Star Wars: Episode VII (2015)

Star Wars 7 PosterRelease Date: December 18, 2015

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Written by: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas (characters)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill

Synopsis:

A continuation of the saga created by George Lucas

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Swimming With Sharks torture

Being a mentor is tough. You’re putting time into showing a kid the ropes, and what do you get out of it? According to the movies, maybe death. Or at least some non-lethal backstabbing will come about if you’re not lucky. It’s a wonder any of us bother to recruit interns, employees, apprentices, proteges and sidekicks when we know from watching a lot of movies that it’s not a good idea. We’re much better off just doing whatever work they’d have helped with alone and living a longer and more fruitful life. Never mind if we deserve the comeuppance. None of us believe we’re the bad guys, especially when we thought we were actually out for our disciple’s best interest. In the new movie The November Man, it’s Pierce Brosnan who winds up targeted by his former pupil, played by Luke Bracey. The two are spies, Brosnan now retired — until he’s pulled back in for “one more mission,” of course. And in this mission he’s up against a younger fellow to whom he taught everything he knows. Actually, he probably kept at least one thing close to his chest. That’s something else we learn from the movies, that it’s good to hold back from teaching your protege everything, because you’ll need a secret weapon in case he or she comes back to bite the hand that fed. Additionally, the movies teach us seemingly everything we need to know to avoid being betrayed. But if they’re smart, they’re also keeping one thing […]

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Guardians of the Galaxy Abduction

One of the burning questions left at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy concerns Peter Quill/Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father. Who is he? What is he? With a sequel already in the works, due in 2017, the apparent certainty is that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will either answer the question or at least address it more in full. But does it have to? Must it? Can it not, please? I’d like to address Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer/director James Gunn here and simply plead that whoever and whatever Star-Lord’s father is to keep him out of the next movie and any installment of the greater MCU franchise. Here’s what we know: Peter Quill was raised by his mother and possibly grandfather, never knowing who his real dad is or was. Around the age of 10, his mother died and he was immediately abducted via spaceship captained by a blue-skinned alien who would become a sort of father figure. About 25 years later, he still hasn’t met his pops, but it’s definite that the guy came from outer space. Quill’s mom said his dad was an angel made out of light. Later we hear that Quill is half-human and half some unknown cosmic entity. It’s a hybridization quality that heroes have had since heroes were first conceived. He’s basically a demigod, not unlike Hercules.* Maybe Quill’s father is some character we haven’t yet met. A notable hero or villain. Or maybe he’s actually just the kid of Yondu (Michael […]

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Spaceballs Barf and Lone Star

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie where we could go on and on with relevant recommended titles. Its main hero, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), is a guy who spent his first 10 years on Earth enjoying a lot of movies and music. He’s a good representation of many people his age who are still Earthbound, because he’s focally nostalgic for ’80s pop culture and is always ready to make a reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or some other property that existed prior to his abduction in 1988 by the space pirates known as the Ravages. In addition to the direct allusions spoken or spotted on screen (it’s cool that Star-Lord is familiar with a classic like The Maltese Falcon and apparently had an ALF sticker in his backpack when taken), the movie is highly influenced by past movies, with some big antecedents such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark being too popular to bother including. And of course Guardians of the Galaxy is also reminiscent of the many followers of those two George Lucas productions. As John Gholson notes in his spot-on comic-strip review, the new Marvel movie “has more in common with Star Wars wannabes,” as he features posters for four examples: Ice Pirates, Battle Beyond the Stars, Serenity and The Last Starfighter. On top of all the movies we could urge the fans go back and watch, this release had me wanting to also do a whole list of TV series to watch after you’ve seen it. […]

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Star Wars

This may come as a surprise to you (if, say, you haven’t gone online, spoken to an acquaintance or left the comfy confines of the rock you live under for several days), but another intrepid soul has claimed to have the keys to J.J. Abrams‘s mystery box. The secrets held inside? Significant story chunks from Star Wars: Episode VII. Earlier today, we referred to this leak as “ridiculous-sounding plot details,” and that’s just about as accurate as accurate could be. But for the sake of blindly trudging into the unknown, let’s take a look at these ridiculous details anyway. Also, if any of this turns out to be legit, it will count as a SPOILER, but it’ll really only spoil the first five minutes or so. Maybe 10.

