The Not Quite Last Jedi

In what has now become an annual tradition, I found myself once again taking in the spectacle of a new Star Wars film on a Sunday in mid-December.  The first time I did this was a bit unique in that I then hopped a plane to Peru that evening, the memories of the film dancing through my mind during a trip through the jungle.  Last year’s experience had little of the build-up, nor the memory; Rogue One is a fine movie, it just doesn’t really make an impression on its own given that it’s solely in service to a greater film.  Now, The Last Jedi is a film I’d been trying to temper my expectations for since the moment I walked out of that theater in 2015.  The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite film of all time, so this new middle chapter had quite a challenge facing it and a bit of sequel-driven history to live up to.  Let’s just say, it’s complicated.  As I walked home from the screening, I was somewhat torn.  There’s a lot of really awesome things that happen in The Last Jedi.  There are also an excessive amount of minor things that really shouldn’t be in the film at all, or at the very least, odd decisions that should be toned down a smidge for the sake of tonal continuity.  But most importantly of all, in direct response to the main criticisms of The Force Awakens, it doesn’t clone a previous film, but rather attempts to subvert its spiritual predecessor at every turn.  Does it work?  Let’s walk through it together and find out.

Continue reading “The Not Quite Last Jedi”


Are You Ready For Some Star Wars: The Last Jedi!?

Now it’s a bit weird, the continued relationship between Star Wars and the NFL.  It certainly makes some sense, with both ESPN and the Star Wars franchise under the Disney umbrella, however the two worlds, at least in my mind, remain about as far apart as they can get.  What do Star Wars and football have in common, other than common corporate ownership?  Some demographic overlap?  Mainstream appeal?  Guys in helmets?  Well, now Disney has gone ahead and established a tradition: during a Monday Night Football presentation some two months before release, a new full-length trailer for the upcoming Star Wars saga film will debut during halftime.

Unlike as had been done for The Force Awakens in 2014 and 2015, this is only the second trailer for The Last Jedi to be released.  The teaser, released in April about two years to the day after The Force Awakens’ first full-length trailer, is the only thing we’ve seen concerning the eighth film in the franchise and it left us with many, many questions.  So, without any further hesitation, let’s see what they’ve given us to snack on this time:

A classic Star Wars harp glissando brings us right in.  Someone (it’s Kylo Ren) is standing in an Imperial First Order hangar looking over siege equipment.

“When I found you…”

That’s definitely Snoke speaking, in the unmistakable growl of Andy Serkis.

“…I saw raw,…”

An intimidating group of AT-AT-like walkers.  That shuttlecraft looks familiar.

“…untamed, power…”

Kylo Ren (I think) leads Storm Troopers through a roughly, black and red, backlit passageway.  The overhead perspective is intriguing.  In the background, sparse piano notes play under high squealing strings.

“…and beyond that…”


“…something truly special.”

We cut to black.

Rey ignites her Luke’s lightsaber and stares at it for a beat.  Lucasfilm titles.

A drone shot of the island, again.


Cool hand, Luke!  Rey gives him the lightsaber.  This seems to be a different occasion than the stare-down at the conclusion of The Force Awakens.

“…inside me has always been there,…”  Rey whispers.

I have a feeling look is going to be making a lot of puzzled / confused / intrigued faces in this film.  He’s the Yoda to Rey, yet I think Rey is far more powerful in comparison to Luke than Luke was to Yoda.

Rey ascends foggy cliffs toward jagged rocks.  I wasn’t aware she was on her way through the Emyn Muil.  Lots of Lord of the Rings-like imagery going on here.

“…but now it’s awake…”

Roll credits!  Er, that was the last film, wasn’t it.

Rey happens upon the tree-root bookshelf from the teaser, looking curiously at it from the books’ POV.

“…and I need help.”

Various shots of Rey swinging the lightsaber around conclude with this one:

Where she expertly controls the blade into a firm position just inches from the rock.  Damn, girl.

The ground fissures and Luke looks on… like this:

That seems… not great?  For the light side, I mean.  It could be awesome for the movie!

Again we see the slow-motion narrow depth of field shot of levitating stones.

Rey is focused. Seems her training is coming along pretty quickly, eh?

“I’ve seen this raw strength only once before…”

When was that?  Ren slaughtering the Jedi students?  Darth Vader?  The Emperor?  When?

A robotic hand bursts through collapsed wooden debris as fires burn in the background.  Likely the scene of the flashbacks, and perhaps Luke’s hand.  So he’s strongly implying that Kylo Ren is the raw strength, also echoing Snoke.  And, he’s inferring Rey is stronger than that.  Makes a lot of sense, given the events of the first film.

“…it didn’t scare me enough then.”

“It does now.”

Luke looks pants-shittingly terrified.  He’s shaking.  Rey looks on sadly, though I’m not sure these two scenes actually go together.

Bam, Kylo Ren’s theme blasts.  The man himself emerges from a lift.

