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My Interpretations of the Underrated Masterpiece, Under the Skin (2013)

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

2nd Viewing, Screened at The Frida Cinema 

Best coming of age movie ever???

I’m still baffled to this day that Under the Skin is not considered a sci-fi masterpiece at the ranks of 2001: A Space Odyssey. You heard me correctly. I said it.

Then again, it did take Kubrick’s marvelous feat a tedious amount of time to become widely accepted as one of the greats. 

Couple theories on what exactly this movie could morally mean… 

One, the film is ultimately about introversion. It’s a metaphysical depiction of what it’s like to feel cut off from the world or what it’s like to be someone who doesn’t quite grasp humanity. There seems to be an ongoing disconnect between Laura and the people, and while she does begin to puzzle out the functions of humans and their relationships, she ends up detesting them by the end, as she, the pure creature, is powerless to fathom the cruelty of mankind. It’s the equivalent to people who rather stay enclosed than allow themselves to reckon with the harsher truths of the outside world. 

Two, this entire movie is a metaphor for an innocent girl coming to her senses about innate male sexual desires for females, and the trauma that comes with it. At the beginning of Under the Skin, when Laura is born, she almost instantaneously is programmed to seduce men into coming to her place to essentially be harvested by the aliens she works for—this alone could say a lot about the unacceptable role some women are raised to play. However, the film makes it thoroughly clear that she is unconscious of why the men want her, and more so, just numbly going through the motions of what she was made to do. Later in the movie, as she begins to understand humans, she, on multiple occasions, begins to supposedly apprehend the loneliness that comes with these men who want to have sex with her. This loneliness not only ties in with a parallel to her own situation, but it makes her begin to feel related to some of these men. At the end of the film, unfortunately, a man attempts to rape her, and it ends in her being burnt alive, almost mimicking the emotions she now has as to realizing what men would go through to be with someone else—something horrendous she herself, could never imagine doing to another being. It almost distresses her of her own desires to connect while vaguely indicating her hatred and inability to accept humanity’s way of solution. Thus, an early death is the way her species will always end up at as they roam Earth. 

Three, like my first theory, the movie is strictly about the feelings you get when you are lonely. From countless scenes that blurt the meaning in your face like the shot where the baby whose parents just died is seen crying on the beach alone. Or, from countless recurring sub-themes like the revulsion of physical ugliness that the deformed man received or Laura received at the very end of the film when her true form is exposed. These are evidential signals that can aid us at mastering what exactly Jonathon Glazer may be saying in Under the Skin on what he perceives the experience of loneliness can come from or mentally emote. 

Theories aside, I do furthermore find Under the Skin to be a technical wonder next to also being an ambiguous cinematic mind-challenge. Mica Levi’s recurring score theme is at a legendary level of petrifying. Scarlett Johansson is officially the most terrifying extraterrestrial ever, and that was a tricky maneuver to pull off considering she looks like Scarlett Johansson. Jonathon Glazer directed his entire soul into making every frame of this movie look like unconventional eye-candy; the opening to this movie is still an all-time favorite of mine that enhances Kubrick’s flair. Besides nitpicks, to me and hopefully to many more people in the future, Under the Skin is one of the greatest science-fiction films ever concocted. Please, cinephiles, give it the love and attention it deserves. 

Verdict: A 

All-Time Favorites, A24 Ranked

“Under the Skin” is now available to stream on Vudu, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and Netflix.

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Sonic the Hedgehog is Abominable, Yet, Technically Not Nearly the Worst Movie You Could Watch With Friends or Family

It’s amusing how an almost strictly made for kids movie was so savagely pounced by a nostalgically spoiled group of internet-raving adults. Due to a poorly constructed “character design” back in the year 2019 that many reacted to as if it was a near end of the world scenario, Sega’s innocent project was pushed back four whole months; smh, as if children (the target audience) would actually give a damn about a CGI character design. However, in the midst of this state of affairs, the finalized product of this latest video game adaptation may either disappoint or alarmingly jolt fans who grew up with the classic Sega game due to its immature nature that perfectly reconciles the beats of watching a motion picture like a child again. 

However, as a movie, the blockbuster talk-about is an appropriate DVD rental snatch for your 5-year-old niece, and an unintentionally hilarious ball for you and your young adult/teenage friends to belly-laugh your butts off too. Despite the content of the blockbuster looking awfully unwatchable in its first few teasers, Sonic the Hedgehog turns out to be shockingly “meme-able” rather than just flat-out boring. So, like X-Men: Dark Phoenix, I enjoyed it in those regards. 

Jim Carrey is the only actor here who is admirably trying to give it his all, yet the atrocious screenplay Patrick Casey and Josh Miller have implemented here is so utterly awkward that it cannot competently mirror Carrey’s quirky acting abilities. The relationship between our main character’s Sonic and Tom is a prime example of “artificial chemistry” that is, might I add, side-splittingly counterfeit to a point of grave embarrassment. Jim Carry and his simp had more allure than these two underwritten dweebs. 

It’s a shame that, at least to me, all the intentional gags in Sonic the Hedgehog fell flat. Even the few kids and parents at my theater were dead silent the entire time. The iconic rendition of the character, Sonic is, unfortunately, one of the most obnoxious mends to the movie considering 75% of the jokes come out of his mouth. I also merely have the stomach to get into how generic this movie’s plot is and just how pathetic its endeavors to be “heartfelt” are—robots will definitely be writing our future projects if we keep this haphazardness up. The blockbuster is littered with dated movie references to keep the adult audience from falling fast asleep, which in of itself is just insulting. Sonic the Hedgehog additionally features possibly some of the most blatant uses of product placement in cinema that I’ve seen in a while. However, while they are blatant, they were god-tier leveled priceless in a sort of scornful manner. I mean, BEST OLIVE GARDEN ADS EVER. THEY WENT ON FOR SO LONG BUT I WAS ALMOST KILLED BY LAUGHTER BECAUSE OF THEM; BLESS YOU MOVIE

Sonic the Hedgehog is a film that could sincerely believe it to be competent and in-fashion, but deep down comes off as one of the biggest cinematic trolls of the century. It’s strictly “made” for kids and it does mean well, but then again, a 95 million dollar budget is enough to “save” more needing kids as an alternative…

Hey! But the CGI was pretty good though, and I’ve now discovered that I have a bottomless, driving passion for Olive Garden quips! 

Verdict: D

2020 Ranked

“Sonic the Hedgehog” will be playing in theaters on Valentine’s Day.

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In the Future, Portrait of a Lady on Fire Will Be Considered One of the Greatest Romances of This Century By Many

I guess I never told you, readers, what happened to me the day I went to go see Portrait of a Lady on Fire back in October. It seems like this would be an appropriate time to tell you, anyhow. So, if you don’t know, I went to see The Lighthouse that same day in the afternoon up in LA—an event that I ended up being late to too. Afterward, I had to get some 8mm film developed because when I’m in LA, I usually take advantage to use its awesome resources to get some of my movie work processed. 

