When I walked out of the theater the day after Christmas when I saw The Last Jedi, I felt that it was an entertaining movie and a good, but not great one for the Star Wars franchise. I wrote a brief review of it giving it a B-, but after digesting the movie a little more, I’ve decided it’s only an OK movie, at best, and one that is significantly lower in my ranking of Star Wars films. It’s beautifully shot, the CGI is great, most of the battle scenes and the one real light saber fight scene are intense and the actors do a good job with what’s given to them. But, what’s given to them is the problem with this movie – the script is poor and the character development is lacking. I also have a problem with the politics that entered this movie, which will be discussed below in the spoilers section.

Grade: C-

SPOILERS

After thinking about it later that evening and the next day, this movie indeed has many flaws. After ending The Force Awakens on the dramatic note of Rey handing Luke the light saber, it’s literally immediately tossed away by Luke. This is because Luke is an old curmudgeon who wants Rey off his lawn. Luke stays this way for the majority of the movie and what was done to Luke in the script is a disservice to the character and Star Wars fans. Another major flaw – it’s revealed that Kylo Ren went nuts and killed most of the Jedis-in-training because upon discovering that Kylo Ren was turning to the dark side, Luke’s first thought was to try to kill him in his sleep, something that Luke would never have done in that situation.

The biggest flaw of the movie, by far, is the section where Finn, a new character named Rose, and BB-8 go to the Canto Bight casino. There’s so much wrong here and it’s such garbage, that it takes a while to cover. Plot-wise, it’s completely pointless, adds nothing to the movie and this 20 or 30 minutes should have been completely cut. But, I recognized why that section of the movie was there while watching it and the actual purpose of the scene was to state that A) animal cruelty is bad (duh), and B) being motivated by money is bad. The latter lecture of this section is shockingly hypocritical and more than a bit disingenuous given that the lecture is being delivered by Disney. Did I mention this whole section was garbage?

With regards to the animal cruelty is bad theme, this scene specifically involves alien horse racing and their owners electrocuting them and what not to keep the animals in line. It’s a direct shot at horse racing on modern day Earth, which I don’t really have a problem with taking a shot at, but again, it adds nothing to the movie and when taken in context with some other things shoehorned into the movie, it becomes clear that PETA-level politics have entered the movie, which I do disagree with. A weird scene where Luke milks the big tits of some 20 foot tall ugly alien sea cow to get vomit-green milk is shoehorned in, obviously to dissuade people from drinking milk and later Chewbacca is seen getting ready to eat a rotisserie roasted Porg, the Porgs being cute anthropomorphized animals in the movie only for kids to buy them as toys, up until a Porg with big puppy dog eyes dissuades him from eating it. Obviously, eating chicken means you’re a terrible person, mmmkay? Obviously, you’re a terrible person if you’re not a vegan, mmmkay?

The Canto Bight scene also heavily involves Rose, who is the lamest character to enter the Star Wars universe since Jar Jar Binks. Kelly Marie Tran does a perfectly fine job of acting, but the character simply sucks. She’s a fangirl of Finn’s heroic actions of the prior movie and appears to be there to create a Twilight-level love triangle between Finn, Rey and Rose in the next movie. Combined with some of the politics later in the movie, it’s also clear that Tran was chosen simply because she’s Asian. Being Asian completes this promotional poster for the film ensuring that the future love triangle will involve all three major races – black, white, and Asian.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t take exception to this because all three actors are perfectly fine. But, historically speaking, when franchises try too hard to be politically correct or just political in nature, the writing and character development seems to spiral downward. This happened with the Star Trek: Voyager television series for a significantly long period of time, for example, and it happened with The Last Jedi. The difference between television like Star Trek and movie franchise like Star Wars is that with Star Trek, you could tune in to another show the following week and the show was largely reset with potential for a course correction. With Star Wars, it will be two years before episode IX is out. And with Star Trek: Voyager, ratings got so bad they had to break out a pretty white woman with tits bigger than the one Luke was milking in a skin-tight suit playing a fan favorite species (an ex-borg).

Seven of Nine, portrayed by Jeri Ryan, who was brought in at the beginning of the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager due to declining ratings.

