movie thoughts: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – part 1 of ???

movie thoughts: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – part 1 of ???

I began typing up my reaction to TLJ and I couldn’t stop and now I’m up to two pages of notes in Google Docs and still have so much more to say. So rather than posting a TL;DR length ramble, I’m going to break it up into chunks. Consider this part 1 of whatever haha.

Spoilers, obviously, though this post is relatively vague compared to what is to come.


I will start by saying that I know it was not a perfect movie – it ran a bit too long, I felt the timeline didn’t quite add up, among other things that I will mention under the cut. But overall, I loved it and the more time I have had to think about it, I really appreciate all of the stories being told.

I always say that the power of the original trilogy came from the fact that Lucas drew on classic myths and legends from cultures all over the world and the reason the prequel trilogy faltered so much was that it tried to pull from Star Wars, which wasn’t enough to sustain the story. But this new trilogy proves me wrong – if you know what you are doing, you can use Star Wars as your myth and create something that is more than the sum of those parts. The real problem with the prequels was clearly Lucas and his confusion about what made Star Wars resonate with so many people. I feel like Abrams and Johnson are far more aware because they are fans, but they also know that, to paraphrase Faulkner, you must kill your darlings.

For many of us, the original trilogy defines our childhood, with epic heroes and stories of adventure and family, both blood and found family. We still clung to these stories as we got older because of that sense of innocence around them, but we also started to realize that very rarely are these kinds of stories so clear cut, that the world is filled with shades of gray. I think the TFA trilogy taps into that more adult sensibility, and actually a reality that I feel, more and more, people are trying to instill in their children earlier on – that the world isn’t so easy to understand, that sometimes the villains have a point and the heroes act like jerks. Because we are all people, even our heroes, even our leaders, they are just people with their own flaws. This idea was presented in ‘Empire Strikes Back’ but I think most of us overlooked it, focusing more on the Father/Son story than the fact that we had a fallen hero and one who was teetering on the edge.

I think for some fans, this rubbed them the wrong way – they wanted their heroes to remain spotless. I won’t lie, when I first heard that TFA would feature the original cast, I panicked – I said it was because I didn’t want to see old versions of Luke, Leia and Han but now I’m realizing that what I didn’t want to see – didn’t want to know – was about their life after RotJ. Because anyone who had ventured into the EU books in the 90s knew that life goes on and life gets messy. Perhaps, deep down, that was my fear.

But I actually liked finding out about their lives and their mistakes. Han and Leia were together, they had some happy times. Luke tried his best to set an example as the last Jedi. Life went on, as it does – there are no happy endings because nothing ends. To think that evil could be wiped out, could be removed from the galaxy was naive. Plus, as The Last Jedi makes clear, The Force isn’t about good vs evil, but finding a balance between darkness and light – neither of which are inherently good or bad.

More specific thoughts later…

#movies watched in August

#movies watched in August


August was a month of rewatches. Some of the movies survived the repeat viewings and others…well, I found out why I had forgotten about them in the first place!

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the Second Dimension — Everything you would want out of a Phineas and Ferb special – jokes for all ages, references for hard core fans, lots of action and adventure. And all of your favorite characters featured TWICE! Totally a blast and I found myself laughing out loud more than once.

Guardians of the Galaxy — This is the shot in the arm the Marvel Universe needed. After a year of sequels to Super Hero franchises, Guardians of the Galaxy crashes the party with a band of losers, lead by the hilarious and likeable Chris Pratt and a furry version of Bradley Cooper.

You need no prior knowledge of the Marvel Universe to enjoy this movie. You just need to be prepared to have a good time. James Gunn manages to keep the focus on story but still pack in plenty of action sequences. The special effects were seamless, especially with Groot and Rocket. The dialogue is quick and witty and it will be quoted for years to come. The soundtrack is an awesome mix

A League of Their Own — Rewatched this for the first time in probably 10 years last night. Was in the mood for a baseball movie…and maybe in the mood to get a little teary eyed. It worked. Seriously, the scene with Marla and her Dad that’s like 20 minutes in? Holding them back.