He grabs his mask, takes a long look, then we cut to a closeup…

Nice scar, Kylo!  Is that a tattoo or a fancy bandage?  He smashes the mask against the wall.

“Let the past die.”

Space battle!  TIE Fighters shoot at Resistance ships.  Leia’s on one of them.  The sounds here are perfect, as the TIEs overwhelm the auditory scape.  It sure seems like darkness has the upper-hand so far.

“Kill it.”

Kylo Ren’s TIE Fighter looks sinister.  Like an old Interceptor, but with red (red, again!) cockpit glass and a horizontally stretched fuselage.

“…If you have to.”

A shot tracking the TIE from behind as it flies into a Resistance ship.  Whoa, this is something new.

“That’s the only way to become what you were meant to be.”

Man, if these means killing both of your parents… Yikes.

And this trailer does everything to suggest that it does.  Wow.

…or does it?  The sounds go silent except for a single alarm beeping.  I can see the conflict in his face.  Is Leia using the force on young Ben Solo?  Probably!


The Millennium Falcon flies, pursued by TIE Fighters into a cave tunnel full of sparkling red crystals.  So much red in this film’s imagery.  I imagine this to be the red soil planet.  The Falcon does its trademark twist as it navigates the through.

Chewie looks upset!  What could possibly provoke this kind of reaction from the Wookiee?

This little guy lets out a scream too.  What are these things called again?  Porgs, right?  I really hope they’re integrated well.  I don’t want my gloomy Star Wars film derailed by too much cuteness!

A Resistance ship takes a hard green bolt and explodes with force.  Damn.

Poe seems taken aback by what just happened.  I wonder what kind of ship he’s on where there’s just… windows.  I don’t think we’ve really seen that before, outside of a bridge, you know?

“We are the spark…”

Interesting how the X-Wing has a fifth engine in the center.  What’s that for, afterburner?  It leaves behind a shimmering trail.

“…that’ll light the fire…”

Sick close up.  I love me some locked-in Poe Dameron.  Go kick some ass, buddy.

Much appreciated.

“…it’ll burn the First Order down.”

I can’t quite hear what he’s saying but I think that’s close.

Holy Phasma.  And she’s got a sword of some kind?  Sparks go flying as she brings it into position.

Finn!  I can’t believe it took this long to get him into the trailer.  He’s angry, and he’s got an electric stun baton.

It looks like we’re getting another non-lightsaber duel, this time between Finn and Phasma.  Where the heck is this happening?  Everything is on fire and/or exploding.

Sick.  I wonder if only one of them makes it out of there alive…  Do I bet on the rehabilitated Finn, or Brienne of Tarth?

Resistance ships explode and BB-8 gets zapped.  We’re getting pretty bleak here.

“This is not going to go…”

Angry Luke, in black, in darkness, in rain, laying down, possibly in defeat.

Crystal fox!  Neat!  Awesome attention to detail on the hexagonal salt formations.

Hooded figure stands at the edge of a vast desert (the one with the red soil beneath).  A Resistance base about to be assaulted by AT-ATs?  That seems an awful lot like Hoth…

“…the way you think.”

Luke finishes his thought, and here I’m thinking, are they blatantly foreshadowing some kind of twist?  I don’t know how this is going to go, but if I’m reading too much into the parallels with Empire, then perhaps I should take another path?  Am I reading too much into this?

That’s a great shot of Leia, by the way.

Rey plunges into a pool, to emerge into the dark, rainy scene with black-clad Luke.   I bet this is her “failure at the cave” moment.


Snoke narrates as the First Order finishes their domination of the trailer.  First, Finn is captured.

Then their forces are ready for an onslaught.  The deep hangar looks almost like a matte painting.


The strike begins.  Red dirt erupts from beneath the desert.  If it’s to be a Hoth parallel, at least the aesthetic is somewhat different.  The red really pops here.

Exploding TIEs crash as skiffs bounce away.   And by skiffs I mean HOLY SHIT THOSE ARE B-WINGS. YESSSSSSSSSS!  In the teaser post I took them for something new, but from this angle it’s for certain.  I guess it’s possible to deploy only one wing into attack position?


SNOKE.  My goodness CGI has come a long way.  The animation is still a slight bit off, but the still image is crisp.  He’s not quite as Gollum-like as he appeared in the hologram from The Force Awakens, instead appearing more like a old, slightly deformed human.  I still think he’s like three feet tall.  An evil Yoda, if you will.

Rey is tortured, yet again.  She’s stuck awkwardly leaning backward as she twitches and wind blows.  I think that’s Snoke in the background, but I cannot be sure.  The red of the surroundings suggest the same room as Kylo Ren was in during his introduction above.

Cut to black.  The music vanishes, except for, again, sparse piano.

“I need someone…”

“…to show me my place in all this.”

The Force Theme starts to play here, but it’s cut off.

