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5 Possibilities of Who Luke Skywalker is Mourning at the End of “The Force Awakens.”

About a week ago, I had a chance to see “The Force Awakens” for a third time, this time in glorious IMAX at the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History. 

Holy Poodoo, it was amazing and intense. But the entire IMAX review will wait for another day.

In my second viewing, I noticed something at the end of “The Force Awakens” when Rey walks upon Luke.

Luke is standing next to a gravestone.

(please forgive the quality of the images)

luke1

“But Michael, it could just be a weird random stone sticking out of the side of the cliff!

No, faithful reader, it’s not. Everything put into a film of this magnitude is meticulously done. It’s in there because Abrams wanted it in there.

Here’s a reversed view:

luke2

Does it look like Luke is looking at the gravestone? Kind of. Angles are weird. At the very least, he’s near it.

So the point of me mentioning the IMAX screening is because I got the clearest view of what’s in front of the stone – a protruding clump of dirt. It was clear as day on the IMAX screen.

Here’s a low-res image (and I apologize for not taking a picture inside the IMAX screening. I’m not a complete Rancor).

luke3

The clump doesn’t look very big – maybe the size of a basketball if it was more elliptical?

Let’s look at the 5 candidates of who Luke is mourning.

1. Han Solo

He died in the film (spoiler alert!) and Leia could feel it across a hyper-space trip. Surely Luke felt it too.

2. Anakin/Darth Vader

I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing Kylo Ren had Darth Vader’s helmet because Luke had it, and stole it from him after turning to the Dark Side. Anakin/Vader saved Luke, and maybe Luke wants to keep some kind of memorial/reminder for that?

3. Ben Solo

Kylo Ren told his father that Ben Solo was dead – that he was weak. Obi-Wan told us that Vader betrayed and murdered Anakin. Perhaps it’s some symbolic item of Ben’s that Luke is symbolically burying.

4. His Wife/Girlfriend/Intergalactic Baby-Mama

This possibility is contingent on Luke having a child. Could be Rey, or hell, it could be Finn. But it would be reasonable to think someone Luke loved would get a memorial.

5. Something Symbolic

A popular theory is that Rey was also training to be a Jedi (and Luke’s daughter), and that Luke could sense what would happen with Ben. So Luke erased Rey’s memory, sent her off to a sandy planet to protect her, (remember, Anakin doesn’t like sand), and Rey lost her connection to the Force. And Luke lost his connection with her. A symbolic loss, thinking he’d never see her again?

Or it could be a monument to the younglings Kylo Ren killed.

Maybe a monument to the Jedi itself, since Luke was the last Jedi and failed in training his most gifted padawan, isolating himself, resigned to possibly live out his days.

 

Did you notice the stone in the film too? Who do you think it’s for?

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Let’s Talk about Star Wars, Baby…

Caution: Spoilers Below!

It’s now “been” two weeks since Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released and while it hasn’t been a 1000 year Sarlaac digestion, there’s been enough time to sift through the rumors and theories and we have a discussion.

First, 3 things I liked/loved

Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron’s Introductions

In the opening scene, after Poe gets the map piece from from Lor San Tekka, we see Ren, Phasma, and a squad take over the village. Poe, from cover, fires a blaster rifle bolt towards Ren, who stops the fucking bolt mid-air, and keeps it there, with The Force. 

This is a power we hadn’t seen before in the 6 previous films (cartoon canon is out of my realm of nerd-knowledge), and it immediately presents us with an incredibly powerful Force user. We know nothing about Ren at that point. It sets the audience up with a powerful, mysterious villain. Which, after the Slooooooooowwwwwwwwww burn that was Palpatine in EPS 1-3, was refreshing. He also has the cognizance to sense doubt and confusion in Finn’s mind among dozens of troopers/villagers there.

And then we come to Poe. He’s captured, and brought before Ren, and the first line he says to the villain is “So who talks first, do I talk first?”

And the audience laughs.

And instantly, there’s a tone shift from the prequels. Lucas tried to be humorous in the prequels with slapstick (Jar Jar), poop jokes (Bantha poodoo!), and C-3PO’s obnoxiousness.

Abrams gives us some sly sarcasm dripping in charisma and confidence in a way only Oscar Isaac can present.

