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

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

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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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Don Peyote

As it turns out, it’s completely possible to spend the warmest months without seeing a single superhero or explosion, and on this week’s show, Geoff and I proclaim our excitement for the indie/non-blockbuster pics that might provide greatness this season. We’ll also talk about our all-time favorite screenplays to read. Plus, Paracinema writer Matthew Monagle is our first participant in a segment called You Have a Year and a Half to Make Us Excited About Star Wars: Episode VII. Let’s see if he persuades you. Double plus, we’ll chat with Dan Fogler about 2012 conspiracies and getting beaten up by Anne Hathaway for the trippy Don Peyote. You should follow Matthew (@labsplice), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #57 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Elstree 1976 Rebel

I think it was Andy Warhol who said that everyone associated with Star Wars will be world-famous for 15 trillion minutes. Maybe I made that up, and maybe I have a personal reason for knowing it’s not necessarily true of everyone associated with George Lucas’s game-changing movie, but it does at least seem that Star Wars mania allows for anyone involved in the first or any subsequent installment to be an icon of sorts for the millions of fans out there. Even Jake Lloyd and Ahmed Best are embraced by many at conventions. And according to a new documentary in the works, plenty of extras can show up to events and have a line of people waiting to get their autograph. Of course, almost every extra appearing on screen in the original Star Wars movie plays a character with a name and maybe even an action figure. Very few are recognizable by name and most aren’t recognizable by face given that they wore masks. Plenty played roles as distinct as Greedo and Biggs and Boba Fett, while others played stormtroopers. Jon Spira‘s Elstreet 1976 will spotlight ten of these minor yet significant players, including David Prowse, whose role as Darth Vader in every way except for voice and final reveal barely counts as being labeled “extra.” There’s also John Chapman, who played a Rebel pilot in the Battle of Yavin. We can thank him for inspiring Spira (Anyone Can Play Guitar) after enrolling in the filmmaker’s screenwriting class.

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Home Alone Talkboy

Defictionalization is when something that previously only existed in a movie universe comes to life. Films and TV shows are now taking advantage of this more than ever before. In the world of TV, Castle has spawned a series of books by Nathan Fillion’s crime novelist character; Parks and Rec has spawned a guide to Pawnee written by the characters themselves; and Archer is now releasing an album recorded by Judy Greer’s character Charlene (and not, apparently, by Judy Greer). Here are ten great examples of fictional products from movies that became defictionalized in interesting ways:

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Casablanca Movie

Sometimes, the urge to crack open a cold one when you’re stuck in the middle of a Netflix binge can get overwhelming. And it’s understandable; so many of our favorite films feature incredible bars and pubs that put our local haunts and dives to shame, intergalactic gathering spots that bring together alien races, chic international watering holes and rough roadsides that may necessitate a bodyguard or two. While we can’t frequent these cinematic watering holes, it’s okay to daydream and sip a martini or two while doing so. Here are the movie bars at which we’d love to pull up a stool.

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The Signal Movie

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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The Warriors Baseball Furies

We all feared that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was going to have too many villains. But the number of bad guys in the new sequel isn’t really a problem. You’ve mostly just got Electro (Jamie Foxx), who is the most powerful and most prevalent, and then there’s Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) who joins him in the third act. Rhino (Paul Giamatti) is basically only in this movie for isolated scenes, and I’ll just keep the mention of him to that, so nobody thinks I’m spoiling too much (he’s in the ads, so his very appearance shouldn’t be a surprise). Oh, and there’s also that mysterious man seen at the end of the first movie doing whatever he’s doing somewhere in the background. It’s not that there are too many of these guys so much that they’re handled rather sloppily, though that’s par for the course of most elements of the movie. When fans worry about the multiple villain issue, what they’re really worried about is yet another movie that handles the idea badly. We’ve seen this before, in Spider-Man 3, Batman and Robin, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: The Last Stand, Iron Man 2 and The Dark Knight Rises. The last one is an interesting criticism from people because the entire Christopher Nolan series has multiple villains for each film, with The Dark Knight championed (by us, six years ago) for being one the rare great movies to do it right with the balance of The Joker and eventually Two-Face. 

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