‘Rogue One’ Shows Star Wars Fans Should Be Concerned About Franchise’s Direction Under Disney

Courtesy: Disney/Lucasfilm

Disney and Lucasfilm’s latest dive into the Star Wars universe, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not the worst of the franchise’s efforts to be released to date.  At the same time, it is hardly the franchise’s best effort, too.  That is because the movie, which had been so highly anticipated by audiences and critics alike, has proven to have more problems than positives.  The problems in question begin with story at the center of the movie.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story poses some problems that cannot be ignored, the movie is not a total loss.  The movie’s stylistic approach is deserving of at least some applause.  Next to the movie’s soundtrack, led by legendary composer John Williams, it is the movie’s only other saving grace.  Keeping this in mind, one more key critical point must be addressed here in the form of the movie’s pacing.  This will be discussed later.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered, they make Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reason for any true Star Wars devotee to be concerned about Disney’s direction with this franchise.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was touted by many as the franchise’s best entry to date.  Sadly though, a thorough investigation of the movie’s overall presentation reveals it in fact has just as many problems as positives.  The most obvious of the problems presented within this movie is its story.  More specifically speaking, the story’s setup is its real problem.  The story’s setup focuses on a young female with a checkered past leading a group of rebels to find the plans to the Death Star.  Along the way, an Imperial pilot turned…well…rogue (enhancing the movie’s title even more) helps Jyn and company in their efforts.  If that sounds familiar at all to anyone, it should.  A very similar plot was used for Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ story.  Given the female lead’s circumstances are different in the two stories as are the overall stories.  That does serve to save this movie’s story albeit only slightly.  However, there is no getting around the blatant similarities in the movies’ setups.  Taking that into consideration one can’t help but see there is clearly a lack of effort in regards to the story’s setup; a lack of effort that so many audiences apparently refuse to see.

The setup that is used in Rogue One’s story is an item that cannot be ignored in examining this movie’s overall presentation.  That is especially the case since the movies’ writing teams were separate from one another.  While the story’s setup is clearly a problematic issue, the movie is not a total loss.  The movie’s stylistic approach is deserving of its own share of applause.  That is because it exhibits an obvious (and applause worthy) attempt to throw back to the stylistic approach of the franchise’s original trilogy. From the costumes to the scene transitions, it is clear that those behind the lens wanted to pay tribute to the original trilogy and those who grew up with those movies.  That is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that makes the movie’s stylistic approach so impressive.  The final climactic battle scenes throw back to the franchise’s originally movies in their own right, too.  That is exhibited as the X-Wings fly around the imperial attach vehicles and take them out and as the rebels on the ground fight imperial troops on foot.  Of course some of the scene’s bigger, over-the-top moments throw back to similar scenes from so many WWII-era flicks.  This takes away from the moment’s seriousness to a certain point.  That, however, is a minor issue at most.  Overall, the stylistic approach taken to this Star Wars story must be applauded. It shows an effort to bring back the look and feel of the franchise’s original installments while also pointing toward the franchise’s future.  Hopefully that balance (which was visibly missing from The Force Awakens) will be more visible in the franchise’s next effort.

The stylistic approach of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the movie’s one saving grace.  It shows a valid attempt to pay homage to the Star Wars franchise’s past and fans while also pointing to the franchise’s future.  It does so in a balanced fashion, too.  Sadly though, it is the only element that makes sitting through this 2-hour, 5-minute movie worth the effort.  Speaking of the movie’s run time, that run time feels far longer than it actually is.  That is due to the pacing established in the movie’s story.  As noted, the movie runs just over two hours.  The majority of that time—about 1 hour, 20-minutes—is spent building up to the eventual attack on the imperial facility containing the death star plans.  On the positive side, it doesn’t waste too much of that time setting up Jyn’s story.  It just spends most of that time sending her here, there and everywhere as she tries to find out her father’s message and then convince the rebels to go after the plans.  Things move just as slowly as ever in the story’s final act after Jyn convinces Cassian and company to join the cause.  Jyn and Cassian’s attempt to reach the plans, and the outcome thereof, seems to drag on almost endlessly especially as the battle outside the facility rages.  Even after Jyn and Cassian finally get the plans (the climax), things don’t pick up much, leaving observant audiences scratching their heads, wondering when and if the story will finally end.  It was as if the movie’s writing team couldn’t just leave well-enough alone.  That continued slow boil right up to the movie’s way-over-the-top and overly cheesy final scene makes one wonder how one kept from fast forwarding through the movie well before then. When these pacing issues are taken into consideration with the obviously problematic setup to the movie’s story, they take greatly detract from the movie’s overall presentation.  They take away so much from this movie that the movie’s stylistic approach becomes the only reason to give it a chance.  All things considered, there is so much negative to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that true Star Wars devotees should be very concerned about the direction that Disney is potentially forcing Lucasfilm to take with their favorite franchise.

