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Thursday, February 16, 2017

THE LAST JEDI Update: Rey's New Look Is Revealed!

An image of Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) on an empty toy box for STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.

Earlier today, StarWars.com posted this article mentioning that Force Friday II—the official sequel to the day that The Force Awakens merchandise was released in stores worldwide on September 4, 2015—will take place on September 1st of this year. To commemorate this announcement, Lucasfilm also revealed this photo of an empty box featuring Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) at the top of this package. While the outfits of Poe and Finn look similar to what they wore in Star Wars: Episode VII (for the most part), it's clearly obvious that Rey will evolve the most in The Last Jedi. She let her hair down, there are subtle changes to her outfit (RE: a black garment visible underneath her collar), her expression in this image suggesting stronger confidence and determination and...she has a slight bruise near her left eye. What could that be from?

It remains to be seen if Rey will be welding Luke Skywalker's lightsaber for most of The Last Jedi. Though I'd hope that if/when she does build her own Jedi weapon, it will have a different color to its blade. Leave the green laser sword to Luke himself. Apart from that, I can't wait for Force Friday II to arrive this summer! I'm wondering what toy will be inside this box that Lucasfilm revealed, and if I'll buy said toy. We'll see. Happy Thursday!

An image of Poe Dameron, Rey and Finn on an empty toy box for STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Talking Sports on My Film Blog...

My favorite movie ad that aired during Super Bowl LI this evening was the one for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Absolutely amazing footage! This TV spot was shown before the Atlanta Falcons' trophy presentation.

...

If you watched the Big Game tonight you'd find that funny.

Rey would've found the dig I made at the Atlanta Falcons funny... Maybe.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Photos of the Day: The STAR WARS: SPECIAL EDITION...

Stormtroopers search for C-3PO and R2-D2 on Tatooine in the STAR WARS: SPECIAL EDITION...which opened in theaters on January 31, 1997.

Just thought I'd commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Star Wars: Special Edition—which opened on January 31, 1997—with these screenshots from the revamped version of George Lucas' classic film. I was a junior in high school when the original Star Wars trilogy returned to theaters that year, and it was so cool to see Luke, Han, Leia and Darth Vader finally on the big screen. (Up until this period, I would watch the original films on VHS tapes almost every weekend since I became a Star Wars fan in early 1995...after Lucas announced that he was gonna make the prequel trilogy.) Such a memorable time... I remember running into my cute classmate Liz, who was in my homeroom at school, just as she was about to exit the theater where I was gonna watch A New Hope on opening night (though I'm sure Star Wars wasn't the film that Liz saw that evening). And I remember when Howard Stern fumed that Return of the Jedi beat his movie Private Parts at the box office on opening weekend! Totally hilarious.

Han Solo confers with Jabba the Hutt (whose computer-generated look was revamped for the 2004 DVD releases of the original trilogy) on Tatooine in the STAR WARS: SPECIAL EDITION.

It's amazing that 10 years later, I'd be lookin' forward to a brand-new Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, which gets released this December. Five new Star Wars movies have been released since the Return of the Jedi: Special Edition opened in theaters on March 14, 1997. Revenge of the Sith ended up being the only installment that I liked among the prequels, The Force Awakens ended up being the highest-grossing domestic film in U.S. history (at $937 million), and Rogue One ended up being a satisfying tale about how the plans for the first Death Star were obtained by the Rebel Alliance. Thanks for continuing the magic (a.k.a. the Force), Disney! And also no thanks. I'd elaborate on that last part, but that's a blog entry for another day. Live long and prosper!

That was intentional.

A revamped version of Rebel X-Wing and Y-Wing fighters approaching the Death Star in the STAR WARS: SPECIAL EDITION.

A revamped version of the Death Star exploding in the STAR WARS: SPECIAL EDITION.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII Title Has Been Revealed!

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI hits theaters nationwide on December 15 of this year.

The Last Jedi... That will be the name for this December's eighth installment in the Star Wars saga. For the most part, I like it. Of course, I like anything Star Wars-related that doesn't involve Jar Jar Binks or post-Phantom Menace Darth Maul. I was hoping for a more sinister title like Fall of the Resistance or Death to the Resistance—especially considering that these would-be titles are consistent with the four-worded format for previous middle episodes Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back. Oh well.

And on a more humorous matter, Transformers fans around the Internet are probably joking that Michael Bay wants his title back! ('Cause you know, The Last Knight hits theaters nationwide on June 23?) I guess this is Lucasfilm's revenge for 2009's Revenge of the Fallen (there was an online joke that George Lucas wanted his title back for that one...in reference to 2005's Revenge of the Sith). Or not. Can't wait for The Last Jedi's first trailer to be unveiled soon! Happy Monday.

