Movie Review – The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Written by Lawrence Kasdan & Leigh Brackett
Directed by Irvin Kershner

The Star Wars movies are always viewed collectively as trilogies, but I thought it would be interesting to examine one in isolation, as the product of a year in a landscape of other movies. Empire Strikes Back was released at the start of summer that also included The Blues Brothers, Airplane!, Caddyshack, Friday the 13th, and The Shining to name a few. It’s no surprise that the second Star Wars film dominated the box office and was the number one hit domestically and internationally. I’d be willing to bet people saw Empire that hadn’t seen the first picture as that is something that happens today with all sorts of film franchises. I have to wonder what a person like that thought as they were watching. I think the film does such an excellent job communicating who its characters are that even if you don’t get every detail, you understand from an archetypal perspective what is going on.

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Eight

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Eight – “Chapter Eight: Redemption”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Taika Waititi

It comes down to a shoot out in the streets, a showdown with the man in black, the sacrifice of one to save the rest. The Mandalorian gives in to its Western roots most completely in this season finale. Dyn Jarren is pinned down in a cantina with Cara Dune and Greef Karga. The odds are not in their favor as the Imperials set up some devastating weapons. But we know that despite how many times he gets knocked around or has his ass handed to him, Jarren always seems to luck out.

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Movie Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Written by J.J. Abrams & Chris Terrio
Directed by J.J. Abrams

Let’s just get this out of the way. I hated this movie. It’s everything I hate about fan culture & the bloated cinematic universe fad that is currently what theatrical release films have become. I say this as someone who was so delightfully surprised by The Last Jedi. I appreciated the new directions that film was taking Star Wars thematically, opening the Force up into a more egalitarian essence. I saw it in-universe as a course correction, the Force realizing that it’s existence between two eternally warring factions wasn’t bringing the balance it sought. Instead, we closed The Last Jedi on a moment that reminded the audience of both the young Luke Skywalker and ourselves, dreaming that we too can be the hero, that anyone can.

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Seven

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Seven – “Chapter Seven: The Reckoning”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Deborah Chow

And with the return of Jon Favreau in the writing credits, the story of The Mandalorian improves and moves forward. After three weeks of arguable plot-stalling, things start moving again. Dyn Jarren finally hears that message from his old friend Greef Karga, imploring him to return to Nevarro. The Imperial faction in the sector has amassed there in their search for the lost target (aka Baby Yoda). Jarren gathers allies from previous adventures: Cara Dune, Kuiil, and IG-11 to help him even the odds.

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Six

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Six – “Chapter Six: The Prisoner”
Written by Christopher L. Yost & Rick Famuyiwa
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

The first three episodes of The Mandalorian now reveal themselves as a 90 minute pilot for what the actual series will be. The show is nothing but a formulaic procedural set in the Star Wars universe. We are three episodes away from the “pilot,” and it’s clear that we will be getting nothing but one-offs where Dyn Jarren moves on to a new location, worries about getting caught with Baby Yoda, gets involved in a problem in the area, then moves on. This is the same plot used by several television Westerns, The Incredible Hulk, Highway to Heaven, wash rinse repeat. There will be some moderately well-known faces along the way, but this is just a guest appearance.

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Five

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Five – “Chapter Five: The Gunslinger”
Written & Directed by Dave Filoni

The opening of this episode delivers a promise that we are in for something a little more exciting than the last chapter. Dyn Jarren is pursued by one of the bounty hunters following the Guild’s call to arms. It’s a fun short dogfight in space that ends with Jarren’s ship broken down and seeking repairs on a familiar planet, Tatooine. The Mandalorian needs to seek out money to pay for the repairs and skulks through Mos Eisley for something under the table. The result is a decent episode, but still, one lacking the forward momentum of the core story. The ending does hint at a more significant arc happening here, but it’s very procedural.

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Four

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Four – “Chapter Four: Sanctuary”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard

The Mandalorian showrunners aren’t trying to hide from its roots in the American Western genre. That’s perfectly fine, Star Wars has always been less hard science fiction than a repurposing of other styles into a science fantasy environment. The original Star Wars was lifted heavily from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress and classic Buck Rogers serials. This could be why the prequel trilogy, seemingly unmoored by familiar genre tropes, sputtered for so many audiences.

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Three

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Three – “Chapter Three: The Sin”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Deborah Chow

My question about the expansion of the Star Wars canon has always been, “Are there interesting stories to tell in this universe outside of the Skywalker saga?” The Mandalorian is becoming the first show to prove to me that there are corners of this world are worth exploring further. It also proves that despite staying masked for what appears to be the entirety of the series, Dyn Jarren is a very compelling character with a clear motivation and viewpoint. This doesn’t mean you will be surprised by a single thing that happens in this episode, it’s evident the arc being told, but it is satisfying and has momentum towards more significant story events.

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode Two

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Two – “Chapter Two: The Child”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

The reveal in the final scene of episode one changed my perceptions of what this would be a show about. Now in this episode, we get a better sense that this is a Star Wars on the Japanese classic Lone Wolf and Cub. Dyn Jarren is facing a moral dilemma about the bounty he acquired, questioning what the deposed Imperials plan to do with this very vulnerable person. He quickly gets sidetracked when he comes upon a group of Jawas stripping his ship. This leads to Jarren seeking aid from Kuiil, the Ughnaught from the last episode, and Jarren learning a powerful secret about his bounty.

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TV Review – The Mandalorian Season One, Episode One

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode One – “Chapter One”
Written by Jon Favreau
Directed by Dave Filoni

So…what’s a Mandalorian? It all began with Ralph McQuarrie, and Joe Johnston’s production art during The Empire Strikes Back. The sketches of armored, hyper-weaponed soldiers were thought to be super commandoes from the planet Mandalore, specialized in hunting down and killing Jedi. Boba Fett was the first character to wear the gear, but the name “Mandalorian” wouldn’t be used until the Star Wars comic book in 1983. As the decades wore on, these people were expanded in the comics, particularly in the Dark Horse published material. These ideas were tweaked and some instances overhauled by the Clone Wars animated series.

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