Monthly Archives: January 2018

508. Six True Crime Stories from Victorian England, Told by My Dad

Learn English by listening to Rick Thompson telling some true stories of petty crimes committed in an English town in 1851.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Hello everybody, and welcome to this brand new instalment of Luke’s English Podcast – a podcast for learners of English.

In this episode my dad is going to tell you some true crime stories from England’s history. There are six stories in total and they all involve curious crimes and their punishments which can tell you quite a lot about what life was like in England in the mid 19th century.

We have established the value of listening to stories on this podcast before, right? Listening to stories can be a great way to improve your English, especially when they’re told in an interesting, clear and spontaneous way and of course I’m always happy to get contributions from my dad on this podcast – so I’m feeling good about this episode. I think it should be a good one.

These days my dad is semi-retired but he keeps himself busy doing various things, including some volunteer work for an organisation based in the town where my parents live – Warwick, in the midlands, in England.

The organisation is called Unlocking Warwick and it is a volunteer group based in a restored building in the centre of town.

This building used to be a court-house – a place where, in the past, people who had been accused of committing crimes were sent to be tried and possibly sentenced to various punishments, and back in the Victorian times those punishments could be quite harsh. The building operated as a court room from the early 16th century all the way through to the 1970s when it eventually closed. Then, a few years ago the building was fully restored to its former glory and is now a cultural centre for the town of Warwick. The volunteer group that my parents belong to, Unlocking Warwick, does various events and activities in this building as a way of helping people to explore the history of the town, which is also the site of one of the UK’s best medieval castles. Warwick is a place that’s worth visiting if you’re into English history and it’s only about 30 minutes away from Stratford Upon Avon – the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Last year you heard me talk to my Mum about the Unlocking Warwick project and she mentioned the regency ballroom in the building, where they organise events like dances with historical themes, and since the building used to be the location of a court room, the group also presents dramatic reconstructions of real court cases that happened there.

These are like plays based on real records of the court proceedings which are stored in local archives, and my dad is the one who writes these dramas. He reads the details of old cases from the archives, picks the ones that sound interesting and then turns them into plays which are performed for the public by volunteer actors. They even get members of the audience to shout things out and generally play along, a bit like they would have done during the real trials back in the 19th century.

So, because he’s written these plays, Dad has a few stories at his disposal and I thought it might be fun, interesting and good practice for your English to hear him describe these stories in an episode of the podcast, so that’s what you’re going to get; six true stories of crimes that actually happened in Warwick, told to you by my dad – and almost all of it is told using past tenses – so straight away, there’s some grammar and pronunciation for you to look out for. I’m not going to go into all the details of those narrative past tenses here, but if you’d like to listen to episodes in which I explain those tenses, give examples and help you to pronounce them then you can check out episodes…

Other episodes dealing with Narrative Verb Tenses in more detail

29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses 

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Narrative Tenses / Four Anecdotes

176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review 

They’re all (also) in the episode archive on the website. 

But right now, let’s jump into this conversation that I had with my dad just the other day when my parents were visiting us. So, without any further ado – let’s get started.


The Six Stories

I’d like to summarise those six stories again now, just to make sure you got the main details and to help reinforce some of the language that you heard in the conversation.

You can find the notes I’m reading from here, written on the page for this episode on the website.

  1. The Case of the Notorious Window Smasher
    A woman who would go up and down the high street in Warwick and also in Birmingham, smashing shop windows (cutting up her arms in the process) and stealing goods, including a roll of top quality French material – and she was sentenced to time in the house of correction where she probably had to do hard labour all day, including walking in the treadmill – a kind of human-powered machine for grinding corn or wheat. Imagine being a sort of hamster in a wheel all day long – like going to the gym, but doing it for 10 hours or more and I’m sure the conditions were very dusty and awful. The Victorians, being sort of puritanical and protestant had a strong work ethic, and believed that hard work was the right remedy for people’s problems. You can see how this went together with a certain industriousness that marked that period of British history.
  2. What Happened to the Extremely Drunk Man?
    He was brought into the court by a policeman simply for being very very drunk, and was sentenced to 6 hours in the stocks.
  3. The Story of the Poor Lunatic Woman
    Her husband took her to the authorities claiming she was hysterical and completely impossible to live with, and she was promptly taken to the local lunatic asylum where she probably spent the rest of her life – but was she really mad, or did her husband just want to get rid of her?
  4. The Woman Who Ran Away from the Workhouse
    There were different places you could end up if you were found guilty of a crime, or simply didn’t have the means to look after yourself. The worst would be Australia, which was probably a very tough place to try and survive back in those days and the long boat journey would probably kill you anyway. Then there was prison, and I’m sure 19th century prisons would have been full of disease and all kinds of hideous misery. You heard about the hulks – these broken old ships that were moored on the river Thames in London, which worked as prisons. I expect the ones on the land weren’t much better. Then there were the houses of correction – essentially prisons where you did hard labour all day long. Then there were workhouses – not exactly prisons, but places that would house people who had no money. They’d give them accommodation and food in return for work. Honestly, I think places like this still exist in many parts of the world and it’s really sad and terrible, especially when we realise that some of the products that we consume might have been made in places like these – we call them sweatshops these days – places where people work long hours in awful conditions. The woman in this story ran away from her workhouse because, as she claimed, they weren’t feeding her. I expect that could be true. I think the food given to people in workhouses was often just very weak and watery soup (called gruel) which probably contained next to no nutritional value, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people were denied food as punishment in a workhouse. There was so much cruelty in those days. This woman ran away, and was caught – but she hadn’t really committed a crime, had she? A workhouse wasn’t a compulsory place to stay. It’s not a jail. She ran away of her own free will. But they caught her and charged her with theft of the clothes she was wearing. I expect the clothes were provided for her by the workhouse – so that’s how they got her. It makes me wonder if there wasn’t some sort of personal revenge or some kind of personal vendetta against this woman, or some kind of conspiracy against her. Her sentence? 3 months hard labour in the house of correction. I’m sure some people profited from all this free labour.
  5. Why did Joseph Smith Break a Lamp in the Market Square?
    Just to get arrested and put in the house of correction – because he had no money and no food. So he did it just to get fed and housed, even if it meant having to do menial work. It sounds like he was pretty desperate. There was no such thing as welfare or social security in those days. That didn’t arrive for nearly another 100 years, after WW2.
  6. What Happened to the Shoemaker’s Rabbit?
    It was stolen – and footprints were found in the garden of the house where the theft happened. Emmanuel Cox was charged with the theft – and accused of stealing the rabbit and cooking it in a pot.  The police officer that arrested Cox seems to have been tipped off by someone. The constable mentioned “Information received” – so did someone tip him off about Emmanuel Cox? Was someone trying to set Cox up, or did they have genuine information about Cox? In any case, when Cox’s place was searched they found a rabbit skin hanging up in the kitchen, which the shoemaker identified. It looked like an open and shut case. The evidence was a dead giveaway! But during the trial a woman in the audience defended Cox (she turned out to be someone he lived with – so probably not a great witness) and it was claimed that there was a witness who could testify to Cox’s innocence – but he couldn’t be found. In the end Cox was acquitted – the magistrate let him go without a charge, because he said the evidence was not sufficient. I wonder what the punishment would have been, for stealing and eating a pet rabbit? I’ll hazard a wild guess at 3 months in a correctional house, because it seems that doing pretty much anything would land you in the correctional house for 3 months, if you were a petty criminal and you lived in Warwick.

Well there you have it, the case of the shoemaker’s rabbit and 5 other stories.

I hope you enjoyed it, that you learned some English or at least you had some nice and nourishing listening practice – yum yum yum.

You can find notes and some transcriptions on the page for this episode on the website, where you can see some of the words and phrases used in this episode.

Don’t forget to download the LEP app for your smartphone. It’s free – that’s where you’ll find the entire episode archive on your phone and there are various app-only episodes and other bonuses for you to check out.

Join the mailing list on the website to get an email whenever I upload new content. That email will contain a link that’ll take you straight to the page for that content – usually a new episode and sometimes some website-only content, like when I’m interviewed on someone else’s podcast or if I want to write to you about something in particular that I think might interest you.

Sometimes episodes arrive on the website a day earlier than everywhere else, so being an email subscriber might be the fastest way to find out about new episodes when they’re released.

So, be an email subscriber, be an app-user and if you enjoy my episodes and find them useful and if the spirit moves you – please recommend this podcast to at least one person who you think might like it, leave LEP a review on iTunes or the Google Play store, and you could consider sending a donation to the podcast to help with running costs and perhaps as a sincere way to say thanks for my work.

In any case, I’d just like to say thanks for listening and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Bye! 

Luke

507. Learning English with UK Comedy TV Shows

Recommendations and descriptions of British comedy TV shows with some comments about how to use comedy TV shows to learn English. Transcript available below.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript (95% complete)

Hello, etc! (some rambling here at the beginning!)

British TV Comedy

I often get requests from listeners asking me to recommend some good British TV comedy shows. So, that’s what you’re going to get in this episode – comments about using comedy TV to improve your English and then some recommendations of TV shows that you can watch.

I love comedy and I think we have a lot of great comedy in the UK.

The USA is also known for its comedy of course, and I’m sure almost all of you are aware of American shows like Friends, The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and so on.

But Britain also has a long tradition of comedy shows on TV – sitcoms, sketch shows and character-based comedy dramas. There are so many TV comedies from the UK and many of them are truly loved by the British public. Comedy is one of the things about the UK that I am most proud of.

It’s not just Mr Bean, by the way.

British and American comedy shows are different, in the same ways that British and American culture is different. Generally speaking, I find American shows to be slightly more positive in tone, the characters slightly more attractive and successful – and perhaps because of the commercial nature of a lot of American TV channels their comedy can be a bit more conventional and safe. I mean, I get the feeling that the producers of the shows are very conscious that they have to make their advertisers happy and as a result the shows end up having to appeal to a broader audience and this means that the shows are slightly less risky, slightly less edgy and slightly less weird than British comedy shows.

British comedy can be complicated for non-Brits to get and it can be an acquired taste. People sometimes say “British humour” or “British comedy” as a synonym of “weird, dark, surreal, complex, cerebral” and sometimes “unfunny”. I would agree with most of that, except the “unfunny” part of course. I am very glad that British comedy shows are a bit darker, weirder, more surreal, more complex (sometimes) and dare I say it – more intelligent.

Let’s not get snobbish here… British people have a tendency to become a bit snobbish when talking about American things, and that’s not very attractive. Ultimately, it’s a matter of context, taste and point of view and I really don’t want to get into the British comedy vs American comedy debate here.

My main point is: American TV comedy is generally more well-known than British TV comedy – and so my job here is to bring to your attention some of the really great programmes that have been made in the UK so you can enjoy them like I do and use them to learn English.

I think if you’re into British things and that includes our humour and our outlook on life in general, I think I might be able to introduce you to some programmes that you will really enjoy and that will be great content for you to consume as learners of British English.

I grew up watching British comedy on TV. For a while it was the highlight of my week. I used to plan my entire life around the comedy shows that were on TV in the evenings. That was my life. Playing football and watching comedy on TV.

Using TV Comedy in Class

I have always been really keen to introduce my students to British comedy and time and time again I have chosen to play clips of shows or whole episodes of shows in my classes.

This is actually a less effective and worthwhile than you might expect, unless as a teacher you do certain things.

The less successful thing to do is to just play an episode of a show without any preparation. E.g. “OK, it’s Friday afternoon, let’s watch a DVD. Turn out the lights, get comfortable, here we go.”

Expectation = we will laugh, everyone will enjoy it and learning English will be fun and relaxing on a Friday afternoon.

Reality = you don’t understand it, you don’t laugh, don’t have fun and just come away thinking British comedy is “weird and unfunny”.

This is because understanding and enjoying comedy is one of the more difficult things to do in another language. There are so many things that go into your enjoyment of a bit of TV comedy. Linguistically – you need to understand every detail and understand it fast. Often, jokes are very subtle and understated – especially if it is a good comedy. I think good comedies are often quite clever and not totally obvious. Some really great comedy is very obvious of course – like Charlie Chaplin or Laurel & Hardy – physical humour, or the humour of slapstick. But I really love comedy which is quite subtle, and I think a lot of British shows rely on this sort of thing. So, your English has to be really sharp to pick up on the particular use of language, or the way things are suggested rather than obviously stated. Also, you need to understand the cultural context too – like the fact that some British comedy shows present characters and situations that are familiar to most Brits, but which people who aren’t familiar with the culture wouldn’t really understand.

So, if your English isn’t quite sharp enough and you’re not familiar with the cultural context, a comedy show might appear to be unfunny and just weird.

So as a teacher I actually find it to be very hard work to use comedy TV shows in class successfully. It often takes a lot of pre-teaching of vocabulary, lots of preparation in terms of getting the students to discuss and consider the ideas, characters or situations in the show, and the chance to see scenes several times, perhaps with a script to help. In the end, the laughter might get lost, and unless the students are particularly motivated by the idea of enjoying a comedy TV show, it might just be a better idea to do something more conventional and learner-oriented in a classroom.

I have to admit that I’ve had some very frustrating experiences in class, when I’ve presented something to a group of students – perhaps an episode of a TV programme that I really love, and it hasn’t gone down very well. I just end up feeling a bit hurt. Imagine sharing something you really love with a group of people, and to have them just look at you blankly, or yawn, or say “it’s not funny” or “I am boring”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some classes that adored the comedy I’ve shown them and asked for more, but not always.

Of course it’s all a question of taste and perhaps my expectations are the problem. I expect/hope that every single person in the class will get it. In reality, only some will get it. Perhaps it’s hard to enjoy it in a classroom context and really these things take time.

You need to watch again and again, to get to know the characters and so on. It takes time to really get into a show, to find it funny and to develop a love for it. Repeated viewings and a love for a show are great conditions for learning English from it. Also, I get downhearted when just one person isn’t into it. I might not notice the students who loved it just because Juan Pedro seemed bored.

So, perhaps the classroom isn’t the best environment for using TV comedy, but I am still convinced that there is a lot of value in using comedy shows to learn English.

My students who tell me they watch TV shows in English are always the better learners in class

One thing I do know for sure – the best learners of English in my experience are the types of people who take the time to get into TV shows and who don’t expect simple laughs at the start. Often the outstanding learners of English I’ve met are the ones who’ve told me that they’ve watched entire seasons of Black Books, or that they really loved watching Red Dwarf or The Mighty Boosh. It does happen sometimes.

Here are some facts: All the learners of English who have told me that they regularly watched a British comedy TV show have been good learners of English – communicative, good vocabulary, better understanding and pronunciation than their classmates and showing good potential for making progress through their English course, and I’ve never met a terrible learner who told me they watched comedy shows in English.

The ones who tell me they watch comedy shows in English are always the better students. Is there a connection? There must be something. Maybe the ones who enjoy watching comedy in English are the ones who are just more motivated, less willing to give up, more curious. THese are probably the successful traits – motivation, curiosity, patience, a desire to discover the deeper meaning beyond just learning the language as quickly as possible. If you have those traits I’m sure you’re more likely to be a better learner of English and you’re probably more likely to enjoy watching comedy programmes in English.

So I do encourage you to try and get into British comedy, even if it’s tricky at the start. Also, realise that there might be more to British comedy than meets the eye. It’s not like a lot of American comedy shows which are a bit superficial, to be honest – I mean, there’s never a lot of tragedy, pain, or harsh reality in those shows. Friends, for example – it’s all too colourful. The characters don’t seem to ever really suffer. Their lives are amazing. Where is the existential suffering? Their apartment is too nice. Their lives are too rich. They’re ultimately too happy and successful. I find that harder to relate to and therefore harder to get into. I need more depth than that. I don’t just want my comedy to be escapism. I want it to allow me to explore more complicated feelings and ideas. Comedy can be challenging, complex and fascinating.

Again, I should point out that it’s not a simple case of – American comedy = superficial, British comedy = deep. There are plenty of deep, dark and complex American shows. The Simpsons, for example – at it’s best it’s extremely nuanced and reflects such a multifaceted view of life, including not just Homer falling over, but the highs and lows, pain and joy of family life in all its richness, even if the characters are all presented in bright yellow colours.

What I want to do in this episode is sell the idea of using comedy for learning English, manage your expectations about British comedy in order to help you learn from it more effectively, and also recommend some shows.

I think from the outset this might be an impossible mission – to explain British comedy to an international audience of learners of English, and then have them actually go and watch it and also enjoy it as much as me – this may be an impossible mission, but I feel compelled to do it, and really – it’s up to you to make the mission a success isn’t it? There’s only so much I can do. The rest is your responsibility.

