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

 

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!

Book Review “Star Wars The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight”

Author: Tony DiTerlizzi jsut him
Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Grade Level: 1 – 3
Series: Star Wars
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Release Date: October 7, 2014

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

As a father of a two year old daughter, it is a fathers dream to have my daughter follow in my footsteps with my love of all things “Star Wars”. Ever since she was born, she has had “Star Wars” jumpers and outfits. Since Disney bought LucasFilm they have been doing great things for the series. They have some great new content for kids.

“Star Wars The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight” tells the classic tale of good versus evil set in a galaxy far, far away, quickly became a cultural phenomenon during its time, inspiring a generation of story lovers and storytellers. The story is told through Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art. It is kid friendly and a great way to get your kids interested in the series.

Author and illustrator, Tony DiTerlizzi is the co-creator of the middle-grade series, “The Spiderwick Chronicles”. This book is his first teaming up with Lucasfilm to retell the original Star Wars trilogy in a picture book. I hope that they are planning to do many more of these.

Book Review “Star Wars: Jedi Academy”

Author: Jeffrey Brown
Age Range: 8 and up
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: August 27, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I first heard about author/illustrator Jeffrey Brown when he released his bestselling book “Darth Vader and Son”. At the time, my wife was a few months away from having our daughter and I wondered where the female version of that book was. Well a few months later, “Vader’s Little Princess” was released. Read our interview with Jeffrey, here. When I spoke with him, he gave us a sneak peak at “Star Wars: Jedi Academy” and I know I just had to have it. Sure the age range is 8 and up but key word being up. I finished this book in literally one sitting and loved every minute of it. If you are a “Star Wars” fan young or old, this is a must have in your collection!.

The story is really cute and fun. It follows a young boy Roan and his journeys through middle school as he attempt to complete his dream of leaving home and becoming a Pilot Academy like his older brother, father, and grandfather. When he is denied entry into Pilot School, he fears that he will end up having to go to farming school instead.  But instead he receives an invitation out of the blue to attend Jedi Academy from Master Yoda and decides to give it a try. He find that he possesses more strength and potential than he could have ever dreamed and that his destiny leads him to a new path.

The illustrations in the book are extremely fun and each page is a new journey into this world. They are black and white and have a real fun comic book feel. There is tons of great humor all mixed within the common issues and stresses of attending middle school. Since we either you are going through it or have been through it, the story and its situations are very relatable no matter what age you are. It is told through various formats including Ronan’s comics, journal entries, letters, doodles, and newspaper clippings. So at first you will be reading his report card and then a letter from his brother.  It moves the story along so well and makes it very entertaining and fresh. I do not think that I have ever sat down just to check out a book and ended up reading the entire book within a few hours.

DVD Review "Jedi Junkies"

Actors: Olivia Munn, Peter Mayhew, Ray Park
Directors: Mark Edlitz
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: DOCURAMA
DVD Release Date: February 12, 2013
Run Time: 73 minutes

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

When it comes to “Star Wars”, am I a fan…OH YEAH! Am I crazy obsessed with “Star Wars” like these people in “Jedi Junkies”…OH NO! They are on a whole other level. This documentary is a showcase of some of the devoted fans of the franchise. The focus on this is really the fans.  It looks into conventions, fan films and the obsession of collecting. There are celebrity interviews Olivia Munn (“Attack of the Show”), “Phantom Menace” actor Ray Park (Darth Maul) and “Blair Witch Project” director Ed Sanchez.

“Jedi Junkies” is a one-of-a-kind feature film about the world’s most dedicated Star Wars fans. From lightsaber-wielding martial artists to a filmmaker who built the world’s only life-size Millennium Falcon, the film offers viewers a rare glimpse into extreme fans personal and professional self-expression.

The DVD comes with some decent special features. There is a commentary track from director Mark Edlitz. There are various deleted and extended scenes, these could have easily been put in the film since it was only 73 minutes to begins with. Lastly there are three featurettes including “The Stars of Star Wars”, “Build Your Own Action Figure” and lastly “The Cult of Slave Leia”.  If you are a fan of “Star Wars”, you should enjoy this documentary quite a bit and for those who aren’t it will change the way you look at the fandom that surrounds this whole world of “Star Wars”.

Erik Bauersfeld talks about voicing Admiral Akbar and Bib Fortuna in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”

Erik Bauersfeld is the voice behind great characters like Admiral Akbar and Bib Fortuna in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”. He is uncredited in the film and his iconic roles took only around an hour to record. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Erik about his roles and reflects on their longevity with fans.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up providing the voices of Admiral Akbar and Bib Fortuna in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”?
Erik Bauersfeld: It was chance…almost a mistake. I worked with Randy Thom at LucasFilm. We have worked together for many, many years now doing radio drama. We were at the Ranch working, when I was simply asked if I wanted to do some voices for “Star Wars”. Now, I knew nothing about “Star Wars” and wasn’t that interested.But I went in to do it anyway and it was just Ben Burtt and some sound people in the room. They asked me to do a voice for Admiral Akbar. I asked for a picture and I said “Well, he’s a fish?” [laughs]. I gave his voice a sound like he has a little bit of water in his mouth. Only took a few minutes really. Then they asked me to do another one for a character named Bib Fortuna, which was in Huttese, which was a completely made up language. I asked for picture again. I gave them a voice and then simply went back to work. About an hour later, they came to me and said George (Lucas) liked both of them and they wanted to use me. I also was asked to do a voice for Yoda. I gave them a voice, George liked it but it went back and forth for months. Frank Oz had ended up doing the part, obviously, so I guess they got what they wanted. So that is the whole story.