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Star-Wars-7-X-Wing

Yet again, J.J. Abrams is wagging the dog by sharing something official in the wake of a great rumor being spread. Although I doubt that this reveal of an X-Wing fighter built for Star Wars: Episode VII is truly in response to ridiculous-sounding plot details leaked over the weekend, it’s otherwise a nice diversion. The video below isn’t just a first look at a vehicle for advance marketing sake; it’s the latest and final piece of promotion for the Force for Change charity drive for UNICEF run via Omaze. Recall in the past we shared the video introducing a new non-CG character. Now Abrams is back to show us something a lot more familiar just days before the effort ends. Force for Change is kind of like a Kickstarter campaign but since Disney doesn’t need money to make a Star Wars movie, your pledges go to a better cause than a film production. Yet there are still similar incentives (and raffle prizes) here, such as exclusive apparel, a Chewbacca bust and private advance screenings of Episode VII, plus the best of all: a chance to win a trip to the set and actually get to appear in the movie. Watch Abrams tell you about Force for Change while you gaze upon the beautiful but beat-up X-Wing below.

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Pip Andersen and Crystal Clarke for Star Wars 7

Misdirection. It’s the classic technique of going “HEY LOOK OVER THERE” while secretly preparing an elaborate magic trick and/or hiding the garbage bags containing your neighbor’s corpse. But misdirection isn’t just used by magician serial killers anymore. Now, even the folks at LucasFilm have employed this tried-and-true method in the latest casting development for Star Wars: Episode VII. Yesterday, the company put out a press release announcing to the world that the long process of holding open casting calls and scouring through millions of young actors mesmerized by the words “Star” and Wars” has paid off. Officially joining the cast are two unknowns: Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen. Clarke, an American acting student, will make her feature debut in next year’s The Moon and the Sun, the I-desperately-hope-it’s-true story of King Louis XIV, and how his “quest for immortality leads him to capture and steal a mermaid’s life force.” Fingers crossed on that one. Andersen, on the other hand, was a competitor on MTV’s Ultimate Parkour Challenge. Less impressive, but for all we know Ultimate Parkour Challenge had an episode where the contestants had to reenact scenes from the original Star Wars films while also flipping between a series of really tall dumpsters. So Disney stood up and shouted, “Look! Look at these ridiculously good-looking young people! Watch as they do parkour!” (And yes, the press release did link to a Sony ad where Andersen wears a Spider-Man outfit under his clothes and does backflips in and out of various buildings.) And […]

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Rian Johnson

When news broke that Rian Johnson would helm Star Wars: Episode VIII and write a treatment for Episode IX – adding to the numerous Star Wars properties scheduled for screens shortly behind J.J. Abrams’s mystery box – it was almost universally regarded as a solid, promising move to those cautiously optimistic about the rebooting of a galaxy far away. And no doubt, Johnson’s hiring is a very good move for Star Wars, lending the franchise not only the director’s subcultural clout, but also his precise sense of style, passionate knowledge of genre and careful approach to cinematic world-building. His skill should benefit greatly a franchise whose previous incarnation suffered from scant evidence of inspiration or vision. But before seeing a final product, we can only take this news as a gesture of goodwill, or even a reason to be happy for a talented director worthy of admiration and success. Unfortunately, a facet largely missing from conversations about this news is whether a Rian Johnson-led Star Wars will be good for Rian Johnson, especially in a Hollywood that loves courting indie directors but shows questionable regard for their autonomy upon arrival. Marc Webb. Gareth Edwards. Doug Liman. Bryan Singer. At various points during the ‘90s and ‘00s, this list of names would denote the creators behind film festival highlights and limited release word-of-mouth gems. But in 2014, these are the names of the men in the director’s chair for some of the summer’s biggest tentpole titles, the kinds of movies that make or break a fiscal year […]

