Star Wars: The Last Jedi, by Jason Fry


The Last Jedi (Star Wars) - Jason Fry

Almost forgot to review this! Like the novelization of The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi was mostly worthwhile in terms of the additional context and peek inside characters’ heads not offered in the film. However, I had even more questions about TLJ from the movie than I had for TFA. I also had not re-watched it yet. Moments I thought were not in the film were indeed in there when I eventually re-watched; I was so off in my head through TLJ, I missed a lot!

The most interesting new bits in the novel that I remember from my reading include details about General Hux’s background and those of his fellow First Order officers. Apparently, Hux’s father was also a military man but was crazy; Hux killed him (it’s not revealed how)–it remains dangerous business being a father to a son in the Star Wars universe! Seriously, it’s like being a Roman Caesar. In the film you can see Hux clash with other officers, but the novel clarifies that a few of them also served the Empire; they’re used to doing things a certain way. Hux favors shows of strength rather than utilizing successful strategy.

Some additional scenes were filmed but not part of the final cut (available as deleted scenes in special features) and are described in the novel. These include a serious-turned-funny sequence where Luke tells Rey that newly arriving Caretaker species merchants are raiders who come regularly to steal and kill. Rey rushes down to them only to discover that they’re having a party! Luke lied to make a point about how the Jedi would have taken a no-involvement stance. Something not filmed, though, is Luke inviting Rey to dance; it’s sweet scene.

The biggest questions I had after seeing the film the first time involved Kylo Ren and Rey, of course. It somehow wasn’t clear to me on a first viewing if Ren knew anything about Snoke forming the Force bond between him and Rey; he didn’t. I also wondered if Snoke was telling the truth about that. In the book, before and during his monologue that ends with his death, we get a glimpse of Snoke’s thoughts, and he did indeed bridge their minds (at least HE believes he did). There’s also more about the fight from Rey’s perspective especially; at the beginning she struggles a bit but essentially lets the Force guide her. It’s pretty cool. She also senses Ben/Kylo as he fights and compares him to an animal finally freed from his cage.

Most revealing is why Rey leaves Ren alive once it’s clear he’s not going to turn and they struggle over Luke’s light saber, which splits and knocks them unconscious. He wakes up, but Rey is already gone in the movie. In the book, there’s a little scene where Rey awakens and contemplates what to do. She feels that the Force isn’t done with Ren, and it’s not her place to kill him.

There’s also more about Rose and her sister, which helped me appreciate her more as a character. There’s a bit more romantic tension between her and Finn, from her perspective at least, as she’s annoyed each time he thinks only of Rey, not the larger cause.

And we get more about and from Leia, including her Force training and that moment where she and Ben sense each other as his ship is set to fire on hers. The thing that prevents him from killing her is that what he senses from her is worry–for him, not herself. My heart hurts; excuse me while I go cry over Carrie Fisher again.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi, by Jason Fry

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, by Alan Dean Foster


The Force Awakens (Star Wars) - Alan Dean Foster

This is the first book adaptation of a film that I’ve read and the first I’ve ever wanted to. There are of course many Star Wars novels, none of which I’ve read. I wondered what sort of money-grabbing, hastily edited crap I might be delving into. Though in the opening pages there was some awkward language or editing, on the whole those issues didn’t persist, and the book gave me what I wanted, which was a sort of “behind the scenes” look at the story, moments we see on actors’ faces translated into words, “missing scenes,” etc. I got just as emotional reading particular scenes as when I watch the movie and at the same time was interested by some changes or details explained (I believe the adaptation was based on the shooting script).

Some film versus book differences of note:

Unkar Plutt isn’t just a jerk, he’s kind of a creeper, too. There’s a missing scene where he shows up on Takodana for Rey, and Chewie rips his arm(s) off! In addition, Rey comes much closer to selling BB-8 than she appears to in the movie. There it seems her conscience gets the better of her; in the book, she counters Plutt’s offer of 50 portions with 100. When he immediately accepts, that’s when she decides not to sell the droid; it’s like she can’t bear to let him have something he so obviously wants.

I’m a bit confused by the timeline of some things in the films, so it was helpful to learn, for instance, that when Kylo Ren removes his mask when Han directs him to, we discover it’s the first time he’s seen his son “grown.”

There’s a whole lot more on Kylo Ren’s thoughts and his interactions with Snoke. In the film he comes off as moody and prone to anger. This is actually atypical of him, according to the book. He’s all about control and lack of emotion. He even says that revenge is “an adolescent concession to personal vanity,” which is interesting given his focus in <i>The Last Jedi</i>.

