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Saturday, May 28, 2022

OBI-WAN KENOBI (2022) or "Here We Go Yet Again..."

 

I can practically smell the patchouli.

Disney STAR WARS continues to treat the franchise like a Play-Doh Fun Factory, with OBI-WAN KENOBI being its latest cranked-out product. Kenobi was my favorite character in the original film, and Ewan McGregor did a good job bringing his younger iteration to life in the prequel trilogy, but now Kenobi is back in what amounts to a pronounced case of ROGUE ONE syndrome, basically yet another prequel that tragically shows how creatively bankrupt those holding the reins are.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Obi-Wan Kenobi, now a hermit in the wastes of Tattooine, is called out of seclusion to rescue a kidnapped Princess Leia (age 10). We already know the guy hermited himself for something like 20 years, until once more called back to action, and by all accounts he kept the lowest of low profiles, with adventure not being a part of his lifestyle at that time. The current story sees agents of the Empire ruthlessly scouring the galaxy in search of disparate Jedi to stamp out once and for all in the wake of Order 66, so Kenobi works as what amounts to a sushi processor on Tattooine.

I watched the first two chapters and it's all well-realized, but once more it is nothing but a feast of 'Memberberries with little else to offer other than immersive production values. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the STAR WARS galaxy is vast, the very definition of "far-flung," but we keep getting the same locations and situations and, frankly, I am quite sick of it. Though not bad by any means, OBI-WAN KENOBI did not excite me in the least, and when Episode 2 ended, I felt like I watched it for no reason other than to comment on it. It was just kind of...there. Honestly, I could bail now and feel that my life would be in no way diminished by not continuing. I may wait and allow a bit more to accrue before I continue, but I could also easily just walk away. I mean, what's Kenobi, a space wizard, if he has to keep his lightsaber and Force skills hidden? I'll tell you what. A bum.

This is no THE MANDALORIAN. Your mileage, however, may vary.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

MAY 25th, 1977: KICKED IN THE ASS BY THE FORCE

NOTE: This piece was originally published here ten years ago, on what was then the 30th anniversary. I re-post it in honor of the 45th.

Remember when you were a little kid and your folks took you to the movies for the first time? I can’t speak for everyone else out there, but I still have clear memories of the first movie I saw in the theater, namely a now obscure animated feature called GULLIVER’S TRAVELS BEYOND THE MOON. I didn’t know at the time that it was a dubbed Japanese import, but I will never forget the feeling of having the movie theater’s Stygian blackness envelop me and remove me from the mundane world, placing me firmly in the fantasy world the flickered onscreen. The largeness of the space only accentuated my own three-year-old smallness in that big, cushioned seat, and being utterly sucked in by the storytelling made me feel a sense of magic and wonder unique to the movies for the first time in my life. For me, going to the movies was that most special of treats, and having proven to my parents that I could be well-behaved and sit spellbound, I went to a hell of a lot of flicks in those pre-VCR days, even attractions that were distinctly not for kids (THE GODFATHER and SERPICO immediately spring to mind). 

My first favorite film was the lavish live action Disney version of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (one of many influences that lead me to think of becoming a marine biologist, a field that I did not end up pursuing, but still study as an amateur to this day), eclipsed five years later by JAWS, and, yes, all those stories that you’ve heard about how it literally scared people off out of the oceans for years are absolutely the gospel truth (my mom tells me that after seeing Hitchcock’s PSYCHO in 1960 she was too terrified to take a shower if no one else was in the house for quite some time). Such was the power of cinema in the days before “films by committee.” But no movie-going experience before or since has utterly shaken me to the core as both a film fan and a human being as seeing the original STAR WARS on opening night in May of 1977, an event that occurred quite by accident. 

My father had recently moved back to the New York area after nearly two years near Washington, D.C. (where I had visited him during the Bicentennial and we had seen the legendary INFRA-MAN as a first-run movie), and in one of our many vain attempts to foster any kind of real parent/child relationship we drove into Manhattan one evening, intent on seeing Woody Allen’s ANNIE HALL. When we arrived in the city, we were dismayed to find that every theater that had the movie was sold out for all shows that night and we were simply shit out of luck. We wandered about Times Square for some time, trying to figure out what to do next, when my dad spotted a movie poster outside the Astor Plaza for some film called STAR WARS. There were no people on line for it, and neither one of us was surprised by that since we’d never heard word one about it. Lacking anything better to do, my dad looked at me and said, “You want to give this a shot?” I said, “Why not?” and we entered the nearly deserted foyer. Once popcorn and sodas had been obtained, we took our seats among the roughly eighty people in the place. Soon the lights dimmed and we readied our selves for what would probably be another cheesy sci-fi potboiler (my parents may not have agreed on much, but neither of them ever forgave me for dragging them to see the horrendous Italian borefest WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS). Assorted trailers came and went, and then the familiar signature tune and logo of 20th Century Fox pictures lit up the screen. Then the audio abruptly went silent and the screen went black, save for tiny blue letters that read, “A long time ago, in a galaxy, far, far away…” 

Then BAM! 

