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Movie Review: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

February 13, 2020

mv5bmzq3ntqxmjitodbjyi00yzuzlwe1nzqtztbly2y2njzlnzkyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_This film is a wild and interesting take on the DC universe that’s trying to do just a few too many things at once. Imagine if the 60’s Batman show, was R rated and all about Harley Quinn; then you’ll have a decent idea of the tone this film sets. Replace all of the dark and grim elements from Suicide Squad with bubblegum pop art. It’s Deadpool by way of girl power and while not exactly my thing I did really like how this all came together.

Acting is pretty good all around. Margot Robbie is amazing, completely embodying the character of Harley Quinn at this point. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is delightful as the socially awkward assassin Huntress despite her limited screen time. Jurnee Smollett-Bell fantastic as Black Canary and should really get the chance to do another Birds of Prey film where she isn’t overshadowed by Harley Quinn the whole time. Rosie Perez is also really great as an extra hard boiled version of Renee Montoya who should definitely be upgraded to The Question if they do get a sequel that doesn’t have Harley in it. All that being said though the most memorable performance in the film is from Ewan McGregor who is cranked up to 11 the whole time and have lots of fun doing it. He’s so much fun to watch that you almost forget that cutting faces off is his thing.

The pacing and the story are the parts of the film that feel weaker. On the one hand I appreciate the idea of framing the pacing around Harley’s manic personality, but on the other it makes the story unnecessarily hard to follow and doesn’t do any favors to the arcs of the other characters. That being said is is edited far more competently then Suicide Squad was. The plot is also pretty weak and honestly not a very interesting scenario for Harley freaking Quinn to be stuck in.

This is Cathy Yan’s first big blockbuster film and while you can sense how new she is to the genre and scale I really have to give her props for going full comic book technicolor as an overall tone. I found every single action set piece to be spectacular, bombastic and comic booky in all the best ways. The action felt unique to the characters in the film and wholly different from other comic book action of recent memory.

Overall I’m counting this as another step in the right direction for DC films and a nice appetite wetter for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad8/10

2020 Oscars, Best Picture Nominee Reviews & Updated Top Ten

February 1, 2020

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Joker – Wow I really can’t believe this fucking film was nominated. Sure sure, Joaquin Phoenix is amazing and deserves his acting awards but the rest of the film is so mind numbingly derivative. I get people being enamored with one or two of the dozen themes this film evokes, but it does next to nothing with any of them outside of just bringing them up. The plot is full of just badly recycled elements from more impressive Scorsese movies from the 70’s with just the tiniest sprinkle of comic book characters. For all of it’s flaws I did enjoy it when I first saw it but this film being considered for best picture is absolutely infuriating. It just feels like pandering to a noisy fan base that thinks the sad clown man is profound because of the five movies they saw this year it was the one that looked more serious. I bet hardcore Joker fans don’t watch the Oscar broadcast either so pandering failed. 6/10

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Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood – Another film which probably doesn’t deserve such a lofty nomination, but at least it’s a less egregious choice then Joker. I did enjoy this film but it’s not Tarantino’s best and not a film I have any desire to revisit. I figured a retelling of Sharon Tate’s last days wouldn’t be very tasteful but to have the fictional hero be a wife murderer who can somehow beat up Bruce Lee is a bit much. I understand the appeal of the nostalgia for 60’s Hollywood, but the film is purposely turning a blind eye to all of the things that made the 60’s shitty, exemplified by the fact that the Manson Family is murdered in the end and uxoricide is made into a joke. Leo is amazing as always though, I would have really preferred a Rick Dalton movie without the Sharon Tate connection. 8/10

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The Irishman – I imagine that Martin Scorsese is more then a little upset that a hollow copy of his work earned more nominations then his new opus about a gangster that grows old enough to regret his life choices. I didn’t exactly love this movie, but I’m also about thirty years outside of the main demographic to be fair. The acting was good all around, but the de-aging shots took me out of the story several times. They really should have gotten a younger look alike actor for De Niro, or at least a body double for all the scenes where his character has to move faster then old men are typically capable. Overall I respect this film and I look forward to revisiting this in maybe a decade or so. 8/10

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Ford v Ferrari – So this film does have some flaws, but it’s a charming macho car movie that’s a throw back to similar films of 60’s and 70’s while feeling refreshing after the last decade of Fast and Furious films. Sure it’s very safe and a bit formulaic but I can’t really find many faults outside of that. Damon and Bale are both great along with an amazing supporting performance by Tracy Letts. James Mangold does an amazing job directing this, clearly having caught some kind of speed bug after that bullet train sequence in The Wolverine. I feel like I should like it more but it’s hard to get too invested in a story that’s essentially just a pissing contest between two big companies. Comparing it directly to all these other films doesn’t help either. I would be upset but not angry if it wins the big prize but I seriously doubt it has much of a chance. 8/10

