‘Rogue One’ Review: Waiting for Quadinaros

I tried to push off my full review for the latest installment in the hopefully never-ending Star Wars saga. Everyone’s posting stupid shit about this movie, and while most people have seen it, I, personally know several who haven’t. So–I held off. Until now.

You guys are no doubt aware of my feelings for Star Wars at this point; and my Hamas-level of intolerance for those who dare insult the franchise. It is part of my brutal Star Wars fundamentalism that, if one must insult the sacred, it must be done with love, humility and a thousands prayers of contrition.

Even if you’re going to shit on the prequels…or even those stupid fucking Ewok movies…you do so with reverence, or you must be exiled to the Upside Down.

That being said, Rogue One was a fucking stomach-churning bore.

Just kidding. It was likely one of the best Star Wars films ever made. The central criticism of the film, whether people realize it or not, is that it can’t possibly function on its own. But after A New Hope, no Star Wars film can. Out of a total of 8-fucking-movies thus far, only a single fucking one can possibly function as a stand-alone story. You can argue Empire Strikes Back all you want, but there would be no shock in Vader being Luke’s father if he hadn’t been set in carbonite as Luke’s nemesis in A New Hope.

So, no–for the foreseeable future–you will never have a Star Wars film that works independent of any others. And, honestly, Rogue One and The Force Awakens may be the closest you’re ever going to get.

Before I go into a breakdown, I’ll get into a few nitpicky elements that took me out of the film a bit.

First, I would’ve loved to see more elements from the prequels and other media content (like Rebels) cross over. We got Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa and Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma–but god dammit, that’s not enough. I know it sounds cringe, but certain characters have an important role in the story and are tossed out in favor of populism. Where’s Jar Jar Binks? Where’s Baron Papanoida? Where’s Ben Quadinaros?

The greatest tie-in surprise of all was when “General Syndulla” is called to the Rebel Alliance’s Command Room for an off-screen meeting in Rogue One. For those special (autistic) fans, General Syndulla will be immediately familiar as Hera Syndulla of Rebels. Her ship, the Ghost, makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance as part of the fleet in the Battle of Scarif.


Second, the sheer level of importance the film makers put on making the Empire a bunch of brooding, crusty, old white men, while the Rebellion was a vibrant rag-tag group of multi-racial, multi-cultural war dogs and magic men was abundantly clear. Every other character shown on screen when the “Good Guys” were around seemingly had to be an obviously different race.

It wasn’t the inclusiveness that bugged me. In fact, Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook was one of my favorite characters in the film. It was the deliberate nature of the film’s writers and director to “fix” something that Star Wars had gotten “wrong” and the deliberate nature of this strategy that bugged my shit.

Not to mention that the entire lead-up to the film was plagued with #DumpStarWars trolls coming from the Alt-Right and retarded shit like “The Empire are White Supremacists, repost this Rebel Alliance symbol with a safety pin to fight hate #NeverTrump” coming from the film’s writers. It was enough to get worried.

But then you realize that the politics of the writers is almost always scorched out of films like this by the powers that be in order to create universal appeal. Plus, you can’t write a war film that is 75% guided by motivational speeches without pulling from some of the best nationalist speeches of all time. For example…

Jyn Erso rallies her fellow rebels with: “You give in to an empire this evil, and you condemn the entire galaxy to an eternity of darkness.”

The speech is reminiscent of, “We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness,” a speech given in 1967 by Ronald Reagan.

And lastly, I don’t think Donnie Yen (Yen Ji-dan) is a capable English actor. He’s a fine martial artist and a very capable director and choreographer–but as an actor, his delivery can not possibly measure up to the rest of the cast. It’s obvious they used him for his fight-dancing skills and not for his acting talent, and that’s a shame.

Let’s get to the movie!

Rogue One begins with a relatively family friendly version of the opening scene from Inglourious BasterdsIt’s tense and brutal, and unexpected in a Star Wars film. We also get our first look at Saw Gerrera, played straight-bad-ass by madman Forest Whitaker. The only mention I’ve seen of Forest Whitaker’s performance in this film at length has been via some goofball from The New Yorker, comparing Whitaker’s performance to that of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvetthe most unhinged and ridiculous comparison ever.

We move jump around a lot in the first hour of the film, setting up various story elements and different characters who will eventually come together as a rag-tag group of would-be rebels. Many people are suggesting that the first hour of the film is was awful, leading up to a fantastic–if not, ultimately predictable–finale. But if you didn’t like the first hour of a two-hour film, you most likely just didn’t like the movie. So as I said in my first Star Wars article this week, these people should almost certainly just quit pretending to like the franchise and allow us to enjoy it.