A blaring musical sting exploded out of the speakers, swiftly cohering into a lush orchestral arrangement, as the camera pulled back on a massive star field to reveal the words “Star Wars.” 

As the title faded further into the distance, a text crawl like those found in the old Flash Gordon serial chapter plays that my father loved during his youth set the scene for the audience. Then a multi-engined spacecraft hauled ass over the camera, firing blast after blast behind it, clearly in an attempt to shake off some pursuing menace. As the embattled cruiser flew into the horizon, the pointed white tip of an obviously bigger vessel loomed into view, itself returning volley after volley at its fleeing prey. And the huge, wedge-shaped ship loomed further onto the screen, giving a clue as to its massive scale. And it kept coming. 

And coming. 

And coming. 

How fucking big was the damned thing??? 

With hugeness like that on display, all I could think of was that this is what a space opera helmed by Cecil B. DeMille would have looked like. And my initial perception was not far from the mark at all; the audience was dropped smack dab into a fully- realized universe of space fantasy, dripping with all manner of indescribable aliens, creatures, robots, spaceships, heroes — both competent and otherwise — lightsaber-wielding warriors, mind-boggling state-of-the-art visual effects, and an asthmatic black-clad villain whose helmet made his head look like a big cock. All of which got capped off with the most spectacular space battle ever seen on film up to that time. In short, everything a lad just a month short of his twelfth birthday would want to see, with the exception of some luscious boobies (which we kinda got anyway since Princess Leia was obviously unencumbered during her stay on the Death Star, especially when she was soaking wet in the trash compactor). When the credits rolled, the entire audience stood and cheered like zealots at a revival meeting. 

Without knowing it, we had become the first generation of STAR WARS cultists. 

Upon reaching the outer lobby I purchased the movie program and pored over every minute detail of the photos that would soon become familiar across the globe, and as my dad and I drove back to his apartment in White Plains neither of us said a word. We were both simply too stunned by the experience. When I returned to school in Westport that Monday, I ranted and raved like a religious fanatic about STAR WARS, and my sixth grade schoolmates looked at me as though they were witnessing my utter mental breakdown. The saddest part was that there was no way for my wild tales to be proven until the film opened in town, something that didn’t happen for another month since this was the days long before multiplexes and saturation openings. But in the end I was proven right, and all of my adolescent contemporaries fell under the spell of STAR WARS and “drank the Kool Aid,” so to speak. 

And the rest was history. 

That’s my story, but please write in with your tale of seeing STAR WARS for the first time, especially if you saw it when it came out. It’s kind of hard to communicate what a kick in the ass that movie gave to the general public at the time, especially when trying to get it across to this current generation who are victims of George Lucas’ — and most of Hollywood’s, for that matter — creative bankruptcy.

DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING

Today's dialysis got off to a late start, thereby guaranteeing my session would not end until late. That sucks for a number of reasons, but the later the ride home begins, the greater the likelihood of being hampered by schools letting out and my car being stuck behind school buses. My session ended at 2pm, so I went down and got into my car, only to be told I was yet again stuck with a double-pickup. I sat in the car for a half hour before calling the dispatcher to complain, and was told that the guy was on his way down. He was a 20-something African guy who was clearly absorbed in whatever he was watching on his phone. He finally got into the back with me and the car took off, and the guy remained riveted by whatever the hell he was watching. I was admittedly in a bit of a mood, but I was curious to know what was so engrossing. I sneaked a side-eye and noted it was anime. It looked familiar, and then I recognized what held his attention so firmly. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All was immediately forgiven.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

IS THE MCU MAKING ME GAY?

Regarding Chris Hemsworth's god bod in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER... 

Jee. Zuss. CHRIST.

I wwas on Team Evans for years, but this... Lawd hammercy...

Thursday, May 19, 2022

COMING SOON

A saga concludes amid the scattered corpses of brain cells and the violated corpse of a once-beloved franchise.

Well, I made it through to the end of STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER during Wednesday's dialysis, and while it was an unmitigated piece of utter shite, I did not hate it anywhere near as much as I expected to. Is it the worst STAR WARS MOVIE? From a conceptual and narrative standpoint, I would say so, but it certainly didn't bore me, as it threw too much shit at me too quickly for me to think at all about what was unfolding. The pace borders on insane, which is a good thing when you have a plot as nonsensical as this. 

However, while it is a tragic example of everything that's wrong with current blockbuster cinema, especially of the tentpole franchise variety, I found THE RISE OF SKYWALKER entertaining in the same way as I enjoyed the equally indefensible BATMAN AND ROBIN, specifically by thinking of it through the lens of what would have happened of you gave an 8-year-old unlimited access to STAR WARS toys and a video camera and told them to go ahead and make a movie. It would have made about as much sense as THE RISE OF SKYWALKER and probably would please the kiddies in the audience, and it sure would be pretty to look at. (Though I would have been pissed if I paid to endure it in the theater.) 

  Kylo Ren attempts to fight his way out of his own movie. He fails, but at least the filmmakers did him a solid by killing him once and for all, so there's that, I guess.

That said, I have a LOT to say on this mess and I will need a few days to really mull over my thoughts on it and take notes before writing a proper review of it for The Vault.

STAY TUNED...