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Movie Review – The Last Jedi

It’s too soon to know how I feel about this latest installment to the Star Wars saga. A lot happens, at a brisk pace. We have fleeting introductions to a bunch of brand-new characters we never get to know; why they rounded up well-known actors for little more than extended cameos is beyond me. It’s a long movie, so maybe a lot of character development was cut. I wouldn’t mind a Director’s Edition, like we saw in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

There’s a great deal of humor, but while some of it’s clever, the rest is somewhat more goofy than usual for this series. People at opening night really got into everything, though, applauding, laughing, squealing at certain appearances (no spoilers!). Definitely everyone enjoyed themselves in a totally packed theater (sold out across the nation, apparently). At least the critters are “good cute”, instead of overly cutesy, which is nice. (Porgs! Crystal Foxes!) The blue milk “cow” was admittedly very strange. All the scenes on Luke’s planet were hugely pretty and interesting. They even had a Degobah feel. In spite of trailers spoiling a lot of it, those were my favorite scenes.

Everything with Luke Skywalker…well, I’d describe those as magical. Riveting, even, as it should be. Mark Hamill absolutely carried the film and deserves a special shout out. It warmed my heart to see him back in action, in both grumpy and heroic modes.

Rey and Kylo were great, and I liked seeing them interact again. Rey did a bit better, with actual character development. Kylo was kind of stuck at the same emo place we saw him before. His parts with Rey were highlights, though — they have a great rapport! I hope to see more of it, next time. The big fight scene (being vague here on purpose) was excellent.

Poor Finn doesn’t come across as well as he did in The Force Awakens, and he was such a bright light in that film. I think having him separated from Rey and Poe made it problematic, chemistry-wise. Boyega did so well interacting with Ridley and Isaac. This time his sub-plot felt flat and extraneous. It could have been the writing. I’m not sure yet.

Carrie Fisher’s post-death swan song finalized in a strong way, and that was a huge relief. I don’t know how they’ll bring her character to a resolution in the last film of the Skywalker Saga, but it was a shock to see the actress “live” here, after her untimely demise a year ago. I worried it might feel tacky or forced. It definitely worked. She has a lot to do, and did it well. I think Our Princess would be very happy with this movie.

So, a good installment, definitely superior to the Prequels — but I’m not sure yet where I’d rank it among the others. It’s probably for the best anyway to think a bit on The Last Jedi before passing judgment. When you build something up so much in your mind for so long, better thoughts parse (or parsec?) out after time passes.

I need a second and third viewing. It took me a year to figure out where to place Rogue One, although I was so happy with The Force Awakens that I instantly gave it 3rd place. This series has been so plagued with disappointment. I don’t think Star Wars is done yet, by any means, and I’m not a hater of The Last Jedi at all. But I may not be a huge fan of director Rian Johnson.

NOTE on the 3D version: Only a few scenes made 3D worthwhile, but it wasn’t noticeably darker, as can happen with those glasses. 3D really only came into play at the end battle on the salt planet, with the red soil, and in some adorable Porg shots. I didn’t notice much else. Ultimately, I wouldn’t shell out for the extra money for a 3D showing. If you’re a huge fan, consider 3D for a one-time viewer experience; otherwise stay with 2D.

Movie Grade: A –

Read RunPee Jilly’s Pre-‘Last Jedi’ SW Movie Rankings.

Ranking Star Wars – Pre-Last Jedi

From Runpee Jilly’s “Certain Point of View “…

Suffice to warn you now, there are SPOILERS ahead, through to Rogue One.

