Star Wars: The Last Jedi


In any Star Wars film sparks will fly and stuff will burn.

(2017) Science Fiction (Disney) Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Laura Dern, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Frank Oz, Benicio Del Toro, Justin Theroux, Billie Lourd, Joonas Suotomo, Amanda Lawrence, Jimmy Vee, Veronica Ngo. Directed by Rian Johnson

In the annals of all things cinematic, no film franchise has ever elicited as much anticipation as the Star Wars franchise has with every film that’s come out since the first one. Say what you want about their fandom, they are among the most loyal of any fanbase for just about anything anywhere; many of its fans go back to the first 1977 film forty years before the latest one came out.

And there are no signs of the franchise slowing down anytime soon. Not only is there a standalone Han Solo film coming out this summer, but earlier this year it was announced that another trilogy has been approved by Disney (to nobody’s surprise) after the current trilogy concludes next year. Rian Johnson, director of this episode, will be overseeing it although whether that means he will be directing all three of the films, writing them or acting more like a kind of Yoda for the filmmakers who will be involved with the fourth trilogy remains to be seen.

While this is the longest of the films to date, for the most part it doesn’t seem that way thanks to incredible special effects which have become and remained the norm for the series. Like The Force Awakens there seems like a lot of story lines that were cobbled from other films in the series (a last stand on an ice planet? C’mon, guys) and elsewhere. On top of that there are all sorts of threads going on here and while they seem to reach a conclusion, it still feels like we’re slogging through story more than we should be.

But there is a whole lot to like about the movie as well. One of the main things is Mark Hamill. He has delivered one of his best performances ever and certainly his best Luke Skywalker ever. I worried early on that he would be curmudgeonly “get off my lawn” Luke for the whole movie but thankfully he shows some growth, particularly in the final act. The film ends on a grace note that is as magical a moment as you’ll find in the entire series.

There are other fine performances and storylines here but Ridley as Rey was not as compelling as she was previously. Boyega also seems to be written as kind of a one-note character. Laura Dern is a welcome addition to the Star Wars Universe, giving a performance that matches some of the veteran cast members note for note. Oscar Isaac seems to be developing into a very interesting character and the storyline with Rose (Tran) was one of the best in the film. However, I think the movie will be long-remembered for being Carrie Fisher’s last appearance as Princess Lea (Episode IX director J.J. Abrams has stated that Fisher won’t be appearing in any form in that movie).

On the other hand, there’s Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order who is played via motion capture by the great Andy Serkis. When you have maybe the best motion capture performer of all time to utilize it seems a bloody shame to use so little of him. He is almost casually dispatched early in the movie which may end up being a tactical error or not. The Emperor surrogate role now falls to Adam Driver as Kylo Ren who may not be wholly evil after all as Anakin Skywalker was. But can anyone be both Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine at once? That remains to be seen.

This is superior entertainment and helped 2017 end on a record-breaking note. While many fans sniped over some of the story points (even Hamill reportedly wasn’t happy about the direction his charcter was taking) there’s no doubt that the franchise is as healthy as it ever was. Most people reading this have likely already seen the film multiple times in the theaters and await with varying degrees of eagerness for it to become available for their home collections. Well, so is this critic.

REASONS TO GO: As always, the special effects are as breathtaking as any in the movies. The action sequences are also top of the line. Hamill delivers his best performance of the series.
REASONS TO STAY: The buildup for Snoke led to somewhat of a letdown. The story is unnecessarily convoluted and once again feels like it was borrowed from other episodes..
FAMILY VALUES: As you would expect from a film of this franchise there is all sorts of action and violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In addition to playing Luke Skywalker, Hamill also played a CGI character who can be seen putting money into BB-8 during the casino scene.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/1/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 91% positive reviews. Metacritic: 85/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
Scorched Earth

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New Releases for the Week of December 15, 2017


STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

(Disney) Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Laura Dern, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis.  Directed by Rian Johnson

Rey, having utilized some of her nascent Jedi powers, has found Luke Skywalker but he is unwilling to teach any more disciples the secrets of the Force. At last, begrudgingly, he is convinced but the more Rey discovers about the Force the more she discovers about her mysterious past.

See the trailer and featurettes here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D, RPX, D-Box, Dolby Atmos
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for scenes of sci-fi action and violence)

Ferdinand

(20th Century Fox) Starring the voices of John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson. A big-hearted bull is mistaken for a wild beast and brought to the arena to be a fighting bull. Knowing that he won’t come out of the arena alive, he attempts an escape to get back home where he belongs along with his misfit friends.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard 
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG (for rude humor, action and some thematic elements)

Wonder Wheel

(Focus) Kate Winslet, Jim Belushi, Juno Temple, Justine Timberlake. Four lives intersect in the Coney Island of the 1950s; an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam joint; her rough and tumble carousel operator husband; a lifeguard with dreams of becoming a playwright and the estranged daughter of the waitress and her husband who is hiding out from gangsters in her father’s apartment.

See the trailer and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace, Regal Oviedo Mall, Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content including some sexuality, language and smoking)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Love Ni Bhavi
The Tribes of Palos Verdes

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

Dealt
Love Ni Bhavi
Oro
The Shape of Water
The Tribes of Palos Verdes
Youth

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

Hedgehogs
Love Ni Bhavi

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Unrest

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Ferdinand
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Unrest

Pick of the Litter – December 2017


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

(Disney) Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac. The First Order continues to overwhelm the fragile new Republic and it looks like only a return of the Jedi can save them. The last Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker has been found; but as it turns out, he may not be all that eager to bring the defenders of the Force back into duty. It was recently announced that the director of this film will spearhead the next Star Wars trilogy. December 15

INDEPENDENT PICKS

The Dancer

(Myriad) Soko, Gaspard Ulliel, Mélanie Thierry, Lily-Rose Depp. At the dawn of the Belle Epoque at the Folies Bergéres danced an American who used the stage name Loie Fuller. She was an inspiration for Toulouse-Lautrec. She revolutionized dance and became a bitter rival to fellow American Isadora Duncan although she remains largely unknown today. This is a story that should have been told years ago. December 1

Padmavati

(Paramount Classics) Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapoor, Aditi Rao Hydari. The epic tale of Sultan Alauddin Khilji, who fell in love with Padmavati the Queen of Mewar because of her beauty and courage, and despite the fact that she was already married. The film has been mired in controversy from the Hindi community in India who claim it distorts historical facts based on its trailer. Nevertheless it’s coming to the United States thanks to a major studio which is resurrecting their indie and foreign film label that has been largely dormant for almost a decade. December 1

I, Tonya

(Neon) Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale. Figure skater Tonya Harding is poised to be the best in the world but her humble background works against her. Furthermore her friend Nancy Kerrigan has become her greatest rival. Then an attack on Kerrigan’s knee leads to one of the most bizarre stories in the history of sports. Robbie is considered a contender for the Best Actress Oscar for her performance here. December 8

Love and Saucers

(The Orchard) David Huggins. A seemingly ordinary 72-year-old man living in Hoboken, New Jersey begins to have strange memories. They are memories of being abducted by extraterrestrials, examined, and ultimately experimented upon. From there the memories begin to get even more bizarre; he remembers losing his virginity to an alien female. The memories become so persistent and so real that he begins to paint pictures of them. This is not your ordinary documentary about alien abduction. December 12

Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

(Well Go USA) Tae-hyun Cha, Kyung-soo Do, Jung-woo Ha, Lee Joon Hyuk. A firefighter in Seoul dies on the job unexpectedly. He is to be escorted to the afterlife by three guardians. However, the afterlife isn’t exactly a piece of cake; he must pass seven trials over 49 days and prove that in life he was innocent of sin. That’s when his trial really begins…this is the first of two Along with the Gods movies that Well Go will be distributing in the States over the next few months. December 22

In the Fade

(Magnolia) Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Numan Acar, Ulrich Tukur. A German woman whose husband and son are killed in a bomb blast discovers that the perpetrators are not who the police think. When it becomes clear to her that justice will not be served, she begins to contemplate alternative means of exacting vengeance for the dead. December 27