Is This Really Walt Disney’s Worst “Star Wars” Movie?

Nearly a month since its release, die hard fans and film critics continue to debate the latest Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) developed entry in the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi. The most bearish viewers have pointed to unexplored storylines, missed opportunities for character development, and various plot holes. But has this controversy played out in the film's box office performance? Still a powerful force Make no mistake, The Last Jedi is a financial home run. So far, the movie has generated over $1.2 billion in cumulative box office receipts, and though it remains well behind The Force Awakens, it has surpassed 2016's Rogue One. By their 25th day in theaters, The Force Awakens had sold over $816 million in tickets; The Last Jedi, $574 million; and Rogue One, $479 million. Regardless of the mixed reception, it's clear there was an audience for this new film. Image source: Long coattails There's no question now that Walt Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm is still paying dividends. Even when the deal was first announced, the market didn't see it as the same risky venture when the entertainment giant took over Marvel for a similar amount. In a few short years,Disney-produced Star Wars films have topped $4 billion at the box office -- matching what the company paid for the franchise in 2012. And Star Wars will have a trickle-down effect for companies that ride the coattails of each release. Toymaker Hasbro (NASDAQ: HAS), for example, benefits whenever a Star Wars film is released, but the popularity of the movie will determine just how big the impact will be. After the 2015 release of The Force Awakens, Hasbro's partner revenue surged 68% that year, while the following year, segment revenue was up only 28% for Rogue One. Disney's own earnings, which should be reported early next month, will also reflect these nuances. While they'll undoubtedly get more of a lift from The Last Jedi than they did from Rogue One, keep in mind the new film is Continue Reading

Criticism aside, this Star Wars had force

0 View Comments It took only two weeks and change for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" to become the highest-grossing movie of 2017, with the latest installment of the 40-year-old action-adventure serial now having earned more than half a billion dollars at the box office. The success of "The Last Jedi" isn't surprising, but in this case it's notable, if only because the movie has been so divisive, especially among lifelong fans. When "The Last Jedi" opened in mid-December, it earned mostly positive reviews: Impressed by director Rian Johnson's wit, visual style, old-school cinematic references and clear devotion to the Star Wars universe, critics were nearly unanimous in declaring it a home run. The fans weren't as thrilled: Turned off by everything from plot holes and unsatisfying character arcs to a bizarre scene of someone milking a saggy, baggy thala-siren, so many viewers declared "The Last Jedi" a failure that some started a petition to have it removed from the canon. Even Mark Hamill piled on at one point ("He's not my Luke Skywalker") before recanting.Granted, many of "The Last Jedi's" detractors have valid points: The movie isn't perfect. It's too long, contains a time-wasting trip to a poorly conceived space-casino and kills off at least one iconic character while letting another survive. But much of the backlash echoes Hamill's admission: This isn't my Star Wars. Subtext: Because Star Wars is all about the fans, and because it doesn't adhere to this fan's deeply personal expectations, sense memories and demands, it can be rejected with extreme prejudice.The critic-fan divide around "The Last Jedi" has reminded me of a moment long ago when I began reviewing movies for a living. My then-young nephew, trying to wrap his head around getting paid to watch and write about films, said, "So you basically say whether a movie sucks or not."Well, yes. But really, no. The challenge of critical thinking is to take pure subjectivity out of the equation so that your Continue Reading

Nerd in the Know: The Last Jedi breaks hero archetypes, breathing new life into Star Wars

