Welcome to the House of Crouse. Last week we teased you with a taste of Riz Ahmed. Today you get the long version were we talk about Star Wars, The Night of and much more. David Frankel, director of Collateral Beauty, talks about working with an all star cast and how Will Smith controls the weather to get his way on set. C’mon in, sit a spell!
Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the first Star Wars stand-a-lone movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and the latest Will Smith tearjerker “Collateral Beauty.”
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the first Star Wars stand-a-lone movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and the latest Will Smith tearjerker “Collateral Beauty.” Find out which one of us has never seen a “Star Wars” movie. (Here’s a hint… it’s not Richard.)
Welcome to an extra House of Crouse. In joyous celebration of the release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” here’s a standalone HoC podast with Lucasfilm story group head geek Pablo Hidalgo. He probably knows more about “Star Wars” than anyone on the planet and is the man with the “Star Wars” plan. He makes sure the all the puzzle pieces fit together seamlessly. C’mon in and geek out with me and Pablo. The force is strong with him.
Like a lot of kids Riz Ahmed liked Star Wars. Unlike most kids he grew up to be part of the franchise, playing pilot Bodhi Rook in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
“I was a fan,” says Ahmed, also known as Riz MC, who earlier this year starred in HBO’s The Night Of. “I remember watching the films the first time round with my older brother. I was about six or seven years old. They were kind of my only memory of watching any movie at all. They left a massive impact on me. I remember running around with my brother for years, acting out our own weird sci-fi stories. Even though I didn’t understand the storyline – I was too young – the level of imagination and detail that went into those movies…. It made an impression.”
Yet, while the originals left an impression on the younger Ahmed, it was only when he joined the universe himself that he realized his level of fandom might not have been quite at the level he had thought.
“It’s only now that I have met real Star Wars fans that I realize I wasn’t really a fan,” he says. “I thought I was. Star Wars fans are dedicated, loyal fans. I think the kind of vibe I’ve gotten so far is that they are really excited to see a film that both preserves the legacy and the inheritance of the Star Wars saga but is also something a little different, fresh, distinctive and separate from the other films. I think that can be a really tricky balance to achieve but I think they have really done that.”
Rogue One is the first standalone Star Wars Anthology film — upcoming movies in the expanded cinematic universe will focus on Han Solo and Boba Fett — and takes place after the formation of the Galactic Empire, shortly before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope.
The Rebel Alliance has recruited former criminal Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) to collaborate with a team to retrieve the blueprints of the Death Star, the Empire’s armoured battle station capable of destroying entire planets.
Ahmed plays a recruit, a former Imperial pilot with strong technical skills. Producer Kathleen Kennedy calls the character “a troublemaker.”
“It is interesting she calls Bodhi Rook a troublemaker,” Ahmed laughs. “I sometimes wonder if she is talking about me on the film set. Bodhi is somebody who is thrust into a really unfamiliar set of circumstances. He is just an Imperial cargo pilot, an average Joe trying to earn a living. It is a company town he lives in, the occupied planet of Jedha, so he works for the Empire. He’s really thrust into a new set of circumstances that force him to reconsider his allegiances and what he’s doing in these turbulent times.”
Working beside Ahmed are Diego Luna, Donnie Yen and Forest Whitaker, making Rogue One the most diverse of all the Star Wars films.
“I think it just makes sense that our film reflects the society around us,” says the British Pakistani actor, “and also the audience watching the films. A story like Star Wars is a global story. It belongs to all of us.
“Audiences around the world are excited about Star Wars so it makes sense that when they think about who might be the best actors for these roles they cast their net really wide all around the world. ‘Yeah, we’ll have Ben Mendelsohn from Australia, Forest Whittaker from L.A. and Mads Mikkelsen from over here.’ I’m lucky to have been caught up in this net as well.”
February 3, 1959 and February 9, 1964. The day the music died and the date it was reborn on the Ed Sullivan Show, both days burned into the collective memories of pop culture fanatics everywhere. But what about May 25, 1977?
If you were a teenager then chances are you felt the earth shift. It was the day Star Wars opened, kicking off a cultural phenomenon that continues to this day.
This weekend the universe George Lucas unleashed in 1977 grows to include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Much-anticipated, the movie is the first of the standalone Star Wars Anthology films and is expected to decimate the competition, Death Star style.
Expect line-ups and packed theatres — box office seers estimate it could pull in somewhere between $130 million to $150 million at the U.S. box office this week — but no matter how wild the weekend gets, nothing will match the pandemonium that greeted Star Wars in May, 1977.
To paint a picture of the first blush of Star Wars mania I asked my Facebookers what they remember about that moment a long time ago, in a galaxy (not so) far, far away…
“I remember being so in awe of that legendary opening scene with the giant spaceship coming into picture from the top and filling up the entire screen… oooo, aaaaah,” wrote Glenda Fordham. “The audience gasped in unison.”
