Star Wars: Kanan – The Last Padawan

As you may have guessed, I am a fan of Star Wars: Rebels. The series, in part, is about the journey of Ezra Bridger; a former street rat with Force abilities, who is being mentored by a former member of the Jedi Order: Kanan Jarrus. Except that Kanan Jarrus is an alias. His birth name is Caleb Dume.

The Last Padawan starts off during the time period of the Rebels TV series. Fulcrum has given the crew of the Ghost a mission. They are to pick up supplies for the residents of Tarkintown, which sounds easy enough. The catch is that the supplies are on Kaller. What’s that got to do with anything? Kaller is the planet Caleb and Jedi Master Depa Billaba were on when Darth Sidious instructed the clone troopers to kill the Jedi. So yeah, Kanan has bad memories of the place.

The story flashes back to when Caleb, Depa, and a squad of clone troopers were fighting Separatist forces on Kaller. This mission comprises issue one, and was a clever idea by writer Greg Weisman. This way we get to see Jedi and clones fighting alongside one another, and it felt like I was watching an episode of The Clone Wars. Clone officers Commander Grey and Captian Styles have a close relationship with Depa and Caleb, just as Rex and Cody did with Obi-Wan and Anakin. Obviously, all that changes.

If you have watched Rebels, you know that when Order 66 was executed, Master Billaba told Caleb to run away. The Last Padawan explains what happened next. Basically, Caleb tried stay one step ahead of the Empire. In a sense, young Caleb is not that different than Ezra, or Temmin Wexley from the Aftermath novels. By that I mean each of them did what they had to in order to survive.

The Kanan comic book series ran for twelve issues, the first six of which are collected in The Last Padawan. In issue six, the story returns to the “present,” and ends on a cliffhanger. Thankfully, I purchased both volumes at the same time, and now I’m off to read First Blood. I’ll be back next week–I’m a slow reader.
Star Wars: Kanan – The Last Padawan

Writer: Greg Weisman; Artists: Pepe Larraz and Jacopo Camagni; Colorist David Curiel

Star Wars: Aftermath – Life Debt

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first novel in the Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy; but I didn’t hate it. I wasn’t in a massive hurry to read the second installment, so I waited a week to purchase it. This was a huge mistake on my part. Life Debt is outstanding.

It’s not like Chuck Wendig suddenly learned the art of storycraft during the time between Aftermath and Life Debt–so what happened? Was Wendig on a tight deadline to get Aftermath on the store shelves before The Force Awakens was released? If so, it’s a good thing the film was pushed back from May to December. It is quite possible that Wendig didn’t have the time needed to put that crucial final polish on the story. After reading Life Debt, I can see where Wendig is going, and I like it.

With a title like Life Debt, (and a picture of the Millennium Falcon on the dust jacket) one would venture to guess that the plot involves Han Solo and Chewbacca, and you’d be correct. But for the most part, the story centers around the main characters from Aftermath. Wait! Come back!

This time around, the characters are more fleshed out and well rounded. In Aftermath, at times they felt more like “Star Wars-types” instead of appearing organic and original. For example: Temmin Wexley (Greg Grunberg’s character in The Force Awakens; spoiler alert) has matured a great deal. In Life Debt he exhibits a lot less of the misplaced anger he had in Aftermath. Remember how annoying Ahsoka Tano was at first in The Clone Wars, but over time, the writers toned down that aspect? Well, the same thing is going on in the Aftermath trilogy.

The plot of Life Debt somewhat revolves around the liberation of the Wookiee home world, Kashyyyk. In Aftermath, Han and Chewie received a message that there was a small window of opportunity to take Kashyyyk back from the Empire. They decided to jump at the chance, since the New Republic Senate is sitting on their hands and refusing to get involved.

In Life Debt, we learn it was a trap. Chewie is taken prisoner, and Han manages to escape. Now, Han has gone missing, so Leia sends the team that the New Republic has been using to capture the remaining Imperial officers on a new mission: Find Han Solo.

