Friday, July 6, 2018

Friday, June 29, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a busy movie, so much so that I didn't feel like I could absorb it all on the first viewing.  I was unhappy with the ending, which is confusing, has too many twists, and ties up everything a little too neatly.  This detracted from what was an otherwise a fun movie.  I needed to see Solo a second time so that I could better understand the film.  In fact, I caught the last showing before it disappeared from my local theaters. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story starts out fun as we learn that gangsters on Corellia force kids into a life of crime. Solo looks like he is barely an adult as he schemes with his girlfriend, Kira, to escape from under the thumb of a gangster.  Parts of this story aren't as logical as they could be, but we get a thrilling chase scene as Solo and Kira try to flee.  Kira doesn't escape, and Solo's only way out is to join the military of the Empire.

Jump to three years later and Solo tries to desert from the Empire, meets Chewbacca, barely escapes death, and joins a gang of thieves lead by Tobias Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson.  They hope to make a big score that will allow them all to retire from a life of crime, but things don't go well, which leads to a confrontation with a gangster, Dryden Voss, played by Paul Bettany who we know from the Avengers movies.  They try to make a second score, which leads to further complications, including joining up with Lando Calrissian and making the famous Kessel Run.

All this is fun until the ending.  On the second viewing the movie made complete sense to me, unlike the first time, and I was better able to appreciate the film and ending.  I understand what they were trying to do, but the ending is still a bit too convoluted, forced, and not particularly logical given what we know about the Han Solo character and the universe he lives in.

Does Alden Ehrenreich make a good young Han Solo?  I like this actor, but initially he seems unconvincing.   On the second viewing it was easier for me to accept him in this role because I understood better how this character is young, naive and too optimistic.  However, we have no reason to think that he would be this way given that he grew up under the worst possible conditions.  He is very green, but this is not how we imagine Han Solo would be compared to the older cynical version we saw in the original Star Wars movie.  I expect him to be cynical from the start.

Other than Solo and Beckett, this movie lacks interesting characters.  Voss is somewhat intriguing, but his screen time is short and he seems like a stereotypical gangster.  Kira is a generic girlfriend character until a plot twist at the end.

Much has been written about Donald Glover's portrayal of Lando Calrissian.  He does a good job, but the character isn't particularly likeable, and it is hard to see why Solo develops a friendship with him.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is often exciting, starts out fun, but doesn't really finish that way.  This is a decent movie that could and should have been better given the $260 million dollars they spent on it.  There were production problems, the original two directors were fired, and most of the movie had to be reshot.  The movie doesn't always seem logical, nor is it always consistent with the Star Wars universe that we already know. One scene bothered me when Solo walks up to a bar and orders a "brandy."  It blows my mind that an earthly drink would exist a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I am changing my rating from from three stars to three and a quarter stars.  Instead of giving it a "B-" I am giving it a "B+."  Solo could have been better, but it is okay.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Movie Pass

My problem with Movie Pass is that everybody who signs up for the service expects to get more out of the service than what it costs.  Assuming that people actually use the service after they pay for it, there is no way Movie Pass can stay in business.  In this respect it could resemble a pyramid scheme.  Those who paid for a whole year will have to use the service as much as possible before the company folds up, just to get their money's worth.

At least the AMC service couldn't go out of business, because they own the theaters.  The worst that could happen is that they stop offering the service.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Solo bad.

If you don't mind the 50 minute length, this video is pretty entertaining and spot on.


I enjoyed the movie up to the ending, which somehow bothered me, and made the movie feel average.

 I am planning to see the movie a 2nd time real soon just to make sure that I'm not being too hard on it.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

"The Last Jedi is amazing and you are all insane."

I like the perspective expressed by this video "The Last Jedi is amazing and you are all insane." :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXCLJp541Pw    I'm not as positive as he is, but I agree with his points about The Last Jedi taking the story in a new and positive direction.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story


Solo:  A Star Wars Story feels a bit like a history lesson, filling in the backstory of Han Solo, for example letting us know how Han Solo met Chewbacca, met Lando Calrissian, acquired the Millennium Falcon and completed the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.  