Fan-made artwork of Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she embraces her Jedi destiny in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The LEGO Batman Movie...

A giant display of Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) from THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE inside Edwards Cinema at the Irvine Spectrum...on December 31, 2016.

Happy New Year, everyone! Just thought I'd share these pics I took of a cool display for next month's The LEGO Batman Movie that was set up at a theater I visited in Orange County yesterday. (I watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story again. In IMAX 3-D.) If it's anything like 2014's The LEGO Movie, then this one will be an absolute delight that will be a major hit at the box office and get kids to try to persuade their parents to buy them LEGO figures of Batman, Robin, the Joker and/or other DC characters afterwards. Of course, we'll overlook the fact that the film featuring Will Arnett as the voice of the computer-generated Dark Knight will probably get better reviews than this November's Justice League flick featuring Ben Affleck as the live-action Caped Crusader. I'm still gonna watch the Zack Snyder film, though. Anyways— Have a wonderful 2017, folks!

The LEGO Batman Movie hits theaters nationwide on February 10.

A giant display of Batman from THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE inside Edwards Cinema at the Irvine Spectrum...on December 31, 2016.

A giant display of Batman from THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE inside Edwards Cinema at the Irvine Spectrum...on December 31, 2016.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

She Is One With The Force. The Force Is With Her.

Rest In Peace, Carrie Fisher. While we lost a lot of amazing people this year (David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Florence Henderson, Kenny Baker and other wonderful folks), the tragic news that came in this morning hit me the most considering my all-out passion for Star Wars and how iconic Leia Organa was. Trying to hold back some tears right now... I'm serious. Other beloved individuals will leave us next year, but 2016 really needs to end. Sunday can't come soon enough.

Rest In Peace, Carrie. The Force will be with you, always.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

It's Black One! Happy Holidays...

A model kit of Poe Dameron's X-Wing fighter (dubbed 'Black One') from STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS that I received for Christmas today.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! Just thought I'd share these pics of an X-Wing model kit that I received as a gift today. This is the Resistance fighter, dubbed Black One, that's piloted by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I was considering donating this model kit unopened to Goodwill considering the fact that I've outgrown model-making as a hobby, but this vehicle looks so awesome that I couldn't resist the urge to see it assembled. Unless I get a replica of the TIE Striker or U-Wing fighter (from Rogue One) next year, I'll be sure to give whatever model I received as an XMas present to charity a year from now. Sorry for sounding like a jerk here, but this ain't high school... I moved on. Have a pleasant evening!

The model kit of the 'Black One' X-Wing fighter that I received for Christmas today.

Friday, December 16, 2016

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY - Movie Review

From left to right: Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

So last night, I went to my local AMC Theatre to watch an advance screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and needless to say, director Gareth Edwards indeed put the "war" back into Star Wars with this installment! The film started off pretty slow, but once it picked up, there was no slowing down as Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), K-2SO (voiced and motion-captured by Alan Tudyk) and their merry band of Rebels set out to find and retrieve the plans to the Empire's dreaded Death Star. Rogue One had amazing cinematography, visual effects (even though there's still work to be done to make CGI humans look convincing; more on that later), action pieces, acting and stirring music by Michael Giacchino! Disney is off to a great start in regards to expanding the Star Wars cinematic universe with this spin-off movie.

K-2SO (motion-captured by Alan Tudyk) confronts Jyn Erso on Jedha in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

In regards to cinematography and visual effects, Rogue One looked beautiful. From the opening shot of Director Orson Krennic's (Ben Mendelsohn) shuttle flying over the ringed world of Lah'mu and landing on that planet to capture former Imperial scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) to the amazing space battle above Scarif and the ground war on the tropical planet's surface, director of photography Greig Fraser (who also worked on the 2012 Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty) did a tremendous job capturing the realistic, lived-in look of the original Star Wars trilogy...while at the same time adding the grittiness that Edwards wanted to make Rogue One a true war film. VFX-wise, Rogue One had amazing special effects—once again thanks to Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and other FX houses employed on this spin-off movie.