One of the things I like most about Life Debt is that the story contains a lot of humor. I lost count of how many times I laughed out loud. Most of the humor comes from Sinjir Rath Velus, a former loyalty officer for the Empire, who went AWOL after the Battle of Endor. It’s not that Sinjir is a jokester, because most of the humor in Life Debt comes from his reaction to the situation at hand. He has become one of my favorite characters in the new Star Wars canon.

Some of the Star Wars novels start slow and gradually pick up speed. Life Debt doesn’t follow that trend. Wendig hooked me in right from chapter one. In chapter two, we are reaquainted with the characters from Aftermath, who are in the midst of a mission. I like how Wendig didn’t waste time getting to the good stuff.

I enjoyed Life Debt so much that I am having a big rethink about Aftermath. Maybe it is better than I first thought. Maybe it is me that was the problem. It usually is me.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition Blu-ray)

It it safe to talk about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, yet? I think it is, since all the attention is now focused on the Ghostbusters reboot. I saw BvS four months ago, but I didn’t write about it for a variety of reasons; only some of which have to do with the film. Critics panned BvS; the self-appointed geekerati eviserated it; and average fans seem to be mixed. As with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I entered the theatre with low expectations. I then sat in my assigned seat and waited for the suck. It never arrived. The exact same thing occured when I saw X-Men: Apocalypse.

I’m not saying Batman v Superman is a great film–it is not–but it wasn’t a Deep Throat-level suckfest either. There are those who love to compare BvS director Zack Snyder to Michael Bay by saying they both have tremendous visual style, and that’s about it. What I find amusing about this comparison is that it seems some people go into a Snyder film knowing they are going to hate it, while every few years, they fool themselves into believing the next Transformers movie will be the good one. So far, Bay is 0-4 with Transformers, which is an impressive feat, especially if you suscribe to the “even a blind squirrel can stumble across an acorn” theory.

Snyder was in a no win situation with Batman v Superman. This film, and Ben Affleck’s perfomance as Batman, would be compared to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. It’s hard to make an honest comparison between Affleck and Christian Bale, since they each played Batman at different points in his tenure. And the films are tonally different.

Batman v Superman contains elements taken from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which is a beloved comic series/graphic novel. One difference between the two is in TDKR both the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader are older, and a long time ago, they used to be friends. In BvS, Batman/Bruce Wayne takes an instant dislike to Superman, (Henry Cavil) without ever, you know, actually ever sitting down for a conversation over a cup of coffee, or some other tasty beverage.

Then again, Clark Kent, investigative journalist/sports reporter, has similar feelings about Batman. One day he takes the ferry over to Gotham to dig up some dirt on Batman, and he doesn’t like what he uncovers. (Side note: I don’t like this whole idea that Metropolis and Gotham are basically twin cities; two sides of the same coin if you will.) The problem is that both Superman and Batman are being manipulated by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). I like this idea, because it is a total Lex move. The lengths Luthor goes to are made far more clear in the Ultimate Edition.

There are those who remain unconvinced by the casting of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. I am not among that group. Having seen the Wonder Woman trailer and the footage from Justice League that played at San Diego Comic Con, I am even more convinced that she is excellent in the role.

Warner Bros. did themselves no favors by announcing they would release an extended cut of Batman v Superman on Blu-ray this summer, before the film had reached theatres this past March. Conversely, if WB had waited until the movie had left theatres, many would say the studio was trying to cover its ass. An arguement can be made that if BvS was good, none of this would matter. I prefer the Ultimate Edition to the theatrical cut, but I’m not delusional enough to think it win over the critics. They made up their minds a long time ago.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin

The Clone Wars television series explored Obi-Wan and Anakin’s relationship during the period between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but what about those awkward early teen years? That’s when things start to change. Anakin is no longer the little boy from The Phantom Menace, but not yet the young man that would win the heart of Padme. So, what were the Padawan and his Master up to for all those years?

The plot of Obi-Wan & Anakin is not exactly original, but like many other Star Wars stories told throughout various forms, it becomes something different when it is set in a galaxy far, far away. The Jedi Counsel receives a distress call coming from Carnelion IV, so Yoda sends Kenobi and Skywalker to check it out. They find themselves in the middle of a war that has been going on for quite a while. The two sides blame one another for starting it, and the only thing they can seem to agree on is that neither side sent the signal. So who did?

