2001: A Space Odyssey

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

On this episode of TRIO SIMPATICO David and Joshua are joined by returning guest DANIELLE RANDLES to discuss our recent viewing of this catalyst of science fiction film making.

During a limited re-release of the movie in select IMAX theaters we gathered a TRIO SIMPATICO contingent to take in the cosmic splendor of this Kubrick classic on the big screen!  During this episode we share our thoughts about seeing the movie in IMAX for the first time and how that experience differs from previous viewings.

But we don’t simply end our discussion there!  We also take this opportunity to talk about the little-known cinematic follow up to 2001, 1984’s 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT directed by Peter Hyams.  We discuss the tremendous burden of this sequel, the impossibility of matching its predecessor, and the genuinely great things about this completely different but worthy film.

Plus we touch upon the companion novels by Arthur C. Clarke, how to make the name Keir Dullea sexy, and so much MORE!  Listen HERE!

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Solo: Dissection

This is it!  Trio Simpatico’s Solo: A Star Wars Story coup de grâce!

SPOILERS abound beyond this point as Joshua and David welcome guests TIM MCFARLAND and BRIAN ASHTON as the quartet undertakes a SOLO: DISSECTION episode!

Finally sitting down to tear into Solo: A Star Wars Story your co-hosts and their guests crack open the brand new Official Guide to the movie written by Lucasfilm story group head honcho Pablo Hidalgo!

Using the official guide as a map the group covers nearly every aspect of the film giving our opinions and commentary on what we liked, what we didn’t like, and what we hope to see in future STAR WARS ANTHOLOGY films!

PLUS if this conversation leaves you wanting more, fear not!  As you’d expect by now with these episodes, we ran long and had to cut some sections for time, however we are putting those cut segments together for a future bonus episode!

So look for that coming up on TRIO SIMPATICO!

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Solo: A Denny’s Bonus Episode

Trio Simpatico has a brand new episode up NOW!

SPOILERS for Solo: A Star Wars Story

As a prelude to our upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story Dissection episode we present this BONUS episode!  Recorded on location at DENNY’S as Joshua and David partake of the current SOLO themed meals and promotions!

With Peter Cetera serenading them and their fellow patrons, your co-hosts have a fast and loose conversation as they consume their STAR WARS inspired grub!

Listen in to get a quick behind the scenes peek at the lives of Dave and Josh as they prepare for an episode of the podcast, it’s like you’re sitting at the table with them at America’s Diner, Denny’s!

And stay tuned later this week for our full SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Dissection episode!

http://simpaticopodcast.libsyn.com/a-solo-dennys-special

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Why Rogue One Might Be Better Than the Force Awakens

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Star Wars fans should always be quick to remember that the Star Wars movies were not created in a vacuum (regardless of their various deep space settings).  George Lucas himself has stated that the Star Wars movies were essentially an amalgam of some of his favorite movies and genres assembled within a new and different science fiction setting.

For instance the Dune novels by Frank Herbert are directly referenced more than once in the Star Wars films and it doesn’t take much additional digging to find their influence throughout.

The samurai film epics of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa were another major influence on George Lucas and many elements from the movie The Hidden Fortress are woven into the narrative of the original Star Wars movie.

The film noir genre itself and movies like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca were ones Lucas grew up enjoying and many of the seedier elements of the Star Wars universe find their origins with them.  The Mos Eisley Cantina and Jabba the Hutt are a direct result of Lucas’ love of the gritty gangster ridden noir films.

There are of course other influences and aspects of the creation of the Star Wars movies which can be traced to many different sources; various science fiction, other films, fantasy literature, mythology, and even real world politics all of which are too numerous to mention here.  All of this is to say that originally Star Wars was never about the things for which it has now become famous, like reinventing the movie industry or altering the perception of science fiction on the big screen.  Instead I would argue that Star Wars was Lucas’ attempt to reintroduce many of the elements of “classic” Hollywood back into the harsh and often dreary cinemascape of the 1970’s.

At this point I must immediately interject here that I in no way believe Star Wars to be a rip-off or even unoriginal, in fact quite the opposite.  Although the Star Wars movies are heavy on familiar themes, pulp fiction references, and film making of a bygone era (even the scene transitions are antiquated wipes, pans, and dissolves) it was all pieced together in a wholly unique blend of space opera epic which introduced the world to the lightsaber, X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Wookiees, droids, and a whole slew of iconic planets, characters, aliens, and starships.

