If you have been paying any attention to Twitter recently, you should already know that the Star Wars Celebration has been taking place in Anaheim, California this weekend. The convention has already yielded a ton of new announcements and trailers, including the first trailer for Star Wars Episode 7. However, today we got a first glimpse at a teaser for the first Star Wars “anthology” film, Rogue One.
The short thirty second teaser is a slow pan with a voice over from Obi-Wan Kenobi from the first Star Wars. It starts with darkness, but then reveals a forestry region that looks to be either Alderaan, Yavin 4, or the forest moon. Later on we see a single Tie-Fighter flying into the distance. The screen then pans up to the sky and reveals what the Tie-Fighter is flying towards…the (possibly under-construction) Death Star. As you can tell from the fan-captured footage below, the quality is far from perfect, but it still gives us a good picture of what is happening.
In the panel discussion afterwords, it is revealed that the movie will detail the story of the Rebels, and their mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. The dark times brought on by the Empire have not taken place yet, and the world is still at peace thanks to the efforts of the Jedis. This also lends to the fact that the movie might take place chronologically around Episode 4.
Rogue One will not feature anybody with Jedi powers, just some normal people on a mission to restore hope to the galaxy. Their motives for doing so still remain unclear, but it leads me to assume that the movie might feature a lot of “rogue” espionage. The movie likely will not follow in the same vein as the previous Star Wars movies, but it will be it’s own product.
Principle photography has not begun yet, so the teaser was constructed by the people at Industrial Light & Magic to give us a taste of what to expect. Because filming has not begun yet, we still have ways to go before we get a full scope of what will be taking place in Rogue One. The teaser makes it seem like the movie will have a lot of promise. Watch the teaser below…
Starring: Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett
Creators: Lee Daniels, Danny Strong
When I sat down and watched the first episode of Empire I had no clue where it was going to end up. It could have been a surprise hit, or a complete failure; I was not sure. It had a unique spin on the family drama sphere of television, one that chronicled the life of a family in the hip-hop music business. If only I knew the raging wildfire that the show ended up turning into as succeeding weeks went on.
The show, which gives us a glimpse of the glamorous lifestyle of the Lyons family, proved to get bigger and bigger every single week. Every week, they would release the numbers and they just seemed unrealistic. How could a show do this good? How could a show continue to receive more viewers every week, without going down in ratings? The pilot was watched by around 9.8 million viewers and the finale clocked in at about 16.7 million viewers, without ever taking any dips or stumbles. The show, on its quick rise to the top, ended up crushing records, including the record for highest rated season finale by a first year show, which was previously held by the Grey’s Anatomy for its first season in 2005. The show now stands as TV’s highest rated and most popular show out there, and it’s only just begun for the crew at Empire Records.
Lucious Lyons (Terrence Howard), the owner of Empire Records, is the star of the show. We find out in the first episode that he is diagnosed with the chronic illness that is ALS. The one thing we learn throughout the show is that Lucious is not a man to go down without swinging. He’s a fighter. He wants to take his record company public, but in order to do that, he needs to find someone to take the throne. His three sons, Andre (Trai Byers), Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), and Jamal (Jussie Smollett), have to pretty much earn their dad’s trust and respect in order to get a piece of his empire.
We also have the character of Cookie, played by Taraji P. Henderson. If you have not watched the show, but manage to stay up to date with pop culture discussion, you have probably already heard of Cookie’s character. With hash tags like #ShitCookieSays, it is easy to see why Cookie was one of my favorite characters from the series. She is the ex-husband of Lucious who was put into jail because of her and Lucious’s past in the hood. She was sentenced to seventeen years in jail, all while Lucious built up his Empire, calling it his own. We see in the show however, that this is not so much the case, and that Cookie has had a big part in the label’s success. When she gains freedom from the precinct in the first episode, it is immediately care that she is not going to let Lucious have all the fun with Empire’s success. She wants a part of it too.
The show contains all sorts of themes, including greed, power, and the flashy lifestyle that comes with the hip-hop industry. It is these kinds of things that separate the show from other family dramas. It made the show much more interesting to watch. There were numerous points throughout the season where everybody seems to have their own motives in mind when carrying out their actions. This leads to lots of juicy conflict and literal hair-pulling drama, especially in the last couple of episodes. Cookie and Anika Calhoun (Grace Gealey), Lucious’ head of A&R, have a tense relationship and this relationship often provided us some of the best moments from the show.
There are two things that probably contribute to the massive success behind the show, and that is the show’s edgy plotlines, as well as the rich music. The show, on top of the concepts that I mentioned before, travels to some areas where most shows would never think to go. Lucious Lyon demonstrates his homophobic nature whenever his son Jamal comes out. We also see his disdain for white women with Andre’s relationship with his wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday). These two plotlines come up frequently throughout the first season and they painted Lucious Lyon in a pretty negative light. I applaud the show for hitting these types of themes though, because the show had a lot to say about them. I think it handled them well. It is these kinds of themes that permeate the hip-hop industry, which is why it would make sense to tackle them in a show like Empire. As Lucious says, “hip-hop is controversy.”
Rapper and producer Timbaland was the guy behind Empire’s amazing soundtrack, which includes genres like hip-hop, rap, r&b, and gospel. If you are making a show about music, you have to make sure that you get the music nailed down right, and Empire gave us a formidable soundtrack, knocking it out of the park. Hakeem, an up-and-coming rapper, and Jamal, the passionate r&b singer, provided some great musical hits, as well as some of the supporting cast. The show even featured some cameo performances from the likes of Jennifer Hudson (who actually played the role of Andre’s musical therapist), Estelle, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Juicy J, as well as others. The music was so good, that there is talks about producing a concert series featuring the show’s hit music.