One advantage that we have is that you, my audience, aren’t just ordinary learners of English because I suppose you are already into British things, you probably like comedy and you must have a sense of humour if you either a) enjoy this podcast or b) have listened to it for a long time (this is a no ‘no sense of humour’ zone as far as I’m concerned) So I’m assuming that you’re already curious about British comedy, or you already appreciate it, or you are keen to get some recommendations from me about shows that I like.

I have one recommendation for you to consider…

Do not consume British comedy as comedy. Do not think of it as comedy.

This is reverse psychology, but it might just work.

Don’t think of it as comedy – because if you sit down to it expecting to laugh all the time, you might just be disappointed. Instead, think of these shows as tragedy, or a study in character.

By removing the emphasis on comedy, you should be able to focus instead on simply understanding the motivations of the characters, the situations they find themselves in and how this is all expressed by the things they say and the ways they interact. If you understand all these things, you might find it funnier or more moving as a result.

Think of them as pathos. (Pathos is like comedy, but instead of creating laughter, it creates sadness or a feeling of sympathy)

Think of each show as a study of some individuals and their lives filled with quiet desperation, or hope, or frustration, or ambition, or failure or contradiction.

Think of each show as a personality study or a soap opera.

But don’t think of it as a comedy.

This doesn’t mean that you should expect these shows to be rubbish and boring.

No, on the contrary – the shows are not rubbish, they’re often very good and really carefully created, even if they are filmed in TV studios with some cheap special effects or bland-looking lighting or set design and possibly with actors that don’t look like glamorous movie stars.

You might not get all the bright colours, white teeth and good hair that you might see in an American show.

But you will see really interesting people, very witty bits of dialogue, unexpected moments, awkward social situations with hilarious consequences. Some really complex and satisfying characters, and some genuinely classic moments of British TV culture, which have captured our imaginations and entered the popular consciousness.

But don’t consume these shows as comedy, but rather as drama.

Understanding British Comedy TV

Often in British TV shows the comedy comes from the frustration, the embarrassment, the flaws and the failures or the fears of the characters, or the ways that the characters argue and the funny moments of friction between them.

British TV comedy characters are like characters in Shakespearean tragedies. I know that sounds like I’m over egging the pudding a bit, but really I do believe that. The best TV comedy characters have fatal flaws. They have specific problems in their personalities that send them on a narrative arc which aims at success but usually ends in tragedy. Just like in a good Shakespeare play.

I’ll go into more detail in a moment.

But now, here are some specific tips for …

How to use shows to improve your English

  • Watch with and without subtitles
  • Use a notepad to make a note of what the characters are saying – especially when you notice specific phrases or other features of language.
  • If there are bits that make you laugh, note them down! Note down the phrasing, the intonation, the specific words, reactions and the lines that lead up to the funny moment. If it made you laugh it obviously meant something to you, so you’ll probably remember it better.
  • Repeat the funny lines to yourself a few times and try to copy the timing and emphasis.
  • Be aware of where the characters come from and how they speak with an accent.
  • Turn the spoken word into the written word and then back to the spoken word again.
  • Record yourself saying some bits.
  • Go the extra mile.
  • Maintain your curiosity. Give the shows a chance. It might take a while before you really get it and start finding it funny. But hang in there, it will come. Don’t expect too much, even though I’m telling you that these shows are wonderful. But trust me when I say that they are good.
  • When you find a show that you just like, watch it again and again! You can learn more from watching one show you like lots of times than from watching lots of shows you don’t like a lot.
  • Consider recording the audio from shows and listening to them without the visuals. It’s not a crazy thing to do. I did it at university with 2 episodes of I’m Alan Partidge. They used to entertain me so much that I recorded the audio onto my walkman and listened to them when I was on the bus. I learned a lot of the lines and I still really appreciate those episodes today.
  • Or if you have space on your phone, download the shows and watch when you’re on the bus or whatever – but obviously be careful of the NSFW content.
  • Read about the shows online. Often there are summaries of each episode on Wikipedia or on IMDB. Use those websites to find discussions of the episodes too, and also lists of quotes from the episodes.

Here are some specific shows that I can recommend.

Themes in UK TV Comedy

Almost all of these shows feature these themes:

  • The character is stuck in a situation in his/her life.
  • But the characters dream big – they have high hopes and big ambitions – they think they are better than the situation they’re in.
  • In every episode they try to achieve something, attempting to rise above their every day life.
  • But frustrating events work against them and they stay stuck in the same situation.
  • They’re thwarted by the situation around them but the biggest cause of their failure is themselves. Perhaps the character’s ambition, lack of self awareness or the fact that the character thinks they are better than their situation – these things cause the character to fail.
  • The main problem – the character doesn’t accept his/her situation and is not self aware and therefore always ends up frustrated, despite trying to achieve something bigger.

So, what about this list of shows?

I’ll explain the basic synopsis of the show and will also try to tell you what kind of English you might hear in the show as well as any other details I think you should know.

I’m not sure how you are going to actually find or get hold of these shows. I know some of you out there in internetland have access to anything through torrenting sites and stuff, or on those websites where shows are uploaded for streaming.

I recommend that you find the shows online, get them on DVD or however you normally watch programmes.

You also might think to yourselves, “Do I have to watch any of these shows…? Is this compulsory homework?” Well, no of course you can do whatever you want and if you’d rather just not bother, like I’m sure a great many of you will do, then go ahead. Carry on living your lives exactly like before, listen to the podcast on your way to work or whatever and that’s fine. But I know that quite a lot of you are interested in finding some British TV shows to watch – so here’s a list of personal recommendations from me to you.

These are all shows I have watched and enjoyed. In no particular order.

By the way, all of these could and should be individual episodes of the podcast in their own right, in which we listen to some clips and all that stuff, and I might do that in the future.

Some British TV Comedy Show Recommendations (in no particular order)

The Office

Reality-style sitcom (or “mockumentary”) Early 2000s.

Basic description?

This is a tragedy set in an office. It’s also a romance, of sorts.

There are two types of character – the ones who are trapped in hell and the ones who don’t realise that they’re trapped in hell. The hell in this case is an office in Slough. Perhaps hell within hell, because it’s bad enough being in Slough but working in an office in Slough is even worse.

Type of English

It’s very “realistic” – it’s a fly on the wall drama. The camera men are trying not to be intrusive. It’s like we’re just observing life in this office. As a result it’s not always clear what’s being said. Characters might mumble sometimes, and their sentences aren’t always complete – it’s the style, but this is good because this is how people actually speak. The laughs are not signalled, and there’s no laughter track. It might look like just a depressing office and this is the point.

That’s what this is about. Remember – tragedy! Most of the characters are from the south and don’t have really strong accents except a couple of them who have accents from the South West (Gareth for example).

I’m Alan Partridge

Mid 1990s – now

A man who thinks he is an A-grade broadcaster is actually a D-grade broadcaster – but it’s so much more than that. It started as a parody of the way TV broadcasters speak, but it’s become a parody of a certain type of middle aged British Man – the kind of man who reads the Daily Express and votes for Brexit.

I need to do a whole episode about this. You need to understand that Alan is someone who speaks like a local radio presenter in ordinary life and it shows how alienated he is from normal people. He talks to the public on the radio, but in real life he’s hopeless, but he doesn’t realise. His accent is a bit like a parody of a sports reporter or a radio presenter. This is a complex character and he doesn’t realise how ridiculous he is. We’re laughing at him, not with him.

Father Ted

Actually Irish not British.

Sitcom – 1990s

The pathos: a man who is stuck in the priesthood with a drunkard and an idiot on an island off Ireland and he dreams of having a more glamourous life.

It’s not a British show, it’s Irish. The accents are from the Republic of Ireland.

Blackadder

Historical sitcom or satire – 1980s – 1990s

Edmund is essentially a modern-minded man stuck in the idiocy of British history.

This features some of the UK’s most favourite actors and comedians including Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Usually the English you’ll hear is quite old-fashioned. You’ll hear parodies of old English styles, and plenty of sarcasm. Although the style is old fashioned (it’s set in the Tudor period, Regency period or WW1 period) the characters should speak clearly and in RP.

Don’t watch series 1 of Blackadder! Avoid series 1. Only series 2-4 are good.

Bottom

Sitcom – 1990s

Two complete cretins live a miserable unemployed existence in Hammersmith – it’s basically Samuel Beckett.

They speak with a bit of RP and a bit of London. Often the characters adopt high-class English in contrast to the low-class situation they live in.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Sketch show from the 1960s and 1970s.

A group of highly educated Oxbridge graduates make fun of absolutely everything, including history, comedy clichés and existence itself.

George Harrison once said that when The Beatles split up at the end of the sixties that The Beatles spirit passed into Monty Python. There’s something in that, because the pythons had something special about them. Not every sketch is great, but a lot of them are brilliant. It’s probably best to just watch the films – Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

Spaced

Sitcom – Late 1990s early 2000s.

Two twenty-somethings who live in a fantasy world of their own creation struggle to exist in the real world – everything they do becomes a scene from a famous film.

The Day Today

News parody and satire. Mid 1990s.

The news is pompous and self-important to the point of being surreal.

Brass Eye

The same concept as The Day Today but a lot more controversial.

Only Fools and Horses

Sitcom – 1980s – 1990s.

Two orphaned brothers from a working class background just try to make ends meet. One of them ends up becoming middle class when he falls in love with a middle-class girl, but he’s working class at heart.


Shows I talk about in the Bonus Audio – in the LEP App.

Black Books

Sitcom – Late 1990s – early 2000s.

Bernard works in a bookshop selling books to the public. He loves books but the problem is he hates people. He also loves wine and smoking. It’s a bit like Withnail &I.

Absolutely Fabulous

Sitcom – 1990s.

Two posh middle aged women who work (in the vaguest possible sense) in the fashion industry in London try to live like they are still teenagers in swinging London in the late 1960s.

The Thick of It

Political satire and sitcom – Late 2000s.

Politics is a dog-eat-dog world in which serving the public is the lowest priority.

Yes Minister

Political satire and sitcom – 1970s – 1980s.

Politics is a dog-eat-dog world in which serving the public is the lowest priority – but with less swearing and more charming old fashioned upper-class sophistication.

Dad’s Army

Sitcom – 1960s – 1970s

Britain’s last line of defence against the Nazis is a group of incompetent old grandads.

Red Dwarf

Sci-Fi Sitcom – 1990s.

The last human being alive is stuck on a spaceship with a hologram of the person he hates the most, a senile super-computer, a robot butler and a man who evolved from cats – full of sarcasm, put downs and cheap science fiction special effects.

Gavin & Stacey

Sitcom – Late 2000s

A genuinely sweet and heartwarming comedy about two people from two different British communities (Essex in England and Barry Island in South Wales) who fall in love with each other.

Outnumbered

Sitcom – late 2000s – now.

Two exhausted parents attempt to bring up 3 children, and lose the battle.


Other shows (I didn’t get time to mention them at all)

One Foot in the Grave

Sitcom – 1990s.

A man in his 70s just wants to enjoy his retirement but he is constantly frustrated but life’s little irritations.

Little Britain

Sketch show – 2000s.

A sketch show in which a range of eccentric and grotesque British characters talk in catchphrases.

The Fast Show

Sketch show – 1990s.

The same as Little Britain, but with a bit more pathos. This came before Little Britain.

Extras

Sitcom/drama – 2000s.

A man struggles to become famous as an actor and writer, and then when he does become famous he realises how empty it is – all the celebrities he meets are total weirdos – and they are played by themselves.

The Royle Family

Sitcom/drama – 1990s/2000s.

A northern working class family live their lives sitting in front of the TV. The twist is – we are watching them from the TV’s point of view.

The Trip

Drama? 2010s – now.

Two middle aged men go on a road trip and bicker with each other, while competing to see who can do the best impressions of famous actors – we also realise that their lives are a struggle between ambition, the emptiness, self-fulfilment and a life in show business. Stars award-winning comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and directed by filmmaker Michael Winterbottom.

All these shows sound like dramas or tragedies, but they are really funny and charming and I recommend you check them out!

The League of Gentlemen

Sketch show – 1990s – 2000s.

The Mighty Boosh

Surreal sitcom – Late 2000s.

They’re both losers in their own way and they live in a dream world of their own creation – and that dream world is populated by all kinds of wonderful, colourful characters, music, and magic, but it’s all about this funny relationship between two mis-matched friends.

This show is bonkers but really sweet at the same time. The two main characters speak in modern London accents. Vince has an estuary English accent – sort of like cockney – typical London accent. Howard is similar but probably closer to RP.

Peep Show

Sitcom – 2000s.

A terribly dark tragedy about the struggle of two cynical guys in their 30s attempting to live in modern London. The horror comes from the fact that we can hear their thoughts and see the world from their point of view, and they’re awful people.

They’re both quite well-spoken, particularly David Mitchell’s character who is very uncool and his slightly posh RP is evidence of that.

Fawlty Towers

Sitcom – 1970s.

An utterly fed up man is stuck in the wrong job – welcoming people into his hotel on ‘the English rivera’.

The IT Crowd

Limmy’s Show

The Inbetweeners

Keeping Up Appearances

One Foot in the Grave

Porridge

The Young Ones

Steptoe & Son

Allo Allo

Panel Shows

Have I Got News for You?

Mock The Week

Never Mind The Buzzcocks

8 out of 10 Cats

QI

Would I Lie to You?

And plenty plenty more!

If you like a British comedy TV show and I didn’t mention it. Add it in the comment section. :)

506. One of Britain’s Favourite Poems

Listen to readings of “If—” by Rudyard Kipling, a popular poem from England. Includes analysis of the vocabulary and the themes in the poem and also a chance to enjoy the unique voice of Sir Michael Caine – with some funny impressions too. Transcript, vocabulary and videos available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Episode Transcript

Introduction

Hello, here’s an episode of the podcast devoted to one of the UK’s favourite poems.

I thought it was about time we looked at some poetry on the podcast. I was wondering which poem I could look at. In the end I’ve chosen one that is popular with lots of people in the UK. Sometimes poetry is a bit complicated and highbrow, but this particular poem is pretty clear and not too challenging or anything, while also touching upon ideas that most people can relate to. So I think it’s probably a good one for us to do.

We’re going to listen to the poem, understand the vocabulary used, and talk about the general meaning of the poem too.

You’ll also be able to listen to the voice of Michael Caine, and hear some Michael Caine impressions too.

The poem in question is called “If -” by Rudyard Kipling. That’s it… “If -“.

It has been voted the UK’s favourite poem in a number of polls done by the BBC. So, let’s listen to this much loved poem being read out by a couple of different people and then analyse the lines for their full meaning and pick up some vocabulary in the process.

“If-” by Rudyard Kipling

“If—” is a poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling (a nobel laureate is someone who won the nobel prize for their poetry). The poem was written in 1895 and was first published in 1910.

It is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet’s son. You can imagine that the poet is talking to his son about life and teaching him what it means to be a man.

Grammatically, it’s basically one huge ‘if clause’ with each line beginning with the word ‘if’ and then concluding at the end of the poem. It might actually be the world’s longest conditional sentence – “if you do this and this and this, then eventually, this will happen”. Like, “If you do plenty of practice, stay motivated and don’t give up then eventually you’ll be a fluent English speaker.”

As poetry, “If—” is a literary example of the principles of Victorian-era stoicism. This is a set of attutides that became popular in the UK during the Victorian period. By stoicism I mean a kind of attitude and approach to life that involves being tolerant of difficulty, showing a sort of calm self-discipline, having control over your emotions, being patient, accepting difficulty and having a quiet determination to just keep calm and carry on. It could also be described as the principle of “stiff upper lip”, which British people often consider to be a national virtue. If your upper lip is stiff, or firm, I suppose it means that you have your emotions under control.

Often Brits will talk about how they are proud to be tolerant (not just of things like cultural differences, but of difficulty, discomfort and hardship) and I think we quite like the idea that we are in control of our emotions because it shows strength of character. This is what “If–” is about and because of this, the poem remains a cultural touchstone in the UK.

We’re not always self controlled of course. You can’t generalise. There are times when Brits intentionally lose all self-control – like when they get drunk on a Friday night or when they go on holiday to Majorca or something, and get drunk there. Those moments seem to be like time off from being self-controlled. Also, these days, I think British people are more in touch with their emotions than they used to be.

But this poem is all about the side of the British personality that is all about quiet strength, fair play and not losing your head in a crisis.

It is also like a of self-help mantra which inspires people to try and do the right thing and probably gives people some inspiration for living your life correctly and dealing with times of difficulty.

For these reasons it’s often voted one of the UK’s favourite poems.

Listen to Academy Award winning actor Michael Caine reading the poem

Listen to Michael Caine reading the poem. All the sentences start with IF – how do you think the poem will end.

If you’re already familiar with the poem, you can just enjoy the voice one of our favourite actors. Michael Caine

“If—” by Rudyard Kipling

(video below)

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

The audio comes from a YouTube video uploaded by Peace One Day www.peaceoneday.org/

Peace One Day is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 1999. In 2001 due to their efforts the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the first ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on 21 September – Peace Day.