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1917 – This is a film with a masterful level of craftsmanship behind it. It’s a seemingly one take war film with no repeating sets. The two leads are good here as are all the big cameos, but the real star of this film is Roger Deakins and his unending quest to out do himself. This film contains some of the most epic and beautiful cinematography I’ve seen all year. It’s the type of film that becomes more impressive once you learned exactly how much work went into making this film look the way it does. Where the film falls a little flat for me though is the story, it’s just so bare bones simple that I totally understand the comparisons to video game plots. It wasn’t a bad plot, just very familiar feeling and a little hard to become invested in. I loathed to look away because of the one take pacing and amazing cinematography, but still the story was hard to get into. 8.75/10

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Jojo Rabbit – This film is super divisive right from the start. I really loved it by the end but I can understand someone having a knee jerk reaction to Jojo’s blind devotion to Hitler in the beginning. Acting is amazing all around with some great child actors balanced out by seasoned adults. I know some people are taking issue with Scarlett Johansson receiving two nominations this year, but I really can’t deny her. Taika Waititi pushes his brand of heartfelt humor to the limit with this imaginary Hitler concept and he succeeds amazingly in my opinion. This is I believe, the this first film about overcoming fascist brainwashing since American History X and man is it nice to know that a film can tell that same story without it feeling dark and hopeless the whole time. I actually hope this inspires more films about rejecting fascist ideologies in the coming years considering all the people out there that still support Trump. 9/10

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Marriage Story – Here’s Scarlett’s second nomination and wow is it a doozy. Adam Driver is also incredible here, giving the performance of his career in my opinion. I figure this would be good going into it but I never expected it to floor me like it did. I’ve never been married or divorced myself but my parents got divorced when I was young and this film gave me some context into some of my memories that I would have preferred to leave dormant, though it was refreshing to see the divorcees in this film act like mature adults compared to how my parents handled things. While the acting here is incredible from both leads, there is a child character that sticks out in not a good way. Sure he’s written as a plot device before he’s a character but still that was rough after seeing how good kids can be in the IT films and Stranger Things among other things. The pacing is steady as we follow these two characters down their path towards divorce and the whole thing ends feeling both melancholy and hopeful at the same time. 10/10

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Little Women – This is a film that isn’t obviously brilliant, but subtly brilliant. It has a slow and steady pace that keeps you on your toes by jumping around in time, revealing the story one layer at a time. The type of film that you don’t really notice how amazing it is until after it’s over and you look back on the experience. The acting is superb with Florence Pugh and Saoirse Ronan being the big stand outs in an impressively stacked cast, though I also have to give props to Timothée Chalamet who plays the resident fuck boy of this story. I’ve never read the novel or seen any of the other adaptions, but from what I’ve been hearing this is one of the better versions and I find it hard to imagine a better telling of this story outside of maybe the original novel. Overall I highly recommend this wonderful slice of life film about four very different little women and I agree that Greta Gerwig was snubbed in the directing category.  10/10

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Parasite – No contest, Parasite is the best film of 2019 by a wide margin. Phenomenal film from a filmmaker at the height of his powers. It’s perfect in every way, I can’t think of a single thing I would change. The acting is amazing across the board. The set design is out of this world good because it’s insane that it doesn’t at all feel like sets at any point. The script is pure genius. Hell even the score is stunningly good. The other films in my 2019 top ten are great and all, but Parasite is a masterpiece. Sure I may be a little bias as a member of the working poor here in America (no rich family to leech off of though) but I still stand by this film being one of the greatest of all time. The Academy must award this film the top prize, it’s the only way I’ll forgive them for Joker receiving the most nominations. 10/10

Now that I’ve conquered 2019’s Best Picture nominees, here is my updated top ten of the year.

  1. Parasite 10/10
  2. Avengers: Endgame 10/10
  3. Little Women 10/10
  4. Marriage Story 10/10
  5. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part 10/10
  6. Us 9/10
  7. The King 9/10
  8. Knives Out 9/10
  9. Doctor Sleep 9/10
  10. Midsommar 9/10

My Favorite Films of the Decade 2010-2019

January 7, 2020

Looking back on the past decade of films gives me a lot of fond memories. This is the decade in which I started writing reviews on a regular basis and really refining my taste in film. Narrowing down an entire decade of film into a list of ten was a supremely difficult, but after much thought and internal conflict I believe I have found my ten favorite films of the twenty teens. They are presented below in release order because to compare these great films would be impossible and unfair.

