Star Wars: Rebels “Fighter Flight”

Humor has always been a part of Star Wars. Sometimes it works: Han Solo during the “prisoner transfer” in A New Hope. Sometimes it doesn’t: Jar Jar Binks. Being a Disney😄 series, I was afraid Rebels would fall into the latter catagory.

Much like The Doctor, I hate funny robots. Thankfully, Chopper is a droid and not a robot. I feel the same way about Chopper that Luke Skywalker felt about C-3PO in The Weapon of a Jedi: Whoever built the droid must have installed some of its circuits upside down.

I like the serialized nature of Rebels, and how one episode can lead can lead into the next. In “Fighter Flight,” Ezra keeps bringing up that he saved Zeb’s bacon, while Zeb wishes the kid would shut up about it. Hera is fed up with the pair, so she sends them on a supply run, which includes a meiloorun fruit for herself. Ezra and Zeb soon find out that meiloorun isn’t native to Lothal, but they do run across a container filled with them.

However, there is a hitch. The fruit are property of the Empire. Ezra and Zeb decide to steal the fruit, hilarity ensues, then Zeb shipjacks a TIE fighter–as you do.

If Hera’s intention was for Ezra and Zeb to bond while on a wild fruit chase, she kind of succeeded. But not in the way she intended. For my money, there is no better way to for people bond than by getting into trouble. Trust falls and ziplining don’t work. If you really want to get to know someone, commit grand theft TIE fighter together.

Star Wars: Battlefront – Twilight Company

Movies based on video games are rarely good. So, why would I bother reading a book that is a tie-in to a video game? Because it’s Star Wars.

Some people like the Star Wars: Battlefront game, and there are those who like to complain about it. I can understand those who have a problem with the game, since so much of it is downloadable content, for which you have to pay extra.

As for the novel, “Twilight Company,” the reviews have been very positive. Some refer to it as Band of Brothers, or Saving Private Ryan, but set in the Star Wars galaxy. Those are apt comparisons, and I’d like to add one more: Battlestar Galactica.

Hear me out. Battlestar Galactica is not only about a ragtag fleet that is waging a war against a foe with superior weaponry, but it is also a human story. A lot of time is spent with the characters when they aren’t engaged in combat. “Twilight Company” has a number of character moments that add depth to the story, which has the benefit of allowing the reader to catch their breath.

The main protagonist is Sergeant Hazram Nazir. His backstory is told in flashbacks, which works far better than a linear timeline would have. But that’s just me. One of the cool things about “Twilight Company” is that author Alexander Freed put the date and location at the beginning of each chapter, so I never felt lost. There are a number of time jumps, baecause wars aren’t won in a day. But they can be lost.

Nazir is not a guy with a “gung-ho” attitude. He’s not even sure he believes in the same things as the Alliance. To be certain, he is no fan of the Empire. I don’t want to say he is an ambiguous character, but things aren’t always so cut and dried with him. It’s nice to get a grunt’s eye view of things.

The Star Wars tie-in media have featured a number of interesting female Imperials, such as Rae Sloane, Alecia Beck, and my personal favorite: Ciena Ree. I have added Governor Everi Chalis to the list. This is not a spoiler: Chalis not only surrenders to Twilight Company, she also offers to give the Alliance information that will cripple the Imperial war machine. Can she be trusted? Whose to say?

You don’t need to read The Rise of the Empire, or watch season one of Star Wars: Rebels to follow the action in “Twilight Company,” but having certain information does keep you from from consulting Wookieepedia on occasion. One of best things about “Twilight Company” is that it’s not another new story that features our favorite Star Wars characters, nor is it new characters giving us a fresh perspective on original trilogy events. Okay, Twilight Company is at the Battle of Hoth, but this time we see the action through the eyes of the ground troops. Don’t get me wrong; I love Lost Stars by Claudia Gray, but I don’t want every other Star Wars novel to copy the format. The novel I am most looking forward to is Bloodlines, also by Claudia Gray. That story takes place between Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, which is a time period I am eager to explore.

