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.