Blind Spot 25: The New World

Everyone who has read this blog knows I am not a big fan of the Walt Disney version of the Pocahontas story. It has its positives but a bossy lead character, terrible villain and sappy romance sink it for me.

As a contrast, I have wanted to watch the 2005 Terrence Malick version of the story called The New World, so it was a natural fit for my Blind Spot series!

I have long been a bit of a Terrence Malick apologist. For the last few years he has created films free from structure that are essentially art pieces. I enjoy most of them but I understand why many do not. However, here in The New World he actually has a narrative and he executes it beautifully. I wish he would go back to narratives just to shake things up for a little while!

As you can see in the clips above the true star of this film is the incredible cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. He does all of Malick’s movies, and this is one of his most beautiful. I love the way he uses water, nature and light to convey the mood of a scene. This film doesn’t have a ton of dialogue and so the cinematography is essential to helping us understand what the characters are going through whether it be trauma or love.

Obviously the story of Pocahontas can be a sensitive one to retell but Malick evidently did his research and the tribal leaders were happy with the results.He even has the characters speak an extinct form of the Powhatan language that had to be reconstructed for the film.

They do portray a love story between John Smith and Pocahontas which is not historically accurate but it is done in a more realistic way to the time period. It feels more authentic and real than the Disney version.

Colin Farrell does a good job as John Smith and has good chemistry with Q’orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas. She works both in the tribal scenes and when she gets taken to England to live. I love that she isn’t a preachy character like in the Disney film but happy, joyful, strong, soft and sweet. She’s a person you can completely understand why men fall in love with her.

Christian Bale plays John Rolfe, Pocahontas’ husband in England in an understated role.

The music by James Horner is one of his best. I love the way he uses birds and other sounds of nature as part of the actual score.

The only downside to The New World is it is long. (There are 3 versions 135, 150, 172 minutes. I watched 135). Malick is a director that can definitely be self-indulgent at times and he probably could have cut down on a few of the pretty twirling in nature scenes to make things a little tighter.

Oh well! A few slow moments are well worth it for the beautiful experience Malick gives us in The New World. It’s definitely worth seeing and it makes me happy the Pocahontas story was done so well at least once.

Overall Grade- A-

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My Sundance 2018 Preview

The Sundance Film Festival is fast approaching! To be more precise it begins tomorrow! Last year I attended the festival for the first time purchasing a ticket package and seeing 10 films. One that I saw, STEP, proved to be my 2nd favorite movie of 2017, so I am excited to see what 2018 holds in store for me. This year I bought the SLC Pass which allows me to see any film screening in Salt Lake City as opposed to Park City. It limits things a little bit but there are still plenty of movies to see. Right now I have 19 films on the schedule and the only thing that could mess things up is if my cold gets worse so fingers crossed it will improve!

I thought I would give you a little preview of the 19 films I am aiming to see and then I can do a recap at the end of next week. I will try and post daily recaps on my youtube channel but it depends on if I have much of a voice (right now I can’t talk much because of my cold).

Won’t You Be My Neighbor-

This is a documentary about Fred Rogers who was the host and creator of Mr Rogers Neighborhood.  I like these kind of biopic documentaries and always enjoyed MRN as a kid so this should be very interesting.

Loveling-

This is a Brazilian film about a couple that must emancipate their teenage son so he can go and play professional hand ball in Germany. The trailer looked sweet and enjoyable so I figured it was worth a shot

Lu Over the Wall-

This is probably my most anticipated film of the festival. It has some Ponyo vibes about a little girl that meets a mermaid named Lu. I know GKIDS has already picked it up so I have high hopes that it will be great

Science Fair-

This is a documentary about 9 students competing in the ISEF or International Science and Engineering Fair. As STEP shows, I love inspirational documentaries so this should be right up my ally

Eighth Grade-

I don’t know a ton about this movie but that it is about a 13 year old girl at the end of middle school and particularly her life on social media. I know it is an A24 film and they usually do intriguing stuff like A Ghost Story so I will give it a shot.

White Fang-

This is another animated film at the festival and it has some good early buzz. It is based on the classic Jack London novel and features Rashida Jones and Nick Offerman as voice actors.

Inventing Tomorrow-

This is another documentary about the kids preparing for the ISEF like Science Fair. The blurb says “Watch these passionate innovators find the courage to face the planet’s environmental threats while navigating adolescence. It will be interesting to compare the two documentaries.

The Price of Everything-

This is a documentary about how the price of artwork is determined. The blurb makes it sound pretty exciting- like “holding a funhouse mirror up to our values and our times where everything can be bought and sold”. We will see if it lives up to such a build-up!

Nancy-

This is a psychological thriller about a woman who becomes increasingly convinced she was abducted as a child. This is a little bit out of my comfort zone but it sounded intriguing. Evidently it focuses on fake news and people who lie to get what they want. Here is an interview with the director.

Ophelia-

This is a ‘re-imagining of Hamlet, told from Ophelia’s perspective.’ I love Hamlet and am really excited to see Daisy Ridley in this role. The rest of the cast is solid with Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Tom Felton and more.

Chef Flynn-

This is a documentary about a young culinary prodigy named Flynn McGarry. He begins running a supper club in his home and then turns into a celebrity as the ‘Teen Chef’. Some embrace him and then others resent his quick success. I’m a big foodie so this looked interesting.

Butterflies-

This is a Turkish film about 3 strangers who find out they all have the same father when they must go and bury him. Through this experience they learn about him, themselves and each other.

Minding the Gap-

This is a documentary about 3 young men who leave their families and enter the big city. It looks like a sweet heart-warming documentary, so I figured it was worth a shot.

A Polar Year-

This is another documentary about a man named Anders who moves up to a small town in Greenland to teach for a year. They struggle with preconceptions of each other but it looked like a cute movie.

The Oslo Diaries-

It seems 2018 is my year for documentaries at Sundance. This one is about the “secret negotiations leading up to the 1993 Oslo peace agreement. I figured it would be quite interesting!

Search-

This stars John Cho and Debra Messing and is about a man who breaks into his daughter’s laptop after she goes missing only to find she’s been leading an entirely different life online. Early buzz is pretty good on this one so I decided to watch it.

Kusama: Infinity

This is a documentary about a famous artist named Yayoi Kusama and how she became who she is. Evidently it includes interviews with Kusama who lives in a mental hospital and continues to create art. It sounds interesting to me so why not?

Animation Shorts Spotlight-

I actually thought the animated shorts were kind of lame last year at Sundance but they can’t always be that way? As an animation girl I knew I needed to watch these shorts and hopefully they will be more original and better than last year.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind-

I am not sure if I am going to see this documentary because of church commitments but it has gotten great early buzz and I do love Robin Williams.

So there you have it! That is my current schedule for Sundance 2018. What do you think? What looks interesting to you? Let me know in the comments section and I will keep you up to date as the festival continues. Thanks!

 

Best and Worst Movies of 2017

Happy New Year!  I was going to wait until I saw The Post to do my best of the year movie list but I had time tonight and decided I will post my current list here on the blog and then do my list on my youtube channel later in the month. I have already done my worst of the year list over on my channel so I will include that below.

I saw an amazing 141 releases in 2017. The Moviepass has a lot to do with this as I could see a movie every single day for a very small cost per month. I highly recommend checking it out. (I get nothing for this. Just a shout out because it has been so great in my life).

As great as all these movies were the thing I am most grateful for is the people they have brought into my life. Whether it is all you lovely readers, or people I have collaborated with on my podcast, or dear friends I have made going to see films it has been amazing. I sincerely feel like I have a network of friends both in Utah and across the world and it is all because of a shared love of film. That is pretty special and I am so grateful.

Cheers to 2018 and thank you for being a part of my life and reading my nonsense.

So here goes my best of 2017:

1. Coco- I loved everything about this film. The animation was stunning. The story swept me up and I emotionally connected with Miguel and Hector. The ending destroyed me but in the best kind of way. I loved the songs and being introduced to a new culture. It was stunning.  By the way, I promise I will post an in-depth analysis of Coco like I have done with all Pixar films. I have not had the time to see it a second time and do it in the way it deserves. Here is my youtube review2. STEP– I saw STEP in January at Sundance on my birthday and it blew me away then and it continues to do so now. It’s the very best of what movies can do.  Not just a documentary but a profile of hope for the future. It’s about these girls of Baltimore and the leaders who won’t give up on them. It’s not about dance. It’s about the goodness of real people, and I just love it.