As the show went on, the plot twists and deep intertwined drama started to get more and more intense. The last four episodes where edge-of-your-seat enthralling and rattling television. The one gripe I started to have was that some of these riveting twists and turns seemed a little cheap. I don’t want to spoil anything, but things start to suddenly look up for Lucious by the second to last episode, completely out of the blue. They used a convenient plot device to make the show more interesting for its second season. This might be hard to argue with, but I wish they could have handled it with a more realistic solution. There were a ton of other cheap and convenient plot twists that served the purpose of moving things along towards what looks to be an intense season two.
I started to get the sense that Empire realized how big it was getting. The first couple of episodes were interesting and entertaining, but as the ratings started to skyrocket towards the sky, so did the show’s vision and scope. You could almost see the show evolving before your eyes as it drove towards the fantastic finale. It was a show that gripped me from the get-go, and it kept me wrangled towards the very end. As the final credits started to role after its thirteenth and final episode of the season, I just felt myself hungry for more. Season two cannot come sooner enough. Empire is one of the few shows that can be considered “must watch TV.” If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend catching up on the first season, because I can only feel that the show is going to get bigger as season two takes the stage this fall, or next spring…but hopefully next fall.
The finale pretty much presented us with the main skeleton behind season two. When Lucious, after realizing he does not have ALS anymore, gives the throne to Jamal, Andre and Hakeem are not too pleased. They want to do what is considered a “hostile takeover.” They join forced with Cookie and Anika to basically bring down Jamal and Lucious’ empire.
In the final couple of scenes, we see that Lucious’ dark past catches up to him when justice is finally done. He is arrested for his murder of their cousin Bunkie and is sent to jail during his tribute concert. This is bad news for Empire, the newly public company. This only means that season two is going to be a story of revenge for Lucious. He is going to use these recent forthcomings as fuel for his comeback. Season two is going to be one hell of a season if the series’ creators can play the right cards.
What do you get when you mix the hit musical drama Nashville with the glorious flashy lifestyle of hip-hop? You get Fox’s Empire, the bold new musical drama from the highly decorated Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, who have worked on projects like Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Precious, and Game Change. What makes Empire different from the other musical dramas out there is its sense of style, as well as the issues it tackles right away in the pilot. It’s a vivid look at situation that faces a black family in control of a lucrative record label.
The determined and successful Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard, is the head of the multi-million dollar record corporation Empire Entertainment. He’s come a long way from his gangsta days in the rough parts of Philadelphia. He built a career for himself, and rose to the top to get to the position that he’s in today.
He’s not the only one that can be attributed to Empire’s success. Lucious’ three sons, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), Hakeem (Bryshere Grey), and Andre (Trai Byers) have all grown right alongside the company from its beginning days. Jamal is a gay singer, who has never been fully appreciated by his father. (He also reminded me of Frank Ocean) Hakeem is an up-and-coming rapper who Lucious sees as a prime asset for the label. Lastly, we have Andre, who is the eldest of the trio, and probably the most loyal. He is the company man, a man who wants to take over for his dad when he is gone.
As it turns out, Lucious doesn’t have too much longer with the company, after finding out that he is terminally ill with ALS. It wasn’t made to clear in the pilot, but I assume that no one else besides himself knows of his condition. Regardless, he realizes that he is going to have to pick an heir to his throne when he is no longer capable of fulfilling his job. It’s apparent that the three sons are going to have to fight their way into that chair.
Meanwhile, we meet the cunning Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson), who is Lucious’ ex-wife. She’s just been released from prison (due to an unknown reason) and she gets to work the minute she sets foot outside the gates. She wants Empire for her own, considering the fact that she was a big part in its success back in the early days. Taraji P. Henson gives us a character who is vicious, manipulative, and a little psychotic. Cookie is going to do anything that she can to take the reins from Lucious.
During the pilot, we start to see where the show is heading. Lucious sees a bright future for his son Hakeem, and doesn’t accept Jamal’s talent because he’s gay. Hip-hop’s evident homophobia is something that no too many pieces of entertainment have tackled. It’s going to be intriguing what the show has to say about it. On the flip-side, Cookie has a favoritism for Jamal, and she begins to work with him to further his musical career. I bet that we are going to see a war between Lucious and Cookie; Jamal and Hakeem. The two have a fondness for each other, but it’s only a matter of time before the war starts. This is going to leave the perfect place for Andre, who doesn’t have any musical talent, to step right in as the new head.
One of the things that worries me about the show is its quickness. By that, I mean how fast it jumped from situation to situation. The pilot was a roller coaster of a ride and it covered a lot of ground in such a short amount of time. Things were starting to heat up and the credits weren’t even rolling for the first episode yet. I fear that the show is going to burn out after a while. It’s not going to be able to keep up with its pace. The action and the drama is going to have to slow down.
We also saw a little glimpse at Lucious’ relationship with his childhood friend Bunkie Campbell (Antoine McKay). The two were friends since they were fourteen in the streets of Philadelphia. Ever since Lucious started working on making Empire a publicly traded company, he has started to leave Bunkie in the dust. Bunkie naturally doesn’t find this situation ideal and he wants his cut of the money. Towards the end of the episode, we get a scene that involves Lucious killing Bunkie near the river, with that being it for him. This was a letdown because I was interested in the character of Bunkie. I thought he was going to play the role of the “wild card” in the growth of Empire. Unfortunately, he was taken out of the picture rather abruptly.
I have a feeling that Empire is going to be a big hit however. The music that executive music producer Timbaland brings to the show has a genuine and original feel that has a lot of style. The music complements the daring and alluring flair of the show. It’s a unique family drama that looks to explore the hip-hop culture, as well as the families and record labels that make it possible. It’s going to be a fun show. I have no clue who is going to take control over Empire Entertainment, but I do know that it’s going to be all out musical war.