Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Star Wars The Last Jedi

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and BB-8.

No one can overstate the fandom of the Star Wars Universe. Even so, regardless of how many times you have seen the movies, the amount of books you read, the hours of gameplay you have spent on KOTAR (Knights of the Old Republic) and the Lego versions, and even if you know the difference between a fambaa and a Tauntaun (actual creature names in the Star Wars Universe), you are still going to be surprised by Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The dialogue from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) says it best:

“This is not going to go the way you think!”

Set right after the events of The Force Awakens, this film (Episode 8) shows the rebels under attack and virtually cornered by the first order, led by Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Despite efforts by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and others, the rebel’s star ships seem to be running low on fuel and are at the end of their rope. Still, hope is still being held onto, mainly by Leia (the late great Carrie Fisher, whose final film performance both melts your heart and warms it at the same time). Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally found Luke Skywalker, but getting him to join the fight is no easy feat.

That is all I will say of the plot, because I would never dream of dropping any spoilers. I can say that this film does seem to be in a class of its own in the Star Wars franchise. It has shown us parts of the force we have not experienced before. Yet where it differs, the similarities are still there (there are vibes you get of The Empire Strikes Back as well as Return of the Jedi). There are twists we do not see coming, and I was shocked many a time during the film. That is a positive thing.

Obviously, the film is a technical marvel. It is so wonderous to see that, even after all these years, the Star Wars films can still give us imagery that we have not yet seen (the same goes for the music, done, once again, by the legend that is John Williams.) The credit of taking a risk with going in a different direction has got to go to director Rian Johnson (who also helped write the screenplay). This even includes some unexpected, yet delightful humorous moments.

The Last Jedi does have some faults that keep it from the likes of Episodes 4 and 5. The movie is long (the longest, in fact, of the franchise, at 2 1/2 hours). There is also a character played by Benecio Del Toro (undoubtably an amazing actor) who, I feel, was totally redundant to the film. His character, DJ (which really seems a little odd for a Star Wars film, somehow) is in a situation to help the rebels, but that situation alone was awkward writing in the first place.

Still, we get some fresh new faces that add to the franchise that are more than welcome. The two stand out characters are Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a rebel fighter helping Poe and Finn (John Boyega), and Vice Admiral Holdo (the always wonderful Laura Dern). All these characters (and others) get at least one moment in the film to shine (some of which will have you applauding).

Parents, if your kids have seen at least one other film in this franchise (and if they haven’t and are old enough, what are you waiting for?!?!), they will be fine here. There is no nudity or sex, just some mild swearing and (obviously) action.

As of this review, there is a vast difference in opinion between critics and the public (as is normally the case). It is strange, however, that the critics seem to like it a lot more (at the moment, 93% of critics liked it, while only 63% of the audience liked it). Upon reading the reviews from the latter, I realize a lot of people are upset that certain questions are not answered. Personally, I feel not all questions need to be answered in a movie (I still don’t know how one can explain Anakin’s birth, and have yet to see where Yoda came from). It is up for interpretation, meaning The Last Jedi will require many a viewing.

 

Something I will gladly do.

 

(Minor spoiler) I liked the film so much I did not even realize that, by the end credits, they did not say the line that is always said in the Star Wars films. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” I can almost forgive them for not saying it.

 

Almost.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)

debbie-reynolds

Reynolds as Kathy Selden in “Singin’ in the Rain”

Barely a day after the death of her daughter Carrie Fisher, we have now lost Debbie Reynolds at the age of 84, after suffering a stroke.

She starred in movies such as her Oscar Nominated role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), and How the West was Won (1962). Still, despite all this and more, she is forever remembered as Kath Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), considered by many (myself included) to be the greatest movie musical ever made.

When I finally discovered Singin’ in the Rain as a young teen movie goer, I admit not to noticing her talent (I was more intrigued by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor). Still, her singing and dancing at only the age of 19 were quite remarkable. It also did not help that she was ridiculed by the superior Gene Kelly (something he admitted to later) for not knowing all of her dance moves (lucky for her, Fred Astaire chimed in to help her out).

Anytime I watch Singin’ in the Rain (one of my favorite movies ever), I marvel at how much training and time and dedication went into the dance numbers. Reynolds was not even much of a dancer before she made the movie, yet was known to have popped blood vessels after the “Good Morning” number.

In short, she was a warrior.

 

 

 

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

carrie-fisher

 

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

So said Carrie Fisher, who passed away today at the age of 60, after recently suffering a heart attack.

As is the case for nearly everyone who saw the films, my childhood memories are filled with her butt kicking Princess Leia from the original Star Wars Trilogy. The character was probably the greatest “Princess” character that was not (at least at the time) owned by Disney (the star would later brag that she was now a Disney Princess when the studios bought the rights from George Lucas.

Fisher was born into show business to parents Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (Singin’ in the Rain). She would star in other films like The Blues Brothers as the mystery woman set to kill Jake (John Belushi), When Harry Met Sally as Sally’s (Meg Ryan) best friend, and even small parts like that of the therapist in the first Austin Powers film.

Despite these and other roles, it is her role as Leia in the original Star Wars Trilogy, The Force Awakens and the upcoming Episode Eight that she will forever be remembered for.

I like to think that, if we all just yelled “We love you Carrie!”, her response would simply be,…

I know.