.  Keeping that in mind, the availability of the concert is a positive, but still has a difficult time overcoming the reality that the concert featured herein is not the whole concert.  Considering this item and the rest of the EP’s concerns, the whole of the recording proves to be a surprisingly disappointing offering from a band that has given audiences so much more over the years.

Soulfly’s new live EP Live Ritual NYC MMXIX is the band’s first major live recording for American audiences, and those elsewhere.  The band did release a live EP titled Tribe in 1999, but that recording was released only in Australia.  Keeping that in mind, this latest live recording is technically the band’s first major worldwide live recording.  Keeping that in mind, it is a disappointing live debut for the band, especially considering Soulfly has existed for more than 20 years.  It is such a disappointment in part because the seven-song set list featured here is only a portion of the bigger 53-minute set that the band held at its Feb. 11, 2019 show at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City.  It is in fact, approximately 27 minutes of that concert, and basically cherry picks from that set.  Adding to that matter is that Nuclear Blast has released this recording solely through digital.  There was not even an attempt to release the concert in any fashion through a full, audiovisual presentation.  Meantime, the full concert can be streamed for free through Revolver magazine’s official YouTube channel.  What this means is that in the bigger picture, Nuclear Blast has given audiences even less motivation here to download Soulfly’s new live EP.  While the EP is available through a variety of streaming services, audiences have to either sign up for the basic level of service through those platforms or they have to pay to download what is not even the entire concert.  So they are paying for only a portion of a whole or they sign up for said services and get inundated with emails, all for the sake of listening to a portion of a bigger concert.  Simply put, it is difficult to find one positive about Soulfly’s new EP Live Ritual NYC MMXIX.  That is even more disappointing, considering this is Soulfly’s first major widespread live recording.  One can only hope that Nuclear Blast and the band will learn from this major misstep and make the band’s next live recording something much better, when and if that happens.  More information on Live Ritual NYX MMXIX is available along with all of Soulfly’s latest news at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.soulfly.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SoulflyOfficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheSoulflyTribe

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Framing Hanley To Hold Live In-Studio Performance This Afternoon

Courtesy: Thermal Entertainment LLC

Framing Hanley will present a live in-studio performance for its fans this afternoon.

The band is scheduled to hold its “Live From The Rehearsal Space” performance at 6:30 p.m. EDT/5:30 p.m. CDT.  The performance will stream free through the band’s official Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Front man Kenneth Harris had the following to say about the performance.

“We miss playing music and apparently our fans miss hearing us play music, he said. The logical thing to do was play music again and stream it. It’s been fun working on new broken down arrangements of some of these songs as well. It’s gonna be a fun time.”

The concert will feature performances of songs from the band’s latest album Envy (2020) as well as older songs and covers, according to information in a news release distributed about the performance.

More information on Framing Hanley’s performance is available online along with all of Framing Hanley’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/framinghanley

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/framinghanley

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

INXS’ ‘Live Baby Live’ Getting Re-Issue Treatment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/ Petrol

Eagle Rock Entertainment and Petrol are partnering to re-issue INXS’ Live Baby Live.

The recording, scheduled for release June 26, features the band’s landmark 1991 concert filmed at Wembley Stadium in London, England.  The 22-song concert was the next to last performance by the band as pat of its tour in support of its then most recent album, X, its seventh album.

The concert has gone on to be re-issued multiple times in the nearly 30 years since it originally took place, most recently getting a full theatrical release in November.  Its forthcoming re-issue will be on a 4K-UHD/Blu-ray package.  It also marks the first time that the concert will be presented in a widescreen format.

The forthcoming re-issue will be available on a variety of platforms, all of which are noted below.

 

INXS ‘LIVE BABY LIVE’’ Technical Specs

— BD & 4K BD Audio: LPCM Stereo, DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Dolby Atmos
— BD & 4K Region: ABC (All Regions)
— 4K BD Format: UHD-66
— BD Format: BD-50
— DVD Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, DTS 5.1    Surround Sound
— DVD Region: 0 (All Regions)
— DVD Format: DVD-9
— DVD, BD & 4K BD Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Total running time: 98 mins approx.