Much like “Twilight Company,” the upcoming film Rogue One isn’t about Jedi, nor does it seem to feature a lot of space battles–but I could be wrong. I like Jedi and pilots as much as the next person, but there is far more to the Star Wars galaxy than just them. “Twilight Company” proves that.

Star Wars: Rebels ” Droids in Distress”

The distressed droids in the title of this episode of Star Wars: Rebels are R2-D2 and C3P-O. It was only a matter of time before they showed up. That’s not to say that they were shoehorned into the story–quite the opposite. “Droids in Distress” was a strong episode, but it had nothing to do with our favorite pair of bickering droids.

As sometimes happens in Star Wars . . . Wait a minute . . . I forgot that I wrote these posts before I read A New Dawn. I was about to say something that wouldn’t have made sense; but what else is new? Give me a minute.

Okay. Fixed it.

Speaking of low: the Ghost is running low on supplies. Kanan decided to take a job that Vizago had mentioned. Of course it was dangerous, and possibly a trap. The job was stealing weapons from the Empire. What could go wrong?

Zeb was none too thrilled at the prospect of becoming arms dealers. Kanan took the pragmatic approach: at least the Empire wouldn’t be the ones using them. That’s something, I guess.

At it turns out, Zeb wasn’t wrong about his concerns. The weapons in question were T-7 Ion Disruptors–a weapon that can take out an armored vehicle. Just imagine what something that powerful could do to a living being. On second thought: don’t.

These were the same type of weapons the Imperials used against the inhabitants of Zeb’s home planet of Lasan. Lasats–like Wookiees–are large beings, so you can see why the Empire would have to use something with a bit of firepower.

The look of the Lasats was based on one of Ralph McQuarrie’s original designs for Chewbacca. In fact, a lot of McQuarrie’s unused artwork has been incorperated on Rebels, to great effect.

As per usual, there was a snag with the mission: Threepio alerted the Empire to the rebels location. It’s a long story involving Artoo and his “secret mission.” Agent Kallus shows up and he wants the T-7s back. He also brought along a weapon of his own: a bo-rifle. This is the weapon of the Lasan Honor Guard, and Zeb was a member.

Zeb and Kallus got into a battle with one another. The Lasat was getting was getting his rear handed to him, when Ezra stepped in. Sort of. Ezra was angry and Force-pushed Kallus out of the way.

Artoo suggested that Sabine could overload the T-7s and use them as bombs. That worked a treat. Sabine couldn’t blow all of them up, because Vizago made off with half the shipment. I hope he finds a good home for them.

Speaking of home: the droids were returned to their rightful owner, who happens to be Senator Bail Organa. It turns out that Artoo’s secret mission was not only to keep the T-7s out of the hands of the Empire, but to collect intel on the rebels, as well. Hmm….

Youth

I don’t know if Youth is considered an “art film.” The movie from writer/director Paolo Sorrentino does have some of the traits: lush cinematography (courtesy of Luca Bigazzi). There are moments of surreality (if that’s even a word). Sorrentino is not afraid of silence, which can often say more than dialogue. Some scenes appear at first to be meaningless, but give insight to the characters. Youth may not be “Felliniesque”–detractors may call it “Fellini lite”–but no matter. I have a fondness for this film.

The main story revolves around long time friends Fred, (Michael Caine) and Mick, (Harvey Keitel) who are on holiday at a super swank resort in the Swiss Alps. Alex MacQueen plays an emmisary of Queen Elizibeth II. He arrives at the resort with a request (or should I say “command”) from her Royal Highness. She would like Fred to conduct a performance of his “Simple Songs” at an event in honor of her husband, Prince Philip, because they are a favorite of his (I’ll just leave that for you to ponder). Fred refuses “for personal reasons.”

Mick is a fimmaker, and he has brought along a group of young screenwriters to work on a screenplay. Fred’s daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) is married to Mick’s son, Julian (Ed Stoppard) . . . Right up until Julian leaves Lena for pop singer Paloma Faith (playing herself). So that happened.

If you think Paloma Faith appearing in this film is odd, wait until you get a load of the character played by Roly Serrano. He’s billed in the credits as “South American,” but he’s playing Diego Freaking Maradona. At one point, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) gets off the most brilliant (but obvious) joke at the South American’s expense. It’s funny, because it’s true.

Jimmy Tree is an actor who is spendind his time at the resort prepping a role for his next film. He hates the fact that everyone remembers him for an early role, playing a robot. Paul Dano is not the only actor in Youth who is playing an actor. Jane Fonda steals the film as Brenda Morel, who has appeared in a number of Mick’s films. Brenda looks like the love child of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I’ll let you work out the details.

Oh, and Miss Universe shows up at the resort. I don’t know which planet she represents, but it sure as hell isn’t Raxicoricofallapatorius. This isn’t a real Miss Universe, but a character played by Madalina Diana Ghenea. I had never heard of her, but after a quick Google, I discovered that she has dated a few famous people. Yes, she’s been “Butlered.” I would say that I’d like to see more of her, but I saw pretty much everything in Youth. So, I’ll say that I wouldn’t mind seeing all of her again.

Prince

You cannot log on to the internet without running across idiots who are locked in an either/or battle. In the 80s, a lot of us loved both Michael Jackson and Prince. How could I not like “Beat It,” since it featured a guitar solo by Edward Van Halen. The deal is: Prince didn’t need Edward Van Halen, since he was the closest thing to a reincarnated Jimi Hendrix as we will ever see. One could argue that Prince could do anything Michael Jackson could–but Prince did it while playing guitar. And in heels.

When I read that Prince had died, my first thought was not of my favorite album: Purple Rain. No, the one that popped into my mind was 1999. Why that one? Maybe it was because that was my first real introduction to Prince’s music. I had seen his records and cassettes in stores, but it wasn’t until MTV, and the videos from 1999, that I became familiar with him. Or maybe it was because so many people in high school loved that album.

While many of us were fans of both Michael Jackson and Prince, there was a clear divide when it came to the Purple One’s songs. There were those who loved the “dirty” stuff, and there were those who didn’t. At all. Then there were those girls named Nikki that I felt bad for. If you survived the 80s and didn’t know a Nikki, I feel bad for you, son.

Looking at Prince’s lyrics now, they seem downright tame. Maybe “tame” is the wrong word. Considering what is out there today, Prince would be considered “softcore.” And sexy. Definately sexy.

Prince was someone of who could say anything and get away with it. I always wanted to be one of those guys. I can’t even say “I wanna hold your hand,” without a restraining order being taken out.

Prince rode the line between the sacred and the profane (often in the same song) better than anyone ever. I could never find that balance. I always fell on one side or the other, usually landing on my face. Speaking of the religious dynamic: a lot of parents I knew didn’t like Prince, because he was African-American. If they knew what he was singing about, their heads would have exploded.

What blew my tiny little mind at the time was just how many women prefered Prince’s sexier songs. Nowadays, I have no opinion one way or another. You see, I was a repressed child. I may have been oppressed as well, but that’s something else altogether.

Then there was this girl my friend dated for a while. She was a massive fan of Blowfly. Make of that what you will.

I think the only reason I remember her is because she kissed me. Once. On the cheek. But as a fat kid with no game who had never ever hugged a woman who wasn’t a relative, a kiss on the cheek was as good as a handy in the courthouse parking lot. By that I mean the end result was the same.

Star Wars: Rebels “Spark of Rebellion” part 2

When I started writing about “Spark of Rebellion,” I didn’t know that I would split the discussion into two parts, even though it’s a two part episode. That should have been my first clue, but I’m not very perceptive. Forgive me if stuff from part one finds its way into this post, for I have no idea where it’s going.

