Review – It’s All Snoke And Mirrors (“Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi”)

It’s my considered opinion that the Star Wars saga will never end. EVER. So long as there are Roman numerals, we’re gonna have a Star Wars film of some kind or imagining.
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Picking up from events from Episode VII (aka The Force Awakens), things have gone sideways. Oh sure, the good guys blew up the planet-sized Starkiller Base, home to most of the evil First Order, but at a serious cost. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) was murdered by his son, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), ex-stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) was seriously injured, and Rey (Daisy Ridley) took off for Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) secret home to bring him back his long-lost lightsaber and seek answers.

Borrowing elements from Harry Potter and The Return of the Jedi, there are several stories playing out at once: the First Order still has the Resistance on the run, and believe me, this is NOT a good time to be on the losing side! Slimy General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is busy pursing the last rag-tag fleet of the good guys and using some really nasty space weapons hereto unforeseen, like a cool-looking Dreadnaught ship. Ace-pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) has his hands full trying to save the fleet single-handedly, but he keeps butting heads with not only General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher), but also her second-in-command, Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern).

The only way to keep the First Order permanently off their backs is to dismantle their tracking system, but to do that, they’re gonna need a master code-breaker & thief to sneak aboard their ship. Looks like it’s gonna be up to Finn and fan-girl, fix-it-all techie Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) to fly to the gambling Las Vegas-like planet of Canto Bight and find one while precious time is running out for the Resistance.

Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis in mo-cap) no longer has faith in Kylo Ren and wants Rey as his new apprentice, which makes sense since she bested Kylo in the last movie. BUT she’s busy having prob’s of her own. Luke Skywalker, disillusioned and just plain grumpy, refuses to train her, but does an about-face after seeing her talents, which include doing face-time (àla Harry & Voldemort) with her enemy, Kylo. But will all his training be enough? And what about all those merchandisable little birds on the island called Porgs?

Anyway, the stage is set for several showdowns on many fronts: there’s Snoke’s wicked cool meeting with Rey, the entirely padded adventure on Canto Bight finding DJ (Benicio Del Toro), a thief who says he can break any code, Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie) and her shock troops, and a battle on a nearby planet strangely reminiscent of the ice battle on Hoth. There are many, many other plot points and twists that I’ve left out (y’know, spoilers and all), with this extremely long 152 minute film that has a great 120 minute movie lurking somewhere inside of it. Rian Johnson, who both wrote & directed this epic tome, decided to through in everything including the kitchen sink to get his masterwork on screen.

It’s an epic, all right, filled with all the usual Star Wars suspects and then some, but in all this there are tons of plot holes the size of Star Cruisers and multiple cases of deus ex machinas and fantastic coincidences that make you shake your head in disbelief. Johnson has written some extraordinary movies like Looper and Brick which didn’t have so many faults… but on the other hand, many other parts of this movie just soar with The Force. Plus, there are nice comedic touches, damn nice choreographed fight scenes, and some very solemn acting moments.

The dynamic between Luke, Rey,  and Kylo is palpable and feels unrestrained; a sheer delight to see and experience, not to mention the payoff! Their stories are the best thing about this movie. Jettison the whole ‘find the code-breaker’ dull plotline, and you’d have a tighter script and a better movie,  in my opinion. Major kudos to the SPFX team for Snoke, as he looks SO real and, given Serkis’ deft performance, made his character come alive.

StarCrash (1978)

 
In the wake of the original 1977 Star Wars, there was a tsunami of blatant rip-off movies that outright stole the plot, characters, and even the musical theme. Of all of them, this self-indulgent, dreadful cookie-cutter film by Luigi Cozzi (an Italian Roger Corman, if you will) is full of B-Hollywood stars, half-naked women, and one terrible script.

In a distant galaxy, a starship searches for the evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell) and is attacked by a mysterious weapon which drives the crew insane. So much for a set-up, huh? Meanwhile, galactic smugglers Stella Star (the delicious Caroline Munro) and her sidekick Akton (the over-acting Marjoe Gortner) run into the Imperial Space Police, led by hick-talkin’ robot sheriff Elle (Judd Hamilton) and green-faced Police Chief Thor (Robert Tessier). Akton and Stella are arrested and tried for piracy.

Stella manages to escape her prison, but they are both contacted holographically by the Emperor of the Galaxy (OMG, is that Christopher Plummer?), about Count Zarth Arn and his secret weapon he has hidden away on a planet. If Stella and Akton find the Count’s weapon they will be offered clemency. Hmmmm… sounds fair. Naturally, they run into trouble in their quests to find said WMD, like half-naked Amazonian warrior women, a Godzilla-sized metal (stop-motion puppet) female robot, and finding out that Thor is really an agent for the Count.

They finally find the WMD and with it, the Emperor’s son, Prince Simon (no way, is that a young David Hasselhoff?). They are attacked again and overpowered by some cavemen, but Akton fights them off with his laser sword (*cough* RIP-OFF *cough*). The Count appears and reveals his plan to use them as bait to bring the Emperor to the planet and then have his weapon self-destruct, destroying the planet, the Emperor and all three of them. He leaves, ordering his two robot golems to keep them there. Akton engages them in a laser sword duel, but Akton is mortally wounded. The Emperor arrives at the planet and fires a green ray from his flagship to (conveniently) stop time for three minutes, allowing them all to escape as the planet explodes behind them.

As you might expect, this is one really dumb movie. Directed by Cozzi (aka Lewis Coates), it plagiarizes the greatest sci-fi movie on the planet with underwhelming production values. Cozzi spent about $4 million on this piece of crap, presumably on sets, SPCL EFX, and salaries. This movie is currently being skewered by the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) on Netflix. It’s spectacularly bad and well worth a watch to laugh at all the horrible acting, terrible CG effects, laughable green screen video images, and ridiculous dialogue.

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