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Star Wars Saturday–Comic Review of ‘Star Wars’ (2015) #5

starwars5coverTHE GREATEST SPACE ADVENTURE OF ALL TIME CONTINUES! As Luke goes home in search of the truth about his late mentor… …Leia takes Han on a secret mission of vital importance to the Rebellion. Unfortunately, they both run into some unfriendly encounters.

Jason Aaron and John Cassaday continue their run filling in the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The writing and art stay true to the characters, and the pacing remains similar to that of the original trilogy films. We see more of everyone’s favorite bounty hunter as he attempts to track down the young Jedi now on Vader’s radar. Luke nearly repeats a mistake his father once made. And Han and Leia explore the hate part of their love-hate relationship. There are a few call-backs to deep fan knowledge–Luke gets referred to as “Wormie” by a Tatooine local.

As far as single issues go, this one is a bit of a let down. It’s clearly a transition installment, bridging the end of the first act and kicking off the start of the second. Reading it alone, it feels less substantial than the other issues. I imagine, however, that collected in trade paper back, this wouldn’t be a concern. It would just be one of those middle ones you blaze through on your way to the more climactic issues. Still, even in this regard, Aaron is true to the nature of this particular beast. It feels very much like the few scenes following the Battle of Hoth where our heroes split up to follow their various paths and the new narrative arcs get established–Luke going to Dagobah and Han and Leia attempting to lose their Imperial tail.

It leaves me thirsty for more.

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Star Wars Saturday: Earthling Cinema on Eps. IV and V

hanged manI’ve posted about Earthling Cinema’s funny and insightful short videos mock-analyzing films before, but recently they took on Star Wars: A New Hope and followed it up with their own sequel looking at The Empire Strikes Back. The results are pretty fantastic.

As one would expect from this series, they mix together some good-natured mockery of the films with some true insights about the philosophies, motifs, and themes of the films. For instance, Earthling Cinema taught me something new about Empire–that Luke hangs upside down three times in the film, each time using the Force, equating him with the tarot card The Hanged Man.

Also connections to Joseph Campbell, Akira Kurosawa, Taoism, fascism, and Carl Jung.

Entertain and edify yourself simultaneously!


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Early Observations about “Operation Mongoose”

Severe weather delayed our reactions. Henry brought his A game. And the ships sailed en masse.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”

“Operation Mongoose”

We covered this one back in 4×03 “Rocky Road.” It’s more a less a reference to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and “Rikki-tikki-tavi.”

Then it was perfect. Here it’s funny. It’s both. Regina intitially chose because mongooses are fabled (operation) cobra killers.

Walt Disney

The opening scene literally occurs on the day of Walter Elias Disney’s death: December 15, 1966. The envelope Isaac receives from Star Publishing bears that date. This pretty much confirms that the “man named Walt” mentioned by August in 4×17 “Best Laid Plans” was the Author immediately prior to Isaac Heller.

4x21-22 December 15

Bonus: 1966 was the year color television really became a viable consumer option following an industry wide push to broadcast half of all programming in color and the introduction of General Electric’s Porta-Color.

Bonus: “When You Wish Upon A Star,” the Disney anthem is alluded to in the publishing company, showing that even though Isaac views himself as a non-hero, he too can make his dreams come true.

Alice in Wonderland

carpenterThe Apprentice keeps repeating to Isaac, “The time has come…” which is also the starting line of a stanza in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Turns out our Apprentice also played the role of the Carpenter in SyFy’s Alice.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

ABC

Their logo appears on the sales floor television screens.

4x21-22 abc

Zenith Space Command 600

Yes, the first practical wireless television remote control was called the Space Command, because the days of future past were awesome. The 600 was designed for use with color televisions and allowed viewers to adjust hues by increments.

4x21-22 Space Command

The television Isaac’s awkwardly trying to sell is not, however, and actual 1966 model Zenith Mareseille.

25th Infantry Division

The customer and the shop owner are veterans of the United States’ Pacific War during World War II. The 25th Infantry Division, “Tropic Lightning” was posted at Schofield Barracks on Oahu.

4x21-22 25th Infantry Division

So it’s probably another Lost related reference. However, that particular unit was also the subejct of From Here to Eternity which ends at the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Shortly after this scene, Oliver Stone would would see combat in Vietnam with the unit, the same which inspired Platoon.

