Posts Tagged ‘star wars’

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December 2019 Movie Reviews: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, Knives Out, Christmas Movies

December 21, 2019

Going forward, this is how I’m going to review movies – unless I want to highlight a specific movie I think warrants more discussion (i.e. leaving Parasite off this list). You can expect quick, succinct reviews here that give you an idea of how I felt about a movie and a few strengths and weaknesses, if warranted. I’ll keep track of every movie I watch throughout the month and post my thoughts on them at the start of the next month. This will include rewatches and possibly rating changes. I’ll also post some thoughts on any TV shows if I finish watching a season during the month. My rating system for TV is a little different than for movies because… I’m a psychopath.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019, theaters) – Geez. I’ve never proclaimed to be a big Star Wars fan, so it’s not like I’ve ever been super invested in these films, but… I think I’m over them. There have been eight Star Wars movies released since I was in high school and I’m a genuine fan of two of them (Rogue One and The Force Awakens) and none of them have been dear to me. That’s a lot of mediocrity. The Rise of Skywalker just adds to the list. It was mildly entertaining, but I honestly didn’t care about anything that was happening. As always, these movies are pretty good visually but I just can’t get emotionally invested in the story or find a way to care about these characters.

5/10 (Decent)

Knives Out (2019, theater) – This probably deserves a formal review but here we are. It’s a slick whodunnit with a great cast and plenty of memorable characters and is wildly entertaining the entire way. I give it a strong recommendation and would be happy to watch it again. I can actually see this growing on me and giving it a higher rating in the future.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Thoroughbreds (2017, HBO NOW) – Interesting, entertaining and a bit disturbing with some quality performances from Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy. Also features the late Anton Yelchin in one of his better roles. I recommend it.

6/10 (Recommended)

Klaus (2019, Netflix) – A worthy addition to the staple of Christmas holiday films with a fresh take on the legend of Santa and some unbelievably crisp animation. I thought this was top notch, but I want to see it again before labeling it a Must See.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Home Alone (1990, Disney+) – The most amazing thing about Home Alone is that I’ve probably seen it more than any other movie in my lifetime and yet, I still enjoy it. Even as I enter my late 30s I still don’t mind watching it every single year around Christmas time. This movie is full of plot holes, nonsense, and unbelievably dumb characters, but I still love it and it’s charm is undeniable. A true classic, even if it isn’t exactly a great film.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992, Disney+) – I can’t blame anyone involved for making this, but it’s basically just a retread of the first film set in New York City under even more unbelievable circumstances. I guess it’s still kind of fun, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the magic of the original.

5/10 (Decent)

Fatal Attraction (1987, Amazon Prime) – A movie that has always intrigued me but I never got around to watching. I always thought it was probably just softcore erotica, but Fatal Attraction actually got nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture! Seeing it streaming on Prime, I finally watched it and it was… pretty good! Glenn Close totally makes the movie and plays unhinged and obsessed really well. It didn’t strike me as a film that should be in anyone’s top 5 of any year, but it was definitely worth watching.

6/10 (Recommended)

Us (2019, HBO NOW) – I’ve seen it three times now. After two viewings, I was pretty confident labelling it a Must See, but after a third viewing, I think it’s just a pretty good, but not great film.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable) [revised rating]

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Netflix) – I thought this was really mediocre and bordering on bad the first time I saw it, but after being convinced to give it another chance (plus wanting to refresh before the new movie) I found it to be enjoyable this time around as some of the things that bothered me (i.e. Rose) didn’t anymore. I still don’t think it’s good enough that I’d recommend it though.

5/10 (Decent)

The Santa Clause (1994, Disney+) – A forgotten Christmas classic. Whenever the best holiday movies come up, I don’t seem to hear The Santa Clause get mentioned much, but it’s far too enjoyable to be omitted like that. Tim Allen is somehow great casting and this movie oozes charm and holiday spirit.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (2018, HBO NOW) – Total trash. Like… absurdly dumb. It gets called a Final Destination ripoff a lot, but I thought the movie it really wanted to imitate was It Follows. This is almost certainly the single worst movie I’ve watched in 2019 (but note it is a 2018 release).