The book also provides context that I was unclear on, such as the fact that the Republic still exists, but there’s typical political infighting in the Senate; most believe Leia is blowing things out of proportion concerning the First Order. In addition, there are more details about the First Order, storm troopers, and how that system-destroying weapon works.

There’s more than that, so if you’re a Star Wars fan (aren’t you?!), it’s worth checking out. I’ve already started the next one (by a different author).

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens, by Alan Dean Foster

1001 Movies: Doctor Zhivago


Doctor Zhivago is my third David Lean film, after Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai, and my second favorite. It’s a characteristically visually stunning epic with a grand story and score. There are many beautiful shots, of the actors and landscape, and looking through windows. I’d love to read scholarship on the film’s cinematography.


The film won five Academy Awards in 1966, including Best Picture, and it’s easy to see why. The script is subtle and, at nearly three and a half hours, still never plodding. Here’s the best summary from imdb:

A Russian epic, the movie traces the life of surgeon-poet Yury Zhivago before and during the Russian Revolution. Married to an upper-class girl who is devoted to him, yet in love with an unfortunate woman who becomes his muse, Zhivago is torn between fidelity and passion. Sympathetic with the revolution but shaken by the wars and purges, he struggles to retain his individualism as a humanist amid the spirit of collectivism.

I like Russian literature and what I’ve seen of Russian cinema, and the period this western film covers is no doubt one of the country’s most fascinating and tumultuous. Doctor Zhivago offers a view of that history refracted through the characters’ personal experiences. There are characters on each side of the conflicts and multiple ideologies represented, but neither the doctor nor Lara are particularly political (we’re told Lara supports the anti-Bolsheviks but never see it). The movie is not a polemic.

The acting is fine (I’m always excited for some Alec Guinness), but my one major criticism of the film is that I don’t buy the love story between Yuri and Lara. It’s clear Yuri is interested in Lara from first sight, but we don’t know why. They fall in love while serving as a doctor and nurse, respectively, during World War I, but we’re only told they have through their parting dialogue after a gap in time. I also always find it difficult to continue to sympathize with characters who are cheating on spouses who themselves are sympathetic (though Lara’s husband is a non-issue for reasons I won’t spoil). We see Yuri struggle with this, but I couldn’t care. However, the story doesn’t dwell on his angst, and it’s not long before Yuri is swept up in the Revolution, against his will.

I’ll end with an image from Varykino, the estate in the country boarded up by the Reds where Yuri, Lara, and Lara’s daughter find temporary sanctuary (and conceive a child together). It’s mostly frozen over, a gorgeous but haunting image. It’s also frozen in time, and it’s here that Yuri writes his book of poems inspired by and dedicated to Lara.



1001 Movies: Doctor Zhivago

By the Numbers: Women in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Are you getting a good enough look at my ass?

This is a new type of post I’m trying, tracking women characters within a film I’ve recently watched. Just for shits and giggles. Make of it what you will. The inaugural film:

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Number of women with speaking roles: 5

Number of women with prominent roles: 1

Is this woman a love interest? Yes

Is this woman objectified? Yes

Number of returning female characters/actresses (this is the fifth film in the series): 0

Number of returning male characters/actors: 4

Average age of actors in prominent roles: 50.5

Age of actress (Rebecca Ferguson): 32

Bechdel Test Pass? Lol, no.


By the Numbers: Women in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

So btw the new Ghostbusters is pretty awesome.


I’ve been excited about Paul Feig’s all-women Ghostbusters since I first read about it. I say this as a fan of the original, which came out when I was a kid, as a fan of Feig’s since Freaks and Geeks, and as a fan of the funny ladies who make up the new team–Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock. Of course, I couldn’t just be excited as a fan; immediately a minority of butthurt fanboys felt the need to spend effort trashing a movie they hadn’t seen before it was even released (and continue to do so now that it has been). Because there aren’t worse things in the world going on.

Continue reading “So btw the new Ghostbusters is pretty awesome.”

So btw the new Ghostbusters is pretty awesome.

The Neon Demon (2016)


d. Nicolas Winding-Refn / w. Winding-Refn, Mary Laws, Polly Stenham

The Neon Demon is not a film I’d recommend to a lot of people. Not because it’s trash or vapid, as some critics feel, but because its basic story, spare dialogue, and stylized visuals will appeal only to a certain subset of filmgoers rather than to the masses.

Continue reading “The Neon Demon (2016)”

The Neon Demon (2016)