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Rian Johnson

One of the things that made the original Star Wars trilogy so special was its hand-off of the second two installments to other filmmakers. Each of those first three movies was helmed by a different director, and that was a hope I had for the new trilogy, especially after George Lucas’s hogging of all the prequels. Well, according to news out of Deadline this afternoon, we’re going to at least have two people at the helm this time around. Rian Johnson is reportedly taking over the central run of the Star Wars franchise from Star Wars Episode VII helmer J.J. Abrams. He’ll write and direct Episode VIII, presumably due in late 2017, and he’s also going to deliver a treatment for Episode IX.* Apparently he’s to get started immediately, and obviously this will take up his attention for almost the rest of this decade. That means he’ll have to put aside a couple projects I’d heard were percolating in him since his acclaimed Looper hit theaters two years back. The news also means he won’t be doing the Star Wars project I’d originally wished for him: the young Han Solo adventure that would star Johnson’s buddy and regular collaborator Joseph Gordon-Levitt (perfect casting). Maybe there’s still a role for the guy somewhere, or maybe there can be some time travel thrown at the Star Wars galaxy where Harrison Ford meets his younger self. Wait, no, that’s more an Abrams thing to do, isn’t it?

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Princess Leia Armed in Star Wars

Yesterday was the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being passed by Congress. That means we’ve got five years until its centennial and all the special commemorations that are obligatory for that sort of thing. Maybe those will be saved for the following year, when it was ratified just in time to allow women to vote in the 1920 presidential election. Either way, here’s a proposal and a challenge for Hollywood for one of those summers: every blockbuster must be directed by a female. With the loss of Jupiter Ascending from this season’s slate, there are no major tentpoles helmed by women at all this summer, and the studios have six years to turn that completely around for at least one time. After that, fine, go back to ignoring that another gender is capable of directing big movies. Hollywood would probably do just that anyway, even if the summer of 2020 wound up smashing records for attendance and grosses. One big hope is that the proposal will force Lucasfilm to put a woman on one of their Star Wars movies, whether the third standalone feature or Episode IX. The latter is supposed to be due by the end of 2019, while presumably another spin-off will arrive the following year. So far those non-trilogy one-offs, which have Gareth Edwards and now Josh Trank attached, are set for 2016 and 2018, respectively. Following the commotion about Episode VII seeming not to have enough female characters, I’m surprised we haven’t seen any complaints […]

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Princess Leia in Star Wars - Troopers

It’s hard not to think about Star Wars with all the news and potential spoilers about Episode VII dropping lately. Still, for the purist, the original will remain the greatest of the series, even if there is no high-quality version of the theatrical releases available. With so much Star Wars lately, it only seems appropriate to go back to the beginning and revisit Star Wars before it was ever known as A New Hope. For the DVD release in 2007, a commentary track was added to the film, which has been preserved through the subsequent Blu-ray releases. Recorded separately and cobbled together for relevant points of the film, the commentary includes George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt, and Dennis Muren. While this particular commentary does not offer a modern perspective of the legacy of the prequels or the upcoming films and spin-offs, it does give a look back at the making of a classic.

