Sunday, 26 February 2017

Bill Paxton

Sad news as we learn Bill Paxton has passed away at the age of 61.  Paxton was best known for his roles in Aliens, Titanic, Apollo 13 and Twister to name a few.  TMZ reported the news on Saturday.

His family said: "It is with heavy hearts we share the news that Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery."

The statement added: "Bill's passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable."

Another talent leaves us.  Our thoughts are with his family and friends during these difficult times.



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Saturday, 25 February 2017

rogue one ilm video

A taste of the Oscar Nominated Visual Effects work behind the destruction of Jedha and the battle on the beaches of Scarif in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.



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Friday, 24 February 2017


Having been a long time Star Wars fan, I sometimes take it for granted that when there is a new movie, comic series, novel or television series, I will be at least somewhat familiar with the setting, timeline, and possibly some recurring characters. Generally the overall story won’t be something I’m completely new to, because even when something new does come out, chances are that particular part of the timeline had been previously explored in the Legends books/comics—so even if something isn’t canon anymore, I will be comfortable with the state of galaxy at that time.

When Lucasfilm announced that they had decided to branch off of the episodic films and make a standalone, I didn’t feel the confusion that a lot of the more casual fans did. To be honest, I was confused as to why they were confused. The first time I experienced a casual fans confusion was at my work right before Rogue One’s release, when a guy approached me all confused by the fact that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story wasn’t Episode VIII, and the realization that Rey wasn’t going to be in this one gave him pause at seeing Rogue One. I couldn’t for the life of me, understand why this was confusing. Rogue One was being promoted as the movie where the Death Star plans are stolen for at least a couple years. I mean doesn’t everyone listen to a dozen Star Wars podcasts, watch The Star Wars Show religiously every Wednesday, and read the Star Wars Insider like it’s the Bible? I come to find out, amazingly enough most people don’t do these things. Strange.


Getting back to the actual “story” part of Rogue One, I went to see Rogue One back on January 2nd for my fourth time with family. My sister’s friend has never seen any Star Wars movies, and had no idea what to expect. But it’s a standalone right? What’s to know? After the movie was over, and I’m done wiping my eyes, I asked her what she thought of it. She replies, “Eh, I don’t know any of the backstory so…” My internal voice heard a different language. Something like Latin mixed with Khmer and Zulu. Huh? You shouldn’t have to know any of the backstory! Right? Right?

This all lead me here. Lucky you. I couldn’t help but think, maybe these Star Wars “stories” are meant for us uberfans more than the regular Jack and Diane living in the heartland. Maybe these Star Wars stories are more alienating than I originally thought. What an interesting thought. Will making these kinds of “standalones” that aren’t really “standalones” hurt Lucasfilm? Of course there are enough of us uberfans out there to offset any turned off by the unfamiliarity, but it would be unfortunate if that were to happen. I love it when new fans are brought in and then motivated to watch the rest. Like last year for example, when my other sister saw The Force Awakens. She is by no means a fan of Star Wars at all, but she enjoyed The Force Awakens enough to want to borrow my Blu-ray versions, and watch the original trilogy; and even check out parts of Episode I and III.

To wrap it up, from my point-of-view, I feel pretty confident when and where each event in Star Wars takes place, but sometimes I forget that most people aren’t like me (or you if you’re reading this). All these different movies can get confusing, especially if they continue to jump around in the timeline. How many people will be wondering why Lucasfilm is making a Han Solo movie? I thought he died in Episode VII?

It’s something to think about anyway. Let me know what you think.

Eric Onkenhout @EricOnkenhout


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Thursday, 23 February 2017


An experiment from ILMxLAB and Magic Leap, shot directly through Magic Leap technology.




