Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi Review

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi movie posterSynopsis
Rey (Daisy Ridley) locates Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who reluctantly trains her in the ways of the Force. Meanwhile, the First Order, led by Snoke (Andy Serkis) are hot on the trail of Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) Resistance.

Review
By now, everyone and their brother has said what there is to say about Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Due to the holidays, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and put my thoughts into written word. I did, however, give my thoughts in a podcast, which you can listen to here. I’ve made no effort to hide the fact I didn’t enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens as much as everyone else seems to. With a film as divisive as The Last Jedi, where do I fall on the spectrum? Somewhere right in the middle.

One of the main reasons The Empire Strikes Back is so widely loved is because of where it left the Rebellion at the end. The bad guys won. The good guys lost and were left in a very difficult spot. The Last Jedi channels that same desperation. Throughout the film, you can feel the Resistance getting closer and closer to despair. This really allows for some great character growth, particularly from Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who is learning that there are better ways of protecting your forces than just running head-first into battle.

Despite my mixed feelings about The Force Awakens, one thing from that movie I absolutely loved was its use of practical effects. The Last Jedi follows in its immediate predecessor’s footsteps and uses practical effects, uh, effectively. I don’t know what else to say other than it makes a big difference compared to the CGI-heavy Prequel Trilogy.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is one of my favorite Star Wars characters so it was great to see him in a mentor role, teaching Rey (Daisy Ridley) about the Force. Even better, I like that he wasn’t perfect. He was broken and hesitant and it made for a good relationship between him and Rey. However, I do not like his moment of weakness that drove Kylo Ren to leave the academy, but that would be discussing spoilers, which I’m not going to do.

Speaking of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), he continues to be the most interesting new character to come from this new trilogy. Once you think you have him figured out, he goes and does the unexpected. Adam Driver was a great choice to play Kylo. Driver really brings out Kylo’s emotional struggle, sort of like the Anakin we never had. The relationship forming between him and Rey is something to look out for in Episode IX.

The Last Jedi newcomer Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, was a great new addition to the cast. She really embodied the hope that the Resistance stands for and Tran played her optimism well. Her side quest with Finn (John Boyega) was a fun romp and break from the main plot line. Tran and Boyega had some good chemistry so I can’t wait to see how they’re developed in the future.

For as much as I enjoy Daisy Ridley’s Rey, I don’t feel like her character grew as much as several of the others. Coming into the film, she was strong in the Force, if untrained, determined to learn from Luke the ways of the Jedi, and optimistic about turning Kylo back to the Light Side. By the end of the film, she’s just as strong in the Force, though this time a little more refined in her training, and still has her optimism. One of my gripes with Rey, despite my love for the character, was how quickly and how strong she became in the Force in The Force Awakens. That quick growth in her first appearance doesn’t give her abilities much room to grow here.

What I can say about the story without going into spoilers is how bold it is. As I said, it takes inspiration from The Empire Strikes Back in where to take the story but how it does that is unlike any Star Wars movie to date. I appreciate it for being different and daring with its characters and story, even if I didn’t agree with all of it. That’s all I can say at this point. Most of my issues with the film go into some pretty heavy spoilers. If you would like to hear those, check out the podcast linked above.

I thought Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was GOOD πŸ™‚ After several viewings, the best way I could describe my feelings for the film is that I like the story beats but not all the character beats. Poe finally gets the development he deserves and Rose is such a great new addition to the cast. The Last Jedi answers several of the questions laid out in The Force Awakens, but not always in a very satisfying way. All I can say for sure is that Episode IX has a huge task ahead of itself drawing this new chapter of the Star Wars saga to a close.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rian Johnson – Director / Writer
John Williams – Composer

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher – Leia Organa
Daisy Ridley – Rey
Oscar Isaac – Poe Dameron
John Boyega – Finn
Kelly Marie Tran – Rose Tico
Joonas Suotamo – Chewbacca
Laura Dern – Vice Admeral Holdo
Billie Lourd – Lieutenant Connix
Adam Driver – Kylo Ren
Domhnall Gleeson – General Hux
Andy Serkis – Snoke
Gwendoline Christie – Captain Phasma
Benicio Del Toro – DJ
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Jimmy Vee – R2-D2

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Lightning Review: When Harry Met Sally…

When Harry Met Sally... movie posterSynopsis
Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) have known each other for years and are very close friends. They want to move their relationship forward but fear that sex would ruin their friendship.

Review
When Harry Met Sally… is a widely beloved romantic comedy, and it isn’t hard to see why. Being one who doesn’t watch a lot of romance films, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this movie. A big part of that is the chemistry between the two leads, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Their conversations and their back-and-forth feels smooth and natural. It’d be easy to forget you weren’t watching a movie but two actual, long-time friends bantering. Of course, this feeling of comfortability would not be possible without the well-written script by Nora Ephron and crisp directing by Rob Reiner. Together, they have managed to make what is essentially a ninety-minute Seinfeld episode. If you think about it, this movie is about nothing. The simplicity is ingenious, which might be what I like best about it. There is no, conflict. There is no big hurdle Harry and Sally need to overcome. This is a movie about a man and a woman being platonic friends. The whole sex-ruining-the-friendship part is a driving force for the story but it is only brought up sporadically and doesn’t significantly impact it until the end.

