The Last Jedi Tag

Great ‘Last Jedi’ Demo Scenes

The Last Jedi

Following up on Dennis Burger’s lengthy examination of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I thought I would detail some of my favorite scenes from the movie. While Jedi has been a bit divisive amongst Star Wars fans—read the almost 100 comments to Dennis’s post on the Rayva Facebook page—now that I’ve had the chance to view it a couple more times at home, and after viewing the fantastic included two-hour documentary titled “The Director and the Jedi,” which examines many aspects of Rian Johnson’s filmmaking decisions, I’ve come to appreciate this movie in ways I couldn’t or didn’t during my initial theatrical viewing.

Regardless of your feelings about this latest installment in our favorite space opera, this is the best the franchise has ever looked or sounded and makes for reference demo material at home.

 

Much of Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes place in space, and you’ll marvel at the clean, deep, dark black-level detail of this terrific 4K HDR transfer. During the film’s first moments aboard General Hux’s ship, the floor, work stations, officers’ uniforms, and General Hux’s top and trench coat are all black. But a properly calibrated video display will reveal that these are all slightly different shades of black with clearly visible texture and detail.

During the scene where Rey trains on Ahch-To, note the texture in her staff, along with the detail in the stones around her. When she lights Luke’s saber, the blade glows hot blue-white against the sunny background, the HDR image retaining the dark and deep shadow detail of the craggy rocks while the light of the saber blade exceeds that of the sun!

 

HDR is used to great effect throughout the film, but especially during the bright outdoor scenes on Ahch-To and anytime a lightsaber blade is activated. The images from the 4K DI are reference in every regard, and virtually every frame will push your video system to its limits.

 

One of my favorite scenes is when Rey visits the dark place on Ahch-To. It just looks so cool, and the Dolby Atmos sound is terrific, swirling around the room as she snaps her fingers. Just following this is a conversation between Rey and Kylo by firelight with a closeup of their hands with fingerprint detail so amazing you could submit it to the FBI for evidence.

 

Check out the detail of Kylo’s wounds when he is communicating with Rey. You can clearly see the effects Rey’s lightsaber attack had on his face and chest from the end of The Force Awakens, as well as the scar in his side from Chewbacca’s Bowcaster. These are the subtle details that really come through in full 4K resolution.

 

The lightsaber dual between Rey and Kylo and Snoke’s guards and the finale battle on Crait look and sound even more awesome at home than you remember from the theater. Kylo’s poorly constructed saber crackles and sizzles erratically, barely containing the blade’s energy, and the ultra-sharp detail makes this more visible than ever before. (Jedi’s audio levels are a bit lower than some other titles, so be sure to turn the volume up to near reference level to truly experience the full impact of the immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack!) The reds explode off the screen in HDR, producing rich, vibrant detail along with brilliant whites and deep, dark blacks. The orange-red of the Rebel pilots’ flight suits has never looked richer, and even old C3PO gets a visual upgrade from this 4K transfer, with his gold outfit shining brighter than ever before.

 

This is the demo candy you’ve been waiting for!

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Review: ‘The Last Jedi’ UHD Blu-ray

I’m often accused of spending too much time thinking about Star Wars. It’s a valid observation, but I think the thing that would surprise most of my friends is that the only times in which Star Wars isn’t fully consuming some part of my waking consciousness is when I’m actually watching one of the films.

 

That may seem like a contradictory statement, but when I’m watching a Star Wars film, I’m likely taking it at face value. I’m not deconstructing it as a work of cinema, or pop-philosophy, or fable. There are 22 other hours in the day for that sort of thing. When I’m watching a Star Wars film, I’m in it. Wholly consumed. I’m that five-year-old kid again, taking yet another step into a larger world that will forever guide my destiny.

 

Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is, for now at least, the exception to that rule. For a self-styled Star Wars scholar, the latest film in the saga simply doesn’t allow for that sort of detached viewing experience. At least not yet. For now, after 10 viewings, I still find it nearly impossible to watch this film without deconstructing it.

