Friday, 22 December 2017

'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' (2017) Review: Steady Your Pitchforks

After the end of ‘The Force Awakens’, it’s safe to say, the films are decidedly safe. Since its return, the franchise has remade one movie and made another as a tangential story add-on. So, walking into ‘The Last Jedi’, I was as underwhelmed as one can be for a ‘Star Wars’ film. That is to say, extremely excited, but not as excited as I should’ve been.


Thankfully, ‘The Last Jedi’ is exactly what should have always been. Picking up what feels like literal minutes after the last installment, ‘The Last Jedi’ is a righteous venture in well-paced adventure. The first 15 minutes of the film are not for the faint of heart, and it stands as perhaps the best opening to a Star Wars film yet. It only goes up from there, as ‘The Last Jedi’ combines what made the previous films so iconic, all the while feeling wholly unique.

Me looking at 'The Last Jedi' breaking all my preconceptions

The film is a testament to expert timing. For a runtime of 2 hours and 30 minutes, it never feel as though it drags. That’s not to say the film is your typical popcorn fare. There’s action to spare yes, but it’s not overblown. Rian Johnson has seemed to have taken note from last years ‘Rogue One’ and opted for a film that treats its sweeping epics as a backdrop, rather than the main focus.

The film is much more interested in its characters, their internal struggle, and of course, the force. Expect a lot of talk about the force. If you’ve never been a fan of the series’ ill-defined, mysterious plot device, ‘The Last Jedi’ is not the film for you. To that end, the film mostly succeeds at crafting an enjoyable narrative, but a few glaring moments keep it from feeling as tight as it could have been.
Just a few

There's a distinct theme of legacy in 'The Last Jedi'. Something a franchise this beloved is more than familiar with. While many will feel slighted by the way the film handles its rich and storied history, it's at the very least consistent. The beginning, middle, and end of 'The Last Jedi' all work towards bringing its core message through, loud and clear. By the end I felt a resounding understanding of the film, what it was trying to say, and how it made me feel. It was far more thoughtful than I'd anticipated.

The characters in the film are the avatars by which that main message is delivered. At the same time though, they're subject to subplots that have less effectual success. It's not to say that the individual character arcs are bad, but they are a bit obvious, and at times heavy handed. Still, it's a blessing that I never felt as though the movie felt unbalanced. In fact, with all that's going on in 'The Last Jedi', it's a wonder it's not falling apart at the seams.

It's almost as if a mystical presence is binding the film's elements together

I suppose there's something to be said for the way the cast sells the film. Of course, returning members like Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are more than versed in their characters, but new cast members only improved from their last appearance. Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron is given more material than the last film, and the film is better for it. Oscar Isaac is not an asset to be wasted.

The light side all has players that do their jobs well. The dark side though, continues to feel like their in a completely different film. Kylo Ren is far more sympathetic this time around, and seeing Adam Driver's face gives the audience more to go off of. The problem, if you can call it that, lies in Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux. His performance feels like his note was to always go bigger and louder. In a film that takes time to delve into characters, is light on action, and employs a healthy dose of nuance, it's incredibly jarring to see what feels like the id of your average neo nazi brought to life. Then again, the character is played mostly for laughs so, I suppose that's something.
Sometimes you're to take him seriously but...that's impossible.
‘The Last Jedi’ is a Star Wars film through and through. It has all the staples that have made the series great, but at the same time, it eradicates so many things holding it down. It’s by no means perfect, and at times, its plot suffers for the sake of character moments that feel unearned or needlessly convoluted. That said, the film is one of the best looking movies of the year, and crafts images never before seen in a ‘Star Wars’ film. I’d definitely recommend seeing it in the cinema.

Rating: Big Screen Watch.

Here's a spoiler discussion I had with Shawna from Movie Money:

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Monday, 18 December 2017

35. Movie Money 18/12/2017

Well, it's finally here. The biggest film of the year. A a title previously yearned for by Justice Leagues, Furiously Fast cars, Beauties and Beasts. Some came closer than others, but none could match up to the might of a galaxy far far away. Yes the #1 film this weekend was 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi', bringing in a domestic opening of $220m, and a worldwide gross of $450m. A domestic open second only to its predecessor 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'. While sequels typically do better than the film that came before it, 'Force Awakens' benefitted from being the return to franchise that had been dormant for 10 years, and a continuation of a story with over 30 years of anticipation behind it.

Not exactly news that this made bank.

There's no doubt that 'The Last Jedi' will make lots of money in the weeks to come, especially when it's biggest competition is a sequel to Jumanji. With that said the rest of the top 5 demands discussion. #2 belongs to 'Ferdinand'. The friendly bull gained $13.4m domestically and has achieved a worldwide gross of $19.5m. Doesn't bode well for the film's $111m budget. #3 is 'Coco' dethroned from its top spot bringing in just under $10m with $9.4m, and bringing its domestic total to $150.7m, and it's worldwide cume to $450.6m.

At #4 we have the wonder that is 'Wonder', bringing in $5.4m, and reaching $109.2m domestically, and $153.6m worldwide. Impressive. Lastly there's the 'Justice League' which brought in $4.1m this weekend, with a domestic total of $219.4m and a worldwide gross of $635.9m. Unimpressive.

That's the report and here's the podcast discussion where Shawna and Damian discuss the top 5, the Disney/Fox deal, and Star Wars The Last Jedi.

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Monday, 11 December 2017

34. Movie Money 11/12/2017

For the past 3 weeks, the top 3 movies of the week have been the exact same. 'Coco' at number 1, 'Justice League' at number 2, and 'Wonder' at number 3. 'Thor: Ragnarok' has been at either 4 or 5, to round out the box office, with the odd companion every other week. All I'm saying is, it's a good thing next week has two big releases, so the box office gets shaken up a bit.

At number 5 we have 'Thor Ragnarok', possibly its last week in the top 5 winning $6.3m. It's had a phenomenal run and has surpassed $800m worldwide. It passed $300m this week domestically making 'Thor' one of the most successful movies of the year. At number 4 there's 'The Disaster Artist' which made an impressive $6.4m this weekend after getting a wider release. Thing is, on only 800 theatres, it's pretty phenomenal that the movie should get this kind of business.

At number 3, there's 'Wonder' which has made $8.4m this week, and has brought it's worldwide total to $120m, with a domestic total of $100m. 'Justice League' continues to underperform at $9.5m, and is almost certainly going to do less than its predeccesor 'Man of Steel', which made around $660m, wheras 'Justice League' has made $614m. Finally the number 1 movie is again 'Coco', with $18.3m this weekend, and a worldwide total of $389m. The top 3 films seem to have cornered the market on crying audiences. 'Wonder' for the crying moms, 'Coco' the rest of the family, and 'Justice League', Warner Bros. Executives.

That's the report this week and here's the podcast: