Critic Joe Viglione reviews movies, books, DVDs, CDs, and has all sorts of opinions on a variety of things. The monthly Top 40 is a sort-of directory...
commentaries and essays expand the thought process on RockJournalistJoeVig.blogspot.com ...so the reviews on the Top 40 aren't final, they are just the starting point to more discussion. You can always contact Joe directly at visual_radio [@] yahoo.com
Joe Viglione's Interview with star Felicity Jones
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Review by Joe Viglione
Forty-one year old director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, 2014;
Monsters 2010,) inspired by the Star Wars franchise according to IMDB (he was
born two years before the 1977 release of the very first George Lucas film in
the series) sets an amazing tone with the opening shots which feature appealingly large Saturn rings, exotic cinematography and
futuristic esoterica which delves into a dark, creepy, eerie – quite scary –
feeling of imminent doom. Star Wars,
after all, is as much a horror movie as it is science fiction. With Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing tied
in to the series, Lucas indeed created a revved up old-time serial taking
the 1936 13-part Flash Gordon story idea into a new dimension. Adding Cushing and Lee, the
Karloff/Lugosi of the next generation, was pure “give the people what they
want,” which is why Star Wars, like Star Trek, is so successful. There is also a cleansing going on with this
2016 film, purging the awful experiences that were delivered in 1999’s Episode
1: The Phantom Menace, 2002’s Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Revenge of the
Sith. Those three “prequels” were as
beautifully filmed as they were empty with some terribly forced acting and an
arrogance that derailed the fun and excitement of 77’s Star Wars, 80’s The
Empire Strikes Back and 83’s The Return of the Jedi.
To put it all into its proper context, thirty nine years
after the initial blasts from the Death Star comes a film that is as good as
the first three. It is even better than
The Force Awakens which by any standard was a mere reboot, not actually
something that added to the franchise in any way other than it brought things
back on track, got serious again, generating anticipation for the next phase of
the blockbuster series/serial/anthology.
* * * * *
Rogue One is the critical space in between the saga,
connecting Revenge of the Sith – the best of the three prequels – to Star Wars
1977, the “new hope.” Director Edwards
hits a grand slam, giving an even darker look at the perpetual war, the
Emperor’s Hitler-like approach to domination of the universe (forget a few
galaxies, they were going for the whole enchilada) and James Earl Jones
indulging in a unique savagery as Darth Vader. It is a Deep Dark Vader here,
more terrifying, more villainous, as out of control in his obsession as Ricardo
Montalban in The Wrath of Khan. Much,
much better than The Force Awakens, the serious dominance of the empire, the
plight of the rebels – and the dissension amongst them – something unseen up to
this point in time, all brilliantly written and delivered with a vengeance.
This is an adult science fiction movie keeping a lid on the
humor provided by Anthony Daniels’ CP30 – C-3PO – Co3P (it’s C-3PO) making just
a cameo. The levity is brought to you by a new main character, a reconfigured Empire
droid K-2SO (played by Zootopia’s Alan Tudyk )
It is one of two elements taken directly from the Terminator series. In
2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines - where Sarah Connor sends back a
reprogrammed T-850, Model 101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger,) the rebels in that film
turned their opponents' strength against them. Same here as the K-2S0 mimics some of the same C-3PO
one-liners, but does so in a tongue-of-cheek way (a clever tongue-in-cheek, if you will) which adds to the film’s
charm. That is to say, no Jar Jar Binks
or Ewoks or Wookies.
This is serious
stuff, leave the children at home. You
won’t be troubled by a ten year old Jake Lloyd playing young Anakin Skywalker
(as bad a performance as Hayden Christiansen who followed as the
twenty-something Anakin, or – (back to the world of Schwarzenegger) the awful
acting in 1993’s Last Action Hero by child actor Austin O’Brien. This is a
story about the Force. It gets down to
business and is what Star Wars was (and still is) supposed to be about, domination, rebellion
and blowing things up.
The other “borrow” from Terminator, this one the Christian
Bale / Sam Worthington 2009 Terminator Salvation, was when the audience
applauded to see the CGI Arnold come to life.
We are only going to see lots more of this in
the future with digital resurrections of Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix – and, perhaps,
a JFK president with hologram to go along with its infinite capacity computer
brain. Thus, a famous, late actor from
the Hammer Film studios entertains us again - after the fact, and it is worth the price of
Wikipedia sheds some enlightenment on the Terminator CG with
Arnold Schwarzenegger's facial likeness was utilized via CGI, with a mold of his face made in 1984 scanned to create the
Rogue One Disney recreates the late Peter Cushing in
similar fashion. Grand Moff Tarkin returns in a demonic, yet
artistically splendid, way - as the powers that be at Disney nicely
Estate of Peter Cushing.
The settings – with palm trees juxtaposed to the crushing
feet of the Imperial giant robots (think Sentinels in the X-Men series) along
with a blind master of the mystic arts (Chirrut Îmwe
played by Hong Kong film star Donnie Yen) who might as well be Dr. Strange inside
a Star Wars film,* Rogue One touches on all the points that science fiction fans
rabid for comic book heroes and the characters of George Lucas crave. With Disney owning the rights to both
franchises (Marvel Comics and Star Wars,) are you surprised to see the unique crossover appeal?
Two hours and thirteen minutes of spectacular Star Wars fun
the way it should have been in the first place. Rogue One could be the template
of what is to come. It is – finally – a
worthy edition of the sacred canon, a worthy addition as well.
*A blind Jedi is in a Star Wars fan film, though Donnie Yen's
Chirrut Îmwe is the not-a-Jedi Jedi)
DVD: The Frank Sinatra Collection
Happy Holidays from Frank and Bing
Review by Joe Viglione
This beautiful package from Eagle Vision/Universal is unique
in that new magic is injected into what are over-played
holiday favorites when this time of the season rolls around. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” as performed
here embracing unique nuances, as does Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Santa
Claus is coming to Town.” Be it the
audio playing with its big band brass or the wonderful film texture pleasing to
the eye (such a lost art in the digital age,)
the 1957 Christmas TV special is remarkable in its warmth and how it
captures these talents without distractions. This critic was a mere three years
old when the Sinatra/Crosby presentation aired so if it played on the family TV
it didn’t register until viewing this DVD package. Bing Crosby and Frank engaging in The
Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) has the two icons merging
their deep voices into a timeless interpretation of the timeless classic, with
a quiet segue into Bing’s all-time multi-million selling smash “White
Christmas.” A solitary figure against the window, joined by Frank for a chorus,
perfectly framed and looking like it is out of an expensive Hollywood movie.
They just don’t make them like this anymore.
With music from Nelson Riddle and directed by Frank Sinatra himself,
there are no quick cuts every ten seconds as you find today. Just a delightful
collection of music that is perpetual every December put together with love and
care. Performance, technical expertise and magic. A wonder why this is not a perennial favorite
on television and radio, but that’s the times we are in. Pure class.
The DVD then flips to black and white with “Come Fly with
Me,” a selection from the 1950’s TV show which is narrated by Frank Sinatra
Jr., Nancy Sinatra and Tina Sinatra.
Elegant reminisces by the children and rare takes of melodies that this
generation would know from use in modern films, these black and white
performances give a glimpse into a past when significant performers were using
this medium before it became cluttered on the “information superhighway”
decades later. “Night and Day” oozes out
with exquisite majesty, smoothly and in an attractive fashion missing from the
plethora of concerts taped and aired as if off an assembly line in the new
millennium. The textbook is here for
that superhighway of information, the contributions from his offspring as
enlightening as their dad’s work is entertaining …and equally historical.
A collection for the ages.