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Wednesday, 22 February 2017



On January 21, 2017, Leah Adler passed away at the age of 97. While Mrs. Adler was not herself a filmmaker, she had a profound effect on cinematic history through her profound effect on her son, legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Born Leah Posner, she married Arnold Spielberg in 1945, and a year later gave birth to her first child, Steven. While Arnold was a pioneering electrical engineer, Leah, a concert pianist, was the artist of the family, and it was she who encouraged young Steven's passion for filmmaking. The closeness of their bond was evident in Spielberg's films, particularly his earlier work, as the mother was often portrayed as a figure of great strength and love. Consider these examples:

Something Evil: In Spielberg's early made-for-television movie, the story of a young boy possessed by an evil spirit, the father figure portrayed by Darren McGavin is largely clueless to the problem and ineffectual in solving it. It is the determination and love of the mother, played by Sandy Dennis, that saves their son.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Single mother Gillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) lets nothing stop her from finding and bringing back her son Barry after he is taken away by aliens.

Poltergeist: Diane Freeling (Jobeth Williams) may be the quintessential Spielberg mother. Diane's love and bravery are enough to march almost literally into hell itself to save her daughter, and in the film's climactic sequence it is Diane who is called upon to save the children from the Beast.

E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial: Elliott's mother, played by Dee Wallace, is more a figure of sympathy than heroism, but this is the most overt depiction of the divorce that so shaped Spielberg's life.  There is great tenderness is the depiction of the mother struggling to raise three children by herself, and in the bond between parent and child.

The Color Purple: One of the most emotional moments in an emotional film is Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) being reunited with the now adult children who were taken away from her.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Indy's late mother is spoken of only briefly, but it's clear that he was much closer to her than to his distant father, and that the two men felt lost on how to deal with each other without her.

Hook: Moira Banning is clearly the head of the family, and the one on whom the children rely emotionally. When Peter is unable to reach the top of the mast to save his children, daughter Maggie opines "Mommy could do it."

A.I. - Artificial Intelligence: The love between mother and son is one of the dominant themes of the film. In fact, an argument can be made that it represents the essence of being human, as robotic child David Swinton (Hayley Joel Osment) travels an often nightmarish future world to become "real" and be reunited with his adoptive mother Monica (Frances O'Connor).

War of the Worlds: Mother Mary Ann (Miranda Otto) is the strong guardian and comforter for children Robbie and Rachel. She knows everything about her children and how to take care of them, while their immature father Ray (Tom Cruise) barely knows them. When aliens attack, the immediate goal becomes to find Mary Ann and bring the children back to her.

Munich: While the father of Avner (Eric Bana) is a heroic figure who looms large over the film, his mother (Gila Almagor) seems a larger presence in his eyes, and a dramatic moment in his character arc involves Avner speaking with her after the mission is completed.

War Horse: Like so many other Spielberg protagonists, Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) is distanced from his father but has a close relationship with his strong-willed and understanding mother (Emily Watson).

The BFG: The ultimate symbol of Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) finding happiness in her new life is her adoptive mother, Mary (Rebecca Hall).


This, of course, barely scratches the surface of Leah Adler's influence on her son's cinematic legacy. In a statement from Spielberg's Amblin Partners, Leah's love and compassion were mentioned as defining characteristics. Whether it comes in the form of a friendship between a young boy and visitor from another planet, or saving the lives of 1100 people from the horrors of the holocaust, that love carries over to her son in his films, and the world is better for it.

Rest in Peace, Leah Adler.



















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imax last jedi

Following J.J. Abrams’ iconic use of IMAX® cameras in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, IMAX and Lucasfilm have announced that director Rian Johnson has captured key sequences of Star Wars: The Last Jedi using IMAX’s extremely high-resolution cameras, delivering IMAX audiences greater scope and increased image quality in IMAX’s exclusive aspect ratio for a uniquely immersive experience.
The news of Johnson leveraging IMAX cameras for key sequences of Star Wars: The Last Jedi comes as part of an extended slate deal announcement between IMAX and The Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company. Building on their existing long-standing relationship, the two companies announced today that they have extended their multi-faceted agreement with a new multi-picture deal — beginning this year and extending through 2019 —that includes the much-anticipated live-action and animated tentpole releases from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.

