I took my sweet time getting to the theatre on this one, especially after each spoiler-free headline I caught was incredibly divisive – I mean, to think that the prequels could be considered canon over Last Jedi? It’s like everyone’s taking crazy pills. In lieu of the screaming, I thought I would talk out the good and bad of the latest in the franchise. If you don’t want spoilers, I’ll just tell you that I liked it – other than that, read no further.
The Thing That Made Me Literally Say “What the f*ck?” Out Loud
Yes, I am talking about Leia revealing her Force powers. I don’t believe that there was any doubt that she had some sort of Force ability (considering her bloodline) but some sort of hint within the film series would have been nice. Sure she didn’t have any Jedi training, but we could have seen her meditate or something like that.
Otherwise, having her Superman to safety so dramatically was utterly ridiculous. And personally, I think it would have been more appropriate if she had died then and there – hear me out:
Much of Kylo Ren’s character development is hindering on his internal conflict (okay, so he’s the embodiment of internal conflict) – I personally loved that moment of hesitation which lead to someone shooting Leia before him. If she had died, the audience would know that he would have had to live with the fact that he did not kill her in the end, furthering his self-doubt.
Now that I think about it, Kylo probably doesn’t know that she survived, so better yet, he still knows that he hesitated. There will always be doubt, but more on him later.
Finn’s Storyline / The Rebels
For the most part, Finn’s plot felt like busywork. Arguably the disastrous chain of events could be blamed on Laura Dern’s character, Admiral Holdo. Though I do believe that she was mostly a foil to Poe Dameron, to prove that there is benefit to strategy over impulse, it would have been most beneficial for her to maybe, I don’t know, explain this plan to him? Maybe it was just hubris on her part, like she had something to prove?
However, because the true Rebels made their own plans, we got to see a different side of the war, which I appreciated. Being that the main plot is so caught up in light v. dark, it was nice to see neutral parties, as well as how other parts/people of the galaxy is affected – and thanks to Finn and Rose, a new generation of rebels are inspired.
Unfortunately, a lot of this is lost in an overdrawn chase sequence. Additionally I dug Rose as a character, but the romance angle near the end seemed like too much too fast (not a fan).
The Death of Luke
Many folks took umbrage to how Luke met his end. After all, this was the greatest Jedi in the galaxy, and he Force-projected himself to death. Thematically, I thought this worked. The showdown with Kylo was incredibly satisfying, and Kylo knows that he could not best Luke in the end. Furthermore, Kylo has no idea that Luke actually died, so he lives on in legend.
I actually enjoyed everything with Luke – the angst, the bitterness, and ultimately the redemption. Many also hated the fact that he tried to kill young Ben Solo – but it was a subconscious fleeing doubt and nothing more – a misunderstanding that he had to own up to. I also almost cried with happiness when puppet Yoda came back to teach Luke a final lesson. So with his demise, I have to agree with Rey: he was finally at peace, and knew that everything was going to be alright.
I have mixed feelings about him. As a character, it’s great to have such a conflicted villain. On the other hand, his denial and outbursts are just childish and annoying. I want to see him use his failure to empower his rage – to own his mistakes to do better, to indeed let the rage flow through him – some confidence, goddammit. What do we have instead? Doubt and brooding. Lots of brooding.
Sure, he’s following Vader in letting his fear turn to anger, but if I recall, we didn’t really like Vader’s transition that much – it was better when we just knew him as a mysteriously powerful, unstoppable force. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tragic villain, but they have to be a rare combination of well-written and well performed to gain a sympathetic audience.
Obvious marketing ploy is obvious. However, the porgs weren’t nearly as annoying as I expected them to be, and their origin is actually quite charming. The crystal foxes didn’t really bother me either – I took more offense at a salt-coated planet, but that’s just me.
Final Thoughts: Legends Among Us
I think there’s something wonderful about the common theme of inspiring legends as well as belief. I really like that no matter what, Kylo will always be wrong: even after utter destruction, the stories will always endure, and so will hope. Even though the film ends on the note of “out-with-the-old,” the legends will remain at the core.
