LAST FLAG FLYING quick review

Well this is going to be rich. A man known for his comedy, a man known for his drama, and a man known for his red and blue pills sharing a movie. I can think of worst movies to see.

So… apparently, this movie is considered to be a spiritual sequel to the film, THE LAST DETAIL (1973), starring Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid. I have no idea what this movie is. I honestly don’t know what a “spiritual sequel” is, I know what it’s trying to mean, but if you want to make a sequel to something, make a sequel to it. Who cares anymore? Cate Blanchett did it with her two Elizabeth movies, and Judi Dench did it with her two Queen Victoria movies. Well, I guess Nicholson’s retired now, but it’s possible to get a sequel up in the air with different talent behind the wheel. It happens, doesn’t it?

Speaking of which, here’s the talent. Starring, we have Steve Carell (BATTLE OF THE SEXES [2017], EVAN ALMIGHTY [2007], 8 episodes of THE DANA CARVEY SHOW [1996], and upcoming films THE WOMEN OF MARWEN [2018] and BACKSEAT [2018]), Bryan Cranston (POWER RANGERS [2017], LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE [2006], 5 episodes of SEINFELD [1989 – 1998], and upcoming films THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017] and ISLE OF DOGS [2018]), and Laurence Fishburne (JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 [2017], FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER [2007], EVENT HORIZON [1997], A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS [1987], and upcoming films WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE [2018] and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Richard Linklater, known for EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (2016), A SCANNER DARKLY (2006), DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993), and the upcoming WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE. Linklater’s partner-in-pen, who is also the writer of the book this movie is based on, is Darryl Ponicsan, and RANDOM HEARTS (1999). Composing the score is Graham Reynolds, known for BERNIE (2011), A SCANNER DARKLY, and the upcoming WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE. Finally, the cinematographer is Shane F. Kelly, known for EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, BOYHOOD (2014), A SCANNER DARKLY, and the upcoming WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE.

Overall, I think this could be pretty good. It’s probably going to be emotional with some solid comedy. We shall see.

This is my honest opinion of: LAST FLAG FLYING

(SUMMARY)

Set in 2003. Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell), a former navy medic who served in the Vietnam War, recently lost his only son in the war in Iraq. In his grief, he’s set out to find his old army buddies, the eccentric and fun-loving Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and the former gambler-now-preacher Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) to join him in seeing his son buried in Arlington as they question military life then and now and what it means to each man.

(REVIEW)

I liked it. I really liked it, actually.

First and foremost, the trio of actors are fantastic. The scene stealers are Cranston and Fishburne. Some of the best scenes in the movie are these two characters duking it out. Sal is basically a dick. But he’s that dick who’s hilarious and kind of awesome. He loved being a Marine back in the day, but injuries kept him out of the service. And Richard was once a hardcore gambler, probably on the same crazy level as Sal, but has since become a man of God and has simmered his temperament. So when he, a devout Christian, starts butting heads with Sal, a die-hard Atheist, the result is incredibly enjoyable. The chemistry between all three actors is amazing to be sure, but Cranston and Fishburne are positively hilarious together. Ultimately, that’s what really carries this movie to the bittersweet end.

On a side note, I’ve mentioned that there is a religious undercurrent going on in the story, conflicting beliefs going on. While I can’t say that I’ve seen a great ton of religious films, a majority of the ones that I’ve seen don’t seem to understand their own ideologies. I find it hilarious that this movie, probably more of a military drama than anything else, has a better understanding of who Christians and Atheists are and how they would really interact with each other.

I think I have only one real complaint about the movie, and honestly, maybe there’s a Marine reading this review and can clarify something for me. In the movie, Doc visits the base where his son is in his closed casket. When he decides that the circumstances of his death weren’t noble, he insists that his son be taken back to his hometown and buried next to his mother in a normal cemetery. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Wilits (Yul Vazquez) seemed unnaturally against the idea. Okay, so it was decided that Doc’s son’s death overseas was reason enough to be honored with burying him in Arlington. Okay, I get it, that’s a big deal. But this LtCol guy seems to think that a Marine is disgraced if that person is buried anywhere other than Arlington. Is… that true. I mean, okay, there’s a lot of context that I didn’t put in here, so maybe it’s best to watch the scene in question, but I don’t think Marines would be this mean-spirited about it. Ultimately, I don’t think Marines get to choose where their men and women are buried if the parents have other ideas or plans. Maybe they can offer a reason why Arlington is such an honored place to be buried, but if minds are made up, they don’t get a voice anymore, morally or legally, no matter how much they agree. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe this is something the Marines can make a fuss over. I’d love to know. But I highly doubt it.

But more fundamentally, I don’t like how this movie kind of shoehorned a “bad guy” in. It’s not necessary. The three men discussing life in the military when they were in the service, and comparing and contrasting to that life today, their religious beliefs, and Doc’s grief over the tragic loss of his son, you’d think all of these things alone would be enough conflict. The clashing of opposing opinions and ideas of these strong-willed and stubborn men, and how they manage to get along with each other, it sort of seemed like it was handled well enough on its own. Why did they need an asshole Marine in the mix? Seemed pretty pointless to me.

In retrospect, these are small problems and aren’t lingered on for too long. They’re just momentary question marks for me in an otherwise very emotional film full of laughs and ideas to make you think. I think it’s worth checking out. I’m not sure if it’s still in theaters, so when it comes out on Blu-Ray, I highly recommend a rental. While I don’t know how actual military personnel would react to this movie, I think it’s effective enough for the common man. The last mission of these men is full of laughs and emotion that will stick with you.

My honest rating for LAST FLAG FLYING: 4/5

LFFPOSTER

Advertisements

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS review

Ah, A Christmas Carol. The timeless story about a Christmas grump who learns the value and meaning of Christmas by confronting his mean-spirited choices of his past, present, and possible future with the help of a trio of ghosts. It’s a wonderful story with tons of movies that showcase something different. Some more timeless than others, but they’re here and they’re always a treat around the holidays.

Surprisingly though, there’s ironically no movie about the man who created the original novel in the first place, Charles Dickens. Weirdly enough, these past few months have strangely been about authors of beloved literary classics. A.A. Milne of Winnie the Pooh (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2017]) and J.D. Salinger of Catcher in the Rye (REBEL IN THE RYE [2017]). I guess it’s just been that kind of year. But who cares, so long as the story is good? Actually, this movie is something of a joke waiting to happen. It’s a movie adaptation… of a book… about the author… who writes a book. I may not be laughing out loud, but on the inside, I can’t help but bust a gut.

The story looks like it’s about Dickens not at his career best as an author. In hopes of creating a new story that will put him back in the spotlight. Creating an imaginary Ebenezer Scrooge to communicate with, he slowly, but surely, creates the novel, A Christmas Carol.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Dan Stevens (MARSHALL [2017], A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES [2014], THE FIFTH ESTATE [2013], and the upcoming APOSTLE [2018]), living legend Christopher Plummer (THE STAR [2017], THE LAKE HOUSE [2006], TWELVE MONKEYS [1995], DRAGNET [1987], THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING [1975], THE SOUND OF MUSIC [1965], and upcoming films ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD [2018] and THE LAST FULL MEASURE [2018]), Jonathan Pryce (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END [2007], TOMORROW NEVER DIES [1997], BRAZIL [1985], 12 episodes of TV show GAME OF THRONES [2011 – ongoing], and the upcoming THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE [2018]), and Morfydd Clark (LOVE & FRIENDSHIP [2016] and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES [2016]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Bharat Nalluri, known for MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY (2008) and THE CROW: SALVATION (2000). Penning the screenplay is Susan Coyne, making her feature-film debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Mychael Danna, known for THE BREADWINNER (2017), BILLY LYNN (2016), and SURF’S UP (2007). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Smithard, known for GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, BELLE (2013), and THE TRIP (2010).

Overall, I wasn’t expecting this to be a comedy, but I’m highly open to it. It looks enjoyable, beautiful sets and production value, and Stevens looks like he’s going to be incredibly fun to watch as this eccentric writer who gets all these ideas. I think I’m going to like this a lot.

This is my honest opinion of: THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1843. Famed and celebrated author, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens), has sadly hit a low point. After writing Oliver Twist, he wrote two more stories that were not as successful. Desperate to not let his career die, as well as being low on money and a fifth child on the way with his wife Kate (Morfydd Clark), so a successful book is a must and soon. Then an idea strikes: a short comedy that celebrates Christmas and what it means, even though Christmas isn’t a big holiday. The trouble is, he has to write it in less than a month and he has no idea what to write.

(REVIEW)

I liked it. It’s actually a really interesting story and for a movie based on true events, it’s a refreshing approach compared to most. For one thing, it’s primarily a comedy. Not that I’m saying true stories haven’t been comedies before, but usually they’re dramas or have a mix of drama and comedy. I feel like this movie had comedy in the forefront.

At the center of that comedy is a surprisingly charismatic performance by Stevens. While I can’t say what Charles Dickens’ personality really was, I can’t deny that I loved the interpretation here. Dickens is like this lovable mad genius if he was a writer of whimsical fantasies. He’s loaded with energy and wonderful comedic timing. I love how he is with his children, changing the way he interacts with them as individuals, the way he gets excited when he learns of the word “humbug,” his physicality as he tries to invent Scrooge the character, it’s all incredibly fun to watch. I also really enjoyed his interactions with his young Irish nanny, Tara (Anna Murphy), who seems incredibly into his work and how he runs his ideas past her. I enjoy watching her get excited and then he gets excited, constantly feeding into each other’s imaginations and passions. And thank God this didn’t become some kind of love affair. I could have easily seen this relationship go that route, but no, it was mercifully restrained. Then again, I’m pretty sure Tara, and by extension Murphy herself, are teenagers, so it’s probably silly to worry that the story would have allowed something that creepy. But more than just Charles being funny and enjoyably eccentric, his dramatic side shines as well. I guess at the time, poverty was considered closer to a disease than a societal worry (I said, as if anything’s really changed), but he has a burning passion to tell the stories of orphaned children or homeless people. Mostly because he was one as a boy thanks to a less than careful father who got in trouble with the law. He defends them, wishes to help them at every given turn despite the criticism he gets from his wealthy peers who think that it’s a wasted subject.

But I think on a more personal level, I love this interpretation of a writer. The talking to oneself, the talking to the characters that aren’t supposed to be there, but his imagination is so vivid and real to him that he has full-on conversations with them. He’s not crazy, as he does snap back to reality when someone talks to him. As an occasional writer myself, I can say that this is also my creative process. Though to be fair, his method is more productive. The more he interacts with his imagination, the more progress he makes in his writing. I just distract myself and get nothing done. In any case, there is that psychological element that I

Oh and seriously, Plummer is probably my favorite Scrooge I’ve ever seen. Probably not saying much, considering that I’ve not seen many. Yeah, quick side note, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire movie of A Christmas Carol before. I know there’s a crap ton that exist. THE MUPPET’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992), the ImageMover’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2009), and I think there’s a not-so-good one that was made for TV that starred Whoopi Goldberg as Scrooge. These are the ones I remember wanting to see the most as a kid. Again, there’s countless interpretations, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one all the way though. Either way, I know what Scrooge is supposed to be like and I think Plummer needs a proper shot in the role. But if this is all we’re going to get, which is likely, then you won’t hear me complaining much. In fact, some of my favorite scenes and moments are when Charles is talking to Scrooge. Watching Scrooge berate and belittle Charles as he attempts to write, being both an influence and an obstacle for the book.

But as with most movies, it isn’t perfect. In fact, there’s quite a few question marks that I had.

For one thing, if the Dickens household is low on income, why are they still going for the lavish extremities, like chandeliers and even more hired hands? One would think they’d have to get rid of a few things to make ends meet. It’s even more confusing when the prices for their stuff is told to them as it arrives and is being put up, and they’re taken by surprise. Did no one bother to ask how much something cost? You’d think if you were low on funds, that’d be the first thing you’d worry about.

