Thursday, December 31, 2015

George Lucas Comments on "Retro" The Force Awakens

In a 55 minute Charlie Rose interview with George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars commented on why he is no longer involved with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“They looked at the stories, and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans.’ They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing. …They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway — but if I get in there, I’m just going to cause trouble, because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said, ‘OK, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’”
Considering the film is essentially a repeat of Star Wars: A New Hope with JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy going out of their way to explain that they made The Force Awakens much like how A New Hope was made in ~1976, the "retro" remark is pretty much spot on. He also made a comment that seems to suggest that maybe he regrets selling his company to Disney, "I sold them to the white slavers that takes these things, and…" before deciding not to finish that sentence (note: Lucas considers his Star Wars films to be his "kids" so its seems a comment on them getting the films, not on slavery in general). Disney holds grudges so do not be surprised if Lucas is persona non grata at all future Disney related Star Wars events. You can watch the full interview below, the relevant to this article part begins around the 50 minute mark.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Force Awakens Crosses $1 Billion In Record Time

It looks like Star Wars The Force Awakens is going to have the legs to make a real stab at Avatar's $2.8 billion worldwide box office record. After only 12 days of release, the film crossed the $1 billion worldwide threshold, the fastest movie to reach that point. It crossed the threshold on Sunday thanks to strong weekend with $149.2 million in the US and $$153.3M internationally bringing its grand total to $540M US and $546M international. And this is without the potential $300M to $400 million China could ultimately add to the total when it is released there starting on January 9. In total the film now has 37 box office records with more to aim for.

As for the grand daddy of them all, the all-time record, its relatively small drop of only 40% from one weekend to the next combined with a very week January to February box office schedule means the film will have essentially no competition for the next 30 or so days (which helped Avatar and Titanic land in the tops slots during their runs). 40% may seem high but the average from weekend to the next is usually in the 60% range which is why a high first weekend has become so critical to a film's over all financial success. It's still to early to say if it can pass Avatar and Titanic but I suspect it will not. It will end up in #3 slot passing Jurassic World's $1.6B total but stop shot of Titanic's $2.2B. I based this on the fact that while the die hard fans are seeing the movie repeatedly, general audiences are not and woman in particular are not driving ticket sales (and thus more repeat business), something that both Avatar and Titanic had in droves. Ultimately Disney isn't going to care as the film is a clear success signalling the strong future for their one Star Wars per year film plan and chances are the box office + merchandise (toys, clothes, etc) + home video (DVD, Blu-ray) + streaming sales (Netflix, Amazon, etc) of the first film will more than cover the $4 billion the company paid to buy Lucasfilm and the rights to Star Wars.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Force Awakens Takes All Time Weekend Crown

As the congratulation pic shows, Star Wars: The Force Awakens had a very good weekend. The first weekend of Force conquered the box office with a US take of $248 million and $281 internationally for a worldwide take of $529 million in a single weekend. This surpassed the previous weekend champ, Jurassic World's $208.8M US, $315.2M international, $524M worldwide. For the weekend the movie also holds a record for most pre-sales ($100 million), highest Sunday in the US ($60.5M vs World's $57.2M), widest release in December (4134 theaters), largest Thursday night preview ($57M), largest single day ($120.5M), biggest opening day ($120.5M), fastest film to $100M and $200M (and probably $300M), and biggest IMAX opening weekend ($30.1M). Basically its a good day to be the folks that approved buying Lucasfilm a few years ago (even though the decision to do it at the "cheap" price of $4 billion was a no brainer). It fell short for international total records mostly because the film doesn't open in China until January 9 while World opened on the same weekend. For Disney, they are hoping this high watermark gives them a chance to surpass Avatar for top grossing film of all time with its $2.79M worldwide sales.

