Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

“She is not who you think she is.”

Whether or not you have even seen a Star Wars movie, watched a cartoon, played a video game, read a comic, witnessed the take over of May the 4th, or consumed one of the many novels in Star Wars lore, I’d be willing to bet you have at least heard of it in some form or another, whether you realized it or not. Star Wars has become part of pop culture, and so, I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say that generations have been waiting to for this moment—for this final movie.

Let’s start with a little background. This generation’s Star Wars final trilogy began with J.J. Abram’s The Force Awakens. The movie is set 30 years after after the fall of the galactic empire. While the empire has been destroyed, a new order, called The First Order, arises from its ashes lead by a Sith apprentice named Kylo Ren. When a rouge storm trooper gives into his sense of right and wrong and defects from The First Order, he steals a tie fighter and crashes on a planet called Jakku, only to discover Rey, a force sensitive that seems to have mystrious ties to the Skywalkers. They band together with Han Solo, Chewbaca, the Resistance, and others to search for the missing Luke Skywalker with the hope that the last Jedi can help them overthrow evil again, and restore peace and balance to the galaxy.

The subsequent movie, The Last Jedi, revolves around Rey and her growing desire to learn the ways of the Force at the hand of Luke Skywalker.  Luke has his reasons for resisting the call to teach Rey, and these are revealed as the plot unfolds. We learn of a connection he has with Kylo Ren, and how that ties all of them together. We also learn how this influenced Luke’s decision to go into hiding, and to renounce the way of the Jedi. In the end, the events of The Last Jedi begin to weave a connection between Rey and Kylo Ren that would ultimately be resolved in final movie, The Rise of Skywalker.

 

My son and I saw the latest movie on opening day, and we really enjoyed it.

At a high level, The Rise of Skywalker is as epic as movies come. It’s big, loud, action-packed, colorful and explosive, and sensitive and heart wrenching, too. It was almost everything we could have expected—and it needed to be–given the endless possibilities that could wrap up this series, and the generations of fans that have had years to dream big, and to let their expectations wander the galaxy. J.J. Abrams needed to deliver once again, and in our opinion, he did.

The Rise of Skywalker is rooted in the news that The Emperor Palpatine, who has been long been presumed dead all these years, is in fact, alive and well, and sending threats across the galaxy. 

Kylo Ren, in search of Palpatine, the only true challenger to his new-found rule and power, finds an old Sith wayfinder, which should lead him to the emperor’s very secret location so he can destroy him once and for all. 

The Rise of Skywalker story line is very busy as there are so many relationships, plot threads, and events to weave together and tie off.  It really takes you for a ride.

You’ll visit familiar places like Mustafar, and encounter new places as well, like Kef Bir, but even creepy places like Kijimi, and Exegol, Palpatine’s hidden Sith planet. You’ll meet old friends like Lando Calrissian, and hear from a ton of favorite characters through the force (I won’t be more detailed than that). There are some new characters too, but I don’t want to give any of that away and ruin your enjoyment.

Suffice it to say that the plot for The Rise of Skywalker revolves around a race to Palpatine, and the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren and who will sit on Palpatine’s thrown and wield the power to control the galaxy, for good or for ill. It’s Resistance vs. First Order, it’s Jedi vs. Sith, it’s past vs present. It’s Star Wars in all its epic awesomeness. 

 

So, what’s the punchline?

I’d give Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 4 out of 5 force ghosts. Go see the movie, and you’ll see what I mean. 

 

The Mandalorian Review: Chapter 1

The Mandalorian Review: Chapter 1

If you’re a long-time Star Wars fan, and have kept up with this generation’s movies, you’re probably aware of the reported drama and disappointment around the brand over the last few years (a quick YouTube search will take you down a sad rabbit hole.) Some argue that a political agenda may be motivating the franchise’s recent decisions, and others simply feel like the recent Star Wars movies haven’t lived up to the brand’s heritage and mystique. My intent with this review isn’t to get into all that. That said, wherever your opinion lies, I think its safe to say that Star Wars fans just want good content. We know it’s universe is rich with possibilities, and we want to see them realized.

