Film Review: Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Release Date: December 16th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Based on: characters by George Lucas
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Harrison Ford (uncredited), Billie Lourd, Greg Grunberg, Dominic Monaghan, Warwick Davis, Denis Lawson, Jeff Garlin, Kevin Smith, James Earl Jones (vocal cameo), Andy Serkis (vocal cameo), Ewan McGregor (vocal cameo), Alec Guinness (vocal cameo), Hayden Christensen (vocal cameo), Ashley Eckstein (vocal cameo), Freddie Prinze Jr. (vocal cameo), Olivia d’Abo (vocal cameo), Frank Oz (vocal cameo), Liam Neeson (vocal cameo), Jennifer Hale (vocal cameo), Samuel L. Jackson (vocal cameo), Angelique Perrin (vocal cameo)

Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm, Bad Robot, 142 Minutes

Review:

*There be spoilers here!

“We had each other. That’s how we won.” – Lando Calrissian

Congratulations, Disney and Lucasfilm. You finally broke me to the point that I didn’t have the urge to see a Star Wars movie in the theater. Nope, I waited on this one because the previous few movies left such a bad taste in my mouth that I didn’t want to sit in a crowded theater with a bunch of normies clapping like seals every time there was a weak attempt at a cameo or minor victory. Also, people have been ruining the theater experience for awhile, so this film had that working against it already.

Now I figured I’d go see it once the buzz calmed down and the theaters cleared out a few weeks later but even then, it just wasn’t worth the trip or the money for me to make the effort.

Well, I finally watched it now that it’s available to rent and because this COVID-19 bullshit has us all trapped in our houses with nothing to do.

Anyway, as much as I anticipated not liking this, it was the best film of the three from the Disney produced Sequel Trilogy. Some of the more angry fans out there may think that’s crazy of me to say but I respect the effort of J.J. Abrams trying to fix the abortion that Rian Johnson created with The Last Jedi, especially with the weak skill set that Abrams has.

Honestly, they should have called this Star Wars: Episode IX – MacGuffins and Mystery Boxes but I guess that would require Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Bob Iger, Disney and Lucasfilm to actually understand humility and that they aren’t the great storytellers that they think they are.

Now this movie had a lot of weird shit that made certain sequences hard to get through. If I’m being honest, there aren’t really any sequences that didn’t have issues. I’ll list out some of my gripes from memory at the end of the main part of this review, as I did for some of my other Disney Star Wars reviews.

If I’m going to talk about what I liked about this film, I guess it’s that it tried really hard to give good fan service. Not so much, soulless, cheap attempts at winning me back but more like an admission that the series fucked up with the previous Rian Johnson stinker and that Abrams felt sorry and embarrassed that his larger vision for this trilogy was skull fucked in the eye by Johnson.

Rian Johnson cared more about his own ego and career than being the trusted custodian of something much larger than himself, which was created by others who were a lot more talented than he will ever be. If that’s harsh, I don’t care. Johnson didn’t care about the responsibility he signed up for, so he can deal with the repercussions of that from the fans who felt betrayed by his piss pigeon performance.

I’m glad that J.J. Abrams kicked Johnson in the nuts though. And his disdain for Johnson’s wreckage was made abundantly clear in the short scene where Luke returns, stops Rey from throwing her lightsaber away and states, “I was wrong.” Then he goes on to tell her what we all needed him to tell her in the previous film. For Luke Skywalker and Mark Hamill’s sake, I’m glad that the character didn’t go out like a weak piece of shit and was somewhat salvaged.

While on the subject of Rey, though, I still don’t understand how she is just simply the best at everything. She has an insanely weak character arc, hasn’t had anywhere near the level of adversity that Luke and Anakin had and you barely see her train at all and then she can barely deal with a fucking tiny laser drone. It’s like these modern filmmakers don’t think beyond what looks cool on the screen in a shot.

Anyway, this movie is a mess, narratively speaking. It’s really two movies wedged into one, as Abrams had to try and course correct while also coming up with a satisfying ending. That being said, he does okay in trying to achieve this but maybe this should have been longer or released as two parts. But I guess he is stuck with the numbering system and being tight within the framework of a trilogy.