As much as I enjoy the connection between Charles and Tara, their relationship does beg me to ask one simple question. Why her? Why does Charles share his passion with the nanny and not, say, his wife? As it stands, Kate has very little character to her as it stands, other than to be the wife who accepts her creatively tormented husband, but that’s been done to death. Already, the accuracy of this relationship can be put on trial, so why not nick the nanny character and replace her with the wife? One would think she’d have a more impactful role, but she really doesn’t.

And as much as I love Charles’ presented creative process here, there is one scene that sort of subverted reality. While I’m certainly no stranger to talking to myself in a public setting, I talk under my breath. If you stare at me long enough, it’s obvious I’m doing it, but I do make some attempt at keeping it inconspicuous. It’s only in the privacy of my home and bedroom where I engage in full-on writer mode. In the scene in question, Charles is walking along the streets, having a full on conversation, out-loud, with Scrooge as if that man really was walking beside him. To make matters even more confusing, no one walking by him looks at him like he’s crazy. It would have been warranted. This is the only time where I think reality was blurred and bothered me.

Overall, despite the few problems, I enjoyed this film. Perhaps I’m a little bias, considering it’s about a writer and I’m a sucker for movies about writers. I love Steven’s performance, I love Charles and his creative process as a writer, and I adored many of the character connections. It’s a very heartfelt and interesting story and I really think everyone should give it a shot. It’s probably not in theaters anymore, as of this review’s publishing, but when it comes out on Blu-Ray, I highly recommend a rental. It’s a good flick to enjoy around the holidays. I wouldn’t necessarily buy it or anything, but it’s worth watching. It may not be a modern classic, but I think it’s a modern hit.

My honest rating for THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS: 4/5

tmwic_poster

STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI review

And life is getting just a little bit better.

Star Wars, one of the biggest franchises to ever hit the cinemas continues with the latest installment of its eighth core-story. Boy howdy does this have some excitement building up for it and for good reason. Mark Hamill is returning to the franchise after a brief cameo in FORCE AWAKENS (2015) and now looks to be a pretty central character, furthering the path of Rey, Carrie Fisher’s final completed performance, may she rest in peace, and the hopes that this movie will be taken somewhere completely different from where we’ve seen the movies go before. After all, FORCE AWAKENS had a ton of repeated elements from the previous films, so it’s has to have some measure of originality to it. Not that it’s a huge complaint, as it was more or less trying to make up for the ill-received prequel trilogy, but now that the repeat is mostly gone, let’s see what this next entry has in store for us.

I’ve largely avoided trailers for this movie, so I really have no idea what it’s about. Thank God, ‘cuz I want to go in blind. All I know is that Rey is training to use the Force, and Luke’s had a change of heart regarding the existence of the Jedi. Very curious to see where that came from.

Let’s take a gander at the on-screen talent. Starring, we have break-out actress, Daisy Ridley (MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017], STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, and upcoming films PETER RABBIT [2018] and OPHELIA [2018]), Star Wars veteran and voice-actor legend, Mark Hamill (BRIGSBY BEAR [2017], BATTLE FOR TERA [2007], STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE [1977], and the upcoming CON MAN [2018]), the late, the great, the sorely missed, Carrie Fisher (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, AUSTIN POWERS [1997], STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, and upcoming final film, WONDERWELL [2017]), Adam Driver (THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES [2017], WHILE WE’RE YOUNG [2014], J. EDGAR [2011], and upcoming films THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE [2018] and TOUGH AS THEY COME [2018]), and mocap legend, Andy Serkis (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES [2017], THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY [2012], video game HEAVENLY SWORD [2007], and upcoming films THE JUNGLE BOOK [2018] and BLACK PANTHER [2018]).

Returning Star Wars veterans, we have Anthony Daniels (STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE [2016], STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, video game STAR WARS MONOPOLY [1997], and upcoming film RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018] and TV show STAR WARS: UNDERWORLD [2018]), Tim Rose (STAR WARS: FORCE AWAKENS, HOWARD THE DUCK [1986], and STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI [1983]), and Warwick Davis (STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX [2007], STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI, and the upcoming SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY [2018]).

Returning talent includes, John Boyega (DETROIT [2017], STAR WARS: FORCE AWAKENS, ATTACK THE BLOCK [2011], and the upcoming PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]), Oscar Isaac (SUBURBICON [2017], THE BOURNE LEGACY [2012], THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES [2007], and upcoming films LIFE ITSELF [2018] and ANNIHILATION [2018]), Domhnall Gleeson (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2017], THE REVENANT [2015], ABOUT TIME [2013], and the upcoming PETER RABBIT [2018]), Lupita Nyong’o (QUEEN OF KATWE [2016], STAR WARS: FORCE AWAKENS, 12 YEARS A SLAVE [2013], and the upcoming BLACK PANTHER), and Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd (STAR WARS: FORCE AWAKENS, and TV shows AMERICAN HORROR STORY [2011 – ongoing] and SCREAM QUEENS [2015 – 2016], and the upcoming BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB [2018]).

New blood includes Veronica Ngo (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY [2016] and the upcoming BRIGHT [2017]), modern greats Laura Dern (WILSON [2017], I AM SAM [2001], JURASSIC PARK [1993], and upcoming films JT LEROY [2017] and DOWNSIZING [2017]), Benicio Del Toro (SICARIO [2015], THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE [2007], BASQUIAT [1996], and upcoming films SOLDADO [2018] and AVENGER: INFINITY WAR [2018]), and in an unspecified role, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (SNOWDEN [2016], HAVOC [2005], and ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD [1994]).

A couple of rumored cameos include Justin Theroux (LEGO NINJAGO [2017], MIAMI VICE [2006], I SHOT ANDY WARHOL [1996], and the upcoming THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME [2018]) and Tom Hardy (DUNKIRK [2017], MARIE ANTOINETTE [2006], 2 episodes of TV show BAND OF BROTHERS [2001], and upcoming films VENOM [2018] and MAD MAX: THE WASTELAND, no release date announced).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Helming the project and penning its screenplay is Rian Johnson, known for LOOPER (2012), THE BROTHERS BLOOM (2008), and BRICK (2005). Composing the score is the living legend himself, John Williams, known for THE BFG (2016), STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005), THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997), EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), and upcoming films THE POST (2018) and STAR WARS EPISODE IX (2019). The cinematographer is Steve Yedlin, known for SAN ANDREAS (2015), LOOPER, and BRICK. Finally, the film’s editor is Bob Ducsay, known for TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (2016), VAN HELSING (2004), and STAR KID (1997).

I know I’m going to love this, but here’s what I’m hoping for out of this movie. I don’t want to see Kylo Ren be a whiny little child throwing temper tantrums. I want to see him calm, cool, and collected this time around. I want to see him work well with General Hux. I want to see Leia actually be a general and dish out battle tactics. I’m not expecting her to use the Force, but that’d be a bonus. I don’t want to see Luke be emo. I don’t mind brooding, but it better be for a reason. A good reason. I want an explanation for the relationship between the Republic and the Resistance. Where did the First Order come from? I can do without an explanation for Snoak and his identity. A lot of teasing about Rey’s family, so that’d be nice. A good lightsaber fight at the end would be nice as well. Like something along the lines of the prequel films. No more giant planet-destroying death balls! Please! Pretty please! I don’t want to see Finn asleep through half the movie.  He’s a former stormtrooper, come on, he has to have knowledge of the First Order and its inner workings that he can give to the Resistance. I want to see more Poe Dameron. None of this “dead, not really dead” crap. Too much to ask for a Lando appearance? Probably. How about Maz and how she got Luke’s blue lightsaber from EMPIRE (1980)? What are the Knights of Ren? Don’t make Captain Phasma useless! Christie deserves so much better! And no more original cast deaths. My heart can’t take that.

Overall, do I need to say how excited I am? No? Didn’t think so.

Before I get to my review, and by extension, my summary, most everything that I’ll be talking about directly links to FORCE AWAKENS. So if you haven’t seen that, you’re probably going to get spoiled hardcore and I recommend watching it before seeing this. Spoilers that pertain to this film will be marked as usual.

This is my honest opinion of: STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI

(SUMMARY)

Set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Despite the destruction of Starkiller Base, the First Order is still as strong as ever and have driven the Resistance on the run for their lives, a task not easily accomplished as every time they try to jump into hyperspace, the First Order somehow manages to track the remains of their fleet, something thought impossible. Their only option: keep Supreme Leader Snoak’s (Andy Serkis) enormous dreadnought at bay long enough while their fuel runs dangerously low until a proper plan can be formulated.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally tracked down Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), but the meeting doesn’t go as planned. Due to the tragedies of the past, he has become bitter and no longer wants anything to do with the Jedi or dark side, not even the First Order. But Rey’s awakening Force abilities keep her around to seek training and to find her place in everything that happening around her. Things only get more complicated when she discovers an unexpected connection with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

(REVIEW)

It’s good. It’s… it’s good. If I sound a unsure of my response, it’s because I kind of am. On the one hand, I got almost everything I wanted from this movie, which makes me indescribably overjoyed. On the other hand, there’s an unsettling amount of choices that I really didn’t agree with. As in… we hit prequels territory. I won’t say the movie is that bad as a whole, in fact, I don’t think it’s bad at all, but… yeah, I can’t get over some of the decisions made.

As with my weird tradition reviewing these movies, I’ll start with the negatives.

My first red flag was the opening crawl. Yeah, weird place to start nitpicking, but it’s true. I don’t know what it was about the wording, but it seemed awfully repetitive of FORCE AWAKENS’ opening crawl. The First Order is powerful, the Resistance is having a hard time resisting, Luke Skywalker is gone, wasn’t that the gist of the last one? But hey, if this was the worst the movie offered, then this was a downright amazing film.

For one thing, the opening space battle handled poorly. No, I’m not talking about the epic trolling that Poe was doing to Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). No, that stuff was hilarious. I’m talking about the subsequent space battle involving the bombers and the dreadnought. Not that I’m surprised that the bombing run went wrong, but the way it went wrong was really stupid. Here’s what I mean. Each bomber was carrying probably a hundred little bombs. At the battle’s end, it’s shown that just one bomber could have destroyed the dreadnought. Meaning those are some powerful bombs. So question, why in hell were these bombers flying so close to each other? Did the concept of a TIE fighter pilot crashing, or going kamikaze seriously not cross anyone’s minds?! That seemed particularly dumb, and in the end, a contrived way to lessen the forces of the Resistance.

Other smaller problems that I had includes Luke’s caretaker aliens. Luke’s been apparently camping out in an old ruined temple of the Jedi and there’s these aliens that have been keeping it cleaned and in proper repair, at least to their best abilities given that it’s a ruin. Thing is, I really hate their design. They look like nuns. I know, the Jedi Code is sometimes referred to as a religion. Both Tarkin and Luke himself in this movie say as much. I’m not surprised that caretakers exist here to keep what semblance of the Jedi exist here intact. But isn’t the whole “nun” thing just a little too on the nose?

Is anyone else a little mixed about the porgs? I mean, yeah, they’re cute little love-children of penguins and owls, but the way they’re filmed is like the filmmakers knew they were cute, and forcibly spoon-fed us their cuteness whenever possible. It got to a point where I was a little annoyed with them. I don’t hate them, necessarily, but the amount of screen time they had rode up on me a little. Though I bet you a pound to a penny that whatever porg plush toys exist, you won’t find them for the life of you in any retail or internet outlet for next few months. All the kids and cute-things-loving girlfriends are going to scrambling for them. May the odds be ever in your favor, you savages.

I’m also really mixed about the inclusion of high society. I mean, okay, I guess we were bound to be shown what that would look like. We so rarely get to see such extravagant settings for the wealthy that I guess I didn’t really know what to expect when someone was going to offer an interpretation. The visuals are okay enough. It looks expensive and certainly feels obnoxiously lavish in all the right ways, but there’s a few question marks that I had. Slot machines? Horse racing? Okay, I know they’re not horses, but it’s… space horse racing. And did I see a roulette table somewhere? Again, doesn’t this feel a little too on the nose? I surprisingly don’t have a problem with card games. Sabacc and pazaak (a variation of blackjack) exist . Even holographic chess exists. But slots feel too… real-world for my taste. Seriously no imagination went into this stuff? It felt lazy.