 

As an added bonus, broadcaster and INXS fan Jamie East, who was in attendance at the concert, has penned new liner notes for the upcoming re-issue.  Also of note with the upcoming re-issue is that the audio will be presented in Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio (Blu-ray only) DTS 5.1 Surround and Dolby 5.1 Surround, so not only will it get an update, but so does the video quality.  Giles Martin, INXS’ Executive Music Director, handled the recording’s audio updates.

The Live Baby Live track listing is noted below.

 

INXS LIVE BABY LIVE
AUDIOVISUAL TRACKLISTING

1.) Guns in the Sky
2.) New Sensation
3.) I Send a Message
4.) The Stairs
5.) Know the Difference
6.) Disappear
7.) By My Side
8.) Hear That Sound
9.) Lately*
10.) The Loved One
11.) Wild Life
12.) Mystify
13.) Bitter Tears
14.) Suicide Blonde
15.) What You Need
16.) Kick
17.) Need You Tonight
18.) Mediate
19.) Never Tear Us Apart
20.) Who Pays the Price
21.) Devil Inside
22.) Shining Star
* Previously unseen/unheard performance

 

 

Pre-orders are open now for Live Baby Live.  A trailer for the re-issue is streaming here.

More information on the upcoming re-issue of Live Baby Live is available along with all of INXS’ latest news at:

 

Website: http://inxs.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/inxs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/INXS

 

More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available at:

 

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Mark Weiss To Appear Saturday On Latest “Oh Say Can You Stream” Broadcast

Courtesy: O’Donnell Media Group

David Ellefson will welcome a special guest this weekend for the latest installment of the David Ellefson Youth Music Foundation’s “Oh Say Can You Stream” series.

Ellefson, EMP Label Group co-founder and Megadeth bassist, will join fellow EMP Label group founder Thom Hazaert Saturday in welcoming famed photographer Mark “Weissguy” Weiss” to the streaming broadcast.

Weiss’ appearance on the latest episode of the “Oh Say Can You Stream” series is in support of his new book The Decade That RockedThe Photography of Mark “Weissguy” Weiss.  Scheduled for publication June 2 through Insight Editions, the nearly 400-page book features more than 700 images captured by Weiss during the course of his career, such as those of Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, Van Halen and Judas Priest.  Speaking of Judas Priest, the book features a forward penned by famed Judas Priest front man Rob Halford.

Weiss’ accolades are not limited to his photography work.  He is also known for his role in the creation of album art for records from acts, such as W.A.S.P., Bon Jovi and Anthrax.  He also had a hand in some of the exhibits displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Museum.

The first two episodes of the “Oh Say Can You Stream” series generated more than half a million viewers collectively.  Saturday’s edition of the series will feature an eBay auction that itself will feature items, such as signed Weissman prints, and clothing and gear worn and used by Ellefson on stage.  Audiences can see the full list of items up for auction here.

Proceeds from the auction will benefit the David Ellefson Youth Music Foundation in its efforts to spread music and music education in schools nationwide.  The foundation is an affiliate of the Grammy Music Education Coalition, which also works toward providing access to music and music education in public schools across America.

A trailer for Saturday’s show is available here.  Saturday’s edition of “Oh Say Can You Stream” will be available to watch at all of the sites listed below.

 

Stream at:
twitch.tv/grammymusiced

facebook.com/davidellefson

youtube.com/davidellefso

facebook.com/grammymusiced

facebook.com/thedeymf

 

 

More information on the David Ellefson Youth Music Foundation is available along with all of the agency’s news at:

 

Website: http://ellefsonyouthmusicfoundation.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/theDEYMF

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

Another Day’s Armor Debuts ‘Fallen For’ Lyric Video

Courtesy: Another Day’s Armor

Independent hard rock band Another Day’s Armor debuted the video for its latest single over the weekend.

The band debuted the video for its song ‘Fallen For‘ Friday, more than three months after the band debuted its then latest single ‘Underneath‘ and its companion video.  That song, and its predecessor ‘Won’t Stop Me‘ are both featured on the band’s 2019 EP Phoenix.

