Star Wars: The Last Jedi Trailer and Celebration Panel thoughts

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Trailer and Celebration Panel thoughts

It started out as a great day because I had no work and could sleep in. It became an incredible day as I watched the Star Wars: The Last Jedi panel at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando. Through the livestream we learned of many fascinating tidbits from the movie, witnessed the movie’s stunning promotional poster, and most importantly GOT TO SEE THE FIRST FREAKING TRAILER FOR THE LAST JEDI GAHHHHYESSSS! I may be a tad bit excited. Check out the trailer and poster and then check out my thoughts below.

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My favorite element of all these thrilling reveals is confirmation of Luke Skywalker’s prominent role in The Last Jedi. This is by no means a surprise but the confirmation is still so satisfying, particularly hearing the character’s first dialogue in film since Return of the Jedi in 1983. And with that dialogue came the most meaningful part of the new trailer where Luke says “I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” This is mind-blowing and filled with so much potential, but also makes me really happy because it largely confirms my thoughts when the title was first unveiled in January (refresh your memory by reading that blog post:

Arguably more important is that today not only confirmed Luke’s prominence but also teases the complexity of his character. Daisy Ridley hinted during the panel that meeting Luke and the beginning of their relationship is akin to meeting one of your heroes with high expectations and struggling to reconcile those expectations with reality. We see Luke training Rey (the visual representation of this training in the trailer is beautiful and further augmented by the music of John Williams) but as teased, it’s largely not going to be what Rey expects. Will Luke be initially resistant because of what happened when he trained the new generation of Jedi? Or will he immediately agree to train her, but only as a Force-wielder that is something different than Jedi which will be hard for Rey to reconcile? In The Force Awakens When Finn tells Rey that BB-8 is carrying a map to Luke Skywalker, Rey says “Luke Skywalker? I thought he was a myth.” The myth continues to grow for her throughout the movie as everyone seems to believe finding Luke is the answer to stopping the First Order and the terror they’re spreading throughout the galaxy. If Luke is unwilling to jump into galaxy-saving mode, that alone could be enough to cause Rey to struggle with reconciling her expectations with reality as she sees that the man behind this heroic myth may not be the benevolent, all-mighty savior she imagined.

It’s not difficult to imagine the difficult state of mind Luke is in following everything that has happened and the inner conflicts he is surely struggling to work through. Even when Luke asks Rey about her understanding of the Force in the trailer he responds by addressing that it’s much more complex than she realizes. The poster further represents the complexity of the Luke Skywalker we will be reacquainted with. He may be training Rey now and attempting to navigate the path that will bring balance to the Force and the galaxy even if that ends the Jedi for good. Yet, he is still somewhat responsible for Ben Solo’s fall to the Dark Side and the subsequent destruction of the new generation of Jedi and the rise of the First Order (much to learn we still have concerning these matters).

The excitement revolves heavily around Luke Skywalker right now, but that is not all we gleaned today. I loved learning that Kelly Marie Tran is playing Rose, a maintenance worker in the Resistance. We’ve known for a while that Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, and Kelly Marie Tran would play new characters in The Last Jedi. It’s gratifying to learn who Kelly Marie Tran is playing, to hear about the character not only from the actress herself but also from director Rian Johnson and to see the first official picture of the character. While the premise of the character may initially sound a bit underwhelming, Tran’s infectious enthusiasm immediately makes you excited for the character. Johnson furthered this excitement by talking about how he remembered watching the Star Wars movies as a kid and experiencing Luke’s journey from an unordinary farm boy to this extraordinary hero. He went on to explain that Rose embodies that as a character who goes from a somewhat unordinary role to becoming an unlikely but extraordinary hero. That is one of the most important motifs in Star Wars, a key facet of what made so many love the original trilogy (how Luke and Han went from being so unordinary and unimportant to being so extraordinary and important) and why The Force Awakens resonated with many as well (Rey and Finn undergo similar journeys in this sense). Through a character like Rose, Star Wars continues to deliver one of its strongest elements through the journey of unordinary to extraordinary. I’m also excited about Rose because her character will add more depth and understanding to the Resistance. Even after The Force Awakens and novels like Star Wars: Bloodline which explained the initial creation of the Resistance, there is still a great deal we don’t know about the organization. Getting to know a character like Rose who isn’t in charge like Leia or their best pilot like Poe Dameron will be fascinating to see and help us better understand the more common individual associated with the Resistance. Check out our first look at Rose:

Kelly Marie Tran as Rose.