My point is this: As a long time Star Wars fan I have cultivated the opinion that, as a general rule, Star Wars (in all it’s varied forms and formats) is at its best when it emulates other things and frames them within the Star Wars universe; and doesn’t try too hard to be “Star Wars”.  Star Wars is not purely sci-fi, it isn’t purely fantasy, and it isn’t meant to be dramatic high art.  When any of these elements over shadows the others or when the elements of Star Wars itself begin to dominate the storyline the result is failure.

From my experience this balancing game falls apart in the expanded universe books, games, and other forums.  Though there is an argument for such an imbalance within the prequel movies as well and the reason why that trilogy has become so universally panned (though all of that is a topic for another time).

With the Star Wars novels in particular, especially the now defunct old EU, the authors attempt to capture the feeling of Star Wars too much by directly referencing the Star Wars universe in an awkward forced way.  Or they focus far too much on the sci-fi elements of the setting, presenting high tech jargon while casually rattling off obscure alien species and bits of Star Wars trivia in order to seem authentic.  All the while lauding a story lines which might seem clever in other sci-fi but seem out of place in the context of Star Wars.

There are however some great Star Wars novels, some of my favorites are the Death Troopers books by Joe Schreiber which are essentially horror/zombie novels set in the Star Wars universe.  Additionally Cloak of Deception and Darth Plagueis by James Luceno take up the staples of political thrillers set during the time of the prequel era and include all the Sith intrigue and Jedi apolitical maneuvering you’d expect, along with plenty of action and starships.

Similarly many of the best episodes of the Clone Wars series were when Dave Filoni and company played with various concepts and framed genre and  various trope story lines which had not been seen in the Star Wars universe beforehand.  The Clone Wars cartoon included murder mysteries, heist episodes, and giant kaiju-like monster attacks; all under the interpretations of the Star Wars universe.

Even the Star Wars video games have been at their best when they simply borrow from other popular video games and lend their unique and exciting Star Wars spin to the premise and gameplay.  Star Wars Battlefront was essentially Battlefield 1942 in space.  Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds was very much the Star Wars version of StarcraftStar Wars Racer, the Phantom Menace podracing game, was the Star Wars answer to any number of popular racing games of the day.  Those video games were GREAT!  Sure there were other impressive Star Wars games through the ages but many of those put a tight focus on specific characters or directly put the players in control of reenacting scenes from the movies.

Other Star Wars games did not stand up as well.

One of my least favorite games were the Force Unleashed series.  I believe they suffered from trying far too hard to feel Star Wars.  There certainly was some enjoyment in the array of Force powers available to Starkiller, the main character of the games, and the sandbox of destruction possible as a result.  However that game was a ridiculous mosaic of random elements from the Star Wars saga combined with fanboy wish fulfillment, wrapped in an incomprehensible story arc which was absolutely contradictory to the canon of the movies themselves.  I know a lot of people enjoyed that pair of games but not me and I’m sorry, it’s how I feel.

The only real example of a Star Wars property making a success from overtly trying to be “Star Warsy” was The Force Awakens, which does it’s best to redesign the original movie nearly beat for beat while adding several new and exciting characters and twists throughout.  In fact my biggest complaint regarding Episode VII is the plots general unoriginality.  However the characters and overall execution were so great that the redundancies in the narrative could be overlooked.

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This December will see the release of the first Star Wars spinoff movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (ugh.  Just call them Anthology Movies).  Rogue One is being touted as a war film, a pilot ace flick, and a heist movie all taking place within the setting of the Star Wars universe.  It is because of what we know regarding the plot that I believe Rogue One will be a great Star Wars movie and possibly better than The Force Awakens, for the reasons stated above.

The Star Wars universe is precisely that, an expansive diverse universe of possibilities and has the possibility to be so much more than a story of the Skywalker family and the Jedi.  Star Wars is also not simply a pattern of film making which if done right can be repeated ad nauseam into infinity.  And the Star Wars universe certainly is not just another sci-fi franchise that any tired sci-fi story can pasted onto, sprinkled with a few lightsabers, and titled Star Wars.  It is the exoticness of the well-worn settings and pervasive mandate for adventure which the Star Wars universe was built upon and which is able to take old stories and reform them in new ways.

Hopefully this is the case with Rogue One.

I really hope Rogue One takes off (pun intended) and is a big hit for Disney and Lucasfilm and I would love to see this first spin off movie blow The Force Awakens out of the water.  I’ve said this before, and although I have absolutely no ill will towards the Force Awakens, but I really hope that in the long run Episode VII really isn’t anyone’s favorite Star Wars flick.  With so much new Star Wars on the horizon hopefully as new movies keep opening up in theaters they will continue to outdo the previous ones in new and different ways.

