Film Review – “Star Wars – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi”



Starring:  Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley and Carrie Fisher

Directed by:  Rian Johnson

Rated:  PG 13

Running time:  2 hrs  32 mins

Walt Disney Pictures

Has it really been 40 years since the world was first introduced to the young dreamer Luke Skywalker?  It has.  Heck, if you don’t count the brief appearances in Episodes III (as a newborn baby) and VII (the last moment of the film), it’s been 34 years since Luke has been on the big screen.  But those numbers are in the past as the Jedi master finally returns in the eighth chapter of the original saga, “The Last Jedi.”

The film begins where “The Force Awakens” left off.  We are there as the galaxy’s newest hero, Rey (Ridley) finally tracks down Skywalker (Hamill) and hands him his old lightsaber.  His reaction is not what she expects.  Meanwhile, the first order, led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), both of who are under the power of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) have closed in on the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Fisher, in her final screen role).  As things begin to go from bad to worse, Leia reluctantly begins to trust in the leadership and ideals of ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) who in turn butts heads with Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern).  Can everyone agree on the right path to take or will evil finally win?

With a script by director Johnson, “The Last Jedi” is a mash-up of many different stories, but all with the same main plot line; good versus evil.  As Rey tries her best to convince Luke to return with her to help the Resistance, he gives her many reasons why he should not.  Among them is the guilt he feels over how his one time student, Ben Solo – his nephew – has transformed himself into the evil Kylo Ren.  In another part of the galaxy, we discover Finn (John Boyega) on an adventure of his own, one in which he meets the funny and resourceful Rose (a much welcome Kelly Marie Tran).  Rose is one of the many new faces that dot the screen, along with Dern and a wiley Benicio Del Toro.  But don’t despair, there are a few old faces that pop us as well.

The cast here is strong, with Hamill’s performance quite powerful.  He’s lived with this character for four decades and it’s obvious he’s invested heavily into it emotionally.  Driver, who came off as a little whiny in “The Force Awakens,” is much stronger here, a sign he has gotten comfortable with the character and its place in the story.  Sadly, this is Carrie Fisher’s last performance as Leia Organa, and the film is dedicated to her.  It’s apparent to me that Princess Leia would have been an integral part of Episode IX and I’m curious as to how they will handle her absence.  And if you’re looking for “cute,” not only is fan favorite droid BB-8 back but we also meet a creature known as a Porg, a puffin-like creature that makes the Ewoks from “Return of the Jedi” look like slugs!

To share anymore would necessitate the use of the words SPOILER ALERT and I would rather share less than more.  And with a 2 ½ hour run time, there is plenty I could spill.  But I would rather be dropped into a Sarlac pit then ruin your journey back to the galaxy far, far away.  May the Force be with you!

Film Review “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens”

Starring: Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hrs 16 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

38 years ago…in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas introduced the world to what would become one of the most beloved film series in the history of Hollywood – “Star Wars.” In the ensuing years we’ve seen two sequels (well received) and three prequels (not as much). As the most anticipated film release that I can remember in some time, “The Force Awakens” has some big shoes to fill. And fill them it does.

As the film begins, the opening credit crawl tells us that Luke Skywalker has vanished. We are then introduced to three very different characters. Ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), with his droid B-88, may have a piece to the puzzle that is the missing Jedi. Finn (Boyega) is a storm trooper who, during battle, has a “what the hell am I doing here” moment. And Rey (Ridley) is a scrap collector looking out for herself. They have nothing in common yet they have everything in common. It is their stories that fuel the film.

As someone who grew up with the films, they were an important part of my youth and I won’t deny that I was skeptical about another film, especially after the middle-of-the-road quality of Episodes One-Three. But I needn’t have worried. What director J.J. Abrams, who so successfully returned the “Star Trek” series to prominence, has created, along with co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, is an adventure that you will want to take again and again. New characters take their place alongside familiar faces and if you don’t get misty eyed the first time Han Solo (Ford) shows up you probably have the heart of a gundar!

Technically the film is amazing. The one problem many fans had with the prequels was that the computerized special effects looked too perfect. Here, with a blend of practical effects and CGI, the universe is back in balance. Abrams utilizes these effects to move the story along smoothly. Those new to the series can enjoy this film without seeing any of the previous films but for those who have, Abrams and company have included a couple nods to the original films that will surely have you smiling, among them the fact that the imperial storm troopers are still HORRIBLE shots! I just caught you smiling, didn’t I?