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2010. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World – Okay so I recognize that this is probably the most flawed film on my list, but I couldn’t bring myself leave it off list. It’s a film that’s made just for me. You follow Scott Pilgrim as he has to defeat seven evil exs before he can date his new girlfriend in peace. It’s a coming of age story filtered through video game aesthetics and staring a cacophony of actors that I grew more and more fond of a the decade went on. Filled with amazing original indie rock tracks paired with the artful direction and superb editing of Edgar Wright. The old adage that the comic was better still holds true, but I don’t believe a better adaptation is possible unless it’s as a mini-series. I’ll never forgive the masses for letting this become a failure at the box office.

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2012. Cloud Atlas – This is another bizarre film that just doesn’t get the respect it deserves in my opinion. The Wachowskis have made here a true masterpiece of science fiction cinema with this film. Tom Tykwer also must be praised as the co-writer director and even did the music with his band Pale-3. Few films have ever effected me quite like Cloud Atlas. The plot is hard to really describe, you really need to experience it. It stars Tom Hanks, Hallie Barry, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw and many others playing a large variety of characters in a story that spans thousands of years. The music is utterly beautiful, particularity the title track. The visuals are breathtaking and I was left with a sense of awe at the end of it. It’s utterly unique and I implore everyone to give it a chance. Yes it’s a little long but this is a film that rewards your investment.

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2014. Birdman – This film is a jazz fueled masterpiece. The entire film is shot in a series of extra long takes that’s edited together to make it appear as if the entire film is one long take. Keaton gives an amazing performance as an actor who’s struggling to regain his cultural relevance and artistic credibility by leaving the world of superhero films behind in favor of a stage play. There is a fair bit of meta commentary here in comparison to Keaton’s own post-Batman career. The rest of the cast is also amazing despite their roles being much smaller. The real MVP of this film though is visionary director Alejandro Iñárritu. This film manages to capture the energy of a stage play while telling the story in a way that only film could. Iñárritu captured the best of both art forms here all while finding room to comment on the current business considerations that plague modern film making. I beg you all to watch this unique experience.

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2014. Nightcrawler – This is a psychological thriller with an intense focus on the psychological aspects of itself. I’ve always liked Jake Gyllenhaal, but this performance is above and beyond anything else he’s ever done. I mean he literally disappears into the dark and desperate persona of his character. Rene Russo is also amazing as an editor at a local news station and Riz Ahmed is perfect as the heart of this film. The cinematography makes L.A. at night match the main character’s mood perfectly, this effect is aided even further by the amazing score. The writing is amazing as it manages to explore both the main character’s psyche and the seedy underbelly of local news at the same time. Dan Gilroy made a truly spectacular directorial debut here, it’s just a shame that he seems unable to match this level of quality.

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2015. Ex Machina – It an outstanding science fiction film that will thrill you and leave you questioning the nature of humanity at the same time. Domhnall Gleeson is a sympathetic and engaging lead here, but it’s Oscar Isaac who steals the entire film as an eccentric billionaire CEO of “Not Google” that maybe invented a sentient robot. The robot in question is played with robotic levels of forlorn curiosity by the amazing Alicia Vikander, who really should be picking better scripts after this film. The set up is so simple that the main character is suspiciously skeptical from the start only to ease into paranoid fear as the plot progresses. Gleeson is a grunt programmer who is chosen seemingly at random to spend a week with the CEO and maybe preform a turning test or two for him. I don’t want to give away anymore then that, just trust me that you need to see this film.

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2015. Mad Max: Fury Road – What an incredibly epic masterpiece of action film making this was. The type of film that knocks your socks off and demands that you witness it. It’s a cacophony of sound and fury brought to life by some mind blowing practical effects; filtered through masterful editing, direction and mixing. Tom Hardy is brooding his heart out as Max, Charlize Theron is fucking awesome as Furiosa, and it’s just really dope that Hugh Keays-Byrne came back to once again be a Mad Max villain. Some people mistakenly think that this film’s plot is thin, describing it as a two hour car chase. This is absurdly dismissive as 1, you’ll never ever see a car chase like this in any other film, and 2 there is so much more going on beneath the surface then just a car chase. I love the hell out of this film and I’ll never forgive WB for tying up George Miller with a dumb lawsuit instead of letting him make more movies!

moonlight-poster-lg2016. Moonlight – This film is a personal tragedy about the struggle with identity and acceptance. It follows Chiron Harris at three different stages in his life, childhood, late puberty and adulthood. Each stage of his life sees him struggling his sexual orientation in different ways. Mahershala Ali dominates the first act as a drug dealer who tries his best to be a positive role model for Chiron. Naomie Harris plays his drug addicted birth mother with brutal honesty while Janelle Monae is sort of a surrogate mother for him. All of these actors give amazing performances but the entire film hinged on the final scene between Trevante Rhodes as the adult Chiron and his friend played by André Holland. Mix all this acting mega talent with beautiful cinematography, a deeply personal story, fluid pacing, and a fantastic score, then you get a perfect film.

brian-vee2017. Phantom Thread – Such a beautiful film about a uniquely bizarre relationship between a grumpy and eccentric dressmaker played by Daniel Day-Lewis and his model/muse played by Vicky Krieps. On paper it’s not something that would usually interest me, but the way in which Paul Thomas Anderson tells the story is brilliant. The slow and methodical pacing slowly eases you into the world as the characters slowly fall in love. About mid-way through the film the relationship takes a dark and fascinating turn as the power dynamics shift drastically. Johnny Greenwood has created a dreamy score that sweeps you up into the drama of the lives on screen and elevates an already amazing film.

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The Favourite – This movie is wild, the type of film that has no chill. Yorgos Lanthimos has made a surreal historical dark comedy film here, and I was enthralled from the start. Only the third film I’ve seen from him and it’s easily my favorite. It takes place in 1704 England and explores Queen Anne’s love triangle with her female adviser and her new handmaiden, the two women lusting more after the Queen’s power then the Queen herself. Olivia Colman plays the queen and she’s incredible, very deserving on her Oscar for this. Rachel Weisz is amazing as Lady Sarah who is essentially ruling by proxy thanks to her relationship with the Queen. Emma Stone gives one of her best performances here as the handmaiden who’s looking to improve her station. This film is far more vibrant and full of energy then any other royal drama I’ve ever seen and I can’t recommend it enough.

xe05nugsfeu312019. Parasite – I was a little wary about putting such a recent release on my best of the decade list, but I just can’t stop thinking about this amazing film. I’ve been living in a capitalist hellscape for my entire life so it was very interesting to see that how the same economic system is just as bad in South Korea. The story seems fairly straight forward at first with the poor family one by one becoming employed by the rich family, but so many more layers are reveled as the film progresses that you’re kept guessing as to the final destination. All of the actors give natural and believable performances. The pacing is in perfect harmony with the editing, helped by Bong Joon-ho’s precise shots. Jung Jaeil also does a brilliant score here, his second for Bong. Overall this film is a masterpiece if you don’t mind a little reading.

My Favorite Films of 2019

December 27, 2019

Welcome film fans to my annual breakdown of my favorite films. As usual a vast majority of the best films came out at the tail end of the year so there are probably several that I’ve missed. December in particular had an absurd number of releases that I just didn’t have time for. December is really not a good month to watch movies in, I didn’t even have time to write single reviews for most of these between watching them and working my normal job. I did the best I could in casting a wide net though and I think I have a pretty good list here. Probably update it after I force myself to watch whatever the Academy decides to nominate.

My Favorite Original Films

korean-parasite-movie-poster-2-1This is the category to beat this year. Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood while fairly problematic is still as original as a film can be without losing its obsessive nostalgia with 1960’s Hollywood. Knives Out is a highly enjoyable Rian Johnson deconstruction of the murder mystery genre. Us is a creepy awesome and unique horror film with fantastic performances. Marriage Story doesn’t have the most original premise but the way the story is told, the incredible weight behind all of the adult performers, and the final acceptance of a grueling and heartbreaking reality makes this a perfect film for me. Parasite on the other hand is a more perfect film, a nuanced look at the subtle forms of class warfare in South Korean society as filtered through a strangely comedic psychological thriller. Parasite was an experience beyond unique and I cannot wait for it to hit streaming so that I can see it again.

  1. Parasite 10/10
  2. Marriage Story 10/10
  3. Us 9/10
  4. Knives Out 9/10
  5. Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood 8.5/10

My Favorite True Story Adaptions

mv5bnjm5ztningmtmda2oc00mdyylweynzatowzmmzfly2vmowm4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_True story adaptions were a little weaker this year for me. Red Sea Diving Company for instance just barley made the cut largely due to a lack of competition. It’s not a bad film, just didn’t quite live up to it’s premise. The Two Popes is the last film I saw before finishing the year and it was decent, though the factual basis for the narrative is dubious at best. The Torture Report is far less dubious in it’s telling of the facts, but way drier in it’s delivery. Dolemite Is My Name is way to funny to fully believe in the facts as it presents them, but I did end up learning all about the real Dolemite afterward just because this film was as good as it is and I felt compelled to do some research. Hustlers easily takes my number one spot in this category with the most compelling story of the bunch that very much jives with the “eat the rich” vibe that permeates my overall top ten.