I thought When Harry Met Sally… was GREAT πŸ˜€ The leads, the directing, and the script dovetail harmoniously to create a simple yet touching story. This truly sets a standard for romantic comedies that many films are still trying to touch today.

Trivia
The stories told by the couples during special segments throughout the film were real stories, collected by Rob Reiner for the film.Β  Harry and Sally’s segment was completely improvised by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rob Reiner – Director
Nora Ephron – Writer

Billy Crystal – Harry Burns
Meg Ryan – Sally Albright
Carrie Fisher – Marie
Bruno Kirby – Jess
Steven Ford – Joe
Lisa Jane Persky – Alice
Michelle Nicastro – Amanda

Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi Review

Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi movie posterSynopsis
The Rebel Alliance learns about the construction of a second Death Star. Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) lead a strike force to destroy the Death Star’s shield generator. Meanwhile, Darth Vader (David Prowse / James Earl Jones (voice)) takes Luke to confront the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) and attempt to turn him to the Dark Side.

Review
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi concludes everything the original Star Wars trilogy (and really the entire saga) has been building towards. I think this is a fairly unpopular opinion, but this is my favorite film of the franchise. It has everything that makes the previous Star Wars films great: lightsaber duels, space battles, character growth, and of course Darth Vader, but better. Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back were both great, but Return of the Jedi steps it up a notch and concludes the saga on its strongest note.

I commonly find my self losing track of time while I’m watching this movie. It has a very quick pace, so it’s never sitting still for too long. I can’t help but get pulled into the story, mainly I think because I followed Luke throughout his journey from moisture farmer to a full fledged Jedi Knight and I am invested in finishing his quest along side him. Although it moves quick, every character gets their fair share of screen time. Other than some minor characters, like the Rebel leaders, I didn’t think, β€œI wish I saw more of them.” It was a good balance.

There isn’t as much character development as The Empire Strikes Back, but it is easy to see how the characters have changed since A New Hope. Han is no longer the β€œscruffy looking nerf herder” Luke met on Tatooine, Leia is a much more capable leader than when she was rescued on the Death Star, and Luke is fully inducted into the ways of the Force. After being with these characters for three movies, it is very satisfying to have watched them grow and develop.

Every Star Wars movie has its own lightsaber duel, but the duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is the best one yet (until the Obi-Wan / Anakin duel in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, but more on that when the time comes). It was much more energetic than the previous duels, keeping me on the edge of my seat. Towards the end of the fight, Luke fights with such a ferocity that it appears he may turn towards the Dark Side and become the Emperor’s new apprentice. Like the evolution of the characters, I like that the lightsaber duels grew and became better and better, too.

What makes this the best in the series for me, though, is the three simultaneous battles that occur at the end: one in space above the moon, one ground battle on the moon, and one lightsaber duel on the Death Star II. The movie bounces between these different fights perfectly and seamlessly. As soon as one begins to slow down, another picks up, so the viewer is always in the middle of some action or another. Kudos to the editing team.

I can’t say enough how much I enjoy Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The action is the best of the series, and even during the non-action scenes the movie is always moving, never becoming dull or slow. Three different battle that define the Star Wars Saga (space fights, lightsaber duels, and large-scale ground battles) occur simultaneously , blending together smoothly. The character development may not be as strong as the previous film but it is gratifying to see how the characters have grown across three movies. Return of the Jedi may not have been as influential as Star Wars: A New Hope, but it proves that with the right care, a franchise can get better with each entry.

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Richard Marquand – Director
George Lucas – Story / Screenplay
Lawrence Kasdan – Screenplay
John Williams – Composer

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford – Han Solo
Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia
Billy Dee Williams – Lando Calrissian
Peter Mayhew – Chewbacca
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Kenny Baker – R2-D2
David Prowse – Darth Vader
James Earl Jones – Darth Vader (voice)
Alec Guinness – Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
Ian McDiarmid – The Emperor
Frank Oz – Yoda
Denis Lawson – Wedge
Warwick Davis – Wicket

Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Review

Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back movie posterSynopsis
After Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) destroyed the Death Star, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and the rest of the Rebel Alliance go on the run from the Galactic Empire. When Darth Vader (David Prowse, James Earl Jones (voice)) discovers the Rebel base to the planet Hoth, he sends his forces to destroy the base and the Rebels inside.

Review
Take everything great about Star Wars: A New Hope and improve on it and you have Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The relationship between Luke, Han and Leia is greatly developed and is actually the main focus of the movie. Whereas A New Hope introduced the characters and presented a lot of action, The Empire Strikes Back concerns itself more with character development. That’s not to say there still isn’t plenty of action. It opens with the Empire attacking the new Rebel base and there is a lightsaber duel between Luke and Darth Vader that is much better and more exciting than the Obi-Wan / Vader duel of the previous movie. This film’s score, once again written by John Williams, is my all-time favorite movie soundtrack. The only knock I have against this movie is that it left too much open to be picked up in the following movie, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. This is a personal preference, but I don’t like when movies aren’t self-contained, which is common among middle entries of a trilogy (see The Matrix Reloaded or The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a demonstration on how to correctly make a sequel, upping the stakes, expanding the characters, and building the universe established previously. If it had a more definitive conclusion, it would have been a perfect movie.