Win a Special 20 Episode DVD of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” [ENDED]

It’s one of the greatest television series of all time, introducing viewers to Rob Petrie, his lovely wife, Laura, and the whole gang from “The Alan Brady Show.” Now Media Mikes has teamed up with Image Entertainment, an RLJ Entertainment brand, to give (2) lucky readers a copy of the new compilation DVD release of “The Dick Van Dyke Show: Classic Mary Tyler Moore Episodes.”

The DVD contains 20 full length and unforgettable episodes featuring television icon Mary Tyler Moore.
Sit back, relax, and get ready to laugh as you join lovely Laura Petrie (Moore) and her husband Rob (Dick Van Dyke) in Carl Reiner’s groundbreaking, Emmy Award-winning series, consistently ranked among the top television sitcoms of all-time. This time, it’s all about Mary!

Episodes include must-see favorites Never Bathe on Saturday (Laura gets her toe caught in a bath spout), Coast to Coast Big Mouth (Laura blurts out a big secret on national TV), My Blonde-Haired Brunette (an insecure Laura disastrously dyes her hair), and many more timeless classics.

Complete Episode Listing:
• Oh How We Met the Night That We Danced
• My Blonde-Haired Brunette
• The Curious Thing About Women
• The Two Faces of Rob
• My Husband Is a Check-Grabber
• Ray Murdock’s X-Ray
• Laura’s Little Lie
• Very Old Shoes, Very Old Rice
• The Life and Love of Joe Coogan
• My Part-Time Wife
• October Eve
• Teacher’s Petrie
• My Mother Can Beat Up My Father
• Pink Pills and Purple Patients
• Never Bathe on Saturday
• Show of Hands
• Coast to Coast Big Mouth
• See Rob Write, Write, Rob, Write
• The Curse of the Petrie People
• Long Night’s Journey into Day

Special Features Include:

Audio commentaries with Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke on select episodes
Remembering “Oh, Rob!”
Original Commercials

All you have to do is register below and let us know which “Classic TV” show (1975 and before)
you’d like to see released on DVD. Two random readers will be chosen and will be notified by
email. This contest is open through noon on Sunday, April 20, 2014. Good luck!

“Star Wars Episode VII” Casting Rumors Continue…

It all started with a short draft, dated May 1973. In it, writer George Lucas told of a tale of a young man named Luke Starkiller (later Skywalker) who would one day team up with a princess and a mercenary and save the galaxy. That story became “Star Wars.” Or, because of its enormous success, “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.” Two films followed (“Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 and “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” in 1983). And then nothing. Fans clamored for more stories, noting that Lucas’ original treatment laid the ground work for nine stories. As the fourth story was the only one with a legitimate beginning and end, that was the one Lucas chose to film first. In 1993, Lucas informed Variety that he had begun writing a prequel story, one that would eventually envelop three films. “Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” released in 1999, introduced fans to young Anakin Skywalker, Qui-Gon Jinn, Padme Amidala and Mace Windu as well as serving up early versions of familiar and beloved characters, including Yoda and the popular droids, C3PO and R2D2. Though some fans loved it (and others didn’t) the film became the highest grossing film of 1999. Followed by “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” in 2002 and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” in 2005, fans were pleased that they were able to see the backstory of some of their favorite characters and how they evolved. But they still wanted more.

Enter director JJ Abrams, whose success with the popular rebooting of the “Star Trek” film series earned him the biggest prize of all – the chance to expand the “Star Wars” universe. Without noting which characters would be included in “Episode VII,” Abrams confirmed that he would be co-writing the screenplay with Academy Award winning screenwriter Michael Arndt. Fans were unsure if the writer of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Toy Story 3” was the right choice and apparently Abrams agreed, recently discharging Arndt and bringing on board Lawrence Kasdan, who had helped pen the screenplays for “Episode V,” “Episode VI,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and wrote the story for the “Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire” video game. Kasdan’s hiring seems to boost the speculation that Abrams had wanted to center “Episode VII” around the familiar main characters of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. All three principal actors (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher) have expressed an interest in resuming their roles, rather a surprise since Ford had lobbied for Han Solo to be killed off in “Jedi.” Thankfully he’s finally been able to embrace the rogue character that helped make him the star he is, even taking time on occasion to continue an on-going battle with his former pal, Chewbacca, whenever he appears on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

As the story begins to take shape, casting rumors are abounding. It would be no surprise to see Anthony Daniels (C3PO) and Kenny Baker (R2D2) back, as the droids were the only characters that made appearances in all nine of Lucas’ original stories. Master Yoda is now on the “other” side but that didn’t stop him from showing up at the end of “Episode VI,” so look for Frank Oz to return. Recently, several websites, including Latino Review, have reported that former “Friday Night Lights” and “Breaking Bad” actor Jesse Plemons is a sure bet to be cast as Ben Skywalker, Luke’s son. It’s presumed that he would then be the focal character of later Episodes.