And seriously, in the history of the Star Wars movies, has anyone ever heard the expletive “ass?” Hell and damn, yes, but “ass?” Poe at one point says, “big ass door.” Um… I don’t know how I feel about this one. I am quite bothered by this revelation. I’ve decided, I don’t like it. That was bad writing. I won’t legitimately dock a point, or anything, but… I don’t like knowing that “ass” is an expletive in the Star Wars universe. Bad, writers. Go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done. And explaining where the blue milk comes from? Just… no. I didn’t need to see that. What the hell, guys?

***SPOILERS***

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

***

 

 

We can easily start with the villains. Snoak and Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) are the most useless villains in Star Wars film history. Like, holy crap, what a waste of characters and actors. While I didn’t have problems with Snoak in the first film, as there was a mysterious air about him, what he was capable of and all that jazz. But while the character was originally this towering figure that had an air of calm and collection about him, he has been reduced to a borderline cackling waste of screen time. Without actually reading anything, I still saw some headline articles around the internet that said things like, “Snoak is more powerful than Palpatine and Vader combined!” I bet those writers are feeling their credibility going down faster than Palpatine’s plummet to his death because there is nothing intimidating about Snoak. At least Palpatine had a cool look to him, those creepy yellow eyes, and a brilliant performance by Ian McDiarmid. While I usually love Serkis’ work, this was extremely sub-par. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not him. It’s the writing. Snoak is horrendously boring and so poorly written that not even Serkis can save it.

 

 

And depending on your point of view, be it a good or bad thing, Snoak is killed off in the middle of the movie. In a very RETURN OF THE JEDI moment, Ben has had enough of Snoak’s prodding and belittlement, or Rey’s getting through to him, he uses Rey’s lightsaber to cut him in half. On the one hand, if Snoak wasn’t going to get any better as a character, then it’s probably for the best that he died. But then what was the point in building him up so much? If he was only going to be in two movies, and only in half of the second one, don’t you think some time should have been dedicated to flesh him out more? Make him more of a threat? Ultimately, he does nothing. Sure, he tosses Rey around like a rag doll, but that’s not something we haven’t seen before in a Star Wars movie. He doesn’t kill anyone, he doesn’t accomplish anything, he’s no one.

 

 

Phasma is no better. Her appearance amounts to little more than ten minutes worth of screen time. Literally all she does is capture Finn and Rose, gets in a melee fight with Finn, which lasts two minutes, she loses, and dies. Well, my buddy has a theory that because he armor is so heat-resistant that she could have survived. Regardless Phasma does nothing. A cool design isn’t a character, guys. She’s closer to a joke than anything else.

 

 

It seems Disney just can’t get this right. It’s not enough that the Marvel films have a record for having bad villains, but that bad luck leaks into the Star Wars universe now? The villains of Star Wars have always ranged from iconic (Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine) to straight up cool and classy (Darth Maul and Count Dooku). But these new films have given us nothing but annoying and or useless villains. What the hell happened?!

 

 

As if lame villains weren’t enough, there’s some seriously terrible story elements too.

 

 

That mutiny that Poe orchestrates was insanely pointless. The Resistance has slowly been burning away their fuel. Up to a point, we just thought Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) was being a horrible strategist with no plan in sight. Later on, we learn that they’ve been crawling their way to an old and abandoned Rebel outpost that would be heavily fortified from the First Order ships blasting at them. But between all that time, Holdo never tells anyone what the plan is. Why? There’s never a plot point to suggest that the First Order has spies in their midst, or that they’ve somehow hacked into the ship’s comm systems or anything. No, she just doesn’t tell her splinter group of survivors what the plan is… for no reason. So much time and headache would have been resolved early on if it weren’t for this surprising bit of bad writing.

 

 

And in hindsight, why didn’t Holdo think to do her suicide hyperspace run earlier? While the dreadnought is destroying the escape pods left and right, dozens of people dying with each explosion, it’s a wonder why she didn’t try to, I don’t know, pilot the ship to get between the evacuees and the gunfire. In retrospect, she’s kind of just standing there in horror as this is happening, instead of being an Admiral and actually doing something about it.

 

 

Where did that forced romance between Finn and Rose come from?! When in their shared dialog did they have that spark? That tiny peck on the lips that she gives him would have been cute in different context, but Finn’s reaction to the kiss spoke with pinpoint accuracy. “What the hell, girl?! We ride space horses together and suddenly you wanna swap spit?!” I didn’t like that. I didn’t think it was justified.

 

 

Usually I’m a fan of Benicio del Toro, but I really didn’t care for DJ.

 

 

And we’re never going to get that answer, are we? Regarding how Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) got Luke’s first lightsaber. Luke’s dead. Maz barely had a role in this film. Hell, at this point, we the audience might as well just chock it up to a lame attempt to create mystery surrounding something that was a result of bad writing.

 

 

***

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

***END SPOILERS***

Before any of you die hard nerds start ragging on me, saying that I hate this movie, I really don’t. Yes, there’s some piss poor decisions that were made that brought the movie down and that I didn’t agree with. However, for as many of those decisions made, there were several things that done that I was unbelievably happy with.

Before going into the film with my two friends, one of them mentioned that Hamill went on record with Johnson and said that he fundamentally disagreed with what was done with his character, but was going to give it his very best and work with it. This had me quivering in my chair. One of the things that I really didn’t want to see was Luke be emo and depressive throughout the story. I had already gotten my fill of whiny children out of Kylo Ren from FORCE AWAKENS and I sure as hell didn’t want to see it again in another character. I am happy to report that this is not the case. While Luke is certainly angry and doesn’t want anything to do with the problems of the galaxy, you do eventually learn why and I found all of it to be satisfying reasons. I’ll discuss more of Luke in the spoiler section.

I also really enjoyed the structure of the first half. The Resistance is on its final legs, about to be obliterated by the First Order. The Resistance can’t jump to hyperspace because the First Order is somehow tracking them. Their vessels are fast enough to stay out of range of their bombardment, but the First Order has plenty of fuel, whereas the Resistance is slowly losing theirs, and they have to figure out how to escape. So this constant threat with the last few good guys is a really interesting set up and different from any other film in the franchise. It’s a gamble, but it pays off in my book.

The humor is outstanding. Probably one of the best aspects of the film as a whole. Among my favorite gags is when Poe, alone in his X-Wing, flies up to Hux’s destroyer and says that he has a message for him. Hux takes the call and goes on this long tirade, going all, “There will not be negotiations! We do not accept surrender! The time of the Resistance is over!” And then Hux smiles, thinking his words have injected unimaginable horror into the heart of the brave pilot, then the response is met with, “Uh, hello? General Hux. I have an urgent message from General Organa for you. Do you copy?” Confusion everywhere, the officers think he genuinely can’t hear, but then we’re made privy to the real situation: epic trolling. Damn, I love Poe Dameron! Oh man, and Chewy trying to eat a cooked porg, but a small flock of other porgs watch him try and eat in horror, and then one more porg gives Chewy sad eyes and a quivering lower lip. Jeez, the humor was dark, but oh so amazing. The one that still has me busting a gut is when Luke has Rey sit and tells her to close her eyes and reach out to feel the Force. She takes it a little too literal and reaches out with her hand. Luke rolls his eyes and starts tickling her hand with a leaf. Rey acts surprised and is like, “Oh! I feel something!” And Luke goes with it, going all, “You feel it?! It’s the Force! Can you feel it?!” And Rey’s getting all excited and then Luke slaps her hand with the leaf, opening her eyes and realizing what was happening. I can’t stop laughing at this.

Other small thumbs up includes seeing Lieutenant Connix, played by Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, having a more prominent role in the film as well. She doesn’t quite contribute a whole lot, nor does she have much of a character, but that she gets a fair amount of screen time is really nice to see.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

***

 

 

I find it somewhat satisfying that so many people were saying online, “Oh my god, Rey’s gonna fall to the dark side! Kylo’s turning her!” Ha! Pansies, the lot of ya! Nope, in actuality, it’s the other way around. Rey spends the entire film trying to bring out the good in him, only to briefly succeed and fail. I love film prophets like that, trying to guess the film before seeing it and just losing themselves to the actual movie presented.

 

 

Speaking of which, let’s jump right into everything that I wanted and got. And since we’re talking about Rey and Kylo, I got my awesome sword fights. Two of them, in fact. Nothing on the same level as the prequel’s sword fights, but they’re awesome all the same. When Ben brings Rey to Snoak, and Ben kills him, the two team up and start fighting Snoak’s guards. I may not have always agreed with the slow-mo, but to see the two teamed up, kicking ass, getting their asses kicked, but coming out on top was really awesome to see. And the fight between Ben and Luke at the end? Man, I was cheering, I was squeeing, I was at the edge of my seat, I wanted to see what we were in store for. Luke barely does a damn thing and it’s wonderful to see him practically toying with Ben, who is desperately trying to beat him in a fight. I don’t know if I agree with Luke dying as a result of pushing out his Force-body, but I can see how it would happen. He cut himself off from the Force, plus he’s old, and he revealed that Force-body to literally everyone, which I imagine will take quite a toll on the body. Still, I wish he would have stuck around for one more movie to properly get into the fight. And I know, someone’s probably going to say, “But I thought you didn’t want to see another original character die!” Well, technically, I did just say that I don’t know if I agree with his death. But because his scenes were so well done, Ben was an improved character, and the emotional stakes were present and high, I think Luke’s death was a lot more justified and earned than Han’s. Besides, it’s entirely possible that he’ll come back as a Force ghost, so it’s not like he’s really gone.

 

 

And yes, you heard me right, I thought Ben was an improved character. I don’t think I got the professional, cool and collected character that I was hoping for, but his temper tantrums are more understandable this time around. Before, it was simply because something didn’t go his way, as if life owes him a bone. This time, he’s belittled and berated by Snoak, being told that he’s weak and not worthy and all that jazz. So, he bashes his helmet into scrap metal. From this point on, there’s legitimate drama with him wrestling with the light in his soul and maintaining the darkness that he wants he he interacts with Rey via their Force connection. The closest thing to a tantrum that he throws isn’t until the end when Luke shows up on the battlefield. We know why he hates Luke and why he tells his people to unleash everything they have on him. Luke did try to kill him after all. I still think there’s room for improvement, but this went in a satisfying direction.

 

 

I went on record somewhere saying that it would have been nice to see Leia use the Force, but it wasn’t a requirement. At first, I was about to be heartbroken like crazy because her ship’s command deck gets destroyed and several officers, including Admiral Ackbar and General Leia get sucked into the vacuum of space. Ackbar dies and they hold on Leia’s lifeless corpse floating around, frozen in space. This was exactly what I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to see another original character die, and to be killed off so early in the story and so unceremoniously, and that Fisher herself sadly passed away last year, this was jackhammering to my nads. But then… her hand twitches, her eyes open, and she starts floating toward the ruined ship and is escorted inside and treated in the medical bay of a new ship. Do I need to tell you how loudly I was cheering to see that?! Look, I get it. It makes sense. Luke’s a trained Jedi, Leia’s her twin, it stands to reason that she’s just as strong in the Force as he is, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that Luke taught her a thing or two. Still, she’s a General of the Resistance, and if I were to hazard a guess, a prominent political figure after the war with the Empire, and was most certainly a prominent military leader when the First Order came around. Where in hell would she find the time to learn how to keep herself alive in space and survive? This should be a negative, but I wanted to see Leia use the Force, so as she is immune to death in space, I’m immune to your facts and logic. LEIA USED THE FORCE!!! WOOOOOOOOO!!!

 

 

I kind of and kind of didn’t get what I wanted when it came to Leia dishing out orders. She does before getting jettisoned out into space, but then she’s in bed unconscious for a good chunk of the movie, and those responsibilities are taken over by Holde.