3. Wonder Woman- Every time I see this movie it makes me weep. Not just cry. Full on weeping. I will be the first to admit it has flaws but none that matter. To me it is the story of a God who becomes acquainted with the frailty of mankind and how quickly we are to be cruel to each other. That realization is devastating and yet Diana does not lose hope. I love Steve Trevor and Diana. I love the side characters. I love the music. No Man’s Land is amazing. It’s my favorite superhero movie with the exception of maybe The Incredibles and it is very dear to me.

4. Personal Shopper- I admit Personal Shopper is an odd pick for me because it does have strong nudity but in a clinical more than a sensual nature. However, it blew me away with its character development and storytelling. It is part thriller, part mystery, part spiritual journey, and a million other things. Director Olivier Assayas has created a masterwork with perfect sound design, editing and a story that keeps you guessing. Kristen Stewart is heart breaking in the role of Maureen and you felt her grieving for her twin brother as the world spins around her in a way she can’t grasp on to. It’s by far the best acting I’ve seen all year and a movie I could watch 100 times and still see something new from.

5. A Silent Voice– I admit A Silent Voice is a tough sell for non-anime fans. It’s long and very steeped in Japanese mannerisms and conversation. But this is my list, and I loved it. Director Naoko Yamada has made a stunning film about a bully and his victim that connect years later and find an unexpected bond. The music is by far the best of the year. The animation is beautiful and the humanity she finds in both characters is so moving. There is one sequence in particular where Shouya rescues Nishimiya that takes my breath away.

My friend Christine and I did a podcast on this film that you should check out.

6. The Big Sick– The script for The Big Sick is without a doubt the best of the year. You can feel the closeness to the story that Kumail and Emily had in writing it. It’s heartfelt without being cloying. It’s funny without being annoying, and it’s a romantic comedy that isn’t crass or mean-spirited. Imagine that! Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are two of the best supporting performances of the year in roles that could easily be shrill and unlikable. I loved what the film had to say about religion and those who decide to stray. It honestly helped me understand people I love better and that is when movies have power.

7. The Girl Without Hands- Isn’t it amazing we still live in a world where one man can produce an animated film basically by himself? Sebastian Laudenbach did just that with The Girl Without Hands, and he created something stunning. It’s a piece of poetry at the cinemas with the words, images and music flowing along until you can’t help but be swept up.  His take on this Brothers Grimm fairytale is dark, romantic, and yet still hopeful. It was a stunning experience at the movies.

8. Ingrid Goes West- I love movies that have layers- that I see and its meaning and value keep growing as I think about them. Ingrid Goes West is such a film. On one level it is a satisfying film about social media addiction but that’s just the surface. When you dig deeper it’s about the loneliness of modern life and how poorly we are at providing resources for those facing a mental health crisis. All the acting is superb and the script feels authentic to its characters.

9. Get Out- Another movie with layers that I kept thinking about for days after I saw it. I initially gave it a B+ but would be higher now as it has really stuck with me. It can be enjoyed on a surface level as a horror comedy but it is also a commentary on those who think we are a post-racist society. As a conservative I thoroughly enjoyed smug liberals being finally put to the fire and called out on their nonsense. I also thought the alternate reality that African-Americans are forced to live in was beautifully displayed. The auction scene alone I could think about for weeks!

10. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion- For a long time I had Baahubali 2 as 12th on my list, but as I was finalizing the order it didn’t sit right. What other movie introduced me to a whole new world of cinema? (The debate was between this and Brigsby Bear which I connected strongly with). None opened my mind more than the madness of Baahubali 2! Sure it is exorbitantly long and silly but that’s part of the charm. It’s is over the top and bombastic in ways that US corporate planned blockbusters never are these days, and I loved every minute of it. I love the music, insane violence, and torrid romance. It’s a spectacle like none other.

Honorable Mentions:

11. Brigsby Bear- such heart and a lovely story it pains me to not be in the top 10. All about the magic of the creative process to save us

12. Dunkirk- probably the best experience I’ve had at the theater in 2017. A chance to get immersed in a moment of history. More of a reenactment than a narrative, and I was ok with that.

13. The Man Who Invented Christmas- destined to have a spot in my annual holiday viewing. It checked off so many of my boxes I had to mention it. A joy to watch!

14. The Breadwinner- beautiful animated film that combined a relevant story with stunning fantasy sequences. Heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. Over at Rotoscopers.com I led a group of writers to do a 5 part series on this film from all different angles I’m very proud of. My friend Conrado and I did a podcast on it that was a lot of fun.