 

If I had to boil it down to just one reason why, I’d say that The Last Jedi represents a daring attempt by a single visionary to dig down to the heart of what makes Star Wars tick—mythologically, narratively, and cinematically. It’s a film that has the courage to take all six of George Lucas’s original Star Wars films as gospel, to explore every implication of every line committed to the silver screen between 1977 and 2005 completely and honestly—including the most obscure elements and seemingly throwaway lines—while also managing to work beautifully as a film on its own terms. If anything, The Last Jedi is almost as much a work of theological apologetics as it is a work of cinematic art.

 

Despite all of that, though, the film does work as art. In fact, I’d say that more so than any Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back, this one is more art than product. And that largely has to do with the way writer/director Rian Johnson distills the cinematic and thematic inspiration for the original Star Wars, then finds his own unique way to recombine those ingredients in a personal way.

 

It’s no secret that the original 1977 film was a pastiche of Kurosawa and John Ford, with a heaping helping of The Dam Busters and old Flash Gordon serials thrown in for good measure. Rather than go back to those original influences—or, as was the case with 2015’s The Force Awakens, mine the original Star Wars trilogy nearly exclusively for inspiration—Johnson goes to his own well here, trading The Hidden Fortress for Rashomon, and The Dam Busters for Twelve O’Clock High, while also sprinkling in a dash of Three Outlaw Samurai and To Catch A Thief and Brazil for a little extra spice.

 

The result is that, as with Empire, we end up with a film that’s true to the spirit of Star Wars, and that expands the horizons of Star Wars, but still manages to be the unique artistic vision of a single auteur who isn’t George Lucas, despite the fact that the Maker’s fingerprints are all over it.

The Last Jedi also serves as an unintended farewell to Carrie Fisher, not only as the actor who brought our beloved Leia to life, but also as an uncredited writer and script editor. Her work in the film is some of her best—both onscreen and on the page—but it’s a little difficult to watch the film and not get angry at the universe and Carrie’s own personal demons for taking her from us far too soon.

 

At any rate, the result of all of the above is that The Last Jedi is, for now, a film to be grappled with—a challenging composition that isn’t as easily consumed or processed as most tentpole pictures tend to be. It is, in ways, a cinematic analogue of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, still fresh from its Théâtre des Champs-Élysées debut, with a good bit of extra whimsy and a few adorable critters thrown in.

 

In other ways, though, The Last Jedi is an unapologetic throwback to a less cynical time, and that does make it a bit of an oddball in our current media landscape. For all the talk of this film as a subversive and at times shocking work in the context of the Star Wars canon, it’s hard not to notice how sincere it is. Even characters whose messages run completely counter to the film’s central themes are treated with a level of earnestness that’s both welcome and a little jarring. In fact, one of my few complaints with the film is the rare instance in which this isn’t the case—in which one of the film’s secondary villains is somewhat mocked in a winking way that’s contrary to the film’s overarching but subtle sentimentality.

The Last Jedi

But one aspect of The Last Jedi really hits home for me in such a deeply personal way that it manages to tear down those walls and draw me into its tragic magic completely: The journey of Luke Skywalker. Much has been made of Luke’s portrayal in this film, and I won’t dig into the thoughts of others here. Partly because I don’t care, but mostly because my own connection with Luke overshadows all other discussions for me.

 

The Luke Skywalker we meet in The Last Jedi is a broken man—a once-optimistic do-gooder who has convinced himself that the world is better off without him and the dogma he represents. He’s seen some shit, in the parlance of our times. And without delving too deeply into my own story, it’s a Luke I relate to in a visceral way, because I’ve been there. I’ve struggled with deep, personal losses for which I blamed myself, no matter how far out of my own control they may have been. I’ve been driven to the same level of despair and isolation we see on Luke’s face throughout much of this film.

 

It’s disturbing to watch at times, true. But it also makes Luke’s triumphant return at the end—in which he does the single most Jedi-like thing ever committed to celluloid or CCD—all the more triumphant. Luke Skywalker was my childhood hero. In The Last Jedi, he’s my adult inspiration, in a way I never would have dreamt possible. He’s a reminder that legends are only human, yes. But just as importantly, he’s a reminder that they’re legends for a reason.