‘Fallen For’ is a new song that is not part of the noted EP. It is a new composition that features another unique melodic hard rock approach to its instrumentation. That content lends itself to comparisons to works from many of the band’s more well-known mainstream counterparts.

The song’s lyrical content deals with complications of a relationship gone bad, according to statements from front man Daemien Drake during a recent interview.

“Basically the song was inspired by my personal experiences in many toxic relationships that really took a mental toll on me over the years,” he said.  “Like our last release, I like to write very relatable music so when people hear the song they know they are not alone in situations like these.”

‘Fallen For’ is available to stream and download through Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and Google Play.

More information on Another Day’s Armor’s new single is available online along with all of its latest news at:

 

Websitehttp://anotherdaysarmor.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/anotherdaysarmor

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/adarmorband

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Blacktop Mojo’s ‘Static’ Holds Its Own Against Its EP Counterparts

Courtesy: Sand Hill Records

Blacktop Mojo is scheduled to hold a live streaming performance Wednesday afternoon.  The concert, scheduled to take place from 4:35 p.m. – 5:05 p.m., is part of a bigger event headlined b Clutch.  The event in question is a fundraiser that is meant to benefit the nonprofit agencies MusiCares and Angel Flight West.  It will be available to watch until May 30.  Tickets are available for the May 27 show here.  The ticket price — $9 — will remain the same for the concert’s On Demand stream as for its live stream.  Blacktop Mojo’s performance will be in support of its forthcoming EP Static, which is scheduled for release May 29.  The four-song record, which will come less than a year after the release of the band’s third album Under The Sun, is an interesting offering from the group.  That is because over the course of its 18-minute run time, it proves to be a rather brooding presentation.  That is not entirely a negative, though.  It’s not like it’s some goth/emo type of work that relies so much on lyrical themes of “oh-woe-is-me.”  It is pretty heavy, though, in both its lyrical and music content.  ‘Watch Me Drown,’ the EP’s second single proves the brooding is not all bad.  It will be addressed shortly.  The record’s opener, ‘The End’ (How’s hat for irony, the record’s opener is called ‘The End’).  ‘Leave It Alone,’ the EP’s third entry, is one more example of what makes the EP engaging.  It will also be addressed later.  All three of these songs and the EP’s closer, ‘Signal’s Gone’ work together to make the record in while a presentation that is worth hearing at least once.

Blacktop Mojo’s forthcoming EP Static is an engaging presentation that is worth hearing at least once thanks to its heavy musical arrangements and equally heavy lyrical content.  That is proven in part through the EP’s second single ‘Watch Me Drown.’  The song’s brooding nature will keep listeners engaged throughout the course of its nearly four-minute run time.  The verses present a soft, yet very contemplative sense, while the choruses are far more fiery, creating a strong emotional impact through that dichotomy.  The juxtaposition of sounds also serves to help translate the song’s lyrical theme, adding even more to the song’s impact.

The song’s lyrical theme in question seems to center on someone addressing one of those false individuals who claim to be a friend, but in the end proves to be anything but.  This is inferred as front man Matt James sings, “Call for help/I’m going under/I need you to keep me alive/In my head I had to wonder/What was going through your mind/When you watched me drown/You watched me drown/Drown.”  He continues in the song’s second verse and chorus reprise, “You’ve go the rope in hand/Won’t you please throw me a line/You could have pulled me back to shore/But you ha that look in your eye/When you watched me drown/You watched me drown/Drown/Don’t you dare to chicken out now/You know you can’t turn around now.”  This obviously isn’t actually about someone physically drowning in the water.  It is metaphorical writing that is meant to make the song an allegory about someone who thought he/she knew another person, only to find out that same person wasn’t quite who he/she was believed to have been.  Everyone has been in that proverbial boat at some point, thinking they knew someone, only to find out that person was just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Considering this, it strengthens the song’s presentation even more in the song’s ability to connect with listeners through this message.  The well-crafted musical arrangement that accompanies the song’s lyrical content adds to that ability of the song to connect with listeners.  The two elements make the song a work that while brooding, is still powerful and will connect with listeners.  It is just one of the songs featured in Blacktop Mojo’s new EP that makes the record stand out.  ‘The End,’ the record’s opener, is another notable addition to the EP.