If these new trilogy movies show us anything, it’s that the Chosen One hero isn’t the solution. In the original trilogy, the Rebel Alliance wins through Luke’s personal victory in defeating the Emperor and turning his father back to the Light Side and through Leia’s leadership in destroying two Death Stars. However, their victory is short-lived. Luke tries to reform the original Jedi Order and fails. The New Republic is fraught with dishonesty and bickering, forcing Leia to form The Resistance in secret and witness her democratic republic literally crumble into space dust. Instead, “The Last Jedi” shows us that true heroes aren’t just one person chosen to hold the power or prestige to succeed, but are made up of a group of people. It’s people like Rose Tico, who represent the hundreds with The Resistance, that have a real stake in fighting The First Order. And it’s people like Finn and Rey, who have only glimpsed at a world bigger than themselves and are willing to fight to keep it and find their place in it. Long-lasting change can only happen when it incorporates people from different perspectives and backgrounds, and when all of those people are not only part of the fight but also part of the solution. Luke even realizes this in “The Last Jedi.” It what leads him to, in my personal opinion, the greatest demonstration of the power of the Force. And I know that beneath all of the critiques of plot holes, new characters and any other small details that “true fans” have complained about, this is the real reason why they don’t like “The Last Jedi.” It’s not the classic fight of Good vs. Evil, at least not in the archetypal way that “Star Wars” fans are used to. You can’t put yourself in the hero’s shoes as easily, because “Star Wars” is no longer about one hero who saves the galaxy. It’s about a group of heroes who Continue Reading

News For Nerds: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ wasn’t the Christmas gift you were looking for

If you’ll indulge me, can we please discuss the 800-pound wookie in the room, that room being the latest offering from the Star Wars enterprise?Yes, I realize this isn’t a two-way conversation, but feel free to speak up at any time.And no, I’m not talking about Chewbacca, because let’s face it, he always has the best lines in every flick he’s appeared in, with the exception of the Star Wars Holiday Special (if you didn’t get that joke, you’re obviously not a true fan).But I digress. Now that a few weeks have passed since “The Last Jedi” premiered, I feel that it’s safe to debate the pros and cons of the newest movie from the epic space opera without spoiling it for its legions of rabid fans. More: Mark Hamill regrets trash-talking Luke Skywalker's direction in 'The Last Jedi' More: The Mothership podcast: We break out the 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' spoilers More: 10 burning 'Last Jedi' questions we need answered in 'Star Wars: Episode IX' (spoilers!) More: 'Star Wars': What's going on with Kylo Ren and Rey in 'The Last Jedi'? However, before I jump right into it, I feel that I must offer this legally binding, one-time chance to walk away from this column now. I’m about to spill the beans.But hey, if you haven’t seen the movie by now, you either aren’t all that interested in the first place (don’t know who that could be), or you’re too busy (come on, it’s only 2½  hours). Plus, I think your social media friends have already spilled every major plot point.Therefore, go buy a ticket, sit down with a bucket of popcorn and come back. All done watching it? Good, here we go.First, how in the world is J.J. Abrams going to write his way out of the serious hole that “The Last Jedi” screenwriter and director Rian Johnson dug for him? This hole is deeper and smellier than the exogorth the Millennium Falcon barely Continue Reading

Need a break from new plot twists and cable news? Try these comfort TV favorites

In the “Peak TV” era, there are literally hundreds of shows on our cable and streaming services. Yet with fresh programming showing up weekly on our home screens, we tend to spend our time with new series or catching up on critically acclaimed shows from the recent past with challenging narratives, edgy humor or award-winning performances.But sometimes, when the news of the day is frightful and hanging out during the holidays with family and friends puts us in a nostalgic frame of mind, the most delightful choice can be watching an old show where we know everybody’s name and don’t need to worry about new plot twists.In the spirit of hunkering down with the familiar, we offer a list of shows that — like a holiday blanket — offer us comfort in challenging times.Be it the pioneering charms of the MTM comedies, the gritty details of real-life police investigations, the delights of British people baking and building things, or the soapy machinations of pretty people in an L.A. apartment complex, these are a few of our favorite TV things.MTM Enterprises comedies: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Rhoda” and “The Bob Newhart Show”Comfort is a shared domestic pursuit, and what we readily agree on at our house are the mind-settling, restorative properties of 1970s comedies from MTM Enterprises — specifically "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Rhoda" and "The Bob Newhart Show."Although chronologically they partly coincide with the Vietnam War and Watergate eras — and one is actually set in a newsroom — these series are political mostly by example, having at their center intelligent, articulate, capable adults living in a modern way. (Eccentrics do surround them.) If they're explicit in anything, it's their feminism, a streak that time has made no less relevant: Mary Richards doesn't need a boyfriend; Rhoda Morgenstern owns a business; Bob and Emily Hartley are equal partners (though Emily is Continue Reading

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ review: bold take rejuvenates the saga

