The Star Wars Holiday Special …Is it really that bad?

Is it really that bad?

Yes. Yes it is. With a few moments that were faintly amusing.

Created using the real-to-goodness original cast of Star Wars from A New Hope, The Star Wars Holiday Special was an earnest  1978 TV movie featuring awful production values, clearly stoned actors, and some really cracked-out looking Wookiees. Really, no wonder Chewbacca spends his whole life with Han instead of Itchy and Lumpy. (REAL NAMES. Holy hell George Lucas, were you high too?)

How did they get Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford to do this? (Besides paychecks.) It’s so bad even Lucas is quoted as wanting to take a hammer to every copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special and smash them into oblivion. Good thing You Tube exists to thwart him. Bwahaha!

Viewing this is a Geek Rite of Passage that I need to attend to. Okay, I’m starting it now. So far, it’s got a crazy narrative opening crawl titling it Star Wars Episode IV 1/2.

Yes. 4.5: Does this make it canon?

Can I watch The Star Wars Holiday Special sober and review it for RunPee? Let’s find out.

Instead of making a really great cohesive article, I’m going to just jot comments as I go. I don’t want to work harder at this than I have to. As Threepio famously says, “We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.”

Want to join me in the fun? Start ‘er up here, until Lucas finds and destroys this version. Then just search for another. It’s like playing Whack A Mole. Thank the Maker for the Internet!

Notes from the infamously terrible Star Wars Holiday Special, done by points because Math Is Fun:

Settle in. The Special is an hour and half long. MOVIE LENGTH, folks. I might need The Force to get through it. I have a bad feeling about this -1

Life Day sounds cool. It’s a Wookiee thing that’s hugely important to Chewbacca’s family. We never hear about it again. Now that Rise of Skywalker is finished, maybe Chewie will go back home. +1

The matte screen of the Wookiee home world Kashyyyk is fake looking, but very pretty. I’d live in these luxurious Air BnB tree houses. +1 point.

Star Wars Starfighter merch! Luke isn’t the only one to play with toys. Wookiees do too. +1

Why are the first 20 minutes filmed in grunts and roars with no subtitles? I know in-universe everyone speaks Wookiee, but in our viewing galaxy, this is a bizarre choice. -1

Poor Ms. Chewbacca. She’s crying as she holds a photo of her husband. Chewie is an absentee father, ya’ll. No wonder he didn’t earn a medal. -1

Neat 70s decor in the Chewbacca homestead, though. +1

The little kid and old man Wookiees. These are some weird looking Walking Carpets, but they’re still cooler than Ewoks. +1

I thought we were going to see a call-back of the awesome Holographic Chess Game from the Millennium Falcon, but it turned out to be something…inexplicable. Sea Monkeys in space? This goes on and on. Holy hell. A good Peetime. -1

A transmission from Luke! Fiddling with R2-D2! Actual speaking lines! +1

When did Luke learn Wookiee? He also understands R2’s Binary language. Okay,  I don’t care. (No points awarded either way means it’s a neutral comment.)

I think Mark Hamill is wearing eyeliner. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

AHA! Chewie goes to Life Day annually! So…he visits his family once a year. Lame. -1

R2 is still da Droid. +1

And now for a transmission  with Imperial Officers at a Galactic Trading Post. This is promising. +1

I actually like the Pocket Sized Aquarium. But why is this here? +1 anyway.

Plot development….and the line about doing it by “Han(d), Solo” was cool. Maybe this won’t be so bad .+1

Star Destroyers! And Vader. +1

WTF. Okay, back to home life on Kashyyyk. This is where the truly weird stuff happens. Why is there a cross-dressing cooking show? Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  At least we learn how to create a savory Bantha rump stew. Move along, move along. -1

Outrunning Tie Fighters is good. Harrison Ford looks like he’s trying to make his scenes work. Poor guy. No wonder Ford wanted to kill off Han. +1

The trader shows up at House ‘Bacca. More plot!  +1

Whoohoo! We survived the first half hour, relatively unscathed.

Wait. What? Wookiee VR porn? For ten minutes! I’m no longer unscathed. Delete ten points for this shit. -10

A transmission from Leia and C-3P0. But not even the makeup on Carrie can hide that’s she’s totally not sober. -1

Stormtroopers. Not too bad a scene, considering. And the trader provides some understandable translation from the endless grunts and roars. He’s not as funny as he thinks, though. I’ve seen better fan films.