Recently, the following casting call was placed, noting only that the film was for a Walt Disney production being directed by JJ Abrams:

[YOUNG MAN] Early 20s. Handsome, but not necessarily heroic. He is witty and smart. Physically fit. [MAN] Late 20s. Physically fit, handsome and confident.

[YOUNG WOMAN] Late teens. Physically fit, raw energy, independent and with a great sense of humor.”

Other actors that have been rumored to have auditioned include Alex Pettyfer, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Liam McIntyre and Ksenia Solo (with a last name like that, you’ve got to at least be considered). A name that is also appearing more and more is Bennedict Cumberbatch. His representatives recently released a statement saying he had not been signed to appear in “Episode VII,” but these are the same people that told us he wasn’t Khan so really, how much can we believe them?

Whichever actors are chosen, I have no doubt that, under the protective eye of JJ Abrams, they will keep the Force alive!

**1/21/13 – UPDATE!!!**

On Monday, January 20, JJ Abrams announced that the script for “Star Wars: Episode VII” had been finalized and that casting will now commence. He also confirmed that many actors previously mentioned, including Jesse Plemmons, have auditioned for the film but that no one has been signed. Plemmons was the only actor mentioned by name.

Book Review “Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Episode Guide”

Author: Jason Fry
Reading Level: 8 up
Book Length: 232 pages
Release Date: June 3, 2013
Publisher: DK CHILDREN

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

While I am excited to see this book it also reminds me that this series is over and that makes me sad. This book is really the ultimate episode guide since it covers everything important from the show from episode one to the very last episode. DK Children has released another fantastic high quality release here. The images looks great and there is tons of fantastic information about each major event from the show. Even though it is aimed at kids, this should easily satisfy fans of all ages. If you are a fan of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, this is the book that you’ve been looking for.

Official Premise: A comprehensive guide, Star Wars®: The Clone Wars™ Episode Guide details every episode from the highly popular animated series, The Clone Wars, featuring plot points, key characters, and the spaceships, weapons, and gadgets. Each of the 108 episodes is showcased with a stunning visual spread. For the first time, all of the episodes will be presented in story order, making this the definitive chronology of the beloved television show, The Clone Wars!

Jason Fry is the author of this book and he has done tons of great “Star Wars” books including “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: The Expanded Visual Dictionary”, “Star Wars: The Secret Life of Droids”. He has also worked with “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” with the books “Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Visual Guide” and “Star Wars: Clone Wars – Character Encyclopedia”. So I think it is safe to say that this book is coming from one of the best sources available for the franchise. I look forward to future releases from DK and definitely from Jason as well. Just because the “Clone Wars” series is done doesn’t mean it needs to disappear all together!  Keep ’em coming guys!

DVD Review "Street Sharks – The Complete 40 Episode Series"

Actors: Lee Tockar, Matt Hill, Andrew Rannells, D. Kevin Williams, Tony Wike, Terry Berner, J. Michael Lee, Pam Carter, Jim Hogget
Created by: David Siegel and Joe Galliani
Number of discs: 4
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
DVD Release Date: February 19, 2013
Run Time: 887 minutes

Series: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

DIC Entertainment was responsible for much of my TV “babysitting” time when I was growing up with shows like “The Real Ghostbusters”, “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!” and “G.I. Joe”. “Street Sharks” always interested me since I have been a lifelong fans of anything related to sharks.  Of course they show is very silly and far-fetched…but aren’t all cartoons.  This show turns four regular guys turned into sharks due to “gene-slamming” guessed it…any evil scientist. Ripster was always my favorite being a great white shark.  Jab was a hammerhead. Streex was a tiger shark. Last but not least was Big Slammu, who was a whale shark. Do you really need more that that to draw you in…nope! The show is simple, very colorful and just brute action-packed fun.  This wasn’t the best thing to come out the 90’s but still worth checking out on DVD, especially for the cheap price of under $10 bucks for all 40 episodes! No brainer!

Official Synopsis: Shark N’ Roll with all 40 episodes of your favorite fresh water sharks! When an evil genetic-engineer, Dr. Paradigm illegally experiments with an untested DNA genetic formula, four brothers are accidentally transformed into monstrous half shark – half humans! Delighted with his success, the diabolical madman seeks to alter nature and tailor all humanity into sea creatures of his own design and control! The Bolton brothers – John, Bobby, Coop and Clint – team up to stop Dr. Paradigm and his deadly Seaviates from transforming the citizens of Fission City into mutants with no free will. So hold onto your fins as the heroic Street Sharks kick some serious fin as well as satisfy their voracious appetites in ALL 40 Jawsome Episodes!

Mill Creek Entertainment did a nice job with the casing and delivery of the release.  The episodes haven’t gone under a 4K restoration or anything but they look and sound good enough for me, especially on DVD. Honestly, I am just glad to be able to own this complete series for the first time on DVD. The only special features on this DVD release is a bonus episode include for the short lived 1988 series “C.O.P.S.” aka (Central Organization of Police Specialists). The episode included is called “The The Case of the Boy Who Cried Sea Monster” and aired originally all the way back in October of 1988 (which I actually remember…feeling old).  If you were a fan of “Street Sharks” in their original run, then you would recognize this show more as “CyberCOPS” when it re-aired back in 1993. Not really relevant as an extra, I would have thought that “Extreme Dinosaurs” would have been a better fit but still cool to see this show again after all these years.

Parks and Recreation's Amy Poehler, Adam Scott and Mike Schur chat about the big wedding episode

February 21, 2013 – Tonight’s Parks and Recreation will see the wedding of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) in a spontaneous ceremony put on by the Pawnee Parks department. The two stars spoke together, along with series Executive Producer and Writer, Mike Schur about the special occasion as well as Leslie and Ben’s relationship throughout the series.


Element of Surprise

Back in October, Ben Wyatt surprised viewers with his impromptu proposal to Leslie in one of Schur’s favorite moments of the series so far:

Mike Schur: “I like the proposal the most of the things that have actually aired because I’m of the belief that the most powerful weapon we have in tv these days after sixty years of sitcoms is surprise and that has been our goal with every relationship really and with every non-romantic story we tell on the show we just try to always be surprising to the audience. And that was the idea, we were not going to have the proposal come in the season premiere or in you know, November sweeps or you know, Christmas or whatever. We’re going to do it at a time where it just feels natural and right and that kind of takes people by surprise. That was the plan with the proposal and I think it worked.”

Everyone has to Chip in

Originally planned to take place in May, Ben’s sudden decision to hold the wedding instead at tonight’s Parks Department gala puts the entire cast to work:

Schur: “They basically have two hours to throw it together. So everybody kind of has a role to play. Tom Haverford becomes the officiant and has to get ordained online in like an hour and Donna plays a role in that for the first time we’re going to feature her beautiful and professionally trained singing voice…In order to pull this thing off, in classic Parks and Rec fashion, everyone has to chip in.


Will the wedding see Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) looking for ladies?

Schur: “The wedding is really about Leslie and Ben and everyone sort of gets that. So Tom is not—Tom has a desire to kind of shine at the wedding, as he always does in any social situation that he’s in. But it’s not about ladies. It’s about him wanting to be a star at the wedding.”


Did Leslie miss having a big production wedding?

Amy Poehler: “Leslie…is a modern woman. So it’s not like she has these weird fantasies about marriage or of weddings necessarily. So she’s kind of a combination of her liking to be in control. And what’s cool about that moment for both Ben and Leslie—because they tend to like to control things—is that they kind of throw things up in the air.”


Ben Wyatt as The One

Leslie Knope has dated an assortment of men throughout the series from Louis CK to Justin Theroux, but it became clear to everyone that Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt would be the one to wind up tying the knot with Knope.

Adam Scott: “We thought that it might be—Leslie and Ben might be a couple at some point but I think it was sort of a wait-and-see sort of thing. Because if we got together and didn’t quite click as a relationship…I sort of got the sense that they were gonna try that out and see if it works and if it didn’t maybe find something else for me to do.”

Schur: “The plan was always that this was a love interest and a long-term love interest. Our initial idea for Leslie was that she was gonna have a series of relationships with different men, different kinds of men over the course of the show and that she would sort of learn something different from each of them…She learned something from Mark Brendenowicz [Paul Schneider], she learned something from Louis CK’s character, she learned something from Justin Theroux and we were kind of like oh, Adam Scott, she’ll date him for a while and she’ll learn something from him. It was certainly the plan to have him be the love interest…The first episode—in the Master Plan episode—they have a conversation in a bar and I wrote this thing into it where Ben says to her very casually ‘You want to run for office someday, right?’ and she says ‘Yeah, how did you know?’ and he just sort of blows past it. I mean he’s just kind of got her number, he just kind of gets her. He understands her and what her goals are. And the second episode that we had which was the finale that year called Freddy Spagetti, they have a conversation and Leslie smiles at him and walks off and there’s a shot of Adam looking after Leslie with a smile on his face and as soon as I saw that I kind of realized that not only were they going to get together but they were never going to break up. It became really clear in that moment that this was it.”

