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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Poster for the movie "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Saga Continues

20172 h 32 min
Overview

Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

Metadata
Director Rian Johnson
Runtime 2 h 32 min
Release Date 13 December 2017
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has received a lot of analysis in the short time since its release. Some have loved it, some have hated it, and a fair number are somewhere in-between. I put myself in the third category, though leaning more towards the “love it” side of things. For all the haters out there, let me say this right off the bat: Yes, the film did have issues. It was not a perfect cinematic masterpiece. But it was nowhere close to having the issues of the prequels. Everything you can complain about in The Last Jedi had an equivalent, yet dumber, scene in the prequels (comparisons will not be made in this review for the sake of avoiding spoilers).

Considering how much The Force Awakens mimicked A New Hope, many people expected The Last Jedi to be reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back. While there are reused thematic elements, The Last Jedi is not a soft reboot like the previous film. You probably could successfully argue the point that it is, but that is not how it struck me.

The Last Jedi seemed to focus a lot more on character development than plot. As far as plot progression goes, there really is not too much here. But the character development is fantastic. You can feel the new generation of actors getting these roles set up for the next film. The Force Awakens told us who these people are. The Last Jedi shows us who they are going to be. Episode IX will likely take that to its conclusion as destiny is a fairly prevalent theme in Star Wars.

There does not really seem to be a general public consensus on what this film should be, or have been. Long-time fans of the old Expanded Universe (novels, comics, video games, etc.) want to see more of those elements implemented. Some people want more of the same from the original movies. Others do not seem to know what they want and are somehow still upset. But it feels like this film set out what it was meant to do; ushering out the older, Lucas-era concepts to bring us to the new age of Disney. Star Wars has never been this grand, perfect thing people seem to envision. Parts of the old Expanded Universe sucked and needed to go. The films have used newer, unknown actors. The plot tends to be full of holes. The Force is mysterious and largely unexplained (or at least works best that way; damn you midichlorians!). At the end of the day, these are campy sci-fi family films. Enjoy it for what it is, not what you think it should be.

December 31, 2017

The Jungle Book

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Poster for the movie "The Jungle Book"

The Jungle Book

20161 h 46 min
Overview

An orphan boy is raised in the Jungle with the help of a pack of wolves, a bear and a black panther.

Metadata
Director Jon Favreau
Runtime 1 h 46 min
Release Date 7 April 2016
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Good

Disney did it with Maleficent, they did it with Cinderella, and now they have done it again with The Jungle Book. As was the case with our first two live-action Disney remakes, The Jungle Book does a fantastic job of retelling this classic tale for modern audiences. The characters were fleshed out well, the special effects were enough to make audiences gawk, and the musical score fit the feature (mostly) pretty well. Changes were made to the story compared to the original cartoon version but Disney set the precedence for that back with Maleficent and managed to keep the majority of the changes positive.

Non-human characters are very hard to do in movies. You cannot just make the animals mouths move up and down to talk. Human features must be worked into their faces in order to convey emotion the same way an actor would. This was done very well in The Jungle Book; the animal characters look very real with some top notch CGI but have enough human qualities mixed in with their animal traits to make them relatable and intelligent looking. One of the big issues with non-human characters is the recognition of a well-known actor voicing those roles. A classic example is the film Dragonheart, where Sean Connery voices a dragon and you spend the entire film waiting for the dragon to tell someone, “We’re gonna do this the Chicago way.” Thankfully, The Jungle Book does not suffer from this due to the entire cast, bar Neel Sethi, being big name actors behind animal faces. Since this factor applies to almost every character in the film it does not make any one character stand out from the rest. Speaking of Neel Sethi, this young man did a fantastic job as Mowgli. Doing a movie with child actors is really hard, especially with someone as young as Sethi who is as new to acting. It would be a stretch to say that his performance was perfect, but for his first film ever he was very impressive.

The musical score of the film was fairly subtle and often plays so quietly behind the dialogue that moviegoers would have to actively listen to pick up on it. For the most part, the music is instrumental and the soundtrack heavily features new renditions of songs from the original 1967 film. Two lyrical numbers do keep a place in the movie, The Bear Necessities, sung by Baloo and Mowgli, and I Wanna Be Like You, sung by King Louie. The Bear Necessities fit it well, but I Wanna Be Like You felt like it was kind of forced into the film. The antagonists of this remake are much darker than their original counterparts and have the feel of genuine threats instead of silly villains. Giving King Louie a song was out of place in general and the cheerier feeling of him singing clashed with the looming threat the rest of his dialogue presented.