Peace One Day’s objective is to institutionalise Peace Day 21 September, making it a day that is self-sustaining, an annual day of global unity, a day of intercultural cooperation on a scale that humanity has never known.

I guess these ideas are universal and this applies to everyone facing the challenges of life.

Girls – I hope you can relate to this too, even though he says “…and you’ll be a man my son”.

Read it again and analyse the words

“If—” by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you’re in a stressful situation in which everyone else is losing their heads and saying it’s your fault, but you stay cool and stay in control…

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

Everyone doubts you but you trust yourself, but you still consider their doubts in you – you don’t ignore them

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, (patience is a virtue)
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

other people are lying about you, but you manage to avoid lying

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

others hate you, and you feel pressure to hate them too, but you resist that pressure and don’t give in to hatred, or give way to hatred – don’t let hatred come in – it’s sounding a bit like the Jedi code here

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

stay modest in your appearance, and also don’t talk like you know it all

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

have dreams, ambitions and ideas but keep them in perspective so you’re not just a dreamer but someone who is still practical and pragmatic – a doer not just a dreamer

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

you can be thoughtful, but manage to actually do things rather than just thinking about things all the time

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

don’t let success go to your head, but don’t let failure get you down either – an imposter is something or someone who is not welcome or someone who is pretending to be someone else – e.g. someone who claims to be an experienced pilot and fakes their ID, or someone in a hospital who claims to be a doctor but isn’t

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

if you can stand having your words manipulated by dishonest people – e.g. in the press or in a court of law) (to bear something = to tolerate something) (twisted = changed, distorted, manipulated) (knaves = dishonest and untrustworthy people, it’s an old fashioned word)

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools:

see your life’s work, ruined and then just start again even though the tools you’re using are damaged by lots of use

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

(you take a big pile of all the money you’ve won and risk it all on one go – if you’re willing to take big risks) (a game of pitch-and-toss is an old gambling game in which you ‘pitch’ a coin – throw it – towards a mark on the ground. The one who gets closest to the mark wins the right to ‘toss’ all the coins which have been thrown. To toss means ‘throw’ but specifically to ‘toss a coin’ means to throw it up so it spins and then lands. If you win you can toss all the coins and you can keep all the ones that land with the heads facing up” – so basically, if you can win loads of money and then risk it all on one game…

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

and then lose but just start again from scratch

And never breathe a word about your loss;

and never tell anyone you lost – that would be hard!

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,

even when you’re exhausted you keep going and force your body to keep going, sinew = tendons, ligaments

And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

so, just using your willpower you force your muscles, heart, ligaments to resist and keep going

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

if you can stay honest and moral even when you have the attention of a crowd of people – e.g. you might feel pressure to lie, bend the truth, tell them what they want to hear. Virtue = doing and thinking what is morally right. Adj – virtuous.

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch

if you spend time with rich and powerful people but never lose touch with ordinary life and people

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

Foes = enemies. You’re not affected by criticism or praise.

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you value everyone equally. Everyone counts – everyone is important.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

if you can make the most of every single minute – the unforgiving minute means 60 seconds, no more no less. So, if you have the strength, stamina and determination to do your absolute best in every second of every minute

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

Hear Michael Caine’s thoughts on it from the recording

If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.

Films can be either successful or failures. You have to be able to deal with both outcomes.

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

When you’re a famous actor the press sometimes takes your words and uses them against you – especially the tabloid press.

He also says that war ruins everything. Also, every single war has been declared by men who are too old to go, and this has made him suspicious.

Impressions of Michael Caine’s Voice

Michael Caine’s voice. It’s quite distinctive. He comes from the East End of London – so it’s a cockney accent, basically – not very strong, but it is there. Also, his voice is unique (just like everyone’s voice is unique) and quite well-known. It’s so well-known that he is one of those actors that lots of people can impersonate, like Sean Connery.

How Michael Caine Speaks

You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off! (The Italian Job)

Batman – The Dark Knight Rises “I won’t bury you”

Vocabulary Review

  • keep your head (stay calm, stay in control!)
  • Don’t lose your head (don’t lose self control)
  • (Don’t) Blame it on someone (it was his fault, he did it!)
  • To have doubts (silent letter)
  • Make allowance for something / take something into account (include something in your decision making process – e.g. when I plan lessons I have to make allowances for the fact that students come from different countries and cultural backgrounds)
  • Don’t give way to hatred/anger/frustration = yield, give in (Star Wars)
    (Star Wars: don’t give in to hatred)
  • To be wise / to have wisdom (e.g. Yoda, Gandalf, Dumbledore, ObiWan Kenobi – most old dudes with grey hair and beards)
  • Keep something in perspective (think about things in a reasonable way – e.g. Let’s get things in perspective / let’s keep things in perspective. Sure, we’re locked up in a Turkish jail, but at least we have each other! It’s not that bad! OK bad example. The doctor says I have a 1 in 200 chance of survival!!! Oh shit!!! Wait, let’s keep things in perspective. 1 in 200 is really quite good, and you’re quite young and in good shape. Don’t panic.)
  • Treat someone/something like something (Don’t treat me like an idiot Tony!)
  • Impostors = people who fake their identity in order to get in somewhere. “I felt like an imposter” (common usage) I think it’s quite common for us to feel like an imposter if we feel we don’t deserve the success we’ve had, or when we are in a situation that we don’t deserve to be in, because we feel inferior. Have you ever felt like that? You’re in a situation, you look around and everyone seems so impressive. They’re all so clever and have achieved so much and you feel like you’re not as good as them, and you’re not worthy to be there. You feel like an imposter. It’s a common feeling. I think this might be the situation in which the word “imposter” is most commonly used today, other than when someone has intentionally sneaked into a place by lying.
    If you have ever felt like that, here’s a nice little anecdote from Neil Gaiman – a great author of short fiction novels, comic books and graphic novels.
  • This is from an article I found on Quartz.com and it quotes Neil Gaiman from his Tumblr page. qz.com/984070/neil-gaiman-has-the-perfect-anecdote-for-anyone-with-impostors-syndrome/
    Neil was asked if he had any advice for people experiencing imposter syndrome – that feeling of being an imposter.
    Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
    On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while some musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
    And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”
    And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.
    So, there you go – even Neil Armstrong feels like an imposter, and so does Neil Gaiman and many other people who’ve done good things.
    How about you? Do you ever feel like an imposter?
  • Bear to do something / bear to hear your words twisted (I just can’t bear to see him like this)
  • To stoop (bend down)
  • To build something up (create something from the bottom up)
  • A heap of something (a pile)
  • Winnings (all the stuff you won)
  • Don’t breathe a word (don’t reveal a secret)
  • Virtue / virtuous (opposites = dishonor, evil, immorality)
  • The common touch (the ability to appeal to ordinary people)
  • Friend / Foe
  • Count (v) (all opinions count, every second counts) = to have merit, importance, value, etc.; deserve consideration

Finally, listen to Dave Bassett doing it in a scouse accent

I did an episode a while ago called “The Chaos of English Pronunciation” which included a couple of poems which are full of notoriously difficult words to pronounce in English. You can find that episode in the archive. It’s number 144

144. The Chaos of English Pronunciation

Thanks for listening!

505. A Chat with Dad & James about Star Wars: The Last Jedi (with Vocabulary)

Here is the third and final part of this trilogy of episodes about the latest Star Wars film. In this one you’ll hear a conversation between my Dad, my brother and me that I recorded just after we’d seen the film a couple of weeks ago. Now, I know that this is perhaps a bit too much Star Wars content on this podcast. Even if you are a fan it might seem like overkill. So let me emphasise the value of the conversation in this episode as an opportunity for you to learn some natural English in an authentic way. You’ll hear us talking spontaneously and then in the second half of this episode I’ll to explain some of the bits of language that come up in the conversation. So, this isn’t just chat about a film, it’s a way to present you with real British English as it is actually spoken.

Small Donate Button
[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

[⬆️⬆️⬆️The first paragraph is at the top of the page ⬆️⬆️⬆️]

When my family were staying with us for a few days during the Christmas holiday period, fairly soon after our daughter was born, Dad, James and I left my wife and my mum at home to look after the baby and we went off to see the new Star Wars film. This has become something of a Christmas tradition now.

After seeing the film we came home, drank some red wine and then recorded our thoughts and comments for the podcast. That is this conversation.

As you’d expect we were feeling quite excitable after having just sat through 2 and a half hours of intense Star Wars action and we were also slightly tipsy on French wine and so the conversation is quite animated and lively. You will hear us talking over each other a bit. Not every sentence is completed. Some words get cut off as we interrupt each other and although that’s all completely normal in conversations like this, it might be difficult for you to understand everything, depending on your level of English, but watch out for various nice expressions that pop up during our chat. I’ll be explaining some of them later in this episode.

Right then, let’s hear that conversation now – and remember of course that this will contain lots of plot spoilers for Star Wars Episode 8 – so if you haven’t seen it yet, please do so before you listen to this. This is your final warning – plot spoilers are coming – please do not let us spoil your enjoyment of the film. You could always come back to listen to this episode later if you want.


Outtro Transcript

Near the end of the conversation there you heard my dad and my brother expressing their doubts about whether this conversation might be either too difficult for you to follow or simply boring for you to hear because of the slightly geeky levels of detail about Star Wars. That’s quite a frequent reaction from them, isn’t it. It’s a bit annoying when they say that kind of thing, but to be honest, I think they’ve both got a point, to a certain degree, and this shows that making podcast content for learners of English can be a bit of a tightrope. Episodes should be clear enough for learners of English to understand, but at the same time spoken at a natural speed to make them authentic. I want to be able to explore subjects in some depth and detail so that the content is original and insightful without episodes becoming too specific, too long or simply uninteresting for you to listen to. It can be tricky to walk that line. The fact is, it’s probably impossible to get it 100% right every time and produce episodes that are popular and useful for absolutely everybody across the board.

But in the end I’m not going to worry about it too much. I expect I lost a few people with all this talk of Star Wars, but if that is the case – so be it. Looking on the bright side – maybe those of you who share my enthusiasm for these films have really enjoyed this trilogy.

In any case, that’s it for Star Wars for a while.

Now, let’s focus our attention on language – specifically vocabulary. What about some of the expressions, phrasal verbs and other bits of language that you heard?

I’ve been through the conversation again and made a list. It’s quite a big list. I wonder how many of these phrases how many you noticed and how many passed you by. We’ll see.

Let’s go through them now. And this isn’t Star Wars vocabulary – it’s all English that you can use to talk about all manner of different things.

This is your chance to broaden your vocabulary, increasing your understanding of not just this conversation but native-level English in general.

Vocabulary (not just Star Wars related)

Listen to the episode to hear my definitions and explanations.

  • Your daughter is gorgeous and all in one piece, and very healthy and alert. It’s a wonderful thing and I’m now an uncle.
  • Dad: I’m wearing a flat cap, smoking a pipe, sitting by the fire and dozing. James: No change there then.
  • There’s been a big backlash against this film from the die-hard fans.
  • Is there a theory that the score has been dragged down artificially?
  • The sequel trilogy is a return to form, you think?
  • The characters are running out of steam.
  • It doesn’t have the same wow factor as before. So they’re exaggerating everything to keep it going.
  • It didn’t have the same feeling as the originals, that’s what you can boil it down to.
  • They added new scenes. They added nothing. They detracted from the originals.
  • I was like you once. Full of beans and spunk!
  • I punched a bloke in the face once for saying Hawk The Slayer was rubbish.
  • I was defending the fantasy genre with terminal intensity when what I should have said is Dad, you’re right, but let’s give Krull a try and we’ll discuss it later.
  • “Jar Jar Binks makes the Ewoks look like… f*cking… Shaft!” Spaced – Series 2 

The Ewoks were annoying, but Jar Jar is so annoying and terrible that by comparison, the Ewoks look extremely cool, like Shaft. This does not mean that Shaft looks like an Ewok. It just means that Shaft is very cool and Jar Jar is very uncool.

Shaft (1971)
Directed by Gordon Parks
Shown: Richard Roundtree (as John Shaft)

 

  • Tim, I’m going to have to let you go.
  • Phew! I thought you were going to fire me then!
  • I thought it went seriously downhill when they started to introduce teddy bears.
  • They used more animatronics and puppetry.
  • There are a number of set pieces. It moves from one set piece to another set piece.
  • I thought it was a little bit trying too hard. It was a little bit frenetic.
  • It does go on a bit.
  • I thought they could have done without the cute creatures. It’s a bit of Ewokism here.
  • To be honest I kind of got over my star wars obsession when I was about 12.
  • I’m not one of these rabid fans.
  • I’m starting to warm to the new characters.
  • Dad said there were too many explosions. James: I know what you mean. It’s the law of diminishing returns. You see one explosion and it’s “ooh wow”, and you see 100 explosions and it’s like “meh“.
  • I liked the bit when the guy got chucked into the extractor fan. It was like he got chucked into a lettuce shredder. Bits of him went flying out. That was cool.
  • The extractor fan/lettuce shredder – They should have a grill over that or some sort of guard rail. It’s a health and safety issue. It’s a health and safety nightmare.
  • To me, it needs a bit of lightening up. I don’t want it to be like one of these superhero films like Batman where everything’s deadly serious and shrouded in seriousness. Come on it’s a kid’s film – just lighten up!
  • On milking the sea alien – I thought that was wrong on many levels, but I laughed.
  • I liked Adrian Edmonson. Every moment he was on screen I was stoked.

The rest of this vocabulary is explained in the Luke’s English Podcast App – Check the bonus content for episode 505

How to find bonus content for episodes in the app

  • Snoke was a classic baddie. He looked horrible and it was lovely when he came to a sticky end.
  • Hang on, let me finish!
  • Were you disappointed that we didn’t learn anything else about him, that he just died? James: No I was glad to see the back of him.
  • Some people feel disappointed that his character wasn’t developed. Do you think he was killed too easily? Dad: Well, I think he was very cut up about it. (!!!)
  • He was just a really evil thing that had to be got rid of.
  • You take for granted the special effects involved.
  • On Luke throwing away the lightsabre. Dad: He didn’t hurl it into the sea, he just tossed it over his shoulder.
  • Pronunciation: We’ve been to that island. We’ve been to those rocks. We’ve been into those huts. We’ve been there. /bin/ not /bi:n/
  • Maybe Chewie did eat the porg. Dad: I think, “Chewie” – the clue is in the name. He should have chewed into that porg.
  • Luke Skywalker was flawed.
  • He’d coached this trainee jedi, his nephew, who had perfect credentials, good bloodline.
  • He peaked too early.
  • You can see that we’re running out of steam.
  • Did you like the new AT-AT walkers? I thought they were sick. I liked the way they walked on their knuckles. I thought it was funny the way they look like they’re grumpily stomping along on their knuckles.
  • Gorilla walkers / guerrilla war in the forest
  • (There’s a moment where we go from talking about gorilla walkers to guerrilla warfare (Ewoks vs Empire). These are two different words that sound the same.)
  • I was genuinely and generally interested.
  • It didn’t feel like they jumped the shark.
  • Disney are going to milk this one dry.
  • Luke Skywalker brushing his shoulder / Obama brushing his shoulder.
  • He turned the tide against him by being too cool in the Whitehouse.
  • At least I didn’t sigh in this episode.

504. My Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 2)

Continuing to talk about the latest Star Wars film at length(!) – going through the storyline and giving my thoughts on the characters, events and the audience backlash. Transcript available below.

[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript (95% complete)

OK, so if you check the length of this episode you’ll see it’s more than 2 hours long – Yes, this is definitely the longest episode of LEP I’ve ever done! And this is part 2 of a double episode. If you put parts 1 and 2 together that adds up to nearly 3.5 hours of me talking about Star Wars The Last Jedi. Added to that, the next episode will also be about Star Wars – and that will be a conversation between my dad, my brother and me. So, this has become something of a Star Wars marathon on Luke’s English Podcast. Those of you who are fans of Star Wars will probably be happy about that! Those of you who aren’t interested in Star Wars, or if you just think this film completely sucks – of course you could just skip this episode – I’ll be uploading more non-Star Wars episodes soon, I promise. OK, so strap in then, let’s embark on part 2 of this epic Star Wars themed episode…

Transcript – 504. My Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 2) PDF

Transcript (95% complete)

OK, so if you check the length of this episode you’ll see it’s more than 2 hours long – Yes, this is definitely the longest episode of LEP I’ve ever done! And this is part 2 of a double episode. If you put parts 1 and 2 together that adds up to nearly 3.5 hours of me talking about Star Wars The Last Jedi. Added to that, the next episode will also be about Star Wars – and that will be a conversation between my dad, my brother and me. So, this has become something of a Star Wars marathon on Luke’s English Podcast. Those of you who are fans of Star Wars will probably be happy about that! Those of you who aren’t interested in Star Wars, or if you just think this film completely sucks – of course you could just skip this episode – I’ll be uploading more non-Star Wars episodes soon, I promise. OK, so strap in then, let’s embark on part 2 of this epic Star Wars themed episode.

