Marriage Story (2019) & 1917 (2019) Reviews

As the Oscars are this weekend, I figured I better post my reviews for the Best Picture nominees this week. Below is a re-post of my review of Marriage Story & a new review for 1917. Well, a mini-review of 1917. Okay – it’s not much of a review for 1917!

Marriage Story (2019)

Directed & Written by Noah Baumbach

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever

Music by Randy Newman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a married couple (Johansson and Driver) going through a coast-to-coast divorce.

My Opinion:

I honestly don’t get the hype over this movie. And I’ve never understood the love for Adam Driver – that gross guy who had gross sex with gross Lena Dunham in gross Girls?! I just feel very out of touch with people the past several years. I see people raving about movies on Twitter so I watch those movies and end up extremely underwhelmed. Is it just me? Why do these same films fail to move me? Because I felt NOTHING while watching this. I didn’t feel that this couple had any sort of meaningful connection or any chemistry whatsoever so found it very hard to feel upset over the breakdown of a marriage that we saw so little of and didn’t get to witness developing in any way. We’re suddenly thrown in at the end of the marriage when they apparently don’t like each other anymore.

I think Driver & Johansson are okay actors (Johansson more than Driver). But they felt like actors in this movie. I felt like I was watching a play that was almost as boring as the ones directed by Driver’s “brilliant” character in this movie. And Johansson’s character was of course an actress. Despite Noah Baumbach sticking to that rule of “write what you know” and clearly writing about his own lifestyle, this movie somehow managed to make these characters feel anything but real to me. It was just odd as one of the main things I saw on Twitter was “This movie is so real!”. Seriously? Am I just dead inside? All I saw were two bland and self-absorbed people not loving OR hating each other enough to build up to that “I wish you were dead!” (or whatever he said) scene. We saw so little of their marriage anyway that I didn’t give a shit when they finally had a damn fight like normal couples do.

I don’t know. Maybe it is just me. I don’t blame either Driver or Johansson, though, as I think the writing here is the problem. This movie is just not my sort of thing. It’s the pretentious & self-indulgent side of “indie” that I can’t stand. It crosses that indie line for me (I don’t know if it fits the indie definition but, who cares, it’s still indie as hell). I either love or hate these types of films. On the right side of the line we have films such as the Richard Linklater ones with brilliant dialogue and characters who are intriguing and fun to watch. Then we cross the line into Wes Anderson movies and, based on the two films I’ve now seen, Noah Baumbach movies. Self-absorbed characters in movies that think they’re much more important & intelligent than they actually are. Marriage Story isn’t awful it just isn’t anything groundbreaking and I didn’t care about the characters. I’ve seen this story plenty of times before but with characters who were much more believable & sympathetic. And don’t even get me started on the kid in this movie! Bloody hell – he’s eight (or so I read) but written like a thoroughly annoying four-year-old. Sorry but no eight-year-old acts like this idiot kid. Was he written by someone who has never been around children? I didn’t expect to hate the poor kid in this movie. Wow. Hey, Hollywood – learn how to write child characters!

My Rating: 5.5/10

1917 (2019)

Directed by Sam Mendes

Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch

Music by Thomas Newman

Cinematography Roger Deakins

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
1917 chronicles the story of two young British soldiers during World War I who are tasked with delivering a message calling off an attack doomed to fail soon after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich in 1917. This message is especially important to one of the young soldiers as his brother is taking part in the pending attack.

My Opinion:

Shit. This was a good film & all that but it’s just not my type of thing. I struggle to force myself to watch war movies. To be fair, there are plenty I do think are great (The Bridge On The River Kwai, The Great Escape, Full Metal Jacket, etc). This one looked great & the “feels like one shot” thing was interesting but honestly a bit distracting. I can see how some probably loved it, though, as it does feel like you’re taking this same journey with these characters. But for some reason I didn’t feel much emotion during this one, though I’m not sure why. The performances were perfectly fine. Again, I may have just been too distracted by the way it was filmed. 1917 is a good film and it’s a great technical achievement but, I’m sorry, I was a bit bored. I’m sorry! I have no class. I’ll still give it a decent rating since I know it’s a good film. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins Best Picture (but I’d like to see something less predictable win).

My Rating: 7/10

Marriage Story, Brittany Runs A Marathon & Support The Girls Movie Reviews

Marriage Story (2019)

Directed & Written by Noah Baumbach

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever

Music by Randy Newman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a married couple (Johansson and Driver) going through a coast-to-coast divorce.

My Opinion:

I honestly don’t get the hype over this movie. And I’ve never understood the love for Adam Driver – that gross guy who had gross sex with gross Lena Dunham in gross Girls?! I just feel very out of touch with people the past several years. I see people raving about movies on Twitter so I watch those movies and end up extremely underwhelmed. Is it just me? Why do these same films fail to move me? Because I felt NOTHING while watching this. I didn’t feel that this couple had any sort of meaningful connection or any chemistry whatsoever so found it very hard to feel upset over the breakdown of a marriage that we saw so little of and didn’t get to witness developing in any way. We’re suddenly thrown in at the end of the marriage when they apparently don’t like each other anymore.