There is a running theme in various Star Wars media, whereby the Force is strong in a young person, and they have to learn how to use it. They have a particular set of skills, but have no idea that the reason for this is due to midi-chlorians. Yeah, I do kind of hate myself for typing that sentence.

The Force is strong in Ezra, and Kanan spots it right off the bat. Kanan is a former padawan, whose training was cut short. Ezra finds Kanan’s holocron, and in a quiet moment, it opens. Imagine Ezra’s surprise when he sees a holovid of a man warning the Jedi to stay away from Coruscant. If you have read A New Dawn, you know who gave Obi-Wan Kenobi the idea to use the holocron in this manner. I love this scene in Rebels, but it gives chills just thinking about it.

In part one, crew of the Ghost stole a bunch of crates from the Empire, one of which contained weapons. They sold the crate to a guy called Vizago. He’s also the guy they go to for information, because fences know stuff. I learned that from watching 1970s detective shows. Can Vizago be trusted? Probably not. But he did give them intel on a prison ship full of Wookiees.

Of course it was a trap. Although I am not sure Vizago knew that. Ezra was captured by Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau (you gotta love Star Wars and their on the nose character names). Speaking of the ISB, am I the only one who hopes that Alecia Beck shows up one day? Bonus points if we find out how she lost the eye.

Ezra’s new friends rescue him, but not before he finds out that the Wookiees are being taken to the spice mines of Kessel. That ain’t good. Rebels being a new series, it’s important that connections are made to the films, and especially to the popular characters and species. That is all well and good–as long as it works. It worked.

The reason it worked is because it made sense for the story, and wasn’t just shoehorned in for effect. To make matters worse for me, I have read Lost Stars. In that novel, a character posits that the Empire must be using brutal amounts of violence if they have managed to enslave Wookiees. I hate to end on a down note, but I am more of a Dante than a Randal. Sad, but true.

Star Wars: Rebels “Spark of Rebellion”

There are far worse ways to start a Star Wars TV series than by having Darth Vader appear in the opening scene. Even if it is via hologram. However, Vader isn’t the “big bad” of Rebels. That role is played by the Grand Inquisitor, who is tasked by the Sith Lord to go after any Jedi who survived Order 66. Good luck with that.

The Grand Inquisitor isn’t the lead character in Rebels–that would be young Ezra Bridger. I must admit having a teenage boy as the lead of a Disney animated series was a concern. Ezra is an orphaned “street rat”–a sort of Dickensian child–from the planet Lothal, located in the Outer Rim. Just how many Outer Rim planets are there, anyway? If you think of the Star Wars galaxy as a series of circles, one within another–as with nesting dolls–you, at some point, will find yourself with a massive headache. Maybe it’s just me.

And what is it with Star Wars and orphans? Then again, I could ask the same thing about comic books. As a street rat, Ezra had to learn how to scam and steal in order to survive. Which is what he was doing when he spied a humanoid and a Lasat getting ready to make off with some crates that were property of the Empire.

Ezra decidess that he wants what’s in the crates for himself, and hilarity ensues. Actually, it was a chase, but it had it’s moments. Stuff happens, and Ezra finds himself about a ship called The Ghost. Ezra joins a long, but distinguished, line of Star Wars characters who don’t get around much. When the ship entered outer space, his mind was blown. That certainly beats heading off to Tosche Station for power converters.

When the crew of the Ghost arrives at their destiation–on a different section of Lothal–Ezra gets a lesson in selflessness. He is taken on a tour of “Tarkintown,” which is where those displaced by the Empire have gathered together. That was something that was missing from the Star Wars films.

In the original trilogy, we didn’t get to see much of peoples day to day activities, except for Luke and his aunt and uncle. In the prequels, slavery was still around, and that was when the Republic ruled the galaxy. I like that Rebels is able to give viewers a glimpse into the lives of those who are not part of the war.

It turns out that some of the crates liberated from the Empire contained food, which the crew of the Ghost passed out to the residents of Tarkintown. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at once. It was one of the most emotional scenes in a galaxy known for them. And this was only the beginning.