Highlights of the agreement include IMAX’s involvement in the release of Lucasfilm’s untitled Indiana Jones film, untitled Han Solo Star Wars anthology film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: Episode IX; Marvel’s Black PantherAnt-Man and the WaspCaptain MarvelAvengers: Infinity War and the untitled Avengers sequel, which as previously announced will both be shot entirely with IMAX cameras by the Russo Brothers; Disney’s Beauty and the BeastA Wrinkle in Time and Mulan; Pixar’s The Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Wreck-It Ralph sequel.
“The Walt Disney Studios strives to bring great stories from visionary filmmakers to life for audiences around the world, leveraging the best technology available to create exceptional theatrical experiences,” said Alan Bergman, President, The Walt Disney Studios. “That’s what IMAX brings to the table, and we look forward to continuing to work with the IMAX team on the unparalleled upcoming slate of films from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm.”

As part of the new agreement, both companies will work together to create exclusive IMAX marketing materials, particularly for those films captured using IMAX cameras or featuring an expanded aspect ratio exclusively in IMAX® theatres. In 2016, Disney occupied four of the top ten IMAX spots at the global box office, including Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryCaptain America: Civil WarDoctor Strange and The Jungle Book.

“Disney is at the top of its game, offering fans around the world highly original and diverse movie-going entertainment, which aligns perfectly with The IMAX Experience® as the most captivating and unique theatrical presentation,” said Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX Entertainment and Senior Executive Vice President, IMAX Corp. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with our close friends at Disney and this elite group of filmmakers to bring first-class entertainment to the IMAX theatre network. We are particularly excited to announce Rian Johnson’s use of IMAX cameras on Star Wars: The Last Jedi as we embark on a year that will feature more films with IMAX differentiation than ever before in our history. ”

The IMAX release of each film will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology. The crystal-clear images, coupled with IMAX's customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio, create a unique environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.

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leah adler dies

It's with great sadness that we have to report the passing of Steven Spielberg's mother Leah Adler aged 97.

The former concert pianist and painter died on Tuesday at her Los Angeles home surrounded by her children, according to a report by Variety.

A statement from Amblin said that Leah 'while known for her red lipstick and Peter Pan collars, for her love of daisies, for her blue jeans and sparkly bling, for her dancing from table to table around the Milky Way, and for her love of camping, fishing, and crossword puzzles, Leah is best remembered for her deep, limitless love for the people around her.'

Leah is survived by her four children, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Our thoughts are with Leah's family during these difficult times.  The family asks that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to a favorite charity in her name.

Rob Wainfur
@thebeardedtrio

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star wars rebels through Imperial Eyes

Fearing that the identity of a rebel spy will soon be discovered by the Empire, the rebels launch a plan to rescue the spy before he is caught.

Catch Grand Admiral Thrawn in an all-new episode of “Star Wars Rebels” this SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25 (8:30 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney XD.



star wars rebels through Imperial Eyes

star wars rebels through Imperial Eyes

star wars rebels through Imperial Eyes



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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

bridge of spies tom hanks spielberg

It's always good watching a video with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in it.  Here's a pretty good interview of the two promoting Bridge of Spies which was released last year.



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Middlesbrough shopping centre star wars

The Hillstreet Shopping Centre in Middlesbrough was the scene of an intergalactic takeover at the weekend, as Darth Vader and his battalion interacted with customers at a new charity shop. The costumed actors were there to promote an incredible prize draw exclusive to the national disability charity, Sense.

The prize is a stunning autograph book signed by the cast and crew of the iconic Star Wars franchise, donated by lifelong Star Wars fan, Neil Ellis. The 43 year-old Lucasfilm employee has spent a year collecting the celebrity signatures of the likes of Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. On May 4th, a winner will be chosen, with all proceeds going to charity.