True Star Wars devotees should be genuinely concerned about the direction that their favorite franchise could potentially be taking after watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  Though its stylistic approach throws back to the franchise’s original trilogy, its pacing and the undeniably unoriginal setup to the movie’s story do plenty to take away from the movie’s overall viewing experience.  The story’s pacing makes its run time, which barely tops two hours feel far longer.  The story’s setup is a near mirror image to the setup used in The Force Awakens.  Keeping all of this in mind, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story proves to be a story worth one watch, but honestly not much more.  More information on this and other entries in the Star Wars universe is available online now at:

 

 

 

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‘Elstree 1976’ Broadens The ‘Star Wars’ Universe More Than Ever Before

Courtesy: MVD Visual/FilmRise/British Film Company/Verax Films/Canal Cat Films/The Works

Courtesy: MVD Visual/FilmRise/British Film Company/Verax Films/Canal Cat Films/The Works

Forty years ago a little-known director named George Lucas started work on a movie by the name of Star Wars.  A year after he started work on the movie it made its U.S. debut and has since gone on to be one of the biggest sci-fi movies of all time.  It has also gone on to be one of the biggest movies in Hollywood’s modern history, making superstars of its lead cast, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher.  The immediate supporting cast of Sir Alec Guiness, Peter Mahew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and David Prowse gained their own notoriety as a result of the movie.  Though, Mahew and company sadly never really became as famous as Hamill, Ford, Fisher, Guiness, or Mahew.  The same obviously applies to the hundreds of extras brought on board to help flesh out the movie’s universe.  Now thanks to MVD Visual, Prowse and a handful of those others finally get to tell their stories in a new documentary titled Elstree 1976.  This documentary feature is a powerful presentation that every Star Wars fan should see.  That is due in part to its overall story.  That will be discussed shortly.  The work of those behind the program is just as important to note as the stories that make up the documentary’s presentation.  Last of note is the documentary’s bonus material.  Each element plays its own part in the documentary’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Elstree 1976 a Star Wars documentary unlike any other to date.  They make it one that every Star Wars fan should see.

Elstree 1976 is a Star Wars documentary unlike any other released to date.  It is a presentation that every Star Wars fan should see.  That is due in part to its overall story.  The story in question is one of the now legendary movie’s lesser-known cast members.  It is a story of actors who regardless of their roles, have never really gotten the credit that they deserve.  It is powerful in its own right.  That is because of the stark contrast of their lives to that of the movie’s famed lead cast.  It will move viewers to laughter at some points, and emotional pain at others, believe it or not.  The emotional pain is the result of the revelation of the stark contrast in the lives of the featured cast members to that of Hamill, Ford, and Fisher.  One of the program’s most intriguing revelations is that of the hierarchy even among its supporting cast and extras.  As audiences learn through the various stories, there is actually a divide among the movie’s supporting cast and extras involving who deserves to be at the Star Wars conventions and who doesn’t.  It all depends on the place of said cast members in that hierarchy.  The frustration felt between those cast members as a result of the noted hierarchy is interesting to say the very least.  One would never have suspected its existence.  But it is there.  In an even bigger picture, the contrast of the lives of those behind some of the movie’s most iconic characters to those of Hamill, Ford, and Fisher is just as eye-opening.  David Prowse is a prime example of the shocking nature of that contrast.  Prowse was the man behind Darth Vader, not James Earl Jones.  All that Jones did was read the lines originally assigned to Prowse in the movie’s production.  According to Prowse’s own words, he didn’t even know until after the fact that his lines–that he had recited–were replaced by Jones in post production.  He goes so far as to note that he thought his voice would still be the one behind the mask and was surprised by what had been done.  And now decades later, Prowse is not even invited to a number of annual Star Wars conventions.  He even notes that he doesn’t know why.  So he has had to live life largely anonymously.  His isn’t the only intriguing story.  Paul Blake’s story is another interesting part of the documentary’s overall story.  He is the man behind Greedo, the green alien shot by Han Solo in the cantina.  Yet even as iconic as the scene has become, Blake’s name is hardly known in connection to Greedo.  It is only thanks to the conventions that he has managed to build his fan base.  Again, his story is a prime example of the contrast of the cast’s notoriety and lives.  There are plenty of other stories shared throughout the program that serve to illustrate the stark contrast in the lives and fame of the movie’s cast.  Altogether those stories make the documentary’s overall story one that will both surprise and move Star Wars fans of any age.  It is a story that will put the movie into a whole new light for those fans and hopefully give fans a whole new respect for the movie’s lesser-known cast members.  It is just one of the documentary’s most important elements.  The work of those charged with bringing Elstree 1976 to life is just as important to note in its presentation as those interviewed to make up its story.