Other tidbits we learned today and thoughts about the trailer and poster:

  • While the trailer largely focuses on Luke and Rey, I’m glad the trailer also briefly reacquaints us with the core characters introduced in The Force Awakens (Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe, BB-8) without giving much away. It’s the perfect kind of tease that shows the characters we’ve loved for a while and characters we’ve only recently started to love in new situations without revealing too much of what those situations are.
  • I’m glad we saw a glimpse of Kylo Ren and his volatile red lightsaber but were denied a glimpse of his whole face in both the trailer and poster. I don’t want to see the full extent of the damage Rey inflicted on him physically until the movie is released. That his mask is destroyed also speaks volumes about his character development from the beginning of The Force Awakens until now.
  • I wish we’d seen more of Leia in this trailer (we only get a shot of the back of her head). I know Luke is the original trilogy character the movie will focus on the most, but I hope she will still play a very prominent role and she should as she still leads the Resistance. With Carrie Fisher’s passing and the beautiful but heartbreaking tribute video released at Star Wars Celebration yesterday, I wanted to see more of her. I also would’ve liked to see Chewbacca and C-3PO in the trailer. I’m worried about Chewie coping with the loss of Han.
  • When it comes to the First Order, I’m not only glad Kylo Ren was featured in the trailer but that Captain Phasma was featured as well. I hope she plays a much more significant and menacing role in this film compared to The Force Awakens. Also, I feel it was a good call to not show Snoke in the trailer. While I expect to see more of his character in this movie than The Force Awakens and to learn more about him, it’s important to maintain that sense of powerful mystery cloaking his character. For now, let the First Order’s terror manifest itself through the likes of Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma and, General Hux. It should gradually build toward the ultimate terror of Snoke, similar to how we experienced the likes of Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin terrorizing the galaxy far more before Emperor Palpatine in the original trilogy. Rian Johnson also teased that while the loss of Starkiller Base is huge for the First Order, they still had a major victory with wiping out the power of the New Republic and that we will see them taking advantage of that chaos right off the bat. I’m definitely looking forward to that and seeing the baddies perform evil deeds without relying on a planet-killing machine like the first or second Death Star or Starkiller Base.
  • The inclusion of the new ships kicking up red dust is also great as it shows something new, exciting and important added to the more familiar elements and characters of Star Wars. It’s important for Star Wars to retain the classic elements that define the franchise while continuing to incorporate fresh elements. Those ships are a great example of this and the uncertain future of the Jedi and the Force teased in this trailer is another fresh, meaningful direction the franchise is taking.
  • The gorgeous, haunting poster clearly represents the darker tone of this film and hints at the complex struggles Luke, Kylo Ren, and Rey are all struggling with. Finn, Poe, Leia and other characters will still be super important, but this movie really belongs to these three characters, and their struggles which heavily revolves around the Force.
  • It was a huge day for Star Wars! What are your reactions and thoughts to today’s numerous reveals? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social media!
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Should Maz Kanata be in the Han Solo movie?

Should Maz Kanata be in the Han Solo movie?

Should Maz Kanata be in the Han Solo movie?