Sense shop manager, Emma Fairweather, said:

“It’s not every day Middlesbrough gets a visit from Darth Vader. Our customers were in genuine shock. The Dark Side can’t be all bad though, they were here to promote a great cause – supporting people who are deafblind and have complex needs to live more independent lives.”

The autograph book, which also includes Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker from the original series, and new series’ directors Gareth Edwards and Rian Johnson, is displayed in a spectacular handmade ‘Millennium Falcon themed’ bronze-cast. It has already raised over six thousand pounds for the charity.

The costumed actors were from the 99th Garrison, the UK's largest independent Star Wars non-profit costuming group. They kindly donated their time for free.

To enter the prize draw and have a chance of winning the autograph book, the public are encouraged to make a minimum donation of £5 in any Sense charity shop across the country, or online through Neil’s fundraising page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Autograph-Book

Middlesbrough shopping centre star wars



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A photograph of the principal cast of the upcoming Young Han Solo movie was released by Lucasfilm today, and can be seen at very sites such as comingsoon.net. The cast includes Alden Ehrenresich as Han Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Emilia Clarke as unnamed character, Woody Harrelson reportedly playing Legends character Garris Shrike, and most importantly, Chewbacca.

Not pictured is Thandie Newton, said to be in talks for a role.



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Monday, 20 February 2017

jar jar binks in the clone wars
Jar Jar Binks with C-3PO in Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode ‘Bombad Jedi’

Note: Beware Spoilers ahead for many episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Over the past few weeks, I have been rewatching Star Wars: The Clone Wars via Netflix.  During this re-watch, I noticed that Jar Jar Binks, although still clumsy, annoying and not the brightest being in the Star Wars Universe, has a good heart and does the best he can to help his friends and especially, his people get through The Clone Wars. In addition, Jar Jar displays skills and abilities that are not apparent when we first meet him in The Phantom Menace. Therefore, this article will explore a few examples of Jar Jar’s maturity, growth, abilities and skills displayed during The Clone Wars series.

jar jar binks in the clone wars
Jar Jar Binks with his new friend in Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode ‘Bombad Jedi’
New Abilities
What impresses me the most about Jar Jar in this series is that his character is given additional abilities and skills not on display when we first meet him in The Phantom Menace. One of these is the ability to communicate and understand the behavior of many different types of creatures. In ‘Bombad Jedi’, Jar Jar communicates with a Rodian sea creature, who he recruits to help get rid of the Battle Droids who are threatening his friends, Padme and C-3PO. In ‘Gungan General’, Jar Jar observes the behavior of “The Beasties” on Florin, which saves himself and the Clones accompanying him from Hondo Onaka’s pirates and also provides them much needed transportation.

jar jar binks in the clone wars
Jar Jar Binks saves Padme with his ‘waterproof spit’ Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode ‘Prisoners’
Utilizing His Natural Abilities
In the episode, ‘Prisoners’, Jar Jar along with Padme and Anakin were captured and interrogated underwater by The Separatists.  During the interrogation, Padme’s helmet is damaged and she is on the verge of drowning due to sea water pouring in.  Jar Jar displays a new ability, when he saved Padme from drowning, by sealing her helmet with his spit, which is so sticky that it creates a waterproof seal. 

jar jar binks in the clone wars
Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode ‘Supply Lines
Representative for The Republic During War
In the episode ‘Supply Lines’, Jar Jar help Bail Organa negotiate with the Toydarians about helping get Republic relief ships to Ryloth, which is currently under a blockade by The Separatist Alliance.  These negotiations are made difficult by the presence of Lott Dod, The Trade Federation representative and a member of The Separatist Alliance.  Lott Dod succeeds in convincing the Toydarians that Bail and Jar Jar are lying about the purpose of the ships and the Toydarians refused to approve the request.  However, Jar Jar actually helps Bail convince King Katuunko, leader of the Toydarians, to help at least get the supplies they brought with them to Ryloth.  However, this needs to be done without Lott Dod knowing because this is a private decision on his part and not a public one of his government.  Jar Jar’s task is to distract Lott Dod and his cohorts while Bail gets the ships to Ryloth.  Actually Jar Jar does a good job of providing this distraction with a ‘traditional’ Gungan dance during a formal dinner with Lott Dod. It is through Jar Jar’s clumsiness and antics during this dance that allows these much needed relief supplies to get to the citizens of Ryloth.

