Wednesday, 31 October 2012
|Words I thought I'd never see, coming soon to movie screens...|
I have had major dental treatment today so the news that came through this evening UK time caught me by such a big surprise that I thought I was still suffering from some kind of blurry dream courtesy of anasthetic injections! But the news is true, it's real: a new STAR WARS film-Episode VII, is coming in 2015, followed by VIII and IX! It's no April fool. NEW STAR WARS FILMS! LUCASFILM and its incredible business empire/legacy has been sold to DISNEY for $4 billion dollars, and new LUCASFILM President and very safe pair of hands, Kathleen Kennedy, with the blessing of Uncle George- passing the torch in a way I never thought he'd do, has initiated the bold move to bring all-new adventures to the big screen, of which, though he's really sadly retiring, the saga's creator will still be around as a creative consultant, though hopefully not in the shunted around way that poor Gene Roddenberry was with the STAR TREK films by PARAMOUNT after STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE in 1980. DISNEY, you disrespect George and we'll be picketing the studio gates!
|Lucas and David Tattersall prepare to film the closing scenes of EPISODE III back in 2003.|
Seriously, though, and on a fine note for AFICIONADO as it's about to celebrate its tenth year as a magazine and online source, and coming up to 1,000 blog articles, I wish George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, LUCASFILM, and DISNEY well and the very heights of success with this surprising news, hoping for creative excellence and bold storytelling in the saga, continuing its incredible legacy and hopefully building on it with the kind of action, adventure and imagination which we haven't seen before. Also, there's the hope surely shared by all in the STAR WARS fan community, and mentioned by Lucas in the video press statement, that we might finally get new films based on the remaining and elusively mysterious storyline notes for the saga post Classic Trilogy that have been present to tease our minds since the seventies/eighties within George's red ring binder (or will the so far unmade storylines for STAR WARS: UNDERWORLD be adapted into the new post Prequel/post Classic Trilogy eras?).
|Will Mark Hamill and Luke Skywalker return?|
I personally want to see the return of Mark Hamill as older, wiser Jedi General Luke Skywalker at least for one film-Lucas did mention the possibility of this to the actor way back in 1983. I want to see our hero lead the next generation of Skywalkers, and the New Republic, into battle against the Empire or whatever baddies old or new are concocted to fight them. And surely loveable droids Threepio and Artoo-once conceived as the focal point running across all the films- will be along for the ride of their lives, too. Most of all, I just want to see great new STAR WARS adventures, well-made and putting the fun back into movies worthy of the original Lucas name. This is a return to the big screen that must be lovingly and properly thought out, especially with DISNEY's involvement. None of the merchandise phenomenon to follow will mean a damn, or be as successful, if the films and its characters aren't memorable.
I never thought this was going to happen and I personally have missed seeing new STAR WARS on the big screen since EPISODE III triumphantly closed the saga, or so we thought, in May 2005. STAR WARS AFICIONADO will be around in one form or another to cover the return of STAR WARS to the big screen ten years on, and we can't wait! Oh, and George/Kathleen, I'm free to help out if you need me!