Personally I think the film will fall short simply because the repeat viewings will not be sufficient enough as the story is essentially a remake of the first movie. Nor does Star Wars have the female following that other recent top dogs (Avatar, Titanic) enjoyed. Now if China embraces the movie that could be a different story. For next weekend its highly likely the film will drop at least 50% in sales (so around $120M US, $140M internationally) but that is normal. Things only get interesting if the drop is 40% or less which means its going to have much longer legs than normal (so chasing Avatar is achievable) or drops 60% or higher which means that movie goers didn't quite take to the movie nearly as well as critics or initial weekend fans did.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Spoiler Articles About Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out, that has signaled a few spoiler articles about certain aspect of the story. Some are significant, others are minor but consider this your spoiler warning.

To start, there is a scene in the movie where Rey is called to a spot in a basement that contains Luke Skywalker's lightsaber. When she grabs it, she has a vision that hints at events in hers and other characters in the movie in the 30 year gap between Return of the Jedi and A New Hope. During those flashes she hears voices. If you listen carefully you can hear the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. More interesting is Ewan McGregor and Frank Oz reprised their roles just for that brief sequence. The last line in the sequence "Rey" was actually spoke by Alec Guiness using a little sound manipulation of him saying the word "afraid". You can read more from Abrams geeking out over the voices at Entertainment Weekly.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bad Lip Reading the Star Wars Trilogy

From the folks that have done the viral videos of the NFL Bad Lip Readings, here are their takes on the Star Wars Trilogy with an assist from Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Jack Black.

BB-8 Vocal Consultants, Panel Video, Stunts and Telling to Story of The Force Awakens

Just one day to go. The PR machine continues. To start, the first video below is an interview with Daisy Ridley who at this point I believe I have developed a bit of a crush on due to her clear joy at her part in Star Wars and the infectious smile. After that is a longer video of The Power of Storytelling Panel with the Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy as they discuss motivations in decisions made to be as authentic to Star Wars as possible. No spoilers so just makes for interesting viewing complete with audience questions. In general panels like this tend to be interesting because of length, those involved early on end up cutting off "sale this thing mode" and just let their enjoyment of the thing come out. The third video was about stunt training and 4th about telling the story.

As part of the world premiere of the movie it has been revealed that "BB-8 Vocal Consultant" were Bill Hader (SNL) and Ben Schwartz (House of Lies). Hader described the process of turning their noises into BB-8's noises, as "JJ f**king around with this sound effects app on his iPad that was attached to a talk box operated by me. It looked ridiculous but it made BB-8's voice. At first I tried doing a voice, but we all agreed it sounded too human."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reviews Are In - Star Wars: The Force Awakens SWill Meet Fan Expectations

The Disney embargo on Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been listed and reviews are starting to flood the web. The initial read from a bunch of them is the movie is excellent and feels like a fully realized Star Wars movie. Bunch of review links below with most going through pains to avoid revealing spoilers. The parts quoted below do not represent the entire review (since all are very positive reviews) but just an effort to get a range of takes on portions of the movie.

You get the sense that Abrams—like the characters in the film—feels the weight of Star Wars mythology on his shoulders. But the film doesn’t feel cynical or calculated. Abrams turns that burden into a dance partner, nimbly choreographing the audience’s collective nostalgia to land on surprising new beats. With the way that the fandom has multiplied exponentially since 1978, it’s not really accurate to say that Star Wars fans are waking up from a slumber. Nevertheless, The Force Awakens feels like a new dream, an imagining that should fulfill the hopes of millions.

The Verge
But for all of his (many) strengths, Abrams still carries his weaknesses into The Force Awakens. He’s remarkable at putting together a cohesive cast and giving each of his characters their moment to shine (Oscar Isaac in particular does a lot with what he’s given), but the movie inevitably gets bogged down at times with egregious, over-expository plot dumps. On one hand, it’s to be expected — 30 years have passed since audiences have seen many of these characters, and people have got to get caught up somehow — but compared to how sleek most of the movie is, the moments stand out in stark relief.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens World Premiere Red Carpet Video

Here is the full video of the Red Carpet Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens from Hollywood on Monday night. The around one and half hour presentation includes brief videos with some of the cast including Harrison Ford, JJ Abrams, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and more. After that is a brief BB-8 video and Force for Change promotion that were also part of the red carpet presentation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Abrams 60 Minutes Interview, Box Office Predictions, and New Hope Despecialized

Tonight was the world premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Hollywood, CA. Part of that including heavy security including bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors, and confiscating phones. A few lucky fans that had camped out for the premiere got to see the movie and attend some of the after parties.