jar jar binks in the clone wars
Jar Jar Binks and Padme in Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode ‘Bombad Jedi’
Friends Are VERY Important
Throughout The Clone Wars, Jar Jar is often accompanied by many of his friends or colleagues, especially Padme. In ‘Bombad Jedi’, we see Jar Jar accompanying Padme to meet her ‘Uncle’ on Rhodia for a diplomatic mission.  Yes, when Jar Jar is first introduced in the episode, he displays the same annoying traits we saw in The Phantom Menace.  However, when Padme was captured by Separatist Battle Droids, Jar Jar immediately began a campaign to rescue her despite his shortcomings.  Kevin Rubio, one of the writers on this episode says in a press release, that he wanted “..to find a middle ground between the funny side of Jar Jar and heroic redemption...he is a fish out of water, and, yeah, can be goofy and stupid, but in context, it works.”  It is through Jar Jar’s actions, assumptions made based on his attire (Jedi robe left in a closet on board Padme’s ship) and his own ability to communicate with creatures that saves his friends and helps to capture a high ranking Separatist, Viceroy Nute Gunray.

jar jar binks in the clone wars
Jar Jar Binks and Padme in Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode ‘Bombad Jedi’
A Love Interest
In the Season 6 Episode The Disappeared Part I, we learn that Jar Jar has a romance with a Queen. Bryan Young from Full of Sith and Bigshinyrobot.com provides his views of this newly revealed relationship of Jar Jar’s.

“It was fascinating to see Jar Jar in a romantic situation and to realize that it takes all kinds. Some might turn their nose up at that idea, but everybody loves somebody and Jar Jar is certainly worthy of love. The two episodes featuring him in "The Disappeared" did a lot to advance him as a three dimensional character and I would welcome more stories with him.”

jar jar binks in the clone wars
Jar Jar Binks and Mace Wondo in Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode ‘The Disappeared Part I’
Friend of The Jedi
In The Disappeared episodes, Queen Julia of Bardotta asks The Republic for help with the disappearance of the Dagoyan Masters and requested to meet only with Representative Binks to discuss the criss. Unfortunately, the missing Dagoyan Masters have a strong connection to The Force and The Jedi Council insisted that Mace Windu accompany Jar Jar to meet with Queen Julia despite the request. The Queen and her people distrust The Jedi, but Jar Jar, declares that Mace is his friend and is there to help him find out what is happening.  This strong defense of Mace and The Jedi convinces Queen Julia that Mace can stay and help the investigation.

jar jar binks in the clone wars
Jar Jar Binks as Boss Lyonie and Anakin in Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode ‘Shadow Warrior’
 Jar Jar Helps Save Naboo, Again
In the episode ‘Shadow Warrior’, Jar Jar is asked to impersonate Boss Lyonie, who is injured, to help stop a droid army set to invade Naboo.  During this impersonation, Jar Jar meets with General Grievous. Despite his fear, Jar Jar stalls Grievous while General Tarpol warns Senator Padme and the Naboo about the threat.  After the crisis is over, both the Naboo Queen and Boss Lyonie compliment Jar Jar about stopping another war between the Gungan and Naboo people.  Jar Jar only said to them:  ‘Mesa doing my best’. In the end is that all any of us can do?

No matter what you may have thought of Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, watching Jar Jar in Star Wars: The Clone Wars series may help change your opinion. I know my friend Amy Wishman Nalan agrees with this and said the following via Twitter “I just think Jar-Jar in TCW is so relatable." If you have Netflix, you still have until March 5, 2017 to watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars and see for yourself
Patty Hammond (@pattyBones2) is the Everyday Fangirl from Michigan who has a disguise as a mild mannered data analyst.  Patty is very active in the Star Wars community. You can find her posting about Star Wars and much more on her blog EverydayFangirl.com, TheCantinaCast.com, FutureofTheForce.com, TheBeardedTrio.com, and of course on Twitter @Pattybones2.


