Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I was relatively excited going in to watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi, even with them deciding to drop the iconic episode numbers. For Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it was clear it was a step in the right direction, even if it wasn’t too original. And Rouge One was great.

But the people who let me see things early switched to a different PR company, specifically to the one company that I didn’t have. I found out late November when the change occurred, which made it clear that I wasn’t going to be seeing Star Wars 8 early at all. And at that point, all the pre-sale tickets had already happened for early showtimes.

So if I was going to see it, I knew I would have to wait at least a week after the fact, maybe longer. And then I waited longer, I waited to see how many times I could keep putting it off. I didn’t see this movie until mid-February, still on a nice big screen. And that is why it was never reviewed, and why I decided eventually to wait to put it as the final movie in my “2017 Movies I should have seen last year” list!

Jedi Master
I’m a Jedi master, bitch!

I don’t feel like tagging all of the many characters who are in this film, at least naturally through this review, so I will post them all at the end.

Yay Luke Skywalker was found by Rey! Boo, she is avoided because Luke wants to be alone and doesn’t think the Jedi should be apart of the world anymore. He wants to die and let the Jedi order die with him.

While she convinces him that he is stupid, the Resistance are getting fucked over by the Empire, First Order. A lot of ships are running around, people dying, pew pew pews. And the resistance has to run and get away to not die.

And that is the movie.

Starring, of course, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Frank Oz, Billie Lourd, Joonas Suotamo, and Jimmy Vee.

Also starring newbies to the galaxy, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Amanda Lawrence, Justin Theroux.

Pew pew pew
Yeah, but how many of those dozen plus names can wield a light saber and shoot out red dust!

Star Wars 8 clocks in at around 2.5 hours, because apparently we can never get enough Star Wars. It is the longest Star Wars film yet, cracking the other top place holders by about 10 minutes. And boy did it sure feel long.

You see, it is made apparent from this film that this trilogy is in no way planned out. We have a lot of plots that were set up from the first film that end completely out of nowhere in this film. Characters die off, questions get answered, and most of it is extremely disappointing.

The worst part of the film is a subplot that has a few characters going on a mission alone, in order to find a character in a casino. It lasts very long in terms of the overall movie and again, none of it feels justified or worth it by the end. It felt like this movie had filler, which is inexcusable given its rather long run time. That isn’t even getting into the really awkward Leia scene.

The only reason this film didn’t get a 1 out of 4, is because the ending was pretty rad. It still seemed to have a lot of poor plot developments, making what felt a side plot last the entire goddamn film. It was very character focused, even though a lot of the characters they decided to kill off. I just cannot help but think of the poor merchandise that was sold for the first two films that never really amounted to much.

2 out of 4.

Brigsby Bear

Brigsby Bear is one of those movies that came out earlier in the year at a weird time, then everyone forgot about it. An indie film, not a blockbuster, and a weird one at that, it was easy for people to ignore.

I know I wanted to see it, but hurricanes, day screenings and more made me have to wait for closer to the DVD release unfortunately.

I mean. Movie about dudes in bear costumes, or something like that. What is not to love!

Based entirely on screenshots, it could be one of the trippiest films of the year too.

James (Kyle Mooney) thought he was a normal kid adult dude, living with his parents (Mark Hamill, Jane Adams), in their underground bunker. James couldn’t leave without the gas mask, so he just lived in his room for the most part. The good news is that even though the end of the world was bleak and lonely, he still was able to get his weekly episode of Brigsby Bear, going on many many years. James learned a lot from Brigsby Bear, its lessons always seemed to really be appropriate to his life, and he chatted on the internet about various Bear theories.

But then the cops came. They arrested his parents and took him away, and they didn’t even need gas masks. It turns out they were not his real parents, he was abducted at a very young age by the couple and lied to for decades. His real parents (Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins) had been worried forever, but are glad to have their son back. Turns out that he now has a younger sister (Ryan Simpkins) and a lot to learn about the real world.

The biggest shocker is that no one knows about Brigsby Bear, his one obsession since he can remember anything. It was a show developed by his “parents” as a distraction and no one else knows what the hell he is talking about. Shit. Well, maybe if he can get some of the tapes from evidence, he can show the world. Or maybe he can just continue the story on his own, so that everyone can find out about the wonders of Brigsby Bear and why he is the best hero known to mankind. And bear kind.

Also featuring Greg Kinnear, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., and Alexa Demie.

And this field was juuuuust right.