MG: How did you come up with the voice Akbar?
EB: I have a simple answer. I have been in radio for over 25 years and I do voices every day. I look at a picture of a character or read a story and I can easily tell what the character is like. It just came to me and that is all.

MG: How was it speaking in Hutt language for Fortuna?
EB: I don’t remember it being difficult. I didn’t really have much to say. I think Ben Burtt said the lines and I just repeated them with my interpretations. I had no idea what that big thing on his neck was though. Someone asked me about that and when I looked at the picture, I said “I think there is an elephant standing behind him”. Of course he has other reasons obviously, but I always found that answer funny.

MG: Can you reflect on the following that Admiral Akbar has acquired with his line “It’s a Trap”?
EB: I am surprised. It is a real surprise to me. They give me so much credit that I feel that I don’t deserve. They even have toys now that you push the plush doll and it comes out with “It’s a Trap”, which is my voice. Of course I never see any money from those.

MG: Overall, how long did it take to record the roles?
EB: It took probably about a half an hour the first time. Then I went back and did a few more takes. So it didn’t come to much more than an hour or an hour and a half at most.

MG: Why did you end up getting uncredited for the roles?
EB: When I did the voices or the recordings, the screen credits has already been  made and designed. So I never got any screen credit for voicing Akbar and Fortuna. I didn’t care at the time. I was busy working other projects. What ended up happening was that a whole new generation of fans started collecting autographs for the cast members of “Star Wars”. I got requests for autographs from fathers that were children at the time when they saw it. Now they are sending pictures asking for autographs for their own children. So all these fans found out they didn’t have a character’s voice for “Star Wars” and that was Admiral Akbar, since it wasn’t voiced by Tim Rose. The requests began to reach me and I got flooded with mail asking for my autograph. Now I am working with Coolwater Productions to assist in handling all these requests.

MG: When was the last time you have seen “Return of the Jedi”?
EB: I think the last time I saw it was in theaters. My parents were always suspicious of what I was doing in California, since they were in New York. When they opened “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” in Forest Hills, Queens, I told them I would take them to the movies to see what I have been doing. Before the movie started, I told them I would nudge them when I came on the screen. So, when Akbar came on the screen, I whispered “Mom, that’s me”. She turned back at me and said back “Shhhhhhhhh”. So that was the ultimate acclaim that I got for doing “Star Wars” [laughs]. But at least they loved the picture. That was probably the last time I saw it. In fact, I don’t even think I have seen all the others ones as well. I was working a lot on my radio drama, which has keep me extremely busy over the years.

Tim Rose talks about puppeting Admiral Ackbar in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” and working with Jim Henson

Tim Rose is best known for his his work in “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” playing Admiral Ackbar, Sy Snootles and Salacious Crumb. Tim has also worked with Jim Henson on projects like “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tim on this film work and reflect on his cult fandom with Admiral Ackbar.

Mike Gencarelli: How can you reflect on the fan base behind your role of Admiral Ackbar?
Tim Rose: When you create one of these characters you have to work 14hr days, sacrifice your home life, and get paid very poorly by you Masters. My reward comes at the Conventions when I get to see just how many people, “my silly little playing with dolls” has managed to touch and communicate with.

MG: Was the costume easy to work with during shooting “Return of the Jedi”?
TS: Compared to some of the prosthetic characters that can take up to 5 hours to get into, mine was a doddle, just a simple mask to pull over my head. And when my body temperature got to 100f, just as easy to pull back off again.

MG: Why did you end up not voicing the character? TS: When you are inside the character, the recorded sound of your performance is too muffled. It’s good enough as a guide track to get the sinq right, but not as final performance. I lived in England and the film was edited at ILM. They never would have paid for me to fly all the way out there for 2 hours work in a dubbing studio.

MG: Do you still get asked to say “It’s a Trap” at conventions?
TS: Only, ALL THE TIME!

MG: Besides your own, who is your favorite “Star Wars” character in the saga?
TS: Pre CGI Yoda of course, I learned everything I know from the master. (Frank Oz)

MG: From “Star Wars” to Jim Henson, can you reflect work on such classic films as “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal”?
TS: “Dark Crystal” had a four year pre-production, that had never happened before or since. Four years of getting paid to play in the worlds best toy shop, creating the dreams of Jim Henson. Because he was a performer himself, he insisted that every thing he made be an instrument that a puppeteer could play. Three quarters of what is made today is a torture chamber that a performer has to endure if they wish to get paid.

MG: How does a puppeteer still stand prevalent in a world of CGI efforts?
TS: Animatronics is much more restricted in what it can visualize than CGI. But it can offer ten times the dramatic interaction on set, the ability to create a magic moment on screen that was never in the original script, and do it all at one quarter the cost of CGI. Producers are slowly beginning to realize this.

MG: What would happen if Admiral Ackbar, Sy Snootles and Salacious Crumb where all in a room together?
TS: The Admiral would be having his afternoon nap. Sy would be looking for the nearest exit to get back to where the action is, and Salacious would be trying to stick rolled up napkins up the sleeping Admiral’s nose.