Bonus: Isaac’s boss was the White Knight in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

Harry Potter

The Apprentice lays out five wands pens from which Isaac must choose. The scene is only somewhat reminiscent of Olivander’s, “The wand chooses the wizard.” However, Henry breaking the quill at the end mirrors Harry’s refusal of the Elder Wand.

Cosplayers

These are probably too numerous to account for, but there’s an obvious Cinderella in the front row at Isaac’s reading. There’s a brilliant Ursula. And there’s the mind boggling superfan cosplaying Regina cosplaying bandit Snow. Needless to say, I was delighted by that one.

4x21-22 Ursula

Catch-22

Isaac’s surname is inspired by Joseph Heller, another famous Jewish author. The reference manifests in Henry’s role. As a being born in the real world, Isaac was unable to affect him. But it’s that very quality that allows him to track down the renegade Author and eventually save the day.

4x21-22 Isaac Heller

He’s the catch. All of the books on the rack are mock-ups. On the far right, you can see Shadow Precinct by Bill Burd. Burd is Once Upon a Time‘s property master.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Grumpy: Hi ho, boys, it’s off to work we go!

Obviously every episode is technically a reference to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and half a dozen other Disnified fairy tales, but it’s rare to get an actual line from the film. This was great.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Henry instructs Killian to tell Emma’s guard that he’s escorting a prisoner from Kashyyyk. “The old wookie prisoner gag. Works every time.” Better yet, Hook’s our Hand Solo (forgive me.) And they’re rescuing Princess Leia!

4x21-22 Kashyyyk

Tangled

Emma’s locked in a tower by the queen, technically her mother, in Heroes and Villains, approaching the Rapunzel reference which they couldn’t do directly since the character’s already represented on the show. But what they did do is dress her following the rescue in Flynn Rider’s clothes! So Emma gets to be both of the protagonists of Tangled.

4x21-22 Tangled

Pirates of the Caribbean

Killian: You’re telling me that in this other reality I’m an expert with such a weapon?

Emma: You’re a regular Jack Sparrow.

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Rather than reusing the hackneyed true love’s kiss, all the real ships of worth had love-motivated sacrifices.

Captain Swan

Emma remembers the way things were before the rewrite, which is convenient for the plot but also gives the opportunity for lots of tasty dramatic irony. So, for instance, when Hook (a mere deckhand) and Henry rescue Emma from her tower, and she runs full on into Hook, there’s a moment where she clearly wants to kiss him. She’s so happy to see him again, she can hardly contain herself. But she knows he doesn’t remember her, even though its clear she makes a quick, deep romantic impression on him. It’s a dramatic reversal of him coming to New York to rescue her from her Storybrook amnesia. Though, of course, he does kiss her.

After defeating dragon Lily, Hook asks Emma why she trusted him with her life just now. She responds, “It’s complicated. Might take a while.” She ends up not telling him, but it gets Killian’s brain going in the right direction so that when they begin working on his fighting skills, and she’s playing the flirty mentor, he’s able to see clearly that in the world she’s trying to get back to, they were close. He comments that he’s rather jealous of this other Hook from her world, and echo of being jealous of the Hook she seduces at the end of Season 3.

Sadly, this is followed up by Killian’s sacrificial death giving Emma a chance to escape. Returning the trust, he figures if she manages her mission, his death here won’t mean anything. He’s right, but his death still deeply wounds Emma emotionally.

When later Emma attempts to convince Regina to go after Robin and her happiness, she explains, “I just watched the man I love die…The worst part is that I never told him I loved him. Not once. I was too scared. Too scared that somehow saying it would make it real and change everything.”

After Henry saves the day and returns everyone back to their original selves in Storybrooke, Emma makes a mad dash for the apartment to make sure Killian’s there. There’s a brief tease when we think he’s not, but he’s just up in the loft. She runs up to him and tackles him onto the bed. He’s happy to see her, of course, and tickled at her enthusiasm. She starts to come clean about her feelings, and his face shows he expects her to finally say it–he even has this adorable tiny smirk and a nervous swallow of the throat–but then she dodges into a thank you for saving her and Henry’s lives. Because he’s Killian, and he totally gets Emma, he simply responds it’s just another day in the life of a hero. But, of course, all of the Captain Swanners everywhere started throwing things at Emma on their televisions.

