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Tag Archive: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Review by C.J. Bunce

Maybe you don’t need the Old West to have a great Western after all.  Bringing back the feel of the first third of the original Star Wars: A New Hope with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid level of fun and humor, Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters with something for every Star Wars fan.  The saloons may be different and so are the sidearms, but this is the story of a young gunfighter, complete with the related outlaws and mercenaries, partners and betrayals, card playing, and gunfights.  With the sweeping adventure of The Empire Strikes Back, the perfectly rebuilt and repackaged nostalgia of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and a jumping off point for a galaxy of possibilities for beloved characters we only thought we knew, director Ron Howard delivers.  Not weighted down by the gloom and doom of the Dark Side in Rogue One or the rest of the Star Wars films, this Star Wars story creates new and original locations and situations for a few familiar characters plus many new ones and still ties into the overall episodic stories, taking place after Revenge of the Sith, but before Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One.  Yet we meet many new characters and questions are raised in the film that beg for one or more sequels to this branch off the main Star Wars saga–we can now have many new tie-in novels, comics, TV series, and maybe even movies to keep it all going.  If you didn’t think The Last Jedi captured the nostalgia or fun of earlier Star Wars films, then Solo is for you–not since The Empire Strikes Back has an entry in the saga been such a rollercoaster ride.

Surprises?  In a film that could have just filled in the blanks, the surprises were dished out from beginning to end, including some big ones we won’t mention here.  The overall tone is something out of Amazing High Adventure, and it makes perfect sense: It’s Silverado in space.  Screenplay writer Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplay with son Jonathan Kasdan), known for writing Westerns Silverado and Wyatt Earp, prior Star Wars entries The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, and that greatest of adventure movies Raiders of the Lost Ark, was the perfect match to veteran director and movie icon Ron Howard.  The Western inspiration is supported visually in the Frederic Remington-inspired colors and landscapes.  You can spot the World War II movie references along the way, too, that Kasdan and Howard no doubt enjoyed as moviegoers over the years, like Von Ryan’s Express.  The relationships between characters evoke gangster movies and even pirate tales like Treasure Island.  Science fiction fans will see parallels to Han’s band of mercenaries in both the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels and Joss Whedon’s Serenity crew in the Firefly television series.

The Kasdans smartly injected those scenes every fan has thought about, pulled from passing references throughout the original trilogy to become fully realized plot threads, and then they folded in so much more.  Without the religion and mysticism of the Force, Solo: A Star Wars Story breaks the precedents of the saga as space fantasy to become arguably the first end-to-end science fiction movie of the franchise.  And it’s not just a fun movie.  Viewers will get plenty to think about.  Characters here are sometimes swapped into positions taken by other characters (and beasts) in prior movies in a way that will make moviegoers want to take another look at the prior films again.

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Years after a much publicized but failed effort to restore the Star League by the likes of Steven Spielberg and Seth Rogen, the writer for 1984’s beloved science fiction classic The Last Starfighter looks like he may finally be getting a sequel off the ground.  According to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars Rebels writer Gary Whitta, he has teamed up with writer Jonathan Betuel on a film that would stand as a sequel and a reboot to the original story that watched young Alex Rogan leave planet Earth to become a Starfighter to defend the Star League against the Ko-Dan Armada.  It’s one heck of a tease–on the heels of last weekend’s release of the 1980s nostalgia-driven film Ready Player One, Whitta picked a great time to pique the interests of the original film’s legion of fans.

Originating from a video game parked conveniently at a rural trailer park and store called Starlite Starbrite (the store still exists in Acton, California, southwest of Vasquez Rocks Park), a young man demonstrated for the first video game generation that–despite parents’ protests to the contrary–you can save the world by playing for the high score.  Although plenty of movies enter the concept art phase only to end up a footnote in a retrospective film art book decades later, preliminary design drafts of what has been referred to previously as merely Starfighter emerged via Whitta’s Twitter account Wednesday.  Matt Allsopp, a concept artist who worked on Rogue One along with Whitta, created these unmistakable designs, incorporating the Star League emblem, Gunstar ships, and Starfighters.  This takes the idea past the rumor phase, providing some evidence that this latest effort looks to be real after all.

Whitta teased the coming film project with eight photographs of concept art, writing on his Twitter page, “Okay, probably shouldn’t show you this so early but here’s a little something I’ve been tinkering on with my co-writer Jonathan Betuel.  You might recognize the ships.  Thanks to the amazing Matt Allsopp (lead concept artist on ROGUE ONE) for creating these images for us.”  He later added, “People seemed excited by the first tweet so here’s a tiny bit more of Matt’s concept art. Can’t show anything more after this, it’s all too spoilery [smile] #GreetingsStarfighter”.

Lance Guest as Alex Rogan, as he is about to take his first step into a larger world, from 1984’s The Last Starfighter.

Our hope?  How about bringing in original director Nick Castle, and if he’s not interested, what is Rogue One director Gareth Edwards up to these days?  It seems like an obvious target release for the second half of 2019–the 35th anniversary of the original.  It would also seem obvious to include actors Lance Guest, who played Alex, and Catherine Mary Stewart, who played Maggie.  Both well-known The Music Man star Robert Preston and prolific TV and film actor Dan O’Herlihy, who played Centauri and Grig, respectively, passed away several years ago.  In addition to the top photo above, check out seven more images of Matt Allsopp’s gorgeous, futuristic, and evocative concept art below:

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By now you’ve seen the full trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story and maybe even this week’s fan recut of the trailer.  No?  The recent tradition is back yet again, that knack of a fan taking a movie trailer and “Sabotaging” it by laying a track of Beastie Boys’ song Sabotage over whatever the studio produced, or, better yet, recutting the trailer to actually make the original that much better.  Some may not be able to get past whether or not new Han Solo actor Alden Ehrenreich looks like Harrison Ford, and others may not care, but the first trailer from Lucasfilm had plenty to get fans excited for this May’s theatrical release.  Maybe it’s Donald Glover as Lando, maybe it’s seeing an early Millennium Falcon, or maybe it’s just seeing Chewbacca again.  But like we saw with its 2016 predecessor Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–where the a band of Rebels handed off the infamous stolen plans to Princess Leia aboard her Corellian Corvette–on a big television screen with the sound turned way up the Sabotaged fan trailer really amps-up the excitement.

Fair warning, if you don’t like the Beastie Boys, you may really not like the band’s song by the end of this article, because we’re going to play it a few times.

The impetus for the trend is no doubt Star Trek and Star Wars director J.J. Abrams’ own love for the band and the song, enough to include it early in the first reboot of the Star Trek movies back in 2009.  Young James T. Kirk plays the song on the car radio as he’s racing along the road in Riverside, Iowa, having stolen his step-dad’s 1963 Chevrolet Corvette, and right before he sends it over a cliff (there are not really cliffs like that in Iowa, but… nevermind).  Director Justin Lin brought the song right back as a surprisingly on-point, key plot device in the climax of the third reboot film, Star Trek Beyond, and he used it for the film’s official trailer.

So that gives us a few versions of the song adapted to two big franchises worth re-watching.   Like we said here a few years back: Sabotage makes everything better.  But how about a Sabotage trailer for a third or a fourth major fandom franchise?

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Never been to a comic book or pop culture convention?  Always wanted to go to San Diego Comic-Con but you don’t have the vacation time available or the funds?  Planet Comicon is next weekend in Kansas City and it’s the sixth year of the show at downtown Kansas City’s giant convention center at Bartle Hall.  Planet Comicon is a great way to get a complete three-day convention experience centrally located in the Midwest, ideal for a last-minute road trip for the family or a car full of friends.  Kansas City is less than 8 hours by car from Dallas, less than 7 hours from Minneapolis, a little more than 7 hours from Indianapolis, and a little more than 8 hours from Denver.  And you don’t need to buy advance tickets–you can purchase them at the door.

So why make the trip?  How about meeting Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Firefly star Alan Tudyk?   Also from Firefly, as well as Doctor Who, Supernatural, Chuck, Leverage, Star Trek Voyager (and one of borg.com‘s actors we can’t get enough of), Mark Sheppard?  Want to get a photo with Michael Rooker (“I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” Yondu) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis), stars of last year’s biggest superhero hit Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2?  Are modern classics your thing?  How about seeing the star of fan-favorite movies like Say Anything, High Fidelity, and Eight Men Out?  Yep, John Cusack is returning to the Midwest for this year’s show (you can even bring your prized Rooker and Cusack Eight Men Out baseball cards for autographs).

Do you want to compare notes on The Walking Dead with stars Khary Payton, Rooker, and  Sonequa Martin-Green (also star of Star Trek Discovery)?  Maybe you’re a Game of Thrones fan.  You can meet both Jerome Flynn and Jason Momoa (also Aquaman in the DC Universe movies).  And speaking of fantasy, Planet Comicon is featuring a rare appearance by Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis, who played the beloved hero Neville Longbottom.  Want to meet the actor who has played the toughest badass characters you’ve ever seen?  Sling TV barista and Machete himself, Danny Trejo will be in the house.

