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Star Wars

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket hosted a Star Wars Carnival on July 13. The afternoon featured Star Wars-themed games and included a visit from Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper who played with the children, checked out books and posed for photos and selfies. Over 140 members of the community attended the galactic event.

Photos from Emma Clark Library

A scene from ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

By David Luces

The Star Wars film series is well known for its depiction of the galaxy and space technology. For the many fans of the franchise, the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport will give them the opportunity to journey back in time to explore the Star Wars galaxy once again as part of a special event, Worlds Far, Far Away, on Saturday, May 4 — also known as Star Wars Day.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the museum, said the event will merge entertainment and education by showing participants that technology and planets shown in the films are not far from becoming a reality in the future. “The film series has been very popular, it’s something that spans generations,” Reinheimer said.

“I remember myself going to the theater to see the first Star Wars film. Not only is this an educational event, but it is also a tribute to the film series and will be appealing to a lot of people,” he added.

The evening will feature a Star Wars-themed lecture that will take the audience on a tour of the planets and famous locations seen throughout the franchise. After the presentation, guests will be divided into the light and dark sides of the Force and will compete during the event to win prizes by answering trivia questions.

“Our purpose is to develop programs that will spark interest and bring people not only to the planetarium but the rest of the museum’s grounds as well,” the executive director said.       

Astronomy educators Matt Garber and Charlie Eder will be leading the lecture and act as “droids” as they take the audience on a tour of the Star Wars galaxy. “We will be talking about the science behind the spaceships in the films as well as showing them important locations,” said Garber. Though it seems that technology shown in these films will be hard to attain, he said it may well be a possibility in the future.

The astronomer said the event is timely as the franchise is widely popular and the teaser trailer for the next film, “Episode 9: Rise of Skywalker,” was recently released. Ultimately he hopes they can get the younger crowd in the audience interested in astronomy. “It would be great to capitalize on that — when you’re younger you sometimes dream about going into space.”

Reinheimer agreed, adding that everyone remembers their first visit to a planetarium and he hopes the upcoming event will renew their interest. The executive director said as time goes by, the Vanderbilt estate, which was built in the 1940s, has become more important. He also said the planetarium holds a special place in space history as it was built in 1971, during the height of the space race with the Soviet Union.

“We try to promote these events and get the word out that there is a true gem right in our backyard,” he said.

Visitors are encouraged to come 30 minutes before each showtime to enjoy the activities in the decorated planetarium lobby. Guests are also encouraged to come dressed as their favorite Star Wars character.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will present Worlds Far, Far Away on Saturday, May 4 at 7, 8 and 9 p.m.

*This information has been updated from original article – Tickets are $20 for adult members; $25 for adult non-members; $14 for members ages 15 and under; and $16 for non-members ages 15 and under at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

For more information, please call 631-854-5579.

Your phone is across the room. You want it to come to you and you put out your hand. Nothing happens. You scrunch your face and flex the muscles in your outstretched fingers, but, still, nothing happens.

Someday the iPhone C (for 100) or iPhone M (1,000) may fly through the air when you reach for it (avoiding people’s heads along the way). And, someday, we may figure out how to use the energy field described in such detail in the Star Wars franchise.

Yes, just as the new iPhone X (a mere 10) arrives at Apple stores, Star Wars is revving its intergalactic engines, bringing an aging Luke Skywalker and his rebel friends back, yet again, to battle with evil.

At the heart of the franchise is the Force, which would be a convenient skill to have when we can’t find the remote control or our phones.

So, what is this Force and do we only acknowledge it in the movies?

Thousands of years ago, long before Darth Vader, when primitive people struggled through a drought and needed rain, they prayed, they did rain dances or they carved images of rain in the walls so that future archeologists and artists could analyze and appreciate them years later.

I’m not minimizing or trivializing religion or a belief in any deity. I am suggesting, however, that the Force and the battle between good and evil and the free-flowing energy that is a part of this mythology come into play in our daily lives.

As we prepare to walk out the door, our shoelace snaps. We don’t have time to take the lace out of the shoe and put another one in. We’re also not completely sure if we have other laces handy.

