Sunday, 28 November 2021

'Rogue One,' the Star Wars delight; 'Kevin Can Wait' on TV


The press notes bill “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” as the first of the “Star Wars” stand-alone films from Lucasfilm, an all-new epic adventure that shows great promise for future escapades in outer space.

But first, it must be noted that “Rogue One,” which is a spin-off from all the previous episodes of “Star Wars,” is a prequel to the original trilogy, or at least that’s the way it appears even if younger versions of Han Solo and Chewbacca are not seen flying around in a cargo ship.

Detached in many respects from many familiar aspects of the “Star Wars” universe, the film still opens with an abbreviated crawl, announcing “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” That suffices to draw audiences into recognizable if paradoxically different territory.

The premise of this new chapter of intergalactic struggles between the Rebellion and the evil Empire is that a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the ultimate weapon of planetary destruction.

Leading the charge is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a young woman who came to the rebel cause after seeing how the Empire coerced her scientist father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) to design and build the invincible Death Star.

Teaming up with the headstrong Jyn is the urbane guerrilla fighter Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). You’d think there might be some romantic chemistry between them, but if so it’s not readily apparent.

Our rebel pair gets help from Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera, a wise mentor who exercises more caution than the youthful warriors. More daring is Donnie Yen’s blind monk Chirrut, a fierce warrior guided by his faith in the Force.

Comic relief is provided under the most unusual circumstances. Joining the rebel crew is a security droid named K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a constant fussbudget who amusingly calculates the unfavorable odds of the team surviving any dangerous predicament.

The bad guys, of course, are plentiful. Most unusual is the computerized resurrection of the long-deceased Peter Cushing in the role of Grand Moff Tarkin of the Imperial forces. Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), though limited to a few scenes, still exudes great menace.

The essence of evil emanates to the greatest blunt impact from Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Orson Krennic, the ruthless overseer of the Death Star program who has no problem resorting to the random killing of suspected collaborators with the Rebellion.

The final climax is a satisfying battle in space with awesome aerial dogfights when the Rebellion strikes back against the Empire. The action kicks into high gear just in time to highlight the challenges that will always lay ahead for the good guys.

Fan reaction to the recent “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was decidedly positive, even though it rehashed a lot of familiar ground. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” thriving on originality, turns out to be far superior and a most welcome addition to the “Star Wars” pantheon.

TV Corner: 'Kevin Can Wait' on CBS Network

What do the movies “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Here Comes the Boom, and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” have in common, aside from being forgettable? They all starred comedian Kevin James, who shines much better on the small screen.

The long-running comedy “The King of Queens” starred James and Leah Remini as a blue-collar couple living in Rego Park, Queens with the unwelcome presence of Jerry Stiller as Remini’s father camping out in the basement.

Arguably, the same type of formula is at work for “Kevin Can Wait,” where James’ Kevin Gable is a newly retired police officer living on New York’s Long Island, with his wife Donna (Erinn Hayes) and their three children.

You may ask about the meaning of the title “Kevin Can Wait?” Is this some sort of existential exercise, like the Samuel Beckett play “Waiting for Godot,” in which two characters wait for the arrival of someone named Godot who never arrives?

During last summer’s gathering of TV critics, Kevin James attempted to answer this fundamental question by saying the title fit with the idea that “I can wait for my retirement, it can be pushed off a little bit. I can wait for that, for family, and this and that.”

To narrow this down a bit, James has a point since his idea of a carefree life shared with his fellow retired police buddies takes a twist when oldest daughter Kendra (Taylor Spreitler) announces she’s dropping out of college to support her fiancé Chale (Ryan Cartwright).

While Donna still works as a nurse, Kevin finds that he has to take a series of odd jobs to bring in some extra cash. Even when he comes up with a scheme to launch a food truck business, Kevin’s venture ends with humiliation and spectacular failure at the hands of a disgruntled chef.

The best comedic scenes involve Kevin sneaking away for touch football and a Billy Joel concert with his pals Goody (Leonard Earl Howze) and Duffy (Lenny Venito) and his retired firefighter brother Kyle (Gary Valentine).

“Kevin Can Wait,” which managed to secure a full season order from CBS, may not be the best vehicle for Kevin James’ talent in a series that relies on mostly predictable jokes.

What makes “Kevin Can Wait” a watchable alternative for viewers tired of amateur talent contests is that Kevin James has a likable, funny personality that makes him an endearing presence on the network landscape.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Upcoming Calendar

11.29.2021 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Lake County 29'ers Cribbage Club Meeting
11.30.2021 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Board of Supervisors redistricting hearing
11.30.2021 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
12.02.2021 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
12.04.2021 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Rodman Preserve Saturday self-guided walks
12.04.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Steele
12.04.2021 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Steele
12.04.2021 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm
Park Study Club Christmas tea
12.04.2021 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Festival of Trees

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