The stories that make up the overall body of Elstree 19976 are in their own right hugely important to the documentary’s presentation.  That is because of the new light that they shed on the movie’s legacy.  It also sheds a whole new light on the movie’s cast.  That new light is certain to create a whole new respect among audiences for the movie’s lesser-known cast.  It is just one part of what makes Elstree 1976 such an interesting program for Star Wars fans.  The work that went into bringing the documentary to life is just as important to note as the program’s stories.  That is because it is their work that audiences are really experiencing, not just the cast’s stories.  The program starts a little bit slow, at first providing some background bio information on each of the featured actors.  It seems unnecessary at first.  But as the program progresses, audiences begin to see in hindsight the importance of all of the background information that is provided.  Viewers are eventually taken behind the scenes of the movie’s production before eventually into the lives of those actors post Star Wars.  The program’s editing plays its own role in the story, too.  As each actor introduces his or her character, the editors present key footage from the movie that aligns with the actors’ main appearances.  It serves to help viewers make a connection, especially if viewers are visual learners.  Even the footage of the conventions is well placed within the related discussions by the actors in question.  The whole thing comes full circle in the end with the return of the actors’ action figures with the actors discussing the legacy that they helped to create right along with that footage.  It is a great way to complete the program and remind viewers that while these actors may not have the notoriety of Star Wars lead cast, they are still just as important to the movie as Hamill, Ford, and Fisher.  There are plenty of other pieces that could be cited in explaining the importance of the documentary’s actual production.  These are just some of the examples that can be cited in explaining its production.  All in all, every element of the program’s production shows why it (the production) is as important to its presentation as its stories.  Even as important as both elements are to this documentary’s presentation they are not its only important elements.  The documentary also comes with bonus material in its special Blu-ray director’s cut.  It rounds out the documentary’s presentation.

Both the stories that make up the body of Elstree 1976 and its production are important in their own right to the documentary’s presentation.  The stories give a whole new angle to the bigger story of the movie’s creation and a new respect for the movie’s lesser-known cast.  The production ensures just as much viewers’ engagement.  As important as both elements prove to be in the bigger picture of the program they are not its only important elements.  The program’s special Director’s Cut edition is available only on Blu-ray.  It comes with a number of bonus features that are not available in the program’s DVD presentation.  Why this is the case is anyone’s guess.  It honestly would have been nice to see all of the bonuses included in the Blu-ray presentation also included in its DVD presentation.  But that’s a moot point by now.  The bonus material in question includes feature-length commentary from filmmaker John Spira, extended interviews with the cast members, and best of all a tour of Elstree Studios (thus the program’s title) where Star Wars was filmed.  Each extra is fully deserving of being called a bonus in its own right.  Altogether they give an even deeper look at the Star Wars legacy.  They couple with the program’s stories and overall production to make the program in whole one that, again, every Star Wars fan should see at least once.  It may not take fans to a galaxy far, far away.  But it will definitely broaden the horizons of the Star Wars galaxy.

Elstree 1976 is hardly the first Star Wars documentary to ever be released.  It is however a documentary unlike any ever released about the legendary sci-fi flick.  That is because as its stories make clear, it is focused not on the movie’s celebrity cast but those that brought some of the movie’s most beloved characters to life, yet were hardly as acclaimed as Hamill, Ford, or Fisher.  The stories presented in this documentary will leave fans seeing the movie and its cast in a whole new light.  They will keep viewers engaged, entertained, and enlightened.  The program’s production ensures viewers’ engagement just as much as its stories.  This includes its pacing, editing and even writing.  The bonus material included in the program’s limited edition Director’s Cut Blu-ray presentation brings everything full circle.  It would have been nice to have that material included in the program’s DVD presentation, too.  But that just wasn’t to be.  So that aside, the bonus commentary, Elstree Studios tour, and extended interviews prove to be just as engaging for fans as the program’s main material.  It comes together to bring the program in whole and complete its presentation.  Each element is important in its own right.  There is no denying this.  Collectively though, they make Elstree 1976 a presentation that will definitely broaden the horizons of the Star Wars galaxy.  It will be available Tuesday, June 28th and can be ordered online direct via MVD Visual’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from MVD Visual is available online now at:

 

 

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Paramount, Lucasfilm’s new Indiana Jones Box Set The Best Yet

Paramount Pictures/Lucasfilm, LTD.