With the premiere, eyes turns to predicting the box office results. The movie is enjoying the widest December release in history with 4,100 screens in the United States alone, surpassing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey's 4,045 screens. Current estimates have around $100 million in pre-release sales (a record) with first weekend estimates in the US being around $180 to $220 million but some going as high as $300 million. Except for China, all the major markets are getting the movie this week so I suspect the worldwide total for its first weekend will be in the $550 million range.

Speaking of China, it seems that Disney considers that a critical part of its success and attempting to get as much attention as possible for the movie there. The first trilogy (the 1980s one) never got a theatrical release there while the 2000s one did poorly. Part of the attempt to build excitement is to allow streaming of the six films, putting 500 Stormtroopers on the Great Wall, and hiring Chinese pop star Lu Han (think their Justin Bieber) as an "official ambassador" for the film. Basically Star Wars doesn't have the generational base and popularity it enjoys elsewhere but Chinese's entertainment interests align closer to other Western countries then people care to admit (for whatever reason). End result I suspect if the movie is good, it will be a success there. Time will tell as the film will not be released in the country until January 9.

This weekend 60 Minutes aired an interview with JJ Abrams that included a look as John Williams orchestrated the opening of the movie (after the crawl).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Five New TV Spots for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

With about four days to go, the TV spot volume seems to be increasing with five more news ones for you to enjoy.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Abrams Geeks Out on John Williams and More as World Premiere Prep Begins

One week to go for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Gwendoline Christie comments on Captain Phasma while the world premiere prep for the movie has begun. For videos we have a clip from JJ Abrams 60 Minutes interview that will air Sunday night with snippet of John Williams scoring the film. Then is another video interview from Collider with Abrams as he talks about length of the draft cut of the film (2.5 hours), guesstimates around 15 minutes or so of deleted scenes for home video, agrees Han shot first (with a no duh expression), and A New Hope is his favorite of the Star Wars films as Empire Strikes Back stands on the shoulders of the first film. After that is a promotion of the IMAX version of the film. If you are interested in pictures, click here for 16 new stills from the film.

Gwendoline Christie on Captain Phasma
- "I think that Captain Phasma in this movie is a Boba Fett style character in that she is not at the forefront of the action. But she makes a huge impact."
- "I’d never dressed up as a Stormtrooper before. And that was really, really fun. But it was very empowering. The costume, because it’s so high functioning, inflexible, imposing, that gives you the actor a lot of qualities immediately to work with."

World Premiere Prep
- Occurs Monday night in Hollywood
- Four blocks of the iconic street -- from Highland Ave. to La Brea Ave. -- were already closed to traffic Thursday night at 11 p.m.
- "This is definitely bigger than the Oscars," one production manager told THR Friday
- Disney and Lucasfilm have not officially told guests which theaters will be used in Hollywood for the premiere. The blocks of Hollywood Blvd. that are closed include three: The Dolby (where the Oscars are held), El Capitan Theater and the TCL Chinese Theater.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

New International Trailer and Two TV Spots for The Force Awakens

The movie is only 8 days from release and the marketing machine continues its march to the finale with more TV spots and interview nuggets. Below are summaries of what I found interesting from various sources or you can read the entire articles by hitting the links here: JJ Abrams Scripting | Han's Trailer Lines | General Leia | Millennium Falcon 2.0

After the quick summary are three new trailers. The first is one with Chinese subtitles that shows off more new footage then all the TV spots combined have (two more of which follow). Its very action heavy so pretty clear that Disney wants those Chinese bucks almost as much as the American ones.