15. Thor Ragnarok- This is probably the most rewatchable of any on this list. It was a blast and so funny!

16. The Greatest Showman- an old fashioned family musical that I love the more I think about it. I do not care in the slightest that it isn’t historically accurate. It’s a joyful experience that I have seen twice and am itching to see again.

My worst of the year you can find here:

  1. The Glass Castle
  2. Spark a Space Tail
  3. The Emoji Movie
  4. Pottersville
  5. The Dark Tower
  6. Pitch Perfect 3
  7. Transformers: The Last Knight
  8. The Book of Henry
  9. The Circle
  10. Beatriz at Dinner
  11. Gifted
  12. Lady Macbeth
  13. King Arthur and the Legend of the Sword

(Not all are badly made but all irritated me or were terrible to me in one way or another)

Current Mini Reviews

I, Tonya

The performances are very strong from Margot Robbie and Allison Janney and deserve nominations, but I had mixed feelings on I, Tonya. On one hand it is interesting to hear another side of such a famous story but the style of the movie felt a little too silly for the narrative it was telling. It was unique but felt unfair and superficial to all involved especially Nancy. You can’t humanize a somewhat notorious character by making her struggles a joke.

Grade- B-

Smile Worthy for the Performances

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

I don’t have much nostalgia for the original Jumanji film, so I was able to go into this sequel with an open mind. In the end, I was entertained by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The movie gets a lot of material by mixing up the genders of the characters in the movie and it is pretty funny. The special effects are great and it was overall a fun family film. The middle dragged a bit for me and I got a little sleepy is my only complaint. It does have a few inappropriate jokes involving the gender swapping parents should be aware of.

Grade B+

Smile Worthy

Batman and Harley Quinn

This is an absolutely appalling movie where a man is raped as a joke and Harley Quinn proves to be one of the most annoying characters in recent memory. It is awful

Grade- F

Frown Worthy

Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

Very sweet animated shorts that will make the entire family laugh. The animation is a sketchy style but very pleasant and it stays strictly G rated fun. I particularly liked the final short which is holiday themed

Grade- B+

Smile Worthy

Call Me By Your Name

This film has gotten a lot of Oscar buzz with good cause as it is very beautifully filmed. The Italian countryside never looked better! Call Me By Your Name tells the story of a young man who falls in love with an older man played by Armie Hammer. I think this movie suffered a bit for me in comparison to Moonlight, which I think was a lot stronger. Moonlight has something anyone can relate to in the different parts of Chiron’s life. Here I struggled to relate to the lifestyle of these rather pedantic expats living in Italy. However, Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer are great and have wonderful chemistry together. I enjoyed the leisurely pace and the great writing by James Ivory. It’s a good movie. Just not as good as Moonlight.

The sensuality is very strong in here so you’ve been warned.

Grade- B+

 

Smile WorthyBattle of the Sexes

I don’t have many complaints about Battle of the Sexes. It’s a perfectly fine true story sports movie with some good performances. It tells the story of Billie Jean King and Bobby Rigg’s iconic tennis match in a satisfying but by the numbers way. Nothing really stood out to me and I had the feeling I will quickly forget it, but it’s fine.

Some strong sensuality in here also

Grade- B-

Smile Worthy

Sword Art Online: The Movie

As someone who has never seen the anime show it was a little confusing at times but Sword Art Online was pretty entertaining. I really like the set up and the world-building. The animation was great and the action was awesome. The female characters were a little weak. The pacing in between action scenes could drag but it was a worthwhile anime to watch

Grade- B

Smile Worthy

Ferdinand

This latest offering from Blue Sky is a harmless sweet animated film. It is certainly worlds better than the trailers demonstrated. I liked Ferdinand and how there really was no villain just characters with different points of view. The humor, especially the calming goat, was mostly good and overall it is enjoyable. The main problem is it feeling very played out and generic. I loved the music by John Powell with songs by Nick Jonas

GRADE B-

Smile Worthy 

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children-

I reviewed this for rotoscopers.com and it was a challenging film to review. It’s worth seeing for the visuals but it is a very strange movie. The characters are uber-cute but the settings and events are very violent and disturbing. It was intriguing but the lack of narrative was challenging. I admire it more than I like it but I’m glad I saw it

Grade- C+

Barely Smile Worthy for the Artistry

Disaster Artist

A very heartfelt and sweet movie about the making of the worst movie ever made- The Room. James Franco becomes Tommy Wiseau in every way and Dave Franco is also good as Greg Sestero. It’s a funny and engaging look at the power of creating something even if it is terrible. It’s no Ed Wood as far as filmmaking but I was entertained.