And finally, when Regina gets attacked by the Darkness and Emma decides to tether herself to it to save Regina, Hook begs her not to with tears in his eyes. She finally tells him she loves him before grabbing the dagger and sacrificing herself for Regina’s happy ending. That’s a three hanky ending, folks.

Rumpbelle

In Heroes and Villains, Rumple and Belle have a new baby and a happy marriage. But Rumple is keeping secrets about his first son from her, and Isaac uses that to manipulate Rumple into being villainous. Rumple attempts to talk to Belle about the dilemma in vague terms and ends up dropping his teacup in his nervousness, producing the infamous chipped cup that symbolizes their relationship.

When Henry returns the characters to where they were, Rumple is dying in the shop. Belle comes in looking for him, wanting to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone else. But he knows these are his last moments, and when the man is gone, along with his ability to love, the Darkness will be the greatest danger the town has ever encountered. Faced with his impending death, Belle admits she doesn’t love Will (with the implication that she still loves Rumple) and won’t let Rumple die alone, but Rumple sends her for help to defend against the Darkness that is inside him.

Swan Queen

Emma encourages Regina to go after her happy ending, starting with going after Robin. “My happy ending isn’t a man,” Regina states, with the implication that it might, in fact, be a woman named Emma.

Emma becomes the Dark One to save Regina from being killed by the Darkness like the Apprentice was. Regina protests that there must be another way–she doesn’t want Emma to do this–but Emma doesn’t see one, not yet anyway. She trusts that her family will find a way to banish her darkness once again as heroes. (Mmm, redemptiony.)

Outlaw Queen

When Regina meets Robin after he rescues her from Evil Snow White, they share a drink at a pub, just as Henry suggested. Regina tries playing it cool, but Robin is all sincerity. He holds her hand to clean her wound in the age-old way of dowsing it in alcohol. She thought he’d be dirtier, but he’s always admired her skills. They’re clearly hitting it off, and Regina’s face becomes more and more open to the possibility that he really is her true love. He propositions her with taking his place as leader of the Merry Men. She asks what’s driving him out of the business, and he delivers a most romantic response, one that melts her very heart: “Have you ever met someone that you would change your entire world for? Someone whose eyes you just knew you were born to gaze into?” And as she gazes into his eyes, his words have struck a chord. Too damn bad he’s talking about Zelena.

And, of course, breaking the Isaac curse hinges on Regina stopping the wedding between Robin and Zelena and using true love’s kiss to undo the magic. She doesn’t manage it, though they do share an ambiguously sweet smile, instead sacrificing herself for Henry before he gets killed by Rumple. Robin and wedding party are leaving the chapel and see Regina. He runs to her. Zelena complains about getting blood on her dress, showing Robin what kind of false true love she really is. Robin promises that he won’t let Regina die alone.

Upon returning to Storybrooke, Robin asks Regina about Zelena. She says still locked up and still pregnant, but we can deal with that. Robin then invites her on a long moonlit walk. Unfortunately, that never happens thanks to the release of the Darkness. Robin attempts to save Regina by running into the Darkness, but he just gets thrown backwards.


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Star Wars Sunday: Comic Review of Star Wars #1

Star Wars 1 coverAs I reflected upon a couple weeks ago, Marvel has rebooted the Star Wars comic as part of the new Disney-owned Star Wars push for more material. This glut of new Star Wars could be disastrous, maybe, milking the franchise until its dry and ready to be sent out to pasture, but, really, if the prequels didn’t already destroy the brand, could be nothing will. And, to Disney’s credit, the material they’ve been putting out has been high quality and true to the nature of the original trilogy. Case in point: the rebooted comic series written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by John Cassaday.