The future of STAR WARS and George Lucas: StarWars.com | New Video Series: A Discussion About the Future of Star Wars
Disney to Acquire Lucasfilm - YouTube
Official Blogs linked to the momentus announcement: The Official Star Wars Blog | The Long, Winding, and Shapeshifting Trail to Episodes VII, VIII & IX
The Official Star Wars Blog | On the Brink of the Future
DREAMS AND VISIONS PRESS alumni John Scoleri has set up a blog regarding his thoughts about the new series and its potential. Check it out here: The Sequel Trilogy
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Sunday, 28 October 2012
|Revenge unleashed. Darth Maul and Savage Opress make a lethal combination in Season Four of THE CLONE WARS, out now on Blu-ray and DVD.|
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS – THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON
Created and Executive Produced by George Lucas
Available on Blu-ray (3 disc set) and DVD (5 disc set) from LUCASFILM ANIMATION/WARNER BROTHERS
Reviewed by Scott Weller
After a previous creatively uneven year, the fourth season of THE CLONE WARS, now available on stunning high definition Blu-ray and DVD from LUCASFILM ANIMATION/WARNER BROTHERS, is a more dramatic, more adult and more animation sophisticated confection than we’ve seen before. It may not be as much fun as its genesis years of 2008-2010, as the series shifts into high-gear darkness more akin to the Vader-is-born finale of the live-action Prequels, but it’s a 22 episode evolving and refined trip that’s well worth taking. The sturdy and zippy single episodes of the past are mostly abandoned this time around in order to tell bigger, longer running stories (that also make more out of the shows modest production budget) within five main arcs that really stretch out and diversify the established characters and diverse environs: the spectacular, action-packed epic water war set on the planet of Mon Cala, as Anakin, Padme Amidala and classic series veteran Admiral (“It’s a Trap!”) Ackbar, trying to stop the Separatist armies from gaining a foothold, or should that be flipper?, over the strategically important world’s new young King, the Umbara arc-some of the most dramatic and atmospheric war storytelling yet as the Clone Troopers of the 501st, later Darth Vader’s prime execution squad, led by Captain Rex, take on a deranged Jedi General- the fierce multi-limbed General Pong Krell, the Zygerrian slavers arc, where Anakin must confront the dark nature of his troubled past in order to defeat the return of a once vast slavers empire, and the fun and diverse planet-hopping, Obi-Wan/Bounty Hunters arc, where our noble Jedi with a disdain for the uncivilized must infiltrate an elite and lethal cadre of hired talents, including the nefarious Cad Bane, to stop an assassination plot on Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Last but not least, probably the least successful of the arcs in my honest opinion, is the re-emergence of Darth Maul, which sees the legendary Sith Lord, a fan favourite last seen decapitated in the live- action EPISODE I, now very much alive, totally insane and spider-legged limbed, wanting revenge against both the Jedi and his once Sith Master who seemingly abandoned him: Darth Sidious (voiced by the late Ian Abercrombie, doing double duties with Palpatine). Of all the storylines this year Maul’s was the only one that seemed the most forced and commercialistic, with Filoni and his team successfully, if implausibly, bringing the horny little devil back on Uncle George’s orders, but with no proper, rational explanation given of how he survived being cut in half and how he ended up at the bottom of a junk yard on a far-off world. Overall, fans worldwide have embraced Maul’s return, and now that’s he established back in the show his personal arc will surely get better, but I personally think the series didn’t need him back at all- that it would have gotten along fine enough with just Maul’s lethal and equally powerful and threatening force brother-the Frankenstein’s Monster-esque Savage Opress.
|Padme helps the Mon Calamari fight Separatist invaders in the Water War saga.|
Blu-ray/ DVD trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtxuAre5qLI
Check out STAR WARS AFICIONADO’s Top Five Season Four episodes here: http://starwarsaficionado.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/THE CLONE WARS SEASON FOUR?updated-max=2012-10-23T12:17:00%2B01:00&max-results=20&start=4&by-date=false
Not totally extinct from the series, the single episode stories of Season Four are a mixed bag, with the return of the outlawed Mandalorian Death Watch (and their first female warrior, Bo Katan, voiced by sexy BATTLESTAR GALACTICA veteran Katee Sackhoff) in A Friend in Need, causing Genghis Khan and his hordes type havoc against Ahsoka and her fugitive boyfriend, Lux Bonteri, cyborg general General Grievous gets his ass kicked by the floppy eared Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans in early and controversial episode Shadow Warrior, Asajj Ventress, now an outcast bounty hunter with the death of her people in the creepy and enjoyable Massacre, gets some fun action in and out of a speeding underground bullet train in Bounty (featuring an ill-conceived and truly hypocritical voice performance from Prequel hater Simon Pegg as classic villain Dengar), whilst lovable icon droids Artoo Detoo and See-Threepio partake in some bizarre but enjoyably harmless fantasy in two offbeat episodes clearly designed for the youngsters to delight in, between bouts of intense drama and death. On a sour note, though, still no individual stories for Mace Windu or Yoda. What’s going on???
