Saturday, December 23, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

As there is a lot of sensitivity among fans of Star Wars right now about The Last Jedi, let me declare up front that I will start with a brief non-spoilery section, followed by a meditation on what I think writer/director Rian Johnson has done. This is territory you may not want to enter.

It seems that many of the fans of Star Wars are disappointed by choices that were made in this middle installment of the latest trilogy.

So, while the professional film critics have been overwhelmingly positive in their reviews, many fans have not.

So here goes.

Non-spoilery opening

Just saw The Last Jedi. Whoa what a good flick! Kudos to director Rian ("Looper") Johnson for delivering a funny, thrilling, and emotional whopper of an entry in this long running series. (Note: I saw it again last night. My wife Joan came too as she really wanted to see it and was angry with me for going without her. She loved it!)

Beautiful cinematic eulogy for Luke and Leia Skywalker featuring career-best performances from Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher. 

Loved the porgs!

Now stay clear of what follows if you haven't seen TLJ yet...

Actor Mark (Luke Skywalker) Hamill has famously spoken about his differences with director Rian Johnson over the interpretation of his character.

Hamill has said, This is NOT my (or George Lucas') Luke Skywalker.

Some have said that this movie is NOT a Star Wars film.

What is this all about?

Remember that the Powers That Be hired Rian Johnson to helm this outing. Think back to his time travel movie Looper (which I loved) and even earlier his film Brick. This guy is not your average filmmaker. As an admirer of his work, I knew that he was going to deliver something different both in ideas and in visuals.

For example, his ideas about The Force and Rey's background.

If Rey is strong with The Force, and she is a nobody, where does that leave us?

What is The Force?

"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."

This statement about The Force comes from the very first Star Wars film back in 1977.

Forty years later, writer and director Rian Johnson has asked the question implied by Kenobi:  Only the Jedi?

If it is created (and felt) by all living things, then non-Jedi should be able to have access to it.

This is an exciting development for the franchise. It means that a nobody like Rey, and the little kid in the final scene, can be the future heroes of Star Wars.

As Obi-Wan once said:

"You'll find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."

Terrence Seamon loves movies!  Follow him on twitter @tseamon

Monday, October 9, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

There is a whole lot to like about the new Blade Runner film. But let me get one dislike out of the way first.

The running time.

Sorry but it is way too long.

A few judicious cuts here and there and it could be brought in at 2 hours or less.

I guess this is an issue for me lately because too much sitting is uncomfortable. After an hour or so, it's time to get up and move around.

"Sitting is the new smoking," as we now say.

Having gotten that out of the way, let me heap praise upon this new film.

Though a sequel to the 1987 film by Ridley Scott, this one can stand on its own. It's a true "wow" in cinematic experience. I saw it in 2D and I can only imagine what it is like in an IMAX.

Picking up the sci fi mystery from the first Blade Runner film, this one is a visually stunning movie with a great soundscape (Notice I didn't say "soundtrack" which would denote music. In this movie, the "score" is more like sounds emanating from a soulless machine.)  

Masterfully directed by Denis ("Arrival") Villenueve, from Hampton Fancher's original screenplay, this new story takes place in the same post-nuclear world as the earlier film but takes us on a new journey into what it means to be human.

Ryan Gosling heads up an impressive cast including Robin Wright, Jared Leto, and Harrison Ford. Special applause to Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks in very key roles.

The view of our future in Blade Runner does not seem especially uplifting at first glance. But there is an awakening heart in this world of Philip K. Dick where androids dream of electric sheep...and the possibility of having a soul.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Rogue One

Finally saw Rogue One today. Wow what a good movie, with standout work by an international cast headed by Felicity Jones, Mads Mikklesen, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen. And Alan Tudyk as the robot. 

Thumbs up...but (no spoilers intended) did anyone besides me NOT like the ending?

WARNING: Do not read any further! Spoilers ahead!

Let's talk about that ending. All the heroes die. Come on, Disney. Come on, George Lucas.

You can't do that to us, the fans. We want to see more of Jyn Erso the plucky heroine of Rogue One. Cassian Andor the dashing but dark rebel captain. And Chirrut Imwe the blind yet dangerously skilled monk who trusts in the powers of The Force. Plus the rest.

Rogue One fits comfortably in the same movie genre as the Dirty Dozen and the Magnificent Seven, films where a ragtag bunch of misfits melds into a unified team to do something good. Yes many die, but typically a few walk away to fight another day.