I finally got to read Issue #1 the other day, and I was pleased with it on more than one level. Let me count the ways I adored it:

  1. I already knew from preview pages and previous experience with Cassaday’s work that I would love the art, but I was not prepared for the many details within that love. Art so evocative of the actors that particular glances pulled me back to a single original trilogy moment: “Who’s scruffy-looking?” Art so detailed that it’s clear this is Luke pre-Mark Hamill’s motorcycle accident. But this isn’t some hyper-realistic art style (like Alex Ross). Cassaday has a realism within his comic-booky line art. Star Wars 1
  2. The plot is caper-based, meaning that each one of this ragtag bunch of misfits has his or her moment. The roles are clear, the characteristics of each are prominent. It even begins to show how they develop between the films of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
  3. Luke deals with the growing pains of force powers in believable and endearing ways. He takes risks he probably ought not to. He hears echoes of Ben in his head, sometimes just flashbacks, sometimes new communications.
  4. Han and Leia have a romantically charged hallway moment!
  5. The more C-3PO states he has a “good feeling about this,” the more the dramatic tension rises to see just what all will go wrong. And plenty does. These rebel heroes have quite the pit to dig themselves out of after this opening issue. I’m excited to see how they pull it off.
  6. The issue could only be improved with a well-curated John Williams playlist to match its action. I challenge one of you to make it. Link in the comments.

Issue #2 arrives next week. Here’s a preview: linked for your spoiler preferences.


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Star Wars Saturday: Behind the Scenes of a New Hope with BFI

The British Film Institute is hosting a Star Wars Day celebration that includes an exhibit of behind-the-scenes photos and script pages from script supervisor on A New Hope, Ann Skinner. It shows interesting edits to scenes, deleted scenes, pictures taken on set to show actor marks at ends of takes, and pictures of the cast relaxing between takes.

IGN has an exclusive look at this exhibit. Please check out all of the wonderful images and video tour of the exhibit with the curator they have available over there.

To whet your appetite, I include some of the standouts.

 

Biggs Darklighter, Tatooine Gentleman!

Biggs Darklighter, Tatooine Gentleman!

Unknown female character, perhaps connected to the deleted scene with Biggs. One of Luke's friends perhaps?

Koo Stark is the character’s name, seemingly connected to the deleted scene with Biggs. One of Luke’s friends perhaps?

Beneath the helmet! Sideburns!

Beneath the helmet! Sideburns!


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Star Wars Saturday: Behind the Scenes Photos from the Opening Scenes

There’s plenty of excitement (and disgruntlement) over the new subtitle for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I myself feel pretty apathetic about it, so today’s Star Wars focus will not be in the evaluation or implications of that title. Nor will it be about Anthony Daniels’ boasting that The Force Awakens could, in fact, trump The Empire Strikes Back in greatness.

It will actually be about a set of photos made available through ikwiz.com dating back to 1976 and the making of the opening scenes of Star Wars: A New Hope. See them all here.

Here are a few of my favorites from the set.

scrollfilming

Of course they shot it this way, pre-digital as it was, but it blows my mind a little to see it in action.

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R2-D2’s schematics.

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R2 being painted by the time-traveling love child of Mark Hamill and Ewan McGregor.

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Ralph McQuarrie’s artistic design for the Jawas’ Sandcrawler and droid depot.

r23po

Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels showing that the R2-3PO relationship was not bound by their costumes. You guys are adorbs!


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Star Wars Saturday: Toddler Unimpressed with A New Hope, Hope of Parents Dashed

starwarsdvd

The only legitimate DVD print of the original theatrical version of A New Hope – Thanks, George.

No, not Space Jam!

Gretchen, stop trying to make Star Wars happen!

Just a brief record of our first attempt showing our 2-year-old Star Wars: A New Hope. He was attentive but unengaged. It has gotten less discussion than Space Jam.

First, let me assuage any concerns you might have about the situation and version presented. We have the Original Theatrical Release, made through digital transfer from the laserdisc printing and appearing as a special feature on an early DVD limited edition set. So Han shot first. There’s no stupid digital Jabba scene. And there’s no explodey ring coming from either Alderaan or the Death Star. But the color is more subdued than the special editions, and there are fewer bells and whistles (and stupid, throw-away dewbacks) that might appeal to a very young child.8196908975_f618af9074_z

Watching it with a toddler, I was struck by how talky and languid the film is. I don’t see that as a bad thing–I think the prequels are a chaotic mess and could take some good cues from the slower pacing of the original films. But it was clear that it wasn’t action oriented enough, and the dialogue was largely over the toddler’s head.

He did get excited when Chewbacca showed up, calling out for his Chewbacca action figure and repeating: “My Chewbacca!” And he was pulled in by the lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. But that was the most response we got out of him.

Clearly Star Wars needs more musical numbers. Are you listening, Disney?

We’ll try again next year. It’ll capture his imagination and passion next year, right?… Right?