 

In my 2018 Wishlist published here on the Roundtable, I rather naïvely hoped this beautiful, moving, deeply thoughtful, and paradoxically fun film would receive the home video release it deserved, right out of the gate. Much to my shock and amazement, it has. The Ultra HD disc is a new high bar in terms of audiovisual presentation. This is the disc you’ll want to pull out when some naysayer opines that Blu-ray or streaming is perfectly sufficient. The High Dynamic Range imagery reveals depths of detail in the shadows I struggled to see even in IMAX.

The Last Jedi

In terms of supplemental material, it seems as if nothing was held back for a more ultimate release down the road. Deleted scenes abound, and in stark contrast with the Blu-ray release of The Force Awakens, the behind-the-scenes features aren’t all back-patting, neck-hugging, Kumbaya marketing fluff. Hell, even the marketing fluff that has leaked out to accompany The Last Jedi’s home video release has been a step up from most everything on the Episode VII disc.

 

The real star of this collection, though, is the feature-length documentary The Director and the Jedi, in which we get some serious insight into just how much Rian Johnson loves, appreciates, and more importantly understands Star Wars. We also see, through the course of the documentary, Mark Hamill angrily struggle to come to terms with the Luke Skywalker he’s tasked with playing in this film, then slowly come around to fully embrace Johnson’s vision. It’s raw, It’s emotional, it’s genuine in a way we don’t normally see in making-of docs. Simply put, The Director and the Jedi is a film that all cinema fans—even those who aren’t Star Wars obsessives—need to watch.

 

Johnson’s audio commentary for the film is also a delight, and it’s fortunate it was recorded before the film’s release, since we end up with the filmmaker’s genuine thoughts and reflections, rather than his reactions to the discussion of his work post-release.

 

But if there’s one bonus feature I’m more excited about than any other, it’s the isolated score track, a feature I’ve been begging for since the DVD days. It’s worth noting that the isolated score (in which you watch the film without dialogue, without sound effects, only John Williams’ brilliant symphonic narrative accompaniment) isn’t actually found anywhere on the discs. To access it, you have to redeem the Movies Anywhere code found in the UHD Blu-ray case and watch the film via your web browser or media streamer.

 

As with the film itself, though, it’s absolutely worth the effort. 

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including
high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of
Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound
American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

Dennis Burger’s Wishlist for 2018

2018 Wishlist--Battlefront II

More than anything, I’m hoping both the gaming industry and Hollywood do some serious soul-searching in the coming year. The conclusion I hope they reach? We consumers have reached a breaking point when it comes to being screwed over. My evidence in this argument? The fact that Battlefront II, the latest Star Wars video game release, currently sits at a 0.9 rating on Metacritic. Not a 9. A zero-point-nine. Nine-tenths of one point.

 

The reality is, it’s not that bad a game. Not mind-blowingly amazing, but certainly solid. Were I to slap a score on it, it would be a minimum of 7.5.

 

So why the abysmal user reviews? Because the game’s developers burdened the release with cheap money-making tactics that fall somewhere on a spectrum between extortion and gambling. At the behest of Lucasfilm, these money-making mechanisms were shut down right after the game launched, but the damage was done. Gamers had had enough. To pay full price ($60 to $80) for a game only to be nickel and dimed to death when attempting to advance through the experience at a reasonable pace is an insult that simply has to end.

 

Gamers feel as if the only way to force an end to such shenanigans is outright revolt. Only the game publishers have the power to decide whether 2018 is an apology tour or a bloodbath.

2018 Wishlist--The Last Jedi

What about Hollywood? I’m not breaking any new ground with this revelation, but we consumers have had our fill of double-, triple-, and even quadruple-dipping when it comes to non-streaming home-video releases. I worry that Disney will attempt, in typical fashion, to release Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a relatively standard Blu-ray early in the spring and follow it up with a deluxe bonus edition late next year. They got away with it for The Force Awakens. They’ve gotten away with it on so many major releases in the past. I’m not sure they will for much longer.