Will Disney try to course correct with the next film and will they overcorrect? I doubt either one will occur and in fact, I expect them to double-down. Already, the negative fan reviews are being blamed on the fictitious “alt-right” and spectacularly fictitious Russian bots, because you know, Russia’s intelligence community wouldn’t focus on infiltrating America’s secret systems, they would obviously be used to lower the audience score on rottentomatoes.com for a Star Wars movie. In episode IX, I expect something similar to a shoehorned homosexual kiss that adds nothing of value to the plot. Perhaps it will be between Rey and Rose frenching it in the Finn/Rey/Rose triangle?

And the politics I’ve covered so far aren’t the worst of it. Poe, another character with plenty of potential from the prior movie, exists simply to be a super-rash flyboy getting loads of people killed to hammer home the point that women are better than men. No, really, that’s what he’s there for in this movie. All of the human generals of the resistance are women and Poe is continuously disobeying orders for the women to turn out to be correct. Again, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t take exception to this, but the big flaw comes with the Vice Admiral Holdo character, played by Laura Dern. Director Rian Johnson is overt in his politics with the look of Dern and her SJW-purple hue of hair:

Poe leads a mutiny against her later in the film only for her to be correct, of course. The problem here is that had Holdo taken the literally five seconds to explain her plan to Poe, who was repeatedly questioning what she was up to, the mutiny would obviously not have happened. This lack of communication makes Holdo look like an incompetent leader, something that obviously was not the intention of the movie. So, Johnson has unintentionally made millenial SJWs (the target demographic of her character, despite Holdo being played by the older Dern) look like poor leaders at the same time as pissing off men. It’s not a good look. I was genuinely surprised by this failed attempt at propping up SJWs and the other politics of this movie, because Disney so far has been subtler in its politics and it’s been widely reported that Disney now considers the overtly political ESPN to be dragging it down.

What has happened here is Disney has backdoored replacing men with women, among other left politics, without fanfare, unlike Ghostbusters 2016, which took a massive hit from its potential audience before it was released because it replaced all men with women with much fanfare failing to realize this is sexist in and of itself (or maybe being outright misandrist and not caring). Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of anger about this for the The Last Jedi from some men, but if you’re on the left you’ve already been trained to believe those evil Russian hackers online and robots roaming the streets evilly looking at you are responsible for the negativity surrounding it.

Looking online, there are plenty of other gripes about this movie. Many people took exception to the humor in this movie. I found the delivery of the jokes to be good, making them funny. Many people took exception to the “OJ Simpson” style slow chase in the back half of the movie. With the exception of my Holdo complaint, I did not. Others took exception to the physics of space being ignored, like bombs “dropping” in the zero-gravity of space and ships that immediately stop when running out of fuel. Stuff like this is always the case with science fiction movies and while that doesn’t make it right, it can easily be explained by science fiction bullshit technobabble that the director could simply say he cut out of the movie.

I did have a problem with some of the major questions from The Force Awakens being ignored. First was Snoke’s identity. He’s useless and gets cut in half in a lame trick by Kylo Ren. Question unanswered. Second was Rey’s parents. Question answered in an extremely anticlimactic way – her parents were nobody drunks or something. So why is the force so strong with her? Question unanswered. This has led many to state that Rey is simply a Mary Sue (an overly idealized or “perfect” character) and I can’t argue against that opinion now even though I love the character and Daisy Ridley’s portrayal of her.

The last major problem some people have with this movie is that the force itself was used in a much more powerful manner than previous movies. Snoke is apparently able to virtually Vulcan mind-meld Ren and Rey so that they can see and have extended conversations with one another across the galaxy, something that has never been done before. No explanation is given and it further deepens the mystery of Snoke, who was summarily dispatched before any answer was given for him.

Yoda arrives and burns down the tree house or hut or something containing the ancient jedi texts by using force lightning or something, the first time a force ghost has physically altered the world. Yoda was allowing Luke to think that the texts were now destroyed, except it’s later revealed that Rey had taken him. Why didn’t Luke know this given his connection with the force?

Then there was Leia, who has never really used the power she has, coming back from the dead in space and using the force to fly through space looking just like Mary Poppins back to an airlock. This was one of the lamer moments of the movie and I’m surprised they didn’t kill her then because I have no idea what the franchise is going to do with Carrie Fisher dead. If it were the director, I would have had the character tastefully killed off then with reshoots and minor CGI having Luke and Leia meet a little earlier in the film.

Finally, Luke shows up on Crait, chats with Leia a bit and then goes out to Kylo Ren’s army to buy some time for the resistance to escape. Ren fires a billion rounds from all of the artillery and AT-ATs he has at his disposal not even touching Luke and this should have been a big clue that something was amiss. The two then have a brief light sabre fight, their tips touching in their familiar sound, but then Luke allows himself to be cut in half, except he’s wasn’t because he’s a force hologram or something being projected across the galaxy somehow being able to touch others but not allow himself to be touched.

The force being more powerful in this movie may not be a result of lazy writing, but it could be revealed in the next film that the force itself is indeed becoming more powerful than in previous movies, hence the title of the previous film “The Force Awakens”, which most people (including me) took to mean at the time that the force awakened in Rey. This is a theory of mine and I assume it could be already mentioned elsewhere on the ‘net; I’ve only done a brief review of reviews and other items.

Another two characters who were useless: the “code breaker” hacker named DJ and again, Captain Phasma. DJ is played by Benicio Del Toro, he’s involved in the Canto Bight scene and it’s a shame his character was useless because he’s a great actor. Phasma simply shows up at some point to be killed by Finn, a shame again because Gwendoline Christie has proven herself to be awesome over on Game of Thrones.

All of that having been said, it will be interesting to see what ramifications the politics of the movie has on future audiences. Some people are saying this movie is a franchise killer. While Ghostbusters 2016 killed that franchise (I didn’t even watch that one), I doubt this movie really is a Star Wars franchise killer. I can tell it is to those who are pissed off by it, though, and I’m sure a decent amount of people are. While women are a healthy part of science fiction fan bases, the reality is that they are majority men (hence Seven of Nine’s introduction in Star Trek: Voyager with publicity shots focusing on her ginormous bewbs to bring back viewership). Thus, Disney attacking men is not a wise move in this case. I do believe I speak for most men who enjoy science fiction that all we want is a good story and characters. We don’t like to be attacked and we don’t need big bewbs to bring back our viewership, we can see those elsewhere.

As for me, I find it just bad enough to skip watching future movies in the theater. I haven’t been that interested in the Han Solo movie coming out in 2018 and I’ll watch that one on streaming depending on people’s real reviews, not rotten tomatoes tomatometer, which has been suspect for a couple of years now (funny some people are just figuring that out now). The same goes for episode IX in later 2019.

Finally, my updated rankings of Star Wars films are as follows:

  1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Episode IV: A New Hope
  3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  4. Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  5. Rogue One
  6. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  7. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  8. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  9. Episode II: Attack of the Clones

The first two on the list are great films. The next four are all good, but not great films. They’re pretty much interchangeable on the list and prior lists of mine may have had them in a different order. The last two are turds. That leaves The Last Jedi somewhere between the good, but not great films and the turds.

Update (12/28/17):

The day after posting this, I saw an article online where the author infers that Disney will be forced to include gays in episode IX. Looks like I’m not the only one thinking that:

This diversity push is truly admirable. But in 2018 Star Wars still lacks any gay, lesbian, or genderqueer characters. Expect someone to notice this shortcoming right around the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, when they note that Han’s continuing characterization as a hetero cis-male is a problem.

My dad was talking about a movie on Amazon Prime titled Predestination and said it was pretty good so I watched it. It’s several years old, but I figure I’ll make some notes on it anyway. The basic information about the film that can be found online states that it’s a film starring Ethan Hawke as a temporal agent tasked with stopping crimes committed by future killers and that his final task is to stop someone known as the “fizzle bomber”.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what this movie is about. But, to state what the movie is about would basically spoil the movie, so I see why that’s the description. Also, the first billed actor of this film should not be Hawke, it should be Sarah Snook, who plays “The Unmarried Mother”. Snook is fantastic in this film, has the most screen time, and it’s a shame she wasn’t given more credit.

As for the film itself, I have a number of issues with it including the fact that the first half of the movie is almost entirely exposition from a first-person voiceover, a narrative technique that I do not enjoy. But it’s all Snook doing it in this case and she was great.

Then there’s the fact that trying to apprehend the fizzle bomber is hardly in the movie. About a third of the way through the film is when it becomes obvious that the movie is not about apprehending the fizzle bomber and that a number of obvious plot twists are coming up. But, there were even more plot twists than anticipated, so some of them were interesting, whereas others were not.

I would give the film a C because of its slowness and some of the aforementioned predictable plot twists, but the movie is actually refreshingly original and Snook’s performance allows for a higher grade.

Grade: B

 

SPOILERS

As the title suggests, everything in the movie has been predetermined to happen, so there isn’t a satisfying conclusion of Hawke’s character stopping the fizzle bomber. This is because the movie takes place entirely in a completely closed temporal loop where the temporal agent is all three – The Unmarried Mother (Jane), John, and the fizzle bomber.

The twist where John meets Jane accidentally, falls in love with him/herself, then impregnates him/herself, then gives birth to him/herself is interesting, but as is the case with many time loop movies, it raises more questions than answers. Most notably, how did this closed time loop get created in the first place to make this possible?

The storytelling here is also a little awkward because the fact that John is Jane gets revealed in the middle of the movie, then it’s acted as though it’s a big reveal a little later and then two more times near the end of the movie. Or maybe I’m more adept at picking this stuff up than the average filmgoer? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure.

But, the movie does make you think, despite its shortcomings. Not surprisingly, there’s a few posts on the internet explaining temporal loops, how the loop interacts in the movie, the types of paradoxes, etc. A good one is here, another one is here.

Some of the chatter in these articles and the comments touch on my biggest issue with the film (no explanation for the creation of the closed loop). Some say Robertson must have created it since he said multiple times how important it was to stick to the mission. This is what I believe the movie was trying to say. But why did Robertson want to create the closed loop? My guess is that it’s for the fizzle bomber to be somehow contained in the loop while time carries on outside of the loop without the bomber. The only reason I say this is because there obviously was no major bombing of New York in 1975 in our timeline (us, the viewers) even though it’s clear at the end of the movie that event will indeed still happen. Keeping the bombing and the political aftermath of it inside the closed loop would be beneficial to society.

Or it could be the result of the supposed invention of time travel in 1981 in the film with something having gone wrong and time twisting back on itself. It’s unfortunate the film gives no real clues.

The description of the film To the Bone, which stars Lily Collins as Ellen, is that Ellen is an anorexic who crosses path with an “unconventional” doctor played by Keanu Reeves. Reeves is the first-billed actor and he’s hardly in the movie and the most “unconventional” thing he does as the doctor in the film is to tell Ellen to tell the voice in her head to “fuck off”. I say fuck off a minimum of a dozen times a day, so I must be pretty fucking unconventional if you follow that logic.

Despite the false advertising, the movie is still a watchable one, albeit with problems. I had heard about the movie and had opted not to watch it, but an A- review by Chris Stuckmann got me wanting to watch it. I have no idea whether or not the film accurately portrays anorexia and people who have it. Some people say it doesn’t, others, like Stuckmann, say it does.

The performances are very good. Beyond Collins as Ellen is Alex Sharp as Luke, the only real guy in the film, and Sharp should be the second billed actor, instead he’s the FOURTEENTH down on the list on imdb. It’s his performance of goofy Luke having an interest in Ellen that actually carries the film. The writing is good too and Ellen’s dysfunctional family group therapy scene stands out as a notable example.

But, there’s also a feel-good artsy fartsy scene that feels very obligatory and one of the characters having a miscarriage shortly after a baby shower for her was the most unsurprising event in movie history. If you have a problem with me spoiling that for you, fuck off, it was obvious it would happen from the moment it was known she was pregnant early in the film.

The movie’s third act gets odd, Stuckmann calls it “transcendental”, for lack of a better word. There’s supposed to be a deeper meaning there, or something about finding a will to live, but it doesn’t work. Had it not been for the movie’s third act, it would have gotten a B.

Grade: C+

Midnight Special, a science fiction film about a boy with special powers, could have and should have been a better film. But, it’s decent in its own right. The positives to this movie are the cast, the acting, and the shots (even though there was a noticeable smudge on the camera lens in one scene where they were driving). The negatives are that it gets relatively boring after an interesting setup in the first act to first half of the movie.
Grade: B-

Spoilers below

Many people online seemed dissatisfied with the ending. I thought it tied things up fairly nicely, so I’m not sure what the issue is. What I find odd, though, is the filmmaker’s commentary on it.
https://www.buzzfeed.com/adambvary/midnight-special-ending?utm_term=.rmokL5XQG#.ocAYWO8nG
It seemed fairly straightforward to me with the bright light emanating from the boy and the beings of light revealed to be living in a world on top of ours watching us that the boy and these beings are angels. But Jeff Nichols, the writer and director, calls that a “red herring”.
Regardless, it’s clear the filmmaker was shooting for a “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” level of film, but falls short of that. Still worth watching for science fiction buffs, though.

(WordPress if fucking up the line breaks and I don’t feel like trying to figure out why)