  1. Hustlers 8.75/10
  2. Dolemite Is My Name 8/10
  3. The Torture Report 8/10
  4. The Two Popes 7/10
  5. Red Sea Diving Company 6.75/10

My Favorite Novel Adaptions

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With so many people in the industry bitching about superheroes it’s no surprise that novel adaptions have been on fire this past year. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a fairly loose adaption and probably the weakest of the series, but it’s still a solid film and not a bad way to end the trilogy on. The Irishman much less of a true story an more of a novel adaption based on a possibly senile fueled deathbed confession, I still liked it quite a bit despite it not making my top ten. Jojo Rabbit is also very different from it’s novel, but man what an incredible film. Doctor Sleep is a film that I was a little nervous about, but Mike Flanagan knocked it out of the park and is now the only director I want to see adapting Stephen King novels. My favorite novel adaption though is technically a play adaption. The King takes several pieces from Shakespeare’s Henriad to create a modern epic with amazing acting, writing, set design and music. More people really need to see this.

  1. The King 9/10
  2. Doctor Sleep 9/10
  3. Jojo Rabbit 9/10
  4. The Irishman 8/10
  5. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 7.75/10

My Favorite Comic Adaptions

avengers-endgame-vintage-movie-poster-original-1-sheet-27x41-1It was a fairly crowded year for comic adaptions, but next to Avengers these other films paled a bit. Alita: Battle Angel had a lot going for it, most of the pieces you would need for an awesome movie, but the script being the most important piece it would of course be the one they screwed up. Captain Marvel was enjoyable and fun,  but structuring the film around her memory loss was an interesting idea that didn’t really work. Spider-Man: Far From Home was another just pretty good movie, though credit where credit is due for that amazing ending. Shazam! was a fresh approach to superheroes for DC, but it feels too little too late compared to what Marvel’s been doing; gotta love the Big meets Goonies vibes though. Avengers: Endgame while it’s still not my favorite movie title, it is a fantastically epic time travel superhero film that is able to satisfy fans without sacrificing the storytelling. Quite possibly my favorite MCU film.

  1. Avengers: Endgame 10/10
  2. Shazam! 8/10
  3. Spider-Man: Far From Home 8/10
  4. Captain Marvel 8/10
  5. Alita: Battle Angel 7/10

My Favorite Sequels/Spin-Offs

avengers-endgame-from-the-ashes-i72284As is every year I had an overwhelming number of sequels to choose from. It wasn’t easy to narrow down, but I believe these are the most satisfying of the year. I really didn’t think El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was a good idea but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t a pitch perfect epilogue to the series. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an awesome film that is leagues better then the second one and leaves me hungry for the fourth. Doctor Sleep is a film that has no business working as well as it does, amazing sequel to Kubrick’s Shining and a largely faithful adaption of King’s novel. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is a film that touched my heart while making me laugh and it’s a real shame that it didn’t preform better. Avengers: Endgame is of course the winner here, easily the most satisfying sequel of the entire decade perhaps.

  1. Avengers: Endgame 10/10
  2. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part 9.5/10
  3. Doctor Sleep 9/10
  4. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum 8.75/10
  5. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie 8/10

Overall Top Ten

xe05nugsfeu31Ranking these films against each other is always tough for me, but I once again managed. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum slides into the 10th spot with the best action direction of the year and yet another argument for a best fight choreography category at the Oscars. Jojo Rabbit is 9 and is a prime example of Taika Waititi’s amazing range. Doctor Sleep made 8 mostly because I’m a huge King nerd. Knives Out is my 7 because it’s such a fun little movie with genuinely surprising twists and thoughtful commentary on our time. The King is a great medieval epic with amazing acting and writing working together in perfect harmony. Us is 5 for doing it’s part to keep the horror genre fresh and new. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is 4 here, an absolutely fantastic animated film that needs to become a cult hit or something. Marriage Story is 3, a brutal portrayal of the divorce process the was executed flawlessly. I might be a little bias in favor of Avengers: Endgame but it just couldn’t put such an awesome film any lower then 2. Number 1 is Parasite hands down. Bong Joon-ho’s latest masterpiece is a twisty and comedic thriller about the class dynamics of South Korea, which doesn’t seem much different from American class dynamics. This film stuck with me, I couldn’t get it out of my mind and I’m itching to see it again on streaming. It’s a true work of art.

  1. Parasite 10/10
  2. Avengers: Endgame 10/10
  3. Marriage Story 10/10
  4. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part 9.5/10
  5. Us 9/10
  6. The King 9/10
  7. Knives Out 9/10
  8. Doctor Sleep 9/10
  9. Jojo Rabbit 9/10
  10. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum 8.75/10

My Ultimate Star Wars Ranking

December 27, 2019

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. I saw the original trilogy more times then I could count. I saw all the prequel films opening weekend and all the Disney Wars films opening weekend as well. I’ve read a large number of the comics, played several video games and watched the entirety of Clone Wars and Rebels.

