Thursday, November 8, 2018

Suspiria (2018)

Suspiria (2018)

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloe Gretz Moretz, Jessica Harper 

I remember back when there were such a thing as video clubs, I saw the VHS box art for Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). I thought the art was very weird and artsy for a horror film, but what always caught my attention was the films catchphrase on the box which read “the only thing more terrifying then the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92”. I always wondered if it was actually that scary. Of course, years later when I started to explore Italian horror films, I discovered that Argento’s Suspiria was one of horror cinemas best supernatural thrillers. A beautifully shot piece of atmospheric, supernatural filmmaking. And indeed, it was a spooky tale about witchcraft with an intense ending. But nothing could prepare me for Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Argento’s film! I mean, remakes by norm already carry a certain amount of hatred towards them, even before they are released, people come into theaters already hating the film. Me, I’m one of those that gives remakes a chance, because there’s that off chance that it might be one of the good ones. And who knows, maybe it might even be better than the original. The buzz around this one was so good, almost too good. So, how was this remake of Suspiria? Did it live up the hype?

Jessica Harper in a scene from the original Suspiria (1977)

 For those who haven’t seen the original Suspiria, this is a tale of witchcraft and dancing. You see, the story is all about this young American dance student who ends up following her dreams of going to a dance school in Berlin. When she gets there, she gets more then she bargained for when she realizes she’s not just in any dance school! 

The thing about Argento’s Suspiria is that it isn’t just a horror film, to me it’s an exercise in gloomy atmosphere and a work of art. The color palette alone, filled with Argento’s trademark primary colors, is a beauty to behold. On top of that, it’s surreal, it’s hard to define. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you are seeing, but you know that you feel something and that something is freaking you out. My worry was, how was this remake going to top that? Was it going to duplicate Argento’s film or take a road all its own? Well, I’m happy to inform that it took a road all its own and I have to commend director Luca Guadagnino on this because he really did a great job of doing something different, yet familiar.

Luca Guadagnino and Tilda Swinton

Yes we get the same basic premise, the giant, brooding dance school in the middle of the the never ending rain. Yes it’s run by witches…but there’s a bit more depth to it, there’s a bit of the socio-political background to the story. There’s a revolution going on in Berlin in the background and some of the dancers are involved. The color palette is entirely different, instead of being drowned in Argento’s vibrant primary colors, the film seems devoid of color and life, so that when there is color it pops out! It adds to the dreary vibe the film carries  throughout its entire running time. I loved that sustained note of dreariness. The overall tone is way more horrifying and serious. Where the first film felt sort of like a fairy tale amongst immature dance students behaving like little girls, here we get this deadly serious dance school where you are lucky to get admitted into. While Argento’s feels like a colorful, feverish dream, this one feels dreadful, sad and deadly serious. So in terms of tone, we get a very different film. 

 Yet it retains a lot of what works from Argento’s version. For example, the surrealism. Though for me it felt way more intense on this new version. The dreams and nightmares are way more horrifying. The death’s that occur in the film are more intertwined with the themes of the film: the dance and the witchcraft. Somehow Guadagnino managed to mix witchcraft with dancing and it works amazingly well, especially in one magnificently graphic death scene. And speaking of the graphic nature of this film, well, it’s really out there. I mean, the film is slow paced, a slow burner for sure so be ready for that. But when it decides to turn up the fire, get ready because it turns up the fire to hellish temperatures! And by hellish I mean the fiery pits of hell itself! The gore on this movie is really magnificent, spectacular. 

 And just like its 1977 counterpart, this new Suspiria holds no stops in banging out an amazing ending! Seriously speaking my friends, this films ending will blow you away. I’m not going to go into any details so that you can experience all the horror for yourselves. And yes, I said horror, not jump scares/teeny bopper horror, but true horror. The kind that makes full grown adults cringe in disgust and terror, the kind that's bizarre, just plain bizarre. The kind of bizarre that oozes off of the screen with intense and pure evil! I swear I could feel the evil pouring out of the screen. It almost feels wrong to watch! But you won’t be able to stop watching. Because in a weird twisted way, it is also beautiful, as the film also addresses. There is something meta about the dialog in the film, I felt it was also talking about art, filmmaking and the nature of horror. If anybody else felt that, please comment on it below.  There’s beauty in all this horror! So there you go my friends. My review for Suspiria. The film that Quentin Tarantino saw and personally congratulated the director after watching. I mean, there’s a lot of naked feet on this movie so I get that. Plus it’s divided into chapters just like a Tarantino film. But aside from all the Tarantino love this movie got, this movie is a good example of what a great, epic horror film should be like. It should leave us scared and disturbed long after we leave the movie theater. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Director: Bryan Singer 

