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 ****

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.

Top 10 Films of 2015

Top 10 films of 2015

 

It is true that some years have better movies than others (1939 and 1994 are prime examples). This does not mean some years are always bad, it just means you have to look harder for them. 2015 had movies you may have had to look harder for to see.

Of course, I did not see every movie that came out last year (I still need to see Beasts of No Nation and Straigh Outta Compton), but I do feel rather confident still with my top ten list ( in which good movies like CarolThe Big ShortWar Room, and Bridge of Spies did not crack the list).

 

Wild Card

Sicario

Benecio Del Toro and Emily Blunt in Sicario.

It may not have gotten all the love it deserved, but great acting and tension fueled Sicario, especially the great performance by Benecio Del Toro.

 

10.

Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender reveals the iMac in “Steve Jobs”

Written by the always wonderful Aaron Sorkin, Michael Fassbender will most definetly get an Oscar nomination as Steve Jobs, also with equally great performaces by Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels.

 

9.

The Hateful Eight

Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell, just two of “The Hateful Eight”.

Basically, anything by Tarantino is worth seeing, and The Hateful Eight is no exception. It is fun to watch as much as it is for those who made it.

 

8.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

The most surprising thing about The Martian is not the performance by Matt Damon, nor the supporting cast, but that Ridley Scott directed a movie with humor. That is rare.

 

7.

Spotlight

Possibly the front runner for Best Picture, Spotlight is the story of the true revelation of the dark secret in the Catholic Church in Boston, and beyond. Every actor brings their A game to this film.

 

6.

Creed

Stallone shows Jordan the ropes in “Creed”.

Nostalgic as well as new, Creed is all the things we love of the original Rocky flicks. Stallone is truly remarkable here in the role no one could duplicate.

5.

Star Wars The Force Awakens

Rey, Finn, and BB-8: the three new heroes of the galaxy.

Sure, the story was a lot like the original film, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings new characters (as well as old) to new life in a film that is not doing to shabby box office wise right now.

4.

The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”.

Filled with more realism and grit than any other film this year, The Revenant is a wonder to behold. It is also the ticket to that long awaited moment of calling DiCaprio an Oscar winner (and it would be well deserved too).

3.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron team up in Max Max: Fury Road

I like to think of director Michael Bay watching Mad Max: Fury Road and taking notes. There is just enough story here to back up one of the best action flicks ever. Like Star Wars and The Revenant, this film shows why films should be watched on big screens, not small ones. It is like Lawrence of Arabia on caffiene.

2.

Inside Out

Fear, Joy, and Disgust are just three of Riley’s voices in “Inside Out”

Easily the most original film of the year, I feel that Inside Out will be like a fine wine: aging better through your years on earth. It ranks among the best animated films ever made.

1.

Room

Jacob Tremblay discovers what lies outside the room.

You know a movie is good when you can’t get it off you mind, even months after you have seen it. Such is the case for my number one pick of 2015, Room. I drove about an hour to the theater and an hour back, and it was worth every second.

Brie Larson is the front runner for Best Actress, and I have not seen a better performance by anyone (of any age) this year than that of 8 year old Jacob Tremblay. The film is likely to never be forgotten once seen.