- George Lucas did provide his outlines for Episodes 7-9 but "Disney had determined they wanted to go a different direction."
- Michael Arndt's original script was tossed due to lack of time to finesse it and Lawrence Kasdan wanted to but core elements were kept.
- Han's lines in the trailer, due to lack of context, will mean something different in the movie.
- Leia became a General instead of a Jedi as a decision to run the resistance but "will see again that she's still Force strong."
- Major difference is rectangular radar dish due to circular one being knocked off in Return of the Jedi
- Multiple versions of Falcon made for film both digital, about half the ship in full scale as was one of the weapon bays.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Two More Force Awakens TV Spots, Featurettes, Clip and Issac Talks About Poe

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing machine continues at a nice steady pace. The latest PR releases include two more TV spots, a Rey featurette, and a promo clip from one of the Disney channels. If something new was shown it must have been quick enough that I missed it. Oscar Issac did hint at what the difference is between the previous trilogy's Rebellion and this trilogy's Resistance saying "One is to rebel against, so it’s an offensive action. Resisting is on the defensive. So I think the big difference is that [The Resistance] is even more cornered." The suggestion is the First Order is doing what the Empire couldn't and that is nearly wipe out their enemy.

The actor also spoke of how he ended up having an impact on Star Wars canon for his character. "This is one of the very cool things about working with Lucasfilm and J.J. [Abrams] is we’re creating this stuff together,” Isaac said. “And they’re open to that and they’re excited by that. So [the backstory] was a collaboration. That was me realizing that Yavin, the Rebel base at the end of A New Hope, was shot in Guatemala. I was born in Guatemala. This takes place 30 years later. Which is close to my age. And so I thought ‘Why couldn’t Poe be from Yavin? He could be from there, that rebel base.’ And I said that in some interviews. Lucasfilm heard that, it got back to the creators of Shattered Empire and they thought ‘That’s a cool idea.’ This is the first time where me talking about my character background I usually do as an actor, I get a comic book out of it. It’s pretty wild. They’re doing a beautiful job. I think it’s great. The story itself I had nothing to do with just the seed of that’s where Poe in born.”

Monday, December 7, 2015

Two Featurettes, Posters, and No Credits Scene

Some more promotional material for the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The two videos below are a brief behind the scenes featurette that were released along with two more character poster images.

The cast is also making the interview rounds. Per usual most of the talk is about the feel goods of doing the movie and almost nothing about the film itself. The one major "leak" if stretch the word is Harrison Ford saying that there is a "sword fight between Rey and Kilo Ren." Keep in mind that current info indicates that Kilo Ren is not force sensitive so this doesn't mean Rey is too (even though everyone has assumed as much from the very beginning). JJ Abrams also verified there is no scene during or after the credits. To close out, click here if want to see a video of Daisy Ridley and Oscar Issac singing (surprising well) "Baby, It's Cold Outside.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Captain Phasma To Return, Carrie Fisher Responds to Slave Leia and a New TV Spot

In an interview with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy it was revealed that the franchises' plan for Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) will extend beyond Star Wars: The Force Awakens as she is set to appear in the Star Wars 8. As Kennedy put it, "She’s an important character, a baddie in the best sense of the word."

On a not really related note, Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, responded to rumors that parental pressure might stop Disney from releasing anymore Slave Leia merchandise as parents in American are just fine with blood, violence, and the like but its a step to far when a woman is a little to sexy on screen. Any case Fisher found the reasoning as stupid as I do.
Wall Street Journal

Friday, December 4, 2015

Mark Hamill In Stormtrooper Costume for Omaze Force for Change

In the latest Omaze video to promote the Force for Change charity Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill, himself took a walk on Hollywood Boulevard in a Stormtrooper costume. The charity is still open for a chance to win tickets to a red carpet premiere of the movie either in Los Angeles or London. Click here to donate.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Battle of Jakku Gameplay Trailer and Star Wars Vehicles To Scale

Two videos mostly for funsies. The first is a new trailer for Star Wars Battlefront: Battle of Jakku maps that shows how a destroyed Star Destroyer ends up on the planet surface when The Force Awakens opens 30 years after the battle. The second video is just for one, mostly in scale representation of all the major vehicles and creatures from the original Star Wars.