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.
The Revenant. Second viewing (the first). I appreciate it so much more this time around. Jumping out this time were the recurring trees that save his life or support him throughout. (“The wind cannot defeat a tree with strong roots. If you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you see its stability.”) Like when he uses a branch as a cane. Or when injured, he’s hauled on a pallet of branches. When leaving his son for the last time, he turns away and props himself on a tree trunk. When escaping downriver, he floats on a log. He’s sheltered by an impromptu branch hut during a storm, a tree breaks his fall from a cliff, a tree branch makes a decoy when trying to lure Fitzgerald out of hiding. I also liked the nature interludes – elk crossing a river, buffalo stampede, avalanche – that make this epic tale seem so small, and nature indifferent.
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.
The Revenant. I still hold to my first reaction:
I wish THE REVENANT were wilder, of all things. Camera makes you feel not like you’re there, but like you’re on an Arctic ride on rails. Or a videogame cut scene? I liked it though. Looked like the most miserable filming experience one could ask for. Also, Tom Hardy has never lost a staring contest.
A bit of a slog. Doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of meat on those bones. Birdman also felt a bit stifling for me. Amazing that this thing got made, though. I wonder if all the PR talk about the filming conditions was sort of an admission/cover that they didn’t quite get what they wanted out of this one.
See also: The Grey and Grizzly Man.
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
Ex Machina. Definitely thinner the second time around (the first), but it’s still fun.
Ex Machina. One of my favorites of the year so far. Oscar Isaac’s Nathan is awesome, flipping back and forth from intimidating to genial. He’s a brogrammer archetype. Excellent critique here of tech sexism and overreach. His overconfidence makes him too casual, flippant about the ethics. Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb has his own blinders, about gender in particular. Some of the dialogue was tiresome. I wish they’d felt more courage to just let people talk, and let the audience get lost a bit (if needed) without preface and theory. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised how they handled the ending. I’d imagined something more traditional. Loved it. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for a couple weeks now. Good stuff.