With all of that in mind I think it’s safe to say that I’m a geeky nerf hearder to my very core. With my resume established I think we’re ready to dive into my personal rankings of Star Wars media, 1977-2019.

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15. Star Wars: The Clone Wars Film – Ranking in last place on my list is the truly awful Star Wars: Clone Wars animated movie. I know that a CGI Star Wars show was a very new idea when this was made bit man I just can’t t cut this any slack for that. The plot is groan inducingly bad with every single joke falling flat on its face. The animation while passable for a series is not at all on the level of a film. Ahsoka has become one of my favorite Star Wars characters, but this introduction to her is one of the worst character intros of all time. Incidentally her introduction is the only plot point that carries over to the main series. Otherwise this thing is a waste of your time unless you just really need to see a badly rendered baby hut. 4/10

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14. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – This film took most of the war out and replaced it with politics as written by someone that doesn’t really understand how politics work.. The plot is super dumb and the big picture is really hard to keep track of. Anakin is annoying, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Jar Jar Binks who’s every line will grate on your ears. There’s also nothing here to be emotional invested in once the film leaves Anakin’s mom behind. The final saber fight in the end is well choreographed but it’s between three guys we only sort of got to know, one of whom doesn’t even speak. Yeah I know Ewan McGregor really brings it here, but it wasn’t quite enough for me. Not to mention the space battle that happens at the end is the worst of the franchise. 5/10

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13. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – I hate sand too but it’s still preferable to this film. This movie is a real slog to get through. Sure there are moments of action and excitement but between them is just space politics that don’t make much sense if you bother paying attention and lots of flirting scenes between two actors with anti-chemistry. The story is just a mess of ideas that don’t work together very well. For some reason this film assumes that viewers would be just as interested in the politics behind this fake war as they would be in Anakin’s turn to the dark side. The special effects are technically good but there’s just a gaudy amount of it taking up so much of the scene. That painfully long sequence of C-3PO losing his head in a droid factory is a prime example of this. It’s too bad this contains important setup for Anakin’s story otherwise I would just say skip it entirely. 5/10

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12. Solo: A Star Wars Story – The worst of the Disney films was ill conceived from the start in my opinion, and behind the scenes nonsense didn’t help matters. This film doesn’t add anything of interest to our understanding of Han Solo, in fact it actively undermines his arc in the original trilogy. This movie even gives his last name an origin for some ill conceived reason. Most of the new characters we meet here are dead by the end and the one other original trilogy character we meet does nothing of note except for needlessly broadening our understanding of the phrase “human cyborg relations”. I guess I might like it more if it wasn’t branded Star Wars, or if it wasn’t a Han Solo movie. But it is so I don’t. 5.5/10

 

star-wars-9-poster11. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker – This movie really hurt me with just how much potential was just thrown away. I’m honestly shocked and appalled that Disney and J.J. decided to cave to fan pressure with such a callous and empty film. Sure the acting is still really good, special effects are top notch and John Williams remains the most reliable aspect of Star Wars. This script however feels like it was compiled from all of the dumbest fan theories that were circulating before Episode VIII came out. Not to mention all the dumb fake outs for cheap dramatic tension, MacGuffin chasing in lieu of actual story and cringe worthy dialogue that’s meant to hold the whole thing together. I understand that Abrams might not have liked Last Jedi throwing away all of his mystery boxes, but if there was actually anything inside of them then he wouldn’t have been in this position. It honestly feels like two movies fighting each other and the ending of the fight is a double knockout, no winners all losers. The biggest loser being me, a fan who had the gall to expect such an expensive blockbuster to be competently written without fear of backlash. 5.5/10

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10. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Here we are at the best entry in the prequel trilogy, it’s all up hill after this. It still has similar issues to the previous two prequel films, but it also feels like Lucas has been learning. The plot isn’t as tight as I would like it to be but there are actual character arcs, there’s still an over reliance on CGI but it’s definitely been scaled back. Even the acting feels better in this one. Action is pretty great too; I know some people that can go on and on about how cool Darth Maul’s fight scenes are, but the final Vader vs Obi-Wan fight at the end of this film is pretty damn spectacular with the added benefit of emotional stakes. The comedy creeps way too far into the mostly serious third act “Oooba”, but I gotta say that this is a fresh movie for me. 6.75/10