There is some nudity and language in this film

Grade- A-

Smile Worthy

The Mountains Between Us

This is a very dopey romantic survival story. Good thing for this movie is I like dopey romantic survival stories. It was just silly and fun enough to be entertaining. It’s not a good movie but I enjoyed watching it. It does make you wonder how 2 such quality actors got stuck in this film?

Grade- C+

Smile Worthy but I admit it isn’t a great film

Man Who Invented Christmas-

This checked off a lot of boxes for me. I love Christmas Carol. I love Dickens. I love British stories. I love this whole cast. I love Christmas movies. So it didn’t have to do much to win me over so it succeeded in doing just that. I loved the performances of Dan Stevens as Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Scrouge. I loved seeing the process behind the writing of Christmas Carol with them diving into his past and father at points. This is totally a  film I plan on buying and watching each year for the holidays.

Grade- A

Smile Worthy

So overall a pretty successful month of movie going! What have you seen? How would you rank these films? Put in the comments section. If I have time I will do longer reviews for these and will definitely be reviewing Greatest Showman and Coco eventually on this blog. Some like Ferdinand and The Disaster Artist I’ve reviewed on my youtube channel. Check those reviews out and make sure you are subscribed to this blog and the channel.

Merry late Christmas!

Pottersville Review

There are some movies that defy description. That you watch and then sit in stunned silence after wondering what you have just witnessed. This year’s Pottersville is such a film. As someone who watched 35 Hallmark original Christmas movies this year as well as films on Ion, Up and other questionable networks, Pottersville is the worst holiday film of the year and one of the worst I’ve ever seen. There is some argument to be made for ‘so bad it’s good’ entertainment but right now I’m just baffled by it and even more baffled that so many great people cosigned to be in it. It’s a festive train-wreck that must be seen to be believed.

Let’s start off with the fact that one of the great actors working today, Michael Shannon, leads this film. He stars as Maynard Greiger a simple general store manager who goes home one day to find out his wife has become a furry because country life is boring. Let that sentence sink in…

I have no problem with furries to be honest. Whatever people like to do in their free time is fine with me but the way this movie uses them is so weird and mocking in tone but then sincere is perplexing to say the least. They somehow got Christina Hendricks and Ron Perlman to play the furries! What on earth?

The devastated Maynard then decides to spice up his life by dressing up and becoming Bigfoot, which sends the town into a flutter. I repeat- what on earth? (And he drinks from a pee fountain at one point).

Then Thomas Lennon shows up as Brock Masterson, host of a Bigfoot hunting reality show and it is so bizarre. He flails about the forest with a bad Australian accent and it seems like he should be a crazy person but he’s not. He’s just in this movie. There is one scene with him defecating outside while talking to one of his producers that goes on forever. The attempts at physical, mad-cap comedy are so bad it defies description. I just couldn’t believe this is a thing that was made by top tier talent?

There is also the Christmas aspects to the film, which are bizarre. Like how about the many references to It’s a Wonderful Life? Because that’s the first movie I think of when making a list of silly holiday comedies. Also the ever-present strange holiday soundtrack that is surprisingly traditional for such an anarchist movie. And I’ve seen about 10 ‘save the ____’ Christmas movies this year but this expects you to feel warm and fuzzy about this ‘Bigfoot’ sighting literally saving the town when its dilapidated town mill becomes a tourist attraction. What on earth?

Pottersville is one of those movies that is very difficult to rank because it is so bad it is fascinating and must be seen by all. Do I rank this over a mediocre bad movie like The Emoji Movie? Pottersville is worse than Emoji Movie but it is worse in more interesting ways. People were trying to make a holiday classic and it failed spectacularly where nobody was really trying to make a great movie with Emoji.

The only thing I can think to compare it with is last year’s 9 Lives but this is even stranger narratively. I just don’t know what to say or how to adequately describe this film.

It is available on Netflix so watch it for yourself and see what epically bad movies can achieve.

By the way check out my podcast on Hallmark movies I’ve been doing with my friend Amber. I’m super proud of it.