That sounds like fun, and mostly it is.  I was really enjoying the movie until the ending.  What's wrong with the ending?  Nothing major.  However, despite the movie feeling slightly too long, the ending wraps up the plot threads a little too quickly and too easily.  For me it felt kind of forced.  That's when I realized that Solo: A Star Wars Story seems kind of average and not particularly special.  It is mostly a heist film in space with space gangsters.  You could have had the same story in another setting that didn't have anything to do with Star Wars, like a western.  The film as given doesn't really add anything to the Star Wars saga.  It slips in a couple of easter eggs that have implications for the Star Wars story in general, but they weren't significant enough for me to care.  

There is a big reveal at the end of the movie that sets up a sequel, but the reveal isn't too surprising to anyone who has watched the Star Wars The Clone Wars animated TV series.

As far as characters are concerned, again I don't feel like we got anything special.  Chewbacca is probably the most interesting character in the movie.  Alden Ehrenreich is passable as a young Han Solo, but he is too bright eyed and bushy tailed.  He is green and lacks any kind of hard edge that we would expect from Han Solo.  Lando Calrissian as played by Donald Glover is good, but none of the other characters really stand out; they feel ordinary, just like the story feels ordinary.

Even when I watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which if we are to believe Rotten Tomatoes was hated by half the fans, I felt like I was watching something truly special and significant to Star Wars.  With Solo we get a story we didn't need that is kind of forgettable, with a great many characters that we only partially care about.  Perhaps one problem with the movie is that it has too many characters.

The movie had production problems and its budget exceeded 250 million dollars.  For that kind of money, my expectations for the film were a little higher than what we got.   The movie is entertaining enough, but that is all it is.  Star Wars deserves better. People go to see Star Wars movies because they are exceptional, not because they are average.  Part of the problem is that Disney is making too many Star Wars movies, so the quality of the storytelling is being diluted.

Rating:  * * *   or B-.

Solo has a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  My favorite movie critic, Richard Roeper, gives the film three and half stars.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Full Star Wars Movie Schedule and Release Date Calendar

Defending "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace"

In response to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ7j3IG4OVY, I wrote:

I think that The Phantom Menace is vastly underrated.  People let their dislike of Jar Jar, who I didn't mind as a comic foil, discolor an otherwise really good movie.  (I have to add that in Science Fiction, it would be seem unlikely that all the intelligent species would be of the same intelligence.  That would be nearly impossible.  So it makes sense that you could have one group less intelligent than another.  Using one of them as a comic foil is an artistic choice, but in an otherwise overly serious movie you need some humor to lighten it up.  Although many people found Jar Jar cringeworthy, I like the character.  It was kind of nice to see him the animated shows as well.)

I have seen most of the movies multiple times, and the original 18 times over the last 42 years.  So my ranking of the movies we have seen so far is ...

1.  The Empire Strikes Back.
2.  A New Hope.
3.  The Phantom Menace.  (Maybe there are some flaws, but there are many good moments.)
4.  Return of The Jedi.  (The singing Ewoks were awful, and these were later replaced by an embarrassingly bad musical number in Jaba's Palace.  It is definitely weaker than the first two movies.  I almost made this #6, but it is still a memorable classic and a necessary conclusion to the original trilogy.)
5.  Attack of the Clones.  (Maybe the dialog could have been better but overall the movie is pretty entertaining.)
6.  Revenge of the Sith.  (Too much action at the expense of the characters.  Anakin's turn is not completely believable.  There is a major plot hole that Obi Wan and Yoda did not work together to defeat Palpatine.  The death of Padme is kind of weird.)
7.  The Force Awakens.  (Feels like an imitation of a Star Wars movie where they almost got it right, but not quite.  They don't provide enough information to support these characters, so the movie feels like it is full of plot holes.)
8.  Rogue One.   (It's a good movie, but somehow it didn't come across to me to be as great as its predecessors.  It is more fan service.  Feels kind of forced.  Not really a movie we needed, but enjoyable.)
9.  The Last Jedi.  (Despite some really obvious flaws, including some really bad plot holes, I think that the good parts outweigh the bad parts.)