The evil Imperial agent watching Jefferson Starship. A ten-minute Jefferson freaking Starship video in the middle of this movie. I’m seriously confused. -1

The kid — Lumpy? Or Itchy? — sits down for some more inexplicable TV watching. Is all this filler, or did someone decide half of the show should feature non-sequiturs? …But wait: it’s the Boba Fett cartoon show! It’s got Han, R2, Admiral Ackbar,  and all the regular OT gang in it. It’s probably the best segment of the Holiday Special.  I’m almost okay with this, but why is Chewbacca’s son watching a show where ‘real people’– including his father — are ‘acting’ in it? I don’t understand, but this somewhat awesome viewing. There’s even a Y-Wing Starfighter. +1

(I’ve decided the cartoon-within-the-show was an excuse to run an animated show they already halfway produced and didn’t know what else to do with.)

And what is it about Star Wars and lava?

I hate to say this, but after seeing Season One of The Mandalorian, the Boba Fett cartoon explains some apparent Easter Eggs. Also Fett rides a dinosaur. Again, is any of this considered canon? +1

There’s a Starlog Update in the Boba Fett show! Was Lucas a Star Trek fan ? It made me smile anyway. Too bad they never did more of these Boba Fett cartoons. It’s so much better than many of the live action movies. +1

Back to Wookiee grunts and moans: the actual plot. -1

One Hour has passed…40 more minutes to go. Sigh.

 

YAY — the Wookiee child watches yet another weird-ass show on the Galactic Internet. I think it’s a toy instruction manual, like what you can find on You Tube. With dumb humor. And it never ends. -1

A new scene from Mos Eisley: it’s the Cantina Band! I don’t mind if this is just extra footage they wanted to use, but enough already. Apparently all they do on Wookiee World is watch TV. Maybe it’s a meta commentary about the internet, from before the internet. Well, actually, I doubt it. The Holiday Special isn’t clever enough for that.

The Cantina stuff is totally unused footage from A New Hope. Even aliens like the Hammerhead are in it. I’ll just enjoy it as a Star Wars deleted scene. +1

Oops: spoke too soon. There’s more footage from the Mos Eisley Cantina, and It. Is. Bad. There’s also a Golden Girl in it. Don’t make me describe this  anymore. Delete ten more points. -10

Ooh, is that blue milk? Nah, beige milk. What a missed opportunity. -1

Are we done yet?

I’m understanding why I never watched The Star Wars Holiday Special. It’s really, super, uber, astoundingly weird. Weird can be good if done right (see Farscape), but this is just a hot mess. There’s a romance between the Golden Girl and a man who pours drinks in a HOLE IN HIS HEAD. -1

Turns out Head Hole Guy (played by Harvey Korman) is a six fingered man. I’d give this ten bonus points if I was sure it was an homage to The Princess Bride, but I seriously doubt that. -1

The  Cantina ‘romance’ is so awkward that I miss watching the damn Wookiee porn. I don’t know what this is here for. Was it intended to be a pilot episode for a continuing Star Wars rom-com? Am I overthinking this? -1

And now there’s Bea Arthur singing a Star Wars version of Semisonic’s  Closing Time. Make it stop, please. -1

Bringing it home for the holidays

15 more minutes. I can do this. I’m totally a (storm) trooper.

Child abuse. -1

Chewie and Han made it home! Harrison Ford is still acting, unlike everyone else, who’s clearly given up. +1

I THINK I JUST HEARD A WILHELM SCREAM! Plus ten for unexpected awesomeness! +10

Awww. And now for the feels. I could watch Han Solo do anything, really, even if it’s just giving hugs to groaning Wookiees. +1

Peter Mayhew really deserved better than this. And Chewbacca, but at least he finally got his medal in Rise of Skywalker. Oh, spoiler. Sorry about that.

Chewie’s bowcaster! +1

Wookiees kissing! -1

Plot. +1

The dead Stormtrooper is named 7-11. I really wish I knew if that was an intentional joke, or just randomness.

LIFE DAY! Finally. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s get those red robes on so Carrie Fisher can sing and end this thing. The opening crawl promised us a singing princess.

The denoument: magic candles, Wookiees walking in space/walking into a star, what the holy Force hell? Just when I figured the stupid was done. -1

Suddenly, C-3P0 and R2 appear to share tidings of comfort and joy. It’s fine. Everyone shows up. We’re almost finished. +1

The Princess says sappy things. “This is the promise of the tree of life.” What? Is that a reference to the Jedi tree on Ach-To somehow? Whatever. Fisher isn’t a bad singer.

Cue a random montage from A New Hope. -1.