Cast: Rami Malek, Lycy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers

I have to admit I’d never heard of Bohemian Rhapsody or Queen until Wayne’s World (1992) came along and introduced me to it, I was a teenager back then, but thanks to Wayne and Garth I fell in love with that song. It wasn’t long before I decided to go past the Wayne’s World soundtrack and explored the rest of the bands body of work and it just so happened that I found one of my favorite bands ever. By the way, this is no side note thing, the fact that Wayne’s World introduced me to Queen, because it was Mike Myers film that made that song shoot to its chart topping position for the first time. Which is why it’s so fitting (and funny) to see Mike Myers playing the role of a music producer who doesn’t want to use the song as the albums first single. But anyways, here we are talking about Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), director Bryan Singer’s biopic on the legendary band. The film has had a rocky history from inception. 

 At one point Sacha Baron Cohen was going to play Freddie Mercury, but he backed out for creative differences. Among them the fact that Baron Cohen wanted to make a more adult oriented film and Queen’s surviving members wanted a more ‘PG-13’ version of the bands story. I have to admit, it would have been interesting to see a more adult oriented version of the film starring Sacha Baron Cohen, but more on that later. So anyhow, Singer ended up directing most of the film (which is why he gets full credit for it) and Dexter Fletcher who was going to direct at one point, ended up finishing the film when Singer got fired for Chronic Absenteeism and misconduct. Interesting thing, even though Singer got fired before the film was finished, he got full credit for the film because he’d filmed almost the whole thing when he got fired. So it’s still very much a Bryan Singer film. So anyhows, Baron left and Rami Malek took the role. What was the resulting product? Did all this back and forth in production end up producing a film worthy of Freddie Mercury’s awesomeness? 

 Of course, whoever took the role of Freddie Mercury would have big shoes to fill because Mercury wasn’t just any old singer, he was the ultimate performer, a tour de force on stage that when coupled with the rest of the band was just one of the most bombastic and soulful rock and roll bands you could ever wish for. Till this day Freddie Mercury is one of those voices that truly gets to my soul. It’s not just his voice, but what he sings about, it’s like they say in the movie, Queen was a band for the misfits, by misfits. They belong to us and we to them. Queen fans, and they are many, sing and know the bands songs with a passion, it’s one of those things that either you get or you don’t. So this review comes from a true fan of Queen, a guy who really loves Queen! So, did this film satisfy this fan?

 Hell to the yes it did! It rocked me! First off, I have to commend Singer. The film looks beautiful and it has some amazing shots. There’s this moment where the camera comes from the heavens, down into the Live Aid concert and right onto the stage that was just beautiful. For some people it’s too beautiful, but I don’t know I freaking love the look of the film. The vibrant colors go with the bands flamboyance in my opinion. And speaking of this “it’s too clean” bull crap. Listen, what did you want? To see Mercury snorting cocaine and having sex with all his gay lovers? Well, all that is hinted at in the film in various ways, we see a table filled with alcohol and cocaine, we see Mercury making out with some guys. But the film isn’t so graphic with it. It’s not essential. The film works fine the way it is. Sure you could go really dark and nitty gritty, but it’s not like you have to. That being said, the film doesn’t shy away from showing us Mercury’s drug/sex infused life, it’s all there, it just not as graphic as some might want. Me? I thought the film had just the right amount of grittiness without going overboard. I thought the film hit the right balance. Would I have liked an ‘R’ rated version of this tale? Sure, it would have been interesting, but this version is the one we got and I must say I’m happy with it. Why? 