Update: The Colonel’s Pants

So my post about Colonel Wullf Yularen’s pants apparently has gained some traction recently (reread it here) .  The post has acquired quite a few new views in the past couple of weeks and the images in that post have gotten a lot of clicks.

And I do mean a lot of clicks (at least relative to the obscurity of this blog as well as the definitive obscurity of the subject matter of that particular post.)

The only thing I can come up with to explain this phenomenon is the recent release of the trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  In case you haven’t seen it yet, go take a look immediately! Seriously, watch it NOW!

 

One of the tantalizing tidbits from that magnificent trailer which pertains to this discussion is the appearance of Ben Mendelsohn’s character who, from what we can tell, is a new Imperial villain.

What has me most excited about this new Imperial baddie is his uniform!

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Ben Mendelsohn as he appears in the upcoming Star Wars Anthology Movie, Rogue One.

 

Look what we have here!  It appears to be a variant of the same white and black ISB uniform which we see throughout the first Death Star during the events of A New Hope (refer to previous post for those details).  As it so happens the plot of Rogue One is going to center around the first Death Star and the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans for that battle station!

What a coincidence.  As it so happens that original Death Star was crawling with dudes who were dressed very similarly to this guy!

But if you’re a follower of this blog you’d have already expected that!

Now there are some differences between Ben’s uniform and the ISB uniforms which we see in the original Star Wars.  I’m confident this is simply a stylistic choice on the part of the filmmakers but there is a slim chance that this uniform is something new and not meant to be in line with those seen aboard the Death Star.

Anywho let’s take a minute to discuss these differences.

First the tailoring itself.  The cut and style of the white jacket seen above is very much the same as the grey and olive Imperial jackets seen in the three original Star Wars movies.  However the white uniform jackets seen in A New Hope were moderately simpler and were essentially plain chefs jackets.

Secondly this jacket has the distinctive silver Imperial code cylinders located at either shoulder of the uniform.  This feature and the small pockets set in the jacket are not found in any of the white uniform jackets we see in A New Hope.

Black gloves.  Although it is very popular for Star Wars cosplayers to sport black gloves with their Imperial uniforms there are really very few examples of that in the actual movies and there are absolutely zero examples of black gloves being worn by the white coated ISB officers from A New Hope.  However the preeminent Star Wars costuming group, the 501st Legion, does allow for the option of black gloves within their strict guidelines for most Imperial officer costumes, so there’s that.

Now that cape which is draped across this character’s shoulders is another major difference in the costume.  This is something completely new for the Imperial era uniforms and I’m guessing indicates some sort of prestigious rank or position within the Empire.  Head of the Imperial Security Bureau perhaps?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

The rank insignia is also new to this uniform and again signifies importance.  With 6 red bars above 6 blue bars that would make this character an admiral, at least according to the Empire Strikes Back system of ranking, making this character the highest ranking individual seen wearing this uniform (fun fact each movie of the original trilogy has a drastically different system of rank insignia all utilizing some variant of the red/blue/yellow rank bar combination).

With this new Mendelsohn uniform we still have the standard belt of the galactic Empire and thankfully this character is wearing the correct, BLACK PANTS, which I thoroughly discussed in the original post.

All in all I have no doubt this character will belong to the same branch of the Galactic Imperial Military as the original black and white uniformed Imperials that we see in Star Wars, now whether or not these guys are firmly defined as members of the Imperial Security Bureau, as was established in the now defunct expanded universe, is yet to be seen.

I guess what I’m saying is all of my analysis and speculation is wasted effort and that I should just sit back a few months and wait to see Rogue One!  Until then I leave you with this pic of my personal ISB uniform because of course I have one, black gloves and all!

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That is all!

 

The Meme Awakens

With so much Star Wars stuff going on this week (The Force Awakens on Blu-Ray!  First Rogue One trailer!)  There was no way I would be able to restrain myself from making at least a short Star Wars post!

Seeing as how I am eager to continue my ongoing “Voided Warranty” meme campaign I decided the next logical step would be to add another droid to the meme, this time from The Force Awakens.  So after going through the movie and taking some random screen caps I came up with the next installment below.

AND if you’re not familiar with the voided warranty meme of which this is a part of see the previous posts about it HERE and HERE!

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“Do not drag your BB unit around in a net, this may bend its antennae and void any active warranties.”

That is all!