While the villains were made more brutal, the rest of the characters were pretty true to their counterparts in the original Disney film. Some story elements were omitted from our new Jungle Book, such as Shere Khan’s conversation with Kaa, and some older characters, primarily the vultures, were excluded from the remake. Many of the changes made led to the film being less silly and more realistic. That was exactly what Disney seemed to be going for and the new story elements seemed to really push things towards that end. Although each Jungle Book is based on the same tale the two films tell very different stories, but both of them are very good stories.

May 15, 2016

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Every generation has a story.

20152 h 16 min
Overview

Thirty years after defeating the Galactic Empire, Han Solo and his allies face a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren and his army of Stormtroopers.

Metadata
Director J.J. Abrams
Runtime 2 h 16 min
Release Date 18 December 2015
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

We cannot in good faith review all these new canon Star Wars books without addressing the first film of the Disney Era. As strong as the urge to just geek out over The Force Awakens is, an analysis of this film must be conducted objectively. With the crazy amount of press leading up to Episode VII, it would be easy to get overhyped and expect too much from the film. That being said, this review will go over what was good, what was bad, and what we can expect from Episode VIII and other future installments to the franchise. Spoilers will be kept to an absolute minimum within the confines of this review; there will be no crucial plot details in this review. However, please be warned that there will be a few minor spoiler-ish elements of the film mentioned.

It has been 30 years since the end of Episode VI. A lot has happened in that timeframe, giving The Force Awakens the traditional Star Wars feel of “this is part of a MUCH larger story”. This was frustrating at first; fans want that three-decade gap to be filled in. Overall this was a good choice, but there were parts of the film where audiences do not really know enough about what was going on to care. Viewers obviously know “Light Side good, Dark Side bad” but that can only hold you over so much.

The new protagonists did an excellent job of keeping up with the old stars. Now that we have a new generation of heroes fighting alongside the old guard, we cannot help but compare them. Although all the main characters are deeply involved in the films events, we no longer see everything resting on the shoulders of our beloved characters from the original trilogy. Luke, Han, and Leia have become old warriors and serve more as mentors to the new blood than anything else. This too was an excellent decision; the old Star Wars Expanded Universe really got stale when it was only those three who could ever save the galaxy from whatever new threat had popped up.

While The Force Awakens was traditional Star Wars, it was almost too traditional. It is understandable to put in scenes similar to parts of the previous films as throwbacks, but for large portions of this movie it felt like they were just rehashing pieces of Episode IV. Even as they did this, it felt underwhelming due to the lack of knowledge regarding the new canon. In the original film, fans could watch just the movie and know nothing else about Star Wars. That was enough to let us know that the evil Empire had taken over and that the Rebel Alliance was the galaxy’s last hope because there was no other Star Wars material prior to that movie. In this film, we know nothing about the state of the galaxy at large other than the First Order is growing in power and becoming a threat to the vaguely mentioned Republic. For whatever reason, the Republic military is (secretly?) funding a Resistance instead of dealing with this problem directly. Why? The film explains in-depth that people know the Force is real and the Dark Side is a threat. The First Order is being run by Dark Side people, so go fight them! Problem solved.

Another major issue with the film was Kylo Ren, the new Dark Side bad guy. He starts off ok at the beginning of the film, when his role and motives are mysterious and vague. But the more we learned about this guy, the less likable he became. His character is more reminiscent of a spoiled, angry child than anything else; he is extremely different from the Sith villains in the other trilogies, and not in a good way. By no means did Adam Driver do a bad job of portraying the character. The issue was with the character himself and how Kylo Ren was written.

A big part of the Star Wars universe has always been the spaceships, lasers, and other futuristic technology. The Force Awakens does not seem to hold a lot of consistency with what weapons are capable of. The strength of lasers, even multiple shots fired from the same gun, seem to do as much damage to their target as the scene calls for. While this is not a big issue for the film, it can be annoying for fans of the technology in sci-fi franchises.

While there is so much more that could be said about The Force Awakens, further discussion could be hovering dangerously close to major spoiler territory. Obviously, you should go see the film if you have even the slightest interest in this type of movie. Overall the film was good; not great, but good. It is a hard movie to judge since it is only the first part of a new trilogy but (especially compared to Episode I) we are off to a great start so far.

December 20, 2015