I think Driver & Johansson are okay actors (Johansson more than Driver). But they felt like actors in this movie. I felt like I was watching a play that was almost as boring as the ones directed by Driver’s “brilliant” character in this movie. And Johansson’s character was of course an actress. Despite Noah Baumbach sticking to that rule of “write what you know” and clearly writing about his own lifestyle, this movie somehow managed to make these characters feel anything but real to me. It was just odd as one of the main things I saw on Twitter was “This movie is so real!”. Seriously? Am I just dead inside? All I saw were two bland and self-absorbed people not loving OR hating each other enough to build up to that “I wish you were dead!” (or whatever he said) scene. We saw so little of their marriage anyway that I didn’t give a shit when they finally had a damn fight like normal couples do.

I don’t know. Maybe it is just me. I don’t blame either Driver or Johansson, though, as I think the writing here is the problem. This movie is just not my sort of thing. It’s the pretentious & self-indulgent side of “indie” that I can’t stand. It crosses that indie line for me (I don’t know if it fits the indie definition but, who cares, it’s still indie as hell). I either love or hate these types of films. On the right side of the line we have films such as the Richard Linklater ones with brilliant dialogue and characters who are intriguing and fun to watch. Then we cross the line into Wes Anderson movies and, based on the two films I’ve now seen, Noah Baumbach movies. Self-absorbed characters in movies that think they’re much more important & intelligent than they actually are. Marriage Story isn’t awful it just isn’t anything groundbreaking and I didn’t care about the characters. I’ve seen this story plenty of times before but with characters who were much more believable & sympathetic. And don’t even get me started on the kid in this movie! Bloody hell – he’s eight (or so I read) but written like a thoroughly annoying four-year-old. Sorry but no eight-year-old acts like this idiot kid. Was he written by someone who has never been around children? I didn’t expect to hate the poor kid in this movie. Wow. Hey, Hollywood – learn how to write child characters!

My Rating: 5.5/10

Brittany Runs A Marathon (2019)

Directed & Written by Paul Downs Colaizzo

Starring: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery, Micah Stock

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows an overweight woman in New York City who sets out to lose weight and train for the city’s annual marathon.

My Opinion:

This is based on a true story and I do respect anyone who runs a marathon. I will never ever ever do that – I’m far too lazy. So I don’t want to say anything too bad since this is a real person. Yay for her! She turned her life around. But the movie did NOT manage to make her very likeable. In fact, she was downright horrible to those around her who were only trying to help & support her. And we’re supposed to root for her? I always struggle with movies with hateful main characters. I avoid hateful people as much as possible in real life – why would I want to watch a movie about hateful people? At least make them entertaining if they’re awful people (I admit to really enjoying The Wolf Of Wall Street and he was an enormous asshole). Jillian Bell’s character was just so damn boring. This is considered a comedy drama but there’s no comedy, which I was expecting as Bell normally does comedy. This was fine as I’m not a big comedy fan anyway but a little disappointing as I wasn’t expecting an uninspiring drama. You also don’t get the uplifting payoff at the end of this since you kind of don’t feel the character has fully earned any success due to her behavior. I’m sounding very negative in these reviews! That’s why I’ve put off reviewing them. Oh well. Like Marriage Story, this film isn’t awful. I just found them both very bland but the actors themselves were okay and I guess they did what they could with weak material.

My Rating: 5/10

Support The Girls (2018)

Directed & Written by Andrew Bujalski

Starring: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, James LeGros, AJ Michalka, Dylan Gelula, Shayna McHayle, Lea DeLaria, Jana Kramer, Brooklyn Decker

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
The general manager at a highway-side “sports bar with curves” has her incurable optimism and faith, in her girls, her customers, and herself, tested over the course of a long, strange day.

My Opinion:

I didn’t hate this movie. Yay! It was… Fine. An okay movie that I enjoyed while watching it but will never watch again. That’s most movies these days – Perfectly pleasant but a bit forgettable. At least, unlike with Marriage Story & Brittany Runs A Marathon, there are likeable characters in this one. Regina Hall was very good as the manager at the sports bar/restaurant and as a mother-figure to the waitresses. It’s very much a “day in the life” movie and I enjoyed the different personalities of the characters. It’s a little bit “quirky indie”, which doesn’t always work but did in this case. I liked it. See? I like movies sometimes.

My Rating: 6/10

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (2019) Review

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (2019)

Directed by J. J. Abrams

Based on Characters by George Lucas

Starring: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams

Music by John Williams

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.