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When we created last year’s preview of 2017 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining. We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our borg.com annual Best Movies of 2017.

As always, we’re after the best genre content of 2017–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each genre, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this week for our TV and print media picks, and our annual borg.com Hall of Fame inductees.  Wait no further, here are our picks for 2017:

Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Sci-fi Movie, Best Costume DesignValerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  The Valerian and Laureline comic books turned 50 and brought a big-screen adaptation to theaters.  Director Luc Besson handled the material as a labor of love, and that could be marveled at in every scene, and each nook and cranny of the gigantic visual spectacle he created.  More new wonders, more futuristic ideas that had never been seen on film before, bold otherworldly costumes, and incredible special effects made this film a masterpiece science fiction fans will stumble upon in the future and wonder how it was so overlooked by audiences this summer.  Epic space battles, aliens, and loads of sci-fi technology, while all the other science fiction of the year kept to their familiar territories.  A gripping story about a team just doing their job, but that job is saving an entire race of a doomed planet.  Besson was going for something like Avatar, but he far surpassed it.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was everything a sci-fi fan could want.

Best Fantasy Fix, Best Fantasy Movie, Best Comedy MovieThor: Ragnarok.  As much as Thor: Ragnarok was a natural progression for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, it was amazing how much the film busted genres, becoming more of a Flash Gordon space fantasy like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies than the rest of the Avengers series.   Just like watching classic Flash Gordon and Conan movies, we saw superheroes on a legendary hero’s journey rise and encounter obstacles and make sacrifices, across a landscape of fabulous worlds and colorful characters, and scenes that looked like they were ripped out of your favorite Jack Kirby comic pages.  Another film about family, it incorporated that always fun plot device of having good guy and bad guy join forces, as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki redeemed himself with his brother and their people, if only temporarily.  We met one of the fiercest warriors in Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and they all faced off against a trio of well-developed villains.  A great superhero story, too, this was the ultimate fantasy fix.

Best Superhero Fix, Best Superhero Movie, Best Easter EggsThe LEGO Batman Movie.  Even as a spoof of superhero movies and the DC Universe, The LEGO Batman Movie created a genuine story full of heart that any fan of comic books could love.  Will Arnett became our second favorite Batman actor this year behind Michael Keaton, and his Batman reminded us why we can’t wait for the DC Universe to get fun and exciting again.  Hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny with a smart script, full of derring-do and super-powered heroics, and better than this year’s and the last decade of live-action DC at the movies, the animated The LEGO Batman Movie proved more good DC movies are out there just waiting to be made.  Honorable mention: Spider-man: Homecoming.

Best Retro Fix Classic Genre Films Return to Theaters.  With all the new releases in 2017 we were lucky enough to witness the 90th anniversary of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, while Disney’s The Jungle Book, The Dirty Dozen, and the original Casino Royale turned 50.  Along with Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind turned 40.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Tron, and The Dark Crystal turned 35.  Predator, The Princess Bride, and Robocop turned 30.  Many of these made it back into theaters this year, giving us the best Retro Fix we could hope for all year long.  But E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (we even interviewed the best Star Trek director of them all here this year), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Princess Bride, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, on the big screen over only a few weeks?  We can only hope for more in 2018!

Check out the rest of the year’s Best Film and the rest of our picks for the year’s best movies, after the cut…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As you will no doubt hear as moviegoers walk out of theaters this holiday season, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a very “different” Star Wars movie.  That said, despite writer/director Rian Johnson’s assertions to the contrary, it is very much an echo of the second film of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, with several parallel elements you’ll encounter along the way.  Picking up where director J.J. Abrams left off two years ago in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Johnson seems to take the bits and pieces of questions raised in Abrams’ film, answers a few, dismisses a few, and ignores the rest, perhaps for Abrams to pick them up again as he re-takes the reins in two years for the final film in the Skywalker family saga.  So many questions seem to have been definitively tied up by the end of The Last Jedi, moviegoers are now left to ponder for the next two years, “What could Episode IX possibly be about?”

