Category Archives: Reviews

Movie Review: The Last Jedi

I just got home from seeing an early screening of Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, and if I could sum up my thoughts and feelings in a single word, it would have to be… unsatisfied.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie, with stunning visuals, good pace, spot-on comedy, and of course John Williams’ classic handiwork on the score, but while I enjoyed it during the act of viewing, when the end credits began to roll, I found myself staring at the screen and wondering what was missing.  There won’t be any spoilers in this review, so don’t worry on that front. I’ll be discussing this in a more abstract way, and arguing with people who have seen the movie about the fine details.

One of the biggest criticisms of The Force Awakens I heard from people is that Rey is a ‘Mary Sue’.  A character who can do no wrong and excels at everything she attempts. As one might have already gathered from the trailers, The Last Jedi disabuses us of this notion. She remains the same character, but circumstances change and she finds herself in scenarios that show us her flaws and weaknesses. This is a positive thing for her development arc, and yet I find myself more disappointed by the choices she makes now, as a more fully-fleshed character, than I did in The Force Awakens.

The other big attack on VII was that it was nothing more than a retread of IV: A New Hope. If you’re in that camp, I’m afraid you’re in for more of the same; The Last Jedi covered a lot of ground that had already been covered in both V: The Empire Strikes Back and VI: Return of the Jedi. I defended The Force Awakens because I felt that a little retreading and fanservice was useful, even needed, to reboot the Star Wars universe. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and said I would render a more final judgement after Episode VIII. Well, VIII has come and gone, and I’m left feeling the fool. Again, there was a great deal to like about this movie, but the plot beats, and even some of the scenes and shot choices, were ripped directly from Episodes V and VI.

It wasn’t so far gone as to make me lose my hope for the series. After all, they’ve run out of old movies to copy, since they de-canonized the prequels, so anything they make now must be new material, new ground. This movie did, however, suffer from being the middle of a new trilogy. Unlike The Empire Strikes Back, held in many circles as the greatest of the original trilogy, The Last Jedi fails to offer us anything concrete to carry into the next movie. The plot twists and character arcs were either deliberately unresolved or simply not well fleshed-out, so the entire movie ends up building a sense of anticipation that never really pays off.

Despite all this, I would give The Last Jedi an 8/10. There were enough moments with emotional impact to keep me invested, and the humor knew exactly when and where it should be, and showed itself in those places and only those places. Once again, I find myself in the position of saying, “Well, we’ll see if it all pays off with the next movie,” and tenuously defending Disney’s choices while hoping they know where they’re headed; sadly, with Carrie Fisher’s passing, and the subsequent rewrite of Episode IX that that forced, I’m beginning to question whether they can pull it off. They cleaned up some of the questions surrounding the first movie, only to generate another batch, and personally disappointing me in a few specific ways.

See you in two years, when I decide whether or not Disney was able to pull together a trilogy that matched or even outshone the original.


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Speculation on Marvel’s ‘Defenders’

With the first official post for Defenders being released, I thought I would share what I expect from it.

I’ll start by going over each of the individual shows that led into this, giving each show and character a separate rating.

Daredevil (9/10)

The flagship show, and still the best one.  Daredevil, the show, was an excellently-crafted work.  The characters were well-rounded, the plot was strong, and the camerawork was spot-on.  That may sound like a strangely specific piece of praise, but this show deserves it.  In particular, one of the fight scenes early in the show, which takes place in a long hallway, and consists of one, unbroken shot.  While the rest of the show never quite reaches that level, that shot earns it some brownie points.  Daredevil, the character, is also a solid 9/10.  He’s likable as Matt Murdock, attorney at law, and his backstory and motivations for becoming Daredevil make sense.

Jessica Jones (2/10)

I actually disliked this show.  Even David Tennant’s role as Kilgrave, the villain, couldn’t make this enjoyable for me.  I’ve been told that it was an accurate representation of Jessica’s backstory in the comics, and that she’s a much better person, post-origin-story, and given the end of the first season, I do hope that will be the case.  Jessica Jones, the character, was a 3/10 at best, but there was the glimmer of hope that she’ll improve.

Luke Cage (6/10)

My biggest problem with Luke Cage was that each episode felt about 25% too long.  There was good stuff in every episode, but there was a lot of unnecessary filler and fluff that was frankly just boring.  Cage himself was a decent character, 7 or 8/10, but he was dragged down somewhat by the clutter of his show.

Iron Fist (8/10)

Before Iron Fist came out, I had doubts about whether I even wanted to see Defenders; Daredevil was the only show that I really wanted to continue watching of the three that existed.  Iron Fist, while not quite as good a show as Daredevil, renewed my faith in the Netflix/Marvel franchise and got me quite excited for the union of these four shows.  The Iron Fist himself, Danny Rand, is a 9/10 character.  He had a surprisingly good arc involving his naivety with how the real world works, and maintains a solid, engaging sense of self throughout the show.

Defenders (???)

Without spoiling the endings of the existing shows, there are plenty of leads buried in the shows as they stand to pull them all together.  Most of these involve Claire Temple, the nurse character who makes appearances in all four shows, and who is a 10/10 character in her own right.  Overall, I’m fairly excited for Defenders, and hoping that Matt Murdock and Danny Rand play well together, because those two could carry the show on their own.

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Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow

I’m sure you’ve all seen the commercials for Edge of Tomorrow.  If you haven’t, watch it right now.

When I saw trailers, I expected it to be fairly good, but I was skeptical that it would be done well.  As it turns out, my skepticism was unfounded.

I saw a pre-screening of Edge of Tomorrow, and it more than lived up to the trailers.  The exo-suits were awesome, the ‘Live, Die, Repeat’ theme was used expertly, both for comedic and dramatic purposes, and the acting was (surprisingly) very good.  Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt put on an excellent performance with well-written dialog, in a world full of amusing characters.

One big problems a lot of science-fiction has is over-explaining things.  No, I don’t want to spend twenty minutes listening to you explain the backstory of the aliens and how we’ve developed weapons to stop them.  Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t have that problem.  It drops you into the story and lets you figure things out alongside Tom Cruise’s character.

The movie has a few holes in it (though to be fair, what movie doesn’t?), but it manages to maintain the suspension of disbelief and immersion throughout.  I also avoids the sort of deus ex machina that these movies tend to end with.  It was close to two hours of non-stop entertainment, with action and comedy and sheer sci-fi awesomeness.

I would recommend everyone go see Edge of Tomorrow.  95/100

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Movie Review: Jack the Giant Slayer

“Fee. Fi. Fo. Fum.

Ask not whence the thunder comes.”

So begins Jack the Giant Slayer, a movie coming out on March 1st, which I was fortunate enough to pre-view tonight.

First thing I’ll say is, this is not the Jack your parents read you nursery stories about.  As the name might imply, this movie is the big-brother version of “Jack and the Beanstalk”, and should be treated accordingly. No profanity that I remembered, and no sexuality (the two of which would make me recommend this movie even if it had only been mediocre).  What makes this movie mature is the violence.

Now, it’s not overly gory (though there is some small amount of squick factor), but, as we all know, giants ‘grind your bones for their bread’ and the like. That’s a part of this movie, though not ever explicitly shown on screen.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I will say that Jack the Giant Slayer is one of the best movies I’ve seen recently, certainly far better than the commercials made it out to be.  It built up to an initial conflict about half an hour into the movie, while giving back story and character exposition, and the action doesn’t let down until the end.  Surprisingly, it manages to hold the thrill all the way through and even escalate it for the final confrontation.

I’d also like to recognize Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan in Star Wars II and III, the only decent actor in those movies), for his excellent supporting role in this movie.  He made me laugh and cheer at all the right times.

I won’t go into too much more detail without spoiling it, but suffice it to say that this children’s bedtime story has been retold as an epic fantasy adventure that would rank high on any list I make.  10/10

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Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard regarding The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is along the lines of “There’s too much CGI!”  And I can sort of see where they are coming from, but even having heard those complaints prior to seeing the movie and therefore paying extra attention to the CG effects, I didn’t agree.  Yes, there was more CGI than in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it was also better CGI.  I barely even noticed it, and it certainly didn’t bother me.

Now, I’m not going to talk about the story much, both to avoid spoilers and because it doesn’t seem fair to me to judge what I consider the first third of a movie.  Something I do want to talk about is the tone.

The Hobbit pandered.  Unabashedly.  In a bad way.  There were scenes and lines that clearly had no purpose other than to evoke a laugh from the fans of the LotR trilogy.  A one-liners by various main characters and the entire scene with Gollum completely derailed the otherwise ‘epic saga’ tone of the movie.  Gollum is NOT supposed to be funny in this movie, people!  His scene is supposed to be creepy as all get-out, not comedic pandering to his fans.

The only other thing that bothered me was the dwarves.  I couldn’t hope to phrase it better than a friend of mine, so I’ll just quote her: “Dwarves are not supposed to be sexy, and at least three of them were.”  Mostly Thorin, Kili, and Fili.  Dwarves should be stocky and have big, bushy beards!  Thorin is the ruler, and he just has a trimmed goatee!

In all other respects, however, it was an excellent movie.  The action scenes were intense, and the music fit the story well.  It has very similar elements to the LotR soundtracks, with a heavier low brass section that seemed very representative of the dwarf-focused story.

Also, the scenery.  My goodness the scenery.  The elven city of Rivendell and the dwarf kingdom of Erebor were beautifully rendered on the big screen, and the level of detail was what I’ve come to expect from the LotR trilogy.  It was much, much more vivid the the trilogy, though, with more vibrant and varied colors.

All in all, this movie mostly served as an appetizer for the second movie.  Since they’re not staying perfectly true to the details of the book, I’m extremely hopeful that the Necromancer, credited as Benedict Cumberbatch, will play a bigger role in these movies than he did in Tolkien’s book.  When the complete trilogy is out, I’ll give this movie a rating, but in the meantime, I’ll just say it’s very good, definitely worth watching.

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Movie Review: The Avengers: Final Thought

The hardest part of being a detective is seeing what isn’t there.  I’m no detective, but it also applies here, since I just noticed something that wasn’t in The Avengers.


Except for a little flirting between Tony and Pepper in the very beginning, and a little between Hawkeye and Black Widow, who are both heroes, so they didn’t have to have a useless female love interest, there was no romance.  It was solely an action comedy.

Which is a very good thing, in my opinion.  Trying to have a romantic sub-plot would have slowed down and weakened the movie.  Plus, it would have meant less screen time for the actual Avengers if they had tried to include Hulk’s girlfriend or Thor’s.

The more I think about this movie, the more I like it.

SPOILER: Loki: Enough! You are, all of you are beneath me! I am a god, you dull creature, and I shall not be bullied… 
[Hulk flattens Loki with repeated smashes into the floor
The Hulk: Puny god.  End Spoiler.

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Movie Review: The Avengers

So I went to see the Avengers on Mothers’ Day with my family, and my take-away first impression was, “Every second of that movie was either funny or action-packed or both.”

Then I went to see it again, this past Monday, and my second opinion was, “All right, not every moment was funny or action-packed or both.  But most of them were.”

One of the great things about it was that it needed little to no exposition for the heroes.  The previous five movies (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk) introduced us to most of the characters, even the ones like Hawkeye and Black Widow who weren’t the focus of the films.

Another thing was that Joss Whedon was heavily involved.  As anyone who’s watched Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, or both can tell you, Joss Whedon is a master of comedy, both spoken and physical.  I’m sure his involvement in The Avengers was a big part in its awesomeness.

All right, so I’m done waxing eloquent about how great it was, and I’m actually going to discuss the movie.  Anytime you see the word ‘spoiler’ like this ‘SPOILER:’, it means there is white text in front of it that you can highlight to see.

So The Avengers begins with a big threat (naturally), and you should be able to figure what it is, if you’ve seen the first movies.  Director Fury needs backup.  Super-powered backup.  So he goes looking for our intrepid heroes.

Cap’s easy.  He’s on hand, since SHIELD thawed him out, and since he’s a soldier, he’s ready and willing to help.  Banner, however, is in hiding, Natasha is on assignment, and Stark is busy with his own stuff.

Now some movies have a deus ex machina here, which forces our heroes together.  Not so in The Avengers.  Each one has a nice little story bit that pulls them smoothly into the main flow.

SPOILER: I especially liked Natasha’s.  “You can’t call me when I’m on assignment. I’m in the middle of an interrogation, this moron’s giving me everything.” Russian: “I… I not give everything…”  And then Banner’s: “STOP LYING TO ME! … I’m sorry, that was mean. I just wanted to see how you’d react.” End Spoiler

But once they’re together, there’s still friction between them.  Cap and Tony get into conflicts over following orders, everyone’s edgy around Banner, Thor’s condescending, and Fury’s aloof and secretive.  Their petty arguments, however, get dropped pretty fast when a catastrophe (another one) demands action.

They’re still not a team.  As Banner puts it, “A team? No, no, we’re a time bomb.”  But then something happens, something so small in the eyes of the villain, but which binds the team together.

SPOILER: Agent Coleson’s death, and Fury’s slight manipulation with the trading cards following it. End Spoiler.

And once the Avengers are united, they are all kinds of epic.  Plus, given that Hulk and Thor (and Iron Man, to a lesser extent) are essentially invincible, there’s plenty of room for heroic slapstick.

SPOILER: Such as Hulk punching Thor across the room after they take down that worm thing. End Spoiler.

The final battle of the movie is one of the single greatest long battles ever.  All six of the Avengers have epic scenes, and funny scenes, and epic funny scenes, and even the villain has a funny line.

So, some ratings, and then I’ll have a big spoiler block with my favorite scenes.

Visuals: 5/5 They even included Thor’s armoring-up scene, which I thought was the single coolest thing in his entire movie.

Dialog: 5/5 Tony Stark, man. Every time he opens his mouth, funny happens.

Story: 5/5 Big epic threat, believable finish, cliffhanger at the end, but not one that leaves you without closure.

Oh, and when you see it, stay ALL the way through the credits.  There is a second bonus scene.


Tony Stark: Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster. 

Bruce Banner: I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him. 
Thor: Have a care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother. 
Natasha Romanoff: He killed eighty people in two days. 
Thor: He’s adopted. 

Natasha Romanoff: [discussing attacking Loki] They’re basically gods. 
Steve Rogers: Ma’am, there’s only one God, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that. 

World Security Council: Director Fury, the council has made a decision. 
Nick Fury: I recognise the council has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid-ass decision, I’ve elected to ignore it. 

Natasha Romanoff: [watching the aliens come toward them] This is just like Budapest all over again. 
Clint Barton: You and I remember Budapest very differently. 

Tony Stark: [chased by a Leviathan] Guys, I’m bringing the party to you! 
[he and the Leviathan break out of a building and speed away toward the rest of the Avengers
Natasha Romanoff: I don’t see how that’s a party. 

Loki: [after Thor charges at Loki’s duplicate and gets locked in a prison] Are you ever *not* going to fall for that? 

End Spoiler, and End post.


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