Category: Movies (Page 1 of 5)

Star Wars: Rogue One & The Last Jedi

Introduction

If you search for “Star Wars” on my blog, you’ll notice I wrote about The Force Awakens in January 2016, the original movies in August 2016, and then skipped to Solo in October 2018. In between those, I had seen both Rogue One and The Last Jedi, because I mean, c’mon. I’m a nerd, and it’s Star Wars. C’mon.

Anyways, it’s not that I hadn’t written about them at all. I initially started separate entries for each one, but beyond a few paragraphs I kinda stalled out on both and left them hanging. It wasn’t that I felt less enthused or dejected by those movies; I just felt I’ve been running out of things to say about Star Wars. Recently, I’ve been combining several other related entries, so I figured I might as well do the same here so I can finally finish and post them! Also, The Mandalorian has done a lot to improve my outlook on the future of Star Wars, Onwards!

Note: As always, spoilers ahead!

Rogue One

The revival of Star Wars started with The Force Awakens, coming not too long after the sale of the franchise to Disney, which I briefly reviewed in a positive light. On further re-watches, my enthusiasm for it has declined. Make no mistake: I’m happy to get new Star Wars, but I began to wish for something that truly stood out on its own. Well, I wouldn’t have to wait long for that to come true, as the trailer for Rogue One gave me hope (a “new hope” you could say, eh? Eh?!) for something quite unique, while still being unmistakably Star Wars.

Taking place before the events of the first Star Wars, this movie covers the events of the group of rebels that stole the plans for the Death Star and facilitated its destruction. Since the original movie there was always the question of how the plans were stolen and smuggled out (isn’t “smuggle” such an odd word?). One of the best things about this film was how some little detail from the past could be expanded to lay the foundation for its own movie.

The movie follows Jyn Erso, daughter of a reluctant Imperial scientist, who reluctantly (noticing the pattern here?) joins the Rebellion to steal the plans for a new space station that will certainly bring planet-wide destruction and continued domination by the Empire. Joining a rag-tag team, they go to Scarif and attempt to retrieve the plans. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s incredible and perfectly fits the story; I commend the writers as well as Disney respectively for coming up with and sticking to it. This is a great place to start if you’ve never seen the Star Wars movies (gasp! clutch the pearls!) or if you’ve been away from this universe for a long time.

While I like this movie, there’s no doubt a few problems that makes this movie not quite as perfect as I’d like. As noted by Lessons from the Screenplay, Rogue One tells more than it shows, and its main characters reacts rather than acts (this is a huge fault of the prequel trilogy as well; everything happens to Anakin). This is in contrast to both Luke and Rey; yes they react to an initial tragedy and series of events, but from there on (through the rest of their respective trilogies) they act and push forward, risking everything to triumph over adversity and the Empire/First Order. But, overall I still personally rate Rogue One above The Force Awakens. In fact, I would rank it above most of the Star Wars movies, coming just after The Empire Strikes Back, the original (which I still refuse to call A New Hope, it came out as Star Wars dammit!), and Solo.

The Last Jedi

After my initial excitement for The Force Awakens cooled off, I went into The Last Jedi with at most moderate expectations. I knew it would be an almost direct continuation of the first movie in this new trilogy, along with a bigger part played by Luke Skywalker. Would it be worth the decades of wait, and would this movie nudge back into the fold of great sci-fi movies, let alone the Star Wars series?

Unfortunately, no. This movie seems to meander around too many plot-points, worse than The Force Awakens. Rey is stuck on Luke’s “long-lost island” dealing with the grumpy outcast, barely teaching her anything about the force let alone wanting to be a part of what’s happening, despite the death of Han Solo and the struggles of General Leia leading the ever-diminishing numbers of the Resistance. Fighting with her and another leader, Poe feels like a forgotten throw-away character. Taking up far more screen-time but lending little to the story, Poe and Rose travel to a distant city to find someone to disable a tracking device. Seriously? None of the Resistance members can figure this out? Or worst case, just evacuate the ship that is obviously transmitting an enemy signal and just blow it up. Not like any other ship, large or small, in Star Wars has been immune from destruction. While in the city we get to listen to Rose whine, and somehow it culminates to a kiss between her and Poe. Mmmk.

The only redeeming scene in this movie is the fight between Snook’s henchmen and Rey, fighting alongside Kylo Ren. That’s right, at least for this scene they are teamed up, and it’s the best thing about the movie. I really do hope it’s setting up the third and final movie for the two of them to remain teamed up (not romantically, ugh please) and finally bring balance to the force, neither good or bad, just “as-is”. Will we get that in The Rise of Skywalker? Doubtful, but I can always hope…

Rob Reiner

Introduction

I think like so many others that grew up in the 80s and 90s, I was a fan of Rob Reiner long before I was aware of it. He’s been in the business as an actor since 1961, and a director since 1974. He’s been involved with so many classics and I wanted to make this post to highlight the ones I’ve seen so far.

This Is Spinal Tap

As Rob Reiner’s feature film debut, This Is Spinal Tap is a raucous good time, while somewhat painfully poking fun at the trials and tribulations that countless bands have experienced (from what I’ve read Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi particularly didn’t like the movie due to its scathing satirical accuracy).

Starring the witty trio of Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer (they would later star in similar improvisational comedies such as Best in Show and A Mighty Wind), the movie follows the band on its final American tour. Trials and tribulations follow the band, including the hilarious spontaneous combustion of their drummers. There are plenty of quips, on-screen gags, and jokes that takes multiple scenes or even the whole movie for the payoff laugh, and altogether makes this movie one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.

The Princess Bride

Fantasy movies enjoyed their peak in the 1980s, and while many tilted towards a dark outlook there was at least one bright, shining, romantic, and heartfelt exception: The Princess Bride. Adapted from his own novel, William Goldman’s script is filled with memorable characters and dialogue.

From a young farm boy to a renowned pirate, Westley must come to the rescue of his long-time love from marriage to Prince Humperdinck. Along the way are very unique and endearing encounters with Inigo Montoya, Miracle Max, Vizzini and Fezzik, and more.

This isn’t just one of Rob’s best movies, it is one of THE best movies of the 1980s, and if you haven’t seen it you simply must.

When Harry Met Sally…

Written by Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally is a delightful and quite truthful look at both friendships and romantic relationships between men and women, and whether they have to or can overlap or not. Starting when both are in college, Harry and Sally are driving from Chicago to New York. Harry comes off as cocky, opinionated, and even slightly chauvinistic, while Sally seems a bit ditzy, picky, and unsure of what she really wants both in life and in a man. The two part once they arrive in New York, but it won’t be long before they run into each other more than once throughout the movie. Along the way they bounce their thoughts and conclusions off of best friends, in roles well-remembered by Carrie Fischer and Bruno Kirby (“you made her meow?!”). While the film’s conclusion may seem a bit cliche and abrupt now (although the film does its best to show it does skip forward sometimes by months if not years), the film’s dialogue carries it well all the way through to the end. This is one of those movies that may work as well or better as a play, and just for the dialogue and performance of the key actors alone merits watching this movie.

Misery

Teaming up again with Princess Bride author William Goldman, this adaptation of the Stephen King novel is outstanding, as “simple” of a story and movie that it is (like When Harry Met Sally, it could easily be turned into a play). While I personally can’t recall much about James Caan’s performance in Misery, we certainly all remember Kathy Bateman’s!

After completing his latest novel at a remote cabin, author Paul Sheldon is returning when his Mustang (is that what he REALLY thought to drive in the snow?) veers off the road, critically injuring him. Luckily he is “saved” by Annie Wilkes, who happens to be a nurse. Awakening in her home, he discovers Annie is a huge fan of his novels. Learning he has written a new story, she begs him to read it, and Paul finally relents. Unfortunately, it’s nothing like what she wanted, and forces him to re-write it. Still injured and helpless, he has no choice, even though as time goes by the situation becomes unbearable and he has to figure out a way to escape.

While I haven’t read the novel yet (you can read the script here), this was a well-done suspense/thriller movie and adaptation, and I certainly wish Rob had directed more movies like this!

Conclusion

Rob has directed many more movies since Misery, and is still active. His track record more than speaks for itself; Rob stands as one of the best directors since the 1970s. Here’s to his continued health and work!

Website find: Cinephilia & Beyond

With a recent renewed interest in screenwriting I’ve been scouring the web for articles, reviews, etc. One of those sites with many interesting articles on screenwriting, particularly relating to the works of David Lynch, has been Cinephilia & Beyond. This site has numerous articles, not only related to screenwriting but also editing, cinematography, and more.

SOLO: A Star Wars Story

Yeah I need to finish my reviews for the other recent Star Wars movies, but I watched this yesterday and wanted to get this out while the movie was still fresh in my mind.

This will be a pretty short review, but I hope it’s pretty clear that its length doesn’t correlate my affection for this movie compared to other reviews I’ve written. In short, I loved this movie. I FINALLY got a Star Wars movie that isn’t about the fate of the whole frickin’ universe, and there’s no Jedis, no force, none of that!

It’s almost shocking how small-scale Solo: A Star Wars Story is. There’s a few key locations on a few different planets, but there’s no excessive location-hopping and scene cutting back and forth. The movie pretty much focuses on the key character, Han Solo, and only adds a dash of scenes for villains, side-kicks, etc. I think the casting was perfect; Alden Ehrenreich was great as a young Solo, channeling a bit of Harrison Ford but not trying to do an outright caricature. Donald Glover nearly steals the show as Lando, bringing style and swagger. Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson also shine in their roles, making the viewer constantly wonder just whose side they are on. Paul Bettany is great as the movie’s key villain, never ever going over the top and is more of a quiet threat that perfectly suits his style of acting.

While this movie evidently had a rocky road on the way to the theater, I think both director Ron Howard and writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan (how awesome to write a Stars Wars movie with your dad?!) have given us a very strong independent Star Wars movie, and for me it’s not only for sure in my top 3 picks, but it might just be my favorite Star Wars movie!

Adrian Lyne

Introduction

I only discovered Adrian’s movies thanks to playing the Silent Hill video games. After playing them and wanting more of that atmosphere and story, I looked online at similar games, films, and books. One of the first and most common replies, as far as film went, was to watch Jacob’s Ladder. I eventually did, and my mind was blown away. Since then I’ve watched two more of Adrian’s films, and while he hasn’t done much lately he is undoubtedly one of my top directors of all-time.

Fatal Attraction

Quote from Sleepless in Seattle: “Well I saw it and it scared the shit out of me! It scared the shit out of every man in America!”

That quote should pretty much sum up this movie. Just as Sleeping With the Enemy was a look at a disturbed and abusive man, in Fatal Attraction we see the same in a woman, albeit in a different situation. This movie covers sexual urges and acting upon them, infidelity, honesty and communication, and much more.

Michael Douglas stars as a lawyer in New York, living the good life with a picture-perfect family. At a publisher’s book release party he encounters Alex Forrest; she quickly starts to flirt with him and he doesn’t exactly discourage it. As time goes on life at home doesn’t seem so perfect and he sees Alex a few more times, and inevitably he gives in to her advances.

Well, Alex is a tad cray-cray. Hence the term bunny-boiler. After Michael comes to his senses he stops the affair and assumes that’s that, but Alex doesn’t accept it’s over. After harassing him and his family, including spending the day alone with his daughter, Michael has no choice but to tell his wife about the affair. He is of course kicked out, but eventually they reconcile, and not too far from a dramatic conclusion to the movie.

As with Adrian’s other movies, what struck me the most was the framing and lighting of this movie, especially the contrast between the lighter and comforting home life and the darker and increasingly-sinister affair. The pacing of the movie is excellent; little things here and there start to go wrong, not seem right, and then it continues to build all the way until the final confrontation in the house.

Jacob’s Ladder

As mentioned above, Jacob’s Ladder was undoubtedly one of the key influences on the Silent Hill video games, and not just because of the subway similarities. In a similar plot to Silent Hill 2, in Jacob’s Ladder a former Vietnam soldier starts to see things that don’t make sense, and through key events and meetings begins to suspect what the true meaning of things are.

Jacob is living with his girlfriend, who also works for the U.S. Postal Service. They share a small apartment, in stark contrast to the large townhome Jacob once shared with his wife and 3 kids. Gabe, the youngest, was killed before Jacob went to Vietnam, and of course it still haunts him after coming back. As time goes by more and more strange things happen to Jacob, and talking with his Army buddies it’s apparent he’s not alone. He sees more and more ghost and demons, and only with the guidance of his chiropractor can Jacob start to realize what the truth might be, as well as what he needs to do to truly move on.

Indecent Proposal

The last of the three movies I watched, I didn’t anticipate the emotion that this movie had, even more so than Adrian’s previous movies. As always beautifully lit and photographed, this movie also had the stellar performances of Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore; Robert Redford also gives a great performance of a confident and cocky rich man.

The premise for the movie, if you look at it on its own, is pretty ridiculous and out there. A rich man proposes to spend one night with a couple’s wife in exchange for a million dollars. While that’s a decent chunk of change, I can’t imagine any well-functioning couple would say yes. But of course this is a movie, and they agree. Harrelson regrets it as soon as Redford picks her up, while Moore is quite emotional but doesn’t show us that she doesn’t want to go along with it. Soon after it happens they fight and eventually separate. Moore does stay with Redford, at least until he slips up about the scheme. This is near the movie, and after leaving him Moore returns to where she and Harrelson met and fell in love, and we’re left with hope of reconciliation.

Somewhat unbelievable plot aside, it’s hard not to get sucked into this movie. Dynamic performances, beautiful lighting and photography, and a perfect music score all come together to make a very good movie.

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