Hi, welcome back to the podcast. This is part 2 of a double episode I’m doing about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In this one I’m going to continue going through the storyline of the film and giving my thoughts and feelings about the characters and events. I thought I’d be able to do all of this in one episode but I have got a bit carried away so I’ve split it into 2 parts.

You should listen to part 1 before listening to this…

If you’re not a fan of Star Wars you could just skip this one. I’m recording it really for the people who’ve seen the film.

Spoiler alert – I’m revealing lots of details about the film, so you should wait until you have seen the film before you listen to this.

There is a script for most of what I’m saying on the episode page on my website so you can read along while listening, or just check for certain words and phrases that you’ll hear me use.

If you’re listening in the LEP app, just click the link for the episdoe page in the episode description – that will allow you to read the script while you’re listening.

After this episode there will be another one about Star Wars – and that will be a chat with my brother and my Dad that I recorded just after we all saw the film together about a week ago.

I realise I’m devoting quite a lot of podcast time to this new film – but I just really enjoy talking about it right at this moment

and as far as I’m concerned that’s enough of a reason for me to do this on the podcast.

Don’t worry, I won’t be doing Star Wars forever of course and we’ll get back to other topics and themes on the podcast soon.

OK then, so I expect the ones still listening to this are the Star Wars fans – so, let’s now continue where I left off.

I was describing that moment when General Leia gets blasted into space when the bridge of her ship gets blown up.

I said that this is quite a controversial scene…

I admit that this scene is weird and we’ve never seen this before in a Star Wars film, but I really don’t think it’s as bad or ridiculous as some people think.

So, Leia is hanging in space in zero gravity after the bridge of her ship has been blown up. She’s hanging in zero gravity. Apparently now we have zero gravity in space. Now – there is no consistency regarding the science in these films as we’ve seen already many times. This is not science fiction – there doesn’t need to be consistent, logical physics. This is a film series in which there are explosions in space, a huge planet sized space station that blows things up with lazers and a mystical force that allows people to control minds, lift objects and even project lightning from their fingers.

In this particular scene. The science serves the characters, the action and the plot, and it can be bent this way and that. We are supposed to just suspend our disbelief and go with the vague rules of this universe. In this case, in this scene, there is zero gravity in space and so Leia is just hanging there. It seems that her skin maybe beginning to freeze, which is what would happen in space I suppose.

She looks dead.

But then her fingers twitch and her eyelids open. When I saw this I immediately thought – she’s using the force to keep herself alive. It’s a survival thing. Then she extends her arm and floats back towards the ship.

Some people say she flies and they get very angry and upset saying “The force doesn’t let you fly”. Well – first of all, she’s not flying – she’s floating through zero gravity.

It wouldn’t require much force power to do that, right? There’s no atmosphere or gravity so it just requires a little bit of force power to pull herself back to the ship.

Also, we know that Leia is force sensitive but up until this point her power has just been to communicate with Luke through the force, to feel and sense things through the force and perhaps the suggestion that she’s been influencing events through the force for a while – like perhaps helping that bomber in the opening battle sequence, and influencing Kylo’s decision not to attack the fleet and so on.

So she has the force but she’s never used it to her full potential. It’s not hard to imagine that in a crucial moment like this that she’d be capable of keeping herself alive and pulling herself back to the ship through zero gravity.

We see this slightly odd, yet strangely beautiful image of Leia floating through space in the middle of a battle. It’s eerie and we’ve never seen anything like this before.

Again, a lot of people hate this scene, but I think they’re being a bit hysterical.

This has never happened before – it’s not consistent!

Yep, well a lot of people complained about episode 7 because it contained nothing new.

This is something new and it’s not completely far fetched. She’s not flying, she’s floating in zero gravity. Leia can’t fly ok? She’s not superwoman. It’s zero gravity. She’s just floating.

So, I’m fine with this scene, but only fine with it.

They could have done this differently.
Other criticisms of this scene include the fact that Leia uses the force here just to save herself, other characters die and she could have saved them.

Well, let’s face it – this film is all about breaking away from the old stuff and that means that some of the old characters have to die, and that includes someone like Admiral Akhbar- the guy who looks like a fish.

I’m not that bothered that Akbar is gone. I liked him – I had the Admiral Akbar toy when I was a child, but it’s fine – we can let him go. These are tragic events.

But maybe she could have used the force differently – like perhaps she could have somehow contained the explosion and held the bridge together – but that surely would have taken much more force strength and ability. I reckon keeping herself alive and then floating back to the ship is consistent with the fact that she’s never fully trained or developed her force abilities.

This moment is also weird and spooky considering the fact that we all know that Carrie Fisher died just after making this film. Here in the film we see her character apparently die, but then her eyes open and she makes a miraculous recovery. I find this spooky and odd, but it doesn’t make me angry or make me want to throw my toys out of the pram and weep for the death of Star Wars. That’s a bit hysterical.

Also, there’s a sense that in the negative reaction to this scene (and to quite a lot of the rest of the film) there’s a bit of sexism going on. Perhaps people just don’t like the idea of a woman flying. I know one person in particular who expressed this opinion – like “What, women can fly now?” “Women can do anything in movies now – this is ridiculous – it’s just rampant feminism”.

Again, that seems like a slightly hysterical reaction. How many times have we seen flying men in movies? How many times are male heroes celebrated by seeing them fly through the air? Tons of times. Superman, Batman (alright he doesn’t fly but almost) Iron Man, Spiderman, Thor and tons of others. Nobody complains about flying men, it happens all the time and it’s not going to stop happening. Then we get one flying woman (who isn’t even flying) and some people throw their toys out of the pram and start complaining about rampant feminism. It’s not the end of the world.

Some people might say – but it’s not consistent with the films. I’d say – yes it is consistent – she’s using her latent force abilities to briefly preserve her life and to pull herself back to the ship.

You might disagree with me on this one – because it’s a really divisive moment in the film and I think a lot of people just couldn’t handle it and this was the moment when they just gave up on the film. If that’s you – write your thoughts in the comment section. What exactly is wrong with this moment? Put your thoughts into words. I’ve given you my point of view, why not give me yours?

So, Leia gets back to the ship and is in a coma. She’s replaced by Vice Admiral Holdo.

Ahch-To – Luke & Rey

Words I used to describe Luke Skywalker:

  • grisled
  • haggard
  • he looks like a wizened old hermit

Luke chucks the lightsaber away.

I was really shocked – gobsmacked. My jaw dropped at this moment.

I was expecting him to refuse the lightsaber but I didn’t expect him to do that, but I went with it.

I was shocked but I went with it.

This is another one of those moments that’s a deal breaker for a lot of people. Some people see Luke throw the light sabre over his shoulder and they find it to be a fundamental problem.

I can understand that. I think it seems a bit dismissive and casual, but this is where Luke is as a character in the story. He has been on this island for god knows how long and he’s utterly lost faith in the Jedi and in the so-called myth of Luke Skywalker. He doesn’t believe in these symbols any more and he has no time for people who expect him to live up to the legend of Luke Skywalker and that’s because at one point he believed in his own legend himself and as a result of that he thought he could do more than he could and this ended in complete failure. He couldn’t live up to all the expectations that he even had of himself.

Some people say this is not consistent with Luke’s character, but I say – why not? Why can’t Luke have gone in this direction in the 30 years since Return of the Jedi?

I found it really interesting that Luke had undergone such dramatic and traumatic changes since episode 6.

Luke’s character in this film is about learning from failure, about being fallible, about struggling with expectations, about the legacy of the Jedi, about the heavy burden that is being the last jedi.

In this film they could have made Luke a massively powerful hero who takes on the First Order armed only with his laser sword, but instead they went for a more complex study of a man who has failed, isolated himself and then slowly comes to terms with what it means to be a myth and how he can use this to do powerful things.

Rey hangs around but Luke refuses to talk to her.

We get some scenes which show Luke’s weird and eccentric lifestyle on the island. He fishes for massive fish in the sea, he lives among the porgs, he even drinks milk from the breast of some kind of weird sea mammal. Not directly from the breast, but he fills a flask with green milk that he gets from the breast of a weird creature that looks a bit like a walrus or something. He then drinks the milk and it drips down his beard, and he stares at Rey while doing this, looking pleased with himself. He’s being purposefully disgusting, and Rey thinks it’s weird.

The green milk scene is another controversial one – controversial meaning that it has split opinions. Some people say this kind of thing has no place in Star Wars and that the humour didn’t really work.

Personally I was fine with it. Both times I saw this in the cinema I was one of the only ones laughing at this moment.

I don’t mind a bit of weird humour and I think Star Wars has always featured this kind of thing.

For example – Jabba The Hutt is a weird creepy slug which licks its slimy lips in a really creepy way when looking at female characters, and there are plenty of other weird moments in the original trilogy. None of them are as blatant as this, but it’s not a complete departure from the world of Star Wars in my opinion.

And just personally, I found it really funny. I also thought that this was Luke testing Rey a bit, in a similar way to how Yoda tested Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. When Luke first arrives on Degobah to meet Yoda (and he doesn’t know what Yoda looks like) Yoda meets him and makes him think he’s just a weird and annoying little creature. He pretends to fight with R2D2, steals Luke’s food and seems totally eccentric and strange. It’s only later that Yoda reveals himself to be a great master. It’s as if he needed to show Luke that you shouldn’t expect heroes to look like heroes and that true heroism is in your actions not in your appearance.

Also this is a trope in a lot of kung fu movies from the 70s. The kung fu master appears as a sort of crazy fool who tests the patience of the main apprentice, giving him lots of annoying tests – and secretly he’s training the apprentice without him realising it.

I like Luke’s grumpy, weird side in this and I found it to be a pleasant surprise.

Anyway, Rey tries unsuccessfully to persuade Luke to join the Resistance and Luke hides in his cabin.

Chewie smashes the door in.

Luke finds out that Han is dead. This doesn’t change his mind, but maybe a little bit.

He visits the Milennium Falcon – this is a big nostalgia moment. The first time we’ve seen Luke on the Falcon since Episode 5 maybe.

He finds R2D2 and the moment they reunite is pretty amazing. Luke removes his hood in order to see him and it reminded me of when Obiwan removed his hood to look at R2D2 in Episode 4.

Them reuniting made me well up…! I’m not ashamed to admit it. R2 is so important to Luke’s whole journey. He’s the whole reason he ended up on this adventure in the first place.

R2 seems to try and persuade Luke to join the Resistance but Luke says “no way”. R2’s response is brilliant. He just plays the hologram of Princess Leia from Episode 4. Luke says “that was a cheap move” or something – and it’s a bit true, this is a pretty cheap way for R2 to persuade Luke, but also a fairly cheap way for the film to make any Star Wars fan feel emotional.

R2D2 goes straight for the jugular (vein).

This was always one of the most magical moments in the original film. When he was a frustrated farmboy dreaming of having adventures, this hologram of a beautiful princess asking for help completely captured his imagination and catapulted him on this journey into adventure, heroism, the force and self-discovery. The function of it here is that it brings Luke one step further towards remembering who he was and it is a stark contrast to who he has become now.

But he’s still committed to the fact that he can’t be involved because he’s convinced that he’ll do more harm than good.

In fact Luke has cut himself off from the force completely. He’s lost faith in the Jedi order.

But you get the sense that he’s not a lost cause. He acts like he’s definitely against the idea of coming back, but we see that he is quite curious about Rey and there is still a spark of the old Luke Skywalker in there.

At one point Rey seems to be called to a big old tree on the island, which I think is the original Jedi temple – or a force tree – I’m not sure of it’s significance completely but I expect it is mentioned in one of the books or something. The tree also houses the sacred Jedi texts. Rey seems drawn to this place and Luke notices this and follows her from a distance.

That’s when he becomes curious about Rey – when he notices that she’s been drawn to this significant place and there’s an interesting exchange there where we see that Rey is confused and doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t understand how she has her force sensitivity and who her parents are (she’s feeling a bit force sensitive). She’s desperately looking for answers to the questions of her identity while also trying to get Luke to come and help the Resistance. She seems lost and is desperate for guidance.

No idea of how the time works here – all this is going on while the Resistance are battling against time up in space somewhere. Perhaps Ach-To runs on different time cycles. God knows. I don’t think it matters that much.

Luke finally agrees to train Rey a bit. “Tomorrow at dawn – 3 lessons”. Again this is like a kung fu movie or a samurai movie or something, and that is really cool.

3 lessons about the Jedi and why they have to end.

All the while, Rey and Kylo keep having weird force visions in which they are connected and they chat. It’s a bit like secret Skype or something. ForceTime.

She berates him for killing Han Solo and says he’s a monster.

He makes fun of the fact that she is looking for parental figures everywhere.

They grow strangely close, mainly because they’re in similar situations. She’s desperate for guidance. He’s curious about her force abilities, and perhaps is working out if she is an enemy or perhaps a potential ally. They both are alienated from their so-called mentors.

It’s weird and I didn’t know which way this would go. I expected that they’d join forces somehow and fight against both Snoke and Luke Skywalker, but I didn’t believe Luke Skywalker would be a real antagonist.

Like I said before – there’s nothing like watching a Star Wars film when you don’t know what is going to happen next.

Skywalker gives Rey some lessons in the force, but his intention is to break down her misconceptions about what it is, and what the Jedi really are. I could have had more of this to be honest, but then again in the original trilogy there wasn’t much detail about the force either.

With the force I think the more you explain it, the less interesting it becomes. In The Phantom Menace there were these things called midiclorians, which are living organisms that actually carry the force – and it was possible to measure, scientifically, how much force a person had based on their midichlorian count – and because this is physical that this could be genetic and handed down through family connections.

But midichloreans were never spoken of again because they took the magic out of the force. The version of the force we have here is back to how it was in Episode 4 – a mystical energy that binds the galaxy together.

Rey doesn’t understand the force at all – thinking it’s just about controlling people’s thoughts and about moving rocks. This is the childish version of the force. Skywalker tells her it’s a lot more than that, giving a similar version that Obiwan gave to him in episode 4 – that it’s a neutral natural power that exists in the balance between everything.

There are some funny moments where Luke makes fun of her and the way she misunderstands the nature of the force. Again, I’m not bothered by the jokey bits because this is Star Wars not Batman The Dark Knight.

One funny moment is when he tells her to ‘reach out’ and she takes it literally. He means that she should reach out with her feelings, but she reaches out with her arm and he tickles it with a piece of grass saying “can you feel that? That’s the force!” and then he slaps her hand and says “that’s not how the force works” or something. Again, this reminds me of training sequences from kung fu movies which have some humour in them and involve the pupil getting it wrong and the master teasing them.

Then Rey does reach out to the force with her feelings and Luke gives her a little lesson in what it is, and how to connect with it. He’s shocked that she immediately gets pulled towards the dark side, which is represented by a weird dark cave under the island. The rock under her cracks and she has a weird vision of being covered in water.

Luke is shocked that Rey didn’t resist the dark side and he refuses to train her any more because the last time this happened it all went horribly wrong.

He also attempts to explain to Rey how he has lost faith in the Jedi, how they were wrong and arrogant in assuming that they owned the force and how their legacy is failure. In the prequels the Jedi were blinded by their own arrogance – they didn’t see how a powerful sith was taking control of the senate right under their noses. Lack of vision etc. Again – more hubris. They were too sure of themselves and that’s why they failed.

I find this pretty interesting. A lot of that is true, right?

I’m not surprised that Luke has gone this way and I just find it interesting from a character point of view.

Later, I’m not sure when, we get more info about what happened between Luke and Ben Solo (Kylo Ren).

The story is told 3 times, and each time you get a slightly different version of events.

First time is what Luke says to Rey.

He tells her that he sensed growing darkness in Ben and he went to see him during the night to try and reason with him, but Ben flew into a rage and pulled down the building on top of his head, and then destroyed the temple.

The second version of the story is what Kylo tells Rey during one of their ForceTime sessions. He tells her that Luke didn’t give the complete story and that Luke had come with his lightsabre to murder Kylo in his sleep.

A lot of fans can’t handle this and just believe that Luke would never do this and that their childhood is ruined and all that, but it’s not the final version of events.

The third version of the story is the true one.

Luke explains to Rey that he had become aware of a growing darkness in Ben and that he struggled with what to do about it. He went to Ben’s room in the night to read Ben’s mind and was so shocked by the darkness inside him that in a moment of compulsion he ignited his lightsabre in order to kill him and rid the galaxy of another possible evil tyrant, but that as soon as he ignited his sabre, he regretted the decision and realised that this meant killing his nephew, one of his students in a cowardly way. So he immediately changed his mind when he realised what he was doing.