Roughly two years ago, I discovered a new series as soon as it’s cover met my eye:
Much to my pleasure, I found that not only are there dozens of ooky-spooky vintage photographs within this book, but the story’s narrative is woven by mentioned photographs – how cool is that? I’m still on the third book, and the series isn’t all that bad. It’s dark and whimsical, just as I like it – lots of cool characters too. The love angle’s a little weird, but that can be discussed another day.
Naturally, like most hit young adult novels, a film adaptation was inevitable; between the eerie imagery and semi-period setting, Burton was an apt choice. As for the remainder of the adaptation, considering all of the deviations… it got kinda weird.
Miss Peregrine follows Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield), a teenager who discovers that the amazing stories his late grandfather raised him with may had lead to his mysterious, gruesome death. Jacob uncovers a hidden world lost in time and space, occupied by people known as “peculiars,” (not unlike X-Men‘s mutants) protected by the enigmatic Miss Alma Peregrine (Eva Green).
Jake soon finds that he unknowingly lead danger right to his new friends’ door, for though this world is wondrous, it’s is also wrought with horrors.
Sometimes it’s easy to put the source material out of mind, but in the case of Miss Peregrine, something really bothered me about Emma (Ella Purnell). For those unfamiliar with the book, Olive and Emma originally have the opposite abilities (Olive is also a much younger, so that was weird).
As someone who can manipulate fire, Emma is an incredibly strong presence for Jacob, and thusly they have a more complex, interesting relationship. She’s also much braver and more fierce, and downright pretty cool.
By giving Emma the air ability (a tweaked one at that), she seems so much more fragile (if not useless) than necessary, which lends this movie’s greater issue: there are so many characters here, there’s hardly any development. By the end of it, sure Jacob’s got some more guts and gumption. Awesome. And I guess the rest of the kids do too, but can we really say?
Basically what I mean to say is that this film, as fun as it was to see these characters, was terribly shallow. Granted, I figured the studio was shooting more for a one-off rather than a trilogy, but this adaptation felt awfully muddled. Even if I wasn’t familiar with the source material, I feel as if this story would have felt lackluster in the end – not terrible, just really okay.
Just look at this trailer.
At first glance, I fell in love: the stop-motion mixed with a gorgeous cover of one of my favorite songs made my heart and imagination soar. Not to mention the hype in more recent ads, commending the film’s beauty and depth – I was stoked, to say the least. Alas, I left my seat feeling …well, underwhelmed.
It’s strange to have a Japanese story with a predominately white cast – well, maybe not strange, after all, this has been happening for decades, why stop now? (Despite his appearance in the trailer, George Takei had maybe five lines.)
Though I do have to say that the film is objectively lovely – an absolute spectacle, but suffers under the weight of its own mythos; I found myself begging for more mysticism and lore, but I was only met with the same run-of-the-mill lessons of the importance of story-telling and familial commemoration. Not that these things aren’t important, but maybe I was expecting more depth or at least some deviation of some sort – or hey, maybe some sort of recognition of the shamisen’s significance and history?
Speaking of the shamisen, the score and tonality was gorgeous. I’m not sure if it was an issue of time or studio restrictions, but I would have appreciated this film a lot more if it revolved around more myth and magic – I want to know how Kubo learned about his gifts and if and how he was taught these abilities.
And as I mentioned, this is a spectacle – especially in 3D. Director Travis Knight and Laika are no strangers to the third dimension, and they work to capture the potential of this extra space. After all, this is a physical, hand-crafted medium, and I think that deserves some extra respect.
I felt pretty divided at the end of this one. It was lovely, but needed a lot more oomf. There’s a lot of heart to be had, but stops short of definition.
Thirteen years ago, a generation was taught when things get tough, just keep swimming. Now we learn of the origin of these sage words – yes, the truth is finally revealed about our favorite forgetful fish. Turns out she just kept swimming.
Dory’s search for her family lands her (joined by Marlin and Nemo) at California’s Marine Life Institute, home of a bunch of new merchandisable characters, namely a grumpy Pacific octopus (sorry, “septopus”) named Hank (voiced by Ed O’Neil). With the help of new and old friends, Dory finally finds the answers she’s always been looking for – at least, when she remembers.