|Leading from the front. Anakin Skywalker and Captain Rex fight the Umbarans.|
Four key episodes of the season (The Carnage of Krell, Escape from Kadavo, Massacre and Bounty) come in director’s cuts (but watching them its difficult to see what exactly has been added/deleted to them-they come in at pretty much the same running times as the original episodes IMO), though the Maul episodes director’s cuts are noticeable by their absence-saved for the recent US only single disc release of the story as a feature-length entity.
|Threepio and Artoo encounter new life forms in Nomad Droids.|
Best watched in the Blu-ray format, where the hard work of the animation team is really showcased, there’s the kind of classic and inventive fast paced storytelling and action you expect from STAR WARS with the high calibre of its behind the scenes team, led by Supervising Director Dave Filoni and George Lucas as Executive Producer, plus its aforementioned incredible locales (new stands outs like Umbara and Zygerria, as well as return visits to worlds like Naboo, Coruscant and Nal Hutta) beautifully realised with some of the most gorgeous state of the art animation yet seen on TV. Let’s also not forget the great voice acting from a fine series of regulars who have made the famous character roles their own in this specialised medium, particularly the core Jedi trio of Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker, James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan and Ashley Eckstein as Padawan Ahsoka Tano.
|Obi-Wan goes undercover, and bald, to infiltrate a group of bounty hunters in Deception.|
As always the special features accompanying these season sets are still not as comprehensible as fans would like them to be, but there’s enough to enjoy and discover. The Blu-ray and DVDs contain five great behind the scenes video commentaries on the story arcs, from Filoni, a perfect host, enthusiastic STAR WARS fan and splendid choice of overall animation leader for the series, with a core group of behind the scenes veterans including Joel Aron, Killian Plunkett and Keith Kellogg. As well as showing their own personal friendships and humorous banter, the teaming’s provide a wealth of interesting information on how the shows and storylines/characters were developed, what things were planned for but dropped, key things/little Easter eggs to watch out for in the episodes and a verbal sneak peek from a teasing Filoni of things to come in later CLONE WARS episodes (like a desert planet environment involving Captain Wolf and his Clone Troopers).
|The new Darth Maul emerges from the fires of hell!|
On the Zygerrian story, there’s the welcome presence on the viewing couch of writer Henry Gilroy, back on the series to adapt his popular THE CLONE WARS comic from DARK HORSE to animated reality, providing some intriguing anecdotes. For Maul’s return, the flavor is a little different, as the behind the scenes give way to Filoni with writer Katie Lucas, Maul vocal actor Sam Witwer and Obi-Wan actor James Arnold Taylor. Things feel a but less fun here, but some interesting material from Lucas and Witwer is revealed nonetheless about writing for Asajj Ventress and the playing of the new Maul. Fan favourite Taylor clearly enjoys his work on the show and the return of Obi-Wan’s greatest antagonist.
|Major space battle action ensues in Plan of Dissent.|
Not on the DVD, the Blu-ray has further noteworthy material in it’s Jedi Holocron area, delving deep into the behind the scenes canvas of the series, with lots of deleted scene (mostly of the animatic kind (check out a sequence here: http://www.sfx.co.uk/2012/10/18/clone-wars-season-4-deleted-scene/), including a different ending to the episode Escape from Kadavo, plus a few completed animation pieces), animatic and final episode comparisons, 3-D character turnarounds, occasional snippets from the voice cast who talk about their involvement in selected episodes (notably Dee Bradley Baker, who voices the many Clone Troopers) and lots of great conceptual artwork.
|Hiding in plain sight. The evil Darth Sidious as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine in Crisis on Naboo.|
A minor complaint to the Blu-ray release is that the box sets seem to be getting cheaper looking and produced each year. The inside plastic disc holders will prove breakable over time, and should have been in more sturdy, attractive packaging. Apart from an inside sleeve wrap, there’s also no deserving booklet/guide to the series and no Bounty Hunter poster with the UK release. What happened there, LUCASFILM/WARNERS?