2/10 (Painful)

Noelle (2019, Disney+) – Apologies to Truth or Dare, this is the biggest piece of shit I watched in 2019. Unbearably cheesy, misguided, and not even remotely funny, my wife and I both thought this was unwatchable. I’ll give Dina credit for making it to the halfway point – and I was going to power through if she wanted to – but when she quit it, I figured I probably shouldn’t spend my last hours of 2019 watching the worst movie of the year, and I turned it off about 50 minutes in.

2/10 (Painful)

TV SHOWS

Big Mouth (s2, 2018, Netflix) – A guilty pleasure, I guess? It’s raunchy animation focused on middle school kids going through puberty and all the emotional and physical craziness involved when your hormones start taking over. This show is NOT for kids though. It’s a hard rated-R – and possibly even worse – with absurdly graphic sex talk and even shows the kids naked sometimes. I almost feel bad even watching it. Some of the characters are way too over-the-top and gross (Jay, Coach Steve, the Hormone Monsters). On the other hand, it’s also pretty damn charming and plenty funny, plus I think it does a good job of really digging into the difficulties and wonders of discovering your bodies at that age. Nick Kroll does some excellent voicework and I really liked the addition of The Shame Wizard in this season. I’m a bit ambivalent about how I feel about this show, but I guess I like it overall and have to admit I enjoy it.

3.5/6 (Decent/Good)

The Mandalorian (s1, 2019, Disney+) – I’m going to say it… this is the best thing to ever come out of the Star Wars universe. I’ve already mentioned I don’t hold any of the films dear to me, so when I make this statement, it’s not coming from someone that is in love with the franchise. I kind of went into The Mandalorian wanting to not like the show, but it didn’t take long to win me over. Everyone knows about Baby Yoda by now and that was a goddamn stroke of creative genius. Baby Yoda is a level of cuteness that has possibly never been seen before and adds a serious mystique to the show. It’s not a spoiler to say that this character is never referenced in the trilogy that just wrapped up, so… I’m extremely curious to see where this story is headed. I think Baby Yoda makes the show, but there is plenty to love about The Mandalorian. From a technical standpoint, it’s as spectacular as any show I’ve ever seen. The sets, sounds, costumes, and creatures are all elite. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what Jon Favreau and co. have in store for season 2.

5/6 (Must Watch)

Rick & Morty (s4 pt. 1, 2019, Adult Swim) – I got into Rick & Morty either this year or last year, so I was late to the party, but it didn’t take long to win me over. I devoured the first three seasons and by the time I was done with them, I was on board with the sentiment that the show was all-time levels of awesome. Season 4 is the first time I’ve watched the episodes as they came out and I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the first half of season 4. They have released five episodes so far and I thought two of them were great (episodes one and five), while episode four (with dragons?) was one of the worst of the whole series. To be fair though, the bar for the series is insanely high, but that episode was a bit of a head scratcher for me. The other two episodes I was a bit lukewarm on but still liked overall. Considering the consistent level of greatness this show has operated on for three seasons, having two cool episodes and a weak one in the first five of season four seems like a step in the wrong direction.

4/6 (Good)

Don’t F*** With Cats (2019, Netflix) – An insane story about how a bunch of internet nerds formed a Facebook group to track down some kid that made a video of himself torturing and killing a cat and then posted it online. It’s pretty crazy how the group figure out who the person is and then watch in horror as he escalates to actually murdering a human (also posted in a video online). I guess I’m confused about how the internet works because it seems like it would be extremely easy for law enforcement to find out exactly where a video was posted and track down the person that made it, but maybe these are advances in technology that have mostly be fine-tuned in the 7+ years since these events took place. Still, this is an unreal and extremely fascinating story. There are three episodes and once you start the first one, you won’t want to stop watching until you are done.

4.5/6 (Good/Must Watch)

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

December 20, 2017

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hammill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern
Director: Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper)

Bottom Line: I feel like it’s important to note that I’m not a Star Wars fanatic. The series has always been overrated to me and while the original trilogy is definitely classic in the sense that they were groundbreaking films at the time and have had a tremendous affect on pop culture over the last 40 years, the movies themselves are merely enjoyable to me. I’m not wrapped up in all the mythology and I don’t watch all the movies again when a new one comes out. I haven’t seen a film in the prequel trilogy since Revenge of the Sith was in theaters. I did really enjoy The Force Awakens though and for the first time in my life I felt some of that Star Wars magic that everyone else is so enamored by.

The Last Jedi felt nothing like that. Right from the jump, we are hit with cringe-worthy dialogue and humor that doesn’t land. I chuckled one time during this movie and I was supposed to laugh a lot more than that. And then we are introduced to a Luke Skywalker that is nothing like your childhood hero. Even Mark Hammill hates this version.

I can’t get into all the minutiae of why this film is a poor follow up to The Force Awakens – I’ve seen fans nitpick all the relevant little details – but what I can say with confidence is that I was pretty bored while watching it and it was incredibly long for a movie that wasn’t highly entertaining. John Boyega’s Finn – one of the highlights of the previous film – has a much less interesting role this time around and goes on a side adventure that borders on prequel levels of terrible. I wasn’t a fan of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren in the last film and this movie doesn’t help with that. Can you imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader? He’s a huge reason why those movies are memorable. Just a great villain. Kylo Ren is more similar to Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker than to Lord Vader – and that’s not a good thing. Plus, he spends this entire movie with his mask off. Ugh.

The Last Jedi does have some cool moments, but I think they occur far less often than dull or laughable ones. The critics enjoyed this movie, but I personally can’t recommend it. I can’t even say Star Wars diehards will love it because it seems as though the fan base is pretty split, but there are enough people that hate it, that I feel it’s fair to warn people to temper their expectations.

Replay Value: I don’t have much interest in seeing this again. My friend that went with me was happy to see it a second time though.
Sequel Potential: Episode IX is due out in 2019.
Oscar Potential: Star Wars movies are always strong candidates of Visual and Sound nominations. This movie will not be a contender for Best Picture.

Grade: 5/10 (Watchable)

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December 2017 – Most Anticipated Movies & Shows

November 30, 2017

Top December Movies

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 15th) – No explanation needed here, right? As far as Star Wars fanboys go, I’m not much of one, but I would say I enjoy the series. I own about 300 movies, but not one film related to the Star Wars franchise. Still, nothing quite defines the experience of going to the movies like a new Star Wars film and I’ll be there opening weekend like everyone else. I was very happy with JJ Abrams’ reboot in 2015 and this should be another fun installment.

2. The Shape Of Water (December 8th, limited) – Guilleremo del Toro (Pan’s Laybrinth directs a stellar cast that features Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, and Octavia Spencer in this period piece about a mute woman that works as a cleaning lady in a top secret government building that houses a creature that she becomes fond of. del Toro and top notch actors and a creature is always a winning formula.

3. I, Tonya (December 8th, limited) – Margot Robbie plays notorious ice skating star Tonya Harding, the woman that was responsible for bashing in rival Nancy Kerrigan’s knee. The tone of this movie seems fun and Robbie and Allison Janey look like they could be giving great performances.

4. Molly’s Game (December 25th, limited) – I read the book this movie was adapted from and I thought it was interesting, but not really something that would translate well to the big screen. If anyone can make it work though, it’s Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter responsible for The Social Network and Moneyball. Also, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba bring serious acting chops. For those that don’t know, this is a movie about a woman who hosted some of the biggest underground poker games in Los Angeles and New York, some of which were attended by celebrities like Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, and Alex Rodriguez.

5. The Post (December 22nd, limited) – Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in a newspaper drama set in the early 1970s.

6. Phantom Thread (December 25th, limited) – Director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and Daniel Day-Lewis team up again for what is supposed to be DDL’s last role of his acting career. The film is set in the 1950s and centers around London fashion, which definitely doesn’t excite me. Day-Lewis is one of the best actors of all time though and Paul Thomas Anderson has proven himself a very capable writer/director, so I will be anxious to see how they can make this material enthralling.

7. Downsizing (December 22nd) – Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig play a married couple that decide to shrink themselves in order to escape their stress filled lives and take advantage of this newfound technology that will help the world’s overpopulation issue. Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) directs this comedy.

Netflix Additions

Immediate Watch

Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2 (Dec. 5th)
Judd Apatow: The Return (Dec. 12th)
Dave Chappelle: Equanimity (Dec. 31st)

Eventually Watch

The Crown, Season 2 (Dec. 8th)
Peaky Blinders, Season 4 (Dec. 21st)

Might Watch

Diana: In Her Own Words (Dec. 1st)
Easy, Season 2 (Dec. 1st)
Trollhunters Part 2 (Dec. 15th)
Bright (Dec. 22nd)
Creep 2 (Dec. 23rd)

Other Notables

8 Mile (Dec. 1st)
Full Metal Jacket (Dec. 1st)
V For Vendetta (Dec. 1st)

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

December 22, 2016

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn
Director: Gareth Edwards (Godzilla (2014), Monsters)

Bottom Line: Rogue One is definitely going to be one of the more overrated films of 2016 – partly because the critic reviews are mostly positive, resulting in an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, but mostly because it is a generally pleasing film with a strong final act. Fans of the Star Wars brand are going to find very little to complain about.

