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J.J. Abrams caps an iconic space-opera franchise with the flashy but not necessarily compelling ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

February 20, 2020

By Matthew E. MillikenMEMwrites.wordpress.comFeb. 20, 2020 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the 11th entry in the blockbuster space opera, opens with a blast from the past. As the series’ signature opening crawl that follows the film’s title (see previous sentence) and episode number (nine) announces: The dead speak! The galaxy has heard a mysterious […]

Rebels on the run: The evil First Order tirelessly hunts good guys in the sprawling ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

May 4, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken May 3, 2018 Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth entry in the projected nine-movie space opera sequence that George Lucas launched in 1977, is a messy but entertaining addition to the saga. Writer-director Rian Johnson, who’s best known for the 2012 time-traveling drama Looper, splits his sequel to 2015’s The Force […]

A motley band of raiders defies an Empire in the unexpectedly timely new ‘Star Wars’ movie, ‘Rogue One’

February 11, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken Feb. 11, 2016 Gareth Edwards’s December 2016 blockbuster, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is a film very much set in the Star Wars universe but not quite of that fictional realm. The movie can be watched independently of any other Star Wars feature, and arguably might be more enjoyable that way. Nonetheless, it serves as a sort […]

Enter Jar Jar, Anakin and stereotypes: Revisiting ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’

September 27, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken Sept. 26, 2016 In January, I excoriated the The Star Wars Holiday Special, the worst feature-length production in that fantastically popular science-fiction franchise. Today, I come to examine what is widely agreed to be the property’s second-worst movie. I write, of course, about the much-loathed 1999 release that kicked off the prequel trilogy: Star Wars: […]

After the return and failure of the Jedi, what lies ahead for the mystical knights of ‘Star Wars’?

March 27, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken March 27, 2016 Apropos of very little, I was thinking the other day about possible plot points for the eighth installment of the Star Wars movies, which is due out in December 2017. According to a recent update of the flick’s Internet Movie Database page, Star Wars — Episode VIII is currently being filmed, and […]

‘The Star Wars Holiday Special’ is a widely mocked backwater in one of science fiction’s most durable franchises

January 28, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken Jan. 28, 2016 I came down with a cold last week, meaning that for a few days, it was difficult for me to concentrate on anything, or even to extract myself from bed. Once I started recovering, on Friday, I was in desperate need of mindless entertainment. (A bout with illness two […]

Among the stars, war: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ revives a classic space opera but isn’t as compelling as the originals

January 7, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken Jan. 7, 2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings together a mix of old and new characters from the mega-successful science-fiction movie series in order to launch a new sequence of cinematic space adventures. But you probably already know that. The plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set in motion by […]

Considering why the original ‘Star Wars’ was such a hit and why the animated ‘Lord of the Rings’ was not

October 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken Oct. 7, 2015 As I wrote earlier today: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a fantasy-adventure trilogy first printed in 1954–55, was a seminal publication. Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, an animated feature based on Tolkien’s work that was released in 1978, is an obscurity. By contrast, I saw the original Star Wars during an extended first […]

Short takes: ‘The Lottery, and Other Stories,’ ‘Oona Out of Order’ and ‘Monsters’

June 14, 2020

By Matthew E. MillikenMEMwrites.wordpress.comJune 14, 2020 The Lottery, and Other Stories is an anthology that shows off Shirley Jackson’s versatility and talent. The tales, all evidently published in 1948 and 1949, largely eschew the horror genre of the title story. They instead capture moments in the lives of ordinary women and a handful of men […]

Short takes: ‘Alice Isn’t Dead,’ ‘Glass Houses’ and ‘Explorers’

June 6, 2020

By Matthew E. MillikenMEMwrites.wordpress.comJune 6, 2020 Joseph Fink adapted Alice Isn’t Dead, his striking 2018 horror novel, from a podcast of the same name. Both book and podcast describe a harrowing series of journeys undertaken by Keisha Taylor, a chronically anxious woman who becomes a long-haul trucker after seeing her missing wife in the background of […]

Short takes: ‘Unknown,’ ‘The Last Days on Mars’ and ‘Sucker Punch’

April 12, 2020

By Matthew E. MillikenMEMwrites.wordpress.comApril 12, 2020 Author’s note: By necessity, my review of Sucker Punch deals with sex and sexuality and therefore may not be appropriate for all readers. MEM Dr. Martin Harris, a mild-mannered, well-to-do university professor from New Hampshire, flies into Berlin with Liz, his beautiful wife; in a few days, he’s going […]

Short takes: ‘Oblivion,’ ‘Redline’ and ‘Lifeforce’

November 9, 2019

By Matthew E. MillikenMEMwrites.wordpress.comNov. 9, 2019 One could be forgiven for having forgotten Tom Cruise’s 2013 action vehicle, Oblivion, which sank into — well, you know — seemingly within days of its release. This was somewhat unjust, as the movie turns out to be a pretty zippy science fiction actioner. Cruise stars as Jack Harper, […]