My Opinion:

I’ve been putting off reviewing this as I’m not yet sure how I feel about it. I did see it at midnight last Wednesday night as we’re a family of Star Wars fans. I think all the negativity online since The Last Jedi ruined my enjoyment a bit plus this is the first time I decided to read all the spoilers beforehand, which is something I always try desperately to avoid. So that’s my own damn fault but, seriously, I hate people who spoil movies online on purpose. I know spoilers don’t bother everyone but it does ruin movies for me. I like to be surprised. My lack of excitement during this one won’t have been helped by the fact that I was watching the story unfold exactly as I’d heard it would. Thanks a lot, Burger King! Shame on me, though. I’ll avoid spoilers again from now on.

I liked The Rise Of Skywalker but am not satisfied with the trilogy as a whole. I’m at the point now where I kind of don’t care about this trilogy existing (and wonder if I’d be happier if it didn’t). For me, it will only ever be the original trilogy that I love. The rest of the movies will never be special to me in the same sort of way, although I did get plenty of enjoyment out of moments in each of them. And Solo deserves more credit than it gets, FYI – that was a fun film.

When The Force Awakens came out, however, I admit that I did absolutely love it at the time. I thought the new characters were great and I adored seeing my old favorites again. I was high on the fact that Star Wars was back. I hate that the following two movies didn’t live up to the first one and, more than anything, I hate how this trilogy now feels like it was created just to replace beloved old characters with new ones for a new generation. Can a new generation not appreciate the original characters too? As much as I wasn’t really a fan of the prequels, they’ve now actually gone up in my estimation after the sequel trilogy. I never expected that as I far prefer The Force Awakens to any of the prequels. But now that this trilogy has ended, I feel like it has damaged characters that I grew up with & love whereas the prequels didn’t do them any harm (to the “good guys” that I adore, anyway – I’ve never been a fan of the “baddies”. Screw you, Vader!).

Well, I could talk about my feelings & disappointment forever so I’ll try to focus on this movie specifically now. I do think I need to see it a second time to see if I feel any differently but I’m heartbroken to not feel anywhere near the same level of enjoyment and hope that I felt after a very promising start with The Force Awakens. Hell – I even re-read my The Last Jedi review and my immediate reaction was quite positive. I don’t hate that one the way so many others do. Although The Last Jedi may be my least favorite of the three, it’s almost equal to The Rise Of Skywalker for me as there are certain moments in it that I did really like. So! Here’s what I liked about The Rise Of Skywalker:

– The Droids. The sequels may have somewhat ruined the legacy of my human favorites but at least they didn’t hurt my beloved droids. When people ask who my favorite Star Wars character is, my answer is R2-D2 (followed very closely by Yoda, although I have a feeling that a certain Mandalorian character may end up a contender for my new favorite – but that’s going way off topic). Of course I love Luke, Leia, Han, etc, but nothing beats a cool sci-fi droid for me. We don’t get nearly as much R2-D2 as I’d have liked in this trilogy but I thoroughly enjoyed getting a very funny C-3PO. Loved him in this! I thought they did a very good job playing up to his annoying quirks and making him funny as hell (without him realizing he was being funny as hell). Actually, of all the original characters, I think C-3PO was the only one they managed to improve on instead of lessen or harm or have no effect on (as with R2-D2, who is still the exact same lovable droid and thankfully not harmed by this trilogy). So thank you for not messing with my Droids, J. J. Abrams! Oh, BB-8 is still awesome too and I liked the new addition of D-O. He’s not as cool as BB-8 and the rest but I still really liked him. What can I say? I love a cute droid. D-O reminded me of M-O from WALL-E. (Not surprisingly, WALL-E is an all-time favorite film of mine as well. Robots rule!).

Lando & Chewbacca. Yeah, I love the original trilogy characters. So sue me. It was great finally seeing Lando, who is still cool as shit, and seeing Chewbacca yet again. I of course wanted to see more of them than we got but, hey, at least we got a decent amount of time with them compared to some of the other original characters. I also don’t feel these two were really harmed by this trilogy, but I do worry about Chewie. Can I be his friend?! I want to make sure he’s surrounded by really good friends forever & ever.

Babu Frik. This is a new small character and you’ll either love him or hate him. Being a huge fan of Henson Muppets and Yoda and the genius of characters such as Salacious B. Crumb, I of course was a fan of this goofy new addition. If you like Salacious B. Crumb as much as I do, you’re gonna like Babu Frik. If not, too bad! I don’t care. He’s great and feels like he could easily have fit right in with the original trilogy creatures.

The camaraderie. We see a lot of Rey, Finn & Poe working together in this and I really enjoyed their friendship and lighthearted bickering (we get some fun rapport between Rey & Poe regarding taking care of the Millennium Falcon & BB-8). Speaking of BB-8, Poe’s love for him is adorable. The funny C-3PO moments also come from being a part of this group and I really enjoyed the moments when these characters were together.