In Star Wars: The Force Awakens we are introduced to Maz Kanata, an individual that is knowledgeable about the Force and influential among smugglers and pirates. Han Solo brings Rey, Finn, and BB-8 to Maz in order to help them reach Leia and the Resistance. However, Maz’s greater purpose lies in her ability to push Han, Rey and Finn towards the paths they need to take in addition to providing the storied lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker. While Maz’s connection to the Force, how she acquired the legendary lightsaber and other mysteries will unfold in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: Episode IX, there may be another opportunity to learn more about her in the Han Solo film slated for December 2018.

Why Maz Kanata SHOULD be in the Han Solo movie: Han decides to take Rey, Finn and BB-8 to Maz because she is an “old friend” who can safely help them reach Leia and the Resistance. But we still don’t have any concrete backstory of how Maz is an “old friend” of Han and Chewbacca. It’s not difficult to imagine Han and Chewbacca frequenting Maz’s “watering hole” during their smuggling days. It’s a similar scene to the Mos Eisley cantina where we first met Han and Chewbacca in Star Wars: A New Hope. The Han Solo movie could provide insight into this backstory and more importantly, explain why this “old friend” could be trusted. There is no issue with the timeline either as Han tells Rey and Finn that “She’s run this watering hole for a thousand years.” She may also have connections with Lando Calrissian not only because of his history as a smuggler and pirate, but also because of Luke’s lightsaber. I suspect Maz’s acquisition of the lightsaber may connect with Lando as the lightsaber was last seen when Darth Vader sliced off Luke’s hand in Cloud City on Bespin. Remember, Bespin is the world where Lando ran his operation and where we met him in the first place. Lando is also going to play a significant role in the Han Solo movie and could provide a meaningful connection to Maz.

As discussed in my initial blog post about the Han Solo movie ( his character development and story arc from A New Hope to The Force Awakens feels pretty damn complete which is why I’m a bit skeptical about the standalone movie. But one element of his story that remains incomplete is the history he and Chewbacca have with Maz prior to The Force Awakens. In a universe where all stories are connected in a cohesive canon, incorporating Maz Kanata can provide further continuity and a rich connection between the standalone and Skywalker Saga films.

Why Maz Kanata SHOULD NOT be in the Han Solo movie: Maz has deep connections and knowledge of the Force. However, in A New Hope, despite everything he’s seen in the galaxy, Han rejects the existence of the Force. While Maz surely doesn’t espouse her knowledge of the Force to all her patrons as she did to Han, Rey, and Finn in The Force Awakens, it is difficult to reconcile that someone so connected to the Force would closely associate with someone who rejects its existence entirely. Then again, in a time period where Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader seek to eliminate anyone Force-sensitive, Maz has reason to keep an extra low profile. Her actions in The Force Awakens largely stem from realizing that Rey is Force-sensitive and that Rey, Finn, and Han are critical to resisting the latest manifestation of the Dark Side: The First Order. Regardless, in order for Han’s lack of belief in the Force in A New Hope to still make sense, it may be most logical to steer clear of Maz Kanata in this story.

What do you think? Should Maz Kanata appear in the Han Solo movie? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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How To Get Away With Murder season 3 review

How To Get Away With Murder season 3 review

How to Get Away With Murder season 3 review

***Spoiler warning!

+ “Who is under the sheet” mystery: This creative premise hooked audiences into season 3 and provided a concrete reason to return each week up to the mid-season finale. The stakes were higher than ever with the life of an unknown core character on the line, keeping audiences guessing and frantically trying to put the pieces together.

Ultimately Wes was an excellent choice for the mystery’s reveal. Audiences were more emotionally invested in Wes than many of the main characters and all the surviving characters had strong, complicated emotional ties to Wes as well. This kept audiences hooked after the mid-season finale. I’m not sure any other characters would’ve provided the same emotional investment from the both the audience and characters within the story. And no one had as complicated and emotional a relationship with Wes as Annalise, so his death opened up even more intriguing routes for her character development as the central figure of the story.