Director Gareth Edwards does wonders with creating another side of the Star Wars universe and we care about the team that he has assembled to accomplish their "do or die" mission.

They do it, but must they all die?

Somewhere in the reshoots and re-cuts, a committee hatched a very bad idea and put it into theaters.

I'm sorry to say, but I walked out of Rogue One angry.  After such an excellent set-up, the end is a let-down.

Friday, February 5, 2016


As a Roman Catholic who remembers all too well the horrendous revelations about abuse of children by priests in Boston, I dreaded the prospect of seeing this movie. 

But Spotlight is an excellent film, directed with a sure hand by Tom McCarthy. The movie documents not only what happened in the Church abuse scandal, but also the lies that good people tell themselves to cover up the awful truth.

Spotlight is filled with an ensemble of fine actors (including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Stanley Tucci) who should all get an award. I would like to single out for praise the muted performance of Liev Schreiber who plays the out-of-town Jewish editor who comes to Catholic Boston and stirs the hornets nest.

Spotlight delivers a knockout effect, but without flash or CGI or any pounding music score. It is a somber and quietly devastating film.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Hateful Eight

The eighth (?) film from director Quentin Tarantino can be summarized as Reservoir Dogs in a snow-bound cabin. There is no hero, no one to like, and everyone gets what is coming to him or her.

While the film is visually splendid and the Tarantino dialogue is often quite good, there is not much of a story, especially for a 3 hour running time. What is there might have made a neat 90 minute thriller. Alas the film is a let-down after the soaring successes of Django and Inglorious Basterds.

QT has assembled a fine cast, headed by the always spectacular Samuel L. Jackson, the much abused Jennifer Jason Leigh, and the revelatory Walton Goggins (who some of you may know from TV's series Justified), who all do their best with what they are given. All of these excellent actors deliver award-worthy performances but were snubbed in the recent Oscar awards just announced.

Legendary composer Ennio Morricone contributes some original music. And the wide screen Panavision lensing is a treat for film lovers.

My son Dave and I just re-watched QT's Django and thoroughly enjoyed it again and we both agreed that Hateful Eight pales in comparison. If only QT had stayed with his idea to make Hateful Eight a sequel to Django. Now that would have been something...

Warning to viewers:  This is a very violent film, shockingly so at times. The language is also extreme. This movie is NOT for the faint of heart. Do not bring children.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Star Wars - The Force Awakens

Director JJ Abrams brings the Star Wars franchise back to life in the new episode The Force Awakens.
In a nutshell, it is a fun, fast-paced, thrill ride in a galaxy far, far away.

Set years later, after the victorious triumph in episode six, The Return of the Jedi, we find that Luke Skywalker has vanished...and the forces of the dark side are seeking him out.

Abrams and team introduce us to a whole new set of heroes, while bringing some of our old favorites back.

So is this new film any good? Yes it is. Definitely a thumbs up for sheer entertainment.

But because Abrams wants to embed the new characters in the familiar turf of the original trilogy, it often seems like a remake. Even composer John Williams' music feels mostly old, though in this case his Star Wars themes are beloved.

Having said that much of the film feels like a re-warming of old stuff, there is much to like, especially the new faces Daisy Ridley as scavenger Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Oscar Isaac as ace pilot Poe, and Adam Driver as the tortured baddie, all fine in their respective roles.

Special mention must be made of Harrison Ford returning in fine form as an old and grizzled Han Solo, along with his hairy pal Chewbacca.

The movie ends with a slew of questions dangling in mid we will just have to return for episode eight in a year or two.

I'll be there.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Imagine you are a member of a writing team sitting down to pen the latest installment in a long running and successful movie franchise. You could play it safe and basically "repeat" what has worked before and/or you could step out and innovate with something new. There are risks associated with both choices.

In the new film in the Rocky series, titled "Creed," written and directed by Ryan ("Fruitvale Station") Coogler, the writers come up with a real winner, one that lovingly embraces the best of the past, while presenting a brand new central hero in Adonis Johnson, illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, played expertly by Michael B. ("The Wire") Jordan.

Abandoned to foster care as a child, Adonis early starts fighting for his identity. And even after Creed's wife adopts him, giving him a life full of opportunity, Adonis never loses that fighting spirit and seeks to fulfill it by acquiring a mentor, Rocky Balboa. What happens next, as the aged Rocky warms up to Adonis and takes him under his wing, is a heartfelt chapter in the Rocky saga. Sylvester Stallone's pitch-perfect performance as the humble and humorous Balboa may very well earn him an Oscar in the next awards season.