It’s not a perfect movie, it’s a bit long but it’s trying to represent the time period as best it can…then again it’s also clearly trying to stay within the realm of a PG rating so it’s very CLEAN. I’m sure things were even worse for the girls.

Also…I was thinking if the applied the same standards that they did for these women back then to our sports stars today, maybe it would be a GOOD THING! I think maybe of these professional players need chaperones and behavioral training.

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars — how could I NOT love this? You could tell the writers of this series are huge fans of the Star Wars movies long before this special, sneaking nods, winks, and entire lines into Phineas and Ferb episodes. Now they got to take their characters into the galaxy far far away and play in that Tattooine sized sandbox. Instant classic for Star Wars fans of all ages.

Airplane II: The Sequel — I wondered why the only thing I remembered about this movie was the bit with William Shatner…that’s pretty much the only part worth watching. This actually had too much plot, even though it was the exact same plot as Airplane! Too many repeat jokes and not enough belly laughs.

Wayne’s World — Some of the jokes are pretty dated, but it’s still got some great comedic moments. The ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ scene will never be beat. And how can resist the Scooby Doo ending? It’s a classic and THE best SNL movie ever made.

Enemy — Maybe the most frustrating movie I’ve seen in awhile. I spent this entire film thinking “what the hell is going on?!?!?!” and then the movie ended and then it ended and I was like “What the %&!&@! just happened!?!?!”

But, in the end, the more I think about it, the more I like it. It felt like a Twilight Zone episode, or a short story…or maybe the most elaborate Rorschach test. Show it to your friends and see what THEY think it was about.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes — My first rewatch since seeing this in the theater back in 2011. Still a fantastic, well put together action movie. Andy Serkis is AMAZING as Caesar and his acting really elevates this film. Probably James Franco’s best role too.

This is the only “reboot” or “prequel” that I can fully endorse. So well done, with enough nods to the originals for hardcore fans and plenty of story for those of us who only vaguely remember the original movie.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, this movie is so much better than it had any right to be. Above and beyond what I expected, even upon repeat viewings.

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad — Like most comedy movies of this genre, it was a movie of the moment. With throw back jokes to the original series and even more gags that related to the mid-1980s, it’s not as funny as it once was. But it still has some great moments.

Want a good site for tracking your movies ala GoodReads? Check out my personal favorite: Letterboxd

#WatchingWednesday – movies from June

June was mostly spent watching TV shows so my list of movies is very short. 4 films – 3 new, 1 rewatch. 1 awful, 3 awesome.


X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
I had been excited about this movie since it was announced. I love the first two X-Men movies and was impressed with First Class (and totally deny the existence of Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins because, egh). And when the positive reviews started to roll in, I knew I HAD to see it on the big screen.

It was SO much fun. I remember watching the cartoon version of this story arc on Saturday mornings back in the 90s and having my mind blown. It wasn’t often that a Saturday Morning Cartoon presented me with shades of gray when it came to battling injustice (I won’t say more since I don’t want to give away any spoilers). The big screen version was just as good. So great to see the cast of ALL the X-Men movies on the big screen in one epic feature. Just enough twists and turns to keep it interesting and, surprisingly, lots of good talking moments as characters try to understand the paths they have chosen..

As with all plots that involve time-travel of some kind, I’m sure you could sit here and poke holes in the plot because time travel ALWAYS has it’s issues. BUT who cares? The story was solid, the characters were all there and the actors were giving it their all. The star power of this movie is off the charts and I think it really raised it up to the next level of superhero film. I just hope any future sequels (which they clearly have in the works) are done just as well.


The LEGO Movie (2014)
This was such a big surprise for me. When the movie was initially announced, I rolled my eyes, assuming it would be some kid flick thrown together to sell more toys. Then the reviews started to come out and I heard about the connection to the hilarious and unique Clone High series. So I put myself on the wait list for the DVD at the library. It arrived JUST when I need a lift and the movie did not disappoint.