Unfortunately, while we do get to see the main three characters spend some time together, it is hard to buy into their bond, as they spent the first two movies apart. I want to believe in it and I actually like the actors but this is something that needed to be done in every film. This is why people love the trinity of Luke, Leia and Han so much. But for whatever reason, Abrams, Kennedy and Iger don’t understand what worked about previous Star Wars films.

As much as my brain was picking things apart, I still found this to be the most palatable of the Disney Saga films. It’s hard to peg why but I think that Abrams genuinely wanted this to make up for the damage that’s been done and he did put his heart into it. But that also doesn’t mean that he was the right guy for the job way back when they announced him for The Force Awakens. He wasn’t and I had reservations about it back then.

In the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever watch any of these films again. If I do, it won’t be for a very long time. Maybe they’ll work better as a larger body of work but I doubt it with Rian Johnson’s big lame turd sitting smack in the middle of it. Honestly, it’s like a cat jumped on the table, took a shit in the middle of a mediocre pizza and you just decided to eat around it.

Assorted notes and gripes:

Watching the film, I was bombarded with a lot of WTF moments, these are the ones I remember. Maybe I should’ve taken notes.

-The opening crawl, immediately revealing Palpatine’s “resurrection” was cringe and the worst written opening crawl in the franchise.

-Who the fuck is manning all of Palpatine’s Star Destroyers?

-Why would the Star Destroyers break through thick ice to reveal themselves? There are hundreds of them and this seems like it would cause a lot of damage? And they’re already on a very hidden planet to begin with.

-Since Palpatine’s appearance isn’t explained but cloning is implied, am I just to assume that there’s only one Palpatine and not like 364?

-Lightspeed skipping? Really? And they land safely within a different planet’s atmosphere with every skip? Really? I’m no astrophysicist but I’d assume a planet’s atmosphere is a small percentage of a planet’s total structure and that planets themselves take up an insanely small amount of actual space in the universe, as a whole.

-“Hey Rose… you coming on the mission?” “Nah… I’m good, bro!”

-The group goes to outer space Burning Man… really?

-Don’t get me started on the jetpack trooper scene. That’s a clusterfuck of cringe and stupidity.

-I’m alright with the healing power but shouldn’t it drain Rey, even just a little bit. I mean, it fucking kills Kylo like two hours later.

-The Rey v. Kylo’s TIE Fighter scene was absolutely, unequivocally stupid. Just crush that shit with the Force, hoe!

-I guess Abrams views Droids as abused house pets.

-Gurl 1: “Not that you care but I think you’re okay.” Gurl 2: “I care.” Girl power! No lesbian kiss.

-So did C-3PO have red LED lights installed this whole time? Where were they when he was attempting to murder Jedi in Attack of the Clones?

-Rey doesn’t feel Chewie “die” on a ship that’s right in front of her. But then Rey feels that Chewie is alive when he’s much further away.

-Where’s Phasma? Is she really dead now? I thought she was Star Wars‘ version of Kenny from South Park.

-Are the Knights of Ren just laser sword thugs who don’t actually answer to Kylo Ren? Sith in training? Palpatine super soldiers? What the fuck are they?

-How does a billion year-old dagger line up with the wreckage of a Death Star that was built well after the dagger. And how was Rey lined up at the right angle and altitude to make it work? This was just a ripoff of the medallion from The Goonies and it was just stupid.

-I’ve lost count of the number of MacGuffins. I think there were five… maybe six? Is this a G.I. Joe miniseries from 1983? Nah… those were much better written.

-Weak as fuck lightsaber duels. Maybe the weakest in the entire franchise.

-Did Leia die because she called out to Kylo or was that just a perfect timing plot convenience?

-Harrison Ford? Why?

-Luke in 30 seconds was the Luke I wanted in the previous movie.

-Rey in a tiny X-Wing had to navigate through tight, dangerous, moving space corridors to reach the Palpatine planet but the Rebels’ big ass warships simply followed her path? It’s space, can’t they fly around that shit? What about the massive fucking armada of “regular people” that just shows up conveniently to win the war?

-Also, a militia of citizens overthrows a corrupt government by force. When did Hollywood become so blatantly pro-Second Amendment? I kid, Hollywood is just stupid.

-When they’re riding horses on the deck of a Star Destroyer, why doesn’t the ship just turn fucking sideways? It would’ve ended the war. One simple maneuver.

-The teleporting physical objects Force power is another lame plot convenience.