A Strong Female Character

With one line (don’t let the Beatles know), about 20 minutes into the movie, Rey instantly becomes the strongest female character in 6 movies. The most socially influential film series ever needed a strong female character for a new generation. And we got one.

She has moments of independence, doubt, strength, kicking ass, and going on an emotional journey – and not in a “female” way. I mean she’s waiting for her family, and when she touches Anakin’s lightsaber, her mind is flooded with ghosts of the past. And despite her previous showings of resolve, she flees into the forest. She’s human.

Kylo Ren’s Petulance

Some have said that Ren’s “whiny fits” of twice lightsabering the shit out of control panels is whiny angsty behavior not suitable for the Star Wars universe.

I disagree.

Anakin/Vader flat out kills people when he gets pissed off.

A New Hope (2):

  • Physically chokes the guy in the ship Leia is on when he asks “where is the ambassador?
  • Force Chokes dude who questions “The Force”

Empire (2):

  • Force Chokes the admiral coming out of hyperspace into Hoth and the Captain who “apologizes” for losing the Falcon.

ROTJ (1):

  • Strangely, just The Emperor

Attack of the Clones:

  • The entire village of Sand people. Let’s call that 30?

No, i’m not counting those in the Jedi Temple (won’t someone PLEASE think of the children?!?!?!?!)

So Vader/Anakin, when pissed off, kills people. Ren destroys shit.

What I didn’t like as much

Finn*

Finn is here only because we don’t know how he fits into this universe. He doesn’t fit any archetype from the known universe, which is fine. But taking his character as it’s presented, he is a plot device that progresses the story. He mutinies. He has a crush on Rey that leads them to the Falcon and some out-of-place-in-the-universe dialogue – ie “You got a boyfriend, a cute boyfriend, that you make out with?”

*Finn is more of an “incomplete” than a “dislike,” but it’s a sliding scale.

Starkiller Base

It wasn’t until about 2/3 (at least) of the way through the movie we get a hint of what Starkiller Base is, or what it can do. We’re supposed to be intimidated by a hologram? Yeah, it’s bigger, so what?

The Death Star blew up a planet in the same system like it was nothing.

The Starkiller base could what, blow up 5 at once from further away by draining the energy of a star? Wouldn’t that cause more destructive repercussions than blowing up a planet? You’d be affecting light, heat, and gravity for dozens of planets, if not more.

Oh – and I really didn’t like the “oh they have fractal shield harmonics and the only way we can get through them is by going into hyperspace and pulling out just in time” line, but then just showing us crashing into snow. I get it, they need a way to get in without adding 10-15 minutes to the run time, but it was a cop-out.

Too Much Ambiguity

Elements of backstory presented in A New Hope:

  • Obi-Wan trained Vader (who was a Jedi before he turned), knew Luke’s father, and was watching over Luke.
  • Han was a smuggler
  • Leia was a part of the Galactic government and loyal to the Rebellion

What questions did people have after A New Hope? Who is Luke’s father? Does Han stay with the rebellion? Where does Vader go? How did Vader get turned to the Dark side and why did he kill Luke’s Father?

That’s 4 questions. I’m sure there are more.

But after The Force Awakens, here are the questions I’m left asking:

  • How does Lor San Tekka fit into the whole story? (If he’s a one-off character, then they wasted a tremendous talent in Max von Sydow)
  • Who left Rey on Jakku and why?
  • How did Kylo Ren get turned to the Dark side?
  • What happened to Finn’s family?
  • How did Maz Kanata get Anakin’s lightsaber? (and she literally tells everyone “that’s a story for another time)
  • How did Kylo Ren get Vader’s helmet?
  • What does Kylo Ren want to finish what Vader started? Balance to the Force? Keeping someone from dying? Becoming the greatest of all the Jedi? Resurrect grandma?
  • Was it just a coincidence that the Falcon was abandoned on Jakku?
  • Who is Rey related to?
  • What is Snoke’s role? He has a force-sensitive apprentice (they never say Sith) and a General who are both trying to appease him. Why?

Clearly they have a story to tell over three movies, whereas A New Hope was supposed to stand on its own. I get that. But the only closure on rumor we have is that Kylo Ren is actually Ben Solo and was somehow corrupted by Snoke, turned against Luke, and joined the First Order.