I think this just gives Luke’s character more depth. Remember that he was the last jedi and perhaps he’d taken on too much in agreeing to train these young students. That’s a big job and perhaps he wasn’t really capable of doing it all on his own.

Maybe Yoda and Obiwan’s force ghosts hadn’t visited him for ages so he hadn’t had guidance from them.

As he said – he believed in his own legend and this was his failing. He took on too much and ultimately wasn’t able to handle the task of restarting the jedi order on his own, taking on his sister’s troubled son who was also incredibly powerful in the force but touched by the dark side and was already being manipulated and controlled by Snoke through the force. It was all too much for one guy.

I think there is a lesson here and that is that success can be very dangerous – in this case Luke had success in the fact that he helped to redeem Darth Vader and kill the emperor. This can lead to a false sense of confidence which can lead ultimately to failure. There’s a lot of that in this film. It’s tragic, but at least there’s more depth to it than just gymnastic lightsabre duels and “being badass”.

Anyway, Luke tells his story – of how he immediately changed his mind and was not going to kill Ben, but then Ben woke up and saw Luke standing over him with his ignited lightsabre and that’s when he pulled down the building on top of Luke and destroyed the temple. It’s a sort of misunderstanding that makes Ben think Luke really was going to kill him. In any case, Ben rejects Luke and he then probably gave his allegiance to Snoke.

Luke again tells Rey to get off the island. He’s gone there to die, etc.

This pushes Rey closer to Kylo who is the only one who seems to understand her. Will she turn to the dark side to be with him? Will he turn good? No idea.

Not sure of the chronology here.

At one point Rey visits the dark cave, like Luke does in Empire Strikes Back. This is a really cool and spooky sequence where she seems to see herself trapped in a time line or perhaps it’s just her reflection repeated again and again. She follows this line of reflections until she’s face to face with a mirror and she’s convinced that this will reveal the truth she’s been looking for – her parents. A dark figure approaches her in the mirror. Who is it? Luke? Snoke? Han? Leia? Another figure from Star Wars lore? In the end, she finds herself staring at her own reflection.

What does this mean? I guess it means that she’s on her own and her parents just aren’t important.

Also, at some point here, Luke decides to reconnect with the force. He sits on the stone altar on the clifftop and meditates. I think he makes a connection with Leia, who is in her coma. I think this is where Luke realises a lot of things – but it’s not actually shown in the film. By reconnecting with the force here, I think he gets strength from his renewed connection with Leia, realises that there is something he can do. Basically, by reconnecting with the force he realises his power and perhaps his hope again, or realises the importance of Rey. I’m not sure.

Rey and Kylo have a Forcetime – again they’re getting closer to each other all the time. I think in this one Kylo is topless which kind of amps up the sexual tension between them. Rey seems to believe in Kylo more than she does in Luke at this point and she probably believes she can turn him to the light side of the force etc, but we still don’t really know how Kylo feels. He’s hard for us to read – he’s just blank and unreadable, which is a strength in terms of the acting performance. He could be a bit vulnerable, perhaps a bit lost, but possibly pure evil – we don’t really know!

They actually touch, and when they do Luke bursts into Rey’s hut and is shocked to discover them in contact, and he destroys the hut and breaks the connection.

Then there’s a sort of fight between Rey and Luke, where Rey demands to know if Luke really did try to kill Kylo, and she attacks him with her staff, and Luke defends himself with a stick and disarms her. To me this looks like he’s still training her. When he disarms her, she force grabs the blue lightsabre and appears to have beaten Luke who kind of falls to the ground and gives up – but if you watch closely we see his hand is raised and I’m sure that he could have summoned his green lightsabre whenever he wanted in order to defend himself. I think he let Rey get the better of him.

This is when he confesses that he did momentarily contemplate killing Ben, but that he instantly changed his mind. So – just to set the record straight on this, Luke was not going to kill Ben in his sleep. The idea flashed across his mind when he saw that Snoke had turned him to the dark side, but he instantly changed his mind. I say that because a lot of the hardcore fans have lost faith in this film because they thought Luke was going to murder a child in his sleep – he wasn’t.

Rey then decides to leave the island in order to go to Kylo because she believes she can turn him. Luke says “No, it won’t go the way you think”. It’s a bit like that moment in Empire Strikes Back when Luke goes to confront Vader but Yoda tells him he’s not ready yet.

Rey is delivered to Kylo Ren in an escape pod from the Millenium Falcon and then we get one of my favourite moments in the film. Kylo puts Rey in handcuffs and on the way to Snoke’s throne room they have a conversation.

She explains that she’s confident Kylo will turn to the light because she’s had a vision.

But Kylo explains that he’s also had a vision that Rey will turn to the dark.

I suspected that Kylo would turn to the light, because there was more evidence for it.
I didn’t really believe Rey would turn to the dark side, but there were a few things that suggested that she could – e.g. she was drawn to the dark side during her vision while training with Luke.

She is pretty impulsive and often strikes out in anger, it seems – and that’s often the way towards the dark side.

Then the doors open and Rey meets Snoke for the first time.

Meanwhile, Luke goes to destroy the Force Tree and the ancient Jedi texts.

Yoda appears and stops him.

It’s wonderful to see Yoda again.

He’s not CGI Yoda, it’s puppet Yoda.

They actually used the original mould from Return of the Jedi.

It works.

Basically, he tells Luke that this is all a lesson and that Luke is a good master because he is teaching Rey the value of failure.

“The greatest teacher, failure is.” – he says. Apparently Yoda still hasn’t perfected his grammar, despite failing to speak it correctly for probably about 900 years or something.

Anyway, it’s a good lesson and it brings some redemption to Luke – who feels like he’s a lost cause. Everyone has to fail and it’s your failures that help you to improve. Success brings over-confidence and arrogance sometimes, whereas failure and accepting your failures brings us opportunities to learn.

It’s true for learning English too – our failures are great learning opportunities. We have to say something wrong a few times before we can say it correctly. Expecting to get everything right first time is just unrealistic. Accept failure as the best way to learn, and not something to be ashamed of, you can overcome your problems and learn to be really strong.

Yoda then destroys the force tree and (apparently) the sacred Jedi texts, as if to say to Luke – yes, you’re right – let’s destroy the past and start again. Luke is shocked that Yoda has done this (and apparently force ghosts can summon lightning now in Star Wars – fair enough, we were looking for some new force abilities, right? Apparently force ghosts can interact with the real world now – ok, fine)

The tree burns, containing the books – and Luke says “But the sacred jedi texts!” and Yoda says “Read them have you? Page turners, they are not.” I laughed out loud at this line.

Yoda’s two lessons for Luke:

Failures are valuable learning experiences.
Students always grow beyond their masters.

Back to Snoke’s room.

Snoke reads Rey’s mind, plays around with her – she attempts to fight back several times – grabs her light sabre but snoke makes it fly around the room – she grabs Kylo’s light sabre and Snoke flings her around the room. He seems impressed with her tenacity and he actually says “such spunk!” which made me laugh, because… well the word “spunk”. Do you know what that means?

It’s a bit rude. Here are the two definitions.

Courage, bravery, strength of character.
Semen (offensive)

He means defintion 1, but still – it’s a bit creepy that Snoke gleefully talks about “spunk”. Snoke is a horrible, creepy old git.

He’s also really arrogant and wealthy – he wears a gold robe a bit like Hugh Hefner the playboy guy. He’s horrible. But the CGI motion capture is brilliant. He looks really realistic. Good job Andy Serkis and the special effects team.

Snoke then reads Rey’s mind. I think he was considering whether she could be turned to the dark side, perhaps to become his apprentice and replacement for Kylo. That’s often the way it goes – but he summarises that she’s too pure or can’t be turned or something. So, he decides that Kylo should kill her, perhaps to complete his training.

Meanwhile Kylo looks at the situation quite blankly except for subtle reactions and the movement of his eyes. It reminds me of how Vader observed the Emperor when he was attempting to turn Luke to the dark side. We suspected that Vader was loyal in his heart to Luke. Similarly, I suspect that Kylo hates Snoke and feels resentment towards how manipulative he is, and we suspect that Kylo has feelings for Rey or at least believes that Rey might join him somehow. I wonder if this is a romantic feeling or a strategic one.

Snoke orders Kylo to kill Rey, and we still don’t know what Kylo is thinking. Rey looks up at him and simply says “Ben” – appealing to his good side.

At this point Snoke gets really carried away, proclaiming that he can see Kylo’s thoughts and that Kylo is turning his lightsabre and is going to ignite it in order to kill his true enemy.

But secretly Kylo is using the force to turn Luke Skywalker’s lightsabre which is sitting on the table next to Snoke, and as Snoke is convinced that he’s seeing Kylo’s intentions to kill Rey, perhaps he’s not seeing it clearly and in fact Kylo ignites Luke’s lightsabre killing Snoke.

I found this really surprising and satisfying. The look on Snoke’s face – he’s so shocked! It’s also a really well-directed sequence.

The lightsabre stabs Snoke in the side and then we see the scene from Kylo’s point of view, and Kylo pulls the sabre towards him, cutting Snoke in half! The ignited sabre flies through the air and Rey’s hand comes up to grab it.

Rey stands and for a moment Kylo and her face each other and we wonder whether Kylo is going to attack her, or what will happen…

Then everything goes in slow motion as Rey and Kylo, are attacked by 8 Praetorian guards and they fight back to back on the same side against the guards.

This is an absolutely wicked sequence. The guards are fantastic. They wear this weird red armour which appears to be able to deflect some lightsabre blows. They also have different weapons – swords, staffs, a sort of whip that becomes a sword. It all happens incredibly quickly and the screen is filled with several fights at the same time. Sparks fly, Rey screams and roars as she fights, Kylo’s fighting style is brutal and sketchy. It’s raw power.

At one point the wall catches fire and in the middle of the fight the room starts buring down. One of the guards gets thrown into some kind of fan unit and gets chopped into pieces. It all happens incredibly quickly and intensely.

Rey also has some good moves. Again – I don’t know how she learned to fight like this. Let’s just say that growing up on a rough junk planet like Jakku meant that she had to learn how to defend herself, add to that the fact that she’s obviously gifted with force abilities and has had some light sabre fighting experience now – she’s also brave and intelligent.

The two of them manage to fight off the guards and defeat them, but it’s not easy. At one point it looks like they’ve been beaten. Kylo is unarmed, Rey is held by one of the guards, but she manages to get out of it by dropping her lightsabre, getting out of the guard’s grip and then catching the sabre again in mid air before dispatching the guard.

Kylo is still being held by the last guard, who is kind of strangling him. Rey quickly throws her sabre to Kylo who catches it and ignites it instantly, sending the beam through the guards face, who drops away, dead.

What I like about this moment is that Kylo catches the lightsabre, ignites it, lets the guard drop and steps forward and he never takes his eyes of Rey at any point, and never blinks.

Then, still staring intensely at Rey he steps forward. Rey tells him there’s still time and that they can save the Resistance. She assumes he’s turned good, but he hasn’t.

He tells Rey they should let the past die and start anew – kill Snoke, kill Skywalker, let the Resistance die.

Rey is sort of heartbroken and just says “Ben, don’t do this”.

He also tells her who her parents are – I guess he saw it in a vision or something. He says that they were junk traders who just sold her off as a slave for money and that now they’re dead and buried in the desert. “You’re nobody, nothing…” “but not to me”.

He begs Rey to join her, but she’s heartbroken and won’t do it.

She sees that Kylo is beyond redemption at this point. I think Kylo has crossed a line and he’s the new Snoke. All these changes of position happen really fast. Surely, this is the interesting part of this film – what is really going on in Kylo’s head? Will he go good or bad? In Return of the Jedi we have similar questions about Darth Vader and ultimately he turns good, but in this one Kylo doesn’t. He’s the bad guy. He wants to kill her friends and he’s being very manipulative. He might be lying about her parents, even though she says she’s always known deep down that they abandoned her. But maybe he’s lying or something. Perhaps we’ll see.

Or perhaps her lineage isn’t important and it doesn’t matter what your family connections are. Anyone can be strong in the force.

She goes to grab Luke’s lightsaber from Kylo and it ends up suspended mid air between them as they both struggle to grab it. The lightsabre explodes.

In the film this part of the story is told in parallel with the other parts which I haven’t mentioned yet – namely the Finn and Rose storyline and the Poe/Admiral Holdo storyline.

Finn and Rose storyline.

Finn is going to escape and find Rey. Rose stops him. They work out together (cheesily) that the hyperspace tracking can be stopped if they disarm it from the lead ship. Finn has intel on the location of the tracker and they work out that they can get in and disable it, and save the Resistance. It’s surely a suicide mission.

Poe agrees, and they call Maz Kanata for info.

Maz Kanata is a crap character, isn’t she? A sort of vague orange Yoda who isn’t as interesting as Yoda.

A complex and contrived plot is set up where Finn and Rose have to meet a code breaker who can help them access Snoke’s ship (is it Snoke’s ship or another ship – not sure).

So they head to Canto Bite.

“The worst type of people”

Just park on the beach – bad move. But these kids don’t really know what they’re doing.

A bit like the Cantina Bar but everyone’s rich.

Weird horse things on a racetrack, they’re looked after by slave kids.

Rose hates the town.

Little drunk creature putting coins inside BB8.

They get caught and thrown in jail. Pretty rubbish.

Then Benicio Del Toro’s character turns up in the film.

He’s great. I’ve always liked him in films. He’s an “engaging screen presence” to quote Mark Kermode.

He overhears them discussing their plan and says he can get them in the room on the FO ship.

Somehow he has a way to pick the lock and get out, and with BB8’s help they get away, so do Finn and Rose who escape on the horses, which smash up the casino resort before being released into the forest. This is a bit cheesy and feels a bit like a “message” about animal cruelty.

I love animals, so fair enough – but it’s a very Disney moment. Anyway, DJ turns up in a ship with BB8 and they get rescued, and the fly towards the FO ship for their mission, which is to go undercover and turn off the hyperspace tracking, while the Resistance are still running away from the FO and slowly running out of fuel.

DJ is an interesting character. He’s one of those ones who exists in the moral grey area between the good and bad sides, a bit like Boba Fett and even Han Solo at the start of Episode 4.

I think this gives some much needed moral ambiguity.

Also, he shows us that the rich people on Canto Bite make their money making and selling weapons to the FO and the Resistance. This adds a bit of complexity to the whole “intergalactic war thing” which underpins this whole series of films, and just shows that there’s more to this than just good guys vs bad guys – there’s a whole industry behind these wars that makes some people really rich. I think for some fans this is a bit too political for Star Wars, which is ironic considering how politics were involved so much in the prequel films.

They make it onto the Supremacy (I think) and go undercover.

BB8 disguises himself as one of those little black droids – a “mouse” droid I think they’re called.

He’s disguised as one of them by hiding under a black dustbin as far as I can see.

Amazingly nobody really notices them, including Finn who surely is a famous traitor by now …

I say nobody notices them, actually an evil black version of BB8 does notice them. I love this evil BB8. He’s actually called BB9-E and it’s interesting how just a few changes in design makes this little droid instantly evil looking. I think I heard Mark Hamill talking about this in an interview – just a few changes – make the droid black, with a different shaped head and it just screams “Nazi!” It does look like a nazi version of BB8. Also, they manage to endow him with a lot of menace and malice. His red eye narrows with suspicion when he sees Rose, Finn, DJ and BB8.

Long story short – they get to the tracker and it turns out that DJ has set them up – he betrayed them and he betrays the whole Resistance and their plan to escape to Crait because the FO offered him loads of money. Finn gets angry and calls him a traitor I think, or says something like “They’re the bad guys” – and DJ says something along the lines of “Good guys, bad guys, what’s the difference. They blow you up today, you blow them up next time…”

I find his cynicism and pragmatism to be refreshing and interesting in the context of this binary good guys vs bad guys conflict. This is a really enjoyable bit of ambiguity and I really hope we see Benicio Del Toro’s character again.

Perhaps the most interesting moments in all of Star Wars are the moments when there’s moral ambiguity – like the character of Boba Fett who is only interested in self-preservation and money, or the moments when Luke Skywalker appears to drift towards the dark side slightly in order to achieve things – specifically when defeating Darth Vader, or when Anakin/Vader goes dark and then light at the end. These are the interesting moments and DJ is an example of that.

So, Finn & Rose are caught, The Resistance are screwed…

Some people complain that the Finn and Rose storyline doesn’t achieve anything. But that’s the whole point – it’s another lesson in failure. Sometimes characters fail in films – it’s boring if they just succeed every single time – and anyway the Resistance were always the underdogs and Finn and Rose were never going to succeed with this plan anyway – it’s was a suicide mission. They’re lucky that they got this far.

Back to what’s happening with The Resistance fleet.