The Last Jedi is most intriguing when it emulates some of the surprises and emotional impact of last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–a bold, unique film that falls outside the three trilogies of franchise films, but provided a fantastically gritty, nostalgic, and heart-pounding story that put the “war” back in Star Wars.  An opening scene in The Last Jedi featuring the heroic death of a new character made me sit up thinking another gritty war movie was coming (only swap a guerilla land war for World War II-inspired bombing runs).  Heroism is the theme of The Last Jedi, and every character gets a chance to be a hero, but the damage is not as gut-wrenching as Rogue One.  Yet, depending on who your favorite character was in The Force Awakens, every fan should find something in The Last Jedi to be happy about.  Even if it might not offer up the excitement of the original trilogy, the third of the new annual holiday Star Wars adventures will be a great excuse to get together with family and friends for the event itself–annual Star Wars movies are becoming what the annual Christmas Special has become for Doctor Who fans, an event that for many will be bigger than whatever you think of the film.

The actors are top-notch in The Last Jedi, including Carrie Fisher in her final performance as General Leia Organa, although Hamill’s work stands out and could easily merit an Oscar nomination.  Alec Guinness’s genius as the similar Jedi wizard Obi-Wan Kenobi of the original Star Wars was in his reserved performance and iconic utterances of wisdom.  Here Hamill shows that Hollywood has missed the boat for 40 years by not featuring him regularly in mainstream films, bringing a powerful and emotional performance from beginning to end.  And gone are the days of Star Wars’ clunky dialogue–Johnson’s success is pulling out the stilted exchanges Star Wars had began to become known for.

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The final season of Star Wars Rebels begins this month with the fourth season premiere on DisneyXD.  Star Wars Rebels is set 14 years after the Star Wars prequels and leads up to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and just as a few Rogue One elements were shuffled into last season’s story, a new trailer hints at even more from Rogue One coming.  Notably Star Wars Rebels’ R2-D2-like orange astromech droid C1-10P (aka Chopper) appeared in Rogue One, as did a loudspeaker mention of Rebels series lead Hera Syndulla, and its ship, the Ghost, can be found at the battle of Scarif.   So one question from fans is how far Star Wars Rebels will be stretched into the future of the Star Wars timeline.  Will it have any actual overlap with Rogue One?

Returning from the Empire from last season is Grand Admiral Thrawn, but so is Grand Moff Tarkin, and he’s seen in a new trailer discussing Director Krennic–the white garbed villain of Rogue One, and he mentions Krennic’s “Stardust” project, which we learned was both Galen Erso’s nickname for his daughter Jyn and the code name of the Death Star weapon file at the Imperial archive at Scarif.   Deathtroopers and X-Wing fighters appear in the animated series–and the Star Wars timeline–for the first time, plus the Rebel mercenary Two-Tubes.  Saw Gerrera is back, too, with Mon Mothma, Rex, Bail Organa, and General Dodonna.

Star Wars Rebels is at its best when it sticks to following the tightly-knit team on a single rogue ship flying mission after mission, a formula that Joss Whedon built so well with his Firefly series.  Last season’s best episodes were the standalone episodes outside the ongoing narrative.  All the crewmembers of the Ghost are returning this season, Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Zeb, Sabine, and Chopper, but the crew is fair game to meet their ends for the writers, except for Hera, Chopper, and the ship itself, since we already know they appear later.  Thrawn could potentially be written out of the Star Wars timeline this season, too, since he makes no appearance in Rogue One or A New Hope.   It’s been speculated that the Imperial conference room on the Death Star had an unoccupied seat in A New Hope that belonged to Krennic.  Could it have belonged to Thrawn instead?  Maybe we’ll learn that and more this season.

Check out this trailer for Season 4 of Star Wars Rebels:

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This week the Saturn Awards crowned the best of genre film and television, selecting the best works on the screen for the 43rd year.  As with last year’s selections, although the start and end dates vary from our own calendar year list, this year’s winners aligned in the major categories with our own borg.com picks of the Best of 2016 from film and television.  If the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, and all those other award recognitions leave you wanting, you can always depend on the Saturn Awards to come through for genre fans.

So we’re happy to see the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films name Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction in a Film (Gareth Edwards) and Best Film Visual/Special Effects (John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, Neil Corbould), Doctor Strange as Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture and Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress in a Film, and Star Trek Beyond for Best Film Make-up (Monica Huppert and Joel Harlow) Star of our favorite superhero sequence of 2016, Spider-man Tom Holland was awarded Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Captain America: Civil War.  In the television categories, Riverdale was named Best Action/Thriller TV Series and star KJ Apa won The Breakthrough Performance Award for his work as the iconic comic book character Archie Andrews.*  The Best New Media TV Series was a tie, shared between Stranger Things and Marvel’s Luke Cageand Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown was named Best Younger Actor on Television.  Even a borg.com Hall of Famer won major kudos this year, Six Million Dollar Man actor Lee Majors was awarded The Life Career Award.  We couldn’t agree more with all these selections.