The first half of the film was very similar to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy in that we were treated to a glimpse of various characters in varying intergalactic locations who were all then grouped together when they are all held captive.

The hero of the Rebellion, and arguably the “first Rebel” is Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. His character dates back to the Clone Wars series and he has recently come back into the Star Wars story through Rebels. His underground not-so-subtle terrorist organization against the Empire has been causing nothing but headaches for the organized Rebellion’s concentrated, but lackluster efforts to take on opposing battalions. But he gets pragmatic results: more dead Stormtroopers.

Rogue One generates its ensemble cast at a modest pace. The only one we really know anything about at all is Jyn, and I’m not entirely convinced it was meant to be that way. Reshoots and scenes from the trailer conspicuously missing from the actual film paint a very different picture of the fate of our crew. U-Wing Pilot Cassian Andor is a “just following orders” type who has two major passions: the Rebellion and his buddy, a reprogrammed Imperial Droid called K-2SO. Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe are an inexplicable duo of a road-warrior type with a seemingly endless supply of ammunition, and a blink martial artist Whills monk who can’t shut up about the Force. The implication here is that, as fellow travelers, they have kept one another alive for a very long time…but writers who want to install their own self-deluded ego into the characters desperately want them to be homosexual.

And last but not least, the former Imperial Cargo Pilot gone rogue, Bodhi Rook, whose capture by Saw Gerrera’s gang sets the entire story in motion.

The story, of course, is the drawn-out tale of the series of fights that led to the events described in the opening crawl of Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope. And they don’t let you forget it. Almost every word out of a rebel’s mouth is “hope.”

While all of this is going on throughout the first half of the film, some familiar characters are trying to put the ambitious Death Star out of Beta. We got Darth Vader running around like Skeletor with his own castle and shit; and you’ve got Peter Cushing returning from the grave to reprise his role as Grand Moff TarkinSome are claiming to have a massive moral issue with this character being utilized again; but it’s clearly just grandstanding nonsense. Haunting, though his appearance is, it is abundantly clear that it is supposed to be. While there is a bit of “uncanny valley” aspects to his facial movements, and the later (brief) appearance of Princess Leia, we can easily forgive it on a story basis. It’s hard to have a story about the construction and implementation of the Death Star without Tarkin.

The movie moves at a good pace, and there is lots of fun to be had with the appearance of new creatures, and some old familiar ones in the form of a perhaps-vacationing, or if you want to get real nerdy–hiding in Jedha creating a series of Decraniated servants, Dr. Cornelius Evazan & Ponda BabaEverything feels very Star Wars. And that’s not something that necessarily goes without saying. While The Force Awakens created a familiar sandbox with a sleek new design, Rogue One truly goes back to that 1977 world; a world that you didn’t necessarily have to leave behind if you got on board with Star WarsRebels.

The film’s finale is almost certainly the most-talked-about moment. Darth Vader comes to life, hacking, slashing, force-pushing and slamming his way through the corridors of a Rebel Ship (Tantive IV). We’re taken, essentially, right up to the opening credits of A New HopeThis is undoubtedly the icing on the cake of a plethora of brilliantly-executed action scenes that brought a much-needed recognizable war back to Star Wars. The battles of the prequels were merely place-holders for the multiple fights we’re treated to here.

And for anyone who thought that Revenge of the Sith was lacking in its effectiveness as a lead-up to A New Hope, you now have a much safer, and much more agreeable buffer zone. But don’t sleep on Revenge of the Sith. Ever.



Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault: Man of the House

In the 95th year of the 20th Century, something extraordinary happened. Valeri Polyakov broke the record for days spent in space on the Mir Space Station at 366. Subsequently, the TV series Star Trek: Voyager premiered on UPN. And while the opening statements began for the O.J. Simpson trial, and America was wrapped up in race-baiting here on Earth, Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. became the second African American in fucking space; a feat that is decidedly accomplished by not trying to decapitate your ex-wife. In an unrelated story, Scott Amedure confessed his crush on his heterosexual acquaintance on The Jenny Jones Show only to turn up murdered by that same acquaintance days later.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Internet search engines were getting off the ground, business was booming in the good ol’ US of A; and Canadian filmmaker James Orr (writer of Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit) was about to release his magnum opus: Man of the House.

Man of the House continues Disney’s love affair with Jonathan Taylor Thomas which began with 1993’s The Lion KingIt also existed during a period in history where Disney could not procure the licensing rights for songs by C+C Music Factory or Enigma to release on a soundtrack for Man of the House. As opposed to now, where Disney owns every major franchise ever created.