-What’s this random fucking Force Dyad thing? Abrams still thinks he’s making up stories with his toys in the bathtub.

-If Palpatine created Anakin and Anakin created Luke and Leia and Leia created Kylo Ren, all the while Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter, isn’t their attraction kinda incest-y?

-I’d watch a Lando & Chewie in the Falcon movie.

-Why bury the lightsabers? A safe would be more secure.

-Why even take the Skywalker name and why did it take her so long to say it? Maybe because a part of her knew it was wrong to just take their name, their personal shit and Luke’s childhood home. Bitch, you ain’t in the will, that shit all goes to the state!

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Disney era Star Wars movies.

Film Review: Teeth (2015)

Release Date: January 25th, 2015 (Sundance)
Directed by: Tom Brown, Daniel Gray
Written by: Tom Brown, Daniel Gray
Cast: Richard E. Grant (narrator)

Holbrooks, Blacklist, 7 Minutes

Review:

“That which is neglected, is lost.” – tagline

This is a short animated film about a guy and his relationship with his teeth over the course of his life.

What made this work for me was two key things.

The first was the narration by Richard E. Grant. His voice was perfectly paced and pleasant to listen to even if the visuals weren’t welcoming in certain parts. Just thinking of the knife and teeth scene gives me a bit of a chill but Grant’s voice was very soothing and drew you in.

The other thing that worked for me was the animation style. I just loved the look of this, the toned down colors, the flow of the movement and most importantly, how the shaky animation lines added a certain level of tension to the proceedings.

This is definitely an art piece more than anything but this is a good example of short film as art. It is both beautiful and disturbing, soothing and stressful. How those things mixed so well together is due to the meticulous craftsmanship of the writing and direction by both Tom Brown and Daniel Gray.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Probably any of the other modern short films you can find on FilmStruck’s streaming service, where I watch most of the stuff I find like this.

TV Review: Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

Original Run: April 17th, 2011 – present
Created by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Iain Glen, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Conleth Hill, Aiden Gillen, Gwendoline Christie, Issac Hempstead Wright, Jerome Flynn, Julian Glover, Liam Cunningham, Rory McCann, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ben Crompton, Daniel Portman, Charles Dance, Carice van Houten, Natalie Dormer, Jack Gleeson, Michaelle Fairley, Kristofer Hivju, Ian McElhinney, Jacob Anderson, Stephen Dillane, Kristian Nairn, Hannah Murray, Mark Stanley, Richard Madden, Finn Jones, Iwan Rheon, Diana Rigg, Jonathan Pryce, Jason Momoa, Sean Bean, Mark Addy

Television 360, Grok! Television, Generator Entertainment, Startling Television, Bighead Littlehead, HBO Entertainment, 60 Episodes (so far), 50-69 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Since I was a kid, I have always been a big fan of fantasy fiction. I never got into George R.R. Martin’s massive Game of Thrones books when they started coming out though. They were abnormally massive, had way too many characters with difficult names and although I like reading and I read pretty quickly, it is hard for me to give something so massive and seemingly tedious, that much of my attention.

I did not watch this show in the beginning. In fact, I figured that I’d put it off until after it was over and then just binge the whole thing. Years and seasons have gone by, however, and everyone and their mother and their mother’s mother has talked this show up like it is the second coming of Jesus. The hype and admiration for this show has been absolutely ridiculous. So when I got injured and was trapped in my house for several days with nothing to do, I finally fired up Game of Thrones.

Well, I am definitely in the extreme minority because I think the show is absolute shit.

In fact, I got a little over midway through the third season when I had to stop. I couldn’t suffer through anymore episodes, I had had enough and I didn’t care about a single person or situation on this show. Well, except for Maisie Williams’ Arya Stark. Really, she is the only interesting character out of the 817 that I was introduced to in two and a half seasons. Peter Dinklage, while a great actor and enjoyable on screen, just ran his course quickly. But he was the only other character I was even remotely engaged in. Fuck the Khaleesi and her stupid dragons, I’d rather have Shadowcat and Lockheed from the X-Men comics of the 80s.

The problem with this show is it is just talking and plotting and talking about plotting and then betrayal and more plotting and nothing really happens except a whole bunch of nothing. The fan boys who hated The Phantom Menace for all its long winded talkie bullshit should hate this show even more.

I mean, once in awhile a battle happens but it is always underwhelming and just leads to more talking and plotting and talking about plotting and betrayal and more plotting.