Leia is in a coma, Holdo takes over. Poe disagrees with her strategy – which appears to be just to jump ship and escape the fleet. He thinks it won’t work and it’s cowardly. He attempts a mutiny but gets stunned by Leia who she comes back.

She uses a blaster set to stun. We haven’t seen this since episode 4 – blue rings firing out, rather than red or green laser blasts.

It turns out that Holdo’s plan is not to just escape the ship, but to evacuate to a nearby planet that they’ve been heading for.

Poe wasn’t aware of this because he was demoted.

They plan to escape to Crait where there’s an old rebel base. They can use that as a defensive fortress and can call for support from around the galaxy.

Just as well really, because Finn and Rose’s mission has failed.

Then we discover that DJ has told the FO about this plan to evacuate to Crait and the FO begin attacking the escape vehicles as they head towards Crait. The Resistance is screwed now.

Finn and Rose’s mission to stop the hyperspace tracking has failed and now the FO know about the other plan to escape to Crait and are blowing up the escape transports. Also, at this moment it looks like Rey is about to be executed by Kylo Ren.

Finn and Rose are about to be executed.

Oh yeah and Captain Phasma has turned up too – apparently she didn’t die in Episode 7.

She doesn’t really do much, except being Finn’s nemesis.

Leia and the rest of the Resistance have boarded the escape transports to Crait, but Holdo stays with the main fleet, and when she realises that the escape transports are being attacked she suddenly decides to sacrifice herself and aims the Raddus at The Supremacy (Snoke’s ship) and goes into hyperspace.

WOW – a really mind blowing moment and done really well because the Raddus enters hyperspace and flies at lightspeed through the Supremacy and a bunch of other FO ships causing massive damage and a huge explosion and it’s all done instantly and in total silence, followed by a really cool sound effect.

Silence used to great effect.

The explosion on The Supremacy gives Finn and Rose the chance to avoid being executed and they fight back against Captain Phasma and the storm troopers while the whole hangar bay explodes around them. There are tie fighters falling on the floor and blowing up, AT-AT walkers crashing here and there.

In the midst of all this chaos, Finn and Phasma have a battle and Finn fights with a lot of spirit. Rose shoots Phasma but the blast deflects off her armour. Cool moment.

Phasma appears to have the upper hand in the fight and knocks Finn into a lift shaft, but clearly Phasma hasn’t seen the Original Trilogy – we know that there are moving platforms that go up and down in these shafts and of course Finn hasn’t fallen to his death, he reappears and smashes Phasma in the face, cracking her mask. She says “You’ll always be scum” before falling into an explosion. I doubt that she’s dead. She’s bound to come back next time.

“Rebel scum” – this is the default insult for Rebels or Resistance fighters it seems. Scum is a bit like a dirty layer that floats on the top of old water or something. It’s just a generic insult, but it was used once in Return of the Jedi when an imperial officer said it to Han Solo and it sounded cool – so now the word is used a lot.

These films still trade a lot on nostalgia for the old films, and it works.

Finn and Rose manage to escape the burning ship – how? They’re rescued by BB8 driving a AT-ST “scout walker” thing, which made me go “Yeah, right?!” out loud in the cinema when I first saw it.

People complain that Rey’s character is too perfect and that she can do anything and that this is unrealistic and unfair and some sort of feminist agenda or something, but BB8 (and R2D2 for that matter) is also a perfect character who seems to be able to do anything. He takes out FO guards, he can pilot an AT-ST walker, he can get blown up and assemble himself again, he can fix any problem on an X-Wing – but nobody complains about that.

OK, so now the storylines come together.

The Resistance (Leia, Poe and the few remaining other people) make it to Crait and set up their base there. God knows why it takes the FO so long to attack them here, but it does. Maybe they needed a bit of time to set up all the awesome weaponry that they’re going to use to smash through this big door to this old Rebel base where The Resistance are hiding.

Finn and Rose escape The Supremacy with BB8 and join the Resistance on Crait.

The idea is that The Resistance can defend themselves here, call for help and then wait for the help to arrive.

The thing is, no help comes. None of their allies out in space care. No Lando Calrissian or anyone like that – nobody’s coming to help them. So it’s about a couple of hundred REsistance members vs the FO with their huge AT-M6 walkers.

They have trenches, with some defensive weapons and this huge reinforced door protecting them, and a few very sketchy looking ground fighters, and that’s it.

The FO have a massive battering ram cannon which is “Death Star technology” – basically a smaller version of the Death Star’s big green laser that can blow up planets. This is what they’ll use to break through the door.

The idea is that The Resistance need to somehow destroy the cannon if they stand a chance of surviving.

Now, what about Rey.

Last time we saw her she was locked in a tug of war with Kylo over Luke’s blue lightsabre, which caught in the middle between the two of them, explodes.

Apparently Kylo was knocked out by the explosion and Rey managed to escape in Snoke’s personal ship, and she took the fragments of the light sabre with her.

We see Snoke’s dead body, his tongue sticking out, lying on the floor. Also both his hands were severed when Kylo killed him – this is pretty neat because someone always gets their hand or hands removed in Star Wars films, in this case it was Snoke, but he also lost the whole top half of his body. I wonder if we’ll ever find out Snoke’s back story, but I guess we never learned The Emperor’s backstory in the original films, he was just a powerful old dark side user and that’s it. I think we probably knew more about him than Snoke though, and I admit that we could have used just a little bit more exposition about Snoke – just a bit of detail. I think the hardcore fans are very upset about this, because they spent 2 years coming up with very elaborate theories about his origin – like, he’s Mace Windu, or he’s Darth Plageius (The Emperor’s old master). It seems he’s not that important, and anyway we don’t need an origin story for everyone, do we? I expect there will be a book about him coming out or whatever.

Then General Hux comes into the room and can’t believe what he’s seeing – Snoke is dead, his tongue sticking out and everything. Kylo is still unconscious and Hux actually goes for his gun – he would have killed Kylo in his sleep probably – because they don’t like each other and Hux would probably like to take control of the FO, but Kylo wakes up. They argue and then Kylo force chokes Hux, which is very reminiscent of Darth Vader. Hux capitulates and calls Kylo “Supreme Leader” – “The Supreme Leader is dead – long live The Supreme Leader!” So, Kylo is in charge of the FO now.

So, the confrontation on Crait.

The FO approach the base with the big gun.

The Resistance launch a counter attack with these beaten up old speeder things. There’s almost no way they can win.

The Millennium Falcon turns up at the last minute and helps out by making all the Tie Fighters chase it. This is another big emotional moment, when the Falcon turns up to save the day – or save that particular moment anyway – the music swells (John Williams’ score is brilliant again) – there are some stunning visuals as the Falcon is chased by Tie Fighters through these crystal caves and tunnels under the surface of Crait.

But ultimately, the Resistance mission to destroy the battering ram cannon can’t win and Poe calls it off. This shows us that he’s learned something about leadership and strategy from the beginning of the film.

But Finn doesn’t want to give up and he’s about to sacrifice himself for the Resistance by flying his ship into the cannon in a suicide mission. I was convinced he was going to do it, but at the last minute Rose crashes into him and saves him.

This is a really cheesy moment I have to say.

First of all, you can see from the wide shots as Finn is flying that Rose is nowhere near him – but again, this is a bit like that moment with the detonator button that gets caught by Rose’s sister at the start of the film – movies often break the rules of physics like this – so I’m willing to let it slide. And then there’s the moment where after Rose saves Finn she gives a little speech saying “We don’t do this to destroy the things we hate, we do it to protect the ones we love,” and then she kisses him. So this is a slightly forced romantic moment first of all, but the sentiment is nice. We should protect the things we love rather than destroy the things we hate – and it’s all sweet and good and nice, but I thought about a moment from Episode 3 – a crucial moment when Anakin turns to the dark side. He decides to join Emperor Palpatine precisely because he thinks this is how he’s going to save the one he loves – Padme. He is seduced by the dark side because he wants to prevent Padme from dying. So, it’s all about point of view isn’t it.

Protecting what you love, destroying what you hate – they’re sort of two sides of the same coin aren’t they?

Still, I think the basic message is nice – love conquers hate. I do agree with that. Be careful of doing things for hateful reasons. We should be motivated by love, basically.

But isn’t this a slightly selfish thing for Rose to do? She stopped Finn from potentially saving the entire Resistance just because she personally loves him.

But maybe The Resistance were screwed anyway. I think the point is – we shouldn’t think about this toooooo much. We shouldn’t expect Star Wars to be this perfect flawless thing. As I said before, I think the good things in this film outweigh the bad things

But then again – if you’re angry about this Star Wars film, that’s fine – it’s up to you. I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. Everyone has their own subjective reaction to the film.

So it looks like The Resistance are screwed then.

Somehow Finn manages to fly back to the base or perhaps even drag Rose back there – I’m not sure how, but I dunno, maybe he used some of those trenches or something, or maybe one of the crashed speeders still worked.

Leia looks defeated. She says that hope is lost.

But then Luke Skywalker turns up. There’s an emotional moment when he speaks to Leia – they agree that Kylo wasn’t Luke’s fault, and Luke comforts Leia by giving her a memento of Han Solo – a pair of dice that used to hang in the Millenium Falcon.

Luke then goes out to face the First Order armed with his Light Sabre.

When I saw this I was really excited and yet didn’t know what to expect. Luke said it himself that he couldn’t face the entire FO armed only with a laser sword.

Kylo, in his command ship, orders everyone to fire on Luke, using all their weapons.

The AT-M6 walkers all fire on Luke.

Kylo is enraged – shouting for more more more!

This really is overkill. There’s just a huge cloud of red dust where the lasers are firing.

Hux says “that’s enough” and the guns stop.

Kylo slumps in a seat. He should be satisfied, but he’s not. He’ll probably never be satisfied.

We’re all thinking – surely Luke isn’t dead! And of course he isn’t. He steps out of the cloud of red dust, unscathed. He looks up at Kylo’s ship and even brushes his shoulder dismissively, which is pretty cool.

There’s something strange about Luke. He looks younger. His beard and hair are shorter. He has no dust on him.

Kylo is furious again and instructs his soldiers to take him down to the surface to face Luke.

Kylo says “I suppose you’ve come here to save my soul”
Luke: No.

This was awesome, I can’t really explain why. Also, Mark Hamill in this film is absolutely brilliant. He’s really developed as an actor since the original trilogy.

He ignites his light sabre – and it’s the blue one. Weird, I thought the blue one got split in two when Kylo and Rey were fighting earlier. Kylo doesn’t seem to notice this because he’s in a rage.

He ignites his crackling red light sabre. I love Kylo’s brutal style and the way he stands sort of hunched over. Luke looks really cool in his classic Jedi clothing. Kylo runs at Luke and attacks him but Luke manages to avoid all his attacks. He does some pretty cool moves where he kind of rolls out of the way, making Kylo really angry.

This is not the epic gymnastic light sabre combat from the prequels. This is a lot more about the drama between the two characters. There’s a lot more emotion and feeling in this than in watching Anakin and Obiwan jumping from object to object swinging their lightsabres again and again until you’re emotionally uninvested in the action.

This is much more like a Japanese samurai movie, where the swordplay is brief but intense. In fact Luke looks a lot like a samurai in this scene and that is fantastic. So atmospheric and powerful.

An interesting detail in this fight is that Kylo’s feet leave red marks on the floor where the salt gets disturbed, but Luke’s feet make no impressions on the floor at all. Apparently you can also see salt particles falling from Kylo during the fight, but nothing falling from Luke. Only later do we realise that Luke isn’t really there at all – he’s doing a force projection from Ahch-to and it’s all part of a plan to mentally defeat Kylo while giving the remaining members of the Resistance a chance to escape.

Luke tells Kylo – “today the Resistance is reborn and you can never defeat me.”

He also does some Obiwan Kenobi stuff to him, saying “If you strike me down in anger I’ll always be with you, just like your father.” That’s got to hurt!

Kylo angrily charges at him and swipes his lightsabre at Luke but the blade passes straight through his body.

At the time I was thinking – wow, has Luke been hiding his power all this time? Is he immune to lightsabres? Then I thought, oh wow he’s a force ghost!

Then it’s revealed that the real Luke is meditating on a rock in Ach-to. This whole thing is a force projection!

Luke then says to Kylo – “see you around kid.” and disappears. That’s a Han Solo quote too!

I think what this means is that Luke is going to haunt Kylo as a force ghost – he’s always going to be there and Kylo will never have peace, he’ll always be reminded of how he murdered his own father.

Then Luke disappears and Kylo is in a rage again.

What I like about this:

We don’t get a big light sabre duel, but that makes a change – at least we have some really interesting character-based interaction.
Luke manages to teach Kylo a lesson without using violence.
He only uses defence.
He defeats Kylo mentally.
He sacrifices himself to save the Resistance.
He shows Rey that the force isn’t just about lifting rocks, controlling people’s actions or being really good with a lightsabre – it’s also about introspection and peace.
Also, I like the fact that in the midst of all this fighting, explosions – Luke has learned how to win a battle without using violence.
In fact, I respect Luke’s decision to just go on an island to live like a hermit. At least he’s decided that he’s fed up with the incessant fighting and war. He’s perhaps the only character to say that he’s had enough of the fighting – and isn’t this a sort of logical progression of what he learned while facing the emperor in Episode 6. He threw his lightsabre away and refused to fight or give in to his anger because he is a Jedi.
Don’t blame Luke for choosing to go to that island and for feeling like a failure – he was actually just trying his best to prevent any further catastrophe.
This feels like the true way of the Jedi – from a certain point of view.

Also, he’s demonstrating incredible force power by doing this projection. This is something new that we haven’t seen before. Again, some people are pissed off with this saying “That’s not how the force works!” but honestly I’m glad that we’re seeing some new force powers in this film. It’s about time we had some slightly new things.

By doing this, Luke also manages to create the myth of Luke Skywalker, which will no-doubt be told again and again. He’s accepted his place as a myth and how important and powerful this can be as a way of inspiring new generations to have hope. This is beautiful. Luke has always been a symbol of hope, but he’s a fallible human who couldn’t always live up to his own myth, but he manages at the end to do it in his own way according to how he understands the light side of the force – using defence not attack, without using violence, fighting a mental battle.

Then on Ach-To we see Luke collapse from the strain of doing this massive force projection. He climbs back up onto the rock and stares out across the ocean at the sunset, and it’s two suns.

This made me cry! I couldn’t help it. It just took me straight back to the moment in Episode 4 when Luke was not much more than a boy staring across the desert at the dual sunset – full of aspiration and dreaming of adventure, and that’s how he ends his life. I can’t put it into words really, but this got me right in the feelings. It’s pretty ridiculous I know, but there it is.

Luke then disappears in the same way Obiwan did and Yoda did. He becomes one with the force.

I guess this means that he’ll be back as a force ghost in episode 9. Good – I really like Mark Hamill and I hope to see more from him.

Meanwhile, the last remaining members of the Resistance have worked out that there must be a way to get out through the back of the caves by following the crystal foxes that live there. There’s quite a magical moment where one of the beautiful crystal foxes leads them to a gap at the back, but it’s filled with boulders.

Rey is on the other side – she’s used the tracking device to follow their position from the surface, in the Falcon with Chewie.

She works out that the pile of boulders is blocking them from escaping and she’s going to need to use the force to move them all.

This is a bit ironic because earlier in the film Luke told her that the force isn’t about lifting rocks! But apparently sometimes it is! Of course she manages to lift all the rocks, freeing the last remaining members of the Resistance and they escape in the Falcon. There must be just about 10 people left! But Leia says they have all they need to start again. They’re the spark that will light the fire to burn the First Order down, etc.

We see also that Rey has managed to keep the sacred jedi texts – they’re in a drawer on the falcon. So I suppose this means she can learn the ways of the Jedi properly and maybe she’ll get some help from Luke’s force ghost.

Kylo and Rey have one more force vision before the Falcon leaves. They stare at each other and Rey closes the door – signifying that she’s closing herself off from him, I suppose. But surely the interesting thing going forward will be their relationship. Will she be able to turn him back to the light, or defeat him somehow? Will Kylo turn her to the dark somehow? What’s going to happen to Kylo? I quite like the idea that he’ll be haunted by Luke – a bit like the way Macbeth is haunted by his friend Banquo in the Shakespeare play Macbeth.

In the final scene of the film we see some of the slave kids on Canto Bight – one of them is telling the others the legend of Luke Skywalker – him standing up against the entire First Order. It reminds me of how C3P0 tells the Ewoks the story of the rebellion. The other children are enthralled by the story and seem genuinely inspired. This shows that the legend of Luke Skywalker gives hope to the next generation.

Then the kids are told off by their cruel slave owner boss type guy and one of the kids goes out to sweep the yard. He grabs the broom using a force pull – showing that he is force sensitive, and then he looks up at the stars and sees a distant spacecraft fly across the sky. The End!