We demand to know “Why now?” from the lace. We might even get annoyed and say, “No, no, no, come on! I can’t be late.”

To whom are we talking? Are we personifying the shoelaces so we can complain? By expressing our frustration to the shoelace, perhaps we are externalizing our anger.

But, maybe the dark side is challenging us in a moment of weakness, encouraging us to get angry, to take off our shoes, open the door and throw them deep into woods?

We get into our car and turn the key. It doesn’t start. We hold our breath. “Please, please, please, you can do it,” we beg and try again.

From whom are we asking for help? Are we seeking assistance from a deity who might be nearby or everywhere? Are we speaking to the inanimate engine, hoping that Bessie, like Herbie the Love Bug, will come to life, rev her engine and shift back and forth from one tire to the other in a happy car dance? Maybe we promise Bessie a refreshing oil change if we can just get to work today.

Or are we talking to a Force that makes things go our way, the way we hope a Force encourages our loved ones to answer the phone while we’re waiting for them or our favorite team to succeed in the moment?

We may hope many of the objects we talk to, apart from our electronic friends Siri and Alexa, will respond to our needs, the way earlier people hoped that their efforts affected the weather.

Movies may come and go from the big screen, but we live through our own nonintergalactic battles, escaping from the shadows of our fathers, perhaps, or finding our own destinies. As we do, we may turn to some version of the Force, or something like it, for help in a pinch.

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Felicity Jones leads the cast of the newest edition to the ‘Star Wars’ saga. Photo courtesy of Disney

THE EXPERIENCE

By Michael Tessler

Ever wish you could celebrate Christmas each and every day? That’s how I can best describe my childhood dream of receiving a new “Star Wars” film each and every year. What seemed like an impossibility back then has suddenly become an astonishing reality. Thanks to Disney’s acquisition of every creative thought mustered by George Lucas, fans can now enjoy an annual installment of the most successful film franchise in cinema history.

At AMC Loews 17 in Stony Brook on Friday, Nick Acampora and his daughters Elizabeth and Melanie sat together in anticipation for the premiere of Gareth Edwards’ “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” “We’ve got a family connection with the Force,” joked Acampora, a Port Jefferson resident and community historian. Though all smiles, his daughters were bitterly divided between which was their favorite “Star Wars” film (of course, we all know it should be “The Empire Strikes Back”). Despite some debate, all could agree that “Star Wars” is the perfect escape from reality.

Just a few rows away were two grown men named Mike, a father/son duo, both wearing expressions of childlike wonder in anticipation for the new film. The elder Mike had enjoyed the original “Star Wars” film (later titled “A New Hope”) back in 1977 when he first saw it in theaters. The “Jedi master” and his “padawan” have been to every “Star Wars” premiere together since “Attack of the Clones,” released in 2002. They take enormous pride in having a better relationship than their “Star Wars” counterparts Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

Sitting next to me was my childhood best friend Matthew and, in spirit, my late best friend Brandon. For us, “Star Wars” was more than just a film series, it was the basis for our friendship. Countless days in the backyard were spent dueling with plastic toy light sabers, building the LEGO Millennium Falcon brick by brick, and arguing for hours over fan theories and proper pronunciations of Jedi names. As Darth Vader appeared on screen for the first time in over a decade in “Rogue One,” Matthew and I paused for a moment, looking at one another. For that brief second we saw each other not as adults but as the little boys we once knew a long time ago … in a galaxy far, far away.

THE (SPOILERIFIC) REVIEW

By Kevin Redding

“Rogue One,” the first in what promises to be a series of Star Wars-related anthology films, is a risky experiment in that its plot — based on the first two paragraphs of the original’s opening crawl — requires it to forever change the way we watch “A New Hope.”

In telling the story of how the plans needed to destroy the Death Star wound up in the hands of Princess Leia and eventually kick-start the adventures of a blonde farm kid named Luke, “Rogue One” is of course a prequel, which is a dirty word among many “Star Wars” fans.