I’m closing in on 1,100 words. Theories and predictions will have to wait for another post.

 

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The Gould Standard’s Frivolous Five – My Favorite Films of 2014

Simply put, these are my favorite films of the year.

Not the “best” by traditional standards, not the most powerful, but my biased, unashamed personal picks for 2014 (and in no particular order).

Disagree? What were your favorites of the year? Comment, fools!

The Lego Movie

Nostalgia overload. I can’t tell you how many dreary rainy afternoons I spent building spaceships and command stations and battle tanks and castles. So when Charlie Day’s character bounces off the wall yelling “spaceship spaceship spaceship!” it too me back to those days in the playroom, shoveling through giant plastic tombs of miscellaneous Lego pieces, searching for that one piece that would give my ship the perfect design.

Beyond the nostalgia, the voice acting was impeccable (especially Will Arnett), visually beautiful (the ocean waves of physical Lego pieces especially), and the humor was very Muppet-like, with some lower-level stuff for the kiddos, but how many are going to understand Green Lantern’s attempts to suck up to Superman?

Everything is Awesome!

Guardians of the Galaxy

Yup, two Chris Pratt vehicles on the same list. There are so many things to love about this film. The cast (I mean, who would’ve thought Dave Bautista would be THAT good?), the soundtrack, the set pieces (Prison, Knowhere, The Collector’s musuem), the humor (Kevin Bacon), the amazing costume designs, and the visual effects that made us care for a foul-mouthed raccoon and flash a stupid grin when Baby Groot started to dance.

My only beef? Ronan was a little underdeveloped. But that’s it.

Birdman

Wow. Such a surreal, absurdist experience. Iñárritu’s use of long shots is breathtaking, as scenes transition from one to the other while barely taking a breath. Conversations between characters that would normally break 5,6,7 times are done in contiguous, rotating shots that creates an authenticity that is rarely seen in film these days.

Oh, and Michael Keaton is a badass. Every scene he’s in has a deeper emotional weight than what’s on the surface.

The funniest moment is when Edward Norton, in his underwear, is wrestling with Keaton. It’s Batman vs. The Hulk.

 

Snowpiercer 

I’ve sang the praises of this masterpiece for about 6 months now, and it’s available on Netflix, so you should know by now exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s a powerful film about class warfare, brutality, indoctrination, isolation, false idols, and how the upper classes manipulate the system to make the lower classes dependant on them. Sounds like the cry of the 99% rally? Well, when viewed through this lens, it becomes shockingly relevant.

As for awards, I hope this gets nominated for Cinematography and I hope Tilda Swinton gets a best supporting actress nomination. Her character uniquely offers a surprisingly deep metaphor about how the ruling class communicates.

 

Gone Girl

I honestly cannot remember the last time I walked out of a movie dumbfounded, frustrated, and just in a state of “wait, what the fuck just happened?”

Ben Affleck’s performance as a smarmy, middle-class white guy whose social skills aren’t perfect is amazing. He disappears into the character so fluidly, it’s scary to think his next big role is Batman.

Rosamund Pike plays the “victim” flawlessly. And Fincher makes us sympathize with her, then hate her in the span of about 15 minutes.

I really wish Tyler Perry would do more roles like Tanner Bolt. Just as a bit player, he was phenomenal.

And finally, I was introduced to Carrie Coon  with “The Leftovers” and absolutely adored her as Affleck’s sister. I hope there are much bigger things in her future.

Just missed the cut:

Edge of Tomorrow
Captain America
X-Men
Interstellar
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Films that I haven’t seen yet but could break into my top 5:

Boyhood
John Wick
Into the Woods
The Interview

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Godzilla reviewed: Of Monsters and Men

Warning – minor spoilers ahead.

 

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla opened this weekend to the fire-energy roar of $196 million worldwide, exceeding expectations of a re-boot of a franchise that desperately needed one (RoboCop – really?) The last taste Americans got of Godzilla was Roland Emmerich’s 1998 “disaster film of a disaster film.” The previous sentence and this current one are the only words I will write about that abomination.

Edwards’ Godzilla is visually impressive, (mostly) scientifically and historically viable, and most of the actors fit their part beautifully. There are a couple of narrative and technical issues that rubbed me the wrong way, but I’ll get to those in just a bit.