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09. Star Wars: Rebels – So the fourth and final season of this show is just a total mess, lots of weird convoluted time travel nonsense that culminated in the main hero and antagonist just fucking disappearing into space somewhere.  The three seasons before it though are some really great stuff. Ezra maybe a little annoying at first but he gets more likable as his character matures. Kanan Jarrus the Padawan who escaped Order 66 is super awesome. Sabine helps us learn things about the Mandalorians for the first time on screen. Hera is great as the first Twi’lek to actually get to be a character and Zeb has just the most awesome design. It deepens the lore of the universe and has a satisfying arc for all of it’s mains. Sure the final season is mostly nonsense but if you’re hardcore into Star Wars then you’ll enjoy it. 7/10

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08. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens – So I didn’t hate this film when it came out, it’s as good as A New Hope remake could be I imagine, but it sure has fallen in light of recent events. The new cast introduced here are fairly interesting with many good story hooks that will be nearly all be thrown away by the end of their “arc”. The old cast is mostly wasted here though. Han regresses as a character by becoming a smuggler again sometime after Return of the Jedi, but he does get a nice emotional send off. Luke is completely absent except by name which feels like a huge waste now. Leia feels the most in line with where she was heading in the original trilogy, but the existence of the Resistance doesn’t make any sense within the framework of the New Republic. Knowing where the series ended up it really makes the title and all of the needless mysteries feel even more dumb and nonsensical then they did on first viewing. Overall this film has a lot of potential that is just forever squandered now. 7/10

71rxkmgraal._sy550_07. The Mandalorian – So while I did really enjoy season one, it’s a little hard for me to rank since the story is clearly not complete. May not be complete for several seasons, who knows. As it stands though I mostly liked it. The slow burn pacing was a little brutal with the week to week though especially with the more stand alone episodes. The last two episodes brought everything back though and really solidified this series as some good shit. Story telling was slow but solid, acting was mostly great, and the action is fantastic. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this show is highly enjoyable even without the pleasantly adorable “Baby Yoda”. Fingers crossed that season two is at least on par with this one and toes crossed that the storytelling gets a bit more serialized. 7/10

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06. Star Wars: The Clone Wars Series – I was very resistant to watch this show for a long time. Having not liked the prequels I wasn’t very keen on revisiting that time period in the film, but man am I so glad that I finally did. This series does everything that the prequels should have been doing and then some. Asoka is such a well written character and the way her arc parallels Anakin’s slow burn turn to the dark side is next to brilliant. Anakin’s friendship with Obi-Wan is also vastly fleshed out here which adds much needed weight to Episode III. There are a few weaker episodes here, but for the most part this show is fire. A seventh and final season is coming next year and I have my fingers crossed for an ending on par with the rest of the series. Hopefully the new season isn’t about how Palpatine fucks now. 8/10

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05. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – This was a film I was very curious about. A Star Wars film outside of the main series and without any of the characters we’re familiar with. There’s some unnecessary bits of fan service here and there, but overall it does feel like a fresh approach to telling a Star Wars story. The characters are interesting enough, nice standard Star Wars archetypes, but it’s K-2SO in particular who steal the show. Possibly my favorite droid in any Star Wars anything. The plot is actually really good considering it exists to fill a non-plot hole in Episode IV. On one hand it’s a major bummer how the film ends, but it’s also a poignant note to end the story on. So much so that I can forgive the unsettling ghost of Peter Cushing and the creepy young CGI Leia. 8/10

u-g-f93h7k004. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – Yeah I know since of you are booing my list at this point but what can I say? The Last Jedi is the most unique and exciting Star Wars film since 1983, it just is. Now before I sing this films praises I will acknowledge that the biggest flaw is the casino planet. Mainly that it takes way too long after the film puts a ticking on the rest of the Resistance. I understand that Finn needs to go through some of this for his arc, but they could have shortened it in favor of more time with Luke and Rey. Poe’s arc also takes up too much screen time, but for more contrived reasons. Other then that though this film is awesome! Luke force projecting himself across the universe was epic. The Holdo Maneuver was epic. Luke’s reunions with R2-D2, Yoda, and Leia were powerful and poignant. The death of Snoke and the following throne room fight was fucking awesome! The best part of this film though was the unfulfilled promise of what Episode 9 could have been. 8.75/10

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03. Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi – Here we go, finally digging into the original trilogy. This one always seemed to be the most exciting to me growing up. From rescuing Han to jumping between the three main final act action set pieces, and of course that dope green saber. Yes it is a small step down from the first two, but it’s still an excellent film that really stands the test of time. I loved the introduction of Luke as a fully trained Jedi Knight facing off against Jabba and his Rancor. It was maybe a little dumb but I loved everything with C-3PO and the Ewoks. Lando flying into the half built Death Star to blow it up with the Falcon was awesome. Luke facing off against Vader and the Emperor alone and coming out of it as a Jedi Master was a fantastic ending with all of the emotional resonance that you want at the end of a trilogy. After recent events this now the conclusion to the entire saga for me personally. 9/10