But Disney, for the most part, knows what the diehards want to see — practical sets and creatures, Tie fighters and X-wings, and the (ridiculously satisfying, vicious and get-on-your-feet-and-growl-like-a-wookie-worthy) return of the biggest, baddest villain in the galaxy, among other familiar faces. The last half of “Rogue One” sets up the start of “A New Hope” masterfully, so much so that if the closing credits of the former and opening crawl of the latter were eliminated, it would work seamlessly as one long adventure.

But I definitely thought it took a while for “Rogue One” to reach its great moments. As we spend time with a ragtag team of new characters, I couldn’t help but want to see what the old standbys were up to instead. This “Star Wars Story” centers on Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a slightly dull heroine whose father unwillingly engineered the planet-destroying weaponry on the Death Star while under the diabolic eye of the Empire’s Imperial Commander Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).

As Erso later finds out, her father intentionally compromised the Death Star so it could easily be destroyed (by Luke in “A New Hope”), thus cleverly correcting one of the biggest plot holes in the original film: Why would the Empire build this elaborate, clearly-expensive space station that can be blown to smithereens so easily?!

Erso finds herself the resilient leader of a group of Rebels who band together to get the job done. Alongside her is Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who’s sort of the no-fun straight man throughout, K-2SO (perfectly voiced by Alan Tudyk), a reprogrammed Imperial droid that doesn’t know any better than to say exactly what’s on its mind (or in its circuits) to marvelous and hilarious effect, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a Force-sensitive blind warrior who takes down a lot of stormtroopers with little to no effort and is by far the best new addition to the “Star Wars” universe of the human bunch, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), Chirrut’s loyal partner, and Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a former Imperial pilot gone rogue.

It’s great to see the inclusion of Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits, reprising his role from the prequel trilogy) and some of the Rebel pilots from the original that were implemented into the spectacular battle scenes on display here. Where the film really shines, however, is in the villain department. Personally, I was blown away at how Edwards and company resurrected the late-great Peter Cushing through a stunning display of CGI and motion capture to give Grand Moff Tarkin, the ruthless Imperial leader in “A New Hope,” a substantial role.

But what brought me to the theater in the first place was knowing that I’d be seeing Darth Vader be Darth Vader on the big screen again, in all his James Earl Jones-voiced glory. It’s really incredible and overwhelming to see. His two scenes, while extremely short, are worth the price of admission, especially the one in the final moments of the film, which will forever change how we see him in the rest of the saga. If nothing else, “Rogue One” reclaims Vader as the powerful and dangerous threat we were always told he was, and then some.

THE VERDICT

“Rogue One’s” greatest attribute is that it somehow manages to make “A New Hope” an even greater film. Admittedly, the first thing I did when I got home was rewatch the 1977 classic. This connective tissue provides compelling emotional subtext to the famed original opening crawl. While a bit clunky in its pacing and struggle to give us new characters to really feel for, “Rogue One” has proven “Star Wars” can survive outside the saga, delivering to fans compelling stories that only further embellish the brilliance of Lucas’ original vision. And if you don’t like this one so much, just wait until next year … and the year after that…and the year after that.

Film review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

By Michael Tessler

THE EXPERIENCE
To many, “Star Wars” is so much more than a film franchise. It’s an expansive sandbox filled to the brim with plastic action figures, toy lightsabers, X-Wing Lego sets, friendships and the imaginations of children everywhere. For me, it’s a return to a simpler time, one without bills, college, work or relationships. A time when my biggest concern was getting off the bus and running across the street to reenact epic lightsaber duels with my childhood best friend, Matthew.

This past Thursday, Matthew (now a soldier in the United States Army) and I reunited for one of the premiere showings of “The Force Awakens.” It had been over a decade since we attended a “Star Wars” film together. Mark Hamill could describe the experience best — “Everything has changed and nothing has changed.” We’ve both grown up. And yet you can’t help but feel six years old when the opening crawl appears and the John Williams score begins playing.