Wes was furthermore an excellent choice because his character development felt very complete up to this point. The only other character with as much development and backstory at this point was Annalise. We’d seen Wes as the naïve and innocent “puppy,” a hardworking and independent law student, a manipulator, the one manipulated, the one who takes a strong moral stand, as someone who acts desperately, as the a victim and even as a murderer. Through these experiences we saw Wes pushed to his furthest limits. His story and character development felt very complete while many of the other characters still have a great deal of untapped potential. The choice to kill Wes was shocking, bold, and also deceptive due to the show manipulating the timeline behind the reveals of who survived the night of the fire. Above all it was a fitting choice that behooved the show.

– Too many unanswered questions about the night of the fire: While HTGAWM tends to leave cliffhangers, the show also has a tendency to leave with the questions surrounding the season’s primary mystery to be answered. Season 1 ended with the cliffhanger of why Frank killed Lila for Sam, but all questions about the night of Lila’s murder were answered. This season failed to do that as we are left with way too many unanswered questions about the night of the fire. Why did Annalise call the Keating 5 to the house? Who did Wes call in the taxi when he referred to himself as Cristophe? Did Wes go straight to the house after riding in the taxi and placing that mysterious phone call? Who was the anonymous source who helped frame Annalise? Hopefully all these questions will be answered. The problem is some of these questions feel more like plot holes than cliffhangers.

The reveal of who killed Wes: I have mixed feelings about the reveal that Laurel’s father was the engineer behind the death of Wes. I like the reveal because of the tantalizing prospects it creates for season 4. There is finally payoff for the frequent mentions of Laurel’s father, what a dangerous man he is, and his meeting with Laurel earlier in season 3. Also, the reveal was shocking to me. My main suspects were Nate and Bonnie. I never even considered Laurel’s father. There’s something satisfying about experiencing genuine shock about a work of fiction.

Yet, the shock is also one of the reasons I dislike the reveal. Despite frequent mentions Laurel’s father has barely been in the show. Thus, Laurel’s father being the engineer behind the death of Wes feels a little bit too much out of left field to the point that it’s the kind of shock that doesn’t totally make sense. The reveal felt more real when juxtaposed with Annalise’s palpable grief and raw honesty in the final scene of the season.

What to look forward to in season 4:

  • Discovering why Laurel’s father wanted Wes killed
  • How and when will Laurel discover that her father engineered the death of Wes? How will she react?
  • The same questions but regarding Annalise . . . And what is Annalise going to do with her life now?
  • What is Denver’s connection with Dominic and Laurel’s father?
  • Does Laurel’s father have any ties to the Mahoney family? What role if any does the Mahoney family still have to play?
  • Connor is one of the only core characters we don’t have much backstory for yet. It was hinted at in the season 3 finale, but will we finally receive more of Connor’s backstory?
  • The future of the Oliver-Connor and Michaela-Asher relationships

What did you think about season 3 of HTGAWM? What are you looking forward to most in season 4? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Super Sad True Love Story book review

Super Sad True Love Story book review

If I’d read Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart a few years ago, I would’ve found the depiction of the United States fascinating, thought-provoking, and disturbing. I wouldn’t have thought it felt familiar.

Thanks to the Trump administration, Rubenstein’s America doesn’t feel as alien as it should. Shteyngart creates an isolationist America that breeds fear through censorship and maligning individuals associated with particular countries and nationalities. The distinction between the government factions and corporate giants in power blur until there’s hardly any distinction at all.

Like its finest dystopian predecessors, Super Sad True Love Story makes chillingly accurate predictions about the future not only concerning politics, but with the direction of technology and human psychology. The äppäräts, everyone’s dependency on them and the rankings/data they provide act as a mirror to our Smartphone and social media-addicted culture. So much energy and time are dedicated to creating a self-image that leave us feeling unfulfilled and insubstantial. The live streaming is a spot-on manifestation of what Facebook Live and other real-world live streaming videos are designed to be.