“Upon leaving the theatre, with my little mind totally blown, I was interviewed by the news,” recollected Lesley Mitchell-Clarke, “where I think that I said, ‘Anything is now possible cinematically.’ I was all of 19.”
“My stepbrother, who was seven at the time, was dead set against seeing it,” says Tina Cooper, “and then of course saw it at least 50 times and dressed in Star Wars gear and played with Star Wars toys every single day for the rest of his childhood.”
“The line-up went right around the block and we ended up sitting in the front row of the balcony,” recalled Chris Ball. “I was mesmerized but dad was bored. Part way through I guess he decided he might as well get comfortable. He took his jacket off and in the process knocked his popcorn over the balcony railing. We got a stern lecture from the manager and almost got thrown out. Fast forward 20 years (1997) and I am now the manager of the same theatre and handing out those stern lectures.”
“I was six,” remembered Sue Edworthy. “My Dad took me to see it. I fell asleep halfway through. He took me to see it again. I fell asleep halfway through. The seventh time, I finally saw the whole thing. Clearly he had no problem seeing it again, and again, and again.”
“It was the first film that I went to more than once in its initial run,” said Adrian Gruff. “In the scene where the X-Wings enter the Death Star’s trench, I disengaged from the screen just so I could watch everyone’s heads do the sideways bob and twist that mine had done on first viewing.
“It was the first time that I had a true inkling as to the energy that religion refers to as ‘God.’”
There’s no scroll at the beginning of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a “Star Wars” movie. Call the new Gareth Edwards’ movie what you will—a standalone, a spin-off, a prequel—but there is no denying that the DNA is pure Lucas.
To avoid spoilers I’ll give only the sketchiest of synopsis. Set after the formation of the Galactic Empire, shortly before the events of “Episode IV: A New Hope,” “Rogue One” sees the Rebel Alliance recruit Jyn Erso (Oscar nominee Felicity Jones), the daughter of scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), to collaborate with a crew, including Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), to retrieve the blueprints of the Death Star, the Empire’s armoured battle station capable of destroying entire planets. “You are asking us to invade an Imperial stronghold based on hope?” asks Senator Pamlo (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). “Rebellions are built on hope,” replies Jyn.
That’s it fuzzballs. That’s all you get. The plot is so laced with character photobombs and cameos it’s almost impossible to say more without squashing some of the fun. Know that it is a classic space opera latched to a primal story of good vs. evil. Add to that some stuff you expect—big battle scenes, quippy droids, a classic Vader entrance (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer!)—and some stuff you don’t—no spoilers here!—and you have a movie that simultaneously feels familiar and fresh. Down and dirty, it has more grit than the other films—this is not a slick sci fi world, it’s a place that has been dinged up and lived in—but maintains the heart and soul of what came before.
Director Edwards amps up the action. He knows that, “travelling through hyperspace ain’t like dustin’ crops, boy!” The film’s final third is a smash ‘em up that gives The Battle of Hoth a run for its money but never allows the characters to get lost in the bombast. It’s a morally complex war film that knows the audience must be invested in the characters to care whether or not they are successful.
So who are the characters?
At the helm is heroine Jyn. She is an everywoman thrust into a dangerous situation after a lifetime of hurt. She’s rough and tumble, an impetuous scrapper fighting on an impossible mission. No gold bikinis for her. Jyn is the catalyst for much of “Rogue One’s” action but her relationship with her father Galen is film’s the emotional core.
For lack of a better analogy Rebel Alliance Intelligence Cassian Andor is the film’s Han Solo. Scruffy and an outsider, his best friend isn’t a 200-year-old Wookiee, but a fast-talking reprogrammed Imperial droid. He’s an experienced rebel and fighter who moves beyond the traditional image of a hero. He’s not as funny as Han—that’s left to his droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk)—but does provide the same kind of swashbuckling joie de vivre.
Assorted other rebels include blind warrior Chirrut “I fear nothing. All is as the Force wills it.” Îmwe (Donnie Yen), freelance assassin Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker as a lion in winter, a stately fighter whose body is more machine than human, but whose humanity is intact.
With a title like Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Military you just know Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) is going to be a bad man. He’s a cog, an Imperial baddie eager to please is boss—i.e. Darth Vader—and the definition of the ordinariness of evil.
It is the most diverse casting of any “Star Wars” film. It ushers the franchise into the 21st century in terms of make-up, reflecting not only the world we live in, but also the world the film takes place in.
“Star Wars” über fans will geek out at some of “Rogue One’s” surprises but nonfans need not worry. You don’t need to know that Poggle the Lesser turned over plans to the Death Star to Count Dooku or that the Ultimate Weapon is powered by a cavernous hypermatter reactor encased in radiation insulator plating. Just know the Death Star is huge and, as the name suggests, deadly, and you’ll be fine. The force is strong with this one.