  1. The top movie is easy: Empire Strikes Back. It’s got everything: adventure, humor, romance, solid space action that still holds up after all this time, and outrageous reveals.  I never get tired of watching this one. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve seen it.
  2. A New Hope runs very closely to the number one spot – clipping its heels, as it were. It started the whole mythology and adventure in a well told opening story. It’s almost perfect. But the “official” name, A New Hope, is just lame. This movie will always be Star Wars to me. (And here I show my age. Yes, I was 12 in the theaters for Star Wars, and waited in those huge lines to see it over and over again.)
  3. The Force Awakens – I was so impressed with TFA. I wanted to cry and fly with happiness. It was Star Wars to me, finally! After a long few decades of slogging through disappointment from the prequels, the joyous universe I first fell for was back. The new characters were fantastic, the humor worked, and everything was oh-so-pretty. I’m an absolute fan. While some say – correctly – this is a rehash of A New Hope, I see that as a plus. The fun was baked in, and it felt like coming home.
  4. Rogue One – Unlike the previous movie, Rogue One was not fun, joyous, or happy. I mean (SPOILERS), everyone dies. Honestly, “I had a bad feeling about this” going in (of course no one makes it — we never see them in the OT), but the sad part is that I kind of didn’t care. Jyn, Cassian, Rogue’s ragtag crew…we didn’t get to really know them. The reason this has a 4th place mention is that the story simply works in the Star Wars universe, while providing clues the rebels weren’t as squeaky clean as we’d imagined. And sarcastic, sociopathic K2SO is probably the best droid we’re likely to see. I liked the force sensitive “Space Husbands” (Baze and Chirrut). The Vader fight scene at the end, the desperate pass-off of the data tape, the lead-in to A New Hope: worth the price of admission, right there.  The Death Star destruction sequences were extremely compelling, making that weapon truly frightening in a way the other movies didn’t.
  5. Return of the Jedi – I wish I could place this higher. The cold open of the rescue of Han from Jabba’s palace is pure gold. After that, it starts going downhill fast. Han becomes like an anti-version of himself, Leia is pensive and moody, Luke is inscrutable (and not in a intriguing way). It doesn’t really work, and the Ewoks still piss me off. The jokes are stale, the action sequences middling…but it’s still better than the prequels. Damning with faint praise? …Giving this another thought, I think I would rank the original RotJ in 4th place, and the Special Edition version at 5th. The changes really stuck out in a bad way and dragged this installment down. I still have to think about this. I am sure The Last Jedi will shake everything up anyway, so I’ll just move on.
  6. Phantom Menace – Many people probably list this one last. And to many, it “ruined” Star Wars. I was hugely disappointed with this when it came out. Over the years, though, it’s taken on a nicer sheen. I love Qui-Gon, young Obi-Won was perfect, and there are amazing set pieces. The Pod Race scene is great, Naboo is beautiful, the Padme/Queen storyline was compelling, and the Duel of the Fates scene with Darth Maul is the best lightsaber fight in the entire saga. As for the hated Jar Jar, the terrible Midiclorians, and that poor Anakin kid with the terrible Yippee lines: I learned to ignore them, and just watch the moments that that had the right feel for the SW Universe. It’s a really pretty movie and Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon is the best Jedi we see throughout the series.
  7. Revenge of the Sith – I honestly don’t remember much about this entire film. Maybe that’s a good thing. I never put it on re-watch. It played like a war documentary…and only felt like Star Wars in the last half hour. But it was a great last half hour, with the long-awaited payoff on the lava planet (Okay, good except for the wretched”Nooooooooo” after “Where’s Padme?”). And the dying from sorrow bit? It doesn’t work that way. I think a lot of people felt RotS made the prequels better. I really don’t think they’re fixable. But then, I grew up with the Classic movies, so I’m just an old fart you can safely ignore. 🙂
  8. Attack of the Clones – This one is mostly dreck. I like the arena fight scene — great set-piece — and the stuff on Camino (the water planet). Coruscant is neat, and the early scenes of fighting on the flying cars — pretty darn cool. But the entire romance was bad. Simply, plainly bad. Bad like sand! I don’t get why Padme is even interested in this whiny child. Who is Dooku, again? What is the plot about? There are clones, there are trade negotiations, and a whole lot of nothing.

I know everyone’s list will be different. Ultimately, any Star Wars is better than most sci-fi out there.

With the The Last Jedi coming out tomorrow (!), I’ll have to shake up my list. I hope TLJ is amazing. Please, be amazing.

I’ll need the new movie to settle in my brain for a while before I can think about the new rankings. MAN, I AM EXCITED. (I’m actually going to dress as Rey. Yup. Certified Geek.)

#NotTooOldForThisSh!t

#StarWarsNight

#It’sATrap

12 Scenes from Star Wars you won’t have missed if you had RunPee

The Last Jedi comes out next Friday, and it’s going to be the longest Star Wars film yet. To kick off Star Wars Week, I’m making a list of iconic scenes you wouldn’t have missed if you had the RunPee App. Suffice to say, SPOILERS LIE AHEAD, MATEY. Stop right here if you aren’t up to speed through Rogue One.

We will start, of course, with the best moment in cinematic history…

  1. “Luke, I am your Father.” I didn’t see that one coming, but it made total sense once I heard it. People argued that Obi-Won couldn’t have been lying, but that turned out to be a misdirect (from a “certain point of view.”) – The Empire Strikes Back
  2. “I love you.” “I know.” From Empire, again. Harrison Ford improvised this line, to make one of the greatest responses to a declaration of love ever (when I got married, it was after such an exchange happened — Yes, fact). —Empire
  3. When Obi-Won put up his lightsaber, and Vader killed him. Or did he?  We never did find out what happened to his body, nor exactly how powerful he became. Force Ghosts don’t seem that exciting. But it was a cool moment, nonetheless. – A New Hope
  4. When Anakin and Luke both lose a hand – this is a Skywalker thing in middle movies, apparently. Maybe someone will lose his or her hand in The Last Jedi.  Empire, & Attack of the Clones
  5. The Pod Race – make fun of The Phantom Menace all you like, but this is still a fun, exciting sequence, showing how exactly the Force can guide your reflexes. “Yipee!?” Just relax and enjoy the pretty set piece.  – The Phantom Menace
  6. Dual of the Fates – again, from Phantom, we get an indelible scene, where Darth Maul expertly wields a double-ended lightsaber to fight off two powerful Jedi Knights/Masters. It didn’t end so well for Qui-Gon, but the music, the room’s closed shield moments, and the character emotions — all so very raw and powerful. While Qui-Gon meditates, Darth Maul paces like a hungry tiger. It’s a great showcase for one of John William’s  great iconic themes. Go listen to it on YouTube right now – it’s still amazing. As far as the Prequels go, this is as good as it gets.  – The Phantom Menace
  7. When Rey uses the Force to escape her restraints – such a joy to see Rey learn to use her Force abilities, making Daniel Craig’s storm trooper untie her and leave his weapon behind. Funny as sh!t, and crucial to the plot. Yes, please, more like this!  – The Force Awakens
  8. When the Death Star explodes (for the the first time). You know you cheered. I still do. When the Millennium Falcon flies out the sun and Luke uses the Force to guide his torpedoes, movie magic happens, set to the powerful John Williams version of The Mars Theme. “Whoohoo! Come on kid, let’s blow this thing and go home!” – A New Hope
  9. When Vader sees his son with his “Own Eyes”. Yeah, I kind of cried. So much that needed to come to pass in this epic happened in these few short moments.  – Return of the Jedi
  10. The entire rescue sequence with Jabba. This is great stuff, and the last time we really saw the Original Trio make it work. – Return of the Jedi
  11. The classic Cantina scene. What can I say? Everyone loves it. Nothing really significant happens here, but I would never want to miss this bit. The Force Awakens recreates this scene somewhat at Maz Kanata’s smuggling den, and that’s cool too. – A New Hope
  12. When the original Death Star enters Scarif’s stratosphere for one real reason – to punish Orson Krennic. He’s on the radio tower gangway, looking towards the sky, and sees his own weapon aimed directly at him. Yes. It’s a frightening moment, even though we don’t like Krennic. What a fantastic and iconic scene, with a weapon we really thought we couldn’t be moved by again, after all these years. – Rogue One

What did I miss? Add your best scenes in the comments below.

New Black Panther Trailer is Fantastic

I saw the new Black Panther trailer when I went to see Thor: Ragnarok, and it looks GORGEOUS. Sumptuous. Luxuriously detailed and kind of intense. Seriously, I could watch this preview all day: New Black Panther Trailer. Gimme, gimme!

Marvel sure knows how to create anticipation for their universe of movies. It’s all about the story, and the producers keep me wanting more, and wanting it now. I’m shocked to find I’m more into the MCU than the Star Wars films (I’m and a true geek who waited in line for hours back in 1978, to see Star Wars in the theater at least a dozen times).

Anyway. Go watch the trailer. You’re welcome!

Movie Review – Rogue One : A Star Wars Story

Grade: A-

There’s a lot to like about this movie. The humor, particularly from K-2SO, or K-2 as he’s more often referred to, is outstanding. I have to say, K-2 really carried the movie. It’s not going to happen, but I would love to see a movie with him as the main character. He’s that entertaining.

They did a great job of propping up “A New Hope” with various sayings, cameos, and scenes. That just makes me love both movies even more. And the end of the movie is just awesome.

I wasn’t crazy about the first 30 minutes of the movie, give or take. The scenes are short, and skip back and forth from one planet to another, setting up characters and plots. It just felt too disjointed to me, but eventually it settles down and the pacing improves.

There’s no question that this is a fine addition to the Star Wars universe.

3D Notes from RunPee Wife: Don’t spend your extra money on the 3D version of this film. It doesn’t add anything, or bring you into the universe in the way a good 3D film can…here, it only makes the images darker. Everyone talks about how pretty this movie is; don’t let the glasses bring that down. I actually took the glasses off a few times so I could see the scenes better. Will watch this again in 2D.

Later Note: the 2D version is cleaner and brighter, and improves the viewing experience a lot. The film graininess is intentional, as part of the war mood they were evoking. This movie also gets better every time you see it, storywise.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie review

st-tfaGrade: A-

I can safely say that SW:TFA is the 3rd best Star Wars movie in the franchise. And let’s be clear, it would take a miracle for JJ Abrams to create something better than New Hope or Empire Strikes Back.

This is easily the funniest movie in the franchise. Almost, but not every, funny moment revolves around Harrison Ford.

The movie isn’t without its flaws, but those flaws are minor, and of course this is Star Wars, so I’m being overly critical.

A few good things to report: BB-8–the spherical droid–is cute, without being overly cute. JJ is mature enough as a story teller to avoid crap like Jar Jar Binks. All of the fight scenes, whether hand-to-hand, sword-to-sword, or fighter-to-fighter are good, and some are great, but none drag on longer than they need to. There’s never one of those, “OMG, would someone kill someone here so we can move on with the story,” fights.

The acting was spot on. The casting of Daisy Ridley, as Rey, and John Boyega, as Finn, are marvelous. I’m really looking forward to seeing their characters develop as the saga continues.