 

 

I bought into Luke’s desires to stay out of the fight. He tried to rebuild the Jedi Order, but because of his brief impulse to try and kill Ben due to feeling the hurricane of potential dark side within him, and Ben in a fit of rage destroyed everything that he built, and killed the students that wouldn’t join Ben in leaving. He blames himself for Ben’s eventual turn to the dark side, not Snoak. And it’s not like he failed a random student or anything. No, he failed his own nephew. The son to his best friend and twin sister.

 

 

I didn’t get my Lando cameo, but I wasn’t expecting one, so I’m not too bummed. At least, not enough to make it a legit complaint. But you know what cameo I did get? YODA!!! WOOOOOO!!! But not just any Yoda. His look is the exact design from EMPIRE and JEDI. Not the weird-looking one from Phantom, and not the CGI one from CLONES and REVENGE. And to make things even better, it’s the freakin’ puppet again! Yeah, it’s not a CGI recreation of the exact puppet from the original films, but it’s an actual puppet! Hell yeah!

 

 

Totally called it! Rey’s not related to anyone we already know! Well, “called it” in the sense of hoping that she wasn’t. There was just too much stacked against theories that she was related to Obi-Wan, Luke, or Han, none of it made any real sense to me. Obi-Wan was long dead before Rey was born. Rey was a child when she was abandoned on Jakku, yet the way she talks about Luke Skywalker and how he’s a myth, there’s just no way that a child would ever refer to their parent in such a strange way. There was no evidence to support any theory. Granted, the early connection with Kylo when he learns of Rey’s existence from that officer is a serious question mark. Like, why does he suddenly become obsessed with her? She’s certainly never heard of him. Turns out, Rey’s parents were awful people who sold her for drink money and never came back for her. In a way, this is an interesting spin on her backstory. And it’s dismissed in such a way that, I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind not ever meeting Rey’s parents in the films. They’re worthless deadbeats. Rey’s found kinship in the Resistance. Finn, Leia, Poe, her newfound abilities in the Force, she’s a bigger and better person. There’s almost no reason to care about the parents anymore. I wager we’ll meet them at some point in EPISODE IX, but I fear that might slow the plot down. As it is, I’m happy that I was right about this outcome.

 

 

And the visuals are wonderful as well. The cinematography is great when it needs to be, the ship to ship battles, both in the beginning and the Rebel base are awesome. Especially when Chewy is flying the Falcon underground with all the red crystals everywhere, that was really cool. And holy hell, when Holdo jumps to hyperspace to destroy a dozen First Order ships… dude, hell… yes. This is why I’m in love with Laura Dern. Girl knows how kick some serious butt.

 

 

I think it’s time to throw my two cents into the well with theories about, both about this movie and about the future installment.

 

 

Theory one, regarding Admiral Holde. When Leia and Holde bid each other farewell when Leia leaves with the Resistance to the Rebel stronghold and Holde stays to guide the ship, did anyone think that the goodbye between the two women seemed a little too close? Again, I never read the article, but I saw something online that went, “The tragedy that broke up Han and Leia wasn’t Ben turning bad!” Well, I’m looking at Leia and Holde saying a pretty subtle intimate goodbye. Could this scene imply that Leia and Holde were lovers? I mean, Han turning away from everything similar to Luke because his son became one of the most feared beings in the First Order would be reason enough, I guess, but I think this would make more sense why he doesn’t stay with Leia. Maybe I’m not supposed to look too deeply into it, but I think it’s a worthy topic to speculate on.

 

 

Theory two, regarding the Knights of Ren. The Knights of Ren are the students that swore allegiance to Ben after abandoning Luke and his teachings. Due to Ben’s age at the time, I’m guessing they all went around and did their own thing, giving themselves their name, before eventually getting found by Snoak, offering them a place in his First Order with promises of vengeance and greater power. Ben was the strongest of the students, so of course he carried favor, but that probably doesn’t negate the role the other Knights of Ren will eventually play. I assume they’re going to be his most elite soldiers of Kylo’s. They’re going to be assassins, or feared generals, something of that nature and they’re going to cause problems for the up and coming Rebellion. This is all pure speculation, mind you. I have no sources that confirm anything I just put out, but it’s something to think about.

 

 

***

 

 

***

 

 

***END SPOILERS***

Overall, should I say that the film is disappointing? Ehh… yeah, in some ways. A good chunk of that is the awful villains, which should be one of the best parts of any Star Wars film. Even the prequels, which I think are still worse than this film, had that down better than this. There’s a lot of moments that make zero sense, certain aesthetics, they’re not the easiest moments to sit through. But for every moment that I don’t agree with, there’s something else that makes me cheer or laugh. For every setback and frustration, there’s improvement and satisfaction. It’s not going down as one of the greatest Star Wars films, in fact, it’s probably the weakest comparing it to FORCE AWAKENS and the original trilogy, but it’s still much better than even the best of the prequels. So is the movie good? Objectively speaking, probably not all much. Having said that, there’s still a lot of good to be had and I thoroughly enjoyed myself when I needed to. I like it and I am still recommending it with some fairly high praise. The last Jedi are battered and bruised, but the Force didn’t abandon this film.

My honest rating for STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI: a weak 4/5, my first ever.

lastjediposter

STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS review (redux) – Star Wars Special

STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI (2017) is just around the corner. But why wait to review Star Wars movies? Until its inevitable release, I’m going to review all the core films in celebration! There may not be a lot of them, but there’s a lot to say about them. Everybody’s got their own opinion of the order in which the movies should be viewed, by release (IV through VI, then I through III) or in chronological order (I through VI), but others, like myself, think there’s a better way to view them. I’m going to review the core films in the following order, subsequently how I’ll be reviewing them:

  1. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)
  2. EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977)
  3. EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
  4. EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
  5. EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
  6. EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
  7. EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
  8. EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

This is going to be so much fun, yo! This is my “LAST JEDI Celebration Until Release” special!

Technically, I’ve already written about this movie in a transfer review, so if you wanted to compare and contrast my opinions of two years ago versus two years later, you can check out my spoiler free review and my spoilers review.

It just won’t die! Although, that’s more of celebratory exclamation for me. I love Star Wars way too much to want to see it die.

The original trilogy concluded back in 1983 with RETURN OF THE JEDI and the prequel trilogy ended in 2005 with REVENGE OF THE SITH. Who knew back then that in a decade, the franchise would continue with a full blown sequel to the original franchise with all the returning characters that we knew and loved?

For those who are playing catch-up with the movies, there is a little background to the reaction of this next set of trilogies. For one thing, though JEDI was the end of the original films, the stories continued on in other forms. Comics, video games, but probably more famously, the novels. Leia got trained to be Jedi, she and Han had, I think, three children, including twins, one of them went to the dark side, Luke married a woman that I think was originally out to assassinate him and they had a kid, all of whom became Jedi under his tutelage. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if there were at least a hundred books that were sequels to the films. I think most of them aren’t considered continuity. Regardless, it was widely hoped that the new set of films would tie in to those novels.

Personally, I’d never read those novels. Any of them. Having said that, I’ve read about them and I saw the potential for some seriously dark and dramatic storytelling. But I wanted something different. I wanted to see something that took place within the realm of the novels, but in pockets of time that took place before or after certain sets. I don’t know, something about direct adaptations scare me.

Turns out, to the great disappointment to many fans, the next set of films were going to completely ignore those books. When Disney acquired the Star Wars license, it was officially announced that the extended universe that fans fell deeply and passionately in love with were ALL noncanonical to the movies as we’ve seen them.

Sort of. There’s some parallels, but I’ll tackle those details later.

In any case, we were getting completely new characters, but we weren’t going to be deprived of some of the original actors, like Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. While I sure had my disappointments initially, I was relived to see that the names for the new younger actors were names that I’d never heard of. Why is that such a big deal to me? I love unknown actors. Before Hamill was Luke Skywalker, or the Joker for that matter, he was an unknown. But fast forward to the present, they’re practically household names. I was suddenly excited to see what these fresh fish actors would bring to the table because God knows how sick I would have been if I saw Zac Efron attached to these movies.

And even more happy news, the original actors weren’t going to be glorified cameos. They were going to have actual roles and be actual characters that contribute something to the story. So said the initial buzz, anyway. But we were betting that the makers of this new Star Wars trilogy wouldn’t lie to us. You need to create some good will, lest you risk a disastrous future.

It took some time, like most people I imagine, to get properly excited for this movie. But in time, we were open to the new possibilities and the new direction.

It’s also probably a good time to mention that it was around this time that the powers that be announced that there would be one Star Wars movie a year. That was an ambitious undertaking if you ask me. It was clear that didn’t mean they’d release a direct sequel to their new trilogy a year, but it still wasn’t entirely clear on what it entailed. Fast forward to 2017, we now know. ROGUE ONE became a story about how the Rebels got the Death Star plans in A NEW HOPE (1977), we’re getting an upcoming Han Solo origin story called SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018), and a very real possibility of a Yoda origin story in 2020. Yeah, a Yoda origin story. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Not to mention, it was recently dropped that Rian Johnson, director of THE LAST JEDI (2017) is in the process of making his own Star Wars trilogy that has nothing to do with the core films. Further information is nonexistent as I’m sure it’s all in the “brainstorming on college-ruled paper” at the moment, but we’ll see in coming years.

To hold us over though, we have the core films that are probably all we need anyway.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Daisy Ridley (MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017], video game STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II [2017], and upcoming films OPHELIA [2018] and- oh God, Daisy, no… – PETER RABBIT [2018]), John Boyega (DETROIT [2017], THE CIRCLE [2017], ATTACK THE BLOCK [2011], and the upcoming PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]), Harrison Ford (BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017], FIREWALL [2006], AIR FORCE ONE [1997], THE MOSQUITO COAST [1986], HEROES [1977], A TIME FOR KILLING [1967], and the upcoming untitled Indiana Jones movie [2020]), Adam Driver (THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES [2017], THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU [2014], J. EDGAR [2011], and upcoming films THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE [2018] and TOUGH AS THEY COME [2018]), and Peter Mayhew (DRAGON BALL GT: A HERO’S LEGACY [1997] and 1 episode of TV show THE MUPPET SHOW [1976 – 1981]). In support, we have Oscar Isaac (SUBURBICON [2017], ROBIN HOOD [2010], ALL ABOUT BENJAMINS [2002], and upcoming films ANNIHILATION [2018] and LIFE ITSELF [2018]), Carrie Fisher (COUGAR CLUB [2007], AUSTIN POWERS [1997], AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON [1987], video game STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II [2017], and the upcoming WONDERWELL [2018]), Andy Serkis (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES [2017], CAREER GIRLS [1997], video game HEAVENLY SWORD [2007], and upcoming films BLACK PANTHER [2018] and THE JUNGLE BOOK [2018]), Domhnall Gleeson (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2017], UNBROKEN [2014], HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 [2010], and upcoming films A FUTILE & STUPID GESTURE [2018] and PETER RABBIT), and Lupita Nyong’o (QUEEN OF KATWE [2016], THE JUNGLE BOOK [2016], NON-STOP [2014], and upcoming films BLACK PANTHER and LITTLE MONSTERS [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have J.J. Abrams, known for SUPER 8 (2011), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006), and directing STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (2013). Co-writing the screenplay alongside Abrams are Lawrence Kasdan (DREAMCATCHER [2003], WYATT EARP [1994], RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK [1981], and the upcoming SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY [2018]) and Michael Arndt (A WALK IN THE WOODS [2015], TOY STORY 3 [2010], and LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE [2006]). Composing the score, we have living legend John Williams, known for THE BFG (2016), MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (2005), SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (1997), EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1977), and upcoming films THE POST (2018) and Star Wars Episode IX (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is Dan Mindel, known for ZOOLANDER 2 (2016), JOHN CARTER (2012), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, and upcoming films PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING and the untitled Cloverfield Movie (2018).