Looking forward to seeing Solo.  Even if it is flawed, and even if it pushes an agenda, I'm sure it will be entertaining.  Hope I'm not wrong.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Avengers Infinity War

There have been eighteen Marvel Universe movies since 2008.  These have introduced a large number of characters, i.e. heroes, most of which come together in this movie to fight a single enemy named Thanos.  Previous movies hinted at infinity stones being powerful and dangerous, and the need to keep them from evil.  It turns out Thanos is getting his hands on these stones and has an agenda that involves wiping out half the life in the galaxy.  Why?  His world collapsed due to overpopulation, so he takes it upon himself to solve this problem for everybody else.  If he gets all six stones he could kill every other person in the galaxy with just a snap of his fingers.

There have been a number of good Marvel movies in the last decade and many of the stories from the films pick up in Avengers Infinity War from where they left off.   The action gets started early and almost never lets up.  One might think that this would be bad, but the action is done so well and the characters are so good that the movie feels like something truly special on a grand scale.  Never have we seen so many different stories and characters woven together so seamlessly.  This isn't just a movie, but an event a decade in the making.  

We see more of Thanos than we do any individual hero, making him in effect the main character.  This is as much his story as it is anybody else's, and he is played wonderfully by Josh Brolin.

With so many actors and effects it is not surprising that the movie cost $360 million to make.  They got their money's worth.  Some have compared the film to Star Wars in terms of quality, which is not a bad comparison, although I still prefer the first two Star Wars movies.

Rating:  * * * *  (A+)   


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Kathleen Kennedy Betrayed George Lucas & Star Wars Fans


Imagine that it is your job to entertain other people.  I would think that such a job would be maddening and ego busting.  You could spend 2 or 3 years working on something and then a bunch of people could just say that it is terrible and call you names.  Granted many things are terrible, but I don't think that The Last Jedi falls into that category.

There are things in The Last Jedi I think could have been done better.   The plot holes and logical inconsistencies are too numerous to mention.  

Many people who have criticized this movie have said that the first time they saw it they were entertained, but either they changed their mind after they thought about it, or they didn't like it on the second or third viewing.  I have an issue with people saying the movie is bad based upon this line of reasoning.  I can think of a ton of movies that I enjoyed once but would not want to see a second time.  Although The Last Jedi is logically flawed to the extreme, it has a story and aesthetic quality that I think is good.  If people admit that they were entertained when they initially saw the movie, then how can they say the movie is terrible?

I think that the real issue is that people saw something in the film they didn't like and so they rejected the entire movie based on that.  Although the Social Justice Warrior messages are annoying, these are a relatively small part of the movie, so I think that the issue people are most upset about is Luke's arc.  In other words, the movie didn't give people the story they wanted.  It wasn't the story I wanted either, but I still thought it was entertaining.

Unlike every other Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi failed to entertain me past two viewings.  I think that this is another reason people are upset:  It is just not as good as the other Star Wars movies for a variety of reasons, including a number of logical problems.  However, if I enjoyed it at least once, which I did because I enjoyed it twice, I am going to claim that it is a good movie.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Rian Johnson's Trilogy Has Started - Lucasfilm Continues To Ignore The Last Jedi Backlash


I'm not sure that all those who like The Last Jedi are adopting a stupid mentality.

The plot holes are too numerous to mention and these bother me, as do the social justice warrior messages, so I agree with almost every criticism I have heard about The Last Jedi.   However, I don't mind the Luke arc because it surprised me and I find it entertaining.  It's not my story, nor is it the story I would have written for Luke, but it's their story and I enjoyed it as is.   

There is so much in the movie that I like:   All the interaction between Luke and Rey.  The force bond between Rey and Kylo.   Rey's vision.  Everything that happened in the throne room is gold, and it concludes with Ben practically proposing to Rey which is even more interesting.   The Canto Bight story is not the best, but neither does it take up as much screen time as people claim it does.  Parts of it, such as the chase scene, are interesting.  Everything that happened during the Battle of Crait was also excellent, except for the stupid Rose scene.  I liked being surprised by Luke's force projection.  His passing, or becoming one with the Force, moved me to tears.

The first time around I was a little uncertain how I felt about broom boy.  I found the scene both emotionally moving and a little cheesy, but this scene has grown on me.  It creates hope for the future.