But it’s not spectacular or without weaknesses. The story is inspired by the crawl for Star Wars: A New Hope, in which The Rebel Alliance obtain plans for the Death Star that reveal how it can be destroyed. This film tells the story of why those plans exist and how they were stolen from the Empire and delivered to the Alliance. It’s actually a pretty neat set up for the original story and sits better with me in the prequel canon than Episodes I through III – but the characters here are kind of weak. It’s the who of the story where things fall apart.

Aside from the heroine Jyn (Jones) and Alan Tudyk’s droid K-2SO with his often hilarious deadpan dialog, I’d wager that most filmgoers won’t remember the names of the rest of the heroes. I couldn’t. There’s a male protagonist played by Diego Luna and a pilot played, questionably, by Riz Ahmed. There’s a blind guy and his friend – and they have some cool moments, but… who are they again? One of Star Wars greatest appeals is creating memorable and lasting characters, which I felt The Force Awakens did a good job of, but Rogue One fails in this regard. Even the character of Jyn is forgettable and I thought Felicity Jones had moments where she just seemed to be going through the motions, delivering her dialog like she was reading it straight off the script. This is an actress that was Oscar nominated as recently as 2014 for The Theory Of Everything. You can’t really blame Disney for trying to capitalize on the Star Wars brand by churning out these side films, but the characters in Rogue One feel hollow and it really takes away from one’s emotional involvement in the story, especially in the last act.

But that last act is actually quite strong. It’s a high octane finale full of “surprises” that seems to be the biggest reason people are walking out of this movie with a smile on their face and forgetting how mediocre the rest of the movie was. It’s no secret that Darth Vader is in this film, unless you haven’t seen any trailers, and he will not disappoint. Though his screen time is rather limited, he’s easily the highlight of the movie when he’s featured. There’s a lot of nostalgia hearing the classic breathing apparatus and James Earl Jones voicing the character again. Plus, we get to see Darth Vader be a ruthless bad ass, which somewhat helps ease the memory of watching Hayden Christensen do his best to ruin the character as Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. It would have been nice to see more Vader in this movie, but I can understand the filmmakers wanting to make a film that can stand apart from the main series – they just forgot to flesh out the new characters.

I actually like the concept of Rogue One and the idea of stand alone side films in the Star Wars canon, I just think the execution here was lacking a bit. There’s a chance it could grow on me more with multiple viewings and maybe the characters will stick with me more, but Rogue One is enjoyable at best, and seems like it is getting a lot of favorable reviews because the ending is good and the visual effects are pleasing. It’s not a great film, but as I said before, Star Wars fans are unlikely to be disappointed.

Edit: I forgot to comment on how pointless it was to pay double to see this movie in 3D. It basically never comes into play or add to the experience. It might be a fun movie to see in IMAX, but do not pay to see this in normal 3D! Save the money.

Replay Value: Worth watching again.
Sequel Potential: This film is an immediate prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy. There are more stand alone Star Wars stories on the way though.
Oscar Potential: Star Wars movies are always a contender for any of the sound or visual effects categories.

Grade: 6/10 (recommended)

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

December 21, 2015

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis
Director: J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Super 8)

Bottom Line: There were a lot of things going right with the development of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We can all appreciate George Lucas for bringing the Star Wars franchise to the world, but after the bitter taste he left in our mouths with Episodes I-III, I can’t imagine that anyone was sad to hear he wasn’t going to be involved much with the making of Episode VII. Replace Lucas with proven sci-fi master J.J. Abrams, who recently reinvigorated the Star Trek franchise with great success, and the creative minds at Disney, and well, there was plenty to be excited about.

And The Force Awakens immediately feels familiar… and special. Before I even heard the names Finn or Rey, I already knew Episode VII was going to be eons better than the last three movies. It feels like a Star Wars movie – a good one; and yet, it is carried by an entirely new cast of characters.

It opens with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver as the new Darth Vader), field commander of the First Order (the new Empire) and a crew of storm troopers trying to find a map that leads to the location of a missing Luke Skywalker. Of course, the map is hidden in a droid (no, not R2D2) that is accompanied by a top pilot in the Resistance named Poe (Isaac), both of whom are captured by the First Order. However, during battle, one of the storm troopers, who we will come to know as Finn (Boyega), seems to become aware of his wrongdoing and decides to deflect, saving Poe and his droid and escaping before crashing on the planet Jakku, where Poe disappears and Finn meets Rey (Ridley), a scrappy scavenger with all the signs of a future Jedi. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s up to Rey and Finn to use the map to find Luke Skywalker, the last known Jedi, and avoid the clutches of Kylo Ren and the evil First Order.

At first glance, that plot might look eerily similar – and it should. The Force Awakens is certainly not breaking new ground in storytelling and considering this is the seventh installment in the series, it honestly makes me laugh any time I see someone legitimately criticize this movie for being unoriginal. What did you expect? It’s pretty clear that the writers decided to take the elements of the original series that worked, flip them around a bit, add a twist or two, add some new characters, sprinkle in some old ones, shake it up a bit, and hope they had the ingredients for another commercially (and this time critically) successful trilogy.

And I’ll be damned if the formula doesn’t work to perfection. Abrams and company manage to infuse The Force Awakens with plenty of call backs and cameos from the original trilogy without overdoing it, all while developing brand new players that will carry the story for the next decade. Both Ridley’s Rey and Driver’s Kylo Ren are worthy additions to the Star Wars legacy, but it’s Boyega’s Finn that is the true standout. As a former storm trooper, Finn’s arc is the only one that is truly unique in the movie and Boyega plays the part with wide-eyed giddiness. Already a potential breakout candidate with his awesome performance in 2011’s wonderful and criminally overlooked Attack The Block, Boyega is now officially a megastar. Having watched the original trilogy recently, I was also impressed with how seamless Harrison Ford’s performance as Han Solo feels considering it has been over thirty years since he played the part. That kind of nostalgia didn’t carry over into the latest Indiana Jones movie, so it’s a welcome feat here.

Not everyone in the cast is brilliant, however. Carrie Fisher’s General Leia Organa feels out of place and her portrayal is a bit jarring. I don’t know if time just hasn’t been kind to the actress or what, but she doesn’t feel or sound like how I would imagine Princess Leia 30 years later. Also, after seeing such brilliant performances from Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) and Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux) in Ex Machina earlier this year, it’s a bit disappointing to see how little screen time Isaac gets for what I thought would be a major character and how rigid and forced Gleeson’s First Order general feels.

Still, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was everything I could have hoped for. It feels like a movie George Lucas would have made in his prime with 2015’s film-making technology. The story lacks originality, sure, and while you might not be able to guess the plot twists exactly, they won’t really surprise you when they happen – and I can only assume more “big” revelations are coming (if Finn is an ordinary storm trooper that simply decided to switch sides, well, then I know nothing about anything). Regardless, the movie is entertaining and funny enough that we can be happy that we are getting more of what we already know we love: an awesome space adventure with great and memorable characters. We have a new core of potential Star Wars icons to root for and against and it will be interesting to see the rest of the trilogy play out. This is a superb blockbuster film and I can’t imagine how any Star Wars fan would feel anything less than glee while watching it. J.J. Abrams done did it again!

Replay Value: I actually want to see it in theaters again… preferably in IMAX 3D.
Sequel Potential: Episode VIII is due out in May 2017 and Episode IX comes out in 2019, plus we are getting Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016, a Han Solo prequel in 2018, and possibly a Boba Fett movie in 2020.
Oscar Potential: This movie should get some technical attention: special effects, make-up, visual effects, costumes, sound editing, sound, etc. the real question is whether it can sneak into the Best Picture or Best Director categories…

Grade: 8/10 (Excellent)

MINOR SPOILER: My one real complaint with this movie was that about midway through, Han Solo and Chewbacca are encountered by some sort of bounty hunters played by Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, amazing martial artists that are responsible for some of the best fight choreography I’ve ever seen (see: The Raid and The Raid 2) and yet, their roles could have been played by any other extra, as they have minimal dialogue before being whisked off screen while we get a monster chase sequence. Talk about a waste.