 I’m happy with it because it captured Freddie Mercury’s essence, it captured his personality and his journey. And make no exceptions people, this is Mercury’s story. Sure the band is there and they are a part of it. But it’s not like we’re going to dive into John Deacon’s life. Sure Mary Austin was the love of his life, but it aint her story either, Mercury is at center stage here same as he was in real life. Make no mistake this is Freddy Mercury’s story my friends. And for those of us who know it, it’s all there. Sure the chronology of it all has been tweeked, but what Biopic doesn’t do that for dramatic purposes? No biopic tells it exactly like it was. 

 I have to commend Rami Malek, his portrayal is amazing. He IS Mercury and I was blown away, even the rest of the band members look almost identical to their real life counterparts. And for those of you who are making fun of Malek’s teeth in the film, you should know that Mercury’s teeth where like that, they are not “cartoonish” as I have heard some describe them, Freddie did in fact have those huge front teeth and he chose to keep them to stand up to those who made fun of him and he became the biggest voice in Rock and Roll with them. Bottom line though, Malek sold me on his portrayal and he got to me. There’s this moment where he is actually writing Bohemian Rhapsody where he’s getting all teared up as he writes, that says so much without saying a word. 

 And about the film tearing you up, well it will. If you know about Mercury’s life story you will be heart broken. But at the same time, you will feel the awesomeness that was Mercury and the band. They would get into people’s hearts and that’s why when Queen got up on stage during the Live Aid concert in 1985, that’s why those thousands sang back with a passion! By the way, that scene in the film is a real show stopper. You’ll get goose bumps. I teared up more than once during the movie (like I said I’m a fan) but that last concert scene, wow. Interestingly enough, the Live Aid concert was the first thing they shot of the film and It’s amazing. It captures the awesomeness of that day and let me tell you, they didn’t pull back, it’s an accurate representation of that day. You feel the thousands, you feel the magnitude of the event. And you do feel Mercury giving the performance of a life time. So screw the naysayers, I think some of the negative feedback comes from people who either hate what he represented (total freedom) or simply don’t know how to have a good time at the movies anymore. Me? I sang every song and clapped at the appropriate time during “Radio Ga-Ga” You my friends, should do the same. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Directors: Anthony Russo ad Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Chumberbach, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldaña, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bethany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Dave Bautista, Samuel L. Jackson, Benicio del Toro

We’d been waiting for this one for a long time. In fact, this film starts the culmination of a story line that started way back in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), the one in which we first came in contact with one of the Infinity Gems. The thing with this story though is that I fear that anyone who hasn’t been following the Marvel movies will feel a little lost. I mean “a little” because the movie does do a good job of summarizing things a bit for those who are just now being introduced to this universe, but still even then, my advice is to catch up with previous Marvel movies before this one. That way you’ll get the full effect. But those of you who have been feverishly following these movies should have a mega blast with this one. This is the end all be all of Marvel movies, well, at least till the next one. So, how was it? Did Avengers Infinity War deliver?

Thanos the megalomaniacal madman who has been looking for the Infinity Gems has tightened his search and wants those stones sooner rather than later. So he finally comes to earth where a couple of the gems reside. Once he acquires all six gems, they will turn Thanos into an all powerful godlike being. Sadly, Thanos’ idea of making a better universe is killing half of the population to make things more manageable. Will he achieve it even when the earths mightiest heroes are all against him? Can the Avengers take Thanos and live to tell the tale?

 The political implications of the story were amazing in my book. This is certainly a story for our times. Let’s see, a megalomaniacal madman with a twisted view of life is about to become the all-powerful ruler of the universe. Everyone dreads that he will actually achieve it…hmm, sounds like a power hungry madman we all know and hate don’t it? Not saying any names but you can read between the lines. *cough* Trump *cough* So yeah, parallels to our reality are there. If you can read between the lines of socio political events, the formula to force society into bringing down the population has been in effect for a while now. Governments think we’ve gotten too big for our own good, so they’ve forced the working class (read poor people) into a nearly impossible economical climate. By making life so expensive that having kids or owning a home will become a nearly impossible ordeal. It’s all masqueraded by a “crisis” of some sort, but the ultimate goal is to make everyone think about it twice before having kids. I love that Disney had the guts to say this with Infinity War, a film that everybody and their mother will see. It’s a message that’s hard to deny. And you guys know me, I love movies that are a mirror to society.