Amidst the overbearing sentimentality is genuine fun and sweetness – though it’s hard not to see that Finding Dory and Toy Story 2 are pretty much the same movie. In fact, every Pixar film is just the hero’s journey, isn’t it? Well, whatever works, I suppose – it’s not like it’s a bad thing…it just gets a little underwhelming.
Despite what could be considered a hindrance, I think the mentioned sweetness pulls through on this one. I mean, sure I also mentioned it’s over-sentimental, but this quality is presented in a manner that is neither annoying nor pandering. It’s a lovely tale about family, friends, forgiveness, and of course, disability advocacy.
On that last note, I discovered that some audiences took umbrage with the treatment of some certain characters – namely a sea lion named Gerald.
I guess the thought is that though some of the characters were teased for their disabilities, they ultimately proved a greater point – namely Becky the loon – Gerald was a simpleton who was no more than the butt of some jokes. (And surprise surprise people were offended.◔_◔ I only learned about this when I was trying to find a picture of him.)
Personally, he unnerves me. And ultimately, my opinion is as follows: we don’t know Gerald. He could be a vicious baby killer or the sweetest sea critter since those cuddly otters. We also don’t know his relationship with Fluke and Rudder (the other sea lions). Heck, we hardly even know Fluke and Rudder. So what I guess I’m saying is please just calm the frack down.
In summation, Finding Dory is as charming and sentimental as one would expect, so if you’re a fan of Nemo you’ll probably really dig this as well – just be sure to stay after for some extra closure. Personally, I found the preceding short, Piper, to be much more charming – after all, less is more.
I’ve dabbled with World of Warcraft – I’m not an expert with the lore, or even half of the jargon – I just like making guys and exploring worlds, occasionally summoning demons to slay enemies. You know, casual stuff.
So when Duncan Jones comes along with a feature film, I get pretty excited: I’m a fan of his work (well, I only saw half of his feature films and that half left a great first impression), and a fan of the source material…until I realize this part of the story takes place well before anything I’m really familiar with, but I’m still up for the ride. So with this in mind, it’s super-hard for me to not have an ounce of bias, or at least understanding, but I really can’t wrap my head around this amount of backlash – well, not entirely anyway.
I’d like to start with the elephant in the room, Garona:
Now, Garona is a half-orc – whether she is known to be half-human or half-draenei at this point in the story is neither here nor there. This is what lady orcs look like in this movie:
Painting a lady green and giving her tusks an orc does not make. Even if she is a half-orc, those are some ridiculously strong “other” genes – especially when she looks like this in the game:
Frankly, even with all the suspension of disbelief within me, I was not convinced this woman was half-orc. Maybe a thicker brow or yellowed, more pronounced teeth would have helped convinced me – considering how great all the other creatures looked, comparatively she was kind of embarrassing (from a purely objective standpoint).
Garona aside, this was a pretty convincing world. I dug the creature effects, the fights, and the costuming was pretty spectacular. However, reflecting on the world-building, I can see how some things are lost in translation.
In some interviews, Jones has compared his adaptation (and it’s reception by some) to the Lord of the Rings films: this is a new world that not everyone will understand or appreciate. The trouble is, Azeroth isn’t black and white: there’s a massive cast of characters to consider, with all sorts of motivations.
So in this film when Glenn Close pops in to tell one of our heroes about the power of “the Light,” this isn’t a metaphor – this is a literal religion that is detrimental to certain factions. For this sort of thing not to be explained, this character’s big moment comes off as hella cheesy. It’s lack of insight like this that makes these characters come off as terribly shallow – though with such a broad cast, it’s hard to focus on personal development.
Regardless of these issues, I think an audience can get itself wrapped up in the world of Warcraft. It’s pure epic fantasy – so if you’re looking for a fun escape, go for it. But if you can’t handle some swords and sorcery, look elsewhere. Hopefully with a sequel we can get more in-depth with some of these folks. Hopefully.
