Star Wars in the Age of Immersive Entertainment

In the last two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to experience what I guess I’d call the cutting edge of entertainment: Star Wars: Secrets of the Empirea virtual reality experience licensed to a company called The Void, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the new “land” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Each experience, in its own way, shows the direction we can expect interactive entertainment to go in the next few decades. Continue reading “Star Wars in the Age of Immersive Entertainment”

Movie Review: Apollo 11

Since I missed First Man when it was in the theaters (probably on purpose), I thought I’d at least make certain I saw the new documentary about Apollo 11which featured new or unused film footage from that first landing on the Moon 50 years ago. Space geek that I am, how could I refuse? I was wondering why my theater ticket was north of $20, then remembered it was in an IMAX theater. As it turned out, that massive screen with its accompanying super-duper sound system made it worth the price. So what did I see? Read on. This shouldn’t take too long. Continue reading “Movie Review: Apollo 11”

Concert Review: Return of the Jedi

Yes, you read that correctly. The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra (OPO) played a symphonic concert of John Williams’ soundtrack to Return of the Jedi at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando, Florida. Having missed the first two concerts (Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back), I was determined not to miss this one, if only as a belated birthday present to myself. And wow, I wish I’d gone to the other two. What a marvelous experience! Continue reading “Concert Review: Return of the Jedi”

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

As has become my habit in the new Star Wars era, I went to see Solo: A Star Wars Story the morning after it opened. The big difference this year was that I had the lady friend along as well. Rather than write a spoiler-free review of the movie now, then one with spoilers later, I’ll cover them both. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want a lot of details about the fates of various characters or who ends up doing what to whom, you can skip that part when it comes up. I’m friendly that way. Continue reading “Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Movie Review: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi

I decided to take on both of these films simultaneously because I didn’t have much to say when the first sequel came out. I wanted to see where the writers would go with it. Having now seen The Last Jedi and (unlike some of my friends) enjoyed it, I thought I’d share the thoughts of a 41-year fan. Fair warning: Major plot spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen either film yet and plan to, you might want to punt on reading this blog. Continue reading “Movie Review: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi”

Old Friends and Movie Reviews

A long time ago, I had a friend who was into films big-time–she was a film and videography major, in fact–and it was a pleasure to talk with her about movies because we had similar tastes and appreciated filmmaking from very different perspectives. I really wish we were still friends sometimes because I’d love to pick her brain about Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to a film we both loved. Continue reading “Old Friends and Movie Reviews”

Movie Review: Rogue One

I will try to keep this review spoiler-free. No, really. 

If you’re a fan of Star Wars, you’re going to see this film. You know it and I know it. What you might be worried about is will you like the film? Rest assured, fanboys (and gals), you will come out of theater happy with what you see.

The setup

Many Star Wars fans–I am among them–have memorized the opening crawl text from the first film, now titled Episode IV: A New Hope:

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy.

Rogue One, as shown in the trailers, is the dramatization of that prologue. The MacGuffin moving the story forward is, as in Episode IV, the Death Star plans.

This is a fun film. The title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story covers it nicely. It weaves in and out of Episode IV here and there while concentrating on a new batch of characters, both members of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Many of the elements are familiar: the Death Star, the force, Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, X-wings, Tie Fighters, Imperial Stardestroyers, etc.

As is typical of a Star Wars story, the story also takes its characters and us, the audience, to a variety of exotic planets. Unusual aliens greet us, as do a new set of spacecraft–some sleek, some ugly and dented–all part of the “lived in” universe George Lucas did so much to bring to life (yikes) 39 years ago.

Why I liked it

This will be tricky without spoilers, but I’ll give it a shot.

Geek that I am, I always like to see what new stuff the folks at Lucasfilm will add to the galaxy far, far away, and I was not disappointed. They’re running out of new landscapes to film on Earth, but through careful hunting around our diverse planet and some judicious matte painting or digital effects, the filmmakers still manage to give us (if I may cross genres for a moment) strange, new worlds.

I liked the new characters, who manage to carry on the snarky interactions and uncertain-friendship dynamics of the original trilogy while still being likable. Over the course of two hours and some-odd minutes, I managed to care about how they fare. That’s no easy thing, as we learned, painfully, from Episodes I-III.

I suppose what impressed me the most about this film was the production design. Everything from helmets to tools to clothing to architecture to spacecraft looked believable. Again, that “lived in” feeling of the environment was meticulously crafted. And, more to the point, much of it was crafted to look functional, worn, and used, as everyday objects are in our real lives. There are also some other special effects tricks in the film that I can’t describe without spoiling things for the fans, but suffice to say you will be impressed.

The plot I described above. Director Gareth Edwards deftly handles the script and all of the moving parts necessary to make a good Star Wars story. The pacing is good. The dialogue is mostly “business” (moving the plot forward) with just enough character moments to remind you that these are supposed to be people we’re rooting for, not action figures. The space and planetary battles moved by at a rapid clip, as expected, almost a shade too fast to follow at points, but nothing glaring.

I suppose the best compliment I can pay to the film is that I want to see it again. And really, isn’t that what we want out of a good movie?

A couple thoughts for non-Star Wars fans

I know you’re out there: people who are not Star Wars fans or who for your own reasons have never seen any part of the franchise. Yet now your spouse or significant other has told you that you’re going, and you’re wondering if you’re going to care at all. If you like adventure stories, yes, you should like this. There’s some “heart” to be found as well.

The best piece of advice I could give to the uninitiated would be to at least watch the first Star Wars, the one for which this story serves as a prologue. It will introduce you to the Star Wars universe and provide the background for what’s going on. You don’t need to watch the entire series. Episode IV will also provide you with some timeline connections that will help you see how this episode fits in with that one while telling its own story.

Okay, I’ve blathered on long enough. Go see the movie. You know you want to.