I suppose this scene means that:
Anyone can be strong in the force – you don’t have to be part of a specific bloodline
Luke’s legend is an inspiration to the poor, lost or forgotten people
The Resistance is not dead and there’s still hope left in the galaxy
That’s a nice message isn’t it?

So in summary, I found The Last Jedi to be bold in the way it refuses to pander to the fan theories and expectations, brave in the way it pushes the saga forwards by doing some new things and letting some old things die, nuanced in the way it allowed the characters to develop in complex and quite flawed ways, fun in how it included some pretty weird comic moments and just awesome in the way it dealt with several key moments of action that were fuelled more by emotion than by technical skill. I think it’s an intelligent film, a surprising film, it’s one of my favourite Star Wars episodes and I’m looking forward to seeing it again so I can pick up on some more of the subtle details that made it enjoyable.

I have no idea how episode 9 is going to carry on – and I like that feeling.

Apparently JJ Abrams is going to conclude the saga by directing episode 9. JJ is obviously a very competent filmmaker and someone who understands the core appeal of Star Wars but I’m also a little bit worried because JJ has an approach to making films that involves posing lots of mysterious open ended questions rather than by providing satisfying resolutions. Think of Lost, the TV show – it was brilliant at setting up lots of questions and mysteries that kept the audience guessing, but none of those questions and mysteries were adequately explained in the end. I just hope that episode 9 can at least bring some resolution to the story, rather than just leaving it all open to the interpretations of the slightly unhinged fanbase.

I look forward to reading your opinions if you have them.

503. My Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 1)

Talking about the new Star Wars film including the audience reaction, English accents you can hear in Star Wars, and a run-through of the plot with my thoughts about the events and characters. Plot spoilers throughout the episode! Transcript available.

Small Donate Button
[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript (95% complete)

This episode is all about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Some of this stuff that I’m saying is scripted, some parts are not – but if you want to read along with me while I’m talking, which can be a great way to work on your English, see specific phrases I’m using and so on – if you want to read along with me, check out the page for this episode on my website.

In fact there will be two episodes about Star Wars. This one, which is just me talking about the film, going through the plot, giving my thoughts and discussing the audience reactions to the film, and also the next one, which will be a conversation about the film with my brother and my dad. We went to see the film together while they were here at Christmas time and afterwards I managed to record a conversation with the them and you can hear their reactions and some general rambling about it – that’ll be in the next episode.

So, at least 2 episodes about Star Wars. I was wondering if I should devote so much time to this, especially considering that some of you probably aren’t into Star Wars at all. Then I thought to myself – “Well, how do I choose my topics when I know that I can’t please everyone?” Often the deciding factor is – do I want to talk about it myself? Would I want to listen to it? The answer to those questions is yes. When I came out of the cinema in December having just seen this film I just wanted to hear other people’s comments about the film, and I looked for podcasts about it and youtube videos and stuff, and if I was learning English I would definitely like to hear someone talking about this film in English. Certainly for my ideal learning French podcast I would want to hear someone discussing the film in some depth in clear French – I am still yet to find this elusive perfect French version of Luke’s English podcast! And also, you know what? I just really want to talk about Star Wars for a while just because it pleases me to do it. So there you go, that’s my justification for doing these episodes.

SPOILERS

There are spoilers for the film throughout this episode – so if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet, you might want to wait before you listen to this. I’m pretty sure the film has been out for a while in most places. I understand that it came out in China on 5 January – a bit later than in other countries. So I think there’s been enough time now for me to do some spoilers.
If you’re not a fan of Star Wars (which is totally fine of course), I understand that this might not be for you. I don’t expect everyone to be into Star Wars – it’s just something I’ve always enjoyed since childhood. So if you’re just not a Star Wars fan – I totally understand, but you’ll just have to put up with an episode or two about Star Wars this time, or you can just skip them – it’s totally up to you.

If you want to listen to something else from me, like perhaps an episode about vocabulary, or an episode with various jokes, an episode with a mystery adventure story or an episode with grammar and pronunciation questions answered – let me remind you that you can download the LEP App completely free and there you will find at least 7 exclusive app-only episodes that deal with those things specifically.

Just check out the app store, download the LEP app, check the App-Only Episodes category and away you go.

And of course you have the entire episode archive there which you can peruse at your leisure.
But for this one and the next one, it’s all about Star Wars – and if you are a fan, I hope you will enjoy being immersed in the world of Star Wars The Last Jedi for a couple of episodes.
Let me say again very clearly there will be spoilers coming as I am going to talk about exactly what happens in The Last Jedi in quite a lot of detail. Please don’t let me spoil this film for you – even if you’re keen to listen to this new episode I strongly recommend that you wait until you’ve seen the film first.

So, perhaps the people I have left with me now are:
Fans of Star Wars who have already seen the film.
And maybe some other LEPsters who might not be big fans of Star Wars but are just happy to listen to me talking about it, even if it includes plot spoilers.

I should also say that I might lose some more of you when I say that I really liked Star Wars The Last Jedi – not everything, but on the whole I really enjoyed the film and I feel like the good things definitely outweigh the bad things.

I have seen it twice now, and so there’s always a chance that I might change my opinion after seeing it a third time, but I don’t think so.

I said I might lose some more of you when I say that I enjoyed this film and that is because the response to this film has been very divided. Plenty of people like it a lot but having said that plenty of people dislike and even hate this film.

This reaction mainly comes from so-called “hardcore fans” online who are posting very negative reviews on YouTube as well as on film review websites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
But I’m quite a hardcore fan and I loved it.

In terms of my fandom, here is a summary. I grew up with the films. Watched the original trilogy over and over again throughout my life. Watched ROTJ in the cinema. As a teenager I used to have lots of fun speculating about the back story of certain characters and so on. As a child I used to think I was Luke Skywalker, as I’ve said in previous episodes. I was quite obsessive about it growing up. In the 90s and 2000s I saw the prequel films and was disappointed by them. I found them to be badly written and directed, with pretty bland characters and too much CGI. Not everything was bad about the prequels – I like the Darth Maul scenes, the pod-race, the scenes between Obi Wan Kenobi and Jango Fett but that might be it I think. I found the rest of it to be more like a Saturday morning cartoon in places.

More recently I saw reviews of the prequel trilogy on YouTube that cemented my opinion of those films as being rubbish. I’m talking about Mr Plinkett’s reviews, by RedLetterMedia.

Very astute criticisms of the prequels, with some twisted humour thrown in.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the prequel trilogy “ruined my childhood” as some fans have said (and are also saying about The Last Jedi). I think if your childhood can be ruined by a fantasy film that you watch as an adult, then perhaps your childhood was already quite flimsy in the first place. What this phrase really means is that the films spoil the Star Wars franchise, which was such a key part of your upbringing… Anyway, the prequels didn’t ruin my childhood but they did disappoint me a bit.

Then it was announced that more Star Wars movies would be released, after Lucasfilm was taken over by Disney. 2 years ago The Force Awakens was released and I really enjoyed it, even if it was very derivative of the original Star Wars films (episode 4). It basically copied the plot of Episode 4 – but I’m alright with that. I thought it was done in a way that was far closer to the original spirit and aesthetic of Star Wars and that was really pleasing. Also they introduced a few new characters that was interesting.

Also, in 2015 Rogue One was released – a film set just before Episode 4. This was a sort of war movie inspired episode that didn’t have any Jedi or lightsabers, but told the story of how the rebels managed to get the plans to destroy the Death Star. I really enjoyed that too! It feels like Star Wars is good again.

I love reading about fan theories and speculations on forums (like Star Wars Leaks on Reddit) and I do watch lots of dumb YouTube speculation videos about Star Wars, and there were a lot of them released onto YouTube before The Last Jedi came out.
But I like to think that I have my fandom under control. I love the world of Star Wars and I feel invested in the stories, but I try not to expect too much from the films. I remember the prequel trilogy – I used to get my hopes up really high before each film was released and I was disappointed each time.

Also, I know that your enjoyment of these films is largely a question of taste and a question of subjective experience. What makes a bad film for some people makes a good film for others.

The relationship between the fans of Star Wars and the films is very complicated. A lot of people feel very personally invested in this franchise. The fans feel that they own the franchise or that it represents their own personal life, childhood, dreams, imagination and everything.

It’s strange how Star Wars can do that. When it is at its best it manages to touch people in the most personal and profound ways. Also, the level of speculation and theorising among the fans has created such massive expectation from the films that it’s almost impossible to please everyone now, and when a film fails to meet people’s specific vision for the story and characters it can feel like a very personal disappointment.

But I think some fans are expecting too much from Star Wars now. They’ve put it on a pedestal – which is a way of saying that they expect it to be perfect and to live up to their highest expectations all the time. But it’s just a movie franchise and to an extent it’s a children’s movie franchise. I think some people just need to chill out a bit and stop expecting so much from the films. Saying that, there is bound to be someone out there listening to me who disagrees, who says I’m being an apologist, who says there’s no excuse for what they’ve done.
When I read some of the negative reactions, I honestly think – “did we see the same film?” Some people are so angry! It makes me wonder if perhaps there are other things going on, like that these people are not just angry with the film, but they’re angry with what they see as a certain political agenda being expressed through the film. This probably feeds into the ongoing saga of the war between right-wing people (who don’t say they’re right wing) and what they describe as liberal social justice warriors. I see these arguments all the time online in comments sections and so on. The angry ones (whatever their political position) get furious when there’s a suggestion that a film is being used to promote feminism, or to promote ethnic diversity or perhaps animal welfare or environmental issues. A hint of this in a film makes some people really mad. There’s a bit of this in The Last Jedi – some strong female characters, black, asian and hispanic actors in prominent roles, a storyline about animal cruelty… Part of the hatred aimed at SW is fuelled by this stuff.

But also, some people don’t like it because they think it’s bad storytelling, and because of the way some characters are dealt with – particularly Luke Skywalker. A lot of people can’t stand the way he is represented in the film.

Added to that, there’s the humour. Some people have really taken against the moments of humour which they think don’t fit in with the tone of the film as a whole or the whole franchise in general.

I’m talking there about some reasons why the film is disliked by some people – but not everyone of course. Plenty of people like or love this film too although it’s hard to tell what the overall audience reaction has been. I think it’s fair to say that the film is dividing people, particularly the more serious fans.

I don’t know what you thought of The Last Jedi. There are some pretty strong feelings out there. You might disagree with me when I say I like it, but I hope you hear me out on this. Of course the film is not 100% perfect or anything but generally I think there is a great deal to be enjoyed about it.

Story recap

I’d like to now go through the film from start to finish, describe what happens and give my thoughts on each part.
You remember the numbers don’t you?
OT – Original Trilogy (4, 5, 6)
PT – Prequel Trilogy (1, 2, 3)
ST – Sequel Trilogy (7, 8, 9)
Also Rogue One that fits in before episode 4.

The Force Awakens
The Resistance are searching for Luke Skywalker because they need his help. There’s a missing piece of a map hidden inside the droid BB8.
A scavenger girl called Rey finds the droid.
Han Solo and Princess Leia had a son who turned to the dark side.

The Last Jedi – Opening Crawl

How did it feel in the cinema at this point?
I was trying to keep my expectations realistic. I thought – if I expect too much from this I might be disappointed. It’s just a film and ultimately it’s just a space fantasy. It seems silly to invest so much into it.

Having said that, I was really looking forward to getting stuck into some new Star Wars and I had no idea what was coming.

The Lucasfilm logo appeared and I was really trying to just stay calm but I have to admit it was difficult. I felt really nervous.

Star Wars logo + music and I was already getting chills and started welling up. I know it’s a bit pathetic or something, but there it is. Somehow these films just take me directly back to my childhood. It’s like stepping back in time and going straight back to my living room when I was 7 years old and my Dad was younger than I am now and I’d never had any real experiences, I’d never left home, never had my heart-broken, never fallen in love…
I was a bit emotional during this film. I just can’t help it. Also bear in mind that I was watching this while fully expecting my wife to give birth to our baby at any moment. I literally had my phone in my hand and every single vibration I expected was a text from my wife saying that her water had broken. Anyway, I was feeling very emotionally susceptible while watching the film, which is fine – I’m in touch with my feelings, there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
The opening crawl started and it’s impossible not to get excited by this, if you’re a Star Wars fan. For some reason I can never really read it and take it in.

Episode VIII
THE LAST JEDI
The FIRST ORDER reigns.
Having decimated the peaceful
Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke
now deploys his merciless
legions to seize military
control of the galaxy.

Only General Leia Organa’s
band of RESISTANCE fighters
stand against the rising
tyranny, certain that Jedi
Master Luke Skywalker will
return and restore a spark of
hope to the fight.

But the Resistance has been
exposed. As the First Order
speeds toward the Rebel base,
the brave heroes mount a
desperate escape….

The First Order are now in complete control of the galaxy after having blown up the republic with Starkiller Base.
The Resistance are on the run, escaping from their base. The First Order are closing in, with vastly superior weaponry, ships, and so on.
They blow up the base as remaining resistance ships escape, but they’re being pursued by a First Order fleet.
In an effective but costly counterattack led by Poe Dameron, Resistance fighters manage to destroy a First Order dreadnought.
One of the FO officers is played by Ade Edmondson, and all the Brits are delighted.
Admiral Hux is played by Domhnall Gleeson, Irish actor. He really “hams it up”.
First bit of controversial humour. “Holding for Admiral Hugs” etc.
FO officers are pretty incompetent and Gleeson plays a lot of his scenes for laughs – it’s a completely over the top performance. Old fashioned RP, and general frothing at the mouth.

A note about accents:
In SW almost all the Imperial Officers have old fashioned heightened RP accents. This is because this is the accent that Americans associate with an evil old empire – because the British Empire was an evil old empire for the USA. This association still exists – more so in the 70s but still today. Also, it means stuffy formality.
Obi Wan Kenobi also had an old school English accent, but that was to suggest that he came from an era that no longer exists – the old republic. It just fits the character. His British accent gives him class, dignity and suggests that he is more than just a “crazy old man”.
Vader also had a bit of an RP British accent, but this gradually changed into a trans-atlantic American accent. Still old fashioned and formal in tone, but a bit American. That’s just because the voice actor – James Earl Jones – was a classically trained American actor. These great actors really brought a lot of weight and class to the original films and this was repeated in the prequel trilogy. They chose more well trained British actors because they have class. This includes people like Terence Stamp.

In this sequel trilogy (ST), accents are also used to create certain feelings and associations with the characters. The FO officers still speak in old fashioned RP in order to give that sense of old empire (think of the naval officers in Pirates of the Caribbean who speak in a similarly old fashioned way). Supreme Leader Snoke speaks in formal British RP. We don’t know much about him (and I’ll come to that in a bit) but basically he’s a bit like the Emperor – probably very old and powerful and he is the Supreme Leader of the First Order so of course he has the old fashioned English RP accent.

Most of the other characters speak American English though, and this seems to be the default accent for “ordinary person” in the Star Wars universe. This includes Han Solo – a kind of cowboy smuggler flyboy kind of guy, and Luke Skywalker- just a farmer from a desert planet – nobody special (or at least that is the background he has come from).

Also, most of the new characters speak with standard American accents – Finn is just an ordinary guy – quite a low level person since he used to be just a stormtrooper and he speaks with an American accent, although the actor is actually from Peckham in South London. Apparently he auditioned in his normal voice but it just didn’t feel right. He auditioned in an American accent and it just fit the character better. Poe Dameron also has a standard American accent. As I said – ordinary people, rebels, not part of the empire.

But then there’s Rey. She speaks with quite a posh English accent, although not in the formal way that the FO officers speak. She is definitely just a normal person too, and according to this film she is nobody special (unless this is just a trick and in episode 9 they will reveal something special about her, but I don’t think so – again, more on this later). So why does she have this English RP accent? I don’t really know! Perhaps the actress doesn’t do a very good American accent and this is just her normal voice. Perhaps they just wanted to arouse our interest in this character by giving her a distinctive and classy voice, like Obi Wan Kenobi. The fans certainly took this point as a big clue about her origins. A lot of people believed that because she is force sensitive and speaks in a posh English accent that she must be related to other force users with this accent like Obi Wan Kenobi or perhaps even Emperor Palpatine. There are other details that support these fan theories. But apparently her accent doesn’t mean this. But still, it’s interesting to note that although she grew up on an insignificant planet and lived as a scavenger for all her life, she still speaks with quite a posh English accent, when all the people around her on her home planet of Jakku don’t have the same accent. Her slave owner for example (because in TFA she appears to be basically a slave or at least someone who works for food rations rather than money) – her master or boss speaks with a working class cockney English accent.
Just a note on accents there. Next time you watch these films in English, think about that.
Back to the plot.

The Resistance avoid getting blown up by the First Order ships – massive battleships called Dreadnaughts.