I didn’t know what to expect with Brigsby Bear, but I certainly didn’t expect that. Our lead was introduced and freed from the bunker all within the first 15 or so minutes. Most of the film is him adapting poorly to the real world, while those who want to care about him find it quite difficult to interact with him.

And of course, the bear. I frankly wanted to have a lot more of the bear videos in the movie. If it was just doubled, I would have been ecstatic. We want to see the mythos he grew up with and not just vague explanations about the characters. Show us, don’t tell us.

That would be basically my only complaint. We have a lot of real feeling characters, and a bear, that is going to change so many of their lives. It is one of the strangest ways to look at a child kidnapping story, but it is great that the filmmakers are keeping things fresh. I love a bit of a bizarre film to keep me realizing what bad films are also coming out.

Brigsby Bear will end up being a bit of a bore for a lot of people watching it. The good news is that those people are wrong, and probably wish I was reviewing Transformers: The Last Knight now instead.

3 out of 4.

Batman: The Killing Joke

I have never seen a DC animated movie before I watched Batman: The Killing Joke. Sure, I have heard a lot of good things about them, but I never really made time for them. They are supposed to be decently animated, well voiced, and of course, tell great plot filled stories, better than the current live action films.

I figured it was the best time to finally get on the train. The hype for The Killing Joke was insane. The graphic novel itself is incredibly well known and respected as one of the best Batman stories ever. This is the first R-rated DC animated film ever made. And of course they decided to release it in theaters for Fathom Events. It sold out. So they made a second showing for the one day only event. Then they added two more the next day. And some theaters had multiple screens each night at the same time.

I. Had. To. See. This.

And I have never been so disappointed to get so dang hyped for something I had little experience for.

King? That’s not the card that is super relevant, damn it!

The Killing Joke is a story about Batman (Kevin Conroy) realizing that one day, either he might end up killing The Joker (Mark Hamill) or vice versa. And Batman doesn’t want to do that. He wants to try to talk with The Joker. But The Joker has escaped again.

And The Joker wants to get revenge, harsh revenge. Mainly on Commissioner Gordon (Ray Wise) and his daughter, Barbara/Batgirl (Tara Strong). He wants to break Gordon and break Batman in the process, just like he was broken a long time ago. Yes, we get Joker backstory.

Oh, and also, there is a 30 minute intro or something completely unrelated, about Batgirl and Batman having a relationship and a sociopath gangster named Paris (Maury Sterling) who abuses Batgirl. John DiMaggio is also here for gangster voice work and Brian George as Alfred.

The Killing Jokeeee
Life. Life is the real joke. HA HA HA HA!

Let’s ignore the story for a bit. Let’s just talk about the animation, a crucial part of any animated movie. It is hard to describe in any other way other than shit. It feels so cheaply done. When characters walk it feels sometimes rushed, sometimes blocky. It is a buzzkill to watch. If they were going for a comic book feel, I cannot tell. In addition to that, for whatever creative reason, the vehicles in the movie are very different visually and a lot more 3D feeling than the rest of the 2D film. It again just feels lazy, like they had to use a different program just to get the film out in time.

The prologue of this film is a big what the fuck. First, it is almost half the movie. I haven’t seen a prologue that long since Digimon: The Movie. They apparently added in this story, not attached to the comic, in order to build up Batgirl a bit more. In The Killing Joke she is seen as a prop just to get hurt and abused and it has its fair share of controversy. So they give her a bigger role with this aspect. It is meant to draw parallels between her feelings towards Batman and this new villain, with Batman’s own feelings towards her and the Joker.

And it fails. The random gangster objectifies her at every turn and basically always has the upper hand. Batman is seen as a huge dick in the prologue, void of any emotion, and a very out of place love scene. It also comes with a stereotypical gay character out of the 90’s! The prologue is meant to give the Batgirl more material to work with, but in all honesty just turns her into a sex object for a longer period of time. Yeesh.

As for The Killing Joke portion, it is still only okay. The voice acting is decent, the animation is poor, the backstory is interesting. But again, this portion of the film feels rushed. Joker’s plan to drive Gordon insane has only two or so components and clearly not enough to break him. The film has the R rating for subject matter, but so much of it is still implied. Show me animated dong, damn it. It felt censored.

This is not something you should have seen in theaters, but by the time this review is up, it is already out. They made their money, it is a financial success, and now people might buy it for their homes. But it is not worth owning or really watching. In all accounts, your money would be better spent just on the graphic novel itself most likely. Rent this one if you must.

1 out of 4.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Here is what I can tell you:

This review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be super unbiased. Why? Because I am not a hardcore fan boy of the series like most critics I know. I didn’t watch the original trilogy over and over as a kid, and didn’t even see them as an adult. Each film of the original trilogy I have only seen once, and honestly, I get why they were popular then, but think most of it is just nostalgia a la Tron love. Tron is technically terrible, it just did something no other film did before it, so it was a big deal and loved for that reason. If I saw Star Wars as a kid, I might be hooked as well.

I am not saying I hate Star Wars, as that would still be biased. I am just very neutral and ambivalent towards it. I liked KOTOR as a game, so that is one thing I enjoyed. And yes, Episode III might be my favorite Star Wars film, solely for the ending magma battle and shouting.

Here is one more thing I can tell you:

No, I don’t think this review will have a ton of spoilers. I didn’t watch any trailers myself to keep it completely fresh in my mind. I waited days after its released and walked through the internet like a minefield to keep my take on it fresh, despite the news stories of its success. I wanted to wait, so I could watch it in an enjoyable way with a small crowd to not sway my opinion one way or another. Will I reveal basic plot points? Of course, but if that is a spoiler, then fuck me, everything is a spoiler.

This is how I be dodging spoilers on the internet.

Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, shit has once again hit the fan. Remember Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)? Yeah, he was a big deal. He has been missing for a long time now though and might just be the last Jedi. Turns out there are still bad people. They aren’t the Empire anymore, they are the First Order. And they are looking for him.

So are the Resistance, which is of course led by Leia (Carrie Fisher), a General now. You can’t really call yourself a Princess anymore when your only claim to royalty blew up in the first half of A New Hope.

Either way, she sends her best pilot down to Jakku on hearing that there is a clue to his whereabouts. You’re thinking Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbaccca (Peter Mayhew)? Hell no! We’re talkin’ Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)! He is like the new Han Solo, I guess.

And that is the plot outline basically given to us by the rolling credits to start the film. Since I don’t want to freak anyone out. First Order bad. Luke is gone. And more question marks.

But there are still new characters! Rey (Daisy Ridley) is the new Luke and Finn (John Boyega) was a storm trooper, and also New Luke. I guess. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is new Darth Vader and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is new Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin.

Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) is new Yoda, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is new Palpatine, and Anthony Daniels is still C3P0. Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) is a silver storm trooper commander, and I guess she is just a new thing completely. But she has almost no real reason to be in this film, to be honest.

Princess Leia really let it all go for this film.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an entertaining film. It has likable characters. The new people seem to mostly be the focus, determined to tell their own story, and not let a bunch of old people steal their spotlight. What I might have loved the most was that it felt a lot more “realer” than the prequels. It didn’t feel like a giant CGI fest. It involved actors really running through sand. Real sand!

And sure, I liked Rey. This series will catapult Ridley into super stardom, I can feel it. I liked the Poe and Finn bromance. I really liked Poe. I liked Poe a lot more than I would imagine for someone who is just a pilot. Damn you irresistible Oscar Isaac. Even the new R2D2 was cool.

I didn’t like Kylo Ren when he took off the mask though. No offense to Adam Driver, who I tend to enjoy in his other films, but the look he had with the long hair made him just feel so un-intimidating. His characteristics, technically realistic, but not currently as BAMF as I had hoped. The storm troopers themselves were better. They had personalities, they could hit targets, they had various weapons, and obviously, one of them gained a conscious.

Bad guy
He does have the most sensical lightsaber at least.

But then. Then there are other things. Things not as good as those first things.

Of course a common complaint is this whole thing just feels like a rehash of events from the original trilogy. Some people would argue they are just a homage or mirror of events. Others will just call it lazy fan service / heavy winking. I am on the latter. This didn’t feel like a completely new movie. I mean, fuck, they already did two Death Stars. This time we have a really really really big Death Star, with similar dumb weak points with even more who gives a shitness.

Not everything is well acted. Some scenes are cringey, some seem forced. The worst scene for me to watch was unfortunately a scene between Fischer and Ford, talking about their old love. Neither seemed to be really into it at that moment (Fisher was unfortunately aloof for every one of her scenes), and it didn’t provide the power that it was striving for.

I think what I hated even more about this film is that it didn’t feel like a complete story. Yes, it is part of a trilogy. Yes, trilogies should have an over arcing plot and goal that is being worked towards. But each film in a trilogy needs to have its own beginning, middle, and end, and not leave us with almost literal cliffhangers. The ending to TFA reminded me of the ending of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which pissed me off so much I still haven’t seen At World’s End. Will I see Episode VIII? I have to, it is my job, but I will go in on a slightly sour note.