I want to focus on the positives about this movie as there’s so much negativity online so I’ll only mention a few things I don’t like, as I already made my feelings clear at the start that I’m disappointed in this trilogy overall. One thing I really don’t like is Kylo Ren as a character and I very much don’t understand the whole Adam Driver obsession so, as he’s a fan favorite, not liking him probably really doesn’t help my enjoyment of these films. I’m also kind of starting to feel the same as others do in finding Rey’s abilities a bit “too much”. She’s too powerful. Too perfect. I still really like her as a character but it’s all way too easy for her. I also didn’t like the story in this one – it felt like a video game story. The main problem, however, is how I feel this sequel trilogy is simply casting our original trilogy favorites aside. This became very clear in The Last Jedi but I don’t think Abrams tried very hard to undo that in this one. It feels a little disrespectful. It doesn’t feel, to me, like these movies were made by true fans of the original trilogy. I didn’t feel that way after The Force Awakens and am upset that it feels that way now that the trilogy is complete. I don’t want any more movies involving these new characters now, even though I do really like Rey, Finn, Poe & BB-8. Based on how this trilogy turned out, I’d now rather have stand alones like Solo and Rogue One. I wasn’t feeling Rogue One at the time but it’s now gone up in my estimation as well as the prequels.

Oh well. I made my feelings clear at the beginning of this review so I obviously have a lot of issues with this trilogy but I don’t want to go into them in much detail as I’m hating all the negativity online. None of these movies are as bad as some people are saying. There’s still lots of great Star Wars moments in each of them. I just really wanted to love this sequel trilogy but, at the moment, I can’t say that I do. However, I’ll try to keep an open mind and maybe watch The Rise Of Skywalker again to see if I feel any differently. I hope so. But I’ll always see it as a separate thing from the original trilogy. Maybe this is just one alternate reality for our original trilogy characters…

My Rating: 7.5/10

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Review

***SPOILER-FREE Initial Thoughts***

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Directed & Written by Rian Johnson

Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro

Music by John Williams

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

My Opinion:

When I reviewed Star Wars: The Force Awakens (HERE), I wrote about it right after seeing it and before having time to fully process it. I didn’t want to put a rating on it right away & I didn’t want to go overboard on raving about how much I loved it just in case I was still too high on the feeling of having seen a new STAR WARS MOVIE!!!!

I’m a huge fan of the original trilogy and I can’t see ever loving one of the new films quite as much but The Force Awakens came very close. I knew immediately that I loved it, even though I tried to hold back a bit when first writing about it. With The Last Jedi, it’s a bit different. I’m again writing this too soon after seeing it, which I don’t really like to do as I like to think about a film first. However, this time I’m not worried about going overboard raving about my love of the movie. This time, I’m afraid of being too harsh. This time, I don’t immediately love the movie. At least, I don’t think I do. I hate to make a statement like that so soon as maybe I’ll change my mind. I hope I change my mind.

Don’t worry – this isn’t like the prequels. This is a good film. I think the problem, for me, is that it isn’t much like Star Wars. I didn’t feel that way about The Force Awakens. That film instantly felt like a part of the Star Wars universe. I love Rey & Finn & BB-8 and it didn’t take long at all for me to accept them as a part of that world. I don’t feel that way about any of the new characters introduced in The Last Jedi. In fact, I thought there were too many new additions and it took time away from further developing existing characters that I actually care about.

Okay – let’s do this a different way otherwise I’ll just ramble on incoherently. As I’m still processing the film, I’ll try to separate my thoughts out into the good stuff & the not-so-good stuff.

What I Liked:

Several Great Moments Linking To The Original Trilogy. Well, this is tough to talk about in any sort of way as I have to stay completely spoiler-free. I mean, I’m not Holly Willoughby (yeah, she spoiled something major live on TV. you can see a clip here if you really want a big spoiler. luckily, I don’t watch TV). There are a few really good moments involving original trilogy characters and those moments made me feel all warm & fuzzy. And I guess that’s all I can say. Let’s discuss this movie like crazy in the comments, though! My comment section can be a spoiler zone!

Again Seeing Characters I Know & Love. Obviously. How awesome to see Luke doing much more than just standing there & staring at Rey. And Mark Hamill does a fantastic job, by the way. Loved him! And Leia… I’ll forever be heartbroken about Carrie Fisher and hate knowing she can’t be in the final film. Luckily, she does have plenty to do in this one compared to the last one. R2-D2 (my personal favorite), C-3PO, Chewbacca… I adore these characters. I grew up with them. I’ll always love seeing them up on screen. And, of course, it was great to see Rey & Kylo Ren develop much more (especially Kylo, as he came across as a slightly whiny emo kid last time). Finn has a lot to do but I felt he was quite wasted and far preferred his storyline in The Force Awakens. Poe also has a much bigger role this time but I don’t really feel much of a connection with him. And BB-8 rules. I do care about these Force Awakens characters, even though it’ll never be quite as much as I care about the original trilogy characters. Unfortunately, I can’t say I care about any of the new characters in The Last Jedi (more about that later).

