Monday, September 10, 2018

Compelling Hero or Mundane Mary Sue? How do women really feel about Rey?


Speaking as someone who likes The Last Jedi because I think that the good scenes outweigh the bad by a comfortable margin, I still think that there are a number of problems with the movie. I don't see Rey as a Mary Sue, but as an unexplained mystery, where the fact that they haven't explained anything about her is frustratingly annoying. Because of this, it feels like there are giant holes in these two movies. The optimist in me keeps hoping that the third film will fill in the gaps in such a way that it will all make sense. In fact, I think that this is what will happen, or needs to happen for the franchise to save itself. There have been all sorts of hints that Rey may be more than she appears. Maz asks Han, "Who's the girl?", as if this is the pivotal question of the entire trilogy, and I think that it really is the pivotal question that needs to be answered. Adam Driver in an interview said, "You have, also, the hidden identity of this princess who's hiding who she really is so she can survive." What would satisfy me is to find out that Rey is Luke's daughter, who he thought was killed in Kylo's uprising, hence his strong emotional reaction at the devastation. He couldn't sense that she was alive because he had cut himself off from the force. Just like The Empire Strikes Back, I think that they went to Mark Hamill and said, "Only two people know this, and now we are going to tell you, so if it leaks we will know it was you." And what secret would they tell him? Something about who Luke is related to.  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Netflix Streaming

I found this interesting website that gives recommendations on what to watch on Netflix streaming, including ratings on some shows.


I like the penultimate section that recommends some shows that will soon disappear from Netflix, called "Last Chance to Stream."


Friday, August 31, 2018

BlacKkKlansman


Racism is an ugly topic, so it should not surprise me that BlacKkKlansman is in some ways a movie about ugly people.  Based upon the advance publicity, I expected it to be a little more whimsical, similar to the wonderful Logan Lucky, but instead the film's tone is somewhere between American Made and Edge of Darkness, but with less humor.  Although the movie is described as a "comedy drama", I fail to see how it is in any way funny.  Perhaps the film is being misrepresented to promote ticket sales.

The movie is based upon the true story about how black police officer Ron Stallworth 40 years ago pretended to be a white racist on the phone while talking to KKK members so as to gain information about their activities.  When he was required to make a personal appearance at KKK meetings, he sent a white undercover narcotics officer to represent him.  

In the real story no arrests were made and the investigation was shut down after nine months.  The movie adds a bunch of fictional elements to make it more interesting, including a love interest, a terrorist bombing plot, and the notion that the white undercover officer was Jewish.

Although all the actors are good, I especially like Topher Grace as David Duke.  He has come a long way from That 70's Show.

As a fictionalized version of real events, the movie is plenty entertaining.  However, it gets into murky territory when it implies that Donald Trump is the equivalent of  David Duke, and the ending uses the protests and riots at Charlottesville to attack Trump and imply that racism is alive and well.  At one point Klansman are shouting "America First", adding another connection with Trump.  To those who are the anti-Trump faithful this may seem all well and good, but it disrupts the narrative of the movie to make a blatantly obvious political statement, and one that at least some of us disagree with.

In fact, the movie tries to draw parallels wherever it can to the events of 40 or 50 years ago and the present day.  It frequently talks about police officers shooting and abusing black men.  However, racism is not near as extensive as it was 40 to 50 years ago.  The membership of white supremacist groups is down to a few thousand.  The actual facts about modern police shootings do not show a pattern of racial discrimination.  We live in one of the most racially harmonious periods of our history, where we elected a black president, but the movie feels like it wants to agitate people about racial politics.

Regardless, the film tells a good, although mostly fictional story and is thought provoking.

Rating:  B+.

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