Fill with a huge cast and tons of cameos along with jokes for every age group, The LEGO movie is an instant classic that will have everyone in the room laughing out loud. I loved it and I will definitely be adding it to my personal collection for the next time I need a little pick-me-up. Brilliant. While Toy Story made me want to snuggle all my figures, LEGO made me want to dump all the blocks into the center of the room and BUILD!

The other movies I watched were Elysium which was so bad I had to rant in a separate post and then I rewatched Frozen, which was still a beautiful movie the fourth time around. Not my favorite Disney movie, but I think it’s heart is in the right place and I feel like the music quality just keeps getting better.

What did you watch in June?

movie thoughts: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

thor the dark world poster On a whim this afternoon I decided I would go see Thor: The Dark World. I had heard relatively positive reviews and had liked the first movie okay, but really I think I just wanted an excuse to eat a bucket of popcorn and get away for a couple of hours.

It did the trick.

It’s a ridiculous superhero movie but it has a lot of heart and humor and it flies by, even at the 111 minute mark. While I felt that the first movie had a lot of moments that dragged, this one never felt that way, with plenty of action and just enough of a plot to make it interesting. I somehow managed to avoid spoilers, maybe because I don’t watch as much live TV as I used to, so I wasn’t inundated with commercials.

The script and directing were done right, along with the editing, keeping fight sequences interesting even though you can really only do so much when it comes to giant not-quite-immortals beating the crap out of each other. But there was enough going on with the characters to make these sequences work.

I think the cast of this movie really elevates it beyond what it could have been. Hemsworth IS Thor and when you put him in a room with Anthony Hopkins, he manages to hold his own. Tom Hiddleston manages to steal every scene he is in and I didn’t really mind. Chris Eccleston and Idris Elba were strong supporting cast and even though they didn’t have a ton of screen time, it’s like their mere presence in the movie made it better. While I still feel Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth do not have the on-screen chemistry of other Marvel couples (Paltrow and Downey Jr. for example) I felt that their attraction was a bit more believable in this one. Kat Dennings is back as Darcy and she cracks me up for some reason so I didn’t mind seeing her again. Stellan Skarsgard is always awesome. And it was a surprise to see Chris O’Dowd and Zachary Levi!!! It made my little fangirl heart extra happy (even if Levi looks very silly with blonde hair and I spent the whole movie going ‘wait…he wasn’t in the first film…was he???’ (he wasn’t – Fandral was originally played by Josh “Charming” Dallas))

Speaking of being slightly distracted by geeky things, I think the overwhelming popularity of fantasy and science fiction films may have rotted my brain. During the opening battle when Thor first appears, all I could think was “He’s fighting Dovakin in Skyrim!” because *EVERYONE* had a silly hat with horns or some other armor that looks like it was forged by a leathercrafter trying to level up. Then there was the scene in Asgard, looking out on the lake, which was a bit too close to the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin and Padme are “hiding” on Naboo. And another **spoilery** scene in the movie gave me Revenge of the Sith flashbacks…with a dash of Tangled thrown in. Seriously, it felt like Disney was just raiding all the saved files from previous movies!

But apart from those moments, I was totally absorbed by this movie and I really enjoyed it. Of course, we are set up for another sequel, because Marvel is going to milk this cash cow for as long as it can, but even with that slight bit of a loose end left out there, this movie ranks high for me in the Marvel superhero list.

Here’s hoping Captain American: Winter Soldier is just as entertaining!

when dinosaurs ruled my life…

I saw Jurassic Park on the big screen again today and my mind has been spinning with memories ever since.

I was always a movie geek and I think my love of Indiana Jones led me to Spielberg.  I was into the behind-the-scenes stuff so I knew the names of actors and directors and writers and it was hard for me to miss his name next to my then-hero George Lucas when the credits rolled after Temple of Doom (I was scared of the ghosts in Raiders so I only watched Temple for the longest time LOL).  But I don’t really think it was until Jurassic Park that my full on love of Spielberg really hit.