Enter The Mandalorian, a new space western Star Wars series available only on Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+.

The blurb from the series page reads as follows. “After the fall of the Empire, a lone gunfighter makes his way through the lawless galaxy.”

Mandalorians are known across the galaxy as trained assassins, bounty hunters, and the like, and our main character in this series is no different. Though, that’s not to say he is without heart–more on that later.

Chapter 1 opens as the Mandalorian comes on the windy, icy scene, referencing his tracking beacon, as he closes in on his target.

(light spoilers ahead)

He enters a space bar, and space bare things ensue. There’s a few patrons roughing someone up, and that someone happens to be the Mandalorian’s bounty (target for capture). A fight breaks out, and our main character is toting his bounty across the galaxy. 

Upon delivering his cargo to his customer at another cantina, the Mandalorian begins inquiring about additional bounties. It quickly becomes clear that the next job is much more nefarious: off the record, untracked, and underground. There is no bounty puck to identify his target, and very little information about how to proceed.

The intrigue picks up quickly as the Mandalorian visits a  kind of former Empire official who insisted on meeting face to face to exchange information, and to present the Mandalorian with his down payment for the job.  This sets the Mandalorian off on his adventure to retrieve a very special target. 

All in all, I really enjoyed sitting down with my son to watch this. We both loved it. I’ve seen it twice already in the last 48 hours.

4/5 Bounty pucks!

If you’ve been starving for some fresh Star Wars content that doesn’t feel like a rinse and repeat of the traditional formula, but still retains the charm and appeal of Han Solo and what would have been his world, then you’ll probably enjoy this. The twist/reveal at the end had us bouncing around the living room. If you’re a fan, go check it out!  

 

Scythe Review

Scythe Review

I’d give Scythe 4 gleanings out of 5.

This is a fun book filled with well-rounded characters, an engaging plot, and a very interesting world draped in religious overtones with hints of sci-fi. For me, this amounted to a curious mix of environment and feeling that the author, Neal Shusterman, pulls off well.

Scythe is set in a distant future but feels like its set in the near future in some ways. Countries are organized and named a bit differently, but they still feel familiar. America is called midmerica, for example, and you’d recognize many of the same things we do today, like pool parties. But there are bigger things that are quite a bit different from our world today. Civilization is more, well, “civilized.” There is no real crime, and, ironically, everyone has agreed to let the Scythes, modern-day grim reapers, stalk the world and “glean” people in order to keep the population totals under control. The book explores how people hold the honorable Scythes on a pedestal and the various human traits that surface in an environment with those dynamics. Very interesting stuff.

Technology has also evolved. The cloud *(Internet and data accessible from anywhere) has become the Thunderhead, a benevolent overseeing Skynet type that is in the background of the story until… it’s not.

Nanites have been made available to everyone to help them heal, or deal with the pain that would have been experienced in the “age of man.” Society can even leverage the nanites to shape or reshape their bodies to their liking.

This makes the whole notion of killing almost moot. If someone dies, they are “deadish,” and can be revived at a healing center. Only when someone is gleaned (or burned) are they truly gone, and beyond help.

In short, the plot revolves around two children that are selected to become Scythe apprentices, both under one single honorable Scythe—an unprecedented move. Their worlds are turned upside down as they come together only to get torn apart by warring factions and belief systems within the Scythe conclave.

What results is a fantastic adventure that easily held my attention, and drug me along for the wonderful ride.

 

 

The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review

The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review

 

I’d give Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald 3 wands out of 5

(It should probably be 2.5 wands, but out of respect for Ollivander and not wanting to break a wand in half…)

My son and I went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald this weekend, and for the second time seeing a movie in The Fantastic Beasts series, I walked away feeling bewildered, and disappointed. Not just at the confusing plot lines, mind you, but at how a movie with such a great cast, and such a wonderfully rich world like Harry Potter’s can continue to execute on movies in this way.

Alas, I’m probably sounding too critical.

