Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Second viewing (the first). The opening bombing run is really good. I’d forgotten about it – holds up on rewatch. The casino interlude is so, so dumb. I appreciate the visual contrasts in the salt planet battle. Not just the colors, but the scale, like with Finn’s tiny figure juxtaposed with the gigantic tanks in empty space. We need more like that. So many close-ups. Love the tortured silence of Kylo Ren. So depressed, a mindset to just let it all go, burn it all down. Broader theme here of how brash, seat-of-the-pants heroism is often foolish. The writing still strikes me as bad in many spots. I didn’t notice the first time around how the kid Force-pulls himself a broom at the end.
Black Panther. Solid entry. Great villain, but our hero is kinda bland. I’m not over the moon with it. Lots of humor falling flat. I selfishly liked seeing the High Museum as a featured setting. Seemed like there’s some Star Wars influence here. Also, love to see MMA becoming a part of the action movie vocabulary. Not just punches and kicks, but the grappling, throws, chokes, holds, etc.. These people should be complete martial artists. The star of the soundtrack was the talking drums. 👌
Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I liked it, overall, and it had just enough small things to drive me a little nuts. Snoke is a misfire (just call Ed Harris! You have the budget!), and so were the various little animals. That one ship’s jump to light speed was sublime. And very good space debris throughout. I like our time with Rey and Kylo, and Poe’s debacles. Finn was wasted, unfortunately. Benicio Del Toro is the best, but I wish they could have found him some other way. The space chase could and should have been gut-wrenching, but something about the cuts and pacing made it just sort of… there. I wonder how I’ll feel whenever I rewatch it again. Of the latest batch, this ranks behind Rogue One. Filed under: Star Wars.
War for the Planet of the Apes. Kind of a bummer. At first I was really into the melodrama. Eventually, it became very tedious. It seemed like they were stopping for a sappy moment every 5-10 minutes. The Gollum/Jar Jar ape didn’t help. I also don’t understand why a crucial character uses a crossbow in a world with guns. Another hang-up was that I couldn’t figure out how the world fit together. That’s one thing I liked about Rise… and Dawn… – the geography was clear. You knew who was where. This one started in those awesome rainforests, then moved to a snowscape, and then to the Sierras? Or Tahoe? The previous ones were strong in that they felt like our world. I don’t know what happened to it here. Bummer. Filed under: Planet of the Apes.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The Riders of Rohan are the best. Loved’em in the book. Love’em in the movies. I think they nailed the melodrama in this one. And the build-up to the spider set-piece is pretty great. I still think the song during the closing credits is a huge misfire. Should have gone instrumental!
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. You can see the move ripping at the seams. There’s a lot of story to pack in here. Lots of it feels clipped, rushed, off-kilter. Romances are un-earned. Jarring shifts in tone. Gimli has a lot more to say. Legolas slides on a shield? It’s a mess, but may have the best landscapes of the trilogy.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Appreciated the soundtrack more this time around. Pretty sure it’s borrowing from Dvorak. Also reminded me of The Last of the Mohicans in mood. Great work with the suspense and setting the sense, and such a great ending. Not a teaser, but a promise of adventure.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I had fun, and quickly forgot it. It mostly felt good to be watching a Star Wars movie again. If you’re pretty sure you don’t care about Star Wars in general, this movie will not convince you otherwise. If you do, you will probably leave feeling satisfied, depending on how you like your ratio of pandering nostalgia vs. breaking new ground. The hat-tips and references to previous movies wore thin pretty quickly and for me slowed down what otherwise has some nice momentum. Definitely some groaners, though (for example, the snowy mountain Nazi castle…). I really like Ridley and Chiyoga as the new faces. Isaac is always reliable. I feel like in a few months or maybe not until VIII we’ll look back and admit “Hey, VII is pretty thin but it’s not a total trainwreck and that’s okay”. Ranking the best episode 7’s in 2015:
- Creed, by a landslide.
- Furious 7
- The Force Awakens
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Really underwhelming. I was so fired up for this after re-watching Rise… and hearing good reviews. I think the best way to summarize this one is that there’s just not much to be curious about. Once you get the early outlines, you could finish the screenplay yourself. Bonus points, though, for good use of xylophone in the score. I also thought it was interesting that they only used a handful of locations for this movie: city, grove, dam, village, apartment. Reminded me of the clashing civilizations/neighbors in The New World. Took me the longest time to realize how I recognized Kodi Smit-McPhee: Let Me In.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes. A refresher viewing before the upcoming sequel. I liked it a good bit more than the first time I saw it. Now I appreciate more how the milder human performances help highlight the apes (backhanded compliment?). But wow the apes are great. Good heart in this one.
The Prestige. Themes: obsession, sacrifice, craft, identity, showmanship, revenge, deceit, science as magic, etc. It’s a little mechanical and maybe overstuffed, but always interesting. Hugh Jackman is excellent. I expect viewers would either love or hate the ending, in which the inevitable is delayed while the story is re-told and all is explained. I kinda hate that, but I should have expected as much. I guess that’s Nolan’s own prestige moment? I get really annoyed when you watch a movie and then, near the end, the movie tells you about the story that happened that you didn’t know about. (Yeah, I know I complained about this recently.) Good twists are fine, but they always make me wonder how you could tell the same story in an engaging way while sharing more details with the audience up front. Isn’t it also fun when we know something the other characters don’t?
I’ve now seen all of Christopher Nolan’s feature-length movies. Here’s how they stack up for me right now:
- Memento (with a commanding lead)
- Batman Begins (I’d like to re-watch this soon)
- The Prestige
- Following (tied for third?)
- The Dark Knight