I can’t remember the specifics, but I did want to see the movie and I knew it was coming out.  My mom pointed out that it was based on a book.  At this time, my reading was mostly limited to Star Wars novels and books based on movies, so she knew what she was doing when she encouraged me to read the book before we saw the film.

I remember being so nervous when I went to the theater with my 6th grade friend Tara.  The movie was rated PG-13 and I was only 12 and I was scared they wouldn’t let me in.  I think I might have even asked my mom to write me a permission letter.  I remember clutching my military ID, worried that they would ask for it and I would be sent home.  Of course, that didn’t happen because no one cares who sees a PG-13 movie.  But still, it was a strong enough dread that I remember it.

I also remember this was right when the first stadium seating theater opened up in Laurel AND they had the new surround sound system.  Oh the sound of that T-Rex roar still makes me heart beat faster, I LOVE IT!

I think I dragged every single person I knew to the theater with me that summer to watch it over and over again.  My Mom said she thought it was scarier than Jaws (which I had yet to see…I think this is where I went on my Spielberg binge, renting all of the movies from Channel 3 Video, the local rental store, and rewatching classics like E.T. and digging out our taped-off-of-TV Beta of Poltergeist.  My older cousin was obsessed with dinosaurs, he actually had Robert Bakker’s book (the one that Tim is rambling about at Grant when he slams the car door in his face) and he had spent the summer sketching Velociraptors so when we went up to Maine in August, we had to hit the theater again.  I want to say I saw it at least 6 times.

I bought the soundtrack (even though I had started drafting a letter to John Williams about keeping the dinosaur sounds in the soundtrack because I felt they were part of the music LOL).  I listed to the CD SO MUCH I memorized the music cues for almost all of the scenes.  Especially that moment where Ellie yells “It’s the other car!” …that one was one of my favorites.

My Uncle Jim gave me a cassette copy of the audiobook, which was abridged but I didn’t care.  I listened to it over and over while I played Tetris on my Nintendo in the basement (you know, when I wasn’t dragging people to see Jurassic Park).  And I dragged my copy of the book around with me everywhere (it’s in pretty sad shape but I still have it now, yellowed pages and water damaged back cover…I remember when I spilled water on it, it was in a hotel in Orlando with my aunt, I was so upset).

I got my hands on several action figures included the Explorer (I was convinced that was the car I would get some day, painted just like Jurassic Park), T-Rex that roared when you squeezed him (I wore out the mechanism at some point and my Dad did some surgery to go in and fix it, poor Rex had a scar after that), a little T-Rex who had a bit of “flesh” that popped out on the side ot reveal bone and muscle, a raptor, and a dilophosaurus who screamed when you pressed down on his tongue.  We had raptor hand-puppet too, which made the noise when you pressed the button inside.  And we bought the board game which was just terrible, took hours to read the directions and it made no sense and I’m sure my parents earned all kinds of karma playing that with me when they did LOL.

And, of course, I bought the “Making Of” book and read it cover to cover to find out HOW they made those awesome dinosaurs.  I had such respect for Phil Tippet and Stan Winston.  I really wanted to do that, it was my dream job, to work in movies…and I guess some part of me still wishes I had pursued that career.  And another part of me knows that I would have been eaten alive like Gennaro 😉

Lost World and JP3 never lived up to the first movie.  First they didn’t have the great source material to pull from (the second book had very little in common with the second movie) and Spielberg was just a producer, not directing.  But I’ve always loved <i>Jurassic Park</i> and I watched it so much, cranked up the home theater system my Dad had set up, making the walls shake when the T-Rex roared (until my Mom would roar for me to turn it down).

This also started my love affair with Sam Neill who hadn’t done a lot of movies a 12 year old could see, but I remember watching Billy Zane terrorize him and Nicole Kidman in Dead Calm and also him being the proto-Bond in Reilly: Ace of Spies.  I still adore him.