One the first viewing of the movie, the humor made me laugh out loud several times.  It comes in surprising places.   I  knew that they were overdoing the humor, but I didn't care because it made me laugh.  The humor is so minor in places that it is hardly a distraction.  Of course, by the third viewing the jokes had lost any surprise effect and were falling flat.

--

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Brilliant or Senseless? Rian Johnson Explains The Last Jedi

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C95o0MRzBVs

Some of the best analysis I have heard. I think that there is enough good stuff in the movie to make it enjoyable, despite some really obvious flaws.

I have concluded that Rian Johnson is not a logical thinker, because in interviews he seems
​ ​
unconcerned or unaware about
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the
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plot holes,
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and
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is
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only interested in the aesthetics of the film.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi for the third time.

I saw the movie for the third time, after having seen it for the second time 10 weeks ago.

I noticed quite a bit more stuff in my second viewing and still yet more things the third time around. This is a busy movie and there is much in it that is easy to miss. Although the movie does not have the same novelty that it first did, the extra details I noticed seem to make the story feel more coherent and less like it has plot holes. I still think that there are plot holes, but I get a better sense of what the director was shooting for.

In addition, problems are a little easier to ignore on the second and third viewing. The personalities of Luke Skywalker and Admiral Holdo come across as more understandable, and in particular the acting by Mark Hamill seems more nuanced.

This feels like this is the least rewatchable of the Star Wars movies, since all of the other movies I have watched repeatedly and still enjoy them. For Star Wars: The Last Jedi, three times seems like enough. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Black Panther

My problem with superhero movies is that the main characters are able to use magic, or some sort of technology as of yet unknown to us, essentially magic, to apparently violate the laws of physics.  It is not realistic to see most of these characters do what they do, so in this respect these movies seem kind of silly, but these are fantasy films so we should make allowances.  Despite this reservation, I have enjoyed all the recent Superman movies that I have seen, because Superman is a character whose story is well ingrained into the American psyche, with the caveat I have not yet seen the recent and much maligned Justice League.  

An example of where Black Panther violates the laws of physics is that the  main character wears a suit that can absorb a huge amount of kinetic energy, and release that kinetic energy back out on demand.  This is an interesting part of the story, but I refer you to Newton's third law of motion that says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If the suit stops a large amount of kinetic energy, the wearer is going acquire some of that velocity.  If anything, the movie is inconsistent on how this works, because sometimes the character will recoil from blows and sometimes not.

The premise of Black Panther, where a much more technologically advanced afrocentric civilization, Wakanda, is hidden in the heart of Africa, comes across to me just as silly as other superhero movies, given that it mixes tribal customs and attire with science fiction technology.  This mixture of old and new makes the movie a fantastic visual spectacle, but stretches believability.

What makes any movie like this good is whether the characters and story are engaging enough for us to suspend our disbelief and enjoy the film.  Here Black Panther shines with its characters, and a most interesting villain.  Add to that a philosophical story that contemplates what role a more advanced civilization should play in helping others?   These elements alone would be sufficient for a pretty good movie, but the science fiction parts of the story also make the film a visual treat.  

There is a great deal of fighting in this movie, and it feels a little repetitive, like they couldn't come up with anything better to do.  However, most of these scenes are fun to watch.  

Often I felt like the characters were a little muddled on their motivations, because the central conflict of the film is whether Wakanda should remain isolationist or share its advanced technology to help the rest of the world?  One also wonders how Wakanda could be such a prosperous civilization when it is not willing to export its only real natural resource, which is a mysterious metal called vibranium?

The Hero's Journey is a type of myth going back thousands of years that follows the same pattern, where the hero goes on a journey, at some point fails and almost dies, is reborn and finally succeeds, and in some stories becomes a king on the return of his journey.  George Lucas popularized this type of storytelling in movies, but it has become repetitive and overdone.  Black Panther follows this pattern so closely that parts of the movie are predictable.

I was a little burned out on superhero movies because there have been so many of them, the result of which is that few of them have been exceptional.  Despite a few minor problems, Black Panther is different enough that it is like a breath of fresh air.

Rating:  * * * 1/2