Coming Soon: Star Wars – The Clone Wars

>The latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is scheduled to hit theaters August 15th. While there have been other animated adventures in the Star Wars universe n dating back to the Boba Fett debuting short that was part of the much maligned Star Wars Holiday Special in the late 70s, and even though some people could argue that all of the Star Wars prequels were mostly animated with the likes of Jar Jar, Watto and a bazillion clones, this is the first feature length film billed as a completely animated feature.

It’s hard to tell exactly where this movie is supposed to fit in to the overall timeline of everything that’s been produced—possibly somewhere between the first Cartoon Network animated Clone Wars series and the second one that lead up to the events directly before Episode III: Revenge of the Sith—but this storyline shows Anakin as a Jedi Master with a Padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano (the red-faced Jedi in the next two pictures shown below), as they depart on a mission involving crime boss, Jabba the Hutt.

Anyone who has read my reviews in the past would know that I’ve been a long time fan of the Star Wars universe, but like many people I have hang-ups about what has been done with the prequels. In large measure it seems to me that George Lucas is using the Star Wars galaxy as a portfolio piece for what his company, Lucasfilm, is capable of producing. In so doing, the story lines have tended to be a little shallow.

While the voice impersonations are impressive as can be heard in the trailer, Star Wars: The Clone Wars contains none of the actors who appeared in any of the Star Wars Prequels except for Anthony Daniels as C-3PO; Christopher Lee (impressive that he’s in it) as Count Dooku; and Samuel L. Jackson (more impressive…) as Mace Windu.

From Warner Bros press materials, here is a synopsis of the story:

As the Clone Wars sweep through the galaxy, the heroic Jedi Knights struggle to maintain order and restore peace. More and more systems are falling prey to the forces of the dark side as the Galactic Republic slips further and further under the sway of the Separatists and their never-ending droid army.

Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan learner Ahsoka Tano find themselves on a mission with far-reaching consequences, one that brings them face-to-face with crime lord Jabba the Hutt. But Count Dooku and his sinister agents, including the nefarious Asajj Ventress, will stop at nothing to ensure that Anakin and Ahsoka fail at their quest.

Meanwhile, on the front lines of the Clone Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda lead the massive clone army in a valiant effort to resist the forces of the dark side…

Though it may not sound this way, I am optimistic that this will be an enjoyable movie. I’m excited to see what fresh writers and directors have done in this upcoming movie and I’ll definitely check it out when it hits the theaters and will probably have my kids right there with me. I just wish it would have been set in an era with a bit more of a blank canvas, like after the fall of the Empire, post Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. If that were the case, we would be watching something where there would be real danger for the main characters, because we know that Anakin, Obi-Wan, and all of the others will make it through whatever dangers they find themselves in because we see them in the later episodes of Star Wars. I think it would be nice if Anakin’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano becomes the central character in this movie so when the TV series begins, it’s with a fresh group dealing with fresh issues other than Anakin’s inevitable dark deeds.

I guess I just have to hope that if this movie and subsequent series are successful, then maybe someday in the future we’ll get to see a Television series or movie about the rise of the New Jedi Order featuring an older Luke Skywalker—it’s HIS story I’m most interested in hearing told.

Stay tuned to this site for a review once the movie hits the theaters.

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Star Trek: The Experience

I recently went to Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas. Wow, that was really cool, and really brought out my inner geek.

Ok, so I’ll admit that my inner geek isn’t ever that far from the surface.

I’ve just heard that this attraction is scheduled to be closed in the fall. Bummer. I was really hoping to take my family there someday. It sounds like Paramount will likely try to find a new home for it somewhere. That would be nice.

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Book Review: 1776, by David McCullough

I guess you could say that I either feel cheated by the school system that I grew up in for not engraining in me a knowledge of American history, or I cheated myself in not obtaining it, but either way I’ve been feeling lately that my knowledge of events that transpired in the creation of our country was sorely lacking. Actually, I tend to feel this way every year around Independence Day, but this year I figured I’d do something about it by reading 1776, by David McCullough.