In flashbacks, we learn that Anakin is considering leaving the Jedi Order, which is something new. I didn’t buy it at first, but writer Charles Soule made a compelling case. There is also a flashback where Anakin goes on a sort of field trip with Palpatine, which is a clever way to show just how the future Emperor has plans for young Skywalker. It also gives background to how Anakin thinks in terms of governing the galaxy. Overall, Obi-Wan & Anakin is very good, much like the better episodes of The Clone Wars.

Star Wars: Rebels “Fire Across the Galaxy”

Now that’s what I call a season finale! It had everything: thrills, humor, callbacks, a lightsaber battle, a big reveal, a Sith Lord, art! The twenty-two minutes went by super-swiftly.

Is it just me, or did Kylo Ren learn a thing of two about interrogation from the Grand Inquisitor? Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s something they teach in Sith School.

You know what a mission to rescue Kanan really needs? A TIE Fighter. If only they had one. Wait! They do have one. Remember a few episodes back when Ezra was late for Jedi training, and he said he was working on a project with Sabine? It turns out that she was making it her new art piece. It looks so Plo Kool. Like the stormtooper said, “I kinda like it.”

Once Kanan was sprung, it was only natural for him and the Inquisitor to confront one another. Again. The first two meetings didn’t work out so well for Kanan, so I guess the third time is the charm.

It was . . . interesting that Kanan didn’t kill the Inquisitor–he fell to his death. Or did he? In the Star Wars galaxy, one can never be sure. Before letting go of the catwalk, his final words to Kanan were: “You have no idea what you unleashed here today. There are some things far more frightening than death.” Oooh… That’s textbook enigmatic. What ever could he mean? Anyway, let’s give a round of applause to Jason Isaacs for his outstanding perfomance as the Grand Inquisitor.

I didn’t know that Rebels would be like some other TV series, in that there would be a season long “big bad.” I wasn’t expecting the Inquisitor to be around forever, but I did think he would be a thorn in the rebels side for the foreseeable future. But once I gave it a good think, I came to the conclusion that his story had been told, and there really wasn’t anywhere else for him to go.

At the end of “Fire Across the Galaxy,” an armada (for “armada” is a collective term) of ships arrive to aid the Ghost. As it so happens, there is more than just the one cell. And yes Ezra, you are a part of a cell. Who knew? It took a while for the former street rat to realize that he is not alone in the galaxy, and now his friends know that they aren’t alone in the battle against the Empire. Is it too soon for this plot development? It’s hard to say. It all depends on how long Lucasfilm Animation wants to keep telling this story. I cannot wait for season two. At least I have the Kanan comic book series to help me pass the time.

Metropolitan (1990 film) Criterion Collection

In the early 1990s, independant movies started moving out of art house theatres and into the multiplexes, and directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez became as well known as Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder. Whit Stillman never received the rock star accolades that were lavished on some of his contemporaries. To this day, his name is spoken only by those in the know; like a password to the most exclusive club in town. It’s a place where the drinks and conversation flow freely. It’s like a Fred Astaire movie come to life: everyone is dressed to the nines, and they cha-cha unironically.

Metropolitan was filmed in 1989, and released in 1990; it’s about the early 1970s, but looks like the early 1980s. Got that? Good. It’s a somewhat autobiographical film, but the budget was limited, and needs must. The story revolves around the members of the Sally Fowler Rat Pack, (SFRP) but Sally Fowler (Dylan Hundley) is not the leader of the pack, nor is she the focus of the movie. The group is so-named because they usually gather in the Upper East Side apartment belonging to her parents. The de facto leader is Nick Smith, (Chris Eigeman) a young man who has an opinion on every subject, and is willing to share it, no matter if anyone wants to hear it. It’s easy, upon first viewing, to paint Nick as a class-A-hole, but he is not a bad guy.