Rating
4.5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Irvin Kershner – Director
George Lucas – Story
Leigh Brackett – Screenplay
Lawrence Kasdan – Screenplay
John Williams – Composer

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford – Han Solo
Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia Organa
David Prowse – Darth Vader
James Earl Jones – Darth Vader (voice)
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Kenny Baker – R2-D2
Peter Mayhew – Chewbacca
Billy Dee Williams – Lando Calrissian
Alec Guinness – Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
Frank Oz – Yoda (voice)
Jeremy Bulloch – Boba Fett
John Hollis – Lando’s Aid
Kenneth Colley – Admiral Piett
Julian Glover – General Veers

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope Review

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope movie posterSynopsis
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) leaves his home planet of Tatooine, along with his Jedi mentor Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and the smugglers Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from Darth Vader (David Prowse, James Earl Jones (voice)). Together, they hope to stop the Empire and destroy the world-destroying Death Star, commanded by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing).

Review
Star Wars is one of those things that has always been there for me. I couldn’t tell you the first time I saw Star Wars: A New Hope, I was too young to remember, but it has stuck with me all these years. When I was younger, I liked to watch it for the action and fantasy, but much like Jurassic Park, I have come to appreciate it for the story and for what it has done for the movie industry. It is also a rare film that manages to hold up today, over thirty-five years later.

Darth Vader has the best entrance of any villain on screen. Like, ever. The guy just waltzes in after a gun fight, then picks up someone a foot or two into the air like it is nothing and chokes him out. Then later, he is willing to kill one of his officers, simply because he was talking back (normal bad guy behavior, I know, but still). If that’s not bad-ass, I don’t know what is. Vader’s appeal for me is that you don’t know what’s under his mask; He show’s no expressions. You have no idea what he is thinking or planning until he does it. And his suit simply screams ‘menacing villain,’ just so there is no confusion who he is.

A New Hope introduces one of the best movie duos in cinema: C-3PO and R2-D2. R2 (Kenny Baker) can’t speak, so it is up to 3PO (Anthony Daniels) to help decipher what he said. However, most of the time he doesn’t directly translate. Instead he reacts to it, leaving the audience to infer what was said themselves. It makes for some great moments. Although the pair is used mostly for comedic relief, they never become too much or over the top. They strike the right balance between humor and seriousness.

At the time, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and (to a lesser extent) Harrison Ford were relatively unknown actors. It was a great casting call because it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the parts. Hamill captured the boyish wonder of Luke’s character spot-on. Fisher’s Princess Leia was snarky yet confident and strong. No one could have fit Han’s roguish charm and charisma like Ford. They were all perfect. And I haven’t even mentioned James Earl Jones’ awesome voicing as Darth Vader. That dude seriously has one of the best voices in film.

One thing I would have liked to see more is Biggs (Garrick Hagon) fleshed out more. Luke mentioned him several times in the beginning as his best friend. Then their reunion before their attack on the Death Star was one of old friends seeing each other again after a long time away (which it was). But that is all the exposure he gets. If he and Luke were as good of friends as he suggests, his character should have been explored more.

There is no questioning the influence Star Wars has had in cinema. Special effects, and what a movie was visually capable of, were revolutionized. It was one of the first films to incorporate computer generated images, kick-starting the larger-than-life effects seen on screen today. Star Wars and George Lucas are also indirectly responsible for creating computer animated movies, such as Toy Story and How to Train Your Dragon (Pixar started as a branch of Lucasfilm). Not to mention the cultural significance it has had. It is hard to come up with a movie that has impacted so many facets of film and culture the way Star Wars has.

Star Wars: A New Hope is great for so many reasons. It gave cinema one of its best villains in Darth Vader, as well as its best duo in C-3PO and R2-D2. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, mostly nameless actors at the time, were excellently cast and perfectly fit their parts. There were a few flaws with the film, but those are easy to overlook given what the rest of the film does well. The cultural and film impact of A New Hope is undeniable and I will never lose the wonder and awe I felt as a little boy, wishing I could be a Jedi in a galaxy far, far away.

Rating
4.5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
George Lucas – Director / Writer
John Williams – Composer

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford – Han Solo
Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia Organa
Alec Guinness – Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
David Prowse – Darth Vader
James Earl Jones – Darth Vader (voice)
Peter Cushing – Grand Moff Tarkin
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Kenny Baker – R2-D2
Peter Mayhew – Chewbacca
Phil Brown – Uncle Owen
Shelagh Fraser – Aunt Beru
Denis Lawson – Red Two (Wedge)
Garrick Hagon – Red Three (Biggs)