STAR WARS AFICIONADO RATING: A solid and spectacular animated hit once more worthy of the STAR WARS reputation. Season Four overall storytelling: 3.5 out of 5. Disc extras 3.5 out of 5
Get STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS – THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR on Blu-ray here:
On DVD: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Star-Wars-Clone-Season-DVD/dp/B0093PKJZ4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1351348266&sr=8-2
THE COMPLETE SEASONS ONE TO FOUR available on Blu-ray here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Star-Wars-Clone-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B005YYCLHW/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1351348277&sr=8-8
On DVD here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Star-Wars-Clone-Season-1-4/dp/B005YYCLEK/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&qid=1351348298&sr=8-18
Friday, 26 October 2012
|Captain Rex and his men face their true enemy in AFICIONADO's favourite Season Four episode: The Carnage of Krell.|
Well, we’ve hit pole position for the Top Five episodes of Season Four of THE CLONE WARS, out now on stunning Blu-ray and DVD from LUCASFILM ANIMATION/WARNER BROTHERS, and after the excellence of The General, which reached yesterday’s second place, the Umbara storyline seemed to stall a little and feel padded out by episode three’s airborne action in Plan of Dissent. Fortunately, events on the doom-laden world came to a striking and shocking climax, which made for a great pay-off for the characters, especially Clone Captain Rex. Full of action, and suspense, as well as a vital turning point for the series overall darker storytelling shift, The Carnage of Krell would prove to be one of the most satisfying milestone episodes not just of Season Four, but also of the whole series.
And here are five reasons why it justifies its success…
|Apocalypse: Umbara. The worst battle yet for the Clones.|
1. Brother versus brother. In one of the story’s most tragic moments, Captain Rex and his team, fighting against an enemy force they’ve been told is masquerading as fellow Clone Troopers, discover the terrible truth behind Krell’s ultimate lies: that they’d been shooting at their own kind all along, their ranks now further decimated and morale sunk lower with the carnage-so much so that Rex drops to his knees clutching his head in shocked sorrow and horror at the events that have transpired around him. Adding to the pain of the events, Rex has lost another friend to the growing ranks of deceased: Waxer, one of the last survivors from the second Battle of Geonosis, who sheds a solitary but audience felt tear at what’s happened: a brilliant little visual moment-the first tear seen in the animated series-from behind the scenes veteran Joe Aron.
|Evil in disguise. General Pong Krell.|
2. General Pong Krell shows his true colours. He’d shown no liking for Clones, considering them inferior and often defective, willing to sacrifice them, often needlessly, in battle. Making matters worse, he orders the unsuccessful execution of two clones for violating his orders despite wining a key victory for their side. But now the cat is out of the bag, as his actions in deliberately turning Clone Troopers against each other reveals him as a wannabe obsessive Sith Lord out to impress Count Dooku with his aggression and thirst for power, to become his disciple in all ways Sith. There have been 20 other individuals in the Jedi Order, who, through their own unique circumstances, have turned their back on their friends and their ways and teachings, but Krell, not afraid to kill or wreak as much chaos and destruction as possible in order to become more powerful with the Dark Side of the Force, is probably one of the most potentially dangerous renegades yet against the already tarnished Republic if he isn’t stopped…
A special nod to Dave Fennoy for his brilliant and memorable voice work as Krell in this episode.