Small heartwarming epilogue. +1

Credits. As with (almost) every Star Wars film, there are no extra scenes.

And… It’s over. Happy Life Day!

I did it! I finally watched this train-wreck! Ten Points to Gryffindor House. Oh wait: wrong saga. I hope you appreciate that I watched this for you so you don’t have to. 😉

Overall, I wish I could say this was a parody. But it’s not funny enough to matter. Or sensible enough. Yes, even parodies can be high quality and brilliant on their own. Take a look at Troops, a riff on Cops (with Stormtroopers). This isn’t anything like that. At least there weren’t any Death Stars.

Movie Grade, using Star Wars Math: +33 points, and -31 points…leaving The Star Wars Holiday Special with a surprisingly positive total of 2 points. That’s a lot better than I actually expected, saving it from a total Fail.

Let’s give this a D- for effort.


Maybe I’ll find the two Ewok TV specials to review next, because I’m an  idiot completist. 

Here’s the 1985 trailer for The Battle of Endor, also officially made by Lucasfilm. A better title: Ewoks — Still Better Than Jar Jar Binks.

Another time, perhaps. 

Star Wars – Top Seven Reasons to Watch The Mandalorian Now (No spoilers)

The 6 Most Epic Lightsaber Fights in Star Wars (plus 3 that didn’t make the cut)

Two Must See Science Fiction Spoof Film Documentaries (plus: the most ‘inconceivable’ parody of a spoof)

RIP Star Wars Hero Chewbacca – Peter Mayhew is Dead

I was born in 1978.  I have never known a world without Peter Mayhew.  Until now.  I have never met the man.  I know very little about him personally.  What I do know is the joy he brought me throughout my life via his portrayal of the beloved Star Wars character Chewbacca.

I read an essay once about a writer taking her young daughter to an art exhibit and the little girl asking, “Who made this?  I have to talk to her.”  The author was pleased her daughter had made the connection between magic in the art and magic in the artist.  And so one must assume that Mayhew had a spark of magic, playfulness, joy, and creativity to be able to embody Han Solo’s furry buddy.

Some actors try to distance themselves from their most popular role (*ahem* Shatner), but from all the pictures I’ve seen on social media in the past day or so, Peter Mayhew truly enjoyed and embraced his association with/as the world’s most famous wookie.  As Luke reminds us in the trailer for episode IX, “No one’s ever really gone.”  We will always have Mayhew’s iconic performances to remember him by.

Yet it’s hard not to feel like the universe is a little less magic now.

Movie Rewatch Review – Solo (A Star Wars Story)

Han shot first.
He’s got a really good feeling about this.

I don’t know why so many Star Wars fans have a problem with Solo. All I can think of is that it was released too close to The Last Jedi, which really incited the fan base. Otherwise, I can’t imagine why this excellent film was panned. I loved it, and I’m not sure yet where I’d rank Solo, but in the top four or five of the Star Wars films, at least. (Okay, I added my ranking on the link above. Feel free to disagree and tell me why I’m wrong, in the comments below.)

I recently re-watched Solo on the seat back of my cross country Delta flight, and I was delighted. It’s definitely better the second (or third, or fourth) time around, and what’s nice about the seat-back thing is that I could pause it and rewatch the little random and funny moments to my heart’s content. I paused it a lot: watching joyful references to previous Star Wars movies, and I laughed out loud several times (probably annoying my seatmates).

What was so great about Solo?

It was a rousing adventure with several great villains, lovely set pieces, and a likable cast. We’re introduced to a young, wet-behind-the-ears Han, who’s still idealistic and dreams big. Over the course of the film we start to see his trademark cynicism kick in, culminating with Han definitively shooting first. But he’s so sweet and baby-faced here, and so willing to be a hero. It’s a nice contrast, and I can see why he both felt frustrated by and protective of the young Luke Skywalker — it reminded him of himself, back in the day.

The new Han actor is a special find, and I’m thrilled with his performance. Harrison Ford gushed over him (and Ford is a normally taciturn man), and told him — when Alden Ehrenreich was cast — to make Han his own. I think Ehrenreich walked a good line between an homage to “old Han” and a gentler, fresher version. It worked for me. Plus, he had great chemistry with the new Chewie, and most of the laughs came from their early friendship (the rest of the laughs came from Lando, but I’ll get to that in a moment). The scene where Han and Chewie shower together, especially, is really cute. (Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.) Chewbacca has always been a grounding force for Han, operating as a sort of conscience for the experienced smuggler he becomes.