81p3ldjbjcl._ac_sy550_02. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – This is the one that started it all. What could I possibly say about this perfect sci-fi fantasy adventure that hasn’t been said before? The slow and weird way that we’re introduced to the world of the story through the eyes of a pair of droids is brilliant. The very natural flowing get the gang together type of story that follows is brilliant. The way that each new character introduced is so different from the previous one is brilliant. The blending together of all these seemingly disparate ideas into a cohesive story that capture the imaginations of generations was brilliant. This film isn’t just brilliant though, it’s also goofy, weird and wild. A perfect film. There have been countless essays and documentaries that break it down far better then I can, but suffice to say this was love at first watch. 10/10

51c0cpp4d2bl01. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back – So yeah I call A New Hope a perfect film but then I ranked this one above it. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that Empire Strikes Back is more perfect then perfect. Now that all the character introductions and basic world building were out of the way the story had room to dive deeper and explore some of the bigger ideas introduced in the previous film. Whoever came up with the idea of Yoda is a genius, bringing back Obi-Wan as a force ghost is genius, Tauntaun sleeping bag was genius and a little emotional, letting Han get captured was genius and strangely romantic, the Vader reveal is iconic and superbly genius. Again many people have said it better then I can, but for the reasons listed above and many more that I can’t quite articulate; this is my favorite Star Wars film. 10/10

Movie Review: Parasite

November 23, 2019

korean-parasite-movie-poster-2-1Bong Joon-ho has once again made a brilliant film that defies genre expectations in all the best ways. Not to mention that it’s a story that touches on the main problem within modern Korean and America society. That problem being unfettered capitalism.

The film follows two families in South Korea. One family is poor and struggling to survive, the other is rich without any financial worries what so ever. The story explores what happens when these two families become intertwined.

Acting is superb, every cast member completely disappears into their roles. The two that really stand out for me are Lee Jung-eun as the housekeeper and Cho Yeo-jeong as the rich wife. Song Kang-ho is also great doing very subtle work here, easy to see why he’s Bong Joon-ho’s muse.

Speaking of subtle yet masterful work Bong Joon-ho’s directing is exactly that. From what I understand this entire film was shot on sets which gave him a level of control that he utilized to amazing effect. It feels like every single frame is adding to the overall story being told.

The score by Jeong Jae-il is also pretty amazing. Lots of classical sounds with piano and violins. The film begins with more whimsical happy sounds but slowly shifts darker as more of the plot is revealed.

Overall I think you need to see this film. Film if the year so far for me. Perfect in every way. Don’t let the subtitles stop you. 10/10

Movie Review: Doctor Sleep

November 15, 2019

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I love The Shining. I recognize that the novel is probably the better version of the story, but the Kubrick film is still a fucking masterpiece no matter what Stephen King says. Now nearly forty years later we have Doctor Sleep.

This film is trying to do three different things at once and for the most part I’d say it succeeded in being a sequel to both the book and film that preceded it. Not an easy task considering all the changes Kubrick made in his adaption. It also wants to faithfully adapt the novel it’s based on, only changing the details that it has to.

The story follows Danny Torrance all grown up and dealing with his inherited alcoholism when he meets a little girl who shines brighter then he ever did. She attracts the wrong kind of attention because she shines so bright and it’s up to Danny to protect her. There’s a lot more to it then that of course, but it would be spoilers to say more.

Ewan McGregor is great as always as Danny Torrance. Kyliegh Curran is really spectacular in what is only her second role. Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat though, she really stole the film for me. Maybe not as iconic as Jack Nicholson in Kubrick’s film, but it’s still an electric performance and probably the best movie villain of the year.

This is the second King adaption I’ve seen from Mike Flanagan and I applaud him. Most directors don’t seem to know how to handle King’s work and try and force it into a more traditional horror film, but Flanagan here is directing a serious drama with a handful of horrific moments. He knows what makes these stories work and I really want him to tackle more of King’s work, maybe an Insomnia adaption?

The score is creepy and foreboding. The Newton Brothers have done a fantastic job at recreating the sounds and vibes of the first film. It would have been nice if Wendy Carlos was invited back to score this instead but these guys have worked on every Flanagan film so I understand the loyalty.

Overall this is a damn good film and it’s not making nearly enough money at the Box Office. If you’re even a just a tiny fan of The Shining or Stephen King please go and support this great film. 9/10