Grand Moff Tarkin (Guy Henry) watches as the Death Star's superlaser weapon is installed in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Edwards and his writing team were bold in giving considerable screen-time to Grand Moff Tarkin (played by the late Peter Cushing in 1977's A New Hope, and Guy Henry in this installment) and featuring Princess Leia (portrayed by Ingvild Deila in Rogue One). Story-wise, the inclusion of these characters was what made Rogue One a true prequel to the original Star Wars movie. Effects-wise, however, ILM did the best it could (which was still remarkable) in superimposing Cushing and Carrie Fisher's face onto those of Henry and Deila, respectively. Seeing Leia appear on screen was the biggest payoff of the movie (though she looked too happy considering the events that literally transpired a minute earlier), with Tarkin's action aboard the Death Star in the final minutes of Rogue One making the third act end in both a spectacular and tragic note. However, Disney still has ways to go before it's bold enough to put young, CGI versions of the Big Three (Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker) in a future 'Saga' or spin-off flick.

Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) stands before a Death Star monitor in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

In terms of the action pieces, Edwards succeeded tremendously in creating amazing fight and battle scenes in Rogue One. From the skirmish on Jedha [including that cool fight scene between Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and the Stormtroopers] plus that Rebel aerial attack on Eadu, to the final battles above and on the surface of Scarif, Edwards indeed delivered on his promise to get down and dirty in regards to showing the Rebel Alliance fight valiantly to the death against the Empire. The climactic space battle, in particular, had very cool moments that I only experienced playing the classic X-Wing video game on my computer! Namely, a specially-made Corellian Corvette (a.k.a. the Blockade Runner being chased by Darth Vader's Star Destroyer at the beginning of A New Hope) being used to ram a disabled Star Destroyer and cause it to collide into another Imperial flagship above Scarif. So awesome! Though in X-Wing, the Corvette actually sliced into not one, but many Star Destroyers at that point in the game. Well, we don't always get what we want!

The Death Star orbits Jedha in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Acting-wise, Rogue One had tremendous performances that Star Wars fans wished were in the other prequel films more than a decade ago. Unsurprisingly, Oscar nominee Felicity Jones did a wonderful job portraying Jyn Erso...with one emotional moment being as she watches a hologram of her father Galen (who she hasn't seen in person for 15 years) on Jedha. Galen himself was portrayed as an honorable but tragic figure by Mikkelsen, with Valene Kane doing a nice job playing Lyra Erso, Galen's wife and Jyn's mother, in the brief but heartwarming moments that Lyra shared with her family. Diego Luna was commendable as the conflicted but heroic Captain Andor, though it's unfortunate that his scenes weren't exciting to watch till Jyn and K-2SO arrived on the spot. K-2SO himself is definitely one of the most memorable droids in the live-action Star Wars movies—thanks to the amazing motion capture performance by Alan Tudyk.

Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) has seen war for far too long in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen were both great as the Guardians of the Whills...with Jiang playing the loyal Baze Malbus, who did everything he could to protect Chirrut Îmwe (who's blind) in the heat of battle. Riz Ahmed was terrific as Imperial pilot-turned-Rebel Bodhi Rook...though at the beginning of the film, I couldn't understand most of what Rook was saying as he spoke took fast due to his panic being captured by Saw Gerrera's (Forest Whitaker) forces on Jedha. Ditto with Whitaker, who seemed to over-dramatize his lines with Ahmed, but gave a more modest performance once Saw reunites with his long-lost friend, Jyn.

Darth Vader (once again voiced by James Earl Jones) approaches Director Krennic in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Finally, in regards to the main actors, Ben Mendelsohn gave an interesting performance as the conniving and narcissistic Director Krennic. If you read the Rogue One prequel novel Catalyst, you'll see that Mendelsohn's portrayal of Krennic was faithful to how this character was in the book. The fate that Krennic receives at the end of Rogue One was very deserving of this character. In terms of the other characters in this movie, it was great to see Jimmy Smits back as Bail Organa, and Genevieve O'Reilly's Mon Mothma finally on the big screen...after being relegated to the deleted scenes feature on the Revenge of the Sith DVD. Anthony Daniels was back as C-3PO (albeit briefly) while James Earl Jones returned as the voice of Darth Vader...who was truly memorable in the two major scenes that he had in Rogue One. One of those scenes, without giving anything away, was epic! Let's just say, Vader is still the angry person that he was in the third act of Revenge of the Sith—and his actions in the climax are things that you can replicate in the Star Wars: Battlefront video games! Rogue One definitely showed us why Vader is still the most iconic villain in the Star Wars universe.