Porgs. They’re cute.

What I Didn’t Like So Much:

Porgs. They’re utterly & completely pointless.

The New Characters. Oh man. After the fantastic job they did with the introduction of new characters in The Force Awakens, I really was expecting to walk away from this one with at least a couple of new favorites. The best new addition is probably Rose. I liked her & Kelly Marie Tran did well in the role but it’s far too big of a part. We already have our main characters. I think this wasn’t helped by the fact that her storyline dragged a little and, by having so much time devoted to it, it was taking time away from characters we already know and want to see much more of than we do (I’ll get to this later – don’t expect to see very much of the “lesser” original trilogy characters in this). Laura Dern also does a good job, but… Why should I care about this character who has come from out of nowhere? There are other characters around Leia who we already know & who I’d have rather seen given more authority & screen time. Benicio del Toro was very Benicio del Toro. Meh.

Not Enough Of The Original Trilogy Characters. Maybe a tiny spoiler but don’t expect to see much of R2-D2, C-3PO or Chewbacca. I’m extremely disappointed with how little screen time they got.

Some Of The Comedy. I love the small bits of comedy in the Star Wars original trilogy & in The Force Awakens. There’s even more in this, which was unexpected as it’s a dark film but wasn’t totally unwelcome. We need bits of comedy that are done well & they worked perfectly in the previous films. I got a few giggles from The Last Jedi but I have to agree with the hubby when he said that the humor in this one felt more like what we get in a Marvel movie. Okay, fine. I guess. But it didn’t feel like Star Wars humor. It just didn’t quite fit.

Very Few Great Images. I’ve seen some comments already about how good this movie looks. I agree there’s some “pretty” imagery. The use of red works really well. But the whole film is so damn dark. And there weren’t really any moments where I thought “wow – that’s a great, artistic shot”. I can think of SO many images from the original trilogy that looked amazing and like something you’d hang up and frame as a work of art. I know not everyone cares about this sort of thing but it’s very important to me. It’s a big part of why I’m a weird girl who likes things like Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. They’re gorgeous. I want to see art up on the big screen. This movie feels more focused on telling its (somewhat convoluted) story. The story is important, yes. But so is everything else. Check out this video the hubby sent me of “The Star Wars: Concept Trailer“, which shows what Star Wars would look like if all of Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art had been used. Can we please get these students to work on the next Star Wars film??

The Shades Of Gray. This is something that people will either love or hate (mostly love). It seems there can be no simple good vs evil in movies anymore. Everyone wants shades of gray and conflicted characters and blah blah blah. And that’s fine & I totally get that. That’s exactly what I want from a lot of films, especially sci-fi. From things like Blade Runner 2049. From Star Wars? Not quite so much. Give me the Joseph Campbell hero’s journey thing. It was done beautifully in the original trilogy and the formula clearly works otherwise there wouldn’t be this massive Star Wars following. The Force Awakens started to follow the same pattern. Now? I don’t know. Just be prepared to see these movies go in a completely different direction now. And R2-D2 & C-3PO will clearly no longer be our “droid guides” through this journey. They seem to have been cast aside. Which leads me to my next gripe…

The Way It Feels Like The Original Trilogy Characters Are Being Cast Aside. I’m very happy that Luke & Leia are given loads of screen time in this. I don’t really have any complaints about how their characters were handled. As I said, though, R2-D2, C-3PO, Chewbacca and some other characters I won’t mention (not sure what’s common knowledge when it comes to others) are truly cast aside in this film. It felt almost as though Rian Johnson wants rid of them & to focus more on all new characters. I know times are very different nowadays and people are demanding that things be new & constantly changed, but this is the most beloved film franchise. Do it justice. Don’t throw it away. Did J.J. Abrams do too much “fan service” in The Force Awakens? Maybe. But this is Star Wars. The rules are a little different. Surely you can keep old as well as new fans happy.

I Can’t See Where They’ll Go With The Next Film Or Why We Should Care. I also can’t say much about this in order to avoid spoilers. Let’s just say that I’m less excited about the next film now. I think it’s going to be too “different” for my own liking. The hubby & I have discussed this movie quite a bit since seeing it (as much as I love it, he’s a far bigger Star Wars fan than I am) and I think we both feel similar in not yet knowing exactly what to think about it. It’s disappointing to not instantly love it. One thing he asked me is if I feel that these sequels are adding to the story in a way that feels right or if they’re starting to kind of ruin the magic of the original trilogy now. Okay – that’s not quite how he phrased it but it was something like that. At this point in time, I can say that I thought The Force Awakens was taking my beloved Star Wars forward in a way that would do no harm to the original trilogy’s legacy. After seeing The Last Jedi, I’m not sure if I can make that same statement. I guess we’ll have to see where Episode IX takes us and just hope that it doesn’t damage something that so many of us love.