If Metropolitan were a John Hughes movie, almost all of the characters would be a villain; the obvious exceptions being Audrey Rouget, (Carolyn Farina) and Tom Townsend (Edward Clements). Audrey attends school in Grenoble, loves the novels of Jane Austen, and is an all-around kind person. In other words: a Molly Ringwald type. I haven’t quite figured out who would play Tom in the John Hughes version of Metropolitan–maybe John Cusack.

Tom is the entry point for the audience. Upon leaving a debutante ball, Nick hails a cab, and mistakenly thinks that Tom was there first. To avoid hard feelings, Nick invites Tom to the SFRP after party. Tom only attended the ball out of curiosity, because they are not his sort of thing. He has the pedigree of the other attendees, but has limited resources due to his parents divorce.

Charile Black (Taylor Nichols) is sort of the philosopher of the SFRP. He thinks they are all doomed to failure, since no one from their social class has gone on to do anything worthwhile or noteworthy. He doen’t like the term “preppy,” because it doesn’t suit a man like Averell Harriman, who is in his seventies. Charie invents the term Urban Haute Bougeoisie (UHB, for short) to decribe those in their social strata. And of course Nick pronounces it as one word: “uhb.”

Rounding out the SFRP are: Jane Clark, (Allison Parisi) who is Audrey’s best friend, and possibly the most sensible of the group. Cynthia McLean (Isabel Gillies) is Sally’s best friend, and in a lesser movie would be the “dumb” one. And finally, there’s Fred Neff, (Bryan Leder) who is usually passed out drunk, but is a nice guy.

Metropolitan is somewhat similar to the films of Wes Anderson in that the world in which the characters reside is ultra-specific and unfamiliar to most of the audience. The difference is that Whit Stillman’s characters could exist in the real world, and may have, in one form or another. The land of debutante balls seems like it is from a bygone era–even in the 1970s. The balls still go on today, but they are probably for one percent of the much hated “1%.”

It seems that even the uppercrust stereotype other members of their class. Nick has a dislike for titled aristocracy, especially Rick Von Sloneker (Will Kempe). Rick is some sort of baron, but with that ponytail, he looks like every other waiter in a fancy restaurant in the 80s. Rick is an asshole, to be sure. He is definitely a bully, for he is always shadowed by his right hand man, Victor Lemley, (Stephen Uys) because bullies never travel alone. That being said, he may not be guilty of the offenses Nick claims. And of course, Rick would be played by James Spader in my John Hughes analogy.

As for a Kevin Smith comparison, both Metropolitan and Clerks were self-financed projects, whose casts were made up of actors appearing for the first time in a movie. There is no real plot to either film–just a lot of talking. That’s okay with me. I like hyper-verbal films, as long as they have something to say, and the characters are interesting. I have more in common with Clerks, but Metropolitan lets me see how the other half lives (or lived). Well, maybe not half. It’s more like one percent of the 1%.

Star Wars: Rebels “Rebel Resolve”

Ezra really wants to rescue Kanan from the clutches of the Empire, but Hera won’t allow it. The reason being, the Twi’lek was under orders from Fulcrum to protect young Bridger at all costs. What’s up with that?

“Rebel Resolve” is the episode of Star Wars: Rebels where we really get to see Hera Syndulla as she appeared in the novel A New Dawn, written by John Jackson Miller. And no, I could not have possibly made that last sentence any more convoluted. In case you are wondering, I watched season one of Rebels before reading the book. After finishing the book, I started writing these posts. Obviously. In A New Dawn, Hera was always focused on the big picture. She couldn’t afford to get caught up in anything that would jeopardize the goals the Rebellion was working toward.

And of course, Ezra goes rogue. He pays a visit to Vizago, in the hopes that he kows something about Kanan’s whereabouts. Ezra lets the Loth-cat out of the bag and tells Vizago that Kanan is a Jedi, and therefore would make for a good ally. Vizago laughs this off, right up until Ezra uses the Force to lift an ubitquitous container over his head. He finally spils the beans, and says that the Imperials are taking Kanan to Mustafar. That ain’t good.