Pitch Perfect 3 Review (Some Spoilers)

Let me start by saying to most people Pitch Perfect 3 is just a lame comedy but to me it hurt my heart quite a bit. I don’t have many live action comedies I like these days. Most are so vulgar and obscene that I don’t even bother seeing them let alone loving them. However, the original Pitch Perfect was an exception to this rule. It was funny, empowering and had some great music, and I loved it so much.

I went to a college where acapella music was kind of a big deal, so that music will always be nostalgic for me, but even beyond that nostalgia these girls were good singers, and the arrangements were creative. I also loved the characters particularly Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy who wasn’t just a fat joke but owned who she was and was hilariously self-confident. Anyway, I loved the first movie and it will always be special to me.

And then there was the second movie, which I probably gave more of a pass to than I should have. It had just enough funny parts but it was a decent step down in quality. Of course, it made a ton of money so we all knew there would be a Pitch Perfect 3 . Honestly, the resulting film is not a pretty scene you guys.

Pitch Perfect 3 kind of sucks and it makes me really sad.

The cast of the Bellas are all back and they are all trying. There is chemistry there and some of the singing is good (but a little boring this time). The problem is the plot is super weak and it’s not funny at all. I don’t know what they were thinking with this story. I felt embarrassed for these actors especially John Lithgow who should be banned from Australia with the accent he tries to pull off.

Basically the Bellas reunite and go on a USO tour which is also a competition for some rapper. Most of that is very boring with terrible jokes sprinkled in usually about how fat Amy is. Fat Amy has gone from empowering to a complete joke. Then in a completely baffling second act the girls get abducted and Fat Amy becomes an action hero taking out bad guys with karate chops. I just sat there thinking ‘what have you done with my sweet little comedy?”

All of the relationships from the previous films are abandoned except for the Bellas and Becca (Anna Kendrick) immediately abandons her dreams of producing music because pop stars are difficult to work with- what the heck? There was never any sense of her wanting to be a solo singer or that being a dream of hers in the previous films. Literally she doesn’t even want to join the bellas because it will detract from her producing work.

But all of that wouldn’t matter if it was funny but the humor was insultingly bad. They don’t even get any laughs from Gail and John commentating. It just sucks. My advice is to buy the album and listen to a few songs and watch the first movie again. Pitch Perfect 3 deserves to be pitched in the trash. To use a pun from the movie- it is acaterrible.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review (Some Spoilers)

So I’m told a little movie came out this week? You might have heard of it- Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This latest edition in the Star Wars saga has pleased most people and critics while disappointing a small, yet always with the internet, vocal minority. So, what do I think you ask? Well, I think it is the first Star Wars movie to 100% embrace its fantasy origins, and I liked it fine. I guess I’m somewhere in between masterpiece and worst movie ever- as most films are. Let’s put it this way- it’s no Force Awakens, but I was entertained enough (ps. I love the Force Awakens. I think outside of Wonder Woman it is one of the most rousing, fun blockbusters in recent memory).

I guess the problems with the Last Jedi didn’t bother me like some people because I have already dealt with a disappointing film in Rogue One and came out of it still loving the franchise. I think Last Jedi is a step up from Rogue One in pretty much every way but it does have some of its problems (and some new ones all its own).

Let’s talk about it:

In Force Awakens we left Rey meeting Luke on the island of Ahch-To, and that’s where things pick up for her in Last Jedi. She wants to be trained by Luke and recruit him to help the rebellion but he is not interested. Luke is a confusing character in this film. Much like Saw Gerrera in Rogue One I felt the screenplay couldn’t quite decide if he was a monster or a hero. It swung a lot, which was more frustrating than intriguing.  Mark Hammil is up for the challenge of the role and does a great job but it was confusing. I hope repeated viewings will clarify that character arc for me.

The best part of The Last Jedi by far is the performance of Daisy Ridley as Rey and her interactions with Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. I was nervous about this from the trailer but it completely worked for me. I never would have thought those characters would have had such chemistry, but I was honestly rooting for both of them. The energy and connection between them was palpable and really worked.  We also learn things about Rey that I have no doubt disappointed fanboys with their elaborate theories, but I thought it was cool. It’s very impressive that director Rian Johnson was able to move me from hating the killer of Han Solo to rooting for the guy!