Imperial Shoretroopers and Stormtroopers fire at Rebel forces (off-screen) in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

And lastly, Michael Giacchino's music in Rogue One was amazing. Considering the fact that he only had four weeks to write and compose his score, Giacchino (who got to play a First Order Stormtrooper in The Force Awakens) did a fantastic job capturing the spirit of John Williams' music. Heck, I'm listening to the score on CD as I type this review (the music for Vader's final scene in the film, to be exact)! I couldn't get Jyn Erso' theme out of my head as I drove home from the theater last night...because of this amazing musical piece, and the memorable and tragic character that this piece honors in the movie. I read somewhere online that Felicity Jones actually has a clause in her contract to play Jyn one last time; here's hoping that she uses it! Rogue One was an outstanding flick— It took a while to get up to speed, but once it kicks into high gear, well, you have a flick that did a triumphant job expanding the Star Wars lore. Thanks to Rogue One, that galaxy far, far away just got bigger. Most notable line in the movie: "I'm one with the Force. The Force is with me." Carry on.

8 out of 10 stars.

Rebel forces approach the Imperial fleet above Scarif in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Photos of the Day #2: Pics from the ROGUE ONE Red Carpet Event...

Checking out the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

So last night, I drove back down to Hollywood to check out the red carpet event for the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere. It was cool to take pics of the full-size X-Wing model without having to use my selfie stick (though I used it anyway to get some nice high-angle shots). In terms of taking (really blurry) photos of the cast members, I managed to get snapshots of Alan Tudyk (K-2SO), Ben Mendelsohn (Director Orson Krennic), Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook), Diego Luna (Captain Cassian Andor) and Donnie Yen (Chirrut Îmwe). I also spotted Rogue One director Gareth Edwards on the red carpet, but was unable to get a pic of Jyn Erso herself, Felicity Jones...since I was posting the Ben Mendelsohn pic on Twitter just as Jones walked past the X-Wing and was about to enter the red carpet tent. Darn it. In terms of other celebrities in attendance, I also spotted Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Terry Crews, Firefly's Nathan Fillion, well-known educator Bill Nye the Science Guy, TV talk show hosts Chris Hardwick and Aisha Tyler (didn't take pics of them though), and Kevin Smith himself at the premiere. Very awesome. Of course, you could've just scrolled down this entry and see the blurry photos for yourself!

A close-up of the full-size X-Wing prop at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

I definitely need to do this again next year for Star Wars: Episode VIII and in May of 2018 for the untitled Han Solo flick. What better way to make up for not getting a snapshot of Jyn Erso than to get a horrible photo of the beautiful Emilia Clarke on the red carpet less than two years from now? Carry on.

LINK: More photos I took at the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story red carpet event

Checking out the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Stormtroopers stroll down the red carpet for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Death Troopers stroll down the red carpet for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Alan Tudyk (K-2SO) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Bill Nye the Science Guy at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Ben Mendelsohn (Director Orson Krennic) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Diego Luna (Captain Cassian Andor) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE's Terry Crews at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Donnie Yen (Chirrut Îmwe) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

FIREFLY's Nathan Fillion at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Kevin Smith at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Photos of the Day: Prepping for the ROGUE ONE Premiere...

A full-size X-Wing prop is set up on Hollywood Boulevard for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 8, 2016.

Earlier today, I drove down to Hollywood to check out the progress being made on setting up the red carpet tent that will be the center of attention for the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere this Saturday. The newest Star Wars film will be screened at the Pantages Theatre...which is several blocks away from the Dolby Theatre (home to the Academy Awards), the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly known as the Grauman's Chinese Theatre...where The Force Awakens' premiere took place last year) and the Hollywood & Highland Center (where I parked this morning). It was cool seeing the red carpet where Rogue One stars Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen and company will walk on two days from now, but what got me to drive all the way to Hollywood in the first place was seeing the full-size X-Wing prop that is situated right across the Hollywood Blvd/Vine Street intersection from the tent!

The full-size X-Wing prop is set up on Hollywood Boulevard for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 8, 2016.

It's a good thing that I had a selfie stick with me; otherwise, I couldn't get those shots of the X-Wing above. Tall chain link fences and black barriers currently surround the starfighter prop... It remains to be seen if those fences will be removed before the red carpet event on Saturday evening. I'm currently thinking about going back to Hollywood on December 10 to see if I can get photos of Felicity Jones and/or the other actors as they enter the tent to walk down the carpet. Not bloody likely—but it's worth a shot. But one thing's for sure, if the chain link fences are removed, you can be sure that I'm gonna get more pics of the X-Wing on Saturday night! And if they're not, well, whoever invented the selfie stick needs a pat on the back and offered a free beer at the local bar (or, in the spirit of Star Wars, a cantina). Happy Thursday!

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere is set up near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.