Star Wars: Rebels “Relics of the Old Republic”

“Relics of the Old Republic” had what “The Lost Commanders” was missing: AT-ATs. Now that’s Star Wars.

Watching those AT-ATs lumber across the barren landscape was almost as cool as seeing them on Hoth (no pun intended). It was also pretty neat to see them do battle against a Clone Wars era walker. I think it was an AT-TO, but there are so many iterations that I can’t keep them all straight. I guess I should buy visual guide or something.

The emotional highlight was the reunion between Rex and Ahsoka. This was an important moment for the characters and the fans. After I have finished watching The Clone Wars, and a few years have passed, when I watch these two episodes again, they will mean even more to me. I look forward to that day.

Lethal Weapon (pilot episode review)

Lethal Weapon is one of my favorite films; I saw it in the theatre five times. The film, directed by Richard Donner, turned Mel Gibson into an A-list star, made Danny Glover a household name, and launched the career of screenwriter Shane Black. It’s been twenty-nine years since the original, and almost two decades since the fourth entry, so I wonder what took Warner Bros. so long to turn Lethal Weapon into a television series.

The pilot episode was directed by McG, which is all some people need to hear. I liked Fastlane, but that wasn’t based on an existing property. Well… You know what I’m talking about if you were one of the few that bothered to watch.

As with all movie-to-television adaptations, changes were made, and liberties taken. This is the 21st Century and not the 80s, which is something people keep reminding me of every day. One change I don’t mind is that Roger Murtaugh is returning to work after a heart attack, as opposed to being “too old for this shit.” On the negative side (for me) is seeing Martin Riggs’ wife die on screen. I understand that seeing it happen is a shock to to those who haven’t seen the films; generates sympathy for Riggs; and helps explain his behavior; but it could have been done in a more subtle manner. Oh wait, I’m talking about Fox.

When you cast Damon Wayons as Murtaugh, you know that he is not going to play the role the same way Danny Glover did. That’s cool, because what he does works. In the films, Murtaugh was the lovable, gruff dad who was a tad bit out of step with the times. More importantly, he was the straight man, who could fire off a funny line when needed. Damon Wayons’ Murtaugh is funnier, without ever going over the top.

Casting the part of Riggs was difficult, as one would imagine. Clayne Crawford was outstanding on Rectify (which reminds me, I need to get caught up). He’s no Mel Gibson, but who is? Crawford is a good Southern boy from Alabama (in the series Riggs is from Texas). His take on Riggs is a bit laid back, but every bit as damaged. TV Riggs is on the back foot and all “Aw, what the hell,” while movie Riggs is on the front foot and like a caged animal.

As for the plot of the episode, it was rather perfunctory, and served only as a way for the characters to play off one another. The first meeting between Riggs and Murtaugh, was a bit over the top when compared to the movie, but it was pretty cool.

When you only have forty-two minutes per episode, there is no time to waste, and there was little time to let the characters breathe. Yet, Miami Vice could pull it off every week–go figure. Every time we got a chance to get a sense of Riggs’ pain, (and for Clayne Crawford to act) the scene was cut short. One time, they went into commercial after about two seconds. Other than at the beginning, the audience doesn’t get much of a chance to sympathize with the character. It’s as if someone thinks all we want to see is the crazy side of Riggs, and that’s a shame.

The look of Lethal Weapon is pure McG, which was fine for Fastlane, but looks out of place here. No spoilers, but in one scene Riggs enters a warehouse to confront the bad guys, and in the background there are two sports cars with their headlights on. It looks cool, but it makes no damn sense. Who does that!? Then there is the car chase that ends up on the Long Beach Grand Prix circuit. This rarely works in movies, and never on television. But I am an auto racing fan, so I am biased.

I think Lethal Weapon was better than it had any right to be. Crawford and Wayans make a great team, and were the best part. I think it can be a solid program once it gets past the growing pains stage. I am hoping to see character growth, and less of a reliance on shootouts, chases, and explosions. But it’s on Fox, so I’m not holding out hope.

Star Wars: Rebels “The Lost Commanders”

“The Lost Commanders” is one of the best episodes of Star Wars: Rebels because it features the return of probe droids. I love me some probe droids. Probe droids are awesome!

Oh, and some guys from The Clone Wars show up as well. That’s nice too, I guess.

For some reason I cannot quite figure out, Ahsoka has a head from an old tactical droid, and it will somehow help them locate Captain Rex. Like a lot of stuff in the Star Wars galaxy, I just shook my head and went with it, because too much thinking gives me a headache. So does too much head shaking, come to think of it.

The planet where Rex was found is barren, and the shot composition was breathtaking. I don’t want to compare it to Lawence of Arabia, but the Lucasfilm Animation team are really getting good at this.

As for the story, it was okay. I am currently watching The Clone Wars, so it was nice to see some of the characters like Rex, Wolffe, and Gregor return–spoiler alert. I don’t guess that it really is a spoiler, since most of us watch the films out of order, and I mentioned Rex earlier. My bad.