Other works we liked last year that won honors included 10 Cloverfield Lane for Best Thriller Film, Best Actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Best Supporting Actor (John Goodman), Deadpool for Best Actor (Ryan Reynolds), Arrival for Best Film Screenplay (Eric Heisserer), and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for Best Film Costume (Colleen Atwood).

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We got a taste of the rampaging Darth Vader we always wanted to see in the finale of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  In all of the movies Darth Vader seemed to be more shadow and talk than the wrath and ferocity his enemies feared in the films and stories.  So when do we get to see Darth Vader at his peak?  Marvel Comics writer Charles Soule (Poe Dameron, Astonishing X-Men) and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli (Amazing Spider-man) will give us the first look at that side of Darth Vader this month in the newest series titled Darth Vader.

Darth Vader takes place immediately after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  So this is the Vader new to his cybernetic form, new to the armor, the breathing apparatus, and he’s alone–his wife and to his knowledge an unborn child is dead.  His only “friend” is the Emperor himself.  Vader’s first steps in the Dark Side as a Sith Lord, the acquisition of his red light saber, and his rise to power into the Imperial command structure are all ahead for readers of the series.  Check out a preview of Issue #1 below, after the break.

   

The first issue will feature several covers.  The main cover is by Jim Cheung.  Other covers will be provided by artists Adi Granov, Skottie Young, Phil Noto, an action figure variant by John Tyler Christopher, a blank sketch cover, a movie film cover, and an incredible homage to Dave Cockrum’s cover to Uncanny X-Men, Issue #145, by Mark Brooks–one of this year’s candidates for best comic book cover art.

Here’s Cockrum’s original cover and the pre-color, and pre-weathered version of the image by Brooks:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

How can a movie get better on repeated viewings?  What makes that possible?  After three viewings of the home release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–the Digital HD edition, the Blu-ray, and the 3D Blu-ray–it’s apparent the film on repeated viewings is indeed as good as the initial theatrical viewing if not better, a rare feat in any genre.  Naysayers who didn’t like the CGI effects of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia–the primary criticism of the December theatrical release–should find even a home theater big screen television will mask any distractions seen on a 30-foot theater screen.  The Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray provide the best, clearest picture and sound of any prior Star Wars release.  The 3D transfer is as good as any 3D Blu-ray release to-date, and the special effects, clothing details like stitches and seams are clear and vivid, as is the weathering (or lack thereof, when logical) on props.  As with most 3D movies, outdoor scenes, like the Scarif ground battle, are even more vivid with sharp foregrounds and backgrounds.  Check out the complete review of the film from December here.

The special features disc includes a version of the bonus features viewable together as an entire documentary and also viewable by chapter.  The extra disc available through Target stores only includes two short extra chapters, and although the creature shop feature is excellent the two extras wouldn’t normally be enough to tilt a buyer toward the Target edition–costs being the same–and some may instead opt for packaging, like Steelbook boxes (Best Buy only) or Connexions cards (available only in the Wal-Mart edition).  Fun bits in the features to look for include Bodhi actor Riz Ahmed’s audition tapes for Edwards, a feature documenting many Easter eggs from the show even the best eye likely never identified, and interviews with motion capture actors Guy Henry (Grand Moff Tarkin) and Ingvild Daila (Princess Leia), both who look little like Peter Cushing or Carrie Fisher, proving that simply using lookalikes or prosthetics would not have been a realistic option for re-creating these characters.  The standard bonus features included with the bundles are K-2SO: The Droid, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & the Revolutionary, The Empire, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One, The Princess & the Governor, Epilogue: The Story Continues, and Rogue Connections (the Easter eggs list).

Rogue One easily merits ranking as the third best film in the series after Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back–but truly in a league with those two films.  One of the best war movie stories put to film, the best prequel or prequel that is also a sequel (yes, even considering the great Godfather II), the best space battle, the best use of spaceship filming (director Gareth Edwards avoids 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek: The Motion Picture-era overly-long ship takes and instead uses his imagery only as necessary to drive the story forward), while featuring one of the all-time best heist movies.

It really has it all.

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