Screening Room: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

Since it’s almost Christmas, that must mean time for a new Star Wars movie. The latest one is directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) and features a grab-bag of characters newer (Poe, Rey) and older (Luke, Leia, Chewie), plus the odd adorable critter (see above).

My article on The Last Jedi and the whole dang Star Wars universe is over at The Playlist:

Back when George Lucas was that oddball car enthusiast and confederate of Francis Ford Coppola’s with two of the greatest and weirdest movies of the 1970s under his belt — “THX 1138” and “American Graffiti” — he really wanted to make a movie out of “Flash Gordon.” But that didn’t work out, so he moved on to cranking out his own rollicking space opera. Forty years after the first “Star Wars” movie, Lucas’s rag-and-bone shop of cribs from Kurosawa, John Ford, and Joseph Campbell has now turned into its own self-perpetuating universe with an annual haul that probably beats the GDP of some small nations. The latest installment, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” looks likely to keep that cycle going for the foreseeable future…

Screening Room: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

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After last December’s palate-cleanser of a Star Wars reboot from J.J. Abrams, the franchise machine is cranking up with Rogue One, an in-betweener that fills in some plot gaps from the first trilogy without being burdened by so much baggage. That’s the hope, at least.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens this week. My review is at PopMatters:

Rogue One is initially set apart from J. J. Abrams’ Episode VII by the loudly deployed subtitle, “A Star Wars Story”. This leaves open the possibility for endless semantic wrangling over the difference between “Story” and “Episode”. Are Wookies confined only to the former? How come Darth Vader appears in both? Are we destined to see Rogue Seven: A Star Wars Bedtime Lullaby?…

Here’s one of the trailers.

Weekend Reading: October 21, 2016

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Screening Room: Human and Machine in ‘Ex Machina’

exmachina-mv-5Theaters were full of science fiction this year. However, it was mostly of the post-apocalyptic YA (Hunger Games) or space opera (Star Wars) variety. Alex Garland’s Ex Machina was something different. It’s available on DVD now.

“The Year’s Best Science Fiction Movie Wasn’t Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was published at Short Ends & Leader:

In the final reckoning, people are never that creative. That’s true even when they think they’re changing history. The explorer who goes to the ends of the earth is usually after fame, money, or both. The investor will ignore every warning sign about a too-good-to-be-true opportunity until it’s too late and he’s lost everything. The genius inventor announcing that he’s creating an epochal advancement in technology will turn out to have some fairly mundane reasons for doing so.

That last scenario is what Alex Garland digs into for his directorial debut Ex Machina. It’s a chilly investigation of the ethical consequences of artificial intelligence wrapped up in the skin of a sleek and increasingly horrific thriller…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

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So there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out, in case you hadn’t heard. This is Episode 7 for those keeping track. Everybody apparently already has their tickets, so good luck getting a seat.

starwars-poster1Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens everywhere this week. And no, there is no Jar-Jar cameo. My review is at PopMatters:

Arriving on screens with a strategic, not half bad recasting, Star Wars: The Force Awakens almost feels new. But as the TIE fighters and X-Wings tangle in their familiar dance and scrappy heroes cut down stormtroopers with their blasters, the echoes of earlier films can’t be ignored. It’s a pattern for J.J. Abrams, who has made a career out of ransacking the attics of more creative artists like Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) and Steven Spielberg (Super 8)…

Here’s the trailer:

Weekend Reading: May 15, 2015

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Department of Health: ‘Star Wars’ and Vaccines

(U.S. National Library Of Medicine)
(U.S. National Library Of Medicine)

In the late-1970s, a couple decades before measles was declared officially eliminated in the United States—and before Rand Paul and the rest of the anti-science crowd got busy bringing it back—the government felt it needed some help convincing parents to give their children the measles vaccine that had been first introduced in 1968.

What better allies in the fight against easily-stoppable communicable diseases than a couple of droids from a galaxy far, far away?

At right you’ll see the poster that the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare used at the time to make their case. Perhaps it’s time to bring them back?

(H/T: Pixable)