Which is why it was so good to see it in the theater again.  It holds up so well because of those Spielberg touches.  Say what you will about him, the man knows how to make you care about characters, even when they spend most of the movie being chased by dinosaurs.  Like E.T. and Poltergeist, you can watch this movie at different ages and watch along with different characters.  For so long, I watched with Lex and Tim, but now I watch with Grant and Ellie.  And, joy of joys, the special effects still look GOOD probably because of the fact that Tippet and Winston used enough practical effects mixed with the primitive CGI (which cleaned up nicely too).

So to Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg, the entire cast and crew of Jurassic Park, I want to say THANK YOU!  It might not be the best movie ever (there are some weird edits that still bug me to this day, which is usually attributed to the fact that Steven had gone to work on Schindler’s List by the end and didn’t worry as much about JP…can you blame him?) but it makes me HAPPY.  I could watch it over and over (and I have) and I know it was just an easy way to make money, making it 3D and putting it back in theaters but…I don’t care, it was worth it to see it one last time on the BIG SCREEN.

I ❤ Jurassic Park.

movie thoughts: Argo (2012)


You know a book or a movie that is based a true story is good when it gets you on the edge of your seat.  ‘Argo’ does this and more.

I was not very familiar with this piece of history.  I vaguely knew about the hostage situation but I had never heard about the six Americans that fled the embassy and holed up in the Canadian ambassador’s house.  Or the CIA operation to bring them home alive.  And maybe you don’t know much about it either so that is all I am going to say about the plot.  I went in to the film knowing less than this and I it was so enjoyable to see a movie I knew nothing about.

Ben Affleck has matured into a fantastic director and a great actor.  The cast he assembled for this film just knocks it out of the park.  The script is perfectly balanced — if the story had been all tension with no let-up I don’t think it would be nearly as engaging as it was.  The movie has you biting your nails at one moment and then you’re giggling and then you’re gripping your arm rest…

I was also relieved that the scriptwriter didn’t pull any punches.  They break down the cause of the unrest in Iran right in the beginning and it’s clear the US made some big mistakes.  The movie isn’t about apologizing for those mistakes or spinning the facts, it just presents them to help give viewers some context.

I am rooting for the entire cast and crew of ‘Argo’ – it deserves the Oscar nod.  This is a great piece of dramatized American, Canadian and Iranian history.

Short Version: GO SEE ARGO NOW!  It’s worth seeing in the theater, if only to give you the same claustrophobic feeling the hidden embassy employees must have felt.

movie thoughts: The King’s Speech (2010)


  Not too many uplifting films end with the first days of World War II, yet the dark cloud hanging over Europe is not the primary focus of “The King’s Speech”.  The larger than life figures of Hitler, Stalin, and Churchill are barely mentioned.  Instead, the story focuses on the shy prince who only wanted to stay in his brother’s shadow, but was instead forced into the public eye.  A man who stammered in his speech because he had been raised to be unsure of himself, which went against everything a royal child should be.  And the story of another man from another land who helps this very British prince find his voice.

Colin Firth may have won the Golden Globe (and deserved it 100%) but the thing that makes “The King’s Speech” so watchable is the entire cast.  Helena Bonham-Carter as Elizabeth, Albert’s wife, a strong woman in her own right who worked hard to support her husband.  Geoffery Rush as Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who knows there is more to the stammer than just a “mechanical problem”.  And even the true supporting actors who play minor parts but major roles in the lives of Albert and Lionel.  This entire group, along with some beautiful direction, keeps the viewer engaged in an historical drama that, according to Colin Firth, even the British citizens know very little about to this day. 

I’ve seen the movie twice now and can safely say this is a five-star movie, with everything coming together in perfectly.  Whether you see it on the big screen in a full theater (and both showings I’ve been to have been full) or wait to rent it and watch it at hope, you’re going to cheer for Bertie and Lionel.