At the same time Rey is having her adventure several other plotlines are going on. We get more information about Poe Dameron and find out that he operates on gut instinct, which can be both admirable and reckless. General Leia is concerned about his behavior and even demotes him. This is great because we see both the strength of Leia and the loyal, fearsome nature of Poe. Oscar Isaac has charisma in spades and is so great as Poe. I could have watched him all day.

Finn is back from Force Awakens and is joined by a new character named Rose who challenges his lack of loyalty to the Resistance (at times the modern resist messaging felt a little heavy handed). The two of them are sent to a planet by Maz Kanata to try and find a code breaker who can help them disable a First Order tracking device. I liked these characters but it is probably the weakest part of the film. I didn’t hate it as much as some but it was weak. I loved scenes in this section of children playing with dolls and telling each other the story of the Rebellion. This is the true essence of Star Wars- inspiring young kids to be better and dream more.

There is also action in Last Jedi that should make any Star Wars fan happy. A couple of light saber battles in particular are exhilarating. Rey and Kylo face off against Supreme Leader Snoke and my jaw was on the floor. It was awesome (I’m telling you anything with those two was amazing. Note to Lucasfilm- don’t abandon that pairing!).

BB8 returned and was completely adorable once again. Some may call it fan service but I don’t care. I thought it was delightful. Also C-3PO and R2D2 were used more effectively in this film than in The Force Awakens.

The last act of Last Jedi has some problems and makes confusing choices but it still entertained me. I didn’t care for Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo and felt her dialogue was very clunky. It reminded me of the prequels to be honest. I also felt that she took away moments of strength that Leia should have had. I also felt the way things finish for Luke should have been the ending for Leia. It was emotional to say goodbye to Leia for sure, but I don’t know if the movie really allowed me to say goodbye the way I hoped.

The biggest issue for me with Last Jedi is like I said the full embrace of fantasy over science fiction. There is literally a scene where a character uses the force to stay alive in space and float/fly back to a ship remaining alive. I used to see the force as more of a priesthood than a super power. It was the kind of strength the prophets of the Bible had which allowed them to part seas and destroy evil idols. However, it did not allow them to fly or go unharmed into blaster fire or combat. In Rogue One we saw the force being used as a super power and this has continued in abundance in Last Jedi.

In the end, with Last Jedi it comes down to what you like from Star Wars. My favorite was always the original Star Wars (now coined ‘A New Hope’) because it was a rousing space adventure that made you cheer at the end.  This is why I loved Force Awakens so much. It was tightly paced and edited with a true heroes journey that inspired me.

However, if you love Star Wars for the world building, mythos and lore than Last Jedi will be more up your ally. I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing it again but it was a more challenging watch than I anticipated. It’s messy and long but if I was a big fantasy person I would probably love it, flaws and all. I will keep pondering particularly Luke’s journey and my grade may rise over time but for now I give the Last Jedi:

Overall Grade- B-

PS- I am more grateful than ever before we have JJ Abrams coming back for the final episode of this trilogy to end it off on a rousing fun note!

2018 Blind Spot Picks

I know I should be giving you my written reviews for Last Jedi and Coco and I apologize for being woefully behind. (I do have reviews of those and Ferdinand on my youtube channel and will be a writing machine over the Christmas holiday because my family is all abandoning me LOL). However, I am not in the mood to write a review tonight but will instead give you my next 12 picks for the Blind Spot series!

The Blind Spot series is something I have been doing for the last 2 years where each month I watch a movie I’ve never seen before that is highly regarded and give you my thoughts. Nobody has seen every movie and I certainly have my fair share of big gaps. Participating in this series allows me to fill in some of those gaps and have a little fun while I’m at it. I encourage all of you to participate if you have a blog or youtube channel! It’s a ton of fun.

So here are my next round of picks:

January

The New World- Director and Writer Terrence Malick

It’s a new year so why not start with A New World? I have long been a Malick defender as he makes art pieces over traditional narratives but here is a narrative about Pocahontas that I have long wanted to see. I love Collin Farrell and am not a big fan of the Disney version so this will be nice to see.

February

The Palm Beach Story- Director and Writer Preston Sturges

February seems like the perfect time to catch up on my Preston Sturges viewing. If you don’t know Preston Sturges was the king of romantic comedies in the 40s, so that is of course right up my ally. In The Palm Beach Story he directs Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea in a comedy where a couple decides to divorce so she can marry a millionaire to help support his big inventions.