Game of Thrones is a fantasy epic for people who don’t like fantasy epics. It is one of the most boring shows I have ever seen. Occasionally you get a titty or two but the big stars stopped getting naked after season one. And all the fanboy love for Khaleesi is baffling to me. But maybe its because these nerds like girls who look twelve.

I hated Game of Thrones to the point where watching it felt like torture but I kept sticking with it because people kept saying, “Dude, stick with it, it’s the best show of all-time!” No it isn’t. If you even think this is even in the same ballpark as Breaking Bad, probably the actual greatest show of all-time, you’re fucking retarded.

I don’t usually get this frank and vulgar in reviews on Cinespiria but I feel like everyone I know fucking lied to me. Like Game of Thrones was just some big elaborate prank. If it was, you got me. You’re an asshole, but you got me.

Now HBO is planning like a half dozen spin-offs of this show. Why? I guess money talks but I’d rather have to sit through a nurse screwing up a dozen times trying to insert a catheter than to ever sit through another episode of this show.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: Logan (2017)

Release Date: February 17th, 2017 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Based on: the character of Wolverine created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, Hutch Parker Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, 137 Minutes

Review:

To sum up this motion picture in one line: Logan made me sprout a third testicle bigger than the original two combined.

Initial reaction aside, I figured that I should talk about the film more in depth, as opposed to summing up a two-plus hour movie with the length of a tweet. Granted, that’s all people really have time to read anymore.

For those still sticking around, Logan was exactly the film I wanted, the film fans deserved and another clear indication that PG-13 superhero flicks have gotten really fucking lame. Logan like Deadpool before it, got a pretty hard R for a rating. And truthfully, Logan is even more hardcore in the violence department than its predecessor, which relied on not just violence but a lot of good old fashioned potty humor. Logan does not bring the potty humor. Instead, it brings a huge body count and a lot of severed limbs.

The movie is hardly a festival of gore but it certainly isn’t an X-Men picture for the kids or those who are offended by a little… okay, a lot of blood splatter and knives through heads.

Logan is not a comic book movie relying on cheap parlor tricks, however. It is a damn good movie, through and through. Everything good about The Wolverine is magnified here, without the flaws. James Mangold directed both films but with Logan he showed how far he has come since the last solo Wolverine movie and this, the final chapter in the character’s seventeen year and nine film run.

This was like the Mad Max: Fury Road of comic book movies. It was gritty, balls out and pulled absolutely no punches. Where I was sure it would try and play it safe, it did not. In fact, I was a bit taken aback by some of the things that happened but the shock of those moments, made the film greater than it would have been if the filmmakers let off of the gas.

The picture was shot magnificently and it plays more like a modernized western, which it actually is, than a popcorn comic book flick. The film even shows Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier showing the classic western Shane to the young Laura, the girl he and Logan are protecting from a posse of really bad men.

It was nice to see the film feature Caliban, who was a total jerk in the comic books, but the story here shows him later in life, trying to somewhat atone for the sins he committed against his kind.

Laura, or X-23, is also really great and she is actually better than I could have imagined her before seeing the film. She does some really intense things physically and fights like no other kid has, in the long history of watching movies. X-23 makes Kick-Ass‘ Hit Girl look like a Powerpuff Girl.

Charles Xavier, or Professor X, comes full circle as a character. Sure, we saw his end way back in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand, the finale of the original trilogy of films, but this was a more fitting and sentimental end to the character’s story. Also, Patrick Stewart knocks it out of the park like never before. Having played this character for so long, Stewart was really connected to Xavier on a deeper level than what has been seen before Logan.

The villains were pretty interesting and the best of the Wolverine trilogy. Boyd Holbrook played the cool and calculating cyborg soldier Pierce. Richard E. Grant played Dr. Rice, an evil scientist that feels a lot like a classic Peter Cushing character. There was another big bad that Wolverine had to match up against but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film.

Logan is one of the best superhero films ever made. Its strength is that it isn’t done in the vein of other superhero films. It is its own thing like Deadpool was a year earlier. It challenges the formula, breaks the mold and has genuine gravitas. It is heartwarming and painful. It generates a level of emotion missing from the genre. It also feels a lot closer to reality than anything else that has ever come out from the worlds of Marvel or DC.

Rating: 9/10