Being the idiot I am, I completely lost track of time, and I realized it was around the start of late afternoon traffic. Ultimately, I drove for almost five hours from LA to San Diego for the film festival. In the process of this, I also scraped my car, not one, but TWO times on my drive there. I also ended up missing the first three minutes of the movie. Evidently, as you can imagine, I was extraordinarily grouchy going into seeing Portrait of a Lady on Fire. In a sense though, that in of itself is a compliment for the movie, considering despite my s**t attitude, I still ended up giving the movie a high grade of an A-. You rock, Céline. 

So yeah, yeah, I know I’m making excuses but I wanted to preface this review before I start discussing why I love this special film even more on rewatch. There’s a specific qualm from my original review that I’d favor to go over in which I’ve completely changed my mind on. In this previous review of the movie, I had claimed that the cinematography displayed in the film was “50/50.” Maybe my possible migraine caused me to nitpick the hell out of the cinematography or I was just being needlessly pissy that the movie wasn’t shot on film or something, but I openly admit that I was wrong. Witnessing the colorful ornamenting of Portrait of a Lady on Fire is like walking around in Candyland. I officially retract what I had said about the visual look of this movie from my original review. Okay; cool. 

I empathetically profess Céline Sciamma’s masterpiece to having virtually FLAWLESS dialogue that evokes the genuinest indications of desirability. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel gave by far the best performances of 2019 alongside Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse—yet for very contrasting grounds. The two ladies’ subtle facial cues speak so essentially to the audience’s faith between these lovers. The execution of Sciamma’s feature-length, as I believe I had mentioned in my previous review, is arguably painted in perfection. 

I suppose the one argument somebody could make to discredit Portrait of a Lady on Fire is that from a “surface-level” point-of-view, the plot is foreseeable and accustomed. Even at that, it is the outstanding substance and contextual presentation of the actual movie that vindicates the debatably familiar structure—you don’t want your motion picture to be so heavy with thematic individualities that no viewers can possibly carry it. 

So yeah, if I could go back in time, I would definitely place Portrait of a Lady on Fire in the top 3 of my favorite movies of 2019 article. It’s frankly one of my all-time favorite romantic dramas amongst other cult classics such as Punch-Drunk Love or The Lobster—and in all fairness, it definitely has the best ending out of all of them too. F*****g fire film.

Verdict: A

2019 Ranked, All-Time Favorites, Favorite Romances 

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is now playing in select theaters. 

 

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Birds of Prey is a Harmless Comic-Book Movie That’s Currently Being Blown Out of Proportion

Warning: The following review is RATED R because some reckless movie reviewing asshole says an unnecessary amount of curse words to emphasize his point on this particular motion picture while also attempting to embody the raunchy stylistic directions of the film’s pizazz. 

Awwwwwww. A completely harmless comic-book half-pie-flick with a ton of blood, guts, and chaos starring a far from unlikable jumpsuit-wearing, sledge-hammering, and trouble-stirring ex-princess of the Clown of Crime, Harley Quinn. Cute! 

Wait, what was that? People are getting…heated…about this movie? What? But, why? Hold up a second, individuals are actually giving a shit that a by-the-numbers, forgettable DC movie has a minor, inconsequential social justice agenda…huh? By showing love or hatred through internet praise or protest? Aye-yai-yai. Hm. Let me take you fellas back to the very beginning from where this all started. 

Hi! My name is Evan Ambrose, but you can just call me Evan. I’m a moderately young writer/filmmaker from San Diego, California and I fancy talking about movies around the clock. But enough about me; that’s not why I brought you citizenries here to talk. I’m here because I want to dig at the roots of why Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is whipping up a wee pot of controversy. 

Back in the year of 2016, a DEVISTATINGLY hyped-up DCEU movie, also known as the movie that shall not be named, ended up being an utter DISASTER—don’t tell anyone I said this, but that wretched movie is called Suicide Squad. That poor, dear flick additionally happened to be the movie to introduce Margot Robbie’s spectacular interpretation of Harley Quinn, and the film was planned to set up the villainous world of the DC universe. Unfortunately, after the fact that countless had witnessed such a dumpster fire of a motion picture, nobody really desired a sequel or spin-off to the movie that shall not be namedwink wink, Suicide Squad. A couple years later, Birds of Prey was rumored amongst the internet as possibly being a “feminist movie”—GASP. And, as speculation causes, both men and women began not caring about what the actual cinematic (AKA, important) content of the follow-up was going to hopefully feature, but began either getting aggravated or preachy about the likes of a movie being feminist-oriented. 

Now, I have finally gotten to witness the movie myself (and you should too if you’re one of those low-lives who are currently criticizing or applauding a movie before it even comes out) and conclusively, while the movie does cover such topics as misogyny and female empowerment lightly, it is but only a sliver of the cake that feels more tacked onto the final product than it does appear fore-fronting—so quit your bitchin’ and whinin’ and enjoy or don’t enjoy the damn movie as a MOVIE. Okay, FABULOUS! Glad we understand one another now! 

Margot Robbie’s gracious return to the ferocious Harley Quinn character was effortlessly the greatest blessing of Birds of Prey. Unlike recent DC failures such as Suicide Squad and Justice Leauge, this new movie advantageously has a leading character that we can latch onto rather than subconsciously forget. The extroverted, cartoonish style of Birds of Prey is affectionately reminiscent of the zany Harley Quinn comic-books and not only added flavor to the movie’s presentation but will simultaneously please geeky accuracy fans as well. The violent, over-the-top, and creatively designed action sequences were also comically set-up to the point of recapturing the lampoon flair of Harley’s imaginative yet cuckoo world from the source material. Nevertheless, the questionable choreography of these battle scenes is sometimes iffy in its department. For newcomer to the blockbuster business director Cathy Yan, however, the work displayed in Birds of Prey’s colorful presentation is somewhat meritorious. Yipee! 

Sadly, my readers, that is around the extent of Birds of Prey’s value. What absolutely stings this flick in the ass, is, well, a number of things actually. Its aimlessly fucked-up timeline creates unnecessary confusion and degratification. The migraine-inducing attempts to flesh-out numerous characters (sidekicks, villains, officers of the law, etc.) into an hour and forty-nine minutes of screen-time felt very familiar to the defective realms of the clunky Suicide Squad. The plot is unbearably formulaic and uninspired with predictable character arcs, slothful writing, serendipity scattered throughout, and a distracting original soundtrack—so just about everything you’d come to expect from your run-of-the-mill DCEU blockbuster at this point! 

So you may be asking yourselves, does this all bum you out, Evan? The medicoreness of the picture, does it bother you? No. Frankly, I’m fine that this movie exists. I didn’t regret watching it nor did I enjoy watching it, it was just everything I’ve come to expect from team-up, comic-book blockbusters at this point, and I’m much too careless to get aggravated at another one of these second-rates existing. To the people though who are blowing this typical anti-hero flick out of proportion through political absurdity, as Ms. Harleen Frances Quinzel herself would suggest, get yourselves a nice, juicy, possibly expired breakfast sandwich down at your local corner store, and chill the hell-o out, okay? Marvelous! 

Verdict: C-

DCEU Ranked, 2019 Ranked 

“Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” will be released in theaters February 7, 2020.

 

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The Top 25 Movies of the Decade! (2010-2019)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, another decade has flashed by as well as a whole 10 years of movie releases. I won’t waste anymore time. You know exactly what that means…

25. Enemy (2013)

Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy is very dissimilar to anything in the artist’s filmography. It’s very small-scaled, concise, and abstract in its presentation. Villeneuve’s 2013 paragon is about a college professor played by Jake Gyllenhaal who discovers an actor that looks exactly like him. The results that dispute in this eye-catching storyline are potent, unexpected, and ultimately polarizing. But the more and more you think about what happened in Enemy, the more and more you begin to realize that it truly is a cinematic treasure. 

24. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

As of the moment, Moonrise Kingdom is my all-time favorite Wes Anderson film, and probably because I saw it during my adolescence when it first came out. Being the same age as the two main characters in this film gained so much value for me because I harshly related to what our leads were going through at that time. Now, gazing back at the film as an adult, I can furthermore appreciate just how perfectly it encapsulates young love. Moonrise Kingdom is endearing, spirited, and, in all likelihood, my favorite looking Wes Anderson movie as well. 

23. Moonlight (2016)

Sticking on target with movies that involve love and sexual awakenings, here we have Barry Jenkins’ directorial debut, Moonlight. This motion picture journey I would confidently describe as technically flawless. There’s literally nothing in terms of execution, directing, and visual presentation in this film that is anything below marvelous. Moonlight is the quintessential drama about someone growing up in a poor neighborhood and family while simultaneously dealing with a secret that isn’t necessarily accepted in society. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking three-part exploration. 

22. Snowpiercer (2013)

South Korean legend Bong Joon-ho made an American feature-length back in 2013 that was harshly criticized by audiences for its lack of “story-wise” plausibility. The thing is though, Snowpiercer isn’t trying to be quote on quote “realistic.” It’s trying to show you the ugly truth about human nature, which is, that no matter the absurd situation, social-class will always stay relevant. To me, Snowpiercer is a science-fiction cult classic that is brimmed with fantastic set pieces, memorable characters, and some of the coolest shot action sequences I’ve seen all decade. 

21. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Tiimothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer exemplify one of the most realistic human connections that I’ve ever witnessed on screen in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. This adaptation is a natural, gorgeous progression in showing you two men who are in love during the 80s in Italy. There’s not a whole lot to it than just that, but the charm of the movie is just simply its down-to-earth presentation. Plus, it has one of my favorite endings to a romantic drama ever. Hopefully, the sequel doesn’t ruin it. 

20. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

If there’s any director out there that deserved to make a sequel to Ridley Scott’s science-fiction classic (and one of my favorite movies of all-time) Blade Runner, it had to be Denis Villeneuve. In full boldness, I can say that Blade Runner 2049 is the prettiest-looking movie in this history cinema. Roger Deakins is a god. Storywise, Blade Runner 2049 is also considerably powerful. Simple, yet powerful. This is far and beyond one of the best sequels ever made, purely because it is respectful of its predecessor and legitimately adds something worthwhile and needing to the story of its source material. 

19. Prisoners (2013)

Believe me, you’re going to see a good chunk of Denis Villeneuve films on this list, and that’s just because he’s the very definition of a modern master. Prisoners is one of the best David Fincher films not made by David Fincher. And, clearly, it’s not made by him because, all though, it follows a similar, gritty detective premise like a lot of Fincher movies, its execution and plot plays out a lot differently than a Fincher project. This movie puts you in such a terrifying, disrupting situation that you could hardly even fathom happening to you or your own family—and that’s why it works so well! This movie gets real deep under your skin, especially during its epic climax and haunting final sequence. 

18. Good Time (2017)

Good Time: the most moving (literally) or “always-on-the-run” motion picture ever, one of the most aesthetically pleasing projects in the visual department, and easily the most stressful movie I’ve ever had to sit down and watch. The Safdie Brothers are gems to the new world of stress-urging cinema, and Good Time is about as far-out you can possibly go in replicating the throbbing feelings of hysteria. I wish I could watch Good Time for the first time ever again, as it was an unforgettable experience that I had no clue what I was in for.

17. Django Unchained (2012)

Quentin Tarantino’s seventh feature-length is a twisted, stylized spin on the Spaghetti Western genre. Like most Tarantino major motion pictures, Django Unchained is an orgy of endless amusement that, all though, is often difficult to watch due to its touchy and disturbing subject matter, is the very embodiment of a dynamic take on the fictionalized history adventure/hero flick. The dialogue and performances are miles beyond extraordinary and the film has one of the goriest and most satisfying shootouts in the history of cinema. Yes, please! 

16. Her (2013)

Spike Jonze’s acclaimed Oscar-winning hit is both scary and beautiful. Scary because of its realism and profound insight into our very future with where technology is taking us and beautiful because it manages to make a human and robot (of artificial intelligence) relationship blossom into something that many would describe as true love. It genuinely takes a skillful cast and crew to make such an unorthodox and almost laughable premise function in such a down-to-earth and riveting manner. 

15. A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story isn’t necessarily a movie that’ll appeal to everyone, yet it’s certainly a movie that’s about all of us. It’s a hypnotic exploration of life and death. It’s almost like the elongated version of what we would most likely urge to see right before we died. Like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is a compelling take on existentialism: what life really is and what it might be like if life were to cease. It’s so hard to compare the execution of A Ghost Story really to any other movie that’s ever been made. It’s holy original, addicting to look at, and truthfully a movie that I would consider severely overlooked. 

14. The Florida Project (2017)

If there were anything out there that could possibly (be prepared to hear something that will probably sound awkward and strange) make me feel like a child again, it would be The Florida Project: a movie about a group of kids living in an impoverished area. This entire film doesn’t even really feel like a film; it’s like you’re 100% looking in on the everyday life of some families who don’t have necessarily the most wealthy lives. Not only are the child performances in this movie hands-down the greatest child performances to ever be showcased on camera, but the atmosphere of the movie is hands-down one of the most genuine, heartfelt encapsulations of American poverty lifestyle in the existence of fictional storytelling. 

13. Incendies (2010)

“One plus one, does it make one?” is still one of the most effectively used quotes in the history of cinema—and if you don’t know the context of the scene, please don’t search up the scene on YouTube; go watch the whole movie! Overtime, I have grown to consider Incendies to be Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece. This is rightfully his most f****d up movie of his entire filmography as well as his most relevant feature-length to date. It’s a heart-wrenching magnum opus. 

12. Suspiria (2018)

Well, onto the most underrated horror movie of this entire decade. Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is a downright serpentine of muddling intentions. It’s not a pretentious flick; it’s a scary flick—like how most horror movies should be. The majority of criticisms I’ve heard about this film are glaring reasons into why I think people have stopped appreciating what makes horror real horror. Is it real horror if the plot makes complete sense or gives you full closure—like what some people seem to want these days more than to be terrified of unblemished execution and editing techniques—or is it a movie that delivers eerie, unnerving confusion, imagery that burns directly into your eyes for all of eternity, and ear-wrecking music. Just saying. 

11. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

Easily the most passionately crafted and emotional of the films on this list, It’s Such a Beautiful Day is an obnoxiously overlooked and underrated animated masterpiece that depressingly showcases life itself. Its narration is creative as hell and unlike anything else. Its themes are well progressed and relatable to nearly every living being on this planet—take your dog to see this one, I guess. Plus, the incredible soundtrack is used in the most constructive way I’ve seen used in an animated motion picture. It still blows my mind that Don Hertzfeldt made this movie with only a couple other people. It’s an artistic feat if I’d ever seen one. 

10. Inherent Vice (2014)

This may sound harsh, but the type of people who hate Inherent Vice are most likely the type of people who know their opinion on a movie the moment the movie ends. No wonder Inherent Vice has received such negative reception by audience members because this is not an easy movie to digest at first glance. Structurally it’s a clusterf*** of intentional dilemmas and the story, in essence, doesn’t really add up in a perfect little circle. But, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2014 hippie mystery noir is the type of film that only gets better the more you recollect the confusing and utterly unique experience of the poisonous hallucinations that the motion picture took you on. If drugs were a movie, it’d be Inherent Vice: a masterpiece in progressing cinema to new, undiscovered territories. 

9. Burning (2018)

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning has the most unsatisfying satisfying ending in the history of storytelling. This masterclass in slow-burning progression has possibly the evilest finale to accompany a motion picture ever—and I f*****g love it. It took me about a year to realize that this movie is evidently flawless. It also took me a year to realize that The Academy (AKA, the worst movie award show ever since The Golden Raspberry) doesn’t deserve this movie—especially after they decided to not even nominate this masterpiece for best foreign film, furthermore continuing the company’s racist trend of never nominating a South Korean flick in the show’s entire historical runtime. Hopefully, spot #7 will break that trend!

8. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Is it okay for me to say that this is the best action blockbuster ever made? Because it is. Mad Max: Fury Road is the grandest show-off movie of this entire century, meaning that it basically was made to make every other action movie in the world look like garbage. This is a flick of sheer, madcap craziness with practical effects shining left in right, colorful explosions imploding the screens, and a faultless return to the iconic Mad Max series. It’s literally a post-apocalyptic lover’s wet dream. 

7. Parasite (2019)

Now, I’ve already said plenty of things about Bong Joon-ho’s greatest achievement yet, so if you’re curious, I’ll link my full review of it. Otherwise, all you need to know about this movie is that it’s the most fun I’ve had in the theaters ever. Check out my review: CLICK HERE 

6. The Lighthouse (2019)

Yet another movie I’ve already said plenty about. It’s a TRIUMPH! It’s belly-achingly FUNNY! It’s quite HORNY! Check out my review: CLICK HERE 

5. The Lobster (2015)

Arguably the best romantic comedy of this entire century, Yorgo Lanthimos’s The Lobster is the most fitting depiction of dystopian relationships ever—even though people literally transform into animals in this movie. Despite the fact that this entire movie is “lore-wise” absurd and goofy, sprinkled with awkward, clunky dialogue, and kind of meant to just make you laugh or feel extremely uncomfortable, it has so many things to say about modern and future society. The Lobster artistically investigates our desperation for love and our hatred of the taboo. It’s a personal favorite of mine! 

4. The Social Network (2010)

It takes god-like talent to make a boring-ass story about the creation of Facebook into debatably the most interesting drama in living memory. So, it makes sense that both David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin were the leading minds behind The Social Network. There’s not a whole lot to be said about this movie that hasn’t already been preached about by critics. It’s witty, fast-paced, always investing, and constantly wrapped up in exploiting the modern-like rivalries between friends and foes. 

3. Under the Skin (2013)

The best way to describe Under the Skin is to pitch it as if 2001: A Space Odyssey took place primarily on Earth, and I swear to you, it is almost as good as Stanley Kubrick’s classic. It’s easily the most underrated movie of this entire decade; it hurts me that almost nobody talks about it despite its legendarily flawless and groundbreaking quality. If aliens actually came to Earth to try and take us over, this is how I imagine it would happen—in utter, traumatizing and psychologically unimaginable ways. 

2. Melancholia (2011)

Lars von Trier is a controversial director, sure, and this is most likely going to be a controversial choice. However, give me a chance to explain myself. Depression is something everybody goes through, right? It’s a natural asset of the human persona. Melancholia, as the title may suggest, is about depression, and as pretentious as it may sound, it is the artistic entity of depression. This is the #1 film, to me, that has most accurately depicted the bipolar disorder. Melancholia is a (hopefully soon-to-be) classic that is, on paper, about the end of mankind as we know it, but really, the perfect vetting of our misery. If aliens (yes, I’m using aliens as an example again to describe a movie; shut up) ever came to Earth after we were long gone and wanted to understand us and our symptoms of depression, all they would need to do is pop in a Blu-ray copy of Melancholia, and voila, they will learn! 

1. The Master (2012) 

The Master is the finest made movie of all-time. There I said it. Is it my favorite movie ever? No, second favorite actually—beaten by A Clockwork Orange. But, personally, I genuinely believe that The Master, in terms of filmmaking technicalities, is the most perfect movie ever—even more so than The Godfather, which most people often claim to be cinema’s best-made film. Paul Thomas Anderson’s greatest masterpiece is one that intricately observes manipulation, partnership/love, belief, leadership, purpose, and addiction all in a flawlessly balanced and persuasive manner that hasn’t been executed in such an uncanny fashion in the history of cinema as it has in this movie. Did I also mention that The Master is the best looking, best acted, and best-written film of all-time? Enough said. To the kiddos who say cinema isn’t nearly as good as it is now: s-h-u-t u-p. 

 

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Starting Off the Decade with Another Review of Raiders of the Lost Ark

??? Viewing

I don’t know why I wanted to rewatch it for the billionth time; it just felt right. I needed to start off this decade with a killer bang.

Remember back in the day when numerous characters in most blockbuster extravaganzas had special, distinct makes? Back when adventure films could have subtle, little moments that told you all you needed to know about certain individuals in order to conserve time? Back when even fun, action flicks had at least a creative, alert construction surrounding its foundation.

There’s a specific scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark that I always refer back to as the type of moment in blockbuster cinema that you rarely see today; this being when the perverted Belloq makes Marion put on a dress. It’s an ingenious sequence that takes its time to casually show Marion upping Belloq in a masculine tournament of drinking while she cleverly attempts to pick up a knife half-intoxicated. For the time being, we don’t know whether or not she’ll be able to escape using it—and ultimately, she doesn’t. But in the end, it didn’t matter, and sometimes it doesn’t need to matter; sometimes the events we see on screen only need to keep us invested, on-edge, and informed of the type of characters we’re dealing with regardless of its dismaying conclusions.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of those films I guess you could coin with the term “timeless.” It’s a movie that has—for the most part—aged like fine wine. It was established during a period when Spielberg, Lucas, Kaufman, and Kasdan where at the peak of their careers and their abilities seemed to be unstoppable. The first of the Indiana Jones flicks always stood as the metaphorical epitome of an adventure; the top-tier personification of one’s life at its most daring and most animated. This is another one of those early cinematic pieces that identified the paramount concept of an unforgettable journey and for the search of one of existence’s biggest mysteries.

And it can’t go without mentioning, again, but Marion Ravenwood is perhaps the most underrated side-kick character of all-time. She’s sassy, authoritative, sexy, caring, intelligent, a “productive” killer, and someone who’ll pridefully take on a dangerous crusade despite an unpleasant circumstance involving a haunted past of adolescence. I hate how David Koepp made her such a bland act in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It’s such a disservice to arguably the greatest performer of this entire franchise.

I still think (more than ever) that there are some distasteful technical and script-oriented flaws in a little more than the entire first half of Raiders, but yeah, everything after it: perfection—and duh.

Verdict Change: A+ —> A-

Spielberg Ranked

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” is now available to stream on Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes.

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5 Reviews for the Holidays: It’s a Wonderful Life, Gremlins, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, and Black Christmas

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) 

I don’t think I’ve seen a movie with a heart quite the size of It’s A Wonderful Life’s. This is one of the most vibrant, hopeful, and spirited films I’ve ever laid witness to. I can sincerely understand why any cinephile would claim it to be one of the greatest films of all-time. Positivity rules! 

There are a couple reasons though that are plaguing me from quote on quote “loving” this Christmas classic. A majority of the dialogue does bring out good vibes, but some of it is just remorseless exposition or unappealingly cringy. The passage of time is handled pretty poorly as well. Also, as expected, this film has no shame in showcasing some of its cliché characters that seem more one-dimensional than…whatever sort of shape is one dimensional. Plus, I’m still a little iffy on the climax of the movie; it felt marginally far-fetched and overplayed. 

I definitely enjoyed this one by a great deal, nonetheless! And, best awkward first kiss scene EVER. 

Verdict: B

“It’s A Wonderful Like” is now available to stream on Vudu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, and Sling TV.

 

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Gremlins (1984)

This movie is terrifying! And violent! 

But so darn CUTE! 

Gremlins is like the fun-size version of John Carpenter’s The Thing. There are tons of unforgettable practical prosthetics, robotics, and special effects that just make the film painless to commend. It’s also surprisingly shot very well too! This sort of oddball of a flick is definitely my cup of tea: a shamelessly twisted holiday/horror creature-feature with just the right amount of silliness in it.

And holy smokes! Jonathan Banks is in this movie! Mike from Breaking Bad! Way to go! 

Gizmo is a god, by the way. I just wanted to point that out. 

Verdict: B 

“Gremlins” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, and Sling TV.

 

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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

??? Viewing 

MY CHILDHOOD. 

Awe, yes. The Nightmare Before Christmas: a timeless children’s essential, a ballad of sheer creativity, a pioneer in the popularization of the stop-motion art form, and indisputably one of the finest looking animated films of all-time. Henry Selick’s directorial debut was a class act during a time when Disney genuinely cared for crafting something revolutionary and holy original. 

It’s so bizarre realizing just how low-key edgy, dark, and “emo” A Nightmare Before Christmas is from the perspective of an adult. Jack Skeleton is the exaggeration of a depressed man going through an identity crisis and ultimately yearning for a radical change in his way of life. Sally is the epitome of the young, suicidal teenage girl who has an abusive, unmarried father-figure who doesn’t let her leave the boundaries of their house. Love it or hate it, this movie influenced the adolescent/young adult Hot Topic culture more than any gory, R-rated cult phenomena ever did. 

This movie never ceases to get tiresome. From its ferociously fast pace to its flawlessly unique visual design, I can’t imagine a soul out there who could possibly despise such a rebellious piece of animation. Thank you, Henry Selick, Tim Burton, Caroline Thompson, and all of Danny Elfman’s musical talents who not only exemplified what it takes to push some boundaries in the lore of film but also implanted these annoyingly catchy tunes in folks’ heads all across the world—MWAHAHAHA. A Nightmare Before Christmas truly is what cinema’s all about.  

Verdict: A-

My Favorite Animated Movies

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” is now available to stream on Disney+.

 

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Edward Scissorhands (1990)

2nd Viewing 

IT’S A CHRISTMAS MOVIE TO ME. SHUTUP.

Still, one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen—even if it’s not perfectly executed. I get so choked up by the ending; it’s obnoxious. Only a man like Tim Burton could make a cheesy-looking movie about a voiceless emo with scissors for hands touch my heart. I’m head over heels for these Burton movies that feel like David Lynch parodies of classic tales—Edwards Scissorhands appearing like one of Frankenstein

This movie is just so…high. Like, everybody in this story is clearly intoxicated ASF—it’s fantastic. There’s also something strangely beautiful about watching and introvert learn to be a part of a community, trim peoples’ bushes, go to school show-and-tells, become a guest on live talk shows, give out free haircuts, and fall in love. Until, though, you know, that sinister third act.

Looking back at this movie years later, there are admittedly some stupid occurrences in the film that I’ve picked up on. There are a few hilariously goofy and weak turning points in the film that are meant to be taken seriously but just come off as farcical.

But hot damn, Tim Burton makes super horny movies! Strange!

That moment though when the goth kid gets the girl and the jock doesn’t. Now, that’s what I call a victory. 

Verdict Change: A —> B 

“Edward Scissorhands” is now available to stream on Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and iTunes.

 

Black Christmas - 1974

Black Christmas (1974) 

2nd Viewing 

“If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl…IT’S ON TOO TIGHT!

Name a better horror movie slogan than THAT. I dare you! 

Rarely does this sort of thing happen. If you know me, I’m not the type of fella who rewatches movies all too often—unless they’re movies playing limitedly in theaters. Black Christmas, I only saw for the first time less than two months ago, and strangely enough, I was willing to watch it for a second time this holiday season. 

Look, I’ve never found slasher movies to be all that frightening, and maybe that’s why I watch so many of them. They’re just too “down-to-earth” and comprehensible. But, Black Christmas is damn well one of the most unsettling movies I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It already amplifies the movie enough considering it showcases the greatest slasher villain ever to appear on the big screen due to his mysterious yet realistic mentally-ill nature. However, Bob Clark’s boldly strung out directing and heinous decision to leave viewers frigid with so many unanswered questions are likely the reasons why I’d proudly declare Black Christmas to be an essential in the psychological horror department.  

Side comment: I forgot how funny this movie can be at times. For such a terrifying feature-length, this film never seemed afraid to add in a pleasant gag every once in a while. Gosh, I love this movie. 

Side comment two: Rarely do horror movies do this anymore, but every character in this movie actually has a special personality trait to them that makes them intriguing to watch. Somehow, just from the way Roy Moore writes certain characters to act, you can tell exactly how they are as people and what their backstories might be like. Jess, Peter, Barb, Mrs. Mac, Mr. Harrison, Clare, Sgt. Nash, and Lt. Ken Fuller all have such distinct characteristics that make them shine compared to the ordinary “horror victim.” Side comment to a side comment: The fact that the killer’s phone calls somewhat relate in subject matter to what Jess is going through in her personal life makes this movie a lot more frightening and sincere. And, no spoilers, everything involving Peter in this movie…very good job. 

Side comment three: This movie is REALLY good at cutting! 

I feel like I’m going to regret saying this later on in life, but it’s how I truly stand at the moment: “Black Christmas is the best slasher movie of all-time.” Yes, better than my beloved, 1979 Halloween. Never thought I’d say that.

And, no. The Thing does not count as a slasher movie. John Carpenter still wins! 

Verdict Change: A —> A+ 

My Top Favorites, The Best Horror Movies

“Black Christmas” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, and Tubi.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story REVISITED—for a Few LONG Paragraphs

2nd Viewing

I can vividly picture the lead, cooperate managers at Disney involved with the making of this tenth installment in the blindly worshipped Star Wars franchise…

There lies a few faceless men and women, barking orders and pointing fingers with their Mickey Mouse gloves on at talented teams of inspiring moviemakers. These are the kind of individuals who drink apple juice out of wine glasses just to give common folk the idea that they’re rich and successful. These are those upper-class evil villains you see in your favorite cartoons—ironically made by Disney—that twirl their Monopoly mustaches around in circles and celebrate in secret lairs after hearing they’ve just cracked another billion or so dollars at the box office—which luckily wasn’t the case for this movie. 

I could literally smell the Old Spice and DKNY fragrance on these masterminds oozing out of my television screen. 

These are the kinds of people who would fire creative artists such as Phil Lord and Chris Miller in order to keep tameness and artificial order amongst a once thriving franchise. They have die-hard Star Wars fans on puppet strings who won’t object to this sort of tasteless, vanilla filmmaking. More sadly, however, they have this generation of kids on puppet strings too. Just play the old Star Wars movies for your children, please. One viewing of A New Hope can save one desperate child who witnessed the forgettable shallowness of Solo

Okay, okay. Laughs and jokes aside…

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a prime example of a Mad Libs movie where the whole ordeal is completely reliant on your knowledge of Han Solo’s character from the original saga. The plot follows under the concept of “filling in the blanks” of the small, unnecessary things that were left unlearned about the smug, trouble-making character. If you were to remove all preexisting information on the character of Han Solo, this movie becomes absolutely nothing but an uninspired, over-budgeted, straight-to-DVD Hallmark adventure flick. 

“*beep* this *beep* *beep* movie!” – the real R2-D2

Verdict: D

Star Wars Ranked

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is now available to stream on Netflix.

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Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) REVISITED

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

4th Viewing 

Part VIII of VIII of My “Skywalker” Binge

I want to try something moderately different that I don’t reckon has been done with a semi-negative, semi-positive Last Jedi review yet—keyword: try. I’m going to do my very best to explain why I whole-heartedly believe that The Last Jedi is not a good movie without using old Star Wars “lore” facts as a way to demean it. I genuinely want to express my reasons for why Rian Johnson’s jab at the franchise is a partially-poor blockbuster regardless of what it did for the legacy. 

Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi: An illusion that made critics believe that they were watching something tastefully divergent and a savage device that split fans harder than cement. I’ve gone back and forth from loving to hating to loving and then to hating this movie over and over again—it’s been fun; not gonna lie, and that’s not sarcasm! 

Now, at this point, I’m pretty much determined that The Last Jedi is just a “meh” movie. No, it’s not the worst movie ever made in the history of cinema nor is it the best movie ever made in the history of cinema—you silly, silly people. It’s just a middling, try-hard entry in a franchise that’s been desperately running low on steam and originality, so much so, that it’ll try anything in its capacity to be “different.” 

The best part of The Last Jedi is simultaneously the worst part of The Last Jedi. The new ideas that are added to the lore to give Star Wars a new flair are fairly interesting and fruitful but are executed in such a spontaneous fashion and with such haphazard laziness that it’s hard to not question their existence. I encourage the writers of this franchise to change things up with fresh elements that fans haven’t experienced before yet and to mix up the formula of these Star Wars motion pictures, but my main gripe with The Last Jedi is that most of these alterations are executed quite abysmally, without reason nor logic. 

So yes, this movie is a tad grimy. Messy, yes, but no, The Last Jedi is not the worst thing to ever happen to Star Wars—don’t get your knickers in a twist. Star Wars has either been sucking hard or floating melodramatically for the past 36 years now. I have never understood why we continue to support this franchise that just…stopped…being… interesting…a long…long…time…ago.

Rian Johnson—A MAN, MAY I REMIND YOU, I RESPECT BECAUSE HE MADE LOOPER AND DIRECTED SOME BREAKING BAD EPISODES AND ALL THOSE THINGS F*** HARD—fails to write a cohesive story in The Last Jedi. And, I’m about 99.9% certain he’s not even the one to completely be blamed for this. Imagine being handed an entire franchise that had to continue off of a movie that set up a TON of unanswered storylines, with limited time, and were then just told to “make whatever the hell you want—but add the Porgs so we can sell merch!” 

Pros:

  • Luke being an old, grumpy, force-hating agitator was an idea that I actually really appreciated and thought worked—despite most fans finding it to be an absolute betrayal of the character. Luke’s motive is fairly justified in the scene where he causes Kylo to turn, so I don’t understand why people find it so difficult to believe his alteration in beliefs. I mean, I feel like after causing one of your students to become one of the evilest Sith lords in the Republic that ultimately slaughtered most of your students, you would be pushed into hating the thing you once taught and preached. It makes sense to me. Anakin was Jedi and he turned, so obviously people can have a change in heart, Jedi or not.
  • Rey and Kylo Ren’s long-distance force conversations are intensely engrossing. Arguably, these exchanges between the two conflicted souls are the most admirable features of The Last Jedi.
  • Rey’s hallucinatory vision is just plain fascinating. Disney has surprisingly been pleasing the druggies in this new saga. Go figure. 
  • The throne room scene is candidly one of the greatest sequences in Star Wars history. This is one of the few times where I actually believe Rian Johnson “subverted our expectations” in a moderately breathtaking way. The turn doesn’t feel forced, misplaced, or just plain illogical; it appears genuine. The surprise doesn’t have plot holes nor leakage in its intricate details; it treads a conceptual foreground. Yes, the fans didn’t get their answers for who Snoke was, but I got to see a CGI man dressed in golden robes get chopped in half, and that’ll have to do. Considering Snoke was never interesting in the first place, I was whole-heartedly fine with Kylo shockingly killing him in one epic, powerful blow. The fight is also 100 times more believable than any contrived lightsaber battle in the prequel trilogy—to those whining about it. 
  • The concept of Rey and Kylo teaming up is just flat out awesome—it kills me to see that it wasn’t the central storyline in the movie. All though, if it had instantaneously happened in this movie, it would’ve felt unearned—we’d need some more development for such a drastic thing to happen—but again, it’s the unexpected concept that I’m praising. Having some neutral, hybrid of the Republic and the Rebels would’ve somewhat switched up the repetitive storyline of Disney’s take on the Skywalker saga. 
  • The whole “Rey is a nobody” concept is perfectly fine with me but we all know Abrams will probably screw that up in The Rise of Skywalker.
  • I actually really dig the hologram scene/battle between Kylo and Luke. However, once again, with more build-up or possible hints that this could be possible in the force would’ve made the sequence a lot more warranted. I can totally understand people who hate it because it is very far-fetched, but the pure shock value of the sequence and Luke saying “see you around kid” as if he was Kylo Ren’s father (Han Solo) truly struck me. 
  • Here’s a list of some other commendable sequences in The Last Jedi: Snoke bringing Kylo’s spirit down for getting beaten by Rey. Luke making Rey envision what is made up of the force. Holdo’s visually grand sacrifice. Anything relating to Chewbacca.

Cons:

  • The comedy in The Last Jedi is just flat out HORRENDOUS. Almost every gag is utterly cringy, forced, and prime examples of jokes that can only work for a once in a lifetime ordeal. 
  • Ya guys did Princess Leia dirty. Like, c’mon. There is no way you people could make her fly with no lead-up or hints to it and expect people not to think it’s the most hilarious event to ever transpire in Star Wars yet. Yes, she should be able to use the physical powers of the force, but like, did it really take her 50-something years to do so while she was unconsciously floating in space? Pretty questionable. 
  • How they wrote Vice Admiral Holdo. Sure, her sacrifice was d-o-p-e, but her intentions made no sense whatsoever. Her putting her own people at peril because she wanted to not tell anyone exactly what was going on for no apparent reason other than to be an asshole is such a grand-sized plot hole.
  • The Finn and Rose’s Canto Bight sequence is just riddled with issues. I’m also not a fan of how they made Finn and Rose’s foolery the cause of hundreds of Rebel deaths—nice going. 
  • Rose’s character is just…ugh. I like the flaming pride and aspiration she starts off with, but then quickly does she begin to contradict her own motives and personality throughout the film. None of this is, by the way, the actress’s fault—she has nothing to do with the awful development of her character, just like the poor dude that was harassed for playing Jar Jar Binks.
  • Benicio Del Toro is lazily inserted into the movie. How they meet DJ is so poorly riddled with coincidence, it has me questioning what was going on in the writer’s room when this part of the story was written. The fact that Finn and Rose happened to be locked in a cage with a code breaker who just decided to escape right as they were coming in is hilariously fortuitous. 
  • Poe’s character is completely different than he was in The Force Awakens—obnoxiously. In The Last Jedi, he’s this arrogant asshole who completely neglects the many deaths he caused for encouraging Leia to send in bomb fleets. BAD!
  • The “save the animals” message in this movie is so out of place and force-feed. I remember seeing that scene where they’re riding those giant Fathiers and legitimately thinking that the movie was trolling us. I kid you not, I was dumbfounded (LOL). When you compare the action in this movie to the action in The Force Awakens, there is a significant difference in quality. Rian Johnson just isn’t that educated in crafting large-scaled (action spectacles. It additionally, doesn’t help your message when you realize Rose decided to save a bunch of animals rather than the slave children who now have to clean up the mess Rose has made. Damn. The “selling weapons” message though whether to the good or bad side was insightful, however—and not meaty or excessive. 
  • Rose saving Finn from sacrificing himself is single-handedly the most contradicting event to happen in this entire movie. Not only is the potential of Finn’s entire character arc completely diminished in The Last Jedi, but Rose’s original passion to save and fight for the rebellion at all costs is completely overruled. In an attempt where Finn could’ve possibly saved all of the Rebellion from certain death, Rose decides to entirely contradict her beliefs to save this boy that she’s fallen in love with within the course of a day. Plus, I don’t know how she could’ve ever assumed that the two would survive a traumatic crash like that. Disgusting. 
  • Luke’s death is poorly handled in my opinion. You can’t just make him stare at a binary sunset like he did in A New Hope and expect people to be pleased with that. Cheap move. There is no reason for him to have died in this movie. 
  • PORGS! And, BB-8 on top of an AT-ST with its top purposely removed so we can see BB-8. Those factors alone shouldn’t even need an explanation. 

In these analyzations of the pros and the cons, it can be safe to say that I found The Last Jedi to be saved of being some blockbuster crisis because of its memorable and unforgettable sequences—that actually gainfully moved characters in new directions. These sequences nonetheless were sporadically misplaced into the very grubby plot that randomly inserted shocking events for the sake of randomly inserting shocking events. I couldn’t care less about the Star Wars lore technicalities that were mismatched (tracking through light speed, ghost Yoda being Zeus, force powers can now communicate clearly and send holograms), but I damn well care about the story elements in a movie feeling EARNED.

People are acting like it’s an apocalypse out there because this movie wasn’t good—it’s really amusing, to be honest. This isn’t life-or-death s***, it’s Star Wars. Sending abuse messages and threats to The Last Jedi co-stars is embarrassing and right-out unacceptable. Rian Johnson didn’t ruin Star Wars, you babies. George Lucas didn’t ruin it when he made two s*** prequels. Dave Filoni didn’t scramble it all up because he made that crappy Clone Wars movie. And Ron Howard didn’t f*** up Han Solo for me just because Solo: A Star Wars movie now exists. You fellas ought to realize that these are just pieces of a legacy that can easily be over-minded by better properties or future possibilities. They are dents more than anything. Somewhat ugly, but excusable, mistakes. Stop the fandom! Kill it, if you have to! 

However, I think the hardcore, 5/5 lovers of this pretty mediocre blockbuster spectacle that are claiming haters just wanna hate because it “subverted their expectations” are just giving this movie the special treatment because it’s Star Wars property, and ever since Return of the Jedi, this franchise has been reproducing basically the same exact hero’s journey tale-tale—excluding Revenge. This applies especially towards people who were never big fans of Star Wars because it makes them believe that The Last Jedi is some special snowflake that jinxed the formula and made the series some highbrow saga like Lord of the Rings. No, señor. I mean, imagine the amount of ego some people must have to think that The Last Jedi is inherently “flawless” or a piece that only cinematic intellectuals can understand—no disrespect. Rian Johnson’s film simply reorganized the classic recipe and disguised it as something “different.” Well, it’s frankly not? Space battles, lightsaber fights, funny sidekicks, and cheap references, oh my. Space battles, lightsaber fights, funny sidekicks…

All in all, The Last Jedi in ways, is spectacular and terrible (HAHA). If there’s anything we can take away from this, it’s that sometimes dividing a fanbase with insanity can make for quite the radical experience outside of the movie itself. Good on you, Rian Johnson? Thanks for listening to my Star Wars TED Talk. We’ll talk more on December 19th. See you then. 

Verdict: C+ 

Star Wars Ranked

“Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” is now available to stream on Netflix.

 

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) REVISITED

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD

7th Viewing

Part VII of VIII of My “Skywalker” Binge

I have an interesting relationship with The Force Awakens—like probably most fans of Star Wars have. The first time I saw this seventh episode in the Skywalker saga, I believed to have loved it. In fact, I thought I had loved it so much that I saw it four times in the theaters—more times than I’ve seen any other movie in the galaxy in theaters for that matter. The hype was unbelievable at the time for its anticipated release—if you were there, you would know—and sweetly enough, this also happened to be the first live-action Star Wars movie I ever saw in theaters. 

But then came the fifth viewing. And, after that fifth viewing, I began noticing TONS of flaws. I genuinely was so perplexed that the movie that I had once defended for some time wasn’t really all that exquisite. And then a sixth viewing came along, and at that point, I was kind of sick and tired of the movie. I’m not someone who rewatches movies very often, and due to this fact of life, the viewing had left me quite somber to know that this movie I had beaten to death with my eyes was no longer fun to watch. Fast-forward two years later (AKA, December 12th of 2019) I decided to watch the seventh live-action Star Wars movie for the seventh time leading up to my review of The Rise of Skywalker

So, what do I think of The Force Awakens now after four years of varying rewatches? 

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is fine. I personally am not the biggest fan of J.J. Abrams when it comes to his writing, but when he’s behind the camera directing, he proves to be a controlling expert at the craft. To me, J.J. Abrams’s reinvigoration is a supreme example of a blockbuster with fantastic execution but a weak story. 

Pros:

• This is easily the best looking Star Wars movie next to A New Hope and Empire. Shooting on film certainly helped with this scenario, but the fact that the movie had so much time to be made, giving cinematographers, set designers, and VFX artists extra things to perfect, really shows in this movie. The production is just magnificent, as well. Love the mix of practicality and top-notch CGI. 

• J.J. Abrams directing in The Force Awakens is nearly Steven Spielberg-level good. From the smoothly assembled action sequences, the shot compositions, the clean and inventive camera movements, this is objectively the best directed Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back
The editing in this is PRETTY NEAT too! Effective, indeed! 

• FINN. Such a refreshing character! I have my gripes for Rey and Poe Dameron, but Finn I personally think steals the show in The Force Awakens. Just from the early on shot where we see his friend die in front of him and wipe blood on his helmet, you know that we’re going to receive a character with a more challenging background than usual. I also admire how dorky he is but also how rebellious he is. Yes, Boyega! 

• The many amazing sequences: Kylo Ren catching the blaster beam mid-air. Kylo intimidating Poe. Han’s return being a Rathtar smuggler which is so him and just flat out badass. Rey’s trippy-ass “vision” sequence when she touches the lightsaber, which was just visually absorbing. Kylo Ren reading Rey’s disturbed mind. Han and Ben Solo’s confrontation. The sharply executed lightsaber battle between Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren (which everybody hates now because Rey beats Kylo, but we’ll get into that later). 

Cons:

• The forced, generic comedy. Some of it is deft like BB-8 giving the thumbs up with a lighter, or when Max refers to Chewbacca as her boyfriend, or just about anything that comes out of Han Solo’s mouth. But a great majority of it you can tell was artificially written on purpose for a one-time theater experience that would get temporary laughs out of audience members. There’s a limited prioritization on replay value for the comedy bits in this film. 

• THE PLOT. This is easily my main quail I have with The Force Awakens—one not big enough to ruin the entire experience for me, surely, but one that obviously keeps this movie from being entirely spectacular. The narrative here is indisputably uninspired. It’s dead set on being mimic of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. From the Death Star III (Starkiller Base) to R2-D2 II (BB-8) to The Emperor II (Snoke), the properties of the original trilogy are certainly hearkened. Most importantly though, the movie follows similar checkpoints to A New Hope like giving a crucial message to a droid, to going to a Cantina to get help, to blowing up another Death Star as a finale. This is undeniably a soft reboot of A New Hope—but at the very least, it’s a “good” reboot. 

• How dare they waste the two main stars of The Raid!!!!!!!!!

In terms of the “Rey is a Mary Sue” argument, I have mixed feelings on the affair (here comes my rant). In many cases, I do whole-heartedly agree that Rey is a Mary Sue. However, for fans to use her oddly talented character qualities as an excuse to uphold the original trilogy and prequels on some higher-up pedestal from The Force Awakens is paradoxical. If you were to actually unbiasedly examine all the Star Wars movies, you’d notice something very interesting: Every single main hero we meet starts off as a Gary Stu/Mary Sue.

I find it absurd that we could forget how much of a Gary Stu Luke Skywalker was in A New Hope. It’s as if we totally forgot that this dude was able to take out two tie-fighters without ever using the weaponry on a ship before, use a blaster for the first time and hit a good amount of stormtroopers, be the two out of the dozens of other pilots who didn’t die trying to blow up the Death Star while also seamlessly shooting those ball thingies into the Death Star’s hole (HAHA I’M TWELVE). Let’s not forget that this dude also spent most of his life farming on a desert planet with his uncle and aunt. Groovy. 

To Rey’s defense, we learned in The Force Awakens that she was a resourceful ship scavenger who had to learn to exclusively fend for herself during most of her life (just like how we learn Luke was trying to become an excellent pilot), so was it really that surprising that she understood the inner workings of a ship and could pilot one as well? Early on, we also figure out that she could effectively fight with a staff, so was it really that surprising that she could beat a recently, and might I add, seriously wounded Kylo Ren?—cause those bowcasters cut DEEP. Okay, so Rey learning to use the force through a Jedi mind trick without any training was a bit sketchy, but Luke also using the force to shoot balls into a death hole was semi-sketchy, as well. So there’s that. 

Also, in The Phantom Menace, young Ani takes out the entire fucking Control Ship (AKA, The Death Star -1) carelessly. Like if that doesn’t top any evidence of somebody being a Gary Stu/Mary Sue, then I don’t know what will. And don’t you dare try to tell me he could pilot and work the ship like a champ because he knew how to pod-race. And if it was mostly “autopilot” controlling the ship, remember that “autopilot” only steers the ship; it didn’t shoot the damn canons that would ultimately blow up the entire base. 

So that’s my defense against the whole Rey controversy. Would it be nice for her character to not be a Mary Sue in these movies? Hell freaking yeah! Has this Mary Sue formula been quite present in previous Star Wars movies, though? Yes, indeed. 

Conclusively, The Force Awakens isn’t written exceptionally nor is it anything remotely original, but I can damn well tell you that it was planned out excruciatingly well. With admirable directions, some strong new characters, and enthralling action sequences, The Force Awakens may not be anything special or beyond “good,” but it was a smart maneuver to awaken this franchise securely.

Now, onto The Last Jedi

Star Wars Ranked

Verdict: B- 

“Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” is now available to stream on Disney+.