I don’t dislike this episode, but I don’t like it as much as I hoped I would. I didn’t know that this was going to be a multi-part story until I saw the “To be continued…” card at the end. Here’s hoping that “Relics of the Old Repubic” is a tad better, making for a good story as a whole.

Wendy and Lucy

There are two kinds of people in the world: One group would say nothing happens in Wendy and Lucy, while the other will swear that everything happens. Both sides have a point. The optimists are looking at the tracks, and the pessimists (realists?) only see the oncoming train.

I have no idea what that means, either.

It’s hard to discuss the film without spoiling it, but that’s never stopped me before. Wendy (Michelle Williams) and her dog, Lucy, are on a trek to the promised land–Alaska. The forty-ninth state holds the hope of landing a job in a fish cannery, which is all the hope some people can envision. When her clapped out Honda gives up the ghost in semi-rural Oregon, it’s the beginning of a sucky day.

Filmmaker Kelly Reichardt (who co-wrote the script with Jon Raymond) calls Wendy and Lucy a “post-Katrina” story. As bad luck (and criminal behavior) would have it, it’s also a post-The Big Short fable as well. While Wendy only says that she is going to Alaska, it feels like she is running away from something. Or at the very least, she’s leaving something behind.

There’s an old song called “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” The lyrics are about a millionaire that lost everything, but the title applies to Wendy and Lucy. Some people Wendy meets are helpful, but most of them have their own crap to deal with. A security guard (Walter Dalton) whose job it is to keep an empty parking lot safe, turns out to be kind, but there is only so much he can do. Will Patton (not Bill Paxton, nor Bill Pullman) plays a mechanic who has one of those “Well, here’s the deal…” speeches.

You could argue that the grocery store clerk (John Robinson) is only doing his job, but does he have to be such an a-hole about it? The answer is: yes. Yes, he does. Not because I agree with him, (I don’t) but because for people like him, being a one hundred percent dick is their default mode.

In one review I read, someone stated that they thought Wendy and Lucy is too short (it’s eighty minutes long, five of which are credits). The reviewer thought we should know more about Wendy’s background and motivations. I say that would be missing the point entirely, but it brings up another point: How many people like Wendy have we walked past in our lives? They are not living on the street, but they may be one very bad day away from losing what little they have. We don’t know their stories, nor do we think about them. At least with a homeless person, you can maybe fill in the blanks–while often resorting to stereotypes.

What I am saying is this: People are far more complex than your Screenwriting 101 instructor would lead you to believe. You can learn more about life by having a short conversation with a total stranger than you can from a Terrence Malick retrospective (no offense). Wendy and Lucy is loaded with metaphors, and Wendy represents those who reside in the margins, not in the text.

Star Wars: Rebels “Siege of Lothal” parts 1 and 2

When last we saw the crew of the Ghost, the Grand Inquisitor had been vanquished, (possibly) and they met a group that was trying to bring down the Empire. They also learned that the mysterious “Fulcrum” was in reality, Ahsoka Tano.

Season two of Rebels starts with everyone but Kanan thinking it’s a good idea to combine resources with Ahsoka and her compatriots. He has trust issues and likes things just the way they are. He’s no fan of the Empire, but going to war against them doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Now that Darth Vader is on the scene, the thought of taking on the Empire is not a good one. It’s also not good news, especially for a certain Imperial Minister Tua. When the Sith Lord says, “Oh by the way, Tarkin wants to see you,” Tua freaks out and contacts the rebels for help. She has seen with her own two eyes just what happens when Tarkin is displeased with underlings.

For a moment there, I thought “Siege of Lothal” was going to mirror the story in Twilight Company. In that novel, Governor Chalis turned traitor against the Empire, but in the case of Rebels, she never got the chance. Tua was never my favorite character, (I always thought she looked like she’d be more comfortable selling real estate on Harloff Minor) but I thought this would have been an opportunity to see another side to her. I shouldn’t be surprised that she was killed, and her death blamed on the rebels, since that move is straight out of the Imperial playbook.

Of course, the highlight of these episodes was Darth Vader. In some of the recent novels and comics, I thought he came across as too powerful, but in “Siege of Lothal” he seemed about right. It was nice to see his piloting skils on full display, as opposed to reading about them, or looking at drawings, no matter how well done they are. When Vader took on all those rebel pilots by himself, (in a maneuver I like to call the “Reverse Dak”) it was thrilling and a bit like watching a horror movie. Which is weird, since I never thought about it that way back when he was Anakin Skywalker. Watching this, it makes makes me wonder how Han Solo managed to wing Vader’s TIE Fighter during the Battle of Yavin, when no one else ever came close.

Another highlight was Ahsoka. I didn’t think she would figure out that Vader used to be Anakin so soon; if ever. This way it works out better than finding out too late, since suspense is better than surprise.

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans is fifteen minutes shorter than Captain America: Civil War, yet it feels longer than the ultimate edition of Batman v Superman. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, just a slow one. Like Derek Cianfrance’s previous film, The Place Between the Pines, your enjoyment will be dependent on buying into the premise and becoming absorbed by the story, which in this case is nine minutes shorter.

Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbenber) takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Island, located off the west coast of Australia. Way off. I mean it takes hours to get there.

Prior to leaving for Janus, Tom meets Isabel Greysmark, (Alicia Vikander) and there is a spark between the two. Eventually, they get married and have a nice life together as man and wife. As with any melodrama, complications set in. Isabel has a miscarriage; and then another. Soon after the second one, a rowboat washes up on the beach. In the boat are a dead man and a live baby. Isabel convinces Tom not to file a report, and they proceed to raise the child as their own.

When the Sherbournes return to the mainland for their scheduled leave, Tom discovers a headstone at the church cemetary bearing the names of Frank Roennfeldt and his daughter Grace. The pair were lost at sea, and when Tom reads the date, he realizes that Grace (now called Lucy) is the baby from the boat. Tom is overcome with guilt, and wants to tell Lucy’s mother, Hannah, (Rachel Weisz) the truth.

It all sounds like something you would see on Lifetime, but The Light Between Oceans is far better than that, and far less camp. The cimematography by Adam Arkapaw is breathtaking, but when the locations and actors are so attractive, it’s kind of hard to screw it up. Some reviewers say that Alexandre Desplat overcooked the score and made the audience try to feel weepy, but I don’t often notice the score the first time I watch a movie, unless it’s the only thing in the sound mix.

Speaking of sound, I think The Light Between Oceans should at least be nominated for an Oscar for sound mixing. When you watch as many comic book, science fiction, and other types of blockbuster films as I do, I often take sound for granted. I know the sound of weapons firing, buildings falling, and spaceships flying will be nothing less than perfect. I also know that a Transformers movie will be an all out assault on my ears–and the other senses as well.

In The Light Between Oceans, it’s the quiet moments you notice. It’s like how the musical notes you don’t play are often more important than the ones you do. I enjoyed sitting in the theatre and listening to the waves and the rain. It’s weird how people will listen to a recording of a storm in order to relax, but being caught in an actual storm can be terrifying.

The Light Between Oceans is based on the novel written by M.L. Stedman, which I started reading before I saw the film, but finished afterward, because life got in the way. As is usually the case, there are differences between the two, and I cannot say which version I prefer. But with the book, I could read as fast or slow as I wanted.

Violet & Daisy

After successfully(?) mining the depths of the bargain bin and coming up with Monika, I decided to venture across town and try my luck(?) at another store. This time out, I found a Blu-ray–Violet & Daisy. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, (whose name I cannot say without affecting an Irish accent) Alexis Bledel, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Danny Trejo, and James Gandolfini (there is also a cameo by Tatiana Maslany, but I didn’t know it at the time). No, I had never heard of this movie, and yes, I was just as confused as you are right now.

My bewilderment only grew when I saw the Violet & Daisy was written and directed by Academy Award winner Geoffrey Fletcher. He won the Oscar for writing the screenplay for Precious. I thought to myself, “How bad could this movie be?” The answer is: not that bad.

Violet (Bledel) and Daisy (Ronan) are a pair of assassins, and if that is not enough of a reason for you to fire up your movie machine, I don’t know what is. Seriously? You still here? Oh well. I’ll proceed.

The film opens with Violet and Daisy dressed a nuns. Wait, it gets better. They are posing as delivery persons for Righteous Pizza, and they get into a shootout with a bunch of dudes. Yes, it’s as insane as it sounds.

Violet and Daisy’s favorite pop star, Barbie Sunday, (Cody Horn) cancels a concert, and the girls are super bummed. They decide the best way to cheer themselves up is to buy new dresses, but they need money. That’s when things get weird.

Violet and Daisy’s next target is only ever refered to as “The Guy” (Gandofini). According to their handler, (Trejo) their unseen boss, Chet, wants the guy dead because he stole a truck load of cologne, and a bunch of cash. I wonder which one Chet was more upset about: the cologne or the cash?

A lot of critics say Violet & Daisy is a film that is about two decades too late–and not in a good way. They likened it to all the Pulp Fiction ripoffs from the 90s. I can sort of see their point, but it’s still a cheap and easy comparison. Yeah, back in the day, every studio tried to make their own version of a Quentin Tarantino movie, but some of them weren’t all that bad.

Okay, most of them were.

There are any number of musical artists around today who sound like they could have been on MTV in the 80s, but no one tries to draw a correlation between Taylor Swift’s 1989 and Martika. These musicians are influenced by 80s bands in the same way Brian DePalma and David Fincher draw inspiration from the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

That’s not to say Violet & Daisy is up there with Dressed to Kill or Gone Girl–it most certainly is not. Bachelorette wasn’t a rip off of 90s movies as much as it was a tribute, and I’d like to think Violet & Daisy was made in the same spirit.

Oh by the way: I didn’t mention anything at all about the character played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste. There is a reason for that, and if you see the film you will know why. Let’s just say she’s cool, and leave it at that.