 But aside from political interpretations, the movie is fun from a superhero perspective. We have awesome superhero fights right from the get go. Five minutes into the movie it’s big guys kicking each others asses. There’s a major brawl that takes place in New York which is just wowzers. I mean, in terms of superhero action, with these gods going at each other in full force, the film does not disappoint. And it really couldn’t disappoint in that department because that’s what the Infinity Gauntlet storyline was about from the very beginning, every single superhero vs. Thanos, the all powerful godlike madman.

 I remember when I read this story way back in 1988 when it was first printed by Marvel Comics. It was an event comic book that every comic book geek had to have. And why? Because you wanted to know which hero was going to end up beating Thanos and if not, you wanted to know who was going to fail and how. Also, the big question of “who is going to die?” loomed heavy in all comic book geeks, the same way it is looming on everyone’s heads with this film today. That comic book series was a big deal amongst comic book fans back in the day and it still is one of the best comic book storylines I’ve read in my life. Highly recommend you check it out at some point. And I’m talking about the one drawn by George Perez and written by Jim Starlin, that’s the definitive version, the first and best version of the Infinity Gauntlet storyline if you ask me. There’s a couple of homages to that first Infinity Gauntlet story line in the film that fans will enjoy. The film is not an exact adaptation of that story, because that original series was solely about the fight. It took place in a planet in space with every character getting a chance at Thanos…and failing. It lasted six issues and spawned a whole slew of other books like Infinity Watch and Infinity War. But the film does do a good job of getting the gist of the entire concept and idea behind these old comics. The idea of a madman becoming all powerful.  

It doesn't get more epic then pulling down a moon to knock out your opponent.

So yeah, the film will please. It’s not as epic as the comics were because the comic book storyline included The X-Men, The Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer in the mix, but sadly these characters were left out of this movie for obvious reasons. Though now that Disney bought Fox…we might see these heroes pop up in the next film? I am hoping we will, because that will make the next film even more of a must watch! Can you imagine the X-Men, The Fantastic Four and The Silver Surfer joining the fight!? Holy moly will that movie be epic! All things considered Avengers: Infinity War will be one of the biggest money makers ever, well, at least that’s my prediction. It will certainly be a hard film to top! It’s satisfying in many ways, even on the dramatic side. I was disappointed in only two ways, Nick Fury was left out of the main action (I mean, he basically runs the Avengers) and also for some reason Ant-Man was not seen. Why leave him out? Where was he? Obviously, leaving out Ant-Man has something to do with the upcoming Ant-Man sequel, bu he was missed. I did love how they really fleshed out Thanos and let us know where he is coming from as a villain. He’s not just a cartoon character looking to destroy everything *cough* Justice League *cough*. They made Thanos a believable villain and an outstanding one at that. The heroes really have their hands full this time. Be ready because the film does end with a somber note…and you will definitely want to see how it all ends in the next film. Stay after all the credits for the extra ending!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thursday, December 28, 2017

In Defense of The Last Jedi

By now it should be no surprise that The Last Jedi was an extremely polarizing film, some loved it, some hated it, me?  I thought it was an extremely satisfying film, I loved how it shook my expectations. Of course, I had expectations. We all did. I remember having movie buff conversations around each one’s theories of what was going to happen with Luke, Rey, Kylo and Snoke. Still, no matter how many theories we had, what was going to happen in the film was a mystery to us all. But boy was it fun to speculate! We should have took heed of the trailer for the film which did warn us “This is not going to go the way you think!” And that was the problem, everyone thought the film was going to go how they wanted and when it didn’t they labeled it as “bad”. The reasons people gave for hating the film weren’t truly convincing for me because they came of as either blind hatred, or simply hatred because the film didn’t make their fan predictions true. Here are some of the reasons I heard from friends and read on the internet. Do you agree with them? For those of you who haven’t seen the film yet, do not go forward, this is an article that’s FILLED WITH SPOILERS! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

The Film is Feminist

I understand what you’re saying with this, but it’s something that’s happening in cinema and in society in general. Women are finally being put in the forefront and given major roles in films and you primates out there who don’t agree are part of the problem. Since forever, women were always relegated to playing ‘damsels in distress’ in films, always holding the man’s hand as he went ahead and solved the problem. Well, not anymore. Cinema is changing and hopefully the world with it. Now women are leading the rebellion. Though when you think about it, Leia was always leading the rebellion, so Star Wars has always been fighting to put women in the forefront in a way. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. This is something I always applauded about The Force Awakens and it’s something I applaud with The Last Jedi. Women are in the leading roles, they are at the crux of the plot, they are making the big decisions, they have something to say, it is they who are saving the galaxy. They are not being “bossy” they are simply saying what they think and making things happen. If you don’t like that, it’s time you checked your ways of thinking. I have no problem with the ladies taking the spotlight, it’s about time.