This is the description of the film on Disney’s website, where they are also attempting to sell DVD copies of the film for $12.95.

troll“Funnyman Chevy Chase is Jack, a guy who’s found the woman of his dreams. Too bad her stubborn 11-year-old son, Ben thinks Jack is a geek! As a test, Ben coaxes Jack into joining the YMCA Indian Guides. Chaos ensues as Jack struggles to prove to Ben that he’s not totally uncool! From rain dancing to building a teepee, Jack will do anything to win Ben’s approval – and his mom’s affection!”

So, other than being right up Elizabeth Warren’s alley with the rain dancing and teepee-building, this film has a lot to offer; namely “funnyman” Chevy Chase and his love interest, Farrah FawcettFawcett does what she did best–exist and be remembered for not talking.

Like most Disney films around this time, Man of the House relies on two, seemingly unrelated, tropes: the child who needs to be taught an adult lesson, and the adult who inadvertently brings a child into a serious real-world life-and-death situation involving murderers. Practically every Disney film in this era mimicked some kind of already-existing action/drama adult franchise, and then forced in some subplot about a bratty Bart Simpson type kid.

The film centers around the relationship between Chevy Chase’s hot-shot attorney character, Jack, and JTT’s “no man will ever be good enough for my mom since my deadbeat dad skipped town” archetype, Ben. Ben hopes that he can keep his mother single forever, and I guess, one day live off her fixed income and rotting corpse. But Jack falls in love with her. You see, he’s the lawyer and she’s court sketch artist (a job that actually still exists)…so the fireworks are inevitable.

Man of the House sets the tension early by having Jack make the mistake of telling off the gangster son of a man he’s just sentenced to 50 years in prison. The gangster, Joey Renda, swears vengeance on Jack…which becomes a plot device that is completely forgotten by the time it becomes relevant again in the film.

TROLL.jpg“I’m 11. I hate girls,” is a line of dialogue that actually comes out of JTT’s character’s mouth when Chevy Chase attempts to make nervous small talk about relationships. It’s about this time that it becomes clear that Ben is James Orr’s “Mary Sue”…as well as obscenely evident that Orr has no idea how to write dialogue for an 11-year old. I’d imagine James Orr’s thought process for writing this character was “What would James Orr say if James Orr were trapped inside the supple, smooth young body of an 11-year old Jonathan Taylor Thomas? Oh, I know–I’m 11. I hate girls.

Another Disney trope that crops up a lot during this era is the non-threatening “villain” in the adult. Because there are real threats in the world (the gangsters who won’t hesitate to kill children or adults), the villain in the child’s eyes has to be…well…less villainous; that is to say–not actually a bad guy in any way, shape or form. Jack does literally nothing wrong aside from loving a woman enough to want to move in with her, despite her fucking dickhead 11-year old son. He sings in the shower and accidentally calls Ben “Benny” a few times…which can be vexing, but in no way makes him a bad guy.

As a kid, I remember seeing Jack as a fucking tool. But, it’s very clear from an adult perspective, that he’s just a potential step-dad doing his absolute best.

giphy (21).gifBen essentially treats Jack with the domestic equivalency of how Kevin McCallister treats the Wet Bandits; and with the same sadistic pleasure as Macaulay Culkin destroys lives in The Good Son. For no reason other than some slight inconveniences and a possible oedipal complex.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas fits in eerily well in Southern California where the movie is filmed, despite being from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; a fact that is a total shell-shock when it’s revealed that this is all taking place in Seattle, almost an hour into the film! Ben  scolds Jack for throwing trash in the inappropriate recycling receptacles and actually complains about being made a huge breakfast in the morning.

“I’m 11. I hate eggs and bacon,” is something that Ben doesn’t actually say, but he might as well have. He says it in a much more whiny California (sorry…Seattle) way:

Does the word cholesterol mean anything to you?” and “Jack’s trying to kill us with animal fat.”

Ben’s mother explains that she and Ben usually just have granola and yogurt for breakfast. Which, in any other movie, would expose Ben as a little pussy who gets his shit pushed in at school. But not so fast! This is Man of the House! Ben is too cool for school. He’s friends with the only black kid in the school; and winds up rescuing squirrely runt, Norman Bronski, from a locker (with the combination 38-24-36, oh James Orr, you perv, you). That’s a joke for the parents.