This is my honest opinion of: STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS

(SUMMARY)

Set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Thirty years after the destruction of the evil Empire, a new threat has emerged from its ashes called The First Order, and are at war with the New Republic and the Resistance, led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher). Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared and The First Order wants to find him, and they know where to find the map that leads to him, in the hands of famed Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who gives it to his faithful droid BB-8 before he gets captured by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a dark side warrior of the First Order, under the command of Supreme Leader Snoak (Andy Serkis). Though it takes the First Order time to figure out who has the map, one lone stormtrooper FN-2187 helps Poe escape, who gives him the new name, Finn (John Boyega), getting shot down while escaping. Meanwhile, BB-8 has encountered a lone scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who decides to help him get back to the Resistance. As paths converge, both outlaws and veterans of the long-gone Rebel Alliance, conflict comes to a head as Luke’s location becomes clearer.

(REVIEW)

It’s kind of odd to say that this movie holds up, since it’s only been a measly two years since it came out, but it’s true. It still holds up as a fun and engaging film.

Yup, my biggest issue with the movie remains Kylo Ren. I still can’t let go of how childish he is when things go south for him. When the map to Luke escape Jakku, he slices up a bunch of computer consoles with his lightsaber. When Rey escapes his clutches, he destroys the chair. Despite his power, he remains the worst Star Wars villain. As I said in my transfer review… at least, I think I said this… Kylo’s introduction isn’t bad. In fact, it’s downright classic Star Wars villain. Come in with a pair of armed escorts and murders a dude right there and then. His intimidation could have satisfyingly ended there, but then we throw in Poe trying to snipe the dude, but then Kylo uses the Force to literally stop the laser projectile in place AS WELL AS Poe himself, and that laser stays in place for a good long while. This can be argued to be the coolest intro to a Star Wars villain.

However, my first red flag was when he starts interacting with General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). They seem more like competing children flinging immature insults at one another, rather than being two professional leaders in their respective fields cooperating under a banner of mutual respect. But fine, if this was the worst I’d have to put up with, then this movie would be straight up great. After all, you can’t blame the writers for wanting to do something different than the relationship between Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin, even though that relationship was surprisingly more interesting to watch.

But those temper tantrums of his are what ultimately kill the intimidation factor. We go from making him arguably one of the most impressive villains of the franchise, to one of the most disappointing. Conceptually, he’s almost brilliant. And in more than a few ways that I haven’t given credit for, the execution of those ideas aren’t done horribly. Usually, when we see bad guys in Star Wars, they’re bad guys who don’t think twice about it, even occasionally relishing in the evil things they do. This is the first time we see a bad guy who is established as the bad guy, but has a consistent fear of turning back to being good. That’s really interesting. It takes effort for Kylo to stay in the dark side. In the past, it almost seems too easy to go in that direction, but now we’re shown a different side of it. And had this been the primary focus of the character instead of his “Hulk smash” attitude distracting the hell out of me, then Kylo would have been one of the highlights of the film instead of its greatest downside.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

***

 

 

***

 

And before you say it, let me say it for you! “Oh, but you’re forgetting how he survived Chewbacca’s bowcaster and still managed to fight both Finn and Rey efficiently, and that bowcaster has been seen to shred through stormtrooper armor!” I really hate when people bring this up. All of that, as far sensibility is concerned, was not very well written. There is absolutely no reason for Kylo to have taken that bowcaster shot. When Poe tried to snipe him, Kylo reacted like a cat seeing a cucumber. The moment that laser left the barrel of that rifle, Kylo stopped it in its tracks. But remember how that scene played out with Kylo getting shot by Chewy? He kills Han and Chewy lets out a roar! A roar that Kylo would most certainly have heard. And to make matters even more pathetic, Chewy was a lot further away than Poe was! Poe was both closer in proximity and more stealthy in his attempt to kill Kylo, but Chewy announced his presence with a roar and was further away. So what happened that Kylo couldn’t stop that bowcaster blast?!

 

Fine, say what you must about Kylo getting surprised. I’ll do you one better, let’s just say that Kylo was proverbially drinking in the dark side effect he was getting from killing his dad and he genuinely didn’t hear Chewy roar or see that bolt from his bowcaster. If those bolts have been seen to shred through armor, how in hell didn’t it fry Kylo’s innards?! I can believe that a powerful Force-user could survive a nonthreatening blast to one’s side if they use the Force to shield themselves, but that has to take some serious conscious effort. Not that I’m an expert on the Force because, you know, fiction, but I’ve watched all the movies, played enough of the games, read a couple of novels and comics, so I think I can take some solid educational guesses that aren’t too far off the mark. Point is, you can’t convince me that Kylo threw up a shield to protect himself because he was taken by surprise, remember? So for all intents and purposes, that bolt should have killed him. The only reason it didn’t is because of poor writing.

 

Smaller issues include the incredibly vast amount of conveniences. Our heroes happening upon the Millennium Falcon didn’t bother me, but Han and Chewy randomly finding it and the only explanation is “they scanned for it”? That was… lucky. Poe surviving the crash and somehow finding his way back to the Resistance from Jakku. R2 just happens to have the missing piece of the map to Luke. For that matter, how did the piece that BB-8 had start off in Lor San Tekka’s (Max von Sydow) hands? When Finn, Han, and Chewy rescue Rey from Starkiller Base, they not only happen to just see her through a window- in this entire base the size of a planet, of course they just happen across her randomly – but they quickly catch up with her through the many passages and corridors when they weren’t anywhere near each other. And of course when Chewy blows the core to Starkiller Base, and Rey and Finn are attempting to leave through the woods, Kylo somehow manages to not only catch up with them when he himself wasn’t near them and wounded for that matter, but was able to get ahead of the two. Again, wounded from Chewy’s bowcaster, mind you.

 

***

 

 

***

 

 

***END SPOILERS***

But before I make this movie sound like it’s bad, let’s talk about everything it did right.

I absolutely love the new characters. Rey is my favorite, and Ridley delivers a fun and energetic performance. I do find myself extremely curious about who her parents are and why she was abandoned on Jakku. From the moment she’s introduced scavenging the ship up till meeting BB-8, everything is beautiful. From that lack of dialog and Ridley’s pitch perfect acting that speaks volumes. That look she gives Unkar Plutt (Simon Pegg) when he gives her a measly half portion of food, man… The death defying crap that she has to go through to get these parts, spending who knows how long trying to clean or repair them, only to get enough food for a night? Likely getting horribly ripped off. And the directing and cinematography are all perfect. When Rey looks at that old woman, I honestly couldn’t tell if she was horrified that she’d end up like her, or if she admired her for being sticking it out as long as she has and still going. And when she does eat, marking how many days she’s been on Jakku in the AT-AT walker, sitting outside the walker watching a ship leave the planet, then putting on the rebel pilots helmet, she clearly has dreams of leaving the planet. Just not in the fashion that she does. By the way, for those of you that don’t know, that inflatable bread stuff that Rey eats wasn’t CGI. That was a practical effect and you can totally make your own. I’ll put the ingredients and all after my rating so this doesn’t turn into a cooking channel. For the record, pretty yummy if made right. Anyway, but as wide-eyed as she is, dreaming about something more than this provincial life (ehh, I like Rey more than Belle), she does have those glimpses into her need for survival. When Unkar Plutt sees BB-8 and offers sixty portions of food, clearly a ludicrous amount, the likes of which I doubt Rey has never seen, you see her heavily considering the agreement and it’s easy to see why. All of her scavenging, the effort she puts in and what little is shown for it, all that food would set her up for a really long time. It’s little moments like this that make for a nice hint of darkness. Rey is essentially this generation’s Luke Skywalker, but the writers were smart enough to add realistic drama to her actions and expressions that don’t make her annoying. It’s going to be a blast watching her story unfold in future installments.

Now for Finn. I really like this take on a defective bad guy. We don’t see that very often, outside of Bodhi from ROGUE ONE, who isn’t as interesting a character. It sort of just hit me, he’s that cowardly, hysterical character that you see in horror films, but where so often those characters are incredibly annoying, this is about the only time I’ve ever seen it done right. Think about it, he’s constantly screaming about how he needs to get as far away from the First Order as possible. Even though he’s given a chance to help the Resistance, which in of itself if “away from the First Order”, and even if he didn’t want to stick around to help, à la Iden Versio from BATTLEFRONT II, he could probably have earned himself a transport to wherever he wanted to go… which I guess is a small complaint about his motivations, but his style of hysteria is understandable. His mission on Jakku was his first mission and he wasn’t ready to murder innocent people. What exactly separates him from the rest of the rabble isn’t clear, just bad luck on the First Order’s part. This sends him into a frenzy and wants out, taking his one slim chance to get away. I like his interactions with Rey and Poe, and I really look forward to seeing where they’re going to take Finn’s character in the future as well.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

***

 

 

***

Now let’s talk about Han Solo. It’s no secret that Harrison Ford has never liked Han. He wanted his character to be killed off after EMPIRE, but I think contracts kept him committed to JEDI. So for someone who’s disliked the character for as long as he has, Ford still gives a great performance. Professionalism at its finest. Han is still funny, grizzled, sarcastic, and a grade-A bad-ass. I still chuckle at the moment he blindly shoots a stormtrooper in the face during the battle outside of Maz’s castle. Although I do question where his fascination with Chewy’s bowcaster comes from. In thirty years, he’s never held it and test fired it once? Eh, whatever, it’s a fun relationship. And that he’s the wise mentor of the story makes it all the more satisfying. The only reason I don’t feel that strongly about his death is only because I didn’t agree with Kylo’s character here. If he was a more deplorable, or more sympathetic character, then I would have felt more for it than I ended up feeling. In any case, I’m sure that Ford is happy to put Star Wars behind him. Now he’s just gotta deal with the endless “is there any chance of you returning” questions. Not that he wasn’t getting an endless barrage pre-2015.

 

***

 

 

***

 

 

***END SPOILERS***

The rest of the supporting cast is great too. I really want to see more of Maz (Lupita Nyong’o), Poe, General Hux, and General Leia. I don’t know, does anyone else think that “General Leia” has a more bad-ass ring to it? I just don’t want to see the title go to waste in future installments. Oh and it’d be awesome if Snoak really was that huge. Imagine the possibilities! Chances are, he’s not, but it’d be cool.

I know there’s a lot of people who had some problems with the story, that there’s a little too much repeat from the previous films. A wide-eyed youth from a humble desert planet happening upon a droid belonging to a good guy faction at war with a bad guy faction that has a planet destroying death ball, and all that good stuff. Honestly, I couldn’t really argue that. If this bothers you, it might be for good reason. However, I think I see what the goal here is. Because the prequel trilogy wasn’t the most popular of the Star Wars films, this film wanted to recreate the world that the fans were more familiar with to try and make up for what many consider to be the sins of the past. It’s supposed to show that it understands what makes Star Wars great and memorable. In a lot of ways, the story repeats almost everything from the original trilogy, A NEW HOPE, EMPIRE, and JEDI. By getting those out of the way, it paves the way for something new and an opportunity to present something different, fresh, and with luck, even better. Is it a bit distracting? Yeah, if you had the mind dead-set to see something different. As for me, I just wanted to see something good and fun. I got what I wanted, so I was satisfied.

And that’s how I describe this film: satisfying. While it may not be my favorite of the franchise, it’s a significant boost in quality than the prequels gave. There’s certainly room for improvement, but that’s why we’re getting sequels. This film is a ton of fun, with some ripe and talented new faces that hold their own with the veterans, and it’s very exciting to see the direction the movies will go. There’s mystery, there’s laughs, drama, it’s pretty all encompassing, just like a Star Wars movie should be. This is an awakening that I can definitely feel for.

My honest rating for STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS: a strong 4/5

PS: Rey’s inflatable bread stuff below the poster.

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster

REY’S INFLATABLE BREAD STUFF

http://www.starwars.com/news/reys-portion-bread

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoons cake flour
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Place the oil in a mug and swirl around to grease the inside.
2. Add the cake flour, sugar, matcha powder, baking powder and salt into the mug, stirring together.
3. Pour in the milk and vanilla, then cook in the microwave on high for 45 seconds.
4. Let cool slightly and serve.

After two attempts of making this stuff, I recommend three tablespoons of flour, not four. And even though the directions don’t say it, I stirred the milk and vanilla as well before microwaving. The texture came out better. I’m sure there’s still some refinement  (maybe a little less matcha powder to get the right coloring from the movie) to be had, but it’s a good starting point that worked for me.

STAR WARS EPISODE VI: THE RETURN OF THE JEDI review – Star Wars Special

STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI (2017) is just around the corner. But why wait to review Star Wars movies? Until its inevitable release, I’m going to review all the core films in celebration! There may not be a lot of them, but there’s a lot to say about them. Everybody’s got their own opinion of the order in which the movies should be viewed, by release (IV through VI, then I through III) or in chronological order (I through VI), but others, like myself, think there’s a better way to view them. I’m going to review the core films in the following order, subsequently how I’ll be reviewing them:

  1. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)
  2. EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977)
  3. EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
  4. EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
  5. EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
  6. EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
  7. EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

In addition, I’ll try and do a fresh review of my FORCE AWAKENS (2015) review. This is going to be so much fun, yo! This is my “LAST JEDI Celebration Until Release” special!

This is it. This was the big one. The end. The final film to a franchise that wouldn’t be revisited for another sixteen years. How could there not be excitement for this? Look at the title alone! “Return of the Jedi.” But the Jedi were all destroyed! Luke’s going to bring them back?! Does Luke count as a Jedi now?! How is everything going to end up?! Wait! Another Death Star?! What is going on here?! This is probably a fraction of what audiences had to say and ask about this final installment and for good bloody reason. After the gargantuan success and ground-breaking story that was EMPIRE, this movie was going to be extraordinary, no matter the outcome.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Mark Hamill (BRIGSBY BEAR [2017], BATTLE FOR TERRA [2007], VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED [1995], and the upcoming CON MAN [2018]), Harrison Ford (BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017], FIREWALL [2006], AIR FORCE ONE [1997], and the upcoming untitled Indiana Jones film [2020]), Carrie Fisher (FANBOYS [2009], WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… [1989], TV show FAMILY GUY [1998 – ongoing], and the upcoming WONDERWELL [2018]), Ian McDiarmid (THE LOST CITY OF Z [2017], SLEEPY HOLLOW [1999], and DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS [1988]), and playing Darth Vader is David Prowse (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE [1971]) and voicing Vader, James Earl Jones (THE LION KING [1994], FIELD OF DREAMS [1989], EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC [1977], DR. STRANGELOVE [1964], 4 episodes TV show STAR WARS: REBELS [2014 – ongoing], and the upcoming THE LION KING [2019]). In support, we have Frank Oz (INSIDE OUT [2015], ZATHURA [2005], MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND [1996], LABYRINTH [1986], and THE MUPPET MOVIE [1979]), Anthony Daniels (THE LORD OF THE RINGS [1978] and the upcoming RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]), Kenny Baker (THE KING AND I [1999], AMADEUS [1984], and FLASH GORDON [1980]), Billy Dee Williams (LEGO BATMAN [2017], FANBOYS [2009], and BATMAN [1989]), and Alec Guinness (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA [1962], THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI [1957], and 7 episodes of TV show TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY [1979]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Richard Marquand, known for a ton of stuff I’ve never heard of. Co-writing the screenplay are George Lucas (AMERICAN GRAFFITI [1973]) and Lawrence Kasdan (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], DREAMCATCHER [2003], WYATT EARP [1994], RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK [1981], and the upcoming SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY [2018]). Composing the score is John Williams, known for THE BFG (2016), WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005), SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (1997), EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1977), and upcoming films THE POST (2018) and Star Wars Episode IX (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is Alan Hume,  known for SUPERGIRL (1984), 007 OCTOPUSSY (1983), and THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS (1980).

This is my honest opinion of: STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI

(SUMMARY)

Set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has just staged a harrowing rescue of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) at the hands of the gangster Jabba the Hutt, and now he, Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and their friends are returning to the Rebel Fleet, while Luke returns to Master Yoda (Frank Oz) for his final stretch of life where Luke learns of some serious revelations about his past. Meanwhile, the Empire is nearly finished with the construction of a second Death Star, and even more disturbing, the final phases of its construction are being overlooked by the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) himself. The Rebels seize this opportunity and amass a huge fleet to attempt to destroy it before it’s completed.

(REVIEW)

Once again, this review is going to be totally unfiltered; major spoilers littered throughout. So if you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and catch up. At least see the original trilogy films before tackling the prequels if you have to, but this movie is directly tied into EMPIRE (1980). It really shouldn’t be seen as a standalone movie. It’s a sequel. With that said:

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS 

This film has a reputation of being the worst of the original trilogy. While I agree, that doesn’t mean this movie is any less great. In fact, this movie has a lot of stuff in it that’s the best in the franchise.

I seem to have developed a habit of starting with the negative elements first, so… I’m going to continue the habit.

Yeah, I had a problem with the ewoks like a lot of people. A smaller reason for it, for those that don’t know, the original concept was that instead of the ewoks, it was going to be an army of wookies. Let’s face it, that would have been a 100 percent more awesome. But if I were to hazard a guess, cost efficiency factored into it, couldn’t find enough tall actors to fill the wookie suits that they probably didn’t have anyway, among other reasons that would probably be understandable if they were public… which they probably are and I’m too lazy to Google search it. Either way. But ultimately, the problem is that the ewoks do kind of ruin the tone of the film. I mean, you have Luke fighting his father to the death on the Death Star while being goaded into turning evil by the creepy and intimidating yellow-eyed Emperor. The Rebel fleet has flown right into a trap and unaware that the Death Star is full operational, which starts destroying cruisers left and right. Han and Leia have fallen into their own trap on the forest moon of Endor, surrounded by Imperial forces, including a few mean AT-STs. And what does this movie decide to throw in to the mix? Cute little tribal teddy bears.

Okay, let’s all be fair here. Cute and cuddly as Wicket (Warwick Davis) may be, the ewoks aren’t restricted by their appearances. They’re warriors. They’re not intimidated by the armored and superior firepower of the stormtroopers, or even the gargantuan AT-STs. They fearlessly fight the Empire’s forces and show results by killing both troopers and tanks alike. Respect should be given. And it’s easy to accept their place in the fight after awhile. Let’s also not forget that they’re not above eating other sentient lifeforms. After all, they were about to cook and eat Luke, Han, and Chewy. They’re primitives, but they’re not cowardly or stupid… well, okay, trying to trip an AT-ST with a rope and dropping rocks on it was pretty stupid, but these were pretty early on in the battle, so an easy argument was that they were sizing up the strength of these things.

But… yeah, you still look at ewoks like cute little teddy bears. Their physical appearance isn’t very intimidating and just doesn’t quite fit with the dangers being fought in space, or the drama between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor. At the day’s end, I still watch this movie and I still tolerate their existence, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish for the army of wookies. But I guess that’s why we have REVENGE.

Honestly… I think that’s the only real problem I have with the movie, and it’s not that big a deal compared to the problems of the prequels. And even those problems have some merit.

I think it’s time for me to address one final problem that I have with REVENGE, and quite possibly the prequels as a whole: continuity. So when Luke asks Leia about her mother, Leia says that she remembers, “Just a little bit. She died when I was very young.” Think about the phrase, “very young.” What age comes across your mind? Answers may vary, of course, but very young to the point of remembering only so much, I personally think around the age of four or five years old. Here’s REVENGE’s definition of “very young”: FRESH OUT OF THE COOCH!!! To consider a newborn baby very young is like calling a latte “coffee!” It’s like, yeah, I guess, kind of, but not… quite! It’s a coffee-related drink, but it’s not… coffee! I don’t know, but it’s oversimplifying it and sort of misinformation! And there was a way to save the connecting ideas, I think. Padmé didn’t have to die in childbirth as a result of a lack of will to live. First of all, I think that’s selfish considering she’s got two babies on the way and she’s choosing not to live because of a man, beloved or not. She could have lived, publicly told that she was dead, hence why Sidious tells the newly black-suited Darth Vader that Padmé was killed by Anakin, and just have her hide out from the Empire until she… I don’t know committed suicide years later or died of sickness. Something to justify the whole “she died when I was very young” line that Leia says. I know, a lot of people love to chime in with, “It’s the Force and it allowed her to remember Padmé in a vague sort of way.” What, so Leia can vaguely remember her mother, but Luke can’t, even though by all accounts they should be on equal levels of Force-potential? I don’t buy it. Obviously, I don’t blame JEDI for this, but it’s still something that irks me.

One thing I’d like to address is the issues I’ve heard some people have with… well, basically everything Jabba and the sarlac pit, claiming it to be a little too long and ultimately not contributing to the story. I would like to lightly argue this. On a personal level, sure, it’s an overly long set up to save Han and bring him back into the loop. However, it does serve a few purposes that I think get a little too overlooked. We see Luke has certainly come into his own and become a much more respectable character, completely dropping the whining. In fact, he’s borderline scary what with the way he talks to Jabba all calm, cool, collected, and ready to gun down the bastard where he sits. And not just his demeanor, but he’s become a very resourceful and capable warrior, managing to kill the rancor without the use of a single real weapon, literally fighting it off with bones and rocks. And the cherry on the cake is when he defies his death by 1,000 year digestion and gets his shiny new green lightsaber and starts kicking some serious butt left and right. Flipping everywhere, deflecting blaster shot after blaster shot, he’s demonstrating how much of a force he is reckon with. I know most will say that you can cut it all down significantly, but I love these scenes a lot. It’s Luke going full Jedi and owning fools. It’s everything I wanted to see from Luke.

But on to everything else that I love.

The space battle near the Death Star is huge. It’s amazing. It’s visually breathtaking. The insane waves of X-Wings, Y-Wings, and the new A-Wings, as well as the battle cruisers… which do next to nothing other than to be Death Star death beam fodder and be home to Admiral Ackbar shouting, “It’s a trap!” Okay, so there’s one more problem that I have with the movie. Smaller problem, though. But it’s not just the new Rebel ships. The new TIE-interceptors have a basic difference from the TIE-fighters, but it still looks pretty cool. Of course, you would only know the difference between the two snub fighters if you played the video games, but, eh. Although… did the Super Star Destroyer really get so easily destroyed? I mean, one A-Wing crashing into the bridge and the whole thing takes a nose dive into the Death Star? I don’t buy it. Not enough damage was done to the thing to warrant the crash. Still, what a spectacle!

And Luke versus Vader, it’s the best lightsaber fight of the original trilogy and is on that same emotional intensity as REVENGE. The stakes are great, Luke trying to defend himself while saving his father from the dark side, while Vader tries to deny his own emotions, making the perfect blend of action and drama. And when Vader threatens to turn Leia to the dark side, can anyone blame Luke for going crazy and hacking and slashing away at Vader? Of course with the Emperor cackling in his chair, it’s such a wonderful series of events, making him the penultimate bad guy you love to hate. Jeez, and McDiarmid was in his late thirties when he did this role, so major props to the make-up team. Yeah, I had a girlfriend who once asked me who played the original Emperor and when I told her it was the same guy as it was in the prequels, she was flummoxed. I loved that reaction.

To top it all off, the ending is perfect. The moment Luke give his father a Jedi’s pyre burning, there’s no dialog. It’s just gorgeous, memorable visuals, along with John Williams’ score to send us off, all the characters hugging and dancing in celebration, there’s not a whole lot of more satisfying endings out there.

That’s probably the best way to put it: it’s a satisfying and feel-good finale. Is it devoid of problems? No. But it still went darker. It went for more emotions. It went for bigger action. And you know something? It paid off and it’s still a pretty damn great film. Hard to say which of the original is my favorite, as I love them all for various reasons. Each has had its highs and lows, but they each offer something that the others don’t, but they all offer one thing that makes it great. They offered great entertainment. And probably best of all, they span several generations and brought together a geeky, but passionate fanbase, from the older to the freshest of young. While this movie wouldn’t be the last Star Wars film, not by a long shot, it still comes out as one of the greatest. The Empire falls, but the franchise is immortal.