“Star Wars” has hurtled into a whole new orbit with the saga’s eighth episode. That’s not to say “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will go down in history as a better movie than the franchise’s gold standard, “The Empire Strikes Back,” but director Rian Johnson has pulled off a complete rejuvenation of the saga. The new movie truly passes the torch by making the next generation of Resistance heroes — Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and new addition, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) — every bit as compelling as the old guard. Even more surprising, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) evolves from the whiny brat in “The Force Awakens” to a three-dimensional menace. As moving as it is to see Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker and the late, great Carrie Fisher’s General Leia back in action, they are no longer the best characters on screen. Mark Hamill as reluctant mentor in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Movie-goers, though, will have to sit through a solid, but not spectacular, first half of the 2.5-hour movie to see for themselves. That’s about when the greatest lightsaber battle in “Star Wars” history kick-starts one of the most exciting cinematic stretches Earthlings have ever seen. Without another Death Star to blow up, Johnson is free to navigate a more original plot. The film opens with the Resistance on the losing end of a big battle sequence and fleeing from the pursuing First Order. Across the galaxy, Rey is desperate to convince Luke to pull himself out his self-imposed exile to join the battle against his former protégé, Kylo Ren. It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that the hero of the original trilogy gets a lot more screen-time than the 30 seconds he notched at the end of the last installment, “The Force Awakens.” Stars shine at the 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' premiere Johnson overplays his hand occasionally — most Continue Reading

Medals and forged documents belonging to WWII hero who took part in real-life ‘Italian Job’ sold at auction

Medals and forged documents belonging to a Second World War hero have sold for a whopping £10,000 at auction ($13,000 US) — because he took part in the real-life “Italian Job.” Likened to a Hollywood script, the wartime bravery of Lieutenant James Riccomini MBE saw him flee Nazi capture when his cover in Italy was blown and sought refuge in the Alps — known as the “SAS Italian Job.” He carried out daring raids deep behind enemy lines and escaped captivity by jumping from a moving train. Lt Riccomini served with the Royal Army Service Corps in Egypt when he was snared by the Nazis in 1941 and sent to the Gavi prisoner of war camp. In September 1943 Riccomini was put on a train to a camp in Austria but the 16 men in the carriage carved a 2ft hole into an end wall jumped out of it as it continued travelling. His life was tragically cut short when he took part in an assault on a German military headquarters in northern Italy during Operation Tombola. Lt Riccomini was killed during the operation dubbed the “SAS Italian Job” which was carried out in a bid to harass the retreating enemy forces in March, 1945. Medals, personal letters and forged identity documents were sold for a staggering £9,800 during an auction on Tuesday. His MBE, along with his Military Cross, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star and the 1939-45 War medal, were all sold by C&T Auctioneers, of Ashford, Kent, at The Spa Hotel, in Tunbridge Wells. Lt Riccomini penned a letter to his wife as he embarked on his escape to Switzerland. He wrote: "On September 19 last year I was lucky enough to escape from the Germans and since that time I have been hiding and running, always finding wonderful friends among the Italian people. "Today another chap and I are starting out for Switzerland. We hope to be there in two or three days time. "Sorry darling that I cannot write more, but Continue Reading

Benito Mussolini is executed in 1945

(Originally published by the Daily News on April 30, 1945. This story was written by James E. Roper.) MILAN, April 29 - Italian patriots executed Benito Mussolini yesterday, and today a howling mob is kicking and spitting on his body, lying in the center of this city where Italian Fascism was born. Mussolini’s face wears a disdainful snarl. He died shouting “No! No!” to a firing squad which took his life, and that of his mistress, near the village of Dongo Lake Como at 4:10 P.M. The body was brought by truck to Milan and dumped in the city’s square. (Years ago Mussolini had walked the streets of that square as a reporter for the newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia. Later, with French money, he purchased the newspaper.) A bullet penetrated Mussolini’s bald head through the left forehead and passed entirely through it, tearing out part of the skull above and behind the right ear. The brains which took Fascist Italy into the war ooze onto the filth of a dirt plot in the center of Milan. Mussolini was 61 years old. He was born July 29, 1883, at Dovia di Predappio, Italy, and was christened Benito Amilcare Andrea. Along with Mussolini, the patriots killed his mistress, Clara Petacci, and 16 other Fascists, many of them members of his Cabinet. Mob Beats Guard Back. The bodies of all were brought to Milan, which American 5th Army troops entered today. A mob of more than 5,000 persons immediately set upon the corpses marking the final end of Fascism which carried Italy to its doom. All bodies were strewn about a small area. A few patriot guards tried to hold the crowds back, but the guards were shoved back so that they stepped on the bodies. While I was examining Mussolini’s body today, the crowd surged forward almost shoved me atop it. Partisan guards began firing into the air and some semblance of control was regained. Early in the morning, when the bodies were dumped into Continue Reading