Overall, at the moment, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has left me feeling a little bit cold. Which is heartbreaking. I’ll give it my initial rating, which I may think is a bit too low once I’ve watched the movie a second time. We’ll see (and maybe it will change depending on what I think of the next film & how it all ties in). But I can’t see my rating going up by more than half a point.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Now let’s discuss this movie in the Comments! SPOILERS ALLOWED!!! I’m dying to discuss this. πŸ™‚ Just try to still put a warning & a bit of a gap….

Midnight Special (2016) Review

Midnight Special (2016)

Directed & Written by Jeff Nichols

Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam Shepard

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A father and son go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

My Opinion:

***I’ll remain spoiler-free. This is a good one to see without knowing much about it.

Once again, like when I reviewed 10 Cloverfield Lane, I’m reviewing this sooner than I’d like to as I normally like to wait a couple of days. But I only finished watching this a few hours ago so bear with me for another one of my rambling reviews while I try to sort out my initial thoughts on Midnight Special.

I couldn’t wait to see this one – it was one of my most-anticipated for the whole year. It’s my favorite sort of genre & sounded like the exact sort of thing that I love. And it’s good! It really is. Luckily, it’s far better than 10 Cloverfield Lane (for which I still haven’t fully sorted out my feelings – I either really liked it or I really did not… I’ve never felt quite so confused over my feelings for a movie!). Anyway, I think I just hype certain movies up in my mind too much as so many are so disappointing that when one my sort of thing comes along, I expect too much. I liked this a lot. I expected to love it. I think I loved parts of it but, overall, I’m not sure it will be an all-time favorite such as the brilliant films it’s reminiscent of (such as Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial or Close Encounters Of The Third Kind).

Don’t worry – I won’t say a thing at all about the plot. I think it’s widely known that there’s a sci-fi element to this film anyway but my comparison to those two Spielberg films are more because of Midnight Special’s tone & feel as well as its focus on the characters and their relationships. That’s what I care most about in a film. Yes, I love a great story (especially anything the slightest bit sci-fi) but I never really love a film unless it has strong characters that I care about. While I didn’t fully connect with the characters in Midnight Special as much as I was hoping, I do think the movie did a really good job with those who mattered the most in the film. The father/son relationship is the strongest and, luckily, is what works best as it’s the main focus of the film. I certainly can’t fault Shannon’s performance as a father who will do anything to protect his child. I guess I was just hoping for more of an emotional attachment, like I got with something like E.T. but, hell, to even have your movie bring Spielberg classics to mind is a pretty huge compliment to Jeff Nichols. Yes, this movie very much feels like something Spielberg would have made in his Close Encounters sort of days. That’s a very good thing. In fact, I wonder what he thinks of this movie! Hmm… I would imagine he loves it.

Jeff Nichols is certainly a writer/director I’ll be paying more attention to after this film. I did review both Take Shelter & Mud and it was interesting re-reading those to see what I thought of them. Seriously, though – don’t read my Take Shelter review as I’d only had this blog for two weeks at that point & didn’t even know why I’d started a blog. Basically, I was clearly paying very little attention to the movie as it was on in the background while I decorated the Christmas tree (I’m a parent – you’ll find you half-watch a lot of things when you get some rare “alone time”). πŸ˜‰ Maybe I’ll give it another try someday but it was one of those films I think I appreciated more than actively liked. Shannon was good, though, as was the film’s theme plus I remember thinking the ending was very good. Mud was an improvement overall in that the film was a more enjoyable & entertaining watch but, now that I think about it more, I think Take Shelter had the far stronger story. I guess it depends on what you prefer from a movie but, if you liked both of those films, you’ll definitely like Midnight Special as it feels like Nichols got a better balance this time between making a good story as well as an entertaining film. Plus, I gotta say the ending is great. It can often go so wrong at the end with this type of thing but I was happy with this film’s finale.

I’m going to wrap this up before I ramble on too much or start spoiling things. Besides, I have a massive migraine & need to go to bed. Damn migraines! When it’s gone, I’ll hopefully be able to catch up on some of your Midnight Special reviews as I wanted to avoid them all until I’d seen it but I really am curious what you all thought of it. Plus, I keep wanting to call this Midnight Express… Anyone seen that? I’ve always wanted to see that but never have. Now I’m off topic. I can’t think when I have a headache.

