Star Wars: The Last Jedi | DoubleTake by REGGIE WOLTZ

Star Wars: The Force Goes Back To Sleep 

by REGGIE WOLTZ

* SPOILERS *

A short time ago in a galaxy very, very nearby…

The most divisive and controversial blockbuster in recent memory was released. Whether you are a Star Wars junkie or a casual moviegoer, chances are that you were looking forward to this one.

And why not be?

The Force Awakens was a perfect kick-off to the new trilogy — creating original characters and a bright future while rehashing enough of the 1977 original to get the bad taste of the prequels out of the fanbase’s collective mouth. In addition, 2016’s Rogue One was a gem of a standalone film and a benchmark in storytelling for the franchise.

This lineage, in addition to great critical reviews, beautiful promotional material, and having visionary director Rian Johnson (Looper, Breaking Bad) at the helm, built up a lot of hype for The Last Jedi. And while some lauded the movie and started making a case for it being the best Star Wars since Revenge of the Sith, there was a massive amount of backlash. Why exactly were so many viewers up in arms? Let’s break it down.

It is no accident that Star Wars has such a massive following. The original movie was a technical and creative achievement, capturing imaginations in a way that had never been done before. But The Last Jedi, instead of following in that tradition and continuing to push boundaries, takes the opportunities it was given and tosses them away like yesterday’s lightsaber.

Every major character that made it to the end of The Force Awakens had much to look forward to for the subsequent films. Rey and Kylo Ren, the tent poles of the new trilogy, provided new life to the tried and true Light vs Dark theme and promised to break the mold of the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader archetypes.

Finn, the Stormtrooper-turned-reluctant-rebel, presented a characterization that hadn’t been seen before. Poe Dameron, ace pilot and all-around badass, added energy and a cool factor to every scene he was in. Snoke, General Hux, and Captain Phasma promised the same menace as the old Empire characters but with the possibility for even more devastating conquest. Even the old guard, Leia and Luke Skywalker, had more stories to tell in episodes seven through nine that would deepen the complexity and richness of their iconic characters.

So what did we get from all of that potential?

Well, let’s just say that a certain Supreme Leader would be very disappointed if The Last Jedi was his apprentice. While Rey and Kylo Ren provide the most intrigue and deliver on at least some of their promise, every other character falls short in a major way. Finn is reduced to a joke machine that gets stuck in easily the worst subplot of the film and a forced romance with an unnecessary new character. Poe has his moments early on but then gets caught in a tedious collection of scenes (with yet another awful new character) that is supposed to convey development but ends up feeling like empty screen time. Snoke is downright menacing for much of the movie before being inexplicably killed off; Hux is reduced to a sniveling child; and Phasma is completely wasted after being one of the most interesting characters in The Force Awakens.

But where this film really starts losing fans is with Luke and Leia.

Luke is the most renowned ‘good guy’ in the series, and perhaps even in film history. But this incarnation sees him turn from hero of the rebellion to salty space hermit, all because his former student happened to be leaning to the dark side (which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the kid’s grandfather is Darth Vader). He spends much of his screen time going from rebuking his past life to cracking jokes with shifts in tone that are questionable at best and discombobulating at worst. Betraying an audience that is well acquainted with Luke, this movie implies massive character development but only follows it up with a handful of flashbacks and a quick turnaround in its climax. This is certainly not enough to be believable and ends up tarnishing one of the most awaited returns of a character in film history.

The problems with Leia’s character are symptomatic of an issue with this film fitting into the larger Star Wars mythos: anythinghaving to do with the Force. Leia, a character that was known to be Force-sensitive but not nearly as capable as a trained Jedi, performs the most impressive feat seen in a Star Wars movie: surviving being blown up and sucked into the vacuum of space, and then using the Force to fly back to her ship. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief on this one. I had to look around at my fellow moviegoers to make sure that I wasn’t just hallucinating. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.

While Leia’s character would go on to have meaningful scenes in the rest of the movie, it really didn’t matter to me anymore. The damage was done. This was an egregious act by the film, rewriting the rules of the Force in such a flippant way that it just felt disrespectful. The Last Jedi didn’t stop there in its reintroduction of the Force. Snoke shows never-before-seen powers, appearing nearly omnipotent before being cleaved in the most predictable manner possible. Yoda, who has been dead for decades at this point, summons actual lightning out of nowhere and now has forced us to consider if space ghosts are the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Luke projects himself across lightyears in his only redemptive moment to dodge Kylo Ren a couple of times before pathetically dying for no reason.

The best thing about the new trilogy is the continued exploration of the Star Wars universe and lore. One of the coolest moments in The Force Awakens is Kylo halting a laser blast in midair. It’s like this movie saw that and said “hold my beer” over and over again. The result is too many suspensions of disbelief, too many perceived plot holes, and way, way too much fan service.

I don’t want to sell this movie completely short. It had beautiful cinematography, excellent dialogue, and heart-pounding action. If this were not a Star Wars movie, perhaps that would have been enough to meet expectations. But that is not the case. As a result, this feels less like a canonical film and more like a two and a half hour fan-created tribute video with a massive budget.

Yes there are great moments, but without proper story elements and characterization it was just that, a loosely tied collection of moments. Many fans were expecting this to go beyond, push the limits, and give us the next great Star Wars sequel. Instead it explored all the wrong boundaries and transformed this storied franchise from an epic space opera into something we never could have expected: a hacky space comedy.

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Trump & the Mafia | Perspective

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TRUMP & THE MAFIA

Trump’s connections with the Mafia date back to his casino days in Atlantic City, New Jersey, from the early 1980’s into the 1990’s. While building his casino empire in the mid-1980’s, Trump was in deep with Mob boss Nicky Scarfo and mobster Daniel Sullivan.

Nicky Sacrfo was the master of Atlantic City election rigging.

Trump was fined $447,000 in 1998 for money laundering, “the largest fine the federal government ever slapped on a casino for violating the Bank Secrecy Act.” Trump violated the rules 106 times the first year the Taj Mahal was open.

In 2015, Trump Taj Mahal was fined again for laundering money, this time for $10 million.

It appears Trump doesn’t correct mistakes even if they’re crimes. Apparently, if you make enough money from committing the crime (i.e. if Trump was rewarded with $700,000 million for laundering Mob money, and only paid a fine of $10 million, it’s very lucrative and might even afford one the opportunity of becoming a billionaire), so there’s no point in stopping.

These types of banking regulations and fines may be the root of why Trump is so anti-regulation.

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THE RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

On December 5, 2017 Mueller subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for it’s loan records with the Trump Organization following Trump’s six bankruptcies and his inability to secure funding from traditional US banks.

According to Newsweek, Mueller “is looking into whether Russian money laundering fostered the Trump Organizations’s growth and development” after his many bankruptcies.  “Earlier this year, the bank paid $630 million to settle charges of laundering $10 billion for the Russians.”

Trump is ultra-sensitive about his finances, refusing to share his taxes. It appears this Deutsche Bank subpoena may have been another trigger that prompted the GOP loyalist aggressive assault on Mueller and his investigators the week before Christmas.

As we learned during Trump’s 2016 campaign, and his first year in office, Trump is retaliatory.

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STATES

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra is vigorously fighting Trump on many fronts. Twenty-four lawsuits in 17 different categories. Ten million immigrants call California home. The following is the lawsuit category list:

    • Travel ban from Muslim-majority countries
    • DACA
    • Border wall
    • Sanctuary cities
    • Immigration enforcement
    • Transgender military ban
    • Birth control
    • Obamacare
    • Student loan protections
    • EPA’s Scott Pruitt and ethical concerns
    • Natural gas rules
    • Coal leasing on public land
    • Clean Air Act
    • Oil and gas royalties
    • Energy use in appliances
    • Fuel efficiency standards
    • Measuring greenhouse gases

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ENVIRONMENT

Extensive wildfires in Northern California’s wine country in October 2017 and the Thomas wildfires in Southern California raging for 3 weeks this December have tragically obliterated California’s greenhouse gas gains.

According to Live Science, the October wildfires emitted “7.9 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of about 25% of the average monthly emissions from all fossil fuel burning in the entire state of California.”

The air quality in some California cities grew so extreme it was paralleled with Beijing’s injurious air quality.

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HEALTH

Our sense of smell is a simple and effective way to receive beneficial health remedies. Take for example, pine.

Have you ever run or walked through a neighborhood filled with pine trees? If so, you’ll quickly discover how therapeutic the air is. But even more important than the psychological benefits of breathing healthful air, pine air is also rich in antioxidants (both flavonols and bioflavonoids). Antioxidants help to fight cancer, heart disease and many other diseases.

The Japanese call this de-stress phenomenon shinrin-yoku, “taking in the atmosphere of the forest.”

There are no calories in air. And air is free!

 

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Eyes Wide Open

I’m sure we can all think of personal stories like this one, a fleeting chance encounter at an elevator that has an alarming negative ripple effect. But I’d like to share it in the hopes that it will serve as a strong reminder about how important it is to be more aware when out in public.

Eyes wide open…

My dad is getting older. His mind is very sharp despite his age, and even though he has a few worrisome conditions that would convince most not to drive, my father is extremely stubborn and blind to this reality, and fights like a demon to keep his independence and stay in control of his life. Oh, and drive himself wherever he wants to go, whenever he wants.

He’s physically impaired so this isn’t easy, which is a good thing, but it’s not the obstacle that it could be, and should be, unfortunately.

We four siblings (all living in different states, spread out across 600 miles) have battled for nearly five years to find an effective way for Daddy Dearest not to get behind the wheel. But my father is a retired attorney, blocks EVERY suggestion, no matter how reasonable. He’s still keeping up with his legal life. Spending eight hours a day researching cases then typing up arguments, sending off letters to “corrupt” leaders and business executives. He’s fiercely determined to get his way, and becomes vicious when your suggestions conflict with his opinions.

Needless to say, there have been thousands and thousands of hours spent strategizing about how to succeed with our mission to stop my father from driving.

Hire a driver. Let the air out of his tires. Remove a vital part so the car won’t start. Take away his keys. Hide his license. Call the police.

Endless combative discussions. We all end the conversations feeling bruised.

I eventually sent him a pass for the town’s dial-a-ride, this at the encouragement of the town police. Yes, the police did get involved when a woman waiting at the entrance of Bed, Bath & Beyond with her friend, claimed that my dad was reckless and nearly hit them, then took “forever” to get out of the car and trek into the store with his walker (he’s an amputee with a fake right leg and his left leg has extreme arthritis).

So the policeman arrived. The officer saw firsthand how physically impaired my dad was, took his license, left the car in the parking lot, and drove my father home. But en route, my father was suddenly back in the court room, litigating in front of a judge, and went for the officer’s jugular, so that by the time they arrived at my father’s condo at the Active Adult Community where he lives, the officer had handed back my dad’s driver’s license and apologized.

The officer called my sister who lives in town. Explained that because there was no record of any past driving offenses or complaints, and because he personally hadn’t been a witness and thus hadn’t seen my father drive recklessly, he could’t keep the license. But he did start a file on my dad, and record the incident, so that next time his license could be taken away. He also strongly cautioned us, urging us to do whatever we could to keep him from driving.

So we continued to argue and suffer and blame each other for ten more months. THEN, the Friday before Memorial Day, my dad fell in his condo and broke his hip. He had surgery and was in rehab for three months. My other sister confiscated his keys and hid his car in the parking deck beneath the complex.

We celebrated that our despair and frustration was finally over.

My father returned home in September. We arranged for a nurse to visit each day from 10:00a-1:00p. She drives him wherever he wants, or simply dashes out and picks up whatever he needs. The four of us felt at peace. Whenever he screamed about his missing car key, we tuned him out.

But one afternoon this past October, he became fixated on driving to the library 200 yards from his condo. Laser focus. Man on a mission. With sheer determination, he swiveled his wheelchair to the elevator, pushed himself inside, hit the “G” for garage and descended to the lower level. The door opened, he tried to push himself out and became stuck.

After a few minutes, a fifty-something man arrived at the elevator. My father poured on the charm and convinced the man to help him get to his numbered car spot. The car wasn’t there. My dad instructed the man to search for the car in the parking deck and provided details. The man eventually located the car. My father then asked him to open the gas cap and find the key taped inside. The man retrieved the hidden key and handed it to my father. He then headed off to visit his mother upstairs.

None of us had any idea about a hidden key.

Now we’re all back to extreme despair again, fuming mad.

It took an army of people five years to get my father out from behind the steering wheel. It was completely undone in five minutes by a nice, pleasant, good man who wasn’t more aware that he was stepping onto an unexpected landmine.

I can’t get this ordeal out of my mind. I’m wracking my brain wondering if I’ve ever been this unaware. Have I ever missed “See Something, Say Something” opportunities?

The FBI and Department of Defense spend billions of dollars protecting us, but one tiny critical moment of someone not being alert can upend massive amounts of painstaking work and effort that becomes the catalyst for disaster.

And how about the days and hours leading up to mass shootings…at churches, concerts, schools, Walmarts, movie theaters? I have to believe these deranged murderers gave a few red flags leading up to the massacres. But no one noticed. Or did they and just not mention anything?

Our awareness can make a HUGE difference. It will definitely save lives.

We have to practice every day.

Eyes wide open and attentive, all day, every day, whenever we’re out in public.