The cast was very good. Johnny Depp was fantastic, but not to overshadow the great performances by everyone else, really. The acting was great across the board, in my opinion, no issues there.

The material has a ton of potential. It’s the Harry Potter universe, after all. The back story on the world, and some of these characters has left fans wanting more for years. Grindelwald… the American version of Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic over here… young Dumbledore…Lot’s to work with. Perhaps that was the issue.

The problem was the movie was just okay, and for me, that was largely due to the plot. You have a story of Grindelwald, his escape, and his attempt to win over the magical world with his seductive charm. That seemed to be the main theme they tried to convey. That’s all well and good, I suppose, but the other plot lines were more interesting to me. They should have been explored more thoroughly, and explained better. I won’t go into them because they lead to spoilers, and this is a spoiler free review. Instead, we get a fake love triangle, a hint at Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s past relationship, and other, either meaningless, or under developed storylines that just muddy the plot that’s brought to the forefront.

All in all, I feel like the movie tried to do too much with the wrong stories, and didn’t dive deeply enough into the ones I wanted to know more about.  This resulted in my disappointment on two fronts. First, the plot feeling all over the place, and slightly confusing, and second, the plot being relative to something I didn’t care much about. Furthermore, all the twists in the movie were apparent to me, except the last one, which is a big one, and that one even fell flat because of how it was delivered. 

I’m sure I’ll buy the movie when it comes out because it’s a Harry Potter movie, and because I want to give it another chance. Of course, that’s what I said about the last one…sigh.

The Shadow’s Servant Podcast Appearance and Audiobook Update

The Shadow’s Servant Podcast Appearance and Audiobook Update

I hope your Thanksgiving was great, and that you got to spend time with your families. I’ve been pretty focused on launching The Shadow’s Servant in the last few months, and most recently, working with the narrator on the audiobook. So, I just wanted to get a couple of fun updates out there for you, especially since it’s been a while since I’ve posted one.


Podcast:
I recently joined the Reading with your Kids podcast to promote The Shadow Magic Series and to talk about writing in general, writing for kids, and a whole bunch of other things (we even got into horror and stuff like that). I was a bit nervous, but it was a good time and a great experience. You can give it a listen here. Tell me what you thought of the interview.

The Shadow’s Servant Audio Update:
The Shadow’s Servant audiobook production is finished! I’m actually done reviewing the narration, too, and the narrator, Steve Barnes, has the edits and is working on all the little nits I sent over for him to review. If all goes well, The Shadow’s Servant will be released on audio in the next week or two! I’m always so impressed with Steve’s narration, and this time was no exception. The audiobooks continue to be my favorite version of my work. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed by Ron Howard

I’d give Solo 3.5 parsecs out of 5 in this Kessel Run

Summary Summary

Perhaps I had high expectations of this movie. After all, I had really enjoyed the most recent run of Star Wars films: Rouge One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi, even though that last one got seriously mixed reactions from fans (I still really enjoyed it – minus the Leia force moment).

So, I was excited to see Solo. As characters go, Han Solo has always been a fan. I was anxious to get more of his backstory, just like everyone else. At its core, Solo is a young love story, but it quickly turns into a story about friendship and the consequences of your decisions.

The movie starts off introducing us to a world where children are captured and used to plunder and steal for a local gang, of sorts. As long as the children do what they’re told, they have food and shelter, and they have somewhere they belong.

As one of these youth, Han is trying to find a way out. He wants to get away, and become a pilot. If he can steal for the gang, and skim enough off the top, he can save up to buy a ship, and get him and his girlfriend out of their situation, and off the planet for a fresh start at a new life.

Without spoiling the show–things go right until they go wrong. Han and his girlfriend get separated, and the rest of the movie is about him trying to find her again. They run into each other again, but under very different circumstances. They still love each other like they did in the past, but they have both changed, and done things that complicate the prospects in the present.

Overall, Solo is a good movie, and safe to take your kids to. You’ll enjoy it, I think, but it’s not the best of the most recent Star Wars movies.

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