I would first like to say that it has been literally years since I’ve seen the original Mad Max, so I have no intention of pulling out any kind of comparisons. Maybe another time. Second of all, the title Mad Max: Fury Road really doesn’t represent the film at all. How about, Fury Road: Featuring Mad Max?
While there’s plenty of screaming, driving, and high-octane explosions, this movie’s really about Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and her quest to overthrow the patriarchy. Well okay, first to free the “breeders,” but then overthrow the patriarchy with some encouragement from Max.
I’m not going to write you an essay on this wonderful take on women in dystopian action movies – Buzzfeed already did it for me. However, I do think it’s odd to focus so heavily on Max, just to shift the paradigm towards Furiosa’s redemption. Was it maybe to suck viewers in? Maybe to fund a franchise with some hype? More than likely a little column A, little column B.
Whatever, it’s great. These two work together to accomplish something bigger than themselves, without any of that superfluous sexual chemistry. Not to mention, Max isn’t really your typical “good-guy” protagonist: we know very little about him – he’s haunted by his past and only lives to survive no matter what the cost. Oh, and he’s crazy.
On the note of madness, the culture of the Wasteland is phenomenal. From the warlord spectacle down to the nomenclature, it’s obvious that a love and care went into creating this world – which is not surprising since George Miller himself is still in control.
From beginning to end, I could not not pull my eyes away from the screen. Sure, it’s ridiculous and violent, but it’s just so fun! Mad Max has really hit the nail on the head in terms of world-building – combine that with some fantastic pacing and War Boy shenanigans, good times are to be had all around!
If you couldn’t tell, I dug this movie. Yes, some spoilery things are a bit too convenient to handle. Yes, Mad Max isn’t really big in this. Yes, it is not perfect. But it’s just so much fun. It’s gritty without being daunting or foreboding – there’s hope, but it doesn’t hit you over the head. This is just some badassery at it’s finest, and exactly what I want in my summer movie.
Final Grade: A
Oh the buzz! People who have never heard of this bizarre Marvel series are suddenly flocking to the nearest novelty shop of their choosing for plush raccoons! Madness! Not gonna lie, after watching this, I was soon browsing Amazon for my own Rocket plush – but that’s besides the point. Guardians of the Galaxy has charmed the nation with its weirdness, and for a good reason – it’s pretty damn good, minor irkables aside.
This is the story of Peter Quill (a buffed up Chris Pratt), a space rogue who stumbles upon an ancient relic – the very relic desired by a warlord hell-bent on revenge (glad to see you again, Lee Pace). With everyone either after Quill or the magical deus ex machina ball, Quill manages to scrounge up a motley crew to fight against the baddies, and save his own hide in the process.
Admittedly, I haven’t read the original material or its successors, and I’ve heard things here and there about Guardians being a Star Wars ripoff, or just like another Pratt film. Sure I can see the similarities, but this no way hinders one’s viewing experience.
This ensemble, well, this cast, is incredibly enjoyable – practically each character brings charm and originality, even the tree who can only say “I am Groot.”
In my opinion, the main weak link is Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Why can no badass female in an ensemble not hook up with anyone? Okay, technically it’s a “will they/won’t they” scenario, but it’s just so vexing. I also felt that she was the least defined out the group, like a green Black Widow.
On the note of bothersome things, I really did have a problem with the deus ex machina ball. I felt as if they overlooked exactly how it works or how it’s controlled – because I thought I knew how it worked, but then they lost me. But I guess everything can be written off as space magic, so I guess that’s okay.
Furthermore, I don’t want to spoil anything this time around, but due to my misunderstanding, and perhaps my cold, heartless nature, I kind of found the climax cheesy. But none-the-less fun to watch.
Frankly, I found myself with a doofy grin throughout this movie, even with the annoying things – not unlike Pacific Rim. We have amazing visuals, the pacing is great, the soundtrack is well, awesome, and the one-liners are just icing on the cake. Treat yourself and go see this movie.
Final Grade: A-
Yes, finally, despite the drama and scandal, Bryan Singer, the director of the only two good X-Men films has returned! Finally, thanks to the power of time paradoxes, we can quite literally forget all about The Last Stand. Though, unfortunately, it is cannon as far as some things are concerned – but we’ll get to that later.