Poe Dameron bravely and recklessly flies right up to the FO dreadnaught and does some Top Gun style maverick moves, taking out lots of gun turrets and generally being a brilliant pilot. He clears the way for the Resistance bombers.
WW2 style bombers.

Star Wars always took inspiration from WW2 films.

The bombers are laden with cool-looking round black bombs.

Some people say “but there’s no gravity in space!” – but this is Star Wars not Star Trek. It’s fantasy, not science fiction. If your argument is that it doesn’t make scientific sense then sorry, that’s a bit invalid considering Star Wars has never stood up to scientific scrutiny. It’s an emotional character driven fable set in space in a galaxy far far away a long time ago. It’s more like a greek myth or an episode of Flash Gordon than 2001 A Space Odyssey.
There are some classic moments of Star Wars fighter combat in space, including a fat guy with a beard who instantly dies. This is something that happens in so many Star Wars films, beginning with Episode 4 when a fat bearded pilot called Porkins dies, and it happens again in Episode 7 I think, and then here we go again – a fat bearded pilot buys the farm almost instantly. It’s a running joke. I wonder how the fat bearded guy community feels about this.
Poe is an awesome pilot but an incredible risk taker and he ends up getting most of the Resistance fleet destroyed, except for one lone bomber which somehow manages to get through the FO defences.

Super-dramatic sequence with the last remaining bomber.

This feels like the ending sequence of the film rather than the start.

How could anyone not find this exciting and brilliant?

This is Rose’s sister. She’s a gunner on the bomber. All the other crew have been killed. It’s up to her to drop the bombs. Very dramatic stuff with the trigger button. She falls and the button is on a ledge above her. There’s a suggestion that Leia uses the force to help her. She also holds onto a necklace – the other half belongs to her sister Rose. The button drops down but she seems to miss it. This is executed in a slightly cheesy and cliched way by Rian Johnson. The button clearly drops past her and out of reach but in slow motion we see the button dropping from another angle and her hand comes from nowhere to grab it.

It’s exactly the same thing that happens in Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise when he is in a high security room trying to steal some classified information or something. He’s suspended from the ceiling and a bead of sweat drops from his forehead. If it touches the floor, he’s dead basically. The bead of sweat falls and is definitely going to land on the floor but his hand comes in and stops it at the last minute. The magic of the movies, right?

Some people probably found that annoying, but it’s just a trick that’s been used in countless other movies. Movies always play with time, they slow it down, speed it up, use different angles and so on in order to raise the tension. The worst you can say about this sequence is that it’s a cliche. I personally found it to be good old fashioned dramatic tension and the moment when she presses the button and the bombs drop onto the dreadnaught very satisfying. Massive explosion and the dreadnaught is destroyed, although at great cost to the Resistance.

That was a really exciting sequence. I didn’t mind the jokey dialogue between Poe and Hux. I love the way the FO officers are quite ridiculous. I always found that funny in Star Wars anyway.
But there is a hell of a lot of war in this film. Of course – it’s Star Wars. But I remember James saying in another episode that we did about Star Wars once – will this war ever end? Probably not. It’s going to go on and on forever. It’s a pity that this is all about war and that this is great entertainment for us. War as entertainment. That’s a bit of a pity. You see it a lot in other films too, like Avengers Infinity War for example. War war war – explosions and explosions.
The Resistance fleet jumps into hyperspace and escapes, for now.
Poe gets told off by General Leia who demotes him.
Poe’s character arc in this film is that he has to learn how to develop from a reckless if brilliant fighter pilot to a strategic and inspiring leader of the Resistance.
One of the complaints about the film is that none of the characters develop. I disagree. Most of the characters have clear character arcs.
Hux gets told off by Supreme Leader Snoke who throws him around the room and drags him across the floor using the force.
So, I think Hux is summoned to Snoke’s throne room along with Kylo Ren.
Snoke is really pissed off but Hux reveals that they are actually tracking the Resistance through hyperspace – something that wasn’t possible before – hyperspace tracking.
Some fans are pissed off about this – that it’s a new thing that’s come from nowhere but this was mentioned v quickly in Rogue One, so there it is – it’s not completely out of the blue that this is possible.
This kind of gets him off the hook with Snoke.
Then Hux leaves Snoke alone with Kylo Ren who is still wearing his mask from episode 7.
This is a cool scene.
Snoke bullies Kylo – explains how he’s disappointed, how he’s lost faith in him, how he is still conflicted despite having killed Solo. He said when he found him he thought he had so much potential and raw power and that he could be the new Darth Vader but he’s just a boy in a mask who got beaten by a girl. To be fair to Kylo he had been shot when he took on Rey, but still. Snoke really makes him feel small and useless. Snoke is manipulating him but in a very cruel way.
He basically slaps him down. In fact he gives him a jolt of force lightning. Kylo stands up defiantly and Snoke shocks him quickly sending him flying backwards. I suppose to teach him a lesson – like a cruel parent or something. When this happens we see Snoke’s power used casually and also his guards quickly adopt fighting positions when Kylo stands and then return to their original positions after a couple of seconds. These guards look badass and cool, and better than the Imperial Guards that (badly) protected Emperor Palpatine in the original films.
Snoke looks amazing.
Kylo feels utterly humiliated and furious at this point.
Adam Driver’s performance is great.
It’s understated, except for the moments when he flies into a rage. We don’t quite know what’s going on inside him, except for subtle looks he gives, subtle changes in his expression which suggest that he’s feeling hurt, angry, determined, impatient, calculating. He’s a bit of an enigma. He never blinks in the film, I think. He never quite reveals his hand.
I feel sympathy towards him, considering how Snoke bullies him, builds him up and knocks him down.
I actually think he’s a bit more interesting than just a guy in a mask. Vader is of course a brilliant villain, but he’s also really ridiculous. The helmet is a bit over the top.
Kylo removes the mask and this is a good idea – in terms of the film making. It allows us to see Adam Driver’s performance. I like the way he is mostly quite blank in his expression – it’s hard to read him. Then at certain key moments we see the conflict inside him.
I like the fact that we never really know which way he is going. Is he turning good or bad? Or is it possible that he’s going in a completely new direction – against The Resistance & Luke Skywalker but also against Snoke who is using and abusing him?
Kylo is upset and very angry – not only does he remove the mask but he destroys it against the wall of the lift. He smashes it to pieces. This guy is calm and expressionless one minute and completely unhinged the next minute and I love that.
He orders his ship to be made ready.
The Resistance are just licking their wounds from the bomber run on the dreadnaught. Poe is feeling gutted that he’s been demoted.
Finn wakes up inside his bacta tank thing – some sort of medical body suit he’s been wearing while recovering. There’s a bit of comedy when he walks out of the medical ward wearing this ridiculous suit with pipes sticking out of it and liquid going everywhere. It looks pretty dumb, but it doesn’t really do any harm to the film or to Finn. Just a slightly goofy moment. Poe sees him and kind of fills him in on the plot.
I think at this point the First Order ships suddenly jump out of hyperspace right behind the Resistance and The Resistance are shocked to discover that the First Order have somehow tracked them through hyperspace.
The thing is, The Resistance are a certain distance ahead of the First Order ships – just out of range of the FO’s big weapons. I admit that this part of the plot is quite contrived. We now have a sort of standoff, or a low-speed chase in which the FO can’t get any closer because their big ships aren’t quite fast enough and The REsistance ships are relying on their shields and their mobility to keep out of range of the FO’s guns.
I don’t know why the FO can’t just do a really quick hyperspace jump so they’re immediately behind The Resistance ships and then use their big weapons. I don’t really understand why the FO ships aren’t faster and why their big weapons have such a short range – but honestly, I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter that much to me. The situation is this – the FO decide to play the long game. They’re convinced that eventually The Resistance will run out of fuel and then their shields will fail and they’ll fall within range and the FO will be able to destroy them. They also know that The Resistance can’t escape through hyperspeed. So they wait. That’s good enough for me! It shows the arrogance and cruelty of the FO – enjoying the feeling that they have the upper hand and perhaps even relishing the dominance of their position.
In terms of the film it allows other things to happen in the meantime and works as a kind of ticking clock device, which is really common in many films. A ticking clock or ultimatum which gives a sense of urgency to everything that happens. The protagonists have to hurry because they’re running out of time.
Kylo then goes out on an attack run against The Resistance with a few other FO fighters.
First time we’ve seen Kylo in his own Tie Fighter. It’s a bit like Vader’s tie fighter or perhaps the fighter flown by Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. Kylo also does some spinning, which is something Anakin was known for doing in the prequels. It’s quite a nice touch since Kylo is Anakin’s grandson.
Kylo destroys a lot of The Resistance x-wing fighters in the hanger on their ship The Raddus.
Loads of Resistance pilots die.
Kylo is a badass pilot. He flies past the bridge of The Raddus, where his mother Admiral Leia is situated. There’s a cool moment when the two of them obviously become aware of each other through the force. Kylo is planning to blow up the bridge, killing everyone, including his mother, but he pauses and seems to be wrestling with inner conflict. We see Leia perhaps reaching out using the force. This is a great emotional moment and really good performances by both Adam Driver and Carrie Fisher. A lot of emotion is shown in their faces. Kylo doesn’t shoot his missiles into the bridge. He can’t kill his mother, apparently. Maybe Leia is using the force to control his mind or something, or perhaps Kylo hasn’t become completely dark yet and the light part of him has mercy on her. It’s interesting anyway – to see his conflict and to consider where his loyalties really lie – with Snoke or with Leia. We don’t really know, but he doesn’t launch his missiles in any case. However, the two tie-fighters by his side do shoot their missiles and the bridge is blown up – sending everyone hurtling out into space, including Leia.
Kylo is then told to return to the FO fleet and he seems frustrated – perhaps because his mother has just been blown up, or because he resents being given orders by General Hux. At this moment I feel like he’s going to turn back to the light side, or at least that he’s not completely loyal to Snoke and the FO. This conflict is really interesting and I don’t see why some people don’t see this as a really positive point about the film. Trying to work out Kylo Ren is fascinating.
I reckon the best things about this film are the inner conflicts in the main characters. There is depth, contradiction, failure, confusion and pain in these characters, and the film shows this to the audience, rather than explaining it in really clumsy dialogue like you get in the prequel films.
Kylo flies back to the FO fleet.
Then perhaps the most controversial and weird moment in this film happens. This is the one that a lot of people really don’t like.
This is the end of part 1.
Part 2 – coming soon.

502. The Birth of My Daughter

Talking about the birth of my baby daughter, including accounts of the main events and how it all felt. Listen carefully for descriptive vocabulary for describing emotions and feelings as well as the language of childbirth previously explained in episodes 491 and 492.

Small Donate Button
[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Welcome to the podcast, happy new year. I hope you had a good one wherever you are, however you chose to celebrate it – whether you went out to a party, saw some fireworks or something, or simply chose to stay in and just read a book on your own – whatever you did, I hope you enjoyed it and that now you’re ready to get stuck into 2018 with some positivity, determination and some hope in your heart even if you are still recovering from your night of celebrations on new year’s eve.

Here’s the first episode of LEP in 2018.

I’ve chosen to make this a personal episode of the podcast.

Our baby daughter has finally arrived. She’s absolutely adorable (but I would say that of course) and my wife and I both feel extremely lucky, very grateful and proud. I tweeted about this, put a post on FB about it and also wrote something in the comment section just to let my listeners know – because I feel that quite a lot of you were keen to get updates since you’ve been following this news since I talked about it in episode 474.

This is what I wrote on FB and Twitter:

The response I got was amazing (to me). Hundreds of people wrote lovely messages of congratulation and the post got over 1000 likes on Facebook. Thank you for the lovely messages.

I was wondering whether I’d talk about this on the podcast. After all, this is a podcast which is ostensibly about learning English and not about all the details of my personal life. I don’t want this podcast to become some sort of reality show, and it won’t be.

But I have decided that perhaps I should talk about this very personal experience here on the podcast in at least one episode.

Let me explain why…

I was listening to Olly Richards Podcast on my way home from the hospital – perhaps one or two days after the baby was born. My wife was in the hospital with our brand new daughter and I was going back to our flat to tidy it up, wash some baby clothes, warm the place up and prepare it for the arrival of the baby and my wife but also my parents and my brother. It would be the first time our daughter had come home, having spent the first few days of her life in a room in the maternity ward in hospital – in safe surroundings, with midwives and nurses available around the clock, with all the care she needed – and I was suddenly aware (much more intensely aware I should say) that I needed to make our flat a proper nest for this little creature to be comfortable, warm and safe. I was aware of the importance of this before of course, and we had already done a lot of things in the Flat to get it ready – my wife’s nesting instinct had kicked in months before, but mine was only really kicking in now as the baby had arrived. So I was heading back, leaving the two girls in the hospital ward, which was the whole world as far as the baby was concerned. Feeling pretty raw and lots of emotions. Virtually sleepless night. You know how it is. I decided to listen to something and picked an episode of I will teach you a language with Olly Richards featuring a fascinating interview with Stephen Krashen. He’s a celebrated linguist and the guy behind language acquisition theory.

Olly and Stephen were talking about how people learn languages. Krashen was giving the benefit of his extensive experience and research into the subject. He’s been searching for the answer to this question for years. How do we learn languages? What are the best habits we can adopt? What can language teachers do to help?

He’s convinced that he has the answer and it’s all to do with comprehensible input – exposing yourself to lots of English (in this case) that you can understand (mostly) and that is motivating to listen to. He was particularly enthusiastic about stories. Search for interesting stories. Listen to people telling stories. Find stories in which you want to know what happens next.

He was very convincing about it.

You can listen to the interview on Olly’s Podcast.

“I Will Teach You A Language – Episode 220: Stephen Krashen Interview”

In my sleep deprived and emotional state I felt totally open to what he was saying and it struck me as being so true.

I thought of some of my best English lessons that I’ve taught and I realised that many of them included stories – not just stories in textbooks or whatever, but stories about personal experiences. Telling the students a funny personal story. Having them try to retell the story, write it down, test each other, creatively think of ways to continue the story with their own ideas, and giving them chances to tell their own similar stories. They’ve always been great lessons.

And I thought of times I’ve told stories on the podcast – like travelling experiences or episodes of the lying game. I like those episodes.

Then I thought about this episode which I felt I had to do – trying to explain what it’s like to bring a child into the world. And i thought – I’ll just try and tell it like a story, starting from the pregnancy and then going through the different stages of what happened and how they felt.

Then I started preparing some notes for it, sitting on the sofa and I asked my wife to help me with some ideas and then I just thought – why don’t I just interview her about the experience?

I’ve never had my wife on the podcast before as you know but it just made sense for her to be in this episode because after all she’s the one who did all the work in this birth and she seemed up for talking about it, and so why not just let her tell the story with me?

So, that’s what you’re going to hear – two proud parents describing the birth of their first child. I hope you find it to be interesting and that it’s not too cheesy or sentimental or anything.

So we’re going to start at the beginning (not the moment of conception, we won’t be talking about that) but we’ll start somewhere during the pregnancy and we’ll try and tell you our experience from then to now.

Hopefully this will be an engaging story that will help you learn English according to Stephen Krashen’s theory – remember you can listen to the episodes called Becoming a Dad which I recorded with Ben and Andy – that’s where you’ll find vocabulary explanations for many of the words and phrases relating to this subject.

Hopefully this will also just get across to you the weird and wonderful mix of feelings and emotions that are involved in what is a very significant moment in anyone’s life, in this case mine and my wife’s and of course our daughter’s.

Here we go…

**Conversation**

Outtro

So that was my wife on the podcast for the first time. I hope you enjoyed listening to it and that you managed to follow the whole thing.

Let us know in the comment section what you think.
Feel free to share your own experiences if you have any – that could be a good way to practise your writing a bit. Have you had children? What was it like to you? Was your experience similar to ours, or different?
Do you have any advice for us as new parents?

If you have questions about any of the language which came up, you could ask those questions in the comment section.

If you ever do that – ask specific questions about words or phrases you’ve heard – it really helps if you put a time code with your question – e.g. what did Luke say at 45:30?

It’s nice to be back on the podcast and I’m really looking forward to posting more new episodes in the coming year.

2018 will be the 9th year I’ve been doing this podcast.

Don’t forget to download the LEP app – it’s available in the app store. That’s where you can find some app-only episodes, and also some bonus content for a lot of the episodes. For example, for episode 501 the bonus content is a little video in which I show you one of the presents I received for Christmas.

Also, you should join the mailing list in order to get an email whenever I post something on the website – that’s usually a new podcast episode, but sometimes it’s other content – like for example a couple of weeks ago I posted an episode of The Earful Tower Podcast with Oliver Gee in which Oliver and I recorded a conversation about the Paris Metro while riding the Paris metro. You can find that in the episode archive on my website, but if you’re a mailing list subscriber you’ll already know about it, right?

OK, that’s it for this episode, I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon. But for now, it’s time to say good-bye!