In case I wasn’t clear, this film felt like it wanted to set up the trilogy and only hint at what is to come, instead of letting that come naturally through its own story.

TFA is an entertaining movie and one people can enjoy again and again, but it is not movie of the year material when it comes down to all of the bigger elements. I have hope for the future films.

As a side note, I enjoyed a few other things. Like Fisher’s daughter having a small role, and you may recognize her from Scream Queens. It is hilarious that Isaac and Driver are both in this film, when they were last together they sung with Justin Timberlake about not wanting to go to Outer Space. I hope JT is given future consideration for a small role.

And finally, there was a mother fucking reference to Clerks. Clerks, which made many references to Star Wars. Randall was wrong. He said that the average storm trooper does not know how to install a toilet, and that they’d have to hire independent contractors to make the Death Star. But damn it. Those storm troopers do have jobs. (Spoiler)? Finn worked in fucking sanitation!

3 out of 4.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Normally when movies get pushed back, I wonder and worry. Sure, sometimes it is as simple as not being able to compete with a bigger movie coming out that same day. Sometimes it is due to a production company not wanting to compete with its own product.

I have no idea why Kingsman: The Secret Service got moved from November 2014 to February 2015. February/January are generally deader months where a lot of shit goes, so it feels like the studio just didn’t think it would be good enough to make it. So they put it at the beginning of the year to hide it.

That is clearly what is going on with Jupiter Ascending, which got pushed out of Summer to February, which means they don’t think it will succeed as a blockbuster.

But this is Kingsman, and the trailer actually looked interesting. Damn it. WHY DID THEY MOVE IT?

Hold on to your butts
I can only hold on to my butts so long in anticipation!

Back in the day, Great Britain decided it needed to protect the world. That is a bit of paraphrasing. Either way, they made a secret service, based on the Knights of the Round Table. Each soldier is incredibly well trained, combat, spy gadgets, code names, Gentleman as FUCK, and lives a thankless life as they can never let their existence be known.

Galahad (Colin Firth) didn’t notice a bomb one time, and one of the new recruits died saving his life. He wanted to help out his family, so he gave them a medallion with a number on it to call if he ever needed help.

Now, seventeen or so years later, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is in trouble. Sure, he is a smart lad (British terminology), but he has wasted his life living on the streets. His mom never got over his dad’s death and is now dating an alcoholic. He is involved with gangs. He runs from the cops!

And guess what, he needs help. Quite obviously, Galahad thinks he has what it takes. They need a new member as one of their own was slashed down by rich tech billionaire Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and his assassin Gazelle (Sofia Boutella).

So you know, training, spy stuff, gadgets, a shit ton of action, and everyone talking super funny.

Also with Jack Davenport as Lancelot, Mark Strong as Merlin, Michael Caine as Arthur, Sophie Cookson as the female main lead/training rival, and Mark Hamill as a professor. I normally wouldn’t even bring him up, but I mean, come on. Mark Hamill.

Brella Ella Ella Eh
“I came here to drink tea and give someone a good going over, and the Americans dumped all of my tea.”

Right before the movie started, I found out it was 129 minutes and thought it was way too long. Now that it finished, I found myself only wanting more.

Kingsman is based on a comic by Mark Millar, the same man who wrote Kick-Ass. Hey. Matthew Vaughn, the director, also did Kick-Ass! How quaint! Matthew Vaughn had to leave Days of Future Past to do this movie, and that is fantastic, because it made it so we got two pretty awesome movies instead of maybe two terrible ones. I can’t believe how entertaining Kingsman ended up being. The action was high octane and firing on all cylinders, and the movie built a bigger body count than you would probably expect.

Samuel L. Jackson was in it, and of course he kicked ass as the villain. He had so much personality, I was almost rooting for him by the end. Colin Firth is usually fantastic when he isn’t in a super serious role as well, and I wonder if he backed out of Paddington to build up his R-Rating persona. Another movie with questionable things going on.

I mean. Honestly, the only thing I found super disappointing, was some really awkward stuff that happened at the end. It just felt so forced and childish. It felt like a 13 year old wrote the last minute, almost. It will be very off-putting to people, even if they enjoy it.

Kingsman may be truly the first very entertaining movie of 2015, and it helped kick start my hope for some unique things to come through the pipeline this year.

3 out of 4.