This time the team is in the year 2023, where mutants are hunted down and forced into internment camps, as are the humans who aid them. Now it is up to the remaining X-Men to travel back in time to prevent these atrocities from ever happening, that is, if their future selves can survive in the meantime. Disclaimer: I have never read the comics pertaining to any of these film – just a head’s up.
Considering how this franchise has been going, it’s definitely safe to say that Days of Future Past is a step in the right direction (following First Class, of course). Future Past is chocked full of characters and well-paced action sequences that we’ve all come to know and love, as well social commentary on injustice and equality.
And as always, there are a few new cast-members to join the crew – my vote goes towards Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Despite the cheesy commercials, I think Quicksilver’s scenes are probably the coolest sequences of this film – definitely close to being on par with Nightcrawler’s X2 opener.
My main issue with this film is the villain, Boliver Trask (hooray Peter Dinklage!). I understand that anti-mutant politicians/corporations are not that unusual as far as villains go, but usually there’s some sort of deeper motive behind our villains. For instance, take William Stryker of X2: he had a personal vendetta against mutants after his mutant son caused his mother to end her life. Trask is just an arrogant asshole. I get that he’s concerned about the extinction of the human race, but I felt that his obsession came out of nowhere.
Speaking of “out of nowhere,” how did Charles survive after his obliteration in The Last Stand? He was just some sort of channeled consciousness in the stinger at the end, and then fully materialized in the stinger after The Wolverine – how does that work? It’s not like he returned to his body because if memory serves, it was dissipated. I think I’d rather see the movie where Charles’ consciousness enters a comatose patient and then his physical appearance changes over time. Or surgery. Something. Anything. I guess it really doesn’t matter now, does it?
Days of Future Past is a solid action film. Amidst the booms and pows come times of existential quandary and reflection. The bit between the two Charles’ is probably one of the best pep talks I’ve seen in a while. Now, if we could only flesh out the baddies a bit more, we might have had another X2 on our hands. Oh well, there’s still Apocalypse to look forward to.
Final Grade: B+
I’ll come out and say it: I dig the McConaissance. Coined by the New Yorker through Dallas Buyers hype, it was believed that Magic Mike was the film to kick off this star’s return. Personally, I think it started before that, with smaller titles such as Bernie and Killer Joe. Soon after came a little gem now available on Netflix, Mud.
Mud is a charming little coming-of-age drama about a pair of friends in De Witt, Arkansas, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). These boys spend their days riding around the Arkansas River, selling fish and talking about boobies. One day Neckbone discovers a mystical boat stuck in a tree. The boys decide to claim the boat to themselves, until they find it’s already home to a mysterious drifter called Mud (McConaughey).
Mud tells the boys that he’s returned to De Witt to find his lost love, asking them for food in exchange for the boat. The boys oblige, only to find that the law also has it out for their new friend. Meanwhile, Ellis has entered a delicate phase, leaving him to question his moral standing on love and good and evil.
Mud adheres to the charm and sensibility of Stand By Me, met with the mild burn of Southern Comfort. It’s really quite mushy if you think about it – Ellis is witnessing each stage of love lost, whether it’s his parents’, Mud and Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), or his soul-crushing encounter with his first lady-friend. Of course, childhood love stories are boring without a little gunfire.
As wonderfully shot as it is acted, Mud is an incredibly enjoyable film wrought with originality.
I hate the play this card, but all of the women are the cause of all the pain and misery to be had. The only saving grace is when Ellis’ father tells him, “Women are tough. They’ll set you up for things.” We then proceed to witness a more dynamic shift in the mother’s portrayal in order to make her more empathetic.
Granted, Ellis spends the most time with his father and they’re going through a separation, so obviously Senior’s view is going to be skewed. Then again, both Ellis’ girlfriend and Juniper do some mean, nasty things – poor Ellis can’t seem to catch a break.
The Alright, Alright, Alright
Despite my beef about the ladies, Mud is a great watch. Even through the grit and heartbreak, the end of Mud’s story is nothing short of satisfying.