|Krell goes on the rampage on the surface of Umbara.|
3. Clones versus Jedi. Now at breaking point with their ideals and with each other, the Clone Troopers have no choice but to turn against their Jedi leader, as his true threatening nature is revealed. In an earlier time in the animated series, such things wouldn’t have been thought possible for the steadfast soldiers, but thing’s change, resulting in a chain of events for our heroes and the audiences that will never be quite the same again…
In one of the season and the show’s most memorable battles, the four-armed Jedi berserker’s bulking frame, taunting tongue and multiple lightsaber wielding might prove too much for a Jedi opponent let alone a squad of psyche damaged Clone Troopers, but we’re talking about the 501st here, and they mean business, as they take on their brutal ex-leader in fierce blaster and hand-to-hand battle. In a sequence directed with whirling dervish skill by Kyle Dunlevy, it’s a bone cracking, back breaking experience for our heroes, led by Captain Rex, who only just subdue Krell, not through brute strength nor overwhelming firepower, which they ultimately just don’t have enough of to defeat him, but by using their brains to trap him in an all-enveloping cactus plant creature-a natural inhabitant of Umbara’s darkened climes.
|Krell: too dangerous to be left alive...|
4. Death sentence. Another one of the series finest moments as the cracks go ever wider in the psyche of the Clone Troopers on Umbara, already physically fatigued and brutalized by Krell as both a leader and opponent and by the technological might of their Shadowmen combatants. Now that they’re on Umbara, in a situation where they known that their once prized captured airfield might soon fall back into enemy hands, and that the incarcerated Krell, too dangerous to take with them, could soon become a thriving Separatist ally, Rex and the surviving clones, already feeling seething hatred for their once leader, become vigilantes and decide that the disruptive ex-Jedi is just too dangerous to be allowed to fall into enemy hands, and that he must be executed.
As Captain Rex enters Krell’s cell and levels this blaster to shoot him, there’s a moment-a genuine dramatic moment where we’re not watching animation, where it all feels dramatically alive- when we actually think, thanks to the previous established events of EPISODE III’s Order 66, that he might, just might, actually cold bloodedly execute the Jedi. Fortunately for him and us the viewers, we know that Rex is above all this, at least for now, as the final killing blow comes not from his blaster but that of Krell’s once loyal Clone Trooper supporter, Dogma, disgusted at the way his almost blind trust and dedication was so betrayed by the Jedi.
We are relieved that Rex didn’t pull the trigger (although in the behind the scenes visual commentary, Dave Filoni reveals that, in the original version of the script, he actually did!) but also repelled by the overall events that have transpired on Umbara, a place of nightmares that I don’t think will go away any time soon from the memories of those Clone Soldiers that survived Krell’s traitorous acts. It certainly affects Rex further, showing a brutally efficient killing streak in the following Zygerrian slavers plot, as he gets justifiable revenge against the evil prison warden on the Kadavo mining station for the savage treatment shown towards himself, Obi-Wan and the Togrutan slaves.
|What's next for Rex and the 501st?|
5. Continuing darkness. The Carnage of Krell is probably the closest the show has yet come to full-on gritty adult storytelling, with writer Matt Michnovetz delivering the goods yet again with this storyline. We can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to the table next for our Clone Trooper heroes, before their own fall from grace with Order 66. Just how much the events on Umbara will further influence and develop the psyche damaged Rex and the 501st’s decision making in battle, and test their dedication to the Jedi who they have sworn allegiance too, should prove very interesting to witness as the shows remaining seasons build up…
A director’s cut of The Carnage of Krell can be found on THE CLONE WARS: THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR Blu-ray and DVD boxsets.
Get STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SEASN FOUR on Blu-ray or DVD here:
Star Wars Clone Wars - Season 4 Blu-ray Region Free: Amazon.co.uk: Film & TV
Star Wars Clone Wars - Season 4 Blu-ray Region Free: Amazon.co.uk: Film & TV
Thursday, 25 October 2012
|Things take a turn for the worse for our 501st heroes in The General.|
Reaching Number Two in our top five ranked episodes of Season Four, and the series is getting ever more darker, not just with our main characters but within the environs they now fight in, as the Umbara Saga makes its mark on the Clone Troopers, and especially stoic Captain Rex, as we reach the decisive and destructive imagery and powerful storytelling of episode eight: The General.