The Porgs Are There for Selling Toys

From day one Star Wars went hand in hand with merchandising. It has always been part of the equation. It’s why Ewoks exist. Now I’ve never been one to hate the Ewoks, because dammit I’ve always dug them. Those murderous cute fur balls. And I’m not one to hate any of the creatures that pop up in the Star Wars universe (Jar-Jar Binks excluded). I mean, cute cuddly creatures have always been a part of Star Wars, and you can’t deny The Porgs are actually cute, so I don’t get this hate either. Plus they are part of the indigenous life forms of the Island, it actually makes sense that the island is so alive and filled with all these different lifeforms.  

The Comedy Doesn’t Fit

Again, most of the things people hate about The Last Jedi have always been part of Star Wars, take for instance the comedy in it. Some have gone as far as calling it “intrusive”, as if it didn’t belong. Others felt like The Last Jedi was closer to Spaceballs than Space opera? Hey people, wake up, there’s always been comedy in Star Wars. Remember Luke saying “I used to live here you know” and Han replying “You’re gonna die here, convenient!” Or how’s about Lei calling Han a “Nerf Herder” or Yoda acting all goofy? So what if Poe calls General Hux, Hugs? So what if Luke has funny looking nuns helping him out? So what if Chewbacca has a funny moment with the Porgs, a little comedy has always been part of the Star Wars formula. It’s never overbearing. 

Leia Using The Force

Leia Organa has always been strong with The Force. It’s why she hears Luke’s voice in her head when he called her while hanging from the rafters of Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s how she “felt” that he hadn’t died inside the Death Star when it exploded in The Return of the Jedi. So why does it create such a reaction when she finally uses it to save her life in The Last Jedi? Is it because audiences thought she looked stupid or silly floating through space? The Force has always been used by characters to float from here to there, why wouldn’t Leia use it to save her life in that particular moment? Also, for me it was a cinematic, symbolic and moving resurrection of Carrie Fisher and it became an impactful moment for me in the film.

Luke Would Never Become a Murderer

Now this point here is about interpretation. The big deal here is that Luke pulls out his sword on Kylo to kill him because he considers him too big of a threat. You have to remember, Luke only considers killing Kylo for a second, only because he’d seen Kylos future and he knew all the chaos and destruction that Kylo was going to bring to the entire galaxy, all the millions that would die under his yoke as ruler of The First Order. But Luke only considered killing Kylo, he didn’t actually do it because Luke knew Kylo might have some good left inside of him. Same as Darth Vader had some good in him left at the end of Return of the Jedi. And don’t give me the “Luke would never do that” shtick because Star Wars has always been about that inner turmoil we all go through, that battle with our inner demons and our dark side. I can feel the conflict within you, but remember, Star Wars has always been about that very thin like between the Light and the Dark.

The Casino Scene is Too Long

The Casino scene on Canto Bight is actually a very important scene in the film, in fact, it’s the one with the most social commentary. It’s the scene that’s making a statement about the society we live in. Child slavery does in fact exist in our world, and its one of those things that’s extremely wrong with our reality, yet there it is. If director Rian Johnson wants to make a comment about that and take a good chunk of the film to do it, then so be it. It’s a statement that matters. And it’s not unheard of in the Star Wars universe either, The Phantom Menace shone a light on similar subject matter by having Anakin be a slave child as well. And who’s profiting from those races? The rich scum of the earth, who sell weapons of mass destruction, to both sides. So yeah, there’s something to be said there. On top of that, it’s an amazing sequence filled with a bunch of creatures! I didn’t know where to look at with so much coolness up on the screen. It was on part with the Cantina scene going all the way back to A New Hope, so yeah, it fits right in there in Star Wars universe.  

Rose is a Weak Character

There’s something to be said with Rose as well. Aside from the fact that Disney is making a huge effort to make these films ethnically diverse by including people of all colors and nationalities in their films, Rose also fulfills the role of representing the working class. Her character (as well as Finn’s who used to mop floors on the Dark Side) show how anyone of us can make a difference and become a hero, we can all do something important with our lives if we chose to. And that’s also a statement that matters. She saves Finn from sacrificing himself unnecessarily. And it’s her dead sisters medallion (which she unselfishly gives up) that ends up saving the day at one point. So, I guess she isn’t as weak a character as you all might think.  

They Shouldn’t Have Killed Off Snoke

Star Wars is famous for killing off cool villains. Remember Darth Maul and how we all thought he was the coolest looking villain in Star Wars? Remember how we thought we’d be seeing a lot of him in future films only to see him get sliced in half in The Phantom Menace? Or how about Boba Fett dying in the Sarlacc Pit? The same can be said for the good guys. I mean, I was so freaking sorry to see Qui Gon Jinn dying in The Phantom Menace! Of course I was as shocked as the next guy when Snoke bit the bullet, but come one guys, Lucas had been playing that game since forever. Plus, I like the fact that Snokes death shook things up to the point where we have ask ourselves what the hell is The First Order going to do now? In this movie no one is safe! I loved that about it. 

The Film is Boring

Now this is just a lame ass comment. Really, a film that gives us juicy character development and has all these amazing events taking place, how can you even say this film was boring. Rey meets Luke, The First Order is on The Rebels ass, Finn almost bites it, Snoke is split in half… and that freaking battle in Snokes Throne Room, that scene is the reason they invented phrases like “worth the price of admission”. This comment about the film being “boring” seems like blind hatred to me. Moving on…

It Doesn’t Feel Like Star Wars (It’s Too Disney)

This isn’t true in my book for various reasons, but number one being that Disney has actually made sure that these films feel a lot like the first trilogy, like those first three films that came out. Some mentioned that some of the creatures were too Disney, namely the caretakers, the crystal doggies and the Porgs…to that I say whatever, Star Wars has always had cute little creatures. How could it not feel like Star Wars when The Last Jedi shares similarities with both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi? It has Luke and Leia. It has The Millenium Falcon, Yoda, C3-PO and R2. This is very much a Star Wars film my friends. It’s another brainless excuse to spew blind hatred.

So that’s my take on it dudes and dudettes. I think that what is going on is the film destroyed all theories and didn’t give audiences exactly what they wanted, which is what The Force Awakens did. J.J. Abram’s film gave audiences exactly what they wanted. The Last Jedi did the opposite of that and to me that’s the genius of it. J.J. Abrams is apparently going to direct the next one, so let’s see what he does with this universe left in tatters. Maybe audiences will like Episode 9 more because J.J.’s the kind of director who loves to give you guys what you want, but to me Rian Johnson made a bold and risky film and as a result ended up making one of the most talked about entries in the franchise. To me that’s something worth noting.

The risk taker, destroyer of worlds, Rian Johnson. 

When Empire Strikes Back was released, it had a similar reaction to The Last Jedi. Audiences thought it was too dark and like Last Jedi, it wasn’t immediately loved by all.  What we need to remember as audiences is that in Hollywood, the second film in a trilogy is always the one in which everything goes to hell. This is the chapter in which everything becomes complicated and sad and all our heroes are left in dire straits. This is all done so that it all resolves itself in the third and final chapter. This is George Lucas 101. This is screenwriting 101. So, don’t worry my friends, I’m sure Episode 9 will be a bit more uplifting and J. J. will be considered the savior of the Star Wars universe because his film will be the “happy ending” to this new trilogy. I also bet that like Empire Strikes Back, decades down the road, The Last Jedi will be considered by many as one of the best in the series, mark my words. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Last Jedi (2017)

The Last Jedi (2017)

Director: Ryan Johnson

Cast: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hammill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyongo, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro

Anticipation is always high for any Star Wars movie and The Last Jedi wasn’t going to be the exception. People just can’t wait for that Star Wars logo to flash on the screen while John William’s legendary score blasts through the speakers, it just starts things out with such a blast! Of course, I was as excited as everybody else. Where the hell was Rey and Finn’s story going to go? Who’s going to go bad, who’s going to “turn”? The interesting thing about this particular Star Wars sequel was that directors were going to change. J.J. Abrams passed the baton to Ryan Johnson who took the reins of the series with relentlessness. I wasn’t floored when I heard that Johnson had gotten the gig because to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Brick (2005) or The Brothers Bloom (2008). The only light at the end of his cinematic repertoire was a film called Looper (2012) which I did enjoy a whole lot. So, where would a new voice, a new director/writer take the series? I was extremely curious.

This time around, the rebels are escaping the ever-nearing death grip of The New Order. After the destruction of Star Killer Base, the Order is desperate to wipe out the last remaining members of the Rebel Alliance. But rebels are not so easy to kill. Meanwhile, Rey is trying to convince Luke to rejoin the fight, to lead, to train more Jedi. Sadly, Luke has all but given up on the force and the training of Jedi. He wants none of the responsibility. Will Rey convince him to come out of seclusion?

When I say that Johnson took the franchise relentlessly, I mean it. It feels as if its writer/director, Ryan Johnson is scrapping everything J.J. Abrams set up in The Force Awakens (2015) and doing his own thing. And by scrapping, I mean, completely obliterating a lot of what makes The Force Awakens what it is. So creatively speaking, that was so interesting. The Last Jedi is the polar opposite of what The Force Awakens was. If Force Awakens was giving fans everything they wanted, then The Last Jedi is defying what you expected from this sequel. It’s almost as if Johnson is saying, if we follow what Abrams set up, we’ll end up seeing the exact same films we’ve already seen. And Johnson obviously doesn’t want that, so he’s shaking things up almost to the point of starting anew. And I must admit, I dug this direction Johnson took a whole lot. With this movie, you’ll feel like no one is safe. It’s not like when you’re watching a movie and you know nothing is going to happen to the good guys, so let’s just enjoy how they go about doing what they got to do. Nope, in The Last Jedi you will feel like every single person on the screen is in danger of being obliterated, or killed or blasted into infinity by some freaking giant laser. In that sense, for me, the film succeeds. It takes away that feeling of safety towards the characters.  

The film succeeds in many other ways as well. It is a darker chapter in the franchise and in this way it is similar to The Empire Strikes Back (1980), but it’s not as blatant as The Force Awakens was with its fan service. This isn’t a Xerox copy of The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi, though we hear and see echoes of both films. So it gives you a bit of that familiarity, but without becoming fan service, which was what The Force Awakens was guilty of. The Last Jedi has many new things going for it, old fans will be thrilled at how well they go about explaining exactly what The Force is but will also be surprised at the additions that Johnson makes to the mythology.  

Thematically speaking the film is all about the new wanting to stamp out the old, trying to forget it, leave it behind to start anew, which is kind of what the entire film attempts to do as well. I thought it was amazing how the film was mimicking what its characters were feeling. I loved where the characters were going and was surprised at every characters story arc and ultimate fate. I mean, Rey and Kilo, awesome! Snoke! Leia! Finn! Poe! So cool to see them all going through their own intense thing and then coming together in the grand finale. With each passing movie I love Rey even more. The new characters like Rose and Benicio del Toro’s DJ were welcome additions. I was especially proud of Benicio’s performance because he is one of Puerto Rico’s best actors, and he's up there in Star Wars and he represents. So, cool for Benicio!   

 The film is like a long trip you don’t want to end. When I thought it was just about to be over, boom, it wasn’t and a whole other chapter opens, and it’s also awesome. Final thoughts on The Last Jedi is that yes, it’s a very satisfying sequel. It is a dark chapter that shakes things up like crazy and attempts to put our characters in an incredibly difficult situation, therefore it is going to polarize audiences. Some will love it, others will hate it, or perhaps even find it “boring”, though honestly, I can’t agree one parsec with them. I kept thinking, boy, whoever ends up directing the next one is going to have a hard time doing it because this Ryan Johnson guy just left things in pretty dire straits! Ryan Johnson was like a hurricane that just passed through the Star Wars universe and left said universe in tatters. Where are these characters headed now? That’s what I want to know! We have to wait a couple of years to find out, so patience my young Padawan’s. Patience.

Ratings: 5 out of 5  



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