Cranston plays the melodramatic widower desperately trying to discover the truth exquisitely. There is so much pain and frustration in his voice, it’s hauntingly convincing. He easily has the best dialogue in the film.

Ken Wantanabe and Sally Hawkins play two scientists on the search for Godzilla and other “MUTO’s” (that’s Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Objects) in the wake of the Nuclear Age. Basically they’re in the film to provide exposition on the back story and give a minimal connection to what spawned the Godzilla franchise in the first place – Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Elizabeth Olsen is the wife of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character, and she is greatly underused. Criminally underused. As the younger Olsen sister (of the Mary-Kate and Ashley variety) she’s had to forge her own career path. In two years it will be Olsen and Jennifer Lawrence at the top of Hollywood.

Let’s get to the star of the movie, Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

No, it’s not Bryan Cranston, it’s not Ken Wantanbe, and it’s not the big ol’ green lizard himself. It’s the guy who played “Kick-Ass.”

Taylor-Johnson has a bright future as a potential American action star. He’s completely shredded and learned how to kill his British accent (in Kick-Ass he keeps calling them “supra heroes). But this movie wasn’t the right showcase for him. His range of emotions is extremely muted.

This is ATJs default facial expression

This is ATJs default facial expression

 

His character, Ford, is in both the right and wrong place at the same time. He travels to Japan to bail out his father just when a MUTO is about to hatch. He heads to Hawaii to go home to San Francisco just when that MUTO attacks Oahu. He reaches California just in time to hitch a ride on a train with a nuclear missile that will attempt to kill the MUTO. Oh, and he’s a bomb-diffusal expert in the Navy who retro-fits the nuclear missile with a manual timer so it won’t be affected by an EMP. And he’s the only one who can disarm it if needed.

That’s a lot of coincidences to swallow, even for a movie about giant radioactive monsters.

Speaking of which, let’s get to the monsters.

The MUTOs are interesting creatures. In their larval stage they can somehow absorb radiation, but once they hatch they can eat bombs. And create EMP blasts by smashing down a foot. Their origins are unknown, but they aren’t given any ulterior motivations. They feed and they reproduce, like any animal would. The MUTOs kind of look like this monster from Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones crossed with the Tumbler from The Dark Knight. Nothing more to see here.muto-combination

 

Now onto Godzilla himself. Man it must suck to be him. Mankind has spent 50 years trying to blow him up, while he bides his time as the protector of the Earth from creatures with less noble intentions. That’s it. Humanity tries to nuke the MUTOs, and when that fails, it falls on Godzilla to clean up the mess by destroying San Francisco. Godzilla only comes out when he’s needed, but no one’s quite sure what his true intentions are. He’s kind of like Batman in that regard.

Visually, Godzilla is awesome. He looks like a Kodiak bear crossed with a Gila monster. The teeth, claws, scales, and tail are brilliantly generated and move smoothly. And that roar. Wow. There’s one instance where Godzilla roars at a MUTO, and just when you think it should end, it goes on for another 3 or 4 seconds. He expresses his dominance that way, and it’s chilling.

In terms of monster-on-monster action, this movie gets it right. It’s brutal and animalistic. I won’t get into specifics, but Godzilla kills one of the MUTOs by pulling a Col. Jessep (If you get this reference and comment on it below, I’ll definitely give you a shout out!).

The only technical issue of the film is the music and sound effects. Accomplished composer Alexandre Desplat’s score isn’t memorable, and at moments came off childish. Several times the music broke into a Psycho-esque violin shrieks, and the horror-film motif of the music didn’t work.

And as for the sound effects, one would assume a giant lizard tail smashing into a building would create a large sound of glass shattering and concrete collapsing. But not in this film. At points it seemed like Edwards was trying to make an artistic statement by NOT having those kinds of effects. And it cheapened the fights just a little bit. But the biggest knock on the sound? Again – without giving too much away, but how does a 300+ foot tall lizard monster in the heart of San Fransisco not make a sound while approaching another giant monster?

Final Verdict: 18K gold. Very well done, but it has its flaws. Hopefully the already-rumored sequel will focus on different human characters, and perhaps give us a human antagonist as well?

 

godzilla-review

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