Wait for it…


Oh my gods.  I don’t know how they keep topping themselves.  This cannot continue forever, can it?  What to expect from a potential Rey / Kylo Ren alliance?  Where do they even go from here?  Does Kylo continue to be pulled toward the light?  Does Rey succumb to her darkest instincts?  I DON’T KNOW!

But I do know that I am excited for this film!

For The Force Awakens, I stopped watching and talking about new trailers after the Monday Night Football one dropped, and you know what?  That really worked for me.  I’ve been keeping a blind eye toward the happenings surrounding The Last Jedi since even before the teaser debuted, and with ignorance comes surprise, tempered expectations, and hopefully a whole lot more enjoyment of the final product.  So, from here until whenever I get around to seeing the next film (opening weekend, Sunday matineé, naturally), I will say no more about it.

Two months isn’t a long time.  It wasn’t last go-around, and it certainly won’t be again.

Dawn of Another New NHL Season

It’s finally fall once again.  The sun is out in the city and elsewhere, the air has a notably crisper feeling.  It’s my favorite season for a reason, and a big non-weather-related part of it is the return of hockey after a long, dreadfully boring and foggy summer.  As the now thirty-one teams of the NHL take the ice for the few remaining games of the preseason, I feel like some regular order has been restored in the universe.  Beyond all of the wild speculation of July and the barren news-less wastes of August, we’ve actually got something to talk about now.  That said, I feel like throwing a few final darts in the dark.  Here’s my own stab at wild speculation — the final standings for the 2017-18 NHL season.  It’s been awhile since I did this, mostly because of how pointless it is.  And sure, the season is still over a week away, but it’s not like this prediction is going to be any more-or-less accurate based on what unfolds over that time, right?

Basically what I did was throw every team into a spreadsheet with last year’s point totals, and gave them multiplier coefficients based on a number of observations, such as:

  • PDO reversion: basically inverting last season’s number so each team starts at 100%.
  • Injuries: an estimate based on man-games lost and a reversion to the mean, using a multiplying factor based on the standard deviation.  Obviously, this cannot account for which teams get rocked by injuries this year.
  • The offseason: a guess based on whether they addressed obvious weaknesses, lost key players, changed staff, and/or other general wtf-ness (looking at you, Florida).  Big name prospects and rookies go here.  Potential breakout performances are entirely unaccounted for.
  • Gut feelings and other generally uninformed nonsense: does the number look like it makes sense?  If no, adjust it.  This was used more to diversify the results and make them fit a more typical point spread and postseason cutoff than to invalidate the above factors.

Very scientific I know.  Following that strict and infallible methodology, I’ve compiled the above results.  I think some explanations might be needed here:

The Lightning were murdered by injuries last year.  With a healthy roster, growth from the kids, and continued defensive strength, they’ll handily win the East, and in my scenario, the Presidents’ Trophy.  Washington takes a step back, but even losing 16 points in the standings is enough to overtake a significantly weakened Pittsburgh team.  Toronto takes another step forward, but their exceptional injury luck last year should catch up with them a bit.  Carolina’s got the right stuff (read: fancy stats) and made improvements, so they make enough of a leap to pass three teams in the division, with the Flyers right behind them in pursuit.  CBJ comes back to earth, and both New York teams regress.  Buffalo takes a giant step forward, but it’s not enough to make the cut.  The Senators move back a smidge, and Boston drops like a rock.  The Devils do somewhat better, while the Red Wings and Panthers fall further into the basement.

In the west, the Pacific shapes up very similarly to last year, with the Ducks and Oilers finishing neck and neck near 110 points.  Dallas comes back with a vengeance to win the Central and the Western Conference (and might just be my preseason Cup pick, were I to make one), while the Hawks and Wild regress somewhat; both still finish with 100 points.  Meanwhile, the Jets kids and goaltending should finally get it together enough to steal a wildcard spot from the Pacific.  The Sharks and Blues slip slightly but only the former can sneak into the playoffs thanks to the relative strength of their respective divisions.  The Flames improve, but can’t break past the Central wildcards.  Nashville maintains.  The Coyotes leap ahead, yet like Buffalo, it’s not quite enough to breach the post-season.  The Kings continue their slide backward, now with much worse possession numbers due to coaching turnover.  The Canucks do slightly better than last year thanks to the kids, as do the Avalanche, who gain over 20 points, but that shouldn’t be hard, right?  Vegas finishes last overall — it just feels right, especially with that roster.

Overall, the median point total increases slightly due to Vegas existing, while the deviation tightens up thanks to Colorado giving away points.  Half of the teams got better, while half got worse.  Playoff turnover sees five teams getting back in, and necessarily, five missing.

This is not particularly what I want as a fan of certain teams, so it must be at least a little bit accurate.  I’ll be sure to check back in on this when the playoffs begin!

But right now, it’s finally hockey season again.  (Almost.)