Poehler: “It’s chemistry baby, you can’t fight it!”


Pawnee after the wedding

As always with Parks and Recreation, work goes on in Pawnee right alongside the romantic plots.

Schur:“In the second episode [tonight’s 9-9:30 half of the hour]… the cold open of that episode is Leslie and Ben coming back from their Honeymoon and just sort of talking about how much fun they had on their Honeymoon but the episode is just a regular episode of Parks and Rec and Leslie and Ben are in the same story. Ben is starting a new job and it’s the first day of work and he’s sort of thrown into this new challenge of his new job and Leslie has an event that she’s planning for which is sort of a correspondent’s type of event where the politicians roast each other and stuff.

And so I think you’ll see right away that there’s sort of a blue print going forward that yea, they’re married now but you know, they also have other aspects of their lives that are very important to them and so I hope and very much feel like that will be the thing that keeps it from feeling like the ‘magic is gone.’”

Parks and Recreation airs every Thursday at 8:30pm on NBC.

DVD Review “Episode 50”

Directed by: Joe Smalley, Tess Smalley
Starring: Josh Folan, Chris Perry, Natalie Wetta
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Distributed by: Image Entertainment
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Running Time: 81 minutes

Film: 3 out of stars
Extras: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Alright since “Ghost Hunters” made ghosts a hot topic and “Paranormal Activity” made found footage cool again, we have gotten a constant wave of these films.  This one can should probably be shuffled in with the others, but it does pack a few good spooks.  This even made me a little creeped out and scored a few decent jumps.  Overall though the acting is so terrible that it makes it hard to enjoy.  Luckily though,  I am real sucker for cool “creepy” aberration shots and this one definitely contained a few shots.

This film follows two television crews of paranormal experts who are taking on a major task of shooting their TV show at a haunted psych hospital.  One team of skeptics looking to debunk ghosts and another believers looking to prove their existence. The two team up but find that they got a lot more than they bargained for when a lot of strange phenomenons keep happening.  Although due to the events of the night, episode 50 of their show was never aired…until now.

Having personally staked out a paranormal activity investigation at famously haunted Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA, I have trouble sometimes watching this faux films that try to really scare you.  I have been there and I have been scared.  This is entertaining for the most part but like I said most likely will get shuffled with the others.  Lastly the special features on the disc are lacking only including an audio commentary from writer Ian Holt and the films directors and also a trailer.

Darth Maul Returns for “Star Wars: Clone Wars” and First Poster for “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace in 3D”

Darth Maul returns to the Star Wars Saga this spring!

Darth Maul, the sinister Sith Lord who amped up the dark side in 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, returns to the Saga this spring in Star Wars: The Clone Wars!

Revered by fans for his striking red and black tattooed-face, graceful but lethal fighting style, and signature double-bladed lightsaber, Maul was believed killed by Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi at the end of Episode I. In the Star Wars universe, however, one must never underestimate the power of the dark side!

“The decision to continue Darth Maul’s story was something that came directly from George,” says Dave Filoni, Supervising Director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “We all agreed that his return needed to be unique, unexpected and revenge filled. We don’t know what his outcome will be, and as a fan – that’s exciting.”

While fans await Darth Maul’s return to The Clone Wars, they’ll soon be able to experience the excitement of his original introduction to the Star Wars Saga when Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace is released in theaters on February 10, 2012 in spectacular 3D!

The trailer for Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace in 3D will be attached to The Three Musketeers on October 21st and on select films throughout the holidays.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Preview for ‘Prisoners’ Episode

The battle for Mon Calamari escalates in the conclusion to an epic Star Wars: The Clone Wars three-part story arc

In “Prisoners,” the must-see conclusion to the epic two-part season opener of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, all appears lost as the Republic army and its allies the Gungans have been captured by Riff Tamson and his seemingly invincible Karkarodon forces. The future looks as murky as the turbulent undersea battlefields of Mon Calamari, but there still are holdouts. Now all depends on Ahsoka Tano helping young Prince Lee-Char find the internal strength to unite the fractured races of his planet to drive out the Separatist invaders in a pulse-pounding battle airing at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT Friday, September 23rd on Cartoon Network.