The Colonel’s Pants

So before you read any further I must warn you that I am about to discuss some very obscure Star Wars material, and will be arguing a point that may very well only be important to me.

Now, when I say obscure I don’t mean a Wedge Antilles or Bossk level obscurity, think more obscure!  I’m talking about a specific character so minor that they only appear on screen for a few seconds and have absolutely no dialogue.  On top of that I’ll be nitpicking the details of that characters costume and posit some ideas which may go against the standard conventions for said character.

So if you’re not ready for some serious Star Wars deep cuts then get the fuck out!

Ok let’s talk about Colonel Wullf Yularen.

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That is a name which in recent years has become only slightly more recognizable with Star Wars fans.  Before that Colonel Yularen was a character with very few background details and even fewer fans who seemed to give a shit about him.

In the original Star Wars (A New Hope) from 1977 Colonel Wullf Yularen appears in a single scene (though later in this essay I will put forth the theory that Yularen actually appears a second time in that film).  The colonel’s only film appearance (though possibly first of two, see previous parenthetical) is during the infamous Death Star Conference Room scene where Grand Moff Tarkin informs his heads of staff that the Emperor has dissolved the senate and later Darth Vader chokes a guy.  Sitting directly next to Admiral Motti (the haughty Imperial who gets Force choked by Vader) you will see Colonel Wullf Yularen in his distinctive white uniform jacket.

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From the years of 1977 to 1995 the character was left unnamed and without a title or any background information whatsoever.

However in 1995 Colonel Wullf Yularen was first named and given a brief biography within the Star Wars Customizable Card Game put out by Decipher.  At the time the names and lore text of those cards was considered canon and it was there stated that the colonel was a leader of the Imperial Security Bureau contingent aboard the first Death Star.

After his inclusion in the card game the character found his way into subsequent Star Wars encyclopedias and information tomes that would be published later but little was done to further his biography.

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The Colonel Wullf Yularen card was printed in the original release of the Star Wars CCG

It was from this glance of the character of Yularen in the CCG and his concise but interesting biography which really made me a fan.  I would often try to include the colonel in my Star Wars decks despite the fact that he was not that powerful and his abilities not all that impressive.

Regardless Yularen still intrigued me.

I mean this is the guy who was apparently briefing Grand Moff Tarkin on stuff and who was apparently in such good standing with the Emperor that he’s the one Palpatine sends to ensure everyone on board the Death Star is towing the Imperial line.

Eventually in 2006 an action figure of Colonel Wullf Yularen was created in a special boxed set of the Death Star Briefing Room.

It was a joyous day for Yularen fans in particular or Imperial officer completionists in general.

However despite my personal excitement I was confused by the look of the figure whose uniform was revealed to be entirely white, which is unlike any other standard Imperial uniform seen in the movies or the books.

In the expanded universe books Grand Admirals did wear all white uniforms but those uniforms were also adorned with golden epaulets and the corresponding double rowed rank insignia.

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“Oops looks like my pants got mixed up in Thrawn’s laundry again and his with mine!”

A mystery and controversy had begun.

The controversy lies with the fact that Yularen was clearly defined in the lore as being part of the ISB, the Imperial Security Bureau.  The uniform of the ISB would eventually become associated with the black cap, white coat, and black pants which is seen worn by various officers in various background shots of the first Death Star.

Conversely the black/white/black uniform of the ISB was always sort of a mystery because it only ever appears in the first Star Wars movie and is only ever seen on the Death Star.  Until it was established as the accepted ISB uniform those Imperials were simply known as “Death Star Officers” or “Imperial Fleet Officers.”  Now as stated before Yularen only appears in A New Hope and is only seen on the Death Star and was later established as a high ranking officer in the ISB.

Do you follow me so far?

So with all of that in mind shouldn’t the pants of the action figure for Wullf Yularen have been black, and not white?

To me the answer was obvious, and clearly Hasbro had made a mistake.  That being said however he is such a minor character and the pants in question are never actually visible while the character is seated at the Death Star conference table, so there is really no way to prove otherwise.  Oh well, what can you do?

The issue of the all-white uniform became further compounded when in 2008 a younger version of Wullf Yularen was included in the prequel cartoon series The Clone Wars.

In the series Yularen is given the rank of Admiral in the Republic fleet and works closely with Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker as they battle the forces of the Separatists.

Another banner moment for Yularen fans!

Who would have thought that we’d ever get more Wullf Yularen!  But alas this inclusion in the Clone Wars brings with it further Yularen scandal.