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Josh Trank filming Chronicle

The obvious initial reaction to hearing that Josh Trank will direct a standalone Star Wars movie: could it be shot as a found footage film? That’s because we so far only really know him for the found footage superhero film Chronicle. But the guy is now working on the Fantastic Four reboot for Fox, and there’s no way that’ll be in the same style. Neither will his Star Wars spin-off or one-shot or whatever you want to call these side installments. The only way a found footage Star Wars movie would make any sense is if it was released as a feature-length hologram. That said, Trank has actually already made a found footage Star Wars fan film (watch it down below), so maybe Disney and Lucasfilm want him to expand on that. Trank joins Gareth Edwards as the second filmmaker to be assigned one of these movies, and unlike Edwards he’s not been able to prove himself worthy with a major blockbuster-size budget yet. We still have a little over a year before The Fantastic Four comes out, though, and Trank’s entry isn’t due until 2018. Another thing that’s interesting about this announcement is that it looks like Disney is stealing Trank away from helming the Fantastic Four sequel. Claims that Disney and its Marvel subsidiary are plotting against Fox and its reboot of the Marvel comic franchise have been rebuked, but I bet this news will be taken the wrong way as part of that rumored battling between the studios. […]

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12 Years a Slave

It’s been rumored since before the initial cast announcement, but the Star Wars: Episode VII production has made it official. They’ve announced via press release that Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has joined the cast. With an acting squad (which is what all casts should be called) that’s focused on prestige talent more than mere name recognition, this hire is one that potentially touches on both fronts. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the release says nothing about the role that she’ll play. The same goes for Gwendoline Christie. The Game of Thrones co-star who absolutely rocks as the lordly lady of Tarth has also signed on to fight long-ago battles in a galaxy far, far away. Hopefully they’ll give her a sword instead of a lightsaber. The lack of details is probably cold comfort for fans and for those skeptical of the male/female ratio of actors. If you’re foolishly keeping score, it’s 5/11, but raw math doesn’t matter here (even if it’s pretty damned close to 50/50). What matters is the size of the spotlight on these individual characters and the actors who portray them. Without story details, we now theoretically have a Star Wars movie where there’s room for a young black man (John Boyega), a young black woman, and another young woman (Daisy Ridley) to save the universe from Max von Sydow. Can we have at least a little celebration for the diversity at work here?

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Kurt Russell and James Spader in Stargate

We are getting thick into the era when Hollywood remakes a lot of ’90s movies. We already saw Total Recall and Dredd, and in the news lately are developments on the next versions of Point Break, Cliffhanger and now Roland Emmerich‘s Stargate, the latest to be officially announced. In a way, Godzilla counts, though it’s a redo of a movie from the ’50s more than the previous American take on the monster (also directed by Emmerich). And I’d maybe also include Atom Egoyan’s The Devil’s Knot, which is basically a dramatic redo of the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills. That’s not a Hollywood movie, though, and the original wasn’t either. One thing I realized recently is that I saw a lot fewer blockbusters in the ’90s versus the ’80s. I never saw the 1998 Godzilla. I never saw Cliffhanger. And I didn’t see Point Break in the theater or at a time close to when it came out. Mostly this can be attributed to the fact that I was getting older. For much of the decade I was busy with high school or broke in college (oh, the irony of being in film school and only being able to see one new movie in the theater my freshman year). Also, my dad moved away in 1990, and he’d been the parent who took us to the multiplex every weekend. But I don’t believe it’s necessarily these personal reasons that have me less concerned about remakes of ’90s movies than I’d been with […]

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Leo Dicaprio Darth Vader

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom bridge

How many of you knew Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a prequel while you were seeing it back in 1984? I admit that it took me years to come to that realization, but I was a little kid 30 years ago, and my memory of Raiders of the Lost Ark and my understanding of the history of the world in the 1930s were minimal. There’s also the way that Temple of Doom isn’t really a prequel in the sense that I think of that word. It’s not an origin story, it doesn’t involve events that lead into those of Raiders or depict a story alluded to in that first Indiana Jones movie. Temple of Doom isn’t so much a prequel or sequel as simply an installment in an adventure series. Roger Ebert, in his review at the time, called it “not so much a sequel as an equal.” He meant equal in all ways, having given the movie four stars, but I specifically like the word usage for its implication that it’s a movie that sits not really before or after but to the side. Yes, it is technically set prior to the action in Raiders, though not by that much (being in in 1935, the year before the year of Raiders, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a full 12 months nor as few as that), yet chronology is not very important with these two movies. Some argue that there is backward character development with Temple of Doom, but […]