Among the heavy and foreboding themes, the main characters Lenny and Eunice intricately develop  within their touching, humorous, highly problematic relationship. They ground the story and make it personal amidst the political upheaval. While Lenny’s diary entries contain more of a literary feel and thus seem like they carry more merit, DO NOT rush through Eunice’s GlobalTeens messages. In many ways they are more insightful and genuine than Lenny’s diary entries. It’s refreshing to experience Eunice without the romanticized smog smearing Lenny’s chapters. In a clever way the story emphasizes this sentiment, however both perspectives are critical to the brilliance of this book.

Overall, Super Sad True Love Story excels as a profoundly hysterical, disturbing and above all self-aware story.

Do you think this book mirrors modern day America? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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Han Solo anthology film initial thoughts

Many already want to bash the Han Solo anthology film. Nobody should play Han Solo except Harrison Ford! We don’t need an origin story for Han Solo! Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t even look like Harrison Ford!

I hear the criticism and I get it. All three of these thoughts have crossed my mind. Here’s where I stand: I don’t think this is the Star Wars story we “need” but I think it could end up being really good.

Why we don’t “need” this Star Wars story: Han Solo is not a character I feel like I don’t know well or as though there are key pieces missing from his story. His character development and story arc from A New Hope to The Force Awakens feels pretty damn complete and satisfying to me.

These Star Wars anthology films should not revolve so much around characters we know well. Like Rogue One they should primarily revolve around new characters like Jyn, Cassian, Chirrut, K-2SO, Director Krennic, etc. while incorporating characters we know well (like Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin) in supporting rather than leading roles. Star Wars features an incredible galaxy teeming with countless planets and characters. Let’s hear more of their stories instead of revealing every little tidbit there is to know about characters we already know so well.

Why it could end up being really good: And yet, I salivate at the prospect of learning about the beginning of the friendship between Han and Lando, and what the Han-Chewbacca dynamic was like in the days before their fateful meeting with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in the Mos Eisley cantina. I can’t help wondering about the “weird, strange stuff” Han mentions to Luke he’s seen when traveling from one end of the galaxy to another. Might we witness the legendary Kessel Run or the infamous sabacc game where Han won the Millenium Falcon from Lando?

Furthermore, Lucasfilm has been rocking it the last couple years. Rogue One was a masterpiece (see my review here: and The Force Awakens revitalized the Skywalker Saga. Other recent materials in the canon like the TV show Star Wars Rebels, the novel Star Wars: Bloodline, and the comic book Star Wars Volume 1: Skywalker Strikes are original while also being significantly consequential and connected to essential Star Wars canon. The point is that if Lucasfilm has been rocking it so far, why are they suddenly going to drop the ball here? Also, Lawrence Kasdan co-wrote the script for the Han Solo movie. He worked on a few other little-known scripts such as The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens. I have faith he will deliver another fantastic script.

I also can’t help but get excited about actresses from two of my favorite TV shows being in this movie (Emilia Clarke who plays Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones and Thandie Newton who plays Maeve in Westworld).

What do you think? Is the Han Solo anthology film a good or bad idea? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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Avengers: Infinity War first look

Avengers: Infinity War first look

The Avengers will meet the Guardians of the Galaxy in Avengers: Infinity War! Check out the cool video below to learn more:

This news is not surprising as

A) Thanos–the big bad the MCU has been building to–has already played significant roles (albeit largely behind the scenes) in the Avengers movies and in Guardians of the Galaxy.

B) While bizarre, delightful and highly successful, Guardians of the Galaxy seems like the most tangential of all the MCU story-lines. Avengers: Infinity War enables the eclectic group to connect to the core of the MCU. Lack of surprise aside, this is nonetheless a satisfying announcement. All the connectivity within the MCU is intentional and building to this epic culmination.

Now James Gunn has confirmed that overall Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will not serve as setup for Avengers: Infinity War. Thus, which other MCU movies prior to the release of Avengers: Infinity War will serve as further setup? Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther will likely act as more personal stories. Thor: Ragnarok is the remaining movie I expect to do the most setup, taking major steps to tie in the Infinity Stones.