Midnight Special is very good. I liked it a lot but only time will tell if I feel the same way about it as I do about some of Spielberg’s sci-fi classics that have a similar feel. I’ll say that, partially because of the Dunst connection, I was also reminded somewhat of Melancholia (which I liked quite a bit). I suppose Jeff Nichols is somewhere in the middle – not as weird as Lars von Trier but not as mainstream as Steven Spielberg. It’s a cool combination but I’m not sure if it’ll work for everyone. It worked for me and I’d like to see Nichols do more of this same genre.

My Rating: 8/10

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Review

***SPOILER-FREE REVIEW***

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Directed by J. J. Abrams

Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie

Music by John Williams

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A continuation of the saga created by George Lucas and set thirty years after Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983).

A Note Before I Start The Review:

I saw this movie at midnight last night and I don’t normally like to review movies so soon after seeing them since I like to give things some thought first and to search my feelings. Naturally, I’m going to be on a massive high immediately after seeing a new STAR WARS movie! But when I think back to The Phantom Menace, it’s likely that I would have given that a good review if I’d written one 30 minutes after it finished. Can you imagine?! So bear with me as I try to be rational while I write this.

I may actually re-visit this movie again in a week and do another post about it and see if my opinion has changed but, for now, these are the initial thoughts of a fairly big Star Wars fan. I’ll also give you my husband’s initial thoughts (he’s been a HUGE Star Wars fan his whole life) and my six-year-old daughter’s initial thoughts (she’s quite possibly the biggest six-year-old female Star Wars fan on the entire planet).

My Opinion:

My Star Wars fandom on a scale of 1-10: 7.5

(AGAIN, NO SPOILERS. PROMISE.)

I still can’t believe I’ve finally seen it! The Force Awakens. The movie my husband and daughter have been talking about (and slightly annoying me with) for what feels like YEARS. As with any huge movie like this, especially for myself and my husband and anyone else our age who grew up with the original trilogy, no Star Wars movie will ever live up to our high expectations. I personally don’t think it will ever be possible to again capture the magic of the original trilogy but I do know that a big part of that will also be my age talking. Can an adult really love a movie in the same way a kid can? When I think of all my favorite movies, the vast majority are from my childhood & teen years. 

Will my daughter feel the same way about The Force Awakens & the movies to follow as my husband & I feel about the original trilogy? I think that’s a definite yes. She already loves the Star Wars universe (she’s seen all but Revenge Of The Sith – she’s still too young) and she’s now the perfect age to grow up with the new movies. And I couldn’t be more happy that she’s the perfect age for these as they’ll be “her” Star Wars movies while the original trilogy will be “mommy’s & daddy’s” Star Wars movies. More importantly, she’ll see these as hers more than the prequels. Because…. Yes! I can confirm that The Force Awakens is much better than the prequels! Thank goodness. 

I’ve really avoided all reviews of this so far as I wanted to know as little as possible so the only thing I’ve read a few times now is that The Force Awakens “captures the spirit” of the original trilogy. I’d say that’s a pretty accurate statement. I won’t pretend that it didn’t take a little getting used to or that it wasn’t a little odd seeing characters like Han Solo & Princess Leia all these years later. It’ll probably be easier for a new generation to immediately buy into this film as they won’t have quite as much of an attachment to these older characters but I have to say that they’ve done an absolutely fantastic job bringing a whole new set of characters to life. 

I already love Rey. I love that my daughter already loves Rey. Just like Leia, she’s a very strong female character. I’m loving the strong female characters in movies these past couple of years! About damn time. Sorry to regulars here who have heard me go on about this before but if you have a daughter, you’ll understand. Positive female role models have become very important to me since she came along. 

After the prequels, I can’t say I personally really had any “favorite new Star Wars characters”. After The Force Awakens, I have lots of new favorites. Besides Rey, there was… Finn! I loved Finn! I wasn’t quite sure how his character would fit in but he’s great as were his relationships with the other characters. BB-8!!!! As I’ve said here before, R2-D2 is my favorite Star Wars character so I’m clearly partial to loveable droids. BB-8 is almost as cool as R2! (And that’s saying a lot because R2-D2 is the coolest robot ever). Poe Dameron! I’d not exactly loved Oscar Isaac in anything before this but I liked his character a lot – he very much feels like someone out of the original trilogy. Kylo Ren! Hmm. Yeah. Good. Yes. Still making my mind up on him… Sorry – I’ve only just finished the movie – my mind is still racing! I know people love a good baddie. Is he a good baddie? Yes, I’d say they’ve created a great character here (better than any baddies in the prequels for sure).

There are some other new characters I also liked but they weren’t really in the trailers much so I’ll leave those out to remain spoiler-free. Then, of course, there were the original trilogy characters! Naturally, seeing them put a huge smile on my face but I really am impressed with how well they did with the new characters and making us care just as much about them as we did about our old favorites. The characters, in my opinion, really are the absolute best thing about The Force Awakens.