All photo credits: StarWars.com Episode Guide


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Sunday, 19 February 2017

martin ferrero jurassic park

There will be many awards handed out when Jimmy hosts The Oscars on February 26th, but before that happens, Jimmy wanted to take a moment to honor someone who gave what might be the greatest performance in the history of cinema. That person is Martin Ferrero, the guy who got eaten off the toilet in Jurassic Park.



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Saturday, 18 February 2017


Here's an interesting video giving a quick bio on Steven Spielberg.  There's some nice footage in the video including a few bits from the world premiere of War of the Worlds.



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Friday, 17 February 2017


STUDIOCANAL is pleased to announce that James Cameron will conduct a live Q&A to celebrate the world premiere of TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY 3D. He will answer questions from the audience and Facebook users on Friday, February 17th which will stream live on Facebook on the official T2 page: https://www.facebook.com/terminator2


It has been 10 years since the events of Terminator. Sarah Connor’s ordeal is only just beginning as she struggles to protect her son John, the future leader of the human resistance against the machines, from a new Terminator, sent back in time to eliminate John Connor while he’s still a child.
Sarah and John don’t have to face this terrifying threat alone however. The human resistance have managed to send them an ally, a warrior from the future ordered to protect John Connor at any cost.
The battle for tomorrow has begun…. 
James Cameron’s epic action, sci-fi masterpiece starring Schwarzenegger in his most iconic role, has been converted in immersive 3D by Cameron himself. First hitting our screens in 1991 with groundbreaking special effects, the 3D version will take the seminal blockbuster to the next level of effects and into the 21st century for the next generation of fans.

STUDIOCANAL will be releasing in the UK, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, and Distrib Films will be releasing in the US.


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radio 1138 podcast

Mark Newbold, Paul Naylor and the rest of the clan bring us another top quality episode of Radio 1138.  One of the best Star Wars podcasts on the web.  The show notes are below along with the web player so you can listen to the show right now.

February is here and while the egg timer to Celebration Orlando pours away we continue to go Rogue bring you the latest from the Star Wars galaxy. Mark and Paul Naylor catch up with Rogue One’s General Dodonna Ian McElhinney at SF Ball 23 and MCM Midlands Comic con respectively while Mark chats with the organisers of the Ball and sits down with Gary Whitta for the 3rd and final time to talk Rogue One, Kyle Katarn and Rebels. We’re joined again by Grand Moff Tarkin Guy Henry and James chats with his daughter Miriam and seven members of the Rogue One cast and crew from the UK premier. You can listen to episode 58 here on iTunes, contact us on Skype at JediNewsNetwork with your comments, views and opinions and be a part of the show.




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THE GREAT WALL
Starring Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau 
Story by Max Brooks and Marshall Hershkovitz & Edward Zwick
Screenplay by Caro Bernard & Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy
Directed by Zhang Yimou

Reviewed by Paul & Patick Gibbs


Out of Four

As critics, we generally get to go into a Hollywood film relatively fresh, before too much buzz has built up to give us a strong expectation as to its quality, but The Great Wall isn't a normal Hollywood movie: it's a Chinese and American production, the first big blockbuster English language film from famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou (2011's The Flowers of War, starring Christian Bale, was still considered a Chinese language film), and this fantasy epic opened in China on December 15, 2016. There's already been a good deal of press about it, and while it has done well at the box office, it has also faced some pretty harsh reviews and accusations of "whitewashing", with some feeling that putting white actors like Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe headlining a film set in ancient China with a predominantly Chinese cast was Hollywood pandering and giving us yet another "white savior" formula movie.

So, despite being fans of the director and his star, we were going into this movie with some genuine hope, but also prepared for the worst. And it most definitely is not a multilayered masterpiece: it's a silly monster movie with something of a '90's fantasy feel, a sort of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or even Dragonheart kind of vibe. But none of those movies were directed by Zhang Yimou, and The Great Wall still manages to be yery fast moving and quite enjoyable taken on its own merits, with some outstanding action and truly gorgeous visuals. It's not a classic. It's not even a great popcorn flick. But it's also not the total dud that many are making it out to be.

The story begins with a group of European mercenaries searching for black powder while being pursued by Khitan bandits. They take refuge in a cave, where they are attacked by a mysterious and highly dangerous predator. The only two survivors are William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal, of the Netflix hit Narcos.). William manages to slashed off the monster's arm, and two men decide to bring it with them, figuring they can always use an extra hand (rimshot.). The next day, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called the Nameless Order, which has been around for hundreds of years (you'd think during that time someone would have thrown out at least one name suggestion that would stick.). The order is tasked with guarding the Great Wall, which was conceived for the sole purpose of repelling a horde of monsters called the Tao Tei, who rise every sixty years (though despite the Emperor's campaign promises, he never did get the monsters to pay for the wall.)  The commanding officers are shocked to see the severed hand, as they believed that the next monster invasion was still several weeks away. They welcome the visitors with open arms and hero status after they prove themselves in combat, but there is a catch: they cannot ever leave.

There's no question that the plot is a bit muddled, and the characterizations are ill defined to put it mildly.  There is a pervasive cartoonish feel throughout, but that sometimes plays to its favor. Once you accept that this isn't going to be Lord of the Rings meets Red Cliff, and just go with it, there's really a lot of fun to be had.

Damon fairs pretty well as the cookie cutter hero, giving us a weak but workable Hollywood period accent that wavers just a little between Irish and Northern England, but doesn't wander all over the map as some reviews wrongly suggest (actually, it plays at times like he is doing a direct impression of Brendan Gleeson, much like Robert Downey, Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes seemed to borrow so heavily from Jeremy Irons.). Far more problematic is the character itself. William's character arc happens so quickly and with so little clear motivation that it never entirely works (the film's 1 hour and 46 minute run time and rushed narrative indicates that some pretty big cuts were made.). The result is that we are never fully sold that the character was ever the ruthless and heartless mercenary we are told he was, nor that he has a strong enough reason for his drastic change, aside from a comment made by Willem Dafoe's character suggesting that William want to impress the new female General (Tian Jing.).

The banter between Damon and Pascal is quite enjoyable, in no small part due to the latter's strong sense of comic timing. The Chinese cast members are all solid, though the stoic nature of their characters limits their ability to make too strong an impression (fairing best is Andy Lau as Strategist Wang), and Dafoe is largely wasted (he played a much better weasel in The Fantastic Mr. Fox.) Given not only the number of credited writers, but the pedigree of story writers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (Thirtysomething, The Last Samurai) and screenwriter Tony Gilroy (the Bourne series, Michael Clayton, Rogue One), and sheer potential of the premise, one would certainly think that a better script could have been hashed out, but as is often the case, too many cooks spoil the soup, and the final script feels more attributable to Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and The Sorcerer's Apprentice.).

Ultimately, for us, Zhang's expert and fluid visual style and creativity counted for a lot (if Chinese women in blue armor bungee jumping from the Great Wall with spears to fight creatures that look like a velociraptor and a Warg from Lord of the Rings got bizz-ay doesn't do anything for you, we simply don't know what to say). Between that fact, Damon's Harrison Ford-like ability to carry an action film, and the rousing score by Ramin Djawadi, there was more than enough here to make it worth our time. It's something of a guilty pleasure, but it's hard to feel guilty about enjoying sone thing that undeniably dazzling, and the fact is that we had fun with it and will definitely see it ahain. It's a shame that it didn't embrace its Pacific Rim potential more strongly, but it's still a diverting ride (and the stunning visuals make it well worth paying extra for 3D.).

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