My honest rating for STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI: a strong 4/5

returnofthejedipost.jpg

STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH review – Star Wars Special

STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI (2017) is just around the corner. But why wait to review Star Wars movies? Until its inevitable release, I’m going to review all the core films in celebration! There may not be a lot of them, but there’s a lot to say about them. Everybody’s got their own opinion of the order in which the movies should be viewed, by release (IV through VI, then I through III) or in chronological order (I through VI), but others, like myself, think there’s a better way to view them. I’m going to review the core films in the following order, subsequently how I’ll be reviewing them:

  1. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)
  2. EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977)
  3. EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
  4. EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
  5. EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
  6. EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
  7. EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

In addition, I’ll try and do a fresh review of my FORCE AWAKENS (2015) review. This is going to be so much fun, yo! This is my “LAST JEDI Celebration Until Release” special!

Essentially, this entire movie is one big spoiler. So, seriously, if you haven’t seen STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), then STOP READING!!! And for that matter STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND GO WATCH STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK!!! It’s an amazing film! So from this point on, I will be talking about this film 100 percent unfiltered. There are spoilers galore here. So with that said:

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS 

This is it. The last one. The final installment to the Star Wars franchise for the next ten years, if you don’t count the animated feature film THE CLONE WARS (2008), which served as the unofficial pilot to the wildly successful TV show THE CLONE WARS (2008 – 2015).  Everything that the prequels have been building up to. The Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side, becoming Darth Vader and hunting down and destroying the Jedi. Even though we knew what the outcome was going to be, the point wasn’t what was going to happen, but rather how it was going to. And that’s not what anyone knew, no matter what they said. You bet I was excited for this back in the day.

I think before I go any further, I think it’s about time I explained the order in which I choose to watch the Star Wars films the way I have. Well, to be honest, the order depends on the audience you’re showing it to, an adult or a child. If the audience is a child, then the order is exactly as I have it, ROGUE ONE, NEW HOPE, PHANTOM, CLONES, EMPIRE, REVENGE, then JEDI. If the audience is an adult, then the order becomes ROGUE ONE,  NEW HOPE, EMPIRE, the prequels, then JEDI. My idea is to push back the famed twist from EMPIRE as much as possible. ROGUE ONE and NEW HOPE don’t drop hints regarding the twist. Sadly, I and II kind of do, constantly referencing how clouded Anakin’s future is and how dangerous it is to train him, and CLONES drops that Imperial March theme when Anakin exclaims his hatred for the Sand People. If an adult were to watch the movies in the order of NEW HOPE, PHANTOM, and CLONES, they could probably pick up on the idea that Vader and Anakin are one in the same. A kid on the other hand, who probably hasn’t had much experience with twists and turns in films, might not. In NEW HOPE, the audience is led to believe that Anakin and Vader are two separate people. Granted, in PHANTOM and CLONES, kids may be confused as to where this Vader character might show up, so it’s still possible that even a clever kid will figure out that Vader is Anakin. With adults, it’s far more likely, hence it’s probably better to just go straight to it, NEW HOPE then right to EMPIRE.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Hayden Christensen (JUMPER [2008], AWAKE [2007], THE VIRGIN SUICIDES [1999], and the upcoming LITTLE ITALY [2018]), Ewan McGregor (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [2017], CASSANDRA’S DREAM [2007], A LIFE LESS ORDINARY [1997], and upcoming films ZOE [2018] and CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2018]), Natalie Portman (SONG TO SONG [2017], THE DARJEELING LIMITED [2007], MARS ATTACKS! [1997], and the upcoming ANNIHILATION [2018]), and Ian McDiarmid (THE LOST CITY OF Z [2017], SLEEPY HOLLOW [1999], and DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS [1988]). In support, we have Samuel L. Jackson (THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD [2017], 1408 [2007], JACKIE BROWN [1997], and upcoming films THE LAST FULL MEASURE [2018] and INCREDIBLES 2 [2018]), Frank Oz (INSIDE OUT [2015], ZATHURA [2005], MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND [1996], LABYRINTH [1986], and THE MUPPET MOVIE [1979]), the late and great Christopher Lee (THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES [2014], THE GOLDEN COMPASS [2007], SLEEPY HOLLOW [1999], GREMLINS 2: THE NEXT BATCH [1990], 007 THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN [1974], DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS [1966], and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN [1957]), Temuera Morrison (VERTICAL LIMIT [2000], SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL [1997], video game STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II [2017], and upcoming films OCCUPATION [2018] and AQUAMAN [2018]), and Jimmy Smits (STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE, TV show NYPD BLUE [1993 – 2005], and TV mini-series THE TOMMYKNOCKERS [1993]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is George Lucas, known for AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973). Composing the score is, of course, John Williams, known for THE BFG (2016), WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005), SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (1997), EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1977), and upcoming films THE POST (2018) and Star Wars Episode IX (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is David Tattersall, known for THE FOREIGNER (2017), THE HUNTING PARTY (2007), and CON AIR (1997).

This is my honest opinion of: STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH

(SUMMARY)

Set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. The Clone Wars have raged on for three years. Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) have successfully rescued the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the Separatist droid leader General Grievous (Matthew Wood), and manage to kill Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) in the process, but Grievous escapes. The war’s end depends greatly on the capture or death of Grievous, causing the Jedi Council to focus all of their efforts on finding him. However, other things are stirring. As Palpatine continues to coddle Anakin, he in turn rises in the Jedi ranks, and becomes consumed by a fear that his visions of his Senator wife Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) dying in child birth, desperate to find a way to keep her alive.

(REVIEW)

REMINDER: SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!!!

REMINDER: SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!!!

REMINDER: SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!!!

Wow, what a vast improvement. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, I think this is a good movie. Ehhh, for the most part. It still has problems, but it’s clear that lessons were learned.

Alright, so lets tackle those problems. For one thing, the movie isn’t written much better, at least during the scenes where romance is involved.

ANAKIN
You are so beautiful.

PADMÉ
It’s only because I’m so in love.

ANAKIN
No, it’s because I’m so in love with you.

PADMÉ
So love has blinded you?

Or how about that incredible, “Anakin! You’re breaking my heart!” from Padmé? Definitely not good.

Let’s also talk about the absolute biggest problem with the film: Anakin’s turn to the dark side. The pivotal moment that’s supposed to be the beginning of a galaxy being shrouded by fear and oppression. It makes zero sense.

Okay, so Anakin’s been having dreams that Padmé dies giving birth. He doesn’t want that to become a reality. That’s all well and good, and perfectly understandable. Here comes Palpatine saying that the dark side of the Force can prevent people from dying and if Anakin joins him, he can be taught. And without that much persuasion, it somehow works. First off, Anakin just learned that Palpatine is the Sith Lord that the Jedi have been looking for, and for someone who is so devoted to the Order and its codes, rules, and regulations, he immediately trusts Palpatine’s word. There is no proof that he can do anything that he’s saying. Already, the concept is flawed upon arrival, but the execution of it is even worse. Anakin cuts off Mace Windu’s (Samuel L. Jackson) arm, Palpatine Force-lightnings him out the window to his death, Anakin stumbles back in horror, and then… just pledges himself to Palpatine right there. The pacing of it all is WAY too fast. Anakin doesn’t appear to be sizing up the weight of his actions, traumatically trying to regain his focus, nothing. He just jumps right to pledging his allegiance to the deformed old man in front of him. This should have been a lot more subtle, but it’s like the story had no idea how to turn him to the dark side, so little to no effort was given to properly explain it.

Continuing on with Anakin, this conclusion to the prequel trilogy also made this “Prophecy” totally useless too. What do I mean? The only reason why everyone believes Anakin is this “Chosen One” is because of his midichlorian count of over 20,000 that even Yoda doesn’t have. Here’s the glaring problem: it has no impact on Anakin’s character. At no point in these films, or even in the animated CLONE WARS TV show, have we ever seen those 20,000 midichlorians at work. He never does anything that makes the audience go, “That’s the Chosen One.” His incredible powers have never manifested, so all that build-up was for nothing. All we ever really get is that he’s a great pilot and a terrific swordsman, and you can make the fair argument that he’s one of the best, if not the best in the Jedi Order. That would have been enough. But the fact of the matter is, we’ve never seen him use the Force in any incredible way. The implications mean nothing if there’s no execution.

The problems with the movie don’t end there, although they’re smaller by comparison.

Why exactly does Anakin execute Count Dooku? The man was unarmed and bested in combat. He could have been taken in and put in a jail cell, and executed by Anakin or the clones during Order 66. Why didn’t General Grievous use his many lightsabers in his confrontation with Obi-Wan and Anakin on his ship? Speaking of Grievous, his death at Obi-Wan’s hands was extremely anti-climactic. Seriously? Blaster bolts to his chest? Come on, man. Why does Anakin care so much about not being a Jedi Master, even though he’s the youngest Jedi Knight to have a seat on the Council in Jedi history? How did Sidious so easily kill three Jedi Masters? I know the implication is that he’s just that deadly, but why not actually show how deadly he is? In the TV show CLONE WARS, he’s shown to dual-wield lightsabers. I will never understand why the Jedi never did, or had their own double-bladed sabers… or for that matter, why they didn’t use different colored crystals other than blue and green. Yeah yeah, Mace had the purple one, but that’s ONE purple lightsaber. Why did the fight between Yoda and Sidious end? Yoda’s been hoping around on those Senate flying disks pretty easily enough. He wasn’t seriously injured in the fight, so why did it end? In fact, wouldn’t this fight have been a great reason to explain his need for the cane in the original trilogy? That he got seriously injured and wasn’t able to continue fighting? And why did Sidious tell Anakin that Padmé died? He didn’t even know that she was on Mustafar. Was he just talking out of his ass and he just happened to get lucky? Oh, and who can forget:

hqdefault

I have other problems, but I’ll address the last of them in my JEDI review.

But enough of the problems. Similar to PHANTOM, I do believe there’s a blend of good elements that can get overlooked, or don’t get enough credit.

For one, that opening space battle is utterly brilliant and still holds up for how awesome it is. Giant ships fighting giant ships, you really get a sense of the scope and scale of the war being fought. And Obi-Wan and Anakin storming Grievous’ ship never stops being fun to watch. Even the humor gets turned up a notch. And I’ll never stop laughing at, “Another happy landing.”

The action is still unbelievably cool. Anakin versus, Dooku, Obi-Wan versus Grievous, Sidious and Mace Windu, Sidious and Yoda, and the incredibly epic Anakin versus Obi-Wan, the lightsaber play will always be the highlight of these movies and cranked it up ten fold here. Coupled with John Williams’ scores “Anakin Vs. Obi-Wan” and “Battle of the Heroes” makes for the best swordplay scenes you’re ever going to see in a Star Wars movie, or hell, any movie with swordplay.

And holy hell, we actually learn a thing or two about the Force. But not just any ole thing, the dark side of the Force no less. Ever since the original trilogy, all we’ve ever known about the dark side of the Force is that… it’s bad. Well, gee willikers, I would never have figured that out. It’s pretty self-explanatory, if you ask me. Although, Yoda does mention that the dark side is more seductive and now we understand why thanks to that opera scene. We learn that the dark side of the Force can teach you how to prevent death, something that Anakin desperately wants to learn in order to save Padmé. Well… yeah, that does sound enticing. That does sound like a good deal, especially if you’re haunted by nightmares of your loved one dying. So kudos to that!