And here's five reasons why it makes the grade.
1. Dissension amongst the ranks. Matt Michnovetz has a nice writing tap into the psyches and personalities of the Clone Troopers, playing to their character strengths and action abilities. He’s the series BAND OF BROTHERS writer for STAR WARS when it comes to crafting memorable stories and strong dialogue for the various Clone Soldiers. He also seems to delight putting them in the most horrific and challenging climes yet. The Citadel was bad enough for them in Season Three, but Umbara is the closest they get to Hell yet, as all of their training and bravery is put to the most severe of tests by the fierce and arrogant brutality of Jedi General Pong Krell!
The first signs of future faceless Order 66 brutality are shown here in one clever little sequence, as a Clone emotionlessly guns down both an injured enemy combatant and one of the planets flying beasties.
2. Apocalypse Now. Things get very down and very dirty within the misty and darkened world of Umbara, courtesy of old-time Lucas buddy and all-round talent Walter Murch, who brings all his film-making talents in editing, direction and sound design to take viewers right up close and personal into the ground battles between the Clone Troopers and the Shadowmen, who unleash against the Republic combat veterans the most intriguing and awesome bio-mechanical weapons and technology yet seen in the series, including ground breaking centipede tanks and lethal airships. This is one episode that really does needs to be seen on a big screen via digital projector.
3. Captain Rex stands firm. With Anakin not around to rally the troops and lead them from the front onwards, or push them through when things are at crisis point, it's up to bold and resilient Captain Rex to keep the line of bravery and fortitude in combat against an overwhelmingly superior enemy in very hostile terrain. He’s fighting one enemy force but finds conflict from within his own side, from the strict discipline of steadfast Jedi General Pong Krell and the dissatisfaction his leadership brings to the other clones under his comrade, not ready to die so senselessly or so quickly as cannon fodder. One of the episodes final moments, as Rex reigns in his anger holding his clenched fist ever tighter from Krell, is one of the series finest moments and means a lot to viewers, as well as being an intriguing subtle prelude to the horror to come of Order 66.
4. Umbara. One of the most intriguing new planets so far seen in the series, looking organically birthed from some armageddon prophecy of the ancient Vikings, Umbara is an exciting new addition to the STAR WARS universe that I wished had made if into one of the later heading towards oblivion Prequel movies, looking absolutely stunning on Blu-ray, what with its truly alien hills and gorges, covered in phosphorescence reds and pale blues standing out amongst the darkness, helped by some great sound design work from series regulars David Accord and Matthew Wood.
5. General Pong Krell. Recognised as a strong Jedi tactician, though all too willing to sacrifice vast amounts of Clone Soldiers (coldly referring to them as numbers than with names: fan forums thinking that the Jedi was avoiding unwelcome attachment in battle-yeah, right!), often using them as needless cannon fodder in order to get the military work done, General Pong Krell’s presence in the key battle to take control of Umbara proves unwelcome to Captain Rex, and, most importantly, to the soldiers under their command. Unlike any other Jedi we have encountered before, Krell’s oath to the Order-of swearing to uphold life wherever possible- seems to have disappeared, his duties in the Clone Wars seemingly abandoned of such obligation. The fire of conflict burns brightly in his cruel eyes, as Krell becomes an intriguing and intimidating new antagonist to the series, his ultimate destiny path given subtle hints in this story. He may be of the same Besalisk alien species as lovable Dexter Jettster, ann brilliantly realised by the series animation team, but that’s where the similarities end.
Get hold of THE CLONE WARS Season Four on DVD and Blu-ray here: