Why I fell in love with Star Wars

SW

Many people can tell you how they fell in love the Star Wars, when they saw the first movie and what their entry point into the series was.   My story is similar to millions of others I was a young boy when I saw the first film and was present on release day for each of the entries thereafter. But I started thinking about WHY I fell in love with Star Wars. Unlike my younger brothers I did not collect the toys as a matter fact I was never really into any of the merchandise, but I loved the Star Wars movies.

First it has to do with the experience of the films and their impact upon me in my formidable years. I was seven years old when Star Wars A New Hope was released. I will never forget that I got to see this film because my dad took me and my two brothers to the theater to see it.   This may sound unremarkable, but you have to understand that my dad was a hard-working blue-collar construction guy. It was not uncommon for him to put in 60-70 hour work weeks. My dad did not go to the movies ever. However he took an afternoon off to take me and my two brothers to go see SW: A New Hope. It was as much the idea that my dad would take the time off to spend with me as it was the complete beauty and awe of the first film that has always held a special place in my heart.   That bonding time, three boys and their dad at the movies that was an incredible experience, which has stuck with me through the years.

The second reason of why I fell in love with the Star Wars films was because of the impact and emotional connection I had with The Empire Strikes Back. My first formidable, emotional, gut-wrenching experience came at the ripe old age of 10 when I discovered that (spoiler here), Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father.   This was like a meteor crashing from outer space that I did not see coming until it was upon me.   How could I ever forget the feeling of my heart dropping out of my chest as I heard the phrase: “No Luke, I Am Your Father…” This was the first time I discovered that movies could have an incredible emotional impact.

Lastly, the reason WHY I love Star Wars and will continue to love Star Wars is because of the connected bond you get watching these films. I can remember going not only with my two brothers, but also several cousins and other extended family members to see the release of each of the films in the series. Just before Episode One: The Phantom Menace was released,   the original trilogy was re-released in the theater. I did not have kids at the time, but my nephew was seven years old the same age I was when SW: A New Hope came out. There I was all these years later eating popcorn, sitting on the front row like I did with my dad, enjoying time with my nephew watching this classic film.

Why do I love Star Wars? Simply because the Star Wars Movies are the spaceship I can travel in to bond and connect with friends and family.

Roger Legg

The Film Coterie

www.filmcoterie.com

5 Movies You Missed in 2017 That Are Worth Hunting Down

So I decided to dust off my movie blog and update it with some of the films that I have been able to see this year.   Some of you may know that I record a podcast called The Film Coterie with my good friend Adam Barney.   Each week we go to the movie theater to check out a new release then we review the movie as well as other oddities that grab our attention.   My hope has been to also blog about these movies but with life’s crazy schedule there never seems to be time to sit down and write about each one.   So I thought I would catch everyone up by listing 5 films that you may have missed this year but are definitely worth watching via video on demand or going to the movie theater if they’re still playing. So without further ado here is the list with a brief summary:

 

 

SplitSplit is the latest offering from M. Night Shyamalan and though he has fallen out of favor with some people lately, this psychological thriller is an above average film within engaging cast led by James McAvoy.   Here is the IMDB synopsis: “Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.” Without spoiling anything I do you want to tell you to make sure and pay attention to what is going on in the film at the very end and you will find a pleasant surprise.

 

 

 

 

GetoutGet Out is one of those movies that without doing the podcast with Adam I would’ve never went to the theater to see. I have said in the past that I am not a fan of horror movies, but I’m having to revise that statement because of films like Get Out and Split. Get out is another psychological thriller but what I enjoyed about it the most was the pace of the film.   This is a slow burn that ends in a flaming hearthstone and holocaust, if I could quote Jimmy Stewart from The Philadelphia Story. Get out is a wonderful social commentary about race in America that will make some people uncomfortable and that is a good thing. Is currently available on Blu-ray/DVD and several video-on-demand formats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brawl

 

So you think you know Vince Vaughn?   Brawl in Cellblock 99 will show you him like you’ve never seen him before. Brawl is a morality tale about what a man will do if he is desperate enough. Here is how IMDb describes brawl: “After working as a drug courier and getting into a brutal shootout with police, a former boxer finds himself at the mercy of his enemies as they force him to instigate violent acts that turn the prison he resides in into a battleground.” The violence of this film is ruthless yet not gratuitous.   Brawl is a film that is an instant classic from the midnight grind house film genre.   It Is currently playing in select theaters.

 

 

 

 

WindRiverWind River is one of those unexpected gems you find by not knowing anything about the movie before you go see it.   It stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen and features a strong supporting cast.   I found myself deeply moved as I watched this film. Here is IMDB’s description: “A veteran tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service helps to investigate the murder of a young Native American woman, and uses the case as a means of seeking redemption for an earlier act of irresponsibility which ended in tragedy.” Wind River is the movie that could’ve easily fallen into clichés about redemption and romance but director Taylor Sheridan never allows it to go there. It may or may not be available in your local theater at the time of this writing but it is well worth checking out on demand when it is available.

 

 

 

BabyBaby Driver is one of the best movies that I have seen this year.   It has a strong cast centering around lead character “Baby” played by Ansel Elgort. Baby is a young getaway driver who was forced to work for the unscrupulously Kevin Spacey.   What makes this movie so unique and worth your time to see is the use of music, specifically song to help communicate the story. I have seen this film three times and I still catch something new because of the music playing in the background. Baby driver is not a musical, but it is a movie filled with music at its very core. If you like heist films this is a must see.   Baby driver is currently available on Blu-ray/DVD and by video on demand.

Well that does it let me know what you think in the comments below.   You can follow me on Twitter at @Roger_Legg.

 

Hidden Figures

Spotlight Review by guest blogger Erin Marshall

Hidden Figures celebrates the real-life contributions of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson to America’s space program. Starting out as computers, literally doing the mathematical work of modern-day mechanical computers, these three ladies broke professional barriers at Langley in the 1960s. In a male-dominated racially segregated facility, these brilliant women stepped up to solving the puzzle of space flight. They rose in the ranks of mathematicians, engineers, and programmers because their intellect and skills were necessary to furthering the cause of dominating Soviets in the Space Race.

I was very excited to see this movie. I am a self-proclaimed NASA nerd and love reading anything astronaut-related. I left the theater feeling inspired by the tenacity and patriotism of Americans in the 1960’s. And, it renewed the pride I have in America’s pioneering spirit. Time and time again we overcome what seems impossible. At the same time, the film was an eye-opening look at the cultural norms of segregation. It highlighted the stark contrast of our society during that time. There was a driving determination to push forward, to innovate, and to propel technology. At the same time, many of these same people were clawing and scraping to hang onto ideas and traditions of keeping people “in their place”. There is a striking scene where Katherine mindlessly pours herself a cup of coffee while calculating numbers. All heads turn to look at her, as she realizes, she’s not welcome to drink from the same coffeepot as her co workers. She is forced to run a half mile from her desk to reach the “colored ladies room” because there isn’t one on the side of the Langley campus where her new position is located. There’s a flurry of apprehension when she needs to attend a meeting because “there is no protocol for women” there. We were as a society, taking huge strides. But, at the same time, we were dragging our feet and digging in our heels over petty trivial progress towards basic human decency. It’s a reminder that every generation needs to advance not only science and knowledge but, we can’t neglect the advancement of unity in the human race.

I do want to reiterate that this film is based on true events. But, the creators did definitely take some Hollywood liberties at making characters and situations more appealing. For example, twenty-something; Glen Powell plays the part of John Glenn. He looks fresh faced and innocent. He’s portrayed as this boy next door character that is naive to the danger he’s about to take on. Kind of, “Gee fella’s if that smart lady says the numbers are right, that’s good enough for me.”  In reality, Glenn was a forty year old combat pilot with a receding hairline that was exhaustively qualified and anything but naive. His memoirs mention nothing of last minute “go-no go” numbers arriving at the last possible minute before his launch. Further, there is a  tense scene where Katherine is running to a capcom mission control room on the other side of the Langley campus with vital numbers to the mission. In reality, this room was in Cape Canaveral, Florida, not Hampton, Virginia. Nevertheless, this is a great movie. It’s child appropriate, thought provoking, and highly entertaining. I look forward to seeing it again and I highly recommend you see it as well.

Erin enjoys all things science and nerdy, the outdoors, and time with her husband and twin children.  You can follow Erin on her blog Under An Elm Tree.

 

Sung from the heart

SING STREET

Ireland, the 1980’s, boy starts a high school rock band to try and get girl.  Why would a middle American raised man in his forties care for a movie like this?  It’s all about heart.

Sing Street, directed by John Carney (Once, Begin Again) and starring Lucy Boyton (Raphina), Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (Conor) and Jack Reynor (Brendan) is the story of a boy trying to impress a girl so he starts a band.  There would seem to be many troupes here but Sing Street sails above them all.  Sing Street is first and foremost a movie about brothers Conor and Brendan are growing up in Ireland in the 1980’s during the economic depression.  Conor has flunked out of college and spends most of his time in his room smoking weed and listening to his rather large vinyl record collection.  Brendan has been pulled from a swanky private school and put into Synge Street public school which is run by the church and is more like a maximum security prison than a High School.  After seeing a girl across the street (Raphina) and trying to impress her Conor tells her he is in a band and needs her to be in one of their music videos.  He then proceeds to talk his buddies into forming one.

This movie works for me on so many levels.  First the acting performances are so full of truth and authenticity that you feel like you have been transported back to the 1980’s where MTV was the cool thing and music videos reigned the airwaves.  Reynor’s performance as the older brother (Brendan) is so refreshing because he doesn’t fall too far into the stoner stereotypes and for that matter none of the other actors do either with their characters. The tension in Raphina and Conor’s relationship is played perfectly with it never falling into teenage angst.  Conor and Brendan might just be the most honest brothers relationship I have seen on film.

The musical performances are spot on and if you are like me and grew up in the 80’s then you will appreciate the throw back sound and music video feel.  The highlight of the film to me was the ending which I won’t spoil here, but left you to imagine for yourself how this story would end and left me singing the movies praise!

FOUR treble clefts out of five for SING STREET.

 

Streaming now on Netflix.

Fans V Critics

 

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Zach Snyder (300,) returns to direct the sequel to Man of Steel and setup the series of Justice League movies coming over the next several years. Batman V Superman stars Ben Affleck (Argo, Good Will Hunting) as Batman, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams reprise their roles as Superman and Lois Lane, and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) takes a turn as the villain Lex Luthor. Here is how IMDB describes the movie:

“Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.”

Let me begin by saying if you LOVED Batman V Superman you are 100 percent correct. If you HATED Batman V Superman you are 100 percent correct.

I watched this movie twice once in standard 2D and Once in IMAX 3D. My first viewing was with 4 other adults and my son (15) and my second viewing was with my son and daughter and one of her girlfriends. The reaction with my first group of mostly adults was split three of us liked three of us hated it. When I saw the movie a second time with all teenagers they were 100 percent in the like category. This is also an accurate reflection of what America thinks as well. On IMDB the users have given it a 7.4 out of 10 by the time of this writing and the critics have been much harsher giving it a 44 out of 100. So is BVS a good movie or not? Should I go see BVS?

The answer is perplexing to me.

The ugly.