And honestly, there’s improvements with the characters as well. Look, I’ll be the last to say that Anakin is a good character, but still, this movie does give him a bit of a personality. He’s reckless and cocky, but it’s not in an unlikable way. And say what you want about the delivery of his lines, I do firmly believe that Christensen is a good facial actor. If nothing else, he’d have had a good career as a mocap actor. And even though the romance dialog between Anakin and Padmé is awful, they do occasionally bring up legit conversations that don’t involve how in love with each other they are, or where to have the baby. When Anakin has nightmares of her death, he tries to hide his fear from her and she says, “How long will it take for us to trust each other?” That’s… a real relationship problem, a lack of communication and trust. At one point, they even talk about their political views. Padmé thinks that the Republic is failing and might become the very thing their fighting against, but Anakin thinks that everything is going to work out fine. A real conflict of interests that has broken relationships before, creating legit drama. Okay, it doesn’t exactly mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, and it’s ruined by, “Hold me, like you did on Naboo when there was no plotting, no wars…” but it feels a hell of a lot more mature than “You’re so beautiful because I’m so in love with you” GYAAAAH *barf*!!! Bleh!!! My bile tastes better than that dialog!

And the weight of the choices made by the characters is truly felt here. When Sidious says to execute Order 66, the deaths of all those Jedi, the coolest beings to ever grace film, just slaughtered by their own men with no warning or anything. I remember crying hard during that scene and though I didn’t cry now, it’s still legitimately heartbreaking and I legitimately hate Sidious for it. And when Anakin and Obi-Wan are fighting on Mustafar, I really do feel like it’s more than just lightsabers being swung around. I do feel like there’s emotion into each swing. I feel like there is serious turmoil, struggle, and agony on both ends. It truly is an amazing climax, full of atmosphere and I believe that this is where the original trilogy comes from.

Folks, it’s not a perfect film. Not by a long shot. But when you really take a step back to see how much it did right, there is something to value here and makes it worth watching. It’s easy to make fun of, sure, but for every awkward step back, there’s a really solid step forward. At the end of the day, I do like this film as a whole. There are even aspects that I love and adore. I may not be able to ignore the problems that this film has, but I can’t deny that this is my favorite of the prequels, as far as the core stories are concerned. The saga concludes on a very flawed, but a strong enough finale.

My honest rating for STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH: a strong 3/5

starwars 3

STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK review – Star Wars Special

STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI (2017) is just around the corner. But why wait to review Star Wars movies? Until its inevitable release, I’m going to review all the core films in celebration! There may not be a lot of them, but there’s a lot to say about them. Everybody’s got their own opinion of the order in which the movies should be viewed: by release (IV through VI, then I through III) or in chronological order (I through VI). But others, like myself, think there’s a better way to view them. I’m going to review the core films in the following order, subsequently how I also believe they should be viewed:

  1. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)
  2. EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977)
  3. EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
  4. EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
  5. EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
  6. EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
  7. EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

In addition, I’ll try and do a fresh review of my FORCE AWAKENS (2015) review. This is going to be so much fun, yo! This is my “LAST JEDI Celebration Until Release” special!

After the mega hit and popularity of A NEW HOPE (1977), which was a huge game changer in the world of films and science fiction, it’s only natural that the film would get a continuation. I can’t imagine too many people were complaining.

Fun fact, in my A NEW HOPE review, I mentioned how I never saw that movie until the 1997 Special Editions came out. In fact, my first introduction to Star Wars was this film. Specifically, I think my dad taped it on VHS while it was on TV or some such. Heh, if you ask me, not a bad place to start. Awe, hell, you as long as you don’t start off with the prequel trilogy, I think you’d be in pretty good shape. Sadly, I can’t remember too much about my first experience with the film. I mean, obviously I loved it. Look at me now at the age of twenty-eight? I’m still gushing over Star Wars. But I can’t recall how I reacted to it. Eh, who cares? All I know is that I loved it and it was what sparked my love for Star Wars in the end.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Mark Hamill (BRIGSBY BEAR [2017], BATTLE FOR TERRA [2007], VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED [1995], and the upcoming CON MAN [2018]), Harrison Ford (BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017], FIREWALL [2006], AIR FORCE ONE [1997], and the upcoming untitled Indiana Jones film [2020]), Carrie Fisher (FANBOYS [2009], WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… [1989], TV show FAMILY GUY [1998 – ongoing], and the upcoming WONDERWELL [2018]), Billy Dee Williams (LEGO BATMAN [2017], FANBOYS [2009], and BATMAN [1989]), and playing Darth Vader is David Prowse (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE [1971]) and voicing Vader, James Earl Jones (THE LION KING [1994], FIELD OF DREAMS [1989], EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC [1977], DR. STRANGELOVE [1964], 4 episodes TV show STAR WARS: REBELS [2014 – ongoing], and the upcoming THE LION KING [2019]). In support, we have Frank Oz (INSIDE OUT [2015], ZATHURA [2005], MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND [1996], LABYRINTH [1986], and THE MUPPET MOVIE [1979]), Anthony Daniels (THE LORD OF THE RINGS [1978] and the upcoming RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]), Kenny Baker (THE KING AND I [1999], AMADEUS [1984], and FLASH GORDON [1980]), Peter Mayhew (EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS, EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH, and 1 episode of THE MUPPET SHOW [1976 – 1981]), and Alec Guinness (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA [1962], THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI [1957], and 7 episodes of TV show TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY [1979]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Irvin Kershner, known for ROBOCOP 2 (1990) and 007 NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983). Co-writing the screenplay is Leigh Brackett (THE LONG GOODBYE [1973] and EL DORADO [1967]) and Lawrence Kasdan (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], DREAMCATCHER [2003], WYATT EARP [1994], RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK [1981], and the upcoming SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY [2018]). Composing the score is John Williams, known for THE BFG (2016), MUNICH (2005), THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997), THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (1987), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1977), and upcoming films THE POST (2018) and the untitled Indiana Jones movie. Finally, the cinematographer is Peter Suschitzky, known for AFTER EARTH (2013), EASTERN PROMISES (2007), MARS ATTACKS! (1996), and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975).

This is my honest opinion of: STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

(SUMMARY)

Set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Three years after the destruction of the Death Star at the hands of Luke Skywalker  (Mark Hamill) and Rebels, but the Empire is still strong and coming at the Rebels harder than ever, specifically Darth Vader (David Prowse; voiced by James Earl Jones) obsessively hunting Luke, who has ventured off on his own to locate the great Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz) to learn the ways of the Force and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are on the run, seeking shelter wherever they can find it.

(REVIEW)

Oh man… I have no idea what I’m going to say about this. It’s amazing. It take the previous film and pushes it in almost a radically different direction, making for a much darker, much deeper, and more engaging story than its predecessor.

I think I’m actually going to do something a little controversial that’ll get a few of you upset: mention the problem that I have with the film.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

***

 

 

***

 

So here it is. Luke’s on Dagobah training with Yoda, lifting stones and such, when his X-Wing starts sinking into the swamp. He tries to lift it out with the Force, but doesn’t succeed. After his lecture from the two-foot space goblin, Luke stands up and says to him, “You want the impossible,” and storms away in frustration.

 

I don’t understand his mentality here. Is Luke honestly saying that “feeling the Force around him” is impossible? Dude, before the stormtroopers put Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen through the magical and fun world of getting burnt alive, he barely knew what the Force was. Yet, in the time between Obi-Wan’s description of the Force in his hut and that X-Wing taking a dive off the deep end, Luke’s been exposed to what he ought to have considered “impossible.” He witnessed Ben perform a Jedi mind trick on the stormtroopers in Mos Eisley. Instead of getting torn in half by Vader’s lightsaber, he witnessed the old man evaporate into nothing, becoming one with the Force. Hell, even in the Wampa’s cave on Hoth, he managed to Force-pull that lightsaber hilt from the ice after he couldn’t physically reach it. All impossible things! Comparing all that to lifting an X-Wing fighter out of some gross water, this shouldn’t seem so “impossible.”

 

Wouldn’t it have been better for Luke’s character if he took Yoda’s lecture to heart, sat at the swamp’s edge and reflected on what he’s experienced? You can still have it that Luke couldn’t do it because he’s still so inexperienced and Yoda decides to help him out anyway. You show that Luke isn’t being a Debbie-downer, and you still showcase how Yoda’s this all-powerful midget guy that’s a million flavors of awesome.

 

This is quite literally my only problem with the movie.

 

***

 

 

***

 

 

***END SPOILERS***

But pish posh about the negatives, time to NERDGASM!!!

Let’s talk about our time on Hoth. Again, those miniature AT-AT walkers look fantastic. Hugh, lumbering tanks whose armor is too strong for blasters, damn, those things are terrifyingly awesome. And a battle with ships, but not in space. That must have been a fun concept to pitch. “Wait, so you’re going to have space ships… but not in space? What kind of nonsense is this?” And now we have the battle on Hoth, probably one of the coolest scenes in all of Star Wars. And I love the tradition of putting the audience in the cockpit, really giving you that feeling of flying between the walker’s legs. It’s awesome as hell. And Luke harpooning himself up the belly of that other walker, throwing in that grenade, causing it to explode… oh yeah, I cheered. You better believe it. I may question how Luke fell fifty feet and perfectly landed in the snow without so much as a twisted ankle, but who cares?! Exploding AT-AT! And all those soldiers on the ground running away from the AT-AT’s, iconic.

Oh, and who doesn’t love the banter between Han and Leia?

LEIA
I’d just as soon kiss a wookie!

HAN
I can arrange that. You could use a good kiss!

I know this is a cliché, the two characters hate each other, but everyone knows they’re going to get together in the end, but… wait a second, does this really fall under that category? I mean, it’s clear that there’s an attraction between the two. But they do something that I don’t think I’ve seen replicated. Han knows he’s attracted, so he constantly bates and annoys Leia to admit hers, which I imagine he gets legit fun from because Leia is ready to sling insults like crazy. “You stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking, nerf-herder!” Please tell me that I’m not the only one who cracks up at that. But I don’t think enough attention is brought to Han’s reaction. “Who’s scruffy-lookin’?” It’s like the dude knows he’s not the smartest, nor is he going to argue the amazing nerf-herder line, but calling him anything less than attractive, that’s going too far! I love it.

And is it just me, or is it even more intimidating to see a super Star Destroyer next to a bunch of other Star Destroyers, rather than a giant ball of death? I don’t know, giant pizza slices of death are scarier. Pizza is love and life, and when pizza takes that away from you… sadness all around… got off track there. Sorry. There’s something about the Imperial Fleet not needing the Death Star and doing fine on their own that’s such a testament to the threat they really pose. And finally getting our first glimpse at this “Emperor” that was mentioning in passing in A NEW HOPE, and that Vader answers directly to him sends shivers down your spine. He’s only in one scene, and one scene that’s not more than five minutes, but that one scene that’s less than five minutes sticks with you hardcore. I mean, seriously?! Vader answers to someone?! And of course it’s this ominous-looking grim reaper-looking dude! Just… damn! The Empire be scary!

And that’s what makes EMPIRE one of the best sequels out there. It doesn’t vomit up the same thing we saw in the first installment. Lord knows it would have been easy to do that and just rake in the money. A NEW HOPE was a gigantic hit and audiences would have obviously thrown money at the box office to see it, regardless of its quality as a product. But nope, the filmmakers knew that in order to keep it a relevant story for a long time, they needed to take the story to the next step. Han and Leia didn’t have a romantic relationship in the first one, but you can see how some kind of attraction could blossom between them. Luke wasn’t trained in the Force, so let’s have him learn a few things, cut down on the whining, and even dive a little deeper into how the Force works, or make you feel like it’s even more mystical than it already is. That was sure a bonus.

With added new characters and lines that have become cinematic icons, taking a fun, adventure-filled predecessor and successfully going darker and deeper, maintaining the tradition of its practical and visual effects being light-years ahead of our computer generated-happy films of today, and evolving the story and characters that we already know and love, EMPIRE did a whole lot more than just be a great sequel. It did more than just be a great stand-alone film. It proved that Star Wars was here to stay and it wasn’t done yet. The Star Wars saga continued with one of the greatest continuations known to film.

My honest rating for STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: /5

ESBposter