Florida flipping: My pinball excursion to Orlando* (*by which I mean Oviedo)

September 19, 2019

By Matthew E. MillikenMEMwrites.wordpress.comSept. 19, 2019 I went to Orlando to do one thing: Watch Stanford football. But in booking my trip, I gave myself a few days on either side of the actual football game against UCF. I looked online for a few other activities to fill the time. A quick search of a […]

In George R.R. Martin’s 1981 science fiction thriller ‘Nightflyer,’ the possibilities raised by a long journey and a malevolent force are thwarted by bad company

January 26, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken Jan. 26, 2019 As a youngster, I loved almost everything about space. If I found a book, movie or TV show with a spaceship in it, I wanted to read or watch it. This enthusiasm has persisted into my adult, albeit in somewhat diminished strength. (I still haven’t seen Solo: […]

Vignette: Flowers, movement, (failed) joke

November 30, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken Nov. 30, 2018 Sometime in early or mid-November, on a relatively pleasant fall afternoon, I parked my car on Iredell Street in Durham and walked the long way around the block to a local coffee shop. After turning the corner onto West Markham Avenue, I proceeded up the incline toward […]

Alex Garland’s enigmatic ‘Annihilation’ tracks five women as they travel into a bizarre region

April 13, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken April 13, 2018 Writer-director Alex Garland’s new movie, Annihilation, is a suspenseful science-fiction feature about a team of women investigating a mysterious extraterrestrial phenomenon that’s taken hold of a remote coastal region. Natalie Portman (Black Swan, Jackie and the Star Wars prequel trilogy) stars as a Johns Hopkins biology professor whose husband disappeared a […]

The ultimate hand: A preface and primer

February 10, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken Feb. 10, 2018 Most Americans are obsessed with the best of the best. For decades, children have been encouraged to dream big: Growing up to become president, for instance, or the richest person in the world. Some of our most successful movies involve people striving to become — and succeeding […]

DC vs. Marvel at the movies

August 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken Aug. 5, 2017 Author’s note: A few hours after I published this post, I added a note to my ersatz table indicating that two of the listings included ticket sales from the same Marvel movie. MEM East Coast vs. West Coast, New York vs. Boston, Apple vs. Microsoft, DC vs. Marvel: Each one […]

The 2016 ‘Star Trek’ movie urged viewers to tolerate and embrace differences even as some Americans sought safety in homogeneity

April 28, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken April 28, 2017 Author’s note: I am once again on a bit of a Star Trek kick. Having just written, respectively, about the most recent and the first Trek movies, I now intend to discuss the cultural and political implications of the latest Star Trek and Star Wars features (that’s the purpose of this post). Be […]

Brian Daley provides fast-moving space opera fun in ‘The Han Solo Adventures’

July 7, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken July 7, 2016 Sometimes, when I pick up certain books that I read years ago, I am transported to past eras of my life. There was a stretch in the summer of 2003 when I would frequently take a picnic lunch from my apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, amble over to Riverside […]

Cheeps and Chirps for April 26, 2016

April 26, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken April 26, 2016 Here are some recent odds and ends from my Twitter feed. I hope that “Cheeps and Chirps” will be a semi-regular feature on my blog. (Ideally, it’ll be more regular and less semi than “Recent Readings”…) • Check out this great hockey name! HOW COME NONE OF YOU TOLD ME […]

The promising but forgotten pilot ‘Earth Star Voyager’ delivers moderately entertaining science fiction content

January 29, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken Jan. 29, 2016 My illness-induced quest for mindless entertainment extended beyond watching the dire Star Wars Holiday Special. Thanks to the magic of YouTube’s algorithms, I stumbled upon Earth Star Voyager, a three-hour television pilot from 1988 that I believe originally aired under the rubric of an anthology show known either as Walt Disney’s Wonderful World […]

Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was an interesting but muddled creation

October 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken Oct. 7, 2015 J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a fantasy-adventure trilogy first printed in 1954–55, was a seminal publication. Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, an animated feature based on Tolkien’s work that was released in 1978, is an obscurity. There was probably a time when Bakshi’s movie was prized by […]

Gunman for hire: George Clooney plays a man trapped by his vocation in ‘The American’

July 13, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken July 13, 2015 On a recent visit to a second-hand book-, CD- and DVD-store, I browsed the $2 DVD bin and noticed a movie called The American. It was from 2010 and it starred George Clooney, apparently playing a(n American) hit man on the run in Italy. I snapped it up. The movie itself is […]

Adventures in libertarian utopia: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ puts its violent antihero through a vicious, violent and dynamic wringer

June 4, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken June 4, 2015 Mad Max: Fury Road, the new science fiction action movie from George Miller, is a brutal, kinetic, testosterone-powered thrill ride that finds cause to recognize (and even celebrate) women as something more than sex objects. This is the fourth film in Miller’s series about a warrior who roams […]