“We’re 32 years worth of excited,” one longtime fan said. “I’ve been to every ‘Star Wars’ premiere since the original film in 1977.” Standing next to him was his grandson. This was his first “Star Wars” premiere. For him, taking his grandson to the movie was the only thing more exciting than seeing the movie itself.

Some three decades ago a young boy by the name of Jeffrey Jacobs got to see “Star Wars” for the first time. Like many children, he was instantly hooked. Today he is the director and co-writer of “The Force Awakens” and the spiritual successor to George Lucas. He was given the impossible task: Make a sequel to the most popular film franchise ever made.

J.J. Abrams was our new hope. And he did not disappoint.

The crowd lines up at the AMC Loews in Stony Brook at the premiere of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ last Friday night. Photo by Michael Tessler
The crowd lines up at the AMC Loews in Stony Brook at the premiere of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ last Friday night. Photo by Michael Tessler

THE REVIEW — (SOME MINOR SPOILERS BELOW)
Part of what made the original “Star Wars” so special was the tangibility of it all. Tatooine felt real because it was real. Filmed in the desert sandscapes of Tunisia, you just knew as a child that somewhere that place existed. This sensation was replicated in “The Force Awakens” during our journey to Jakku, a scavenger’s paradise littered with wreckage from the Galactic Civil War. Seeing the massive hull of a Star Destroyer consumed by the sandstorms of Abu Dhabi was both powerful and an excellent metaphor. While the Empire may be long gone, its shadow remains a looming threat over the galaxy at large.

Our story picks up 30 years after “Return of the Jedi.” Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing, and an evil faction known as The First Order has filled the vacuum the Empire left behind. In opposition is the Republic, a pacifist government, maintaining an uneasy peace with its inevitable enemy. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) leads a small band of resistance fighters hoping to stop The First Order before it strikes.

Harrison Ford, the clear star of the film, reprises his role as the infamous smuggler Han Solo. He’s old, he’s grumpy and absolutely perfect in his portrayal of the scruffy-looking nerf herder. His banter with renegade storm trooper Finn (John Boyega) is one of the film’s highlights. Co-writer and “Star Wars” veteran Lawrence Kasdan masterfully creates fluid dialogue reminiscent of “Empire Strikes Back” and”Return of the Jedi,” finding the perfect blend between story, wit and comedy.

We also meet newcomer Rey (Daisy Ridley), an orphaned scavenger living in a hollowed out AT-AT on Jakku. She’s full of surprises and is the perfect successor to everyone’s favorite Alderaanian princess. Alongside her is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an ace pilot who leads a secret mission at the request of General Leia Organa. He’s accompanied by his trusty astromech BB-8, who’s a true marvel of engineering and a worthy addition to the droid duo of C-3PO and R2-D2.

Perhaps my favorite new cast member is Adam Driver (from “Girls”) who plays the unstable yet wildly entertaining Sith-in-training Kylo Ren. Compared to the refined Darth Vader, he makes for an absolutely terrifying villain. We’re also introduced to Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), an entirely CGI supervillain whose background largely remains a mystery.

THE VERDICT
‘The Force Awakens” is an emotional cinematic experience unmatched in its ability to make you feel. Though at times the story feels rushed, it is a story worth telling. Plot lines may have been overused and recycled to the point of cliche (SPOILER ALERT: i.e., Death Star = Starkiller Base, intergalactic daddy issues, etc.), yet J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan compensate with a masterful screenplay and perfect casting.

From start to finish you’re on the edge of your seat. There’s no shortage of action and the cinematography is unrivaled. You’re so captivated by the story, effects, music and characters that you’ll overlook the film’s various (but forgivable) plot holes.

All in all this is the film fans have been waiting for. It is a worthy sequel to the most beloved franchise of all time and a perfect reminder of what “Star Wars” is all about. It’s about people, it’s about the underdogs, struggling to find a place in a galaxy of massive proportions. Because hey, if a simple farm boy from Tatooine can take on the whole Empire … then why can’t I?

Michael Tessler is a resident of Mount Sinai, a wannabe X-Wing pilot and an account executive at Times Beacon RecordNews Media.