 

Give us the goodies up front. Give us a UHD Blu-ray, for goodness’ sake. Throw in an audio commentary exploring The Last Jedi’s deep and numerous subversive themes. Give us the tribute to Carrie Fisher we’re all longing to see. Give us all of that without holding back, and we’ll snatch up the physical discs gladly, perhaps even in record numbers. But if Disney gives us the standard tease, or forces us to buy multiple retailer exclusives to get all the bonus features that exist out in the wild, it will simply be putting yet another nail in the coffin of physical media.

—Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including
high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of
Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound
American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

John Sciacca’s Best of ’17

Best of 2017--Strato Movie Player

Best Trend: 4K HDR/Immersive Audio Content

4K Ultra HD content really took off in 2017. Ultra HD TVs have reached mass-market pricing, and we even have an incredibly affordable true 4K projector from Sony. Plus, the content side has finally caught up—I’m guessing we’ve now crested the 300-disc mark, and there are more than 220 titles available for download at the Kaleidescape store. The benefits of 4K HDR go far beyond the extra pixels, with a wider color gamut that produces over a billion colors, 10-bit video that eliminates banding and delivers an incredibly clean, pristine image, and high dynamic range producing brilliant whites and clean, deep blacks. Further, most of these titles also include next-generation immersive audio in the form of Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, giving you an experience at home that can rival or exceed that of any commercial cinema. As someone who loves movies but finds it difficult to make it to the theater (thanks to a 20-month-old daughter), being able to enjoy them in fantastic quality on my home system is a real “Best of”!

Best of 2017--SEAL Team

Best New TV Show: SEAL Team

My cousin Chris was a “Teams guy,” having served with SEAL Team VII for several years. I’ve always been impressed and fascinated with his stories from abroad (one of which inspired this feature story for Sound & Vision that is one of my favorites I’ve written), and I definitely enjoy TV shows and films that cover the SEALs. (The best film—by which I mean the one that gets it the most right—is Lone Survivor. Highly recommended, and with a dynamic DTS:X soundtrack on the 4K disc!) Usually, I’m pulled out of the story by inaccuracies, poor weapons handling, bad dialogue, or whatever, but CBS’s new drama SEAL Team gets so many things right that it’s easy to overlook the stuff they get wrong. There’s also enough “storyline” in between the action that it’s engaged my wife as well. Definitely worth a viewing if you’re looking for a new show!

Best of 2017--SVS SB16-Ultra Subwoofer

Best Addition to My Home System: SVS SB16-ULTRA Subwoofer

I regularly make changes, additions, and improvements to my personal home theater system. This year, I added a second subwoofer in the form of the new SVS SB16-Ultra. This is a 16-inch, 5,000-watt bass monster. My system now delivers bass that is seismic, with impact and pressure waves you literally feel hammering you in the chest. At times, it almost feels like the couch is moving, and the bass is far more dynamic even at lower volumes. For the money ($2,000 list), I’m not sure there’s a better, more theatrical sub you can add to your system.

Best of 2017--The Last Jedi

Best Personal Experience: Star Wars Episode VIII

As I write this, it has been about two hours since I dropped my best friend Dan off at the airport to return home. I’ve known Dan for about 35 years now, and he is far more family than friend. Since the theatrical re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy back in 1997, I have seen every Star Wars film with him on opening day. I flew out to California to see Episodes I, II, and III with him, and he has flown back to Myrtle Beach to see The Force Awakens and (just this past Thursday) The Last Jedi with me. Beyond the quality of the films—and Jedi was really enjoyable, though not quite as good as TFA, in our opinion—the company, camaraderie, and conversations pre and post movie are every bit as important as the movie itself. Also, this is the first Star Wars film my oldest daughter, Lauryn, has been able to join us for on opening day. To be able to see and share this premiere with an old friend and my daughter was a wonderful, truly “Best of” experience!

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.