Norman is a YMCA Indian Guide, which is a Boy Scouts rip-off that furthers the plot device because of its nature of being a “Father and Son” activity. This is also where the story picks up–and gets Disneyracist; which is to say “funny.” At this point we meet the other Indian Guide dads: Art LaFleurDavid Shiner, and Jason Sudeikis’ uncle–George WendtWe get heavy into the bonding rituals, which are just standard and decidedly uninspired camping and party games. Ben actively tries to humiliate Jack, and winds up costing him a huge case at work, and his relationship with Ben’s Mom. Understandably, this makes Jack want to quit the Indian Guides; but he’s determined to fix things and make it work, for the benefit of his relationship, and to make Ben happy.

It’s at this point that Jack finds out that Ben’s whole crybaby schtick was bullshit, and he decides to get revenge…well…Dad Revenge, that is, by taking the Indian Guides super seriously just to spite an 11-year old. Jack enlists the help of an Indian Chief he happens to be friends with (because who isn’t?) and the “revenge” turns out to be a montage of positive training, spirituality, and bonding for the father and son teams of the Indian Guides. Who knew? I figured all they’d have to do would be go protest an oil pipeline or cry over some litter.

The boys learn useful skills for a possible showdown toward the end of the movie, which include–and are also limited to–tomahawk-chucking, archery and doing a rain dance.

And that showdown can’t come soon enough! The third act kicks off with a bang as Jack is running late for the big canoeing trip, when he is suddenly attacked by the mafia guys in a truck who have also, evidently, cut the brakes on his car…to make his death look like an accident. I’ll remind you, this is a Disney movie for children.

Chevy Chase doesn’t die. But his SUV winds up crashing into the Puget Sound (in Seattle). Meanwhile, back at the Indian Guides, the gang waits for poor Jack for exactly 47 minutes before leaving him, and Ben for dead. As the Indian Guides leave, we get an emotional flashback to when Ben’s actual father left him forever, showing JTT’s true range as a child star.

trollBefore finding out from his boss that his “car accident” was no accident, Jack promises Ben that he definitely won’t miss the next Indian Guide camping trip; a promise he intends to keep…even if it means risking his job…or his life. Jack’s boss wants him to work in Portland temporarily until they can find out who’s trying to murder him, but Jack says “NO WAY JOSE!” What’s more important than his life? Right now, a fucking camping trip with fucking Ben.

Side note: this movie would have bee 100x better if Jack found out that Ben cut his brakes. But we don’t get that lucky in life, do we?

So, Jack and Ben get to go on that camping trip, with the rest of the Indian Guides. But guess who shows up to ruin the fun? Fucking A–The Mafia Guys! How did they know?!

It winds up being Ben who happens upon the Mafia Guys, who inexplicably spend the night in the woods despite giving up on their plan to make Jack’s death look like an accident after one try. Now, it seems, they just plan to shoot him, and, if necessary, murder everyone else on the camping trip, too. Uh oh!

trollJack tells everyone, including Ben to head back to the Ranger’s station to get help while he leads the men with guns up a mountain. Solid plan. Of course, Ben and the adults want to stay and help–even suggesting the kids fight the men with guns. Looks like the father/son bonding and rain dancing went to their heads.

It doesn’t matter, though. After merely seconds, Jack finds himself fucked and trapped under a log. His master plan foiled. Luckily, Ben is a piece of shit who doesn’t listen and has no sense of self-preservation, because he’s back to help out his would-be step-dad get out from under that log using nothing but pure JTT strength.

As it turns out, Ben’s Indian mentor, Red Crow, taught him one last lesson–if you get in trouble, just listen to nature. And that’s when Ben and Jack discover their secret weapon: BEEEEES!

giphy (21).gifAfter sharpening their arrows and axes, Little Wing and Squatting Dog (that’s Ben and Jack, Indian-style) retrieve a beehive, which Ben does with zen-like nature powers, despite only having ever met an actual Indian once. They make easy work of two of the three bad guys, but are then caught at gunpoint by the third and forced into an abandoned mine(?) which is then loaded with cartoon-style red-wrapped TNT.

The boys attempt to reverse-psychology their way out of this mess, but it doesn’t pan out. Only one option left: have your father and son lead get blown to bits in a mine shaft. WAIT–what’s that?! Holy fucking shit–it’s the other Indian Guides, and they manage to play-fight their way around getting shot by three adults with guns to save the day! Jack knocks out the main mafia guy, impresses Ben, and everything is back to normal.

By the end of the movie, we’re left to assume that Jack and Ben are now solidified as father and son, and Farrah Fawcett, who serves no real purpose in the film at all, is not dead of anal cancer.

Man of the House was one of my favorite mid-90’s Disney fuck-arounds. It gave us TV tropes like the classic Indian chant “HeyHowAreYa?” and the last watchable Chevy Chase feature film up-to-and-including Vegas Vacation. There’s so much to love here, with treats in store at every turn.

You get Chevy Chase’s dry, humorless acting, attempting to make the best of the situation, while being impossible to work with. You’ve got Richard Portnow, the stereotypical Italian bad guy in everything you’ve ever, or will ever see. You’ve got Home Improvement’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas, playing cool as you watch him slowly age out of being Teen Beat Disney-cute. And finally, you’ve got the constant and not-at-all subtle belittling of the proud culture of some ridiculous Native American tribe, of which this film is almost certainly a constant and unyielding thorn in the side.

And that makes all 90-minutes worth it to the moon and back.




Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault: BLANK CHECK

6Released in February of 1994 amidst the establishment of NAFTA, the violent clubbing of Nancy Kerrigan, the end of the Clinton/Yeltsin nuclear arms chicken-match, Lorena Bobbitt being found not guilty by reason of insanity for chopping off her husband’s cock, and still no sign of Israeli/Palestinian peace, Walt Disney Pictures’ Blank Check was released in theaters making over $30M on a $13M budget, which ain’t too fuckin’ shabby.

Directed by Rupert Wainwright, who you may know from films like number one box office smash Stigmata and one of the worst movies of the 2000’s, The FogBlank Check tells the story of 12-year old Preston Waters and a once-in-a-lifetime chance that all kids dream of!

Preston lives a tragic upper-middle class life with his in-tact loving family, even though his two older brothers are sometimes kinda mean to him. His father (played brilliantly by everyone’s 90’s Dad, James Rebhorn) doesn’t spoil him, because he wants his son to learn the value of a dollar, just like he did when he was young. But fuck that guy, am I right? Let’s get Preston some paper!

After realizing that some of his little ginger piece of shit friends have more money than he does, Preston gets borderline suicidal. That is, until he gets hit by a car driven by a bank robber who had stolen $1M!

Carl, the Bank Robber, panics when the police arrive and throws Preston a “blank check” to pay for his bike, which Computer Whiz Kid Preston makes into a one-million dollar check made out to CASH!

1Things get interesting when Preston runs afoul of the Jewie (read: evil Michael Lerner) Bank Owner, and a Disney Black Guy (read: Wild Thing Tone Loc) working for Carl…the bank robber. Preston manages to sneak the 1 Million Dollars out of the naive hands of the Bank Jew and proceeds to inadvertently rub his new wealth in Carl’s face by out-bidding him for a Castle. Yes, a castle. What kid doesn’t want his own castle. Now who’s got one? Our hero, Preston. That’s who. You know who owns that castle in real lifeSpy Kids-guy Robert Rodriguez. Yeah. Suck it.

1Preston lets the $1M go to his head a bit, using a Macintosh Computer Voice, cleverly nick-named Mr. Macintosh, as his cover. He never gains more money, mind you. This isn’t Catch Me If You Can where he’s writing fake blank checks all over town. He manages to spend exactly $999,667.83 on a private limo-driver/constant babysitter/creepy adult playmate Henry (expertly portrayed by the now-dead Rick Ducommun), private go-cart track, pool with slide extending from the Castle window, an expensive new wardrobe, and fancy dinner dates with the adult woman he’s trying to fuck/undercover FBI Agent Shay Stanley (played beautifully by my childhood crush fulfilled by this almost-sexual movie fantasy, now-paralyzed Karen Duffy).

It all works out, though. The bad guys go to jail, taking the bullet for all of Preston’s financial crimes; Preston learns an important lesson about being a kid and how money isn’t everything; and he gets a kiss from adult woman FBI Agent Shay, finally achieving his first boy-boner.

1In conclusion, so what if Preston’s stated goals in the movie were essentially “murder my brothers…get a girlfriend,” objectively making him a psychopath? So what if the idea that $1M is the same as “infinite money” is a plot device that only a child could come up with? So what that, adjusted for inflation, $1M in 1994 money is $1.6M today, and the CASTLE that Preston buys was sold to Robert Rodriguez 10 years after this film was made for $1.8 million?! So what that the main thing that drives Preston’s week of living the “good life” is a poorly conceived plan to fuck an older woman? So what if Blank Check doesn’t hold up to any plot scrutiny whatsoever? This movie rules the fucking school!

(10 outta 10)