‘Star Wars’ character unseen since 1977, played by a deceased actor, returns to the screen in ‘Rogue One’

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR “ROGUE ONE” AND THE “STAR WARS” FRANCHISE! The Force was clearly strong with the filmmakers of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” Director Gareth Edwards and his filmmaking team resurrected a number of characters from the original film, “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope.” Chiefly among them is a figure portrayed by an actor who died in 1994. Grand Moff Tarkin, originally brought to life by English actor Peter Cushing, has a (rather substantial) supporting role in “Rogue One,” as overseer and operator of the Death Star superweapon. That’s because, thanks to computer-generated imagery (CGI) and the folks at Lucasfilm and the digital effects house Industrial Light & Magic, Tarkin was recreated for the screen — in a feat long considered taboo or elusive in the movie industry. Creating the “perfect,” most seamless human has long puzzled filmmakers. Oftentimes, these creative personalities and studio heads fear that fans will lash out at the artificiality. But in “Rogue One,” a rather first-rate CG version of Tarkin dominates the frame as he jockeys for power with Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). And with just some suspension of disbelief, he fits right in. In one perfectly plotted introductory scene, Tarkin has his back turned to the camera and quickly turns to reveal himself — and his stern, angular and formidable facial features. To accomplish this, the filmmakers hired Guy Henry, 56, an English actor who also appeared as Minister of Magic Pius Thicknesse in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” According to Yahoo! Movies, Henry’s features bore a strong resemblance to the late Cushing, who was known for his roles as Victor Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes. So, Henry played Tarkin on the set and the film’s VFX team then transformed him Continue Reading

10 movies to look forward to in 2010; ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ “Sex & the City 2′,’ ‘Iron Man 2,’ more

Yes, we know that No. 2 on your list of New Year's resolutions is "catch up with Christmas movies." Still, there's no better time to take a breath, open your calendar and mark down a few to catch in the coming year. 1. "The Wolfman" (Feb. 12). The pitch: Several delayed openings have resulted in this horror remake landing atop Valentine's Day weekend. Surly Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) alights to England in the 1800s, where his father (Anthony Hopkins) fills him in on the family curse — just before Larry gets hairy following a werewolf attack. Before you can say "Maria Ouspenskaya," the comely lass (Emily Blunt) Larry loves has to pack some Mace in her bodice when she walks the moors. Why you'll see it: It's not fair for vampires to corner the market on romantic brooding. 2. "Shutter Island" (Feb. 19). The pitch: Another movie shunted from 2009, but this one's different: Martin Scorsese's adaptation of a Dennis Lehane potboiler stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a 1950s detective investigating creepy goings-on at an island prison. Things, of course, are not as they seem. Mark Ruffalo, Jackie Earle Haley, Patricia Clarkson and Michelle Williams co-star. Why you'll see it: New York's master filmmaker Scorsese tackles his first full-on thriller since "Cape Fear." 3. "Alice in Wonderland" (March 5). The pitch: The line "A perfect movie for Tim Burton" has been used so often, it almost means nothing — especially after such hit-or-miss projects as "Sleepy Hollow," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Sweeney Todd." Still, it's hard not to groove on the beautiful, weirdo synergy in Burton going through the looking glass to bring Lewis Carroll's fantastical tale to the screen. Newcomer Mia Wasikowska is the girl who falls down the hole, Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway are the Red and White Queens, respectively. Why you'll see it: Because images this freaky usually come with a hangover. 4. "Date Night" Continue Reading