Much as is the case with ‘Watch Me Drown,’ the musical arrangement at the center of ‘The End’ is very brooding.  Again, the song’s verses find James and his band mates contemplating while the chorus is a stark contrast to that sound, adding to the impact of the arrangement and song in whole.  On a side note, James’ vocal delivery is comparable to that of former Creed front man turned solo artist Scott Stapp while the work of his band mates – Nathan Gillis (drums), Ryan Keifer (guitar), Chck Wepfer (guitar) and Matt Curtis (bass) – create a sound that is akin to so many songs from Alter Bridge.  That is meant in the most complimentary fashion possible.  The emotion exhibited through the song’s musical arrangement does well in its own right to make the song engaging in its own right.  The addition of the lyrical content to the mix strengthens the song’s presentation even more.

The song’s lyrical content comes across as a story about a relationship of some sort that has reached…well…its end.  The lyrics do not signify whether this is a romantic or plutonic relationship, but it leaves little doubt as to the fact that it is about a personal relationship of some sort coming to a difficult end.  This is inferred as James sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “Do you feel like you’re dying/Did you know that I was lying/What was I supposed to do/I always run away from you/Well I know you don’t like surprises.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “But I’m tired of compromises/There’s nothing left that I can do/Cry today/Tomorrow live.”  He adds to the song’s chorus in its refrain, “I don’t know how we got here.”  That final statement is interesting to note.  It’s the song’s subject looking back and pointing out he/she had no other choice considering everything.  Again, this is content to which listeners will have an easy time relating.  That person is saying to the other individual that person knew the end was coming, but was essentially in denial, so he/she should not be surprised by what has transpired.  It, again, is something that will connect with listeners.  In turn, that ability to relate to the song’s lyrics makes the song that much more notable, especially when it is accompanied by its musical arrangement.  All things considered, the song is another example of the EP’s strength, despite being an overwhelmingly brooding presentation.  It is just one more of the record’s most notable works.  ‘Leave It Alone’ does its own job to show the EP’s strength.

‘Leave It Alone’ is contemplative in its own right in its musical arrangement, and sounds even more like something akin to works from Creed like the record’s other songs.  Again, that is due in part to each musician’s own contribution to the song.  The emotional impact of the song’s musical arrangement couples with its equally thought provoking lyrical content to make the song stand out in whole even more.

The lyrical content presented in ‘Leave It Alone’ is just as engaging as that in the other two songs noted here and of ‘Signal’s Gone,’ the EP’s closer.  This time out, the song seems to come across as someone who has gone through quite a bit telling someone much younger that he needs to “slow his role” so to speak, and realize his place.  That is inferred right from the song’s outset, “Hard eyes swallow whole/Body full of foreign soil/Stare down 1,000 miles/Let that be boy/Leave it alone/Don’t speak no more/Hold your tongue/That ain’t for you/It’s mine to hold/Let that be/Leave it alone.”  The song’s subject continues addressing that other person in the song’s second verse, telling that person, “Heart pounds with bygone rage/Keep it locked there in its cage/Weathered hands can’t let go/Pain captured in kodachrome.”  This hints even more at the song’s subject being someone older who is telling that younger person who perhaps thinks he/she knows more than the subject in no uncertain terms, “you don’t know anything” and to know his/her place.  That is of course this critic’s interpretation.  Hopefully it is close to being the correct interpretation.  If in fact that is the song’s story, then it is one that will put a smile on listeners’ faces, too.  That is because everyone can relate to this situation, too. We have all been in a position in which we have had to remind someone of his/her place.  This is just one of those cases.  That ability of the song’s lyrical content to connect with listeners along with the ability of the song’s musical arrangement to engage and entertain listeners adds to the song’s impact.  All things considered here, the song shows once more why this record, despite having a very distinct overall musical sound and sense, is still worth hearing at least once.  That argument is strengthened even more as the other songs noted here are considered along with this work and the EP’s closer, ‘Signal’s Gone.’  When all four songs are assembled and examined together, they make Static a record that deserves its own share of applause.

Blacktop Mojo’s forthcoming EP Static is a work that is deserving of its own share of attention and applause.  There is a lot of heavy lyrical content and some equally heavy musical content throughout the course of its 18-minute run time.  What is interesting, as has been pointed out here, is that even with all that of that musical and lyrical heaviness, the record still is able to connect with listeners.  All three of the songs addressed here serve to support that statement.  When they are considered along with the record’s closer, the whole of the record proves itself to be another positive offering from Blacktop Mojo that deserves its own share of attention and applause.  Static is scheduled for release Friday.  More information on the EP is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.blacktopmojo.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BlacktopMojo

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blacktopmojo

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Visual Effects, Pacing Save Disney/Lucasfilm’s Finale To The ‘Star Wars’ Skywalker Saga

Courtesy: Lucasfilm/Disney

So this is how it ends.  Not with a bang, but with a whimper.  Such is the case of Lucasfilm and Disney’s finale to the Star Wars universe’s Skywalker saga, The Rise of Skywalker.  Originally released in theaters Dec. 20 and to DVD/BD on March 31, this finale to the Skywalker saga is one of those presentations that is no better in its home release than its theatrical premiere.  It is not a total loss, though.  As has already been noted by various critics and audiences, the movie’s writing makes it near unwatchable, so it won’t be rehashed here.  What does deserve to be noted is the bonus content featured with the movie’s home release.  It does its own share of damage to the presentation as the movie’s script, and will be addressed a little later.  For all of the damage that the bonus content does, it doesn’t render the presentation completely unwatchable.  The movie’s visual effects make it worth at least one watch.  They will be discussed shortly.  For all of the problems that the movie poses with its bonus content and writing, one other positive that can be noted is the story’s pacing.  Together with the visual effects, the two elements collectively make Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a movie that despite being hardly the best entry in the franchise, still worth at least an occasional watch.

Disney and Lucasfilm’s final entry in the decades-spanning Star Wars Skywalker franchise is a difficult end to the saga.  It is not a complete loss, though.  Despite the problems posed by its plot hole-filled script, it does have at least a couple of positives, one of which is its visual effects.  The visual effects (special effects) incorporated into the Rise of Skywalker are to be applauded.  Given, a lot of CG content was used, just as much real sets were tied into that digital content.  One key instance in which the two elements were so well-balanced was in the final battle scene on Exegol.  A large physical set was actually constructed for that scene, and dozens of extras were used along with the main cast for that moment.  The precision in the look of that set, when placed along with its digital counterpart actually is surprisingly seamless.  The same applies with a situation, such as the Death Star battle scenes.  Again, there was a significant amount of digital presentation in this expansive scene, but it was also well balanced in its own right with the physical Death Star set that was created specifically for that crucial moment in the story.  Audiences will be just as pleasantly surprised by other physical sets created for the movie, such as Palpatine’s throne room, the miniatures of the sand people’s vehicle, D-O’s ship and the sand planet scene involving the massive “dance” number, complete with all of its various costumes.  The only downside to that scene is the speeder chase scene.  It looks like something right out of one of the Mad Max movies, just with a more “upped” sci-fi flare.  Of course all the CG content is not to be ignored.  Between the laser blasts, the massive fleet of star destroyers and the other minor details, they add their own touch to the movie’s presentation, too.  All things considered, audiences will be impressed by the dedication by those behind the lens to minimize the use of digital effects and make the movie look as real as possible throughout its nearly two-and-a-half-hour run time.  That balance of real and digital elements is surprisingly positive and does its share to make the presentation worth experiencing at least once.  Of course for all of the good that the visual effects do to make the movie worth watching, its bonus content counters that positive impact.