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Rancor from Return of the Jedi

First he made Monsters, then he made Godzilla, so the next logical step is for Gareth Edwards to make a movie about the Rancor creature from Return of the Jedi. Or should he instead give us the origin story of the Sarlacc or maybe the Space Slug from The Empire Strikes Back? The news that Edwards will direct a stand-alone Star Wars spin-off movie has to be about him tackling one of those. The guy doesn’t do movies that don’t involve monsters. Okay, so his venture into a galaxy far, far away will likely involve a more popular character than any of those giants, but I bet we will at least see some kind of monsters in the movie, whether this will be the young Han Solo adventures or a Boba Fett movie or something that more directly spins off from next year’s Star Wars sequel. According to Lucasfilm, the installment from Edwards already has a release date of December 16, 2016. That’s almost exactly twelve months to the day after the release of Episode VII. Joining Edwards is screenwriter Gary Whitta, who last gave us the disappointing outer space adventure After Earth, which was directed by M. Night Shyamalan. You may remember that that movie also was based around a giant monster. Are we sure this new Star Wars movie won’t be a monster movie? The origin story of the Acklay from Attack of the Clones, maybe? No, let’s say that Edwards is set on delivering his biggest creature yet. That means […]

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Star Wars 7 Alien Video

If you’re a fan of Labyrinth, you’ll be happy to see the cousin of the old goblin junk lady strolling into the background as J.J. Abrams explains how fans can be included in the filming of Star Wars: Episode VII. The production is teaming with Omaze in order to raise money for UNICEF. This is the same charity portal that’s scored big by offering BBQ-eating sessions with Kevin Spacey on the set of House of Cards, and now they’re attempting to raise cash for kids by sending you to Tatooine. There are also other rewards you can get simply for donating — limited edition lightsaber hilts, signed scripts, a bust of Chewbacca — but the big prize is shooting a scene on set in London and palling around with Darth Abrams. And hopefully goblin junk lady’s cousin. He seems cool. Watch the announcement video for yourself:

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Flash Gordon

On this week’s episode, in honor of the upcoming X-Men flick, Cargill and I mount our own exploration into alternate timelines as part of a new recurring series we’ve dubbed Movies of Future Past. For the inaugural foray, we imagine a universe in which George Lucas had actually acquired the rights to Flash Gordon and made that his 1977 sci-fi opus instead of Star Wars. It’s one of cinema’s most intriguing What If’s. Heck, as it stands, Lucas’ fascination with the Flash Gordon serials of the ’30s actually ended up informing so much of what Star Wars became. But that’s in this dimension, where history books have facts and whatnot. It’s far more entertaining to travel to other timelines where we’re confined only to the limits of our wild speculations!!! You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #12 Directly

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Blade Runner sequel

This was sort of inevitable. Once Harrison Ford signed on to star in the next entry into the Star Wars franchise, we should have expected that it would open the floodgates for other productions to beg for their star to return for more ill-advised sequels (though we’re still not opposed to another Indiana Jones feature, so long as it ditches the aliens and bars the gates against Bradley Cooper). First up — Blade Runner.  We’ve known that Alcon Entertainment was hellbent on launching a sequel to the seminal 1982 feature since way back in 2011, when the production company announced its plans to make both prequels and sequels to the Ridley Scott-directed sci-fi classic, but this first film has been through so many fits and starts, we’d sort of hoped it would never happen. Despite having some elements to recommend it — like the return of original screenwriter Hampton Fancher – not much else of sounds that good. Even Scott, who is back to direct the new installment, isn’t exactly a selling point, as his output in the past few years (cough, Prometheus, cough) has been on the decline. But you know what could really make this thing sing? If we could get Ford to come back! But, you guys, what if Harrison Ford is tired?

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