What else? Oh my god I need to sleep. I still have to work in the morning! πŸ˜‰ Not only were the characters great but so was the dialogue and the banter and the way they interacted with each other. We got some funny, lighthearted moments. We didn’t get any of the horrible, cheesy dialogue like in the prequels (and, dare I say, the original trilogy a little bit?). 

The look of the film was good – it felt like it was still a part of the same universe as the original trilogy in a way that the prequels didn’t quite manage. The story, which I can obviously say nothing about, was good. Was it the best story possible of the myriad of stories they could’ve done? Hmm. I don’t know. But I did enjoy it and am happy with the end result. 

I need to wrap this up soon so I can sleep for a couple of hours but, clearly, I’m initially quite happy with The Force Awakens. It’s not a “perfect” film but I’d have a hard time picking out many flaws. Let me mull it over a little more while I give you some very brief initial thoughts from my daughter & husband…

My Daughter’s Opinion:

Her Star Wars fandom on a scale of 1-10: 8

She liked the film a lot but it was pretty much a given that she would. I’m very happy that Rey lived up to her expectations and can tell you that Rey was definitely her favorite thing about the film (followed closely, I think, by adorable BB-8). She got upset a couple of times and the film is a bit dark but it’s still nowhere near as dark as Revenge Of The Sith, which I won’t be letting her watch until she’s much older. She declared the movie was a “9 out of 10!” as we left the cinema but then in the car said “I thought The Force Awakens would be better than it was” so figure that one out. Kids! So indecisive. πŸ˜‰ I think the “dark bits” made her say that but I think she’ll end up loving the movie just fine once she gets more used to it. And I’d say that it’s Rey who very much made the film for her. Yay Rey! 

My Husband’s Opinion: (as written by him)

His Star Wars fandom on a scale of 1-10: 9

Where do I start? Well, it’s not “MY Star Wars” (and let’s face it, it truly never COULD be).. but it’s not far off.

In one of the TV spots, you hear a character say they see the same eyes in different people if you live long enough.

This episode HAS the eyes of the Star Wars that I grew up with. The magic, the soul, the used universe, the spirit, the humour, the dirt, the wonder, the hero’s journey, the oddities, the surprises AND the familiar are all there in droves.

The best thing for me was to see a new Star Wars through the new eyes of our daughter, for whom THIS Star Wars will hold just as much magic as the original trilogy and better yet, will give her an important cinematic icon to relate to in Rey. She and her generation will ensure Star Wars lives on without looking “so old to young eyes” thanks to JJ, KK and company and their careful balance of reverential echoes and imaginative new ideas.

The balance between pleasing the OT generation and each new generation since has been achieved as much as it can be, given Hollywood marketing forces these days.

Despite some flaws in editing & soundtrack, The Force Awakens shows us even more clearly where the prequels got it wrong. Occasionally I wondered if too many ideas from A New Hope were being echoed here. (Which if you are any degree of Star Wars fan you would know is all part of the will of The Force anyway?)

But I will take that over the prequels’ fart jokes and Jar Jar in a heartbeat.

Without making excuses for anyone, this DOES truly rekindle the magic for a new generation – and for most of the old. Star Wars is back. But of course, in our household Star Wars never went away… Star Wars is forever!

My Summary:

**This updated summary is being written after a second viewing four days later**

I knew that my initial reaction to The Force Awakens was probably due to me needing more time to accept the film into the Star Wars universe that I love and know so well. I figured it would just be a case of me needing to see the new film a few more times but a second viewing was all that I needed: The Force Awakens IS Star Wars.

I care about new characters such as Rey & Finn as much as I did about Leia, Luke & Han. BB-8 is amazing and fits in perfectly with my most beloved and iconic pair of droids. I still think the “baddies” are a little weak in this (Snoke and especially Hux) but my opinion on Kylo Ren has gone up slightly on a second viewing. I’ve always liked the good guys more anyway and they’re perfect in The Force Awakens.

More than anything, though, Rey really makes this film. I’m not saying that because I’m a girl – I just think Daisy Ridley is fantastic and, let’s be honest, out-acts everyone in all seven films. Oh, and I really like her theme within the score (which I wish I could say I noticed throughout the film much more than I did but her theme was the only new part of the score that really stood out for me).

Any flaws this film has are really quite minor and more than made up for by just how strong the new characters are. I can now firmly say that I love this film and that it’s helped even further to make the prequels, which I rarely even gave a second thought when I thought of Star Wars anyway, a distant memory in my mind.

The Force Awakens is fantastic. I love it. To those who think the movie with go down in people’s estimations once the excitement has died down, I have to say that the opposite has occurred with me. I think some initial reactions have actually been overly critical. It will be interesting to see where it ranks in everyone’s mind once all the films have come out. As great as it is, though, it will never be higher than fourth place for me as I’ll always love the original trilogy the most. But it’s a very close fourth place! Far closer than I had thought possible.

My Rating: 8.5/10