The bonus content featured with the home release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker detracts from the movie’s presentation because it is so targeted in its own presentation.  Given, the main feature, “The Skywalker Legacy” does give audiences a background in how the visual effects were created for this final chapter in the Shywalker saga.  The problem is that that’s all it does.  The feature’s title is “The Skywalker Legacy” but does next to nothing to actually discuss the legacy of Luke Skywalker and his sister Princess/General Leia Organa.  That name in itself brings about its own problems.  If she’s Luke’s sister (and Han Solo’s wife), why is her last name Organa?  That’s yet another writing matter that this critic will leave for others to discuss.  The fact that the feature, which runs well over an hour in time, is titled “The Skywalker Legacy” but focuses solely on the special/visual effects instead of the very story that led to this point is self-defeating.  Making matters worse is the fact that the featurette tries to justify itself (and the movie) by linking its own special effects to the special effects used in the original Star Wars trilogy.  It is a blithe approach for this presentation all the way around.  By comparison, MVD Entertainment Group’s surprisingly entertaining documentary Elstree 1976 does far more to honor the legacy of the original Star Wars trilogy, including its special effects.  Had “The Skywalker Legacy” had a different title that was more in line with its content, the outcome might have been different, but that wasn’t the case.  Making matters worse is that all of the movie’s other bonus features focus solely on its special effects, too.  Ironically, there is one mention by stars Jon Boyega and Naomi Ackie that they were the first African-American stars to lead a cavalry in such an epic final scene near the movie’s end.  That actually could have been used as a starting point for a much deeper discussion on diversity in the cinematic realm, but Disney and Lucasfilm officials completely missed the mark on this matter.  It’s just one more way in which the movie’s bonus content proves itself a detriment to the home release of The Rise of Skywalker.  Sure, the bonus content will appeal to those who have a love of and interest in movie production, but those viewers make up the only audience that will deeply appreciate its presentation.  To that end, the bonus content does little to help the movie, proving once more that while sometimes bonus features can make a bad movie better, other times, said content does little to nothing for a movie.  Luckily, for all of the impact that the movie’s bonus content has (and doesn’t have) on the movie’s overall presentation, it still does offer at least a tiny bit of appeal, if any.

While the impact of the bonus content featured in the home release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is minimal at best, one other item, the movie’s pacing can be said to be a definite positive.  Considering that the movie’s run time is just shy of two-and-a-half-hours (which seems to be the norm nowadays with major blockbusters), it actually moves at a surprisingly quick pace.  From the opening scenes to Ray continuing her training to the buildup to the final battle to that big moment, the movie’s scrip wastes little time on unnecessary items.  That’s not to say that the script doesn’t find some slow moments.  That desert planet scene does drag on a bit more than maybe it should have.  Also, the wait for re-enforcements in that final battle takes its time.  There is also the moment in which the Ray and company have to travel to one of the star destroyers to save Chewbacca, which is of note.  This sequence slows things down a bit in its own right, as doe the scene in which the rebels have to find a certain character who can help dive into C3PO’s data memory to get the location of one of the devices that will lead to another key moment.  This whole segment not only slows things down, but it also brings about the discussion on another of the plot holes, the very fact that C3PO’s memory could be wiped, but then later conveniently recovered by his longtime bot buddy R2-D2.  Luckily for viewers, such moments are rare and don’t do too much damage to the pacing.  To that end, the pacing actually is just enough to keep viewers watching from beginning to end, even with all of the plot holes and other problems that pose issues for the movie.  Keeping those issues in mind along with everything else mentioned here, the noted elements collectively make Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a work that while hardly a winning finale for this franchise, is not a complete loss.

Disney and Lucasfilm’s finale to Star Wars’ Skywalker franchise is an intriguing closer for the franchise that started out with such a bang more than four decades ago.  It is a work that is clearly hindered greatly by its writing, but is also saved at least somewhat by its visual effects.  The bonus content that is featured with the movie’s home release will appeal to a very targeted audience.  The primary bonus feature, “The Skywalker Legacy” is a completely improperly titled presentation, considering its content, detracting from its appeal even more.  There is also a missed opportunity in the opening for a discussion on the role of race in cinema, as has already been noted here.  The story’s pacing works with its visual effects to make up at least a little bit for the problems created by the story’s script and bonus content.  All things considered, this finale to the Star Wars Skywalker saga is a disappointing finish to the current leg of the franchise, but is not a complete loss.  It is worth at least one watch.  More information on the movie and all things Lucasfilm is available at:

 

 

 

Website: http://lucasfilm.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lucasfilm

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jointheforce

 

 

 

More information on the home release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is available at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.starwars.com/films/star-wars-episode-ix-the-rise-of-skywalker

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/starwars

Twitter: http://twitter.com/starwars

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.