BVS is a really, bad movie at times. The storyline is ludicrous, the editing was a mess breaking continuity several times. It is too long having four acts one of which in my opinion was not even needed. There is one scene that is so poorly edited that is appears as if we are watching a good ole 1970’s film reel that was accidentally burnt and so the local projectionists just cut out about 4 minutes of the movie and spliced it back together.  There were bad symbolism choices, (I’ll Just say 2 pearls too many) and the IMAX screen that I watched it on was 1/3 out of focus and not aligned properly.

 The pretty.
The first hour of this movie is pretty solid. No one knows how to start a movie off like Zach Snyder. That part was thoroughly enjoyable to me. After that it just falls off the wheels. What really redeems this movie however is some solid acting performances by the cast. Ben Affleck is great as an older Batman. He brings a solid balance of older and wiser hero, and an aloof billionaire who is too distracted with his life to stay connected to real people. Cavill and Adams both turn in solid performances in their roles and I would say the chemistry that was lacking in Man of Steel is much better in this turn. Eisenberg’s, Lex Luthor, has received mixed reviews but I thought his performance was spot on.

The Hero.

The best part of BVS was the performance of Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. She stole the movie for me playing a sophisticated Diana and a take no prisoners, fear no one, Wonder Woman. Her first appearance as WW was worth the price of admission and sold the whole movie for me and I cannot wait for her origin story. It was refreshing to see a heroin played not for her sex appeal, (though Gadot brings plenty of that) but for her straight up strength as a superhero.

Spiritual Themes

This movie is full of spiritual themes.  Snyder raises all kinds of questions about God and our view of him.  There is a line in the movie that comes right out of the philosophical debates of the day when Lex Luthor says “If good is good then he cannot be all powerful and if he is all powerful then he cannot be all good.”  This is right out of Philosophy 101 “The Problem of Evil.”  Superman or Space Jesus (as a good fiend of mine likes to refer to him) represents a Christlike figure wrestling with his humanity versus his alien DNA.  This is similar to what Jesus went through when the scriptures record he was “tempted in all things, yet did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

The spiritual themes however are also where the movie goes off the rails.  Lex Luthor attempts to kill Superman with the angels (Batman) and then when that fails he says “Now lets try and kill him with the devil…” (referring to Doomsday)  This supposedly serious moment comes off comical and I could hear some laughter in my theatre. It is obvious that Superman and even the story of Batman are stories that contain spiritual themes of redemption, repentance and even penance.  Stories of good triumphing over evil.  But BVS mangles these up to point of complete delusion.

The verdict.

BVS is a mixed bag and I am convinced you are going to have people arguing over this movie for years to come. If you are not into the comic books, or you are not a film connoisseur and you just want a fun action packed summer movie you will probably enjoy BVS. If you are the later you might want to pass this one up.

I give it 3 out of 5 stars.  

 

 

 

Eddie the Eagle Soars.

Eddie the Eagle is the story of Eddie Edwards a British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics. It stars Taron Egerton (Kingsman) Hugh Jackman (X-men, Les Miserables) and is directed by Dexter Fletcher (Sunshine on Leith).

From the first frame of the film we see Eddie and his pursuit of being an Olympic athlete as a young boy. The problem however with young Eddie is that he has no athletic ability and he also has leg issues and must wear a brace. None of this will deter him though and as an adult he steals his parents van and drives to Germany to learn to ski jump because Britain doesn’t have a ski team and no matter how good he is, if he can land a jump in a competition he will be on the team. It is in Germany that he meets Bronson Peary (Jackman), a American disgraced, retired, alcoholic ski jumper who now drives a snow-plow truck. These two form a odd-couple friendship as Eddie learns to Jump from Bronson and travels to Canada for the 1988 Olympics.

The film as a whole feels like a ski jump! It starts very disjointed and seems like it is racing out of control and will crash any second. But just when you think it will come smashing down, it finds its heart lifts off the ground and really flys. Egerton portrays Eddie with almost Asperger’s like personality and Jackman’s Bronson plays against Eddie with a brash honest chemistry that just works.