Before opening it, I was a little unsure about what I would find. Could a strictly historical book be all that interesting? Would it just present the facts as they occurred? Or would there be so much embellishment and added dialogue to make me wonder if what I’m reading is actually what really happened? Well, after reading it, I’m pleased to say that all of my questions have been answered in pleasing ways. Yes, it is strictly a history book, but it is very interesting. It does present facts as they occur, but in a narrative that illuminates both sides of the conflict and reveals the histories and personalities of the individuals involved. There is a sort of dialogue, but it’s in the form of quotes from letters or journals and I never felt like any of it was embellished upon.

Actually, if you’ve ever seen a documentary by the likes of Ken Burns, you already have a feel for the type of storytelling that’s set forth in 1776. Throughout the narrative, I can almost hear David McCullough’s voice, which (whether in truth or just in my imagination of him) sounds a lot like Walter Cronkite, interspersed with quotes from correspondence which illuminates the inmost feelings of those involved in our battle for Independence.

I’m already a believer in the divine hand that aided in setting up this free country, so it was very interesting to read quotes from George Washington where he states that the “finger of Providence” was involved in “blinding the eyes” of their enemies to their true condition, because if they’d known, they would have easily eliminated the rebels once and for all.

All in all, this is a compelling read and an enlightening way to learn a bit about the origins of the United States. A historical book that does a good job at not reading like a history book.

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Movie Review: Hancock

>We’ve all experienced it before: trailers for movies that seem fill you in on the whole plot before you set foot into the theater. Sometimes they can make you wonder what the point is of going to see the movies if you already know what to expect. So as I was sitting in the theater waiting for Hancock to start, I began running through my mind what I already knew about this movie from all the commercials and publicity.

The first trailer shows him sacked-out on a bus stop bench like a wino. Soon, a boy wakes him up and tells him that there are some bad guys causing problems. Hancock then grudgingly takes off to the save the day. From the trailers that follow we learn that his carelessness causes more damage and problems than the crimes were creating in the first place. We also see Jason Bateman playing someone who is trying to help clean up his image, which he must do successfully because we later see Hancock in a tight leather crime-fighting suit attempting to save the day in a more civilized way.

Will all of this in mind I was worried that I was about to sit through an extended version of what I had already seen, but I was pleased when the movie started and within the first 15-20 minutes just about every scene that had shown up in the trailers and commercials had gone by and there was still plenty of screen time left. It was obvious that the moviemakers had a broad enough story to tell that would go far beyond Hancock’s wayward days.

And what they come up with is exciting! It’s a really fun ride, especially for anyone who enjoys superhero movies and is in the mood for something slightly different. In many ways, Hancock is parody of many of the hero movies out there—kind of an anti-hero or a hero dealing with real world problems. Will Smith does an excellent job conveying the bad attitude needed for us to understand why the good people of L.A. would feel like they’d be better off without him, but he also is wonderful when he needs to let us see the struggles Hancock goes through as he tries to figure out what kind of person he wants to be.

There was one point in the movie, though, once we had gotten beyond everything that was shown in the pre-release publicity, that I was I wasn’t liking the direction the movie was going in. There’s a twist in the story that I wasn’t feeling too crazy about. I won’t reveal what it is because it would spoil much of the movie, but I will say that it was a seemingly implausible coincidence that they ended up explaining in a way that ended up taking away all my apprehension and getting me back into really enjoying the show. By the time the movie was over, it had won me over and I was wishing I could seem more. (By the way, don’t be so quick to get up and leave the theater once the credits start running.)

There may be some people who don’t like the direction that it goes in the post trailer movie, but just keep in mind that it is a super-hero movie and in the end it fulfills that role perfectly. Will Smith once again proves that he is an A-list movie star for a good reason. Jason Bateman is endearing and fun as the struggling PR guy, Ray, who decides to try to change Hancock’s image. Charlize Theron is perfect as Mary, Ray’s wife, who is very cautious about bringing Hancock into their lives. Together they are a great group of actors that I look forward to seeing in many things to come.

Hancock is rated PG-13 for super-hero violence and action, but what makes it inappropriate for youngsters is a large dose of foul language. Recommended for older kids and adults.

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