Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Saw "Rogue One"; where does it rank in the Star Wars pantheon?

I finally got around to watching "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" on Blu-ray and liked it a lot. So where does it rank in the Star Wars movie pantheon in my opinion?

For the purposes of this ranking, I'm not including the Clone Wars or Rebels series, only the theatrically released movies - the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and "The Force Awakens."

[Obviously, spoilers to follow....]

8. (tie) "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones"

I don't think the disregard with which I hold these two entries is unusual. Each offered a pretty intricate lightsabre duel and not much else. I have to confess that I've never watched the entirety of "Attack of the Clones," so I guess it's possible it's worse than "The Phantom Menace," but it's hard to see how that would be possible. And while it's hard to choose who was worse as Anakin, Jake Lloyd or Hayden Christensen.

6. "Revenge of the Sith"

Still pretty bad; Palpatine's seduction of Anakin to the dark side never really made much sense, and too many of the big fight scenes just seemed ridiculous - can you remain that close to hot lava without dying from the heat?!? The big transformation of Anakin into Darth Vader, where he howls "Nooooooo!!!!!" made me laugh out loud. One should not be laughing at Darth Vader....

5. "Return of the Jedi"

I still like the opening Jabba the Hut sequence even though it's objectively silly. The scenes with Luke, Darth Vader, and the Emperor were pretty good, but the movie is marred by the Ewoks. I've ranted about this before - how a bunch of teddy bears defeated armored Stormtroopers boggles the mind. Not to mention that the space attack scenes are just a copy of  "A New Hope." And Luke and Leia as siblings - that could not have been part of the original plan, or else those kisses in "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back" indicate a perverse mindset.

4. "The Force Awakens"

I think this movie benefits from being so much better than the prequel trilogy, but it's really just a mash-up of "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back." It was slickly produced, and John Boyega was quite charming as Finn. Daisy Ridley was perfectly fine as Rey, but flawless in a robotic and boring way. I do like how it shows that it's easy to complain about the Empire (as the Rebels did in the original trilogy), but running the galaxy isn't so easy. I mean, a mere 30 years after the defeat of the Empire, the Rebels did such a bad job that they're once again an insurgent force, while the First Order has amassed the resources to build Starkiller Planet!

3. "A New Hope"

It started everything, it was amazing in 1977, but it hasn't aged all that well. And all the tinkering that George Lucas did with it only made it worse. Need I point to anything beyond Han Solo's dodging a laser blast from point-blank range...?

2. "The Empire Strikes Back"

I still think this is pretty good, but there are cracks in my admiration of it. It annoys me to no end that Darth Vader tells the Emperor "if the son of Skywalker will not join us, he will die," when the natural way of saying that would be "if my son will not join us, he will die." Of course, that would take away the shock value later on, but still, it's a bit of cheating. I can accept the superdense asteroid field (even though in reality, there would have been so many collisions that the asteroids would have been reduced to a ring), but how does a giant space worm live in vacuum? What does it breathe? What does it eat? There can't be that many ships that fly into that particular asteroid.

1. "Rogue One"

I'll admit that I love "Mission Impossible" type stories, so "Rogue One" naturally appeals to me. But compare the tension generated in this mission versus the shield assault in "Return of the Jedi," and you see the difference between sacrifice, competence, and excitement, versus clownish quasi-parody. What's remarkable about "Rogue One" is that we know how it will turn out, and yet it holds attention. The middle was a little slow, but the last third is fantastic. And unlike the other movies, with a couple of exceptions, there's real sacrifice - the rebels more or less know it's a mission that few, if any, of them will survive, and they're right. The moment when the wave of death washes over Jyn and Cassian was exceptionally well-done. And then, there's that Darth Vader scene! Vader is terrifying in this movie, as he should be! Too often in the original trilogy, he was just a bully, coming in after the fighting was over to torture a hapless Rebel soldier, or "firing" incompetent Imperial officers. But that end sequence showed how devastating Vader could be....

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Quick thoughts on new fall shows from Fox, CW, and NBC

I blogged about the upcoming new ABC shows that caught my attention here, and the CBS ones here. Fox, CW, and NBC have just enough combined to put together in one post....


The Brave


This looks like another fairly generic military-action drama, possibly indistinguishable from CBS's "Navy SEALs." This one does have Anne Heche as the civilian leader of the unit, and Mike Vogel (last seen in CBS's "Under the Dome") as the team leader. Nothing in particular jumps out, but I'm always up for giving action shows a chance.

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders

I remember the Menendez brothers! The main reason I'm considering watching this is FX did such a fantastic job with the O.J. Simpson mini-series that maybe this story, which had its share of lurid details, will prove similarly engrossing.


Boo, "24: Legacy" has been canceled/won't be renewed, though may be (another) reboot down the line. Well, I can't blame Fox. I thought it was okay, but ranked against the other seasons of "24," it would be near the bottom. Anyway, I won't hold it against Fox.

The Gifted


Marvel Cinematic Universe, mutant types, okay, I'm in. But try not to be as boring as the first season of "Agents of SHIELD" was, okay?

The Orville


This looks kind of funny. I just wonder if there's enough there to last, oh, even a season? I remember this old sci-fi parody called "Quark" that aired in 1978. It was really funny at first, but you can only make fun of "Star Trek" for so long.



This looks kind of interesting, with a "what happened that night?" mystery to be unfolded over the course of the season. Unfortunately, if I were to bet on shows likely to bomb with the audience, I would pick this one. Dense, serialized mythologies with multiple timelines and viewpoints don't seem to do well. Even ABC's "Quantico," which started off as a strong performer in season 1, had cancellation-worthy ratings in season 2.