Now if your looking for authenticity, please go elsewhere. The only parts of the story that are true to life are the shots of the Winter Olympics in Canada. There is no Coach Bronson, not real life trip to Germany to train (He actually trained in Lake Placid with the Americans).  However this film still works because the themes work. It is refreshing to me to see a sports biopic that is not about winning, but actually the journey to the event and just simply trying your best. There is a strong message to be yourself and stay true to who you are that resonated with me.

Eddie the Eagle tells us that if you follow you heart and never give up on your dreams that you may not change the world, but you can definitely still soar.

I give it 4 stars out of 5.

Roger Legg

Risen or CSI: Judea?

Now I have to say in all fairness that I am a pastor of 24 years and of course believe and adhere to the tenants of the Christian faith.  But I am also a film fanatic and thought it would be fun to do a weekly blog about faith and film. Each week my local movie theater runs a $5 movie special and that gives me an opportunity to sneak away see a wide variety of features.  On the agenda this week is the new release Risen.

Risen is directed by Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld) and stars Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) as Clavius a seasoned Roman soldier, Tom Felton (Harry Potter) as Lucius a younger Roman soldier and Peter Firth (MI:5) as the Roman leader Pontius Pilate.  The story centers around the death and mysterious disappearance of Yeshua an influential Nazarene leader of the Jews.  In other words the story of Jesus’s resurrection and was it true or not.

(warning spoilers ahead)

The story of Risen takes place from the viewpoint of Clavius a Roman soldier charged with keeping order and peace in the midst of much social, political and religious conflict.  These conflicts often lead to mini battles in the countryside that have a high casualty rate on both sides.   The movie opens with Clavius returning from one of those conflicts bloodied, tired and just wanting to rest when Pilate summons him.   Pilate tells Clavius he has just ordered the crucifixion of Yeshua, a local Nazarene leader and to make sure this Nazarene’s sentence is carried out so that the uprising within the Jewish community can be squelched before the Roman Emperor arrives the following week.  Clavius presides over the crucifixion and makes sure the stone placed over the grave of Yeshua has the Roman seal upon it.  48 hours later the body of Yeshua has disappeared and Clavius begins the hunt to find it.

One of the first things that jumps out about the film is the gritty, bleak conflict-filled world that existed around the time that Jesus was alive.  Reynolds takes time to show us what that conflict looks like and he does not spare the violence that was involved, thus the PG-13 rating.  As far as the individual performances are concerned Fiennes is the obvious heavyweight in this group of actors and does a passable job as the conflicted warrior. The rest of the cast are okay with Firth hitting a few good marks as Pilate.  However Felton still comes across as if he’s doing a harry potter movie, and his lack of depth surfaces rather quickly.

The struggle of Risen is that it never decides what kind of story it’s going to tell.  It begins as a story of anguish and conflict within  Fiennes’ character  who is just trying to find peace in the world.  Then when the body of Jesus disappears it turns into an episode of CSI, with bodies being dug up and evidence poured over to try and prove that Yeshua is still dead.  Finally in the third act it shifts again and tries to recapture Fiennes search for peace.

As far as movies with the theme of faith that have hit the market in the last few years Risen is definitely a cut above the rest.  With Reynolds at the helm its production value is on par with other major motion pictures being released.  There are great themes that come across in this movie such as love,  compassion,  forgiveness and mercy all which fall into line with Christian values. The disciples are played very lightly with much enthusiasm and wonderment that anything is possible because of the time they have spent with Jesus.  One of the things that I really appreciated about the movie was the frankness that even the disciples themselves struggled with faith and did not believe until they saw Jesus arisen.

Though far from perfect it is an enjoyable film and my suspicion is it will find a good niche within the faith community and will be a film that not only dad and mom enjoys but their teenagers as well.

2  1/2 stars

Roger Legg

 

Husband, Father, Minister, Film Fanatic, Book Enthusiast, Board Game Collector, and Lover of Life!