Star Wars is kind of my thing. I have been a fan for forty-one years now. It was my thing since I first saw the film on a rainy afternoon on Cape Cod in June, 1977. Our family was camping (for the first time ever), and it rained for three days straight. By the third day, with three wet, crazy kids under ten, my folks decided we were going to a movie to get out of the rain, whatever was playing. What was playing was a thing called Star Wars, and 121 minutes later, I had found my new religion. I saw it seven more times that year. It was the first film I saw more than once. (VCRs weren’t a thing yet.) I saw all of the prequels multiple times in the cinema, even Phantom Menace. My siblings saw the movies, but it was never their thing. They’d seen the film when it came out and said, “It was all right,” and moved on with their lives. I obsessed.
While applauded by critics, the bold and subversive nature of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, directed Looper’s Rian Johnson, has left the Star Wars fanbase fractured between those who absolutely loved the film, those who absolutely hated it, and a few left in between. Easily the most divisive Star Wars film so far, The Last Jedi, perhaps, was destined to be controversial given the monumental task set forth, such as the return of the iconic character of Luke Skywalker to the franchise (Mark Hamill appeared in a mere cameo at the end of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but audiences truly spend time with their original trilogy hero in this film.) and the final on-screen appearance of the late Carrie Fisher (a.k.a. Princess Leia), for example. Perhaps nothing could truly be as purely satisfying as what our own imaginations have whispered to us regarding what we might witness in that darkened theater. And, while I disagree with many of his choices, director Rian Johnson is someone who took the story in a distinct direction and changed the characters and the mythology in lasting ways going forward. Fans cannot be expected to love every choice made and story told, but we must acknowledge that for Star Wars to survive and grow with new generations, it must evolve, be given room to change, and provided the opportunity to take chances and even fail at times.
In the year and a half since Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States (and even prior, during his presidential campaign), fascism and racism under a variety of monikers (alt-right, neo-Nazism, neo-fascism, white supremacy, and so on) have become emboldened in America. While politicians and news agencies have either been slow or negligent in their response to this crisis, pop culture has taken up the mantle to criticize the Trump administration and the ensuing rise of the extreme right wing, from Saturday Night Live skits to promotional materials for a Purge prequel to comedians at correspondence dinners.
The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, often referred to simply as “the Eisners,” are generally accepted as the most prestigious recognition one can receive in the comic book field. The awards are named in honor of comic book pioneer Will Eisner, the creator of The Spirit and the man who helped to popularize the term "graphic novel," and span over two dozen categories. (Those wishing to learn more about the meaning and importance of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards should check out our previous article on the awards.)
Hi gang! It’s been two years. Two whole years since HBO’s Westworld showed up to delight, confuse, and intrigue. So, the sophomore year started this past Sunday evening with a lengthy “Previously on…” recap of the first season, which is good, because there is a lot you need to remember from freshman year in order to make sophomore year work.
There's really no decent reason or excuse as to why, in the age of the Hollywood cinematic universes, fans of the Alien franchise don't have an ACU (or Alien Cinematic Universe) to call our own. If the rumor mill is to be believed, the blame may lie at the feet of Ridley Scott and his supposed decree that no one else play in the Alien sandbox until he's done with it. No matter who's to blame, it's a glaring miscalculation in regards to a series that's already connected to the Predator film series through Paul W.S. Anderson's forgettable AvP: Alien vs. Predator picture. Much like LucasFilm's decision with Star Wars to clean up the cannon and mine the franchise's extended universe for diamonds in the rough, Twentieth Century Fox could be building an interstellar epic story of horror and sci-fi brilliance with some of the best creative talent available.
The 1979 story of Alien begins with a quote from Joseph Conrad. Not the mining ship Nostromo, named after one of Conrad’s novels, but the other direct quote, from his Heart of Darkness: “We live as we dream – alone.” Then, we see the unmistakable Alien title font: an H. R. Giger-inspired melange of indeterminate limbs, gnashing teeth, curvaceous techno-pipes, and shadowy apertures. This is followed by the omniscient narrator offering in fragments that “It starts with a ship… The ship… And the silence… Then… …The silence ends…” The USCSS Nostromo whirs into life through a series of repetitive clicks and concussive binary metres; the fateful crew wake up for the last time. Chattering, clattering, and complaining about full shares.
During the final climactic moments of Alien 3, the franchise’s hero, Ellen Ripley (tragically impregnated with the larva of an alien Queen) is approached by a mysterious figure, offering to surgically remedy her fatal condition and give her a chance at the peaceful domestic life she never had. This individual, referred to simply as “Bishop II” in the film’s credits, is portrayed by the enigmatic Lance Henriksen (who also plays the role of the heroic android Bishop). The finale of Alien 3 gives little explanation as to the true nature of Bishop II, allowing, in a massively cinematic fashion, for those questions to be pushed aside in service to Ripley’s final, ultimate sacrifice: the taking of her own life in order to eliminate the alien threat inside her and thwart the Company’s attempts to acquire the species.
Italian genre cinema has a rich history built on imitating other successful films. In the heyday of Italian cinema during the late '50s and '60s, the studio production machine of Italy cranked out cycles upon cycles of derivative films: Hercules (1958, Pietro Francisci) setting off a wave of sword and sandal films; Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton) starting the Eurospy trend; the spaghetti westerns were based off the success of Leone’s work; and so on. With the advent of the big budget, summer blockbuster films from America in the '70s, such as Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg), the Italians followed suit as best as possible: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg) led to Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982, Antonio Margheriti); Jaws became The Last Shark (Enzo G. Castellari); Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter) became 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982, Enzo G. Castellari); and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985, George P. Cosmatos) became Strike Commando (1987, Bruno Mattei). If there was a blockbuster or a hit film, the Italians had an answer for it.