March

The Seventh Seal-  Director and Writer Ingmar Bergman

I have a confession. I have never seen an Ingmar Bergman film. As a film fan of course I know the name but have never seen any of his films. Well, that changes this year with The Seventh Seal.  I don’t know much about the film except it is about a knight playing chess with Death personified and that Roger Ebert declared it ‘one of the masterpieces of cinema’. That’s good enough for me to give it a watch!

April

The Green Mile- Director and Writer Frank Darabont from Stephen King novel

Based on the Stephen King novel, The Green Mile is one of the few Tom Hanks films I haven’t seen. It tells the story of a death row corrections officer during The Great Depression. It was nominated for best picture and best supporting actor for Michael Clarke Duncan, so I look forward to watching it.

May

Gallipoli- Director Peter Weir

Gallipoli is my friend Phaedra’s favorite movie. Enough said. I will watch it! It’s directed by Peter Weir and stars a young Mel Gibson about 2 Australian sprinters who are sent to fight in Turkey during World War 1.

June

The Cat Returns- Director Hiroyuki Morita

In 2018 I will finish watching all the Studio Ghibli films. One that remains on my list is The Cat Returns. It is about a young girl that gets engaged to a cat prince in a magical world where she must rely on a dapper cat statuette come to life to save her. It looks like a ton of fun!

July

The Last Emperor- Director and Writer Bernardo Bertolucci

I had long heard about The Last Emperor but hadn’t seen it probably because it is nearly 3 hours long. However, it won 9 Academy Awards including best picture and it is time to check it off my list! This epic film tells the story of the last emperor of China Pu Yi.

August

The Young Girls of Rochefort- Director and Writer Jacques Demy

I love the Umbrellas of Cherbourg so I want to check off more of Jacques Demy off my list and so in August I will watch The Young Girls of Rochefort. This stars Catherine Deneuve who is also in Cherbourg along with Francoise Dorleac and Gene Kelly. It is about two sisters who head to the city in search of romance and are hired at a carnival. Kelly plays an American musician one of the girls falls for

September

Ikiru- Director and Writer Akira Kurosawa

In September I will move over to Japan and acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa’s film Ikiru. I have seen Throne of Blood and Seven Samurai and enjoyed both of those. Ikiru is another long movie from Kurosawa but it sounds like a very good film. It is about a bureaucrat wasting away at a terrible job (a theme I love) that finds out he has cancer and must come to terms with his life.

October

Scream- Director Wes Craven

Yes, believe it or not I have never seen Scream. I just have never been that into horror movies so it didn’t appeal to me. Over the last few years I have been trying to expand out of my comfort zone so, I think October will be a good time to check this horror classic off of my list. This is a horror comedy I am told so hopefully it will be fun.

November

Whisper of the Heart- Directed by Yoshifumi Kondo Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki

Whisper of the Heart is the final Studio Ghibli film for me and I will have seen the entire canon. It is one of the only films not directed by Miyazaki or Takahata but it definitely has their influence. It’s a love story between a girl who loves reading books, and the boy who checks out all the library books she chooses. That sounds adorable and I can’t wait to watch it.

December

Desk Set- Director Walter Lang

I must admit I didn’t love another pairing of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy called Adam’s Rib, but hopefully I will like Desk Set better. It is set during the holidays and it is about 2 strong personalities who must work together to modernize Hepburn’s computer machine and her entire studio. This seems a surprising plot for 1957 so I am intrigued to watch it. I’m running out of Christmas movies I haven’t seen so hopefully this will be a good one!

So what do you think of my list? Have you seen any of these films? Let me know your thoughts and I look forward to a fun 2018!

Most Disappointing Films of 2017

Hey guys! So before a whole bunch of busy holiday releases I thought I would share with all of you my first 2017 end of the year list. I plan on doing a bunch of videos/posts to end of the year, so let me know what topics you would like to see. Today’s topic is My Top 10 Biggest Disappointments in 2017.

My Most Biggest Disappointments of 2017 (have to watch to find out why!)

Honorable Mentions- The Beguiled, The Mummy, The Zookeeper’s Wife

10. Dark Tower

9. Victoria and Abdul

8. Murder on the Orient Express

7. Home Again

6. Lego Ninjago

5. Kong Skull Island

4. Loving Vincent

3. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

2. Sherlock

  1. Anne with an E