With many characters from nearly a decade of films coming together, Avengers: Infinity War is shaping up to have an even more extensive cast than Captain America: Civil War. Hopefully like Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War is still able to tell a meaningful, character-driven story.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi title thoughts

Star Wars: The Last Jedi title thoughts
     Let the speculation begin as Lucasfilm unveils the title Star Wars: The Last Jedi for the eighth installment in the Skywalker saga!
     It’s a Star Wars title at its best: concise, powerful, and foreboding. However, many are already complaining that the title is too spoilery (it means Luke is going to die!) and or that it’s too repetitive of the original trilogy (Luke will die before he finishes training Rey, making Rey the last Jedi . . . so basically the same thing that happened with Luke and Yoda in the original trilogy). However, I don’t believe the title means either of those things.
     I believe the title is a reference to Luke Skywalker deciding to truly be the last Jedi. I believe Luke will train Rey, but he will not train her to become a Jedi.
     Hear me out: In Return of the Jedi, Yoda tells Luke “When gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be.” The post-Return of the Jedi movies are going to uphold the power and gravity of Yoda’s statement.
     Luke will train Rey to use the Force and use it for good. But he will not train her to become a Jedi and he will not use Jedi philosophy.
     One of the most important realizations Luke has likely learned and that most Star Wars fans have  learned at this point is that the Jedi philosophy is highly flawed, particularly the “no emotional attachments” part. The impossibility of this idea played a major role in Anakin Skywalker turning to the Dark Side and becoming Darth Vader, as did his many frustrations with the Jedi Order. Another issue is that the Jedi are supposed to be peacekeepers, yet it often seems like their role as warriors becomes more prevalent. This largely influenced growing unpopular opinion of the Jedi during the Clone Wars, thereby creating more plausibility for Palpatine’s public version of events explaining Order 66.
The Jedi were supposed to be wise, compassionate peacekeepers that valued all life yet they often had a cold outlook on matters (Yoda and Obi-Wan trying to convince Luke to continue training rather than help save Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back is one of the first examples that come to mind, as is how the Jedi Council so easily condemned Ahsoka for the bombing of the Jedi Temple in The Clone Wars). The first example is due to Yoda and Obi-Wan thinking about the greater good of the galaxy while the second is a product of pure blindness. Both demonstrate hypocrisy within the Jedi Order.
     Wise individuals like Qui-Gon Jinn recognized the Jedi’s many flaws without letting it consume them as it did Anakin. And yet, the Clone Wars, Order 66 and the rise of the Galactic Empire destroyed the Jedi, manipulating their flaws. Even after Luke’s triumphs in Return of the Jedi, his attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order once again collapsed, this time thanks to Snoke and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo.
     At this point in the Skywalker saga, Luke must realize that the Jedi philosophy is impractical and cannot be sustained in the modern galaxy. He will agree to teach Rey because of her strong connection to the Force and for the good of the galaxy. But he will not teach her to be a Jedi. Snoke and Kylo Ren aren’t Sith, but they wield the Dark Side of the Force. That there are still powerful Force-users that don’t prescribe to the philosophies of Jedi and Sith is a crucial way in which I see these movies differentiating themselves from the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. It would also explain why newer canon like Star Wars Rebels is focusing on characters like Ahsoka, Maul and the Bendu, all characters that at this point wield the Force but don’t follow the ways of the Jedi or Sith. Therefore, this movie will largely focus on Luke reconciling with being the last classically trained Jedi in the galaxy, how to train Rey without the Jedi philosophy, and what the future of the Force and the galaxy looks like without Jedi and Sith.
     True to Yoda’s word, Luke Skywalker is and always will be the last true Jedi Knight.
     What other theories do you have? Is my friend Brandon correct that the title is actually referring to multiple individuals, using Jedi in the plural sense? Comment directly on the blog or on Facebook to share your ideas.