Indiana Jones is one of the most famous and beloved heroes in the stories annals of Hollywood.  His original trio of adventures has transcended generations.  And his more recent adventure has its own legions of fans, too.  To this day, Indiana Jones costumes are still popular every Halloween.  And much like his costumes are so popular, so are his adventures to the point that they have seen multiple releases both as stand-alone features and box sets.  Now fans have the opportunity to see all four movies in a whole new way thanks to the release of the brand new “Indiana Jones:  The Complete Adventures” on blu-ray.

Paramount and Lucasfilm have officially released the complete four film set along with the bonus features included in the previous sets.  Among those bonus features are the “Making of” features for all four of the movies and the feature discussing the now famed “melting face” sequence from Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark.  That in itself is a great feature for anyone who has any interest in Hollywood special effects and movie production.  Some of the features even include bonus pop up trivia that adds even more appreciation for these classic movies.  For instance, audiences learn through the pop-up trivia that when Indy comes face to face with a King Cobra in “Raiders”, he was never really in danger, of course.  He was actually separated from the snake by glass.  That the glass was made invisible in post production is a tribute to the work of all involved.  Another little tidbit is that the canyon scene in which the Nazis were carrying the ark was the same canyon from a certain other famous science fiction movie.  Give up?  Does the title Star Wars mean anything to anyone?  That’s right!  It’s the same one.  Obviously it’s a little more than mere coincidence.

The bonus features included in this set are much like the ones from the previous DVD releases.  But not everyone has had the opportunity to own this piece of movie history.  For those who have yet to include it in their home libraries, the bonus features make the whole viewing experience that much more enjoyable.  They are just a drop in the bucket, though.  The clarity of the picture in all four movies is so much clearer in each one.  Everything is more clear and defined.  Even the original grainy footage is still evident here and there.  Nothing has been lost in the transfer to blu-ray.  If anything, so much has been gained with this set.

The enhanced picture and the extensive bonus features go a long way to making this a must have set for Indiana Jones fans of any age.  They aren’t all that make it an impressive set.  Unlike the previous larger “Complete DVD Movie Collections”, this set is far more ergonomically designed.  It’s presented in a much more slim case shaped like a book.  Each “page” contains the disc for each movie.  Also included on each page is a promo poster and production shots to enhance the design.  This compact design will save space on anyone’s DVD and/or blu-ray rack.  And combined with everything else included in this set, most audiences will agree that “Indiana Jones:  The Complete Adventures” is not only the “complete” adventures of Indiana Jones, but the complete definitive adventures of Indiana Jones.

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Red Tails is a fast paced, high flying history introduction

Pride.  Honor.  Courage.  The men who fought and died for this country all had these qualities.  Sadly, in all the stories shared of “The Greatest Generation” since WWII ended, the story of the famed Red Tails is one that has been shared far less than that of other groups.  So when word came out that a big budget Hollywood feature centered on one of the United States military’s greatest ever fighting groups would be made, it was a welcome announcement.  And the end result was not bad.  However, it still could have been better.  What can be said of Red Tails is that it is at least a nice starting point in the history of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Red Tails wastes no time getting right into the story.  It starts off with the squadron on the equivalent of a scouting mission.  Thanks to writers Aaron McGruder and John Ridley, audiences are immediately told of how the Tuskegee Airmen were kept from flying real missions until Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) convinces the military brass that his men deserve the chance to fly real combat missions.  The action moves rather quickly from there.  To the writers’ credit, at least the story does keep the melodrama to an extreme minimum, opting instead for featuring the deeds of this fearless group of pilots.

Red Tails shares with audiences a sampling of what made the Tuskegee Airmen the great group of pilots that they have come to be known as today.  However, where it succeeds in presenting wonderful representations of the pilots’ achievements, it comes up short in their overall history.  It would have been nice to get more background on how the all black air wing was first created and how it ended up in Italy.  Simply put, while Red Tails is a good starting point, there is still so much more that can and should be shared about what is one of the most important group of servicemen to ever don the uniform and fly the flag of the United States of America. 

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