Solo was fun and the characters clicked

The ensemble sparkled, unlike the problems inherent in the characters of Rogue One (come on, admit it). Q’ira is a complex love interest, and adorable to boot. Her story arc is sensible, sad, and intriguing. Woody Harrelson’s Becket made for a great conflicted mentor, kind of like a less reliable version of his Hunger Games Heymitch character, if that’s even possible. Paul Bettany’s villain is outstanding, period — he’s amusing, personable, complicated, and very, very frightening.

Which brings me to Donald Glover’s Lando. Dear God, the perfection. He effortlessly stole every scene he was in. I could view an entire movie of Lando playing Sabaac, or trying on just capes, and be entertained. Can our next Star Wars Story feature him? Please?

Lastly, the Millennium Falcon was a big character in Solo. She’s always been a fast ship — when she worked — but that’s because of Han’s special modifications over the years. Here we see the Falcon as a brand-new, squeaky clean ship, with all the bells and whistles and wet bars and cape closets. It’s amazing to be presented with a white-walled interior after all the grungy years.

People didn’t watch Solo because they didn’t like The Last Jedi

The ensemble absolutely sparkled, and I’m left wondering, again, why people didn’t like this movie. Maybe it was the coaxial heist plot, which wasn’t all that exciting. Coaxium, hyperfuel, whatever: it’s just a MacGuffin to hang the narrative on. Solo is a small-stakes story, which is just fine after so many retread Death Star plots. It doesn’t always have to be about saving the universe to be a great movie.

Honestly, I think people were so irked with The Last Jedi that they “voted with their wallets” and took it out on Solo. And that’s a damn shame. This is one of the better films in the franchise.

Parsecs Fixed

Lastly, I wanted to make a note about the muchly-heralded escape from the Maw in 12 parsecs (nice correlation to the old Extended Universe novels, BTW). It’s not the most exciting element of the film, and doesn’t feature Han doing anything particularly skilled. As RunPee Dan said in his review, “It’s a group effort.” I have no issues with that, since Han said “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.” The ship. Not that he’s the big bad pilot that did it. His off hand comment allows for what actually happened, instead of being a misleading boast. Han has many flaws, but he’s never one to mislead others.

It also puts to bed the problem with parsecs being a measurement of space and not time. It worked for me, mostly…but I won’t lie and say the Kessel Run sequence doesn’t make for a great Peetime. The Maw’s effects weren’t up to the standards of Star Wars, and the space dwelling monster was just plain atrocious. I prefer the asteroid-based space slug from Empire, if we have to have an impossible creature feature. 😉

While there were a lot of super fun nods to the original trilogy, I have to say my favorite was Han saying, “I have a good feeling about this.” I found it cute, and it made me smile. I think I need to make a list of every character in the rest of the series intoning, “I have a bad feeling about this.” (UPDATE: I DID IT HERE.) Which, yeah, bad things happened indeed, but it was a pleasure to see a Star Wars film where people were kind of having fun, for once.

Movie Grade: A-

Movie Review – Solo: A Star Wars Story

I have a bad feeling about this…

Ranking The Star Wars Films

Star Wars Last Shot – A Han and Lando Novel

13 Scenes from Star Wars you won’t have missed if you had RunPee

Movie Review – The Last Jedi

Chewbacca Sings Silent Night (and it actually works)

Sometimes I just can’t help myself, and watch all kinds of dorky Star Wars fun from the endless free entertainment provided by the internet. And no, I don’t mean the abysmally received Star Wars Holiday Special. (Although you can find THAT on the internet too, if you have 98 minutes to kill watching something that even Lucas sends Imperial probe droids out to destroy).

Since Chewie has had one of his most active movie roles ever in Solo: A Star Wars Story, I figured it would be appropriate to share just how well a big walking carpet can sing.

Enjoy!

More Star Wars Story fun on RunPee.comFeaturette: Becoming Solo

Star Wars Last Shot – A Han and Lando Novel

With the arrival of Solo —the newest Star Wars Story set to splash on cinema screens — pretty much the entire galaxy is primed to learn more about Han Solo. Just how did he fall from expert Imperial pilot to a petty criminal in a seedy underworld? Lots of pre-canon material is out there in book form, detailing how he met and saved the faithful Chewie, how he won (or cheated?) the Millennium Falcon out from under Lando Calrissian [pullquote] …and how the frak the Kessel Run was made in less than 12 parsecs (which, as we know, is a unit of distance, not time).  These are things Solo is expected to show.[/pullquote]

Now here’s the first completely canonized Han Solo book, to fill in the gaps the movies don’t cover. It’s called Star Wars: Last Shot (A Han and Lando Novel), written by Daniel José OlderApparently it delves into Han’s (and Lando’s) past and future. And like Han and Lando, the book is breezy, snarky, and funny.

[pullquote position=”right”]What’s challenging, structure-wise, is how the novel will make a coherent story without rehashing or rewriting established moments from these men’s lives that we haven’t already seen –[/pullquote] not in the original trilogy, the new Solo film, and the slowly growing bookshelf of canon novels. If Last Shot is going to be weaving four viewpoints around (young Han, young Lando, mature Han, and mature Lando), telling a credible, interesting tale with all new information sounds somewhat impossible. (But hey, never tell me the odds!)

According to Amazon reviewers, Last Shot manages all these things, and gives us plenty of insight to our two most-beloved galactic scoundrels. And, of course, Chewbacca.

Here’s a direct link to Star Wars – Last Shot on Amazon, so you can take a look for yourselves. The second link goes to the classic (now non-canon, but still awesome) Adventures of Han Solo trilogy. I still own the original books, in the first print of the first edition…and it’s time to get the first print of the new story!

 

Movie Review – The Last Jedi

It’s too soon to know how I feel about this latest installment to the Star Wars saga. A lot happens, at a brisk pace. We have fleeting introductions to a bunch of brand-new characters we never get to know; why they rounded up well-known actors for little more than extended cameos is beyond me. It’s a long movie, but maybe a lot of character development was cut anyway. I wouldn’t mind a Director’s Edition, like we saw in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

There’s a great deal of humor, but while some of it’s clever, the rest is somewhat more goofy than usual for this series. People at opening night really got into everything, though, applauding, laughing, squealing at certain appearances (no spoilers!). Definitely everyone enjoyed themselves in a totally packed theater (sold out across the nation, apparently). At least the critters are “good cute”, instead of overly cutesy, which is nice. (Porgs! Crystal Foxes!) The blue milk “cow” was admittedly very strange, but did harken back to Luke’s moisture-farming childhood. All the scenes on Luke’s planet were hugely pretty and interesting. The island scenes even had a Degobah flavor, while looking nothing like a swamp. Nicely done. In spite of trailers spoiling a lot of it, those were my favorite scenes.

Everything with Luke Skywalker…well, I’d describe those as magical. Riveting, even, as it should be. Mark Hamill absolutely carried the film and deserves a special shout out.It warmed my heart to see him back in action, in both grumpy and heroic modes.

Rey and Kylo were great, and I liked seeing them interact again. Rey did a bit better, with actual character development. Kylo was kind of stuck at the same emo place we saw him before. His parts with Rey were highlights, though — they have a great rapport! I hope to see more of it, next time. The big fight scene (being vague here on purpose) was excellent.

Poor Finn doesn’t come across as well as he did in The Force Awakens, and he was such a bright light in that film. I think having him separated from Rey and Poe made it problematic, chemistry-wise. Boyega did so well interacting with Ridley and Isaac. This time his sub-plot felt flat and extraneous. It could have been the writing. I’m not sure yet.

Carrie Fisher’s post-death swan song finalized in a strong way, and that was a huge relief. I don’t know how they’ll bring her character to a resolution in the last film of the Skywalker Saga, but it was a shock to see the actress “live” here, after her untimely demise a year ago. I worried it might feel tacky or forced. It definitely worked. She has a lot to do, and did it well. I think Our Princess would be very happy with this movie.

So, a good installment, definitely superior to the Prequels — but I’m not sure yet where I’d rank it among the others. It’s probably for the best anyway to think a bit on The Last Jedi before passing judgment. When you build something up so much in your mind for so long, better thoughts parse (or parsec?) out after time passes.

I need a second and third viewing. It took me a year to figure out where to place Rogue One, although I was so happy with The Force Awakens that I instantly gave it 3rd place. This series has been so plagued with disappointment. I don’t think Star Wars is done yet, by any means, and I’m not a hater of The Last Jedi at all. But I may not be a huge fan of director Rian Johnson.

NOTE on the 3D version: Only a few scenes made 3D worthwhile, but it wasn’t noticeably darker, as can happen with those glasses. 3D really only came into play at the end battle on the salt planet, with the red soil, and in some adorable Porg shots. I didn’t notice much else. Ultimately, I wouldn’t shell out for the extra money for a 3D showing. If you’re a huge fan, consider 3D for a one-time viewer experience; otherwise stay with 2D.

Movie Grade: B

Read RunPee Jilly’s  SW Movie Rankings.