The wonderful Dave Filoni, show runnder of the Clone Wars and it’s followup series Star Wars Rebels, has stated that they decided to include the character of Wullf Yularen as a nod to the original trilogy and gave him the rank of Admiral in order to show his rise through the ranks to the position of Grand Admiral, a rank which the show’s creators mistakenly thought the character had attained at the time of A New Hope as signified by his white uniform jacket.

Once this mistake was realized a good old fashioned retcon was deployed which stated that Yularen had retired from the Navy at some point after the Clone Wars with the rank of Admiral but was later at the time of A New Hope was personally asked by the Emperor himself to reenlist with the ISB in a new position as colonel aboard the Death Star.

However the damage was already done.

Despite the relatively unadorned rank insignia of Wullf Yularen (three red squares and three blue squares) along with a pre-established history, the idea that Wullf Yularen was a Grand Admiral at the time of A New Hope seemed to have found a foothold within the fandom.

Until now!

It is at this time that I would like to get to the point of this entire post and present my evidence of precisely how Colonel Wullf Yularen should be depicted and to firmly establish his position as colonel within ISB operations.

First of all as most of us know by now the Expanded Universe was completely wiped out just prior to the release of the newest Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens.  That meant that pretty much anything was once again up for grabs in the Star Wars universe and unless something explicitly took place in the first six movies or the Clone Wars cartoon it was no longer considered Star Wars canon.

The first expanded universe book of this new canon was titled “Tarkin” and documented the rise to power of the titular character.  In that book Wullf Yularen made a few very minor appearances and thankfully was firmly reestablished once again as a colonel in the ISB (and also, yay more Yularen!).

So that bit of business is taken care of.

Now for his uniform.

A couple of years ago I put together an ISB uniform of my own to wear to conventions, Death Star briefings, or fancy dinners.  I figured an Imperial officer costume would be a nice alternative to my much more cumbersome stormtrooper armor.  Wanting to do something a bit more unique then the typical grey fleet officer I decided to go with the Imperial Security Bureau look.

Black cap, white officer jacket, black pants.

As a fan of Yularen I gave myself the rank of colonel and adorned my costume accordingly but I wanted to examine the movie with a fine toothed comb and seek out as many of the ISB uniforms as possible in order to make sure the details of my costume were precise.

Through my observations I found that there are actually two variations of the ISB uniform in A New Hope.  One with the typical imperial cropped riding pants and tall boots and another with a straight legged pant and dress shoes.  Not a huge difference and from all observations my costume was spot on.

Below are most of the uniforms appearances in the film.

 

Now here’s the big moment!

As I was going, frame-by-frame, looking for ISB officers aboard the Death Star I came across the scene where Han and Luke, disguised as stormtroopers escorting Chewbacca, are awaiting a turbolift to the detention area.

In that scene our heroes are passed by a pair of ISB agents.  These two agents are actually the clearest examples of the uniform in the movie and as I was examining them I realized something.

The officer on the right is Wullf Yularen!

Could that be?

Is that Colonel Yularen out and about walking the Death Star corridors?

It certainly appears that way to me, despite the addition of the black cap everything is exactly the same down to the rank insignia.

Unless there were two actors with the same face and same pristinely trimmed mustache on the set of Star Wars then I had to be looking at what was essentially an unacknowledged second appearance of Wullf Yularen!

Here take a look at the side by side comparisons.

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A second appearance by the colonel is completely in keeping with the rest of the film seeing as several of the Imperials from the conference room scene appear later in the movie.

Admiral Motti and General Tagge discuss the fate of Princess Leia with Tarkin and Vader after the conference room scene.

Chief Bast is seen in several scenes before and after, most notably as the officer who warns Grand Moff Tarkin that the Rebel’s attack against the Death Star might be more dangerous than previously expected.

What this whole long drawn out rant is trying to explain is that Colonel Wullf Yularen wears black pants and it’s irrefutably proven in one quick scene.

With the discovery of that full body shot of the colonel those black pants should now be considered official canon, despite the implications of the white panted action figure.

From everything that I’ve researched no one seems to have realized that one quick corridor scene is in fact a display of Wullf Yularen’s full uniform in motion.

So in the future whenever you’re discussing Star Wars or Star Wars Costuming with your friends, family, and colleagues and find yourself in an argument over the uniform of Wullf Yularen or of the ISB in general (as I’m sure happens on at least a weekly basis) feel free to point them in the direction of Mindless Philosophy and I’ll be glad to set them straight!